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COCK:

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The male of the domestic fowl. The original habitat of the domestic fowl is generally supposed to be India, whence it was introduced at an early time into Babylonia and Greece. It is difficult to say when it was brought to Palestine, as the allusions to it in the Bible are still very doubtful. According to rabbinical tradition (Isa. xxii. 17) is a designation for "cock," which was known under this name in various districts of Babylonia as late as the third century C.E. (Lev. R. v.; Midr. Mishle xxx.19). The Jewish teacher of Eusebius also explained the word thus (see Eusebius'-commentary on Isaiah, loc. cit.; compare, however, Ket. 28a and Yoma 20b, in both of which passages Abba Arika's opposition to this explanation is declared). Another term which, according to an amora of the fourth century, signifies "cock," is (Job xxxviii. 36), the statement being added that the cock bore a similar name about this time in Arabia (R. H. 20 a; Lev. R. xxv.).

The assumption of the Midrash (Midr. Mishle xxx, 31) that (Prov. xxx. 31) is a designation for "cock" is more plausible than the foregoing explanations, since the Arabic "zarzar" means "cock." In the Talmud and in Midrashic literature, however, the cock is always called by his Babylonian name (compare Oppert in "Zeitschrift für Assyriologie," vii. 339), which fact may be taken, perhaps, to indicate that the cock was introduced into Palestine from Babylonia. In this literature the cock is also frequently mentioned as a common domestic fowl, although it is expressly stated that at Jerusalem the breeding of cocks was forbidden during the existence of the Temple because they scratch the ground and pick up objects which are Levitically unclean, and are thus likely to spread uncleanness (B. Ḳ. 82b). The cock and the bat are contrasted as the bird of day and the bird of night. The cock and the bat were both waiting for daylight, when the cock said: "I may wait for the dawn, for light belongs to me; but for what do you need light?" (Sanh. 98b, bottom). The cock is characterized as the most impudent of birds (Beẓah 25b); his lasciviousness is also proverbial (Ber. 22a), yet his kind treatment of the female is set up as a model, inasmuch as he humors the hen to win her favor ('Er. 100b).

The comb is the cock's chief ornament, of which he is very proud, and when it is cut off he loses his spirit and no longer seeks the hen (Shab. 110b, bottom). The cock is also said to be quarrelsome and vicious (Pes. 113b), those from Bet Buḳya having an especially bad reputation in this respect, as they suffered no intruders among them (Yeb. 84a). A cock once killed a child by picking at its scalp with its beak ('Eduy. vi. 1; Yer. 'Er. x. 26a). The crowing of the cock, as well as his flight, sometimes causes dishes to break (B. Ḳ. 17a; Ḳid. 24b).

The Cock in Folk-Lore.

The cock, which occupies a prominent place in the mythology of many peoples (compare Gubernatis, "Zoological Mythology," ii. 280-291), was an especially sacred bird among the Persians, where he was the ally of Sraosha in the battle with the powers of darkness. In Talmudic-Midrashic literature there are reminiscences among the pagans of the divine honors paid to the cock, as well as of the influence on the Jews of these ideas. The Mishnah ('Ab. Zarah i. 5) mentions the pagan custom of sacrificing white cocks, the Jews being forbidden for this reason to sell them to the pagans. The idol Nergal (II Kings xvii. 30) was taken by the Rabbis to be a cock (Sanh. 63b), which assumption was based probably on something more than the mere similarity of sound between "tarnegol" (cock) and "Nergal" (compare the cock-shaped Melek Taous of the Devil-worshipers; see Herzog's "Real-Encyklopädie," s.v. "Nergal"). The various theories found in Jewish literature on the crowing of the cock at the approach of day are probably traceable to Persian influence (compare Darmesteter's translation of the Zend-Avesta, in "Sacred Books of the East," i. 192, 193; Schorr, "He-Ḥaluẓ, i. 143, iii. 93, vii. 19).

The Greek Baruch Apocalypse says that the rustling of the wings of the phenix, a fabulous bird which accompanies the sun, awakens the cocks, "who then converse in the language peculiar to them"; for when the angels get the sun ready for the day the cock crows (ch. iv., end; compare Slavonic Enoch, xv.1). As in the Zend-Avesta the cock is said to crow out to men early in the morning: "Arise, O men! recite the Ashem Yad va histen" (Vendidad, Fargard, xviii.), so the Zohar says that in the hour of grace (about midnight), when God visits paradise to confer with the souls of the pious, a fire procceds from this holy place and touches the wings of the cock, who then breaks out into praise to God, at the same time calling out to men to praise the Lord and do His service (Zohar, Wayiḳra, iii. 22b, 23a). In this connection must be mentioned a precept of the Talmud to the effect that on hearing the cock crow in the morning, the following benediction must be pronounced: "Praised be Thou, O God, Lord of the world, that gavest understanding to the cock to distinguish between day and night" (Ber. 60b). This benediction is traced back to Job xxxviii. 36, where is derived from ("to see"), and the cock is designated as the one who foresees the day. In the Zend-Avesta the cock is also called "parôdars" (he who foresees [the coming dawn]). Characteristic also is the statement in a late Midrash ("Seder Yeẓirat ha-Walad," in Jellinek's "B. H." i. 155) that the sobs of the dying at the sight of the angel who comes to take the soul are heard by no one except the cock. The favor in which the cock is held by the heavenly beings has perhaps also given rise to the statement that by closely watching the cock's comb one can determine the moment when God lays aside His mercy; this happens at some one moment during the first three hours of day, the color of the comb changing at that moment.

Superstitious speculations in regard to the cock were frequent during the Middle Ages. The cock is still killed as a "kapparah" for a man (see Atonement); and the will of Judah the Pious directs that a cock which upsets a vessel shall be killed immediately, because evil spirits have seized it. The demons ("shadim") are said to have cock's feet (Ber. 6a), Many of these superstitions are still found among ignorant people in various countries. Thus, for instance, the scratching of the cock with his claws is taken to signify that visitors are coming. Compare Hen.

Bibliography:
  • Lewysohn, Zoologic des Talmuds, pp. 194-199;
  • Kohut, Aruch Completum, s.v. ;
  • Rubin, in Ha-Karmel (weekly), vol. iii., Nos. 9, 11.
E. C. L. G.
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