Bava Kamma 45

Satan dancing between the horns of an ox.

These teachings add up to a picture of an animal with great strength and a difficult temperament.

But let’s not forget that oxen were also essential. Oxen carried the heaviest of burdens, in both agriculture and transportation. For this they were honored. As the rabbis see it, the lion may be king of the wild animals in the jungle, and the eagle may be king of the birds in the sky, but it is the ox who rules the domesticated animals (see Chagigah 13). The ox’s status enshrined it in the Talmud as one of four categories of damage, an archetype representing all other domestic beasts and the central figure in a super majority of conversations in our tractate to this point.

In everyday life, then, it’s good advice to keep yourself at a safe distance from the King of the Farm. But if you happen to encounter an ox in your dreams, you may not have what to fear, as we learn in Berakhot 56:

Five things are said about dreams with an ox. A person who dreams that they ate from its flesh will become wealthy. A person who dreams that it gored them will have children who are Torah scholars, who gore each other in an attempt to better understand Torah. If one dreams that (the ox) bit them, suffering will come to them. One who dreams that it kicked them will be required to travel a great distance in the future. And, a person who dreams that they were riding it, it is a sign that they will rise to greatness.

These teachings add up to a picture of an animal with great strength and a difficult temperament.

But let’s not forget that oxen were also essential. Oxen carried the heaviest of burdens, in both agriculture and transportation. For this they were honored. As the rabbis see it, the lion may be king of the wild animals in the jungle, and the eagle may be king of the birds in the sky, but it is the ox who rules the domesticated animals (see Chagigah 13). The ox’s status enshrined it in the Talmud as one of four categories of damage, an archetype representing all other domestic beasts and the central figure in a super majority of conversations in our tractate to this point.

In everyday life, then, it’s good advice to keep yourself at a safe distance from the King of the Farm. But if you happen to encounter an ox in your dreams, you may not have what to fear, as we learn in Berakhot 56:

Five things are said about dreams with an ox. A person who dreams that they ate from its flesh will become wealthy. A person who dreams that it gored them will have children who are Torah scholars, who gore each other in an attempt to better understand Torah. If one dreams that (the ox) bit them, suffering will come to them. One who dreams that it kicked them will be required to travel a great distance in the future. And, a person who dreams that they were riding it, it is a sign that they will rise to greatness.

Read all of Bava Kamma 45 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on December 17th, 2023. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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