Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Discovery is More Bad News for Discovery


From LiveScience:

The first monkey that acts like a cow has been discovered — one that regurgitates to give its food another chew, just as cattle do.

Cows, goats, sheep and other ruminants chew plants, let their meals soften in their stomachs, and then throw up the larger bits into their mouths to munch on this cud some more. This chewing helps them break down their food and get at all the nutrients within.

Primates such as humans and monkeys seemed to cover the full gamut of all dietary strategies seen in the animal kingdom, save rumination. Now scientists find the proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) on the island of Borneo apparently chews its cud, too.

Investigators used video cameras and binoculars to monitor about 200 proboscis monkeys, which lived off fruit and leaves along a tributary of the Kinabatangan River in Malaysia. These primates get their names from the males' large noses, which are thought to be used in attracting females.

The researchers saw 23 monkeys chew their regurgitated food at least once. The monkeys apparently suck in their abdomens and stick out their tongues before they regurgitate, keeping all the cud in their mouths.

The scientists continuously observed one adult male for 169 days and watched him chew his cud for 11 days. This rumination usually happened when he spent more time eating, suggesting that regurgitation helps the monkeys deal with more food and possibly helped them eat more.

Gorillas and even people have been known to chew regurgitated food, but this is regarded as pathological behavior — these monkeys, on the other hand, seem to do it as part of their diet. Future research can investigate whether other monkeys, such as langurs, ruminate as well, said researcher Marcus Clauss, a wildlife physiologist at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

The scientists detailed their findings online March 30 in the journal Biology Letters.

(Discovery would doubtless respond that this behavior is not exactly the same as what ruminants do. That is true; but why would it not suffice to qualify as ma'aleh gerah? Furthermore, the vast majority of rabbinic authorities and religious zoologists are willing to classify much lesser behaviors as qualifying for the description of ma'aleh gerah, in order to solve the problem that the hare and hyrax - for which there is overwhelming evidence that they are the arneves and shafan - are described as ma'aleh gerah. For example, R. Dovid Tzvi Hoffman and R. Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg say that the way that a hare chews is sufficient to qualify it as ma'aleh gerah, while Torah Shelemah and Sichas Chullin say that its habit of sometimes eating fecal pellets is sufficient; with the hyrax, the possibility that it very occasionally engages in minor regurgitation and rechewing was welcomed by everyone I spoke to as definitely qualifying as ma'aleh gerah. On what basis does Discovery insist that they are all most definitely wrong - and make Judaism critically depend on their all being wrong?)

The moral of the story: Don't make the validity of Judaism depend on the truth of a 19th-century interpretation of the Torah which goes against all reasonable interpretations. Outreach workers who declare that "If another cud-chewing animal is discovered, then you can throw Judaism away, and I'll take off my kippah and eat on Yom Kippur!" - which they do indeed say! - are grossly wrong and irresponsible.


56 comments:

  1. It's clear to me (ahem) that the messianic age is underway.

    http://www.aish.com/tp/i/moha/48943046.html

    "A number of authorities, including Rav Menachim Azarya DeFano, Rav Chaim Ibn Attar,16 and the Chatam Sofer, suggested that the pig will undergo what may be called an evolutionary process and develop a cud, rendering it kosher!"

    16 - Or HaChaim HaKadosh Leviticus 11:7. Rav Kasher, in Torah Shleymah on the verse, brings more sources, which may be found in Avraham Korman's HaParsha L'doroteha 264-267. (return to text)

    17 - See Responsa of the Radvaz, volume 2, #828, where he speaks of an angel named "Chazriel." See Mal'achei Elyon by Reuven Margoliot page 231 for more on this "Angel."

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  2. The way that I remember R. Shlomo Carlebach... he used to say that when a person says s/he knows some definite spiritual truth... you can be sure s/he doesn't.

    On the other hand, if a person says s/he doesn't ....s/he probably doesn't....but, then again, there's a chance that s/he might.

    So stay away from teachers who insist they know the truth and learn from someone who is also a humble learner.

    Somehow, that lesson has rung true many a time in the decades since I heard it.

    Gary Goldwater

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  3. Wait a second... While your conclusion is nice, I don't see the basis in this example.

    How is this behavior amongst these monkies any different than Bulimia?

    Granted, its not exactly the same... but it sounds much more like a modified version of Bulimia or a case of anorexia then rumination.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but cows and hyraxes and hares and sheep ALL eat this way. It's not just 10% of them, and its not a means of eating more, but its the only way they can eat their food.

    If I throw up a bit, and then swallow, is that also maa'leh gramah?

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  4. Ameteur, you didn't understand the article! Read it again carefully.

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  5. "Ameteur, you didn't understand the article! Read it again carefully."

    I understood the article, and read it clarify.

    When I read science articles, I separate the reported facts, from the reported assumptions/conclusions.

    In this case, I read numbers which suggested minority unusual behavior. (despite the fact that the article says it isn't)

    Between 5 and 10 percent of american girls have eating disorders, and 15 percent are reported to have "unhealthy attitudes"

    Why is the same percentage in monkeys, considered "normal"?

    From my very limited point of view, the conclusion of the article seems to be the same as those articles that say that African Elephants are homosexuals creatures.

    It's my belief that if this discovery was made in a different era, it would be used to analyze causes of eating disorders, rather than trying to celebrate sameness.

    What I don't know, and am curious about, is what percentage of hares and hyraxes perform "maa'leh gramah" type of activities (as 10% of these monkeys obviously do)

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  6. I understood the article, and read it clarify. (emphasis added.)

    Did you read it as carefully as you wrote that sentence?

    Here are your misunderstandings:

    1) It's not that only 10% of the monkeys did this. They only observed it in 10%. But they were not watching all the monkeys all the time.

    2) Eating disorders in American girls are DISORDERS. They are a result of modern society. This behavior, on the other hand, is part of the monkeys' natural behavior.

    3) Bulimia does not serve a beneficial function. This behavior, on the other hand, helps the monkeys fulfill their nutritional needs.

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  7. Ok, point 1 makes sense, I didn't think about that part. However, they did say that one monkey was watched for 169 days and only did this on 11 of them. (or was it 11 days in a row? hard to tell.. So more research would have to be done IMO.

    point 2, begs the question. What we call disorders is subject to debate. Homosexuality was once called a disorder, now it isn't. Perhaps there is a genetic component to eating disorders as well. ( this article seems to think it might be.. http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0193953X05702185)

    point 3, I disagree with. The article itself suggests otherwise.

    "This rumination usually happened when he spent more time eating, suggesting that regurgitation helps the monkeys deal with more food and possibly helped them eat more."

    This is what made me think of Bulimia. Basically, it sounds like the monkey spends all its time eating, and it has filled up its stomach so much, there isn't room for the food. So the guy keeps munching away. Sounds like "emotional eating" as we call it in humans.

    Also, bulimia definitely serves a beneficial function, in that it prevents being overweight, or benefits the mind in some bizzare way. It may not be the best way of achieving that, and as humans we can teach and learn "proper" behavior, but its hard to argue that it serves no beneficial function at all.

    You'd have to do more studies to find out if this was an example of a "monkey acting like a cow", or an example of a "monkey has eating disorder"

    ps. If the monkey actually regurgitated the same food for 11 days in a row, it raises more questions than it answers, so I'm going to assume they meant that it was 11 out of the 169 days.

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  8. The point is that its very difficult to get adequate nutrition from the cellulose in plant matter. Herbivores often have huge stomachs, to give more time for chemical digestion. But regurgitation and rechewing aids in digestion - which means that the food can more quickly be expelled from the body and then more can be eaten.

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  9. > Outreach workers who declare that "If another cud-chewing animal is discovered, then you can throw Judaism away, and I'll take off my kippah and eat on Yom Kippur!"

    Any odds on the number of outreach workers we'll see bare-headed and gorged this Yom Kippur?

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  10. "The point is that its very difficult to get adequate nutrition from the cellulose in plant matter. Herbivores often have huge stomachs, to give more time for chemical digestion. But regurgitation and rechewing aids in digestion - which means that the food can more quickly be expelled from the body and then more can be eaten."

    Granted, but then why the low numbers? And why only sometimes? If this is truly a nomral trait of this monkey, why wasn't it seen in higher numbers for more amount of days? With a headline like "monkey acts like a cow" it's obviously sensationalist.

    Are you willing to use this science video to say that prophecy has been fulfilled?

    http://videosift.com/video/Lioness-Adopts-a-young-Calf-The-Heart-of-a-Lioness

    This lion in the end adopted 6 different calfs.

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  11. Ameteur, with all due respect, zoology is clearly not your field.

    There are 4500 species of mammals. How many of them do you think are studied on a steady basis by teams of zoologists? It's also very difficult to study monkeys, which are concealed in foliage, up in trees.

    They picked ONE monkey for continuous observation (as much as is possible), and that monkey engaged in this behavior. Of the other monkeys which they were not watching continuously, they saw 23 of them engage in this behavior.

    All this indicates that this is normal behavior. And it serves a clear nutritional function. Not a bizarre aberration serving no useful function.

    Incidentally, it's clear that if there was no issue of the list being exclusive, just an objection by skeptics that the Torah describes the hare as chewing its cud and it doesn't, and hares were observed to do what this monkey was doing, you would instantly say that the skeptics had been refuted and that this qualifies as maaleh gerah.

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  12. "Incidentally, it's clear that if there was no issue of the list being exclusive, just an objection by skeptics that the Torah describes the hare as chewing its cud and it doesn't, and hares were observed to do what this monkey was doing, you would instantly say that the skeptics had been refuted and that this qualifies as maaleh gerah."

    Incidentally, that isn't the case at all. Which is why I specifically asked, how common it is for hares and hyraxes to eat what they have already digested.


    "They picked ONE monkey for continuous observation (as much as is possible), and that monkey engaged in this behavior. Of the other monkeys which they were not watching continuously, they saw 23 of them engage in this behavior. "

    I already conceded that point.. however it is still a small amount. The article really isn't very clear on the 11 days. A first reading makes it sound like it was chewing its cud for 11 days straight.. but that doesn't jive with the rest of the conclusions from the article.

    I'm also not sure what the relevance is of how few creatures are watched closely.

    Anyway, I tried to do a search if any other publications are talking about this new find (didn't see anything)... and interestingly, a few years back it was found that Colobus monkeys have 4 stomachs, and actual rumination mechanisms... So I would suggest using that monkey as an example in the future instead. (as an animal that chews it cud but does not have split hooves)

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  13. Good point. In my book I mentioned that colobus monkeys have compartmentalized stomachs, but at that time it wasn't known that they regurgitate their food. Now it seems that they do:

    "The partially digested leaves are periodically regurgitated to the mouth so further chewing can occur before it is re-swallowed back to the stomach."

    http://erdmannapbio.blogspot.com/2009/03/ruminating-monkeys-d.html

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  14. Sorry, to harp on this, but I found this article and this interesting paragraph. Seems like my initial reading of the article wasn't so far from the facts afterall..

    http://news.discovery.com/animals/barfing-monkey-digestion-110329.html#mkcpgn=emnws1

    Matsuda said that if he and his team had observed the behavior in the monkeys more regularly, “say 10 minutes after waking in the morning, we might have called it rumination.” He added that this study only focused on one population of the monkeys, so the behavior might even be a learned tradition.

    He explained, “Traditions, especially related to feeding, have been reported in primates -- like the macaques that wash food and even season it with salt water. We simply cannot exclude such a tradition.”

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  15. Like I said at the beginning: what monkeys do is not exactly what ruminants do. But it's certainly a lot more than what hares and hyraxes do - and yet most people having been willing to describe hares and hyraxes as maaleh gerah!

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  16. I still think the Jury is out on this. I think what hares do could be considered maaleh geirah because they create something that could be considered cud, based on what we know about them scientifically. If the Hyrax is truly the Shafan, which I still doubt, then you would have a point.

    In truth, more research has to be done on the monkeys in order to understand their digestive tract in a more comprehensive way. Just because we see them chewing a lot doesn't necessarily mean they create a ball of cud, even like the hare.

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  17. It seems like science has a come a long way in the few short years since you printed your book. Good thing you haven't reprinted yet. In any event, perhaps this colobus monkey is the shafan or arneves? The lamoids would all fit into one category of Gamal and one more cud chewer remains to be found? I refer the reader to comments made by someone and leibel on the Camel, Hare, Hyrax thread.

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  18. I was wondering if someone was going to claim that the animal referred to in Tenach and Chazal, as a familiar creature which hides under rocks, is a central African monkey.

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  19. If the Hyrax is truly the Shafan, which I still doubt,

    There are no other candidates.

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  20. R. Natan

    You still haven't sufficiently addressed the point made by the comments in the other thread. You may find that it is nonsensical that the Shafan and Arneves of the Torah may be different from the Shafan and Arneves of the rest of NaCH.

    Yet others might view it to be less of a problem than stating that the hare and hyrax chew the cud, which does not seem to be the case.

    Repeating that there are no other candidates without considering this possibility is unwarranted.

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  21. What I find untenable is the notion that the Torah would be speaking about animals from South America, which the Bnei Yisrael could not possibly be familiar with. In every way, the Torah is oriented towards the Bnei Yisrael; it makes no sense that it would speak about animals that they couldn't possibly know - and then to refer to them with names that are used in the local languages for the hyrax and hare!

    But this kind of thing relates to one's general orientation vis-a-vis rationalism. There's no point arguing about it.

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  22. If the Torah's point was to show exclusivity, that there are only 3 animals that chew the cud and don't have split hooves, (I don't agree with this premise) then it would make sense for the Torah to list all examples, whether they exist in the Americas or anywhere else. Remember, the Gemaroh in Chullin 42a mentioned by commenter someone says that Hashem showed all the animals via Moshe to the Jewish people.

    Just because something may be irrational, does not make it incorrect.

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  23. And to give them names that just happened to be very similar to local names for the hare and hyrax?!

    Sorry, I find the whole notion to be absurd. And I think that Chazal would have found it absurd, too.

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  24. Do we know as fact that the words Shafan and Arneves were words used for hare and hyrax pre Matan Torah?

    Whatever animals were shown as the 3 cud-chewers that did not have split hooves, if they did not exist in that region would have their identifications lost after a generation or two.

    It is very difficult to say that the Torah was referring to hares and hyraxes which do not even have hooves to begin with!

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  25. It is very difficult to say that the Torah was referring to hares and hyraxes which do not even have hooves to begin with!

    Eh? The Torah does not say that they have hooves!

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  26. From aish.com...

    And if you look carefully at the Hebrew grammar, it makes it clear that these four animals are the only exceptions. The camel, shafan, and arneves are the only animals that ruminate but don’t have split hooves. The pig is the only animal that has split hooves but doesn’t ruminate.

    ...

    But is it a gamble if you know that you’re right?

    The Torah was written 3,300 years ago. Thousands of new animals have been discovered. And none of the new animals are a fifth exception. Pigs are still the only non-ruminating animals with split hooves. Camels, shafans, and arneveses, are still the only ruminating animals without split hooves.

    http://www.aish.com/jl/b/bb/104491254.html

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  27. And if you look carefully at the Hebrew grammar, it makes it clear that these four animals are the only exceptions

    As I explained at length in my book, that claim is utter nonsense. You can look as carefully at the Hebrew grammar as you like - it says nothing about these being the only exceptions. And Chazal certainly didn't believe that the grammar shows that.

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  28. Thousands of new animals have been discovered.

    That's another fallacious claim. As I explained in my book, using Aish's definition of types (by which llamas are a type of camel), only about twenty new types of animal have been discovered!

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  29. Really, the article is silly on its own terms.

    First he claims that:

    Camels, shafans, and arneveses, are still the only ruminating animals without split hooves.

    and then later in the same article it says...

    it is best to consider the shafan and arneves likely extinct

    If we accept his second statement, then the first is clearly nonsense because we have no idea what the shafran and arneves are or were.

    Llamas are a type of camel - got it.

    Are hippo's a type of pig?

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  30. Correction to something I quoted earlier: I think that the link saying that colobus monkeys regurgitate food is mistaken. I haven't found any evidence for this. It's only proboscis monkeys for which there is evidence that they regurgitate.

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  31. These primates get their names from the males' large noses, which are thought to be used in attracting females.

    This is the real problem for Discovery: direct evidence of which monkeys Jews are descended from!

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  32. >if you look carefully at the Hebrew grammar, it makes it clear that these four animals are the only exceptions

    I wonder when Aish ever looks carefully at the Hebrew grammar.

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  33. Personally, I still see the Pica as a viable option for the shafan since they exist in western Iran, a place that was part of the known world at the time of Har Sinai. They live in the mountains and are poached on by larger animals and even flying animals. Is there any place that claims the shafan lived, specifically, in Israel? Or is it just that the shafan lived in the known world?

    The claim against them being the shafan because they might be considered sheretzim might be valid, but I have not been able to find a coherent definition of a sheretz. Is it something that is two inches from the ground, three inches, or is it more based on personality?

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  34. "Outreach workers who declare that "If another cud-chewing animal is discovered, then you can throw Judaism away, and I'll take off my kippah and eat on Yom Kippur!" - which they do indeed say! - are grossly wrong and irresponsible."

    Well you have to at least give them credit for having some integrity, even if they are ignorant. Personally, I prefer the attitude over the more "responsible" "the truth of my religion can never be questioned because I would rather the most brutal violence to the text than admit the possibility that it isn't true."

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  35. I'm inclined to suggest that this post would not be complete without additional video footage. Sorry rabbi, but observing the monkeys in their habitat, regurgitating THEIR food, is not enough. We also would like to observe the Discovery lecturers in their element regurgitating their, well... In any event, that would really complete the scientific experience and our survey of the wild and its inhabitants.

    Kidding aside, really I would like to see a snippet of what the discovery people claim and how people react to it, in light of what you are saying and/or referring to. Is this available anywhere?

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  36. One of my heretic friends has referred to your previous publications regarding this topic. He therefore jumped with glee to forward me the link to this article.

    I have 2 questions. Firstly, you say that the blog is to explore a rationalist approach like the Rambam and then you go on to criticize the outreach workers. Yet, the Rambam himself states in Hilchot Maachalot Assurot 1:8 that "there are not in the entire universe any animals permitted to be eaten except for the ten species enumerated in the Torah." Are you with the Rambam or not?

    Secondly, I think we would need to have a shochet open up one of these monkeys and see whether they have the anatomy of a ruminant. You know, the four chambers: Keres, bet hacosot, hemses and keva. As I am fond of saying to my heretic friend, lack of evidence is not evidence of lack. Find some real evidence and then I'll look at it. Do you have any knowledge whether this analysis has happened? My strong suspicion is that their internal anatomy is very similar to other monkeys.

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  37. Good thing for you that you're anonymous; I guess you don't want to embarrass yourself.

    the Rambam himself states in Hilchot Maachalot Assurot 1:8 that "there are not in the entire universe any animals permitted to be eaten except for the ten species enumerated in the Torah." Are you with the Rambam or not?

    Following the approach of the Rambam most certainly does not mean slavishly insisting that Rambam must have been correct about everything; in fact, it specifically means evaluating claims on their merits, not on the authority of the one who made them.

    The problem with the "ten species" claim is that it's not "ten species"; it's ten minim. There's no real definition ofmin, so that claim can not be conclusively proved nor disproved. Still, it's difficult to imagine that a chevrotain and giraffe could be subsumed under one of those categories.

    I think we would need to have a shochet open up one of these monkeys and see whether they have the anatomy of a ruminant. You know, the four chambers: Keres, bet hacosot, hemses and keva.

    Why on earth is that relevant? Are you defining maaleh gerah as having a four-chambered stomach? If so, then I've got bad news: the camel does NOT have a four-chambered stomach, but plenty of other animals do - including one species of pig! As for monkeys - I don't know about proboscis monkeys, but colobus monkeys have a chambered stomach similar to that of ruminants.

    Now I suppose that you will hastily back down from defining maaleh gerah in terms of multi-chambered stomachs. I hope that you are more careful in your research before staking Judaism on it.

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  38. This reminds me of when I was in high school, and a Rabbi from discovery came down.
    He quoted a gemara that said that only fish have scales, and said, more or less, if another animal has scales, he will take off his kippa and eat on yom kippur.
    Somebody pointed out that snakes have scales, and he proceeded to mock that questioner, instead of admitting that he misunderstood the gemara.

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  39. Natan,
    Thankyou for responding, but do I detect a note of snarkiness in your tone? There's no embarrasment in a good debate and clarification of arguments. Also, I'm not sure what you meant about anonymity - I posted under my name.
    In any case, let's get back to the topic.

    1. About adhering to the Rambam, he appears to be making both a statement of Halacha and fact. Now, I can follow your argument about evaluating a statement of fact on the basis of merit, but what about the statement of Halacha? Does that not rely on the Rambam's authority? Do you evaluate all his Halachic statements on (your understanding of) their merit?

    2. Regarding the maalei gerah, I am not convinced about the identity of the shafan and arnevet. Therefore I do not think we need to water down and stretch the definition of maalei gerah to fit them. Empiricism leads me to look only at the definite cases we know of - the ruminants. So, yes, I put a lot of stock into the form of maalei gerah we find there, as they are definite examples. Not just the anatomy but also the behaviors like chewing side to side etc. Your camel comment is a good one, and I shall have to look further into it.

    3. I agree that the definition of 'minim' is imprecise and can be expanded or contracted to suit one's arguments. Therefore it probably has little proof value here. But I do attach import to the development of our tradition which defines them quite narrowly.

    4. To clarify, I am not "staking Judasim on it" as you write in your last comment. I read some of your papers and articles in the meanwhile, specifically about the traditionalist and rationalist approaches. It seems to me that these are mental attitudes or frameworks which are not easily changed. According to your definitions, I am firmly in the traditionalist mindset. As I've only just "discovered" you (bad pun), my question for you is this: in your rationalist approach, are you seeking "lehagdil Torah ulehaadirah"? or the opposite? I'm not having a go at you here, I'm just curious as to where you're coming from and where you're going to.

    Moishe

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  40. 1. About adhering to the Rambam, he appears to be making both a statement of Halacha and fact.

    It's a statement of halachah that is based on a fact. To the extent that the fact is wrong, the halachah is wrong. Although in this case, the halachah is effectively correct, since if there are more minnim, they are in remote locations and are thus irrelevant to that particular halachah (as explained in my book).

    2. Regarding the maalei gerah, I am not convinced about the identity of the shafan and arnevet. Therefore I do not think we need to water down and stretch the definition of maalei gerah to fit them.

    Well, you are incorrect. There are no alternate candidates, and there is overwhelming evidence of all sorts for the hare and hyrax. As well as mesorah! So until you can counter all that, we are going to go with all those who have studied the topic in detail, who concluded that the shafan and arneves are the hare and hyrax.

    3. I agree that the definition of 'minim' is imprecise and can be expanded or contracted to suit one's arguments. Therefore it probably has little proof value here. But I do attach import to the development of our tradition which defines them quite narrowly.

    Interesting. So is the vicuna then not a type of camel (which is ten times as big)?

    my question for you is this: in your rationalist approach, are you seeking "lehagdil Torah ulehaadirah"? or the opposite?

    Oh, for goodness' sake. I might as well ask the same question of you.

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  41. There is an open passuk in shmini which would seem to a)answer this question and b)possibily raise a difficulty with the position that shafan and arneves are hare and hyrax. I have not researched this thouroughly, becaus by the time I did, the good Rabbi Slifkin would have moved on to five other topics, so I'm hoping for input from others. The passuk is (11:27) וכל הולך על כפיו בכל החי' ההולכת על ארבע טמאים הם לכם - any animal that walks on it hands (paws?)amongst the four legged creatures are tamei for you . . This passuk ir immediately after the passuk declaring that any creature that does not chew its cud or have split hooves is tamei. So what does this second passuk add? Doesn't an animal that walk on it hands or paws lack split hooves? What then is the point of the latter passuk? It seems that a paw, or at least some types of paws are not in the category of hoof at all, and would not be tamei from the first passuk! In fact I would argue that a monkey's hand if one would insist as classifying it as a hoof, is a split hoof! Furthermore the Toras Kohanim says that this passuk is meant to refer to an ape. Now Rashi (I haven't had the chance to track down Rashi's source) says that the passuk refers to a dog,cat, or bear. The difficulty with that would be, that a hare paw seems pretty similar to a cat paw, and if so, the Torah already classified a hare paw as a type of hoof that is not split, bringing back the initial question what is the purpose of the latter passuk? Unless the Arneves is not the Hare?!

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  42. >>>> So what does this second passuk add?

    This section is NOT talking about forbidding to eat, it’s about “tammei” in the sense of contaminating the person (see Rashi).

    Now, what is more interesting to me is the observation that if you read the whole portion (all of chapter. 11) on “forbidden” animals, its obvious to me that the word “tammei” is used with 2 different meanings/translations. In the first part, “tammei” means/translates as forbidden (even though Artscroll translates it as “unclean”) and then later switches to the usage of the word as we generally understand the word to mean “contaminated”.

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  43. There is an open passuk in shmini which would seem to a)answer this question and b)possibily raise a difficulty with the position that shafan and arneves are hare and hyrax.

    No. You have a question about that passuk, fine. There could be all kinds of answers. But it does not challenge the fact of the shafan and arneves being a hyrax and hare.

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  44. " yosef said...
    There is an open passuk in shmini which would seem to a)answer this question and b)possibily raise a difficulty with the position that shafan and arneves are hare and hyrax."

    I was wondering the same thing. But then I realized what the response is.

    The verse with the Shafan is telling us that some animals have only 1 sign, and are still not kosher. It is not telling us that it looks like it has 2 signs, but really it only has 1. i.e., a pig never looks like it is cud chewing.

    The verse for the paws, gives us another general rule. You might have thought that if zero signs were available then the animal was still tahor. Or its teaching us a different rule about the carcasses of animals with paws.

    I'd be curious to know though what the gemora learns from that verse.

    Whatever the Torah meant by Arnevet and Shafan, it seems clear that since at least King David's time, it was the hare and the hyrax.

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  45. Yosef, take a look at Shem Olam on this topic to answer your questions. Starting D"H Mafris Parse.

    passuk 26

    Also, see what he has to say on Passukim 3-7 starting here.

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  46. Ameteur et al:
    Plant-eating primates spend a lot of time chewing and digesting. According to the excellent book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human it can be six or eight hours a day. They lack the specialized symbiotic flora of animals like cows or wood boring beetles, so there's a lot of sucking, chewing and re-chewing.

    These monkeys continue the process by chewing their food after it's been partially digested, probably because it's easier to continue breaking it down mechanically or to give the salivary enzymes another shot at the newly exposed surfaces after partial digestion. This isn't "bulimia". It's the same behavior that the kosher animals engage in.

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  47. I'm looking forward to watching bare-headed Aish shills chowing down on bacon cheeseburgers this Yom Kippur.

    Kangaroos have chambered guts, regurgitate their food and chew cud.

    Llamas, alpacas and vicunas chew the cud and ruminate although they are in a different taxon than the ruminants. In addition, the vicunas have feet which are a lot more like split hooves than the feet of their distant relatives the camels.

    There are even true ruminant birds, notably the hoatzin.

    Then we get to the real bugaboos, cud-chewing split-hoof ruminants that are not mentioned as kosher in the Torah.

    In the Old World we have the Cape buffalo. It's in the Bovidae, but it's in a completely different genus than wild or domestic cattle.

    The giraffes are in their own family, related to but not the same as the antelopes.

    In the New World there are caribou, elk and bison. People sell kosher bison, but they aren't cattle. Bos/Bison hybrids are sterile if memory serves.

    The pronghorn is not even in the same family as Old World antelope, but it is a split-hoof, cud-chewing true ruminant.

    The musk ox is more closely related to to goats and sheep than it is to cattle. If memory serves it's reproductively isolated from everything else. Once again, chews its cud, ruminates, has split hooves even if they're a little hard to see under all that fur.

    In other words, you'll have to keep moving the goalposts or define away inconvenient facts to make the claim that there are no "new" ruminants or kosher mammals.

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  48. Rav Slifkin writes:
    That's another fallacious claim. As I explained in my book, using Aish's definition of types (by which llamas are a type of camel), only about twenty new types of animal have been discovered!

    As Abraham Lincoln said "How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one."

    If Aish can't give us a rigorous definition of "type" that supports its contention - and it can't - it is playing these stupid games in order to simply define itself as correct. That is exactly what it's doing. By their standard an elephant is a type of hyrax. A bear is just another sort of raccoon. And human beings are undeniably chimpanzees.

    They are just trying to define away anything that doesn't give them the outcome they want and move the goalposts as necessary to ensure it. That sort of nonsense is unworthy of a high school debate club.

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  49. Dear Mr. Slifkin
    I understand that you may feel slighted because of the controversy concerning your books. Whether you are deserving of such controversy or not i really am not sure. I do know, however, that the information on this site is potentially much more dangerous than you might think. If even one Jew were to read this information and - indeed - throw away the Torah as a result...
    As our sages say in Avos "Chachamim! Be very careful with your words so that you should not become ... and the students will drink of the bad waters and die and it will turn out that the name of heaven is desecrated by your hand!" (1:11).
    In addition i would suggest that you remember that concerning this issue we are not talking about the wisdom of our sages, but rather the words of the Torah itself: if the Torah says something - it is truth and it is our job to look to understand what that means. In addition when our sages relay an explanation of that which is written in the Torah that too is truth.
    If our sages make a statement referring to facts and figures not related to the explanation of the verses of the Torah then there is something to talk about, but even then it must be done with the utmost care.

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  50. Dear Mr. Shlomo,

    I really don't think that a single person is going to toss out Judaism because of this post.

    Furthermore, this post says nothing about the Torah or even Chazal being scientifically inaccurate.

    You are quite correct that great care needs to be taken with these things, so as not to drive people away from Judaism. If only the Gedolim, and Discovery, would listen to you.

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  51. I was wondering, because it isnt clear from the article. Do you view the Torah as being wrong in its approach to say that these four animals are the only animals that have one sign and not the other. Do you view that the Torah is only enumerating this because it is concerning itself only with animals in the Land of Israel region, making the Rambam's assertion, which described the only animals to have these signs, as invalid. Also isnt Torah applicable to all in all times and in all places? If this isnt one of those times ie it is like the Torah mentioning the MIshkan and its laws without it applying to us now, then why does the Rambam include this in his Sefer HaMitzvot? (which would mean that it applies to us now) and all other authorities agree with him as well. Are saying that these authorities are wrong?

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  52. This argument is based on a semantical fallacy.

    Just because it does ruminate, doesn't make it a ruminant.

    This is obvious, just because I do "x", doesn't make me a "x"er.

    Compared to other ruminants, probiscus does not ruminate much at all, & it's relatively rare occurrence would be more similar to an eating disorder(which, contrary to what you wrote is not a new thing[1]), than a standard part of it's eating habits:

    To compare:

    During an average 24hr period they found that sheep fed chopped forage twice a day at 15% excess spent 6hours eating, 9 hours ruminating, & 9 hours idle. Although both numbers of feeding per day & forage quality varied , somewhat similar rumination times were observed in cattle (Welch & Smith1970, Welch et al. 1970.
    Gordon (1968) estimates that ruminants spend about one third of their time ruminating.[2]

    A cow should ruminate for seven to ten hours per day, ruminating 40 to 70 times on a cud.[3]

    Dairy cows ruminate 450 - 500 times per day.[4]

    Based on these #s the probiscus can hardly be called a ruminant.

    The comparison to the hare is a non sequitur.
    The point is that it doesn't do it often/consistently enough to be classified as a ruminant.
    Hares do what they do on a regular consistent daily basis, twice a day. No comparison.



    [1] http://www.nytimes.com/1985/12/08/style/anorexia-it-s-not-a-new-disease.html
    http://jodiegale.com/eating-disorders-a-search-for-wholeness/
    http://www.brown.uk.com/eatingdisorders/bemporad.pdf

    [2]
    http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=FqAG6jeihj8C&oi=fnd&pg=PA39&dq=proboscis+monkey+(Nasalis+larvatus)+on+the+island+of+Borneo+apparently+chews+its+cud&ots=Zd9gwVQAWf&sig=8UuEHwG34uGJ2N3ExMBnewFkslg#v=onepage&q=cud&f=false

    [3]
    http://www.delaval.com/en/-/Dairy-knowledge-and-advice/Animal-signs/

    [4]
    http://www.selectsires.com/products/docs/rumination%20white%20paper%20from%20SCR.pdf

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  53. It's not an eating disorder. It's part of how they eat. Yes, it's less than what ruminants do. But it's at least as much as what hyraxes do. And if hares did it, most people would be much more comfortable saying that this is the reason why they are called maaleh gerah, than cecotrophy (which doesn't even fit the words).

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  54. The Hebrew word for every kind of ape is Kof, which is in a different category than the behemot (beasts) mentioned in Shemini. Also, the rabbis regarded a cud-chewer as an animal which was missing some teeth in the upper top part of its mouth (e.g. cow). A couple incisors don't count -- the whole reason a ruminant chews cud is that fewer teeth in the upper top part of the mouth prevents food from being fully masticated first time around. So even if someone thinks a monkey qualifies as a behemah (which is ALWAYS used in reference to cattle or "beasts of the FIELD"), the proboscis monkey certainly has a full set of upper teeth.

    However, the Torah still isn't necessarily implying that all types of pigs, camels, hares, and hyraxes are the ONLY four animal species exceptions forever disqualified as having one kosher land animal trait but not the other... it could also simply be listing the only four cases known in that part of the world that were likely to cause confusion.

    Very interesting discussion!

    Gary S.

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  55. Fascinating article thank you. Question. When you write: "Don't make the validity of Judaism depend on the truth of a 19th-century interpretation of the Torah which goes against all reasonable interpretations" Isn't it a gemara in Chullin 59a tana divei r' yishmael that the torah specified the only animals that are like that?

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  56. not sure if my comment went through because it said server error, I apologize if this goes through twice.

    Thank you for article - very interesting! Why do you write "Don't make the validity of Judaism depend on the truth of a 19th-century interpretation of the Torah which goes against all reasonable interpretations." Isn't it a gemara in chulin 59a that says in the name of tana divei rebbi yishmael that the reason HaShem listed only that one is because He knows that it's the only one. The gemara even seems to apply that to halacha in terms of determining whether an animal with a mutilated mouth is kosher or not? Thank you

    ReplyDelete

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