Thursday, August 25, 2011

But Rashi had Ruach HaKodesh!

Two of my readers told me last week that whenever they see the word "hyrax" in a post, they stop reading. I am sympathetic to that, but if you are such a person, I urge you to make today an exception! This post is more about the general idea of Rishonim having ruach hakodesh; the hyrax is only appearing incidentally.

Today is Hyrax Day - the day that Daf Yomi studies Chullin 59b, which launches the discussion of the camel, the hare and the hyrax. There are those who suggest that the shafan is not the hyrax, but instead is the rabbit. Previously, I noted that the reason why some Rishonim (medieval Torah scholars) believed that is that they lived in Spain, and were thus familiar with rabbits, but not with hyraxes. The shafan of the Chumash, Mishlei and Tehillim, on the other hand, must have been an animal from the Land of Israel - and in Israel there are plenty of hyraxes (there is one ten feet away from me right now!) but no rabbits.

I wrote to one person, Rabbi Amitai Ben-David, to challenge him on this point. He replied that while he was not certain that the shafan was the rabbit, he was uncomfortable with the idea that the Rishonim of Europe were limited by their geography and thus erred in identifying the animals of the Torah - after all, the Rishonim, and especially Rashi, wrote with ruach hakodesh.

Over the years, I have been so involved in defending the claim that Chazal's statements about the natural world were not the product of ruach hakodesh that I never invested much effort in defending this claim about the Rishonim. Of course, it should be a kal v'chomer, but it is helpful to have explicit sources.

Even Rav Aharon Feldman, in his essay defending the controversial ban on my books, admitted that the reasons for claiming that Chazal were infallible in their scientific pronouncements would not apply to the Rishonim. And there are countless statements by Rishonim that are clearly scientifically incorrect. With regard to geography in particular, I seem to recall various statements by Rashi and other Rishonim which demonstrate their unfamiliarity with the geography of Eretz Yisrael - perhaps someone can remind me of where this is.

The Rishonim themselves certainly did not believe that Rashi possessed flawless knowledge in such areas! One especially interesting example of this is with nataf, a sap used in the ketores, which Rashi (Ex. 30:34) says is also known as teriyake (not to be confused with chicken teriyake). Ramban says that there must either be a scribal error, or that Rashi was misinformed as to the nature of teriyake, since it is a mixture of various substances that could never have been permitted for use in ketores. Theriac (a.k.a. teriyake) was an ancient Greek concoction that was re-introduced in the medieval period by Chasdai Ibn Shaprut; Ramban was thus familiar with it, but Rashi was not (my thanks to Hannah Davidson for sharing with me her doctoral dissertation that discusses this topic). But the point is that Ramban had no qualms in saying that Rashi was misinformed as to the identity of this substance.

Elsewhere, Rashi writes that the trachea leads to the heart! An explicit rejection of Rashi's statements about anatomy is made by no less a mainstream figure than Chasam Sofer:
"What are the meanings of the anatomical terms mentioned in this Mishna? After I researched medical books and medical writers as well as scholars and surgical texts, I have concluded that we cannot deny the fact that reality is not as described by Rashi, Tosfos and the drawings of the Maharam of Lublin. We have only what the Rambam wrote in the Mishna Torah and his Commentary to the Mishna - even though the latter has statements which are unclear. However, you will find correct drawings in the book Maaseh Tuviah and Shevili Emuna…. Therefore, I did not bother at all with the commentaries of Rashi and Tosfos in this matter since it is impossible to match them with true reality. You should know this." (Chasam Sofer to Niddah 18a)

Based on both reason as well as explicit statements by Rishonim and Acharonim, it is clearly mistaken to posit that European Rishonim such as Rashi had supernatural knowledge with made them familiar with the animal life of Eretz Yisrael. Instead, Rashi and the other European Rishonim invariably identified the animals of the Torah as European species with which they were familiar. Thus, the griffin vulture became the eagle, the gazelle became the deer or ibex, the hippopotamus became the elephant - and the hyrax became the rabbit. This is the explanation of the discrepancies between the identifications of animals given by Rashi, and those given by Saadiah Gaon, who lived in the Middle East.

I find it strange that there are people who do not accept this.

(Don't forget that you can order The Camel, The Hare And The Hyrax at http://www.zootorah.com/hyrax. And here is a video of a hyrax in the act of rechewing food that it swallowed earlier - not exactly rumination, but certainly close enough to account for it being described that way. I have an even better video that I will upload after I overcome some technical difficulties with it.)


67 comments:

  1. Why do you posit that the Shafan must be an animal native to the land of Israel? Talmud Hulin 42a states that God showed Moses all the animals, saying this one you may eat, this one you may not eat. So if G-d showed Moses ALL the animals, it is therefore necessary to say that this included animals outside the land of Israel.

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  2. Today is Hyrax Day
    It's Hyrax week as well. (Parshas Re'eh)

    it is clearly mistaken to posit that European Rishonim such as Rashi had supernatural knowledge

    I think that you (and Rabbi Ben-David) are confusing Ru'ach HaKodesh with Nevu'ah. It's possible that Rashi wrote his commentary with Ru'ach HaKodesh ( - a holy spirit of sorts) and still did not posses any supernatural knowledge.

    Also, where is the hippopotamus confused with the elephant?

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  3. So if G-d showed Moses ALL the animals, it is therefore necessary to say that this included animals outside the land of Israel.

    First, that does not follow at all! It is more likely that it means all the animals in the region. He didn't show Moshe animals from planet Betelgeuse!

    Second, the shafan is also mentioned in Tehillim and Mishlei as a familiar animal.

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  4. where is the hippopotamus confused with the elephant?

    Iyov - the behemoth.

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  5. Why can't we say that the rabbits used to live in Eretz Isroel and than died out similar to lions?

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  6. Please read the relevant chapter in my book. We have plenty of knowledge regarding which types of animals used to live in Israel and are now extinct there.

    And, to paraphrase the first part of your question: Why can't we just say that the Rishonim who lived in Europe were only familiar with rabbits, not hyraxes, whereas the Torah was speaking about a hyrax? The hyrax is a superior candidate to the rabbit on all counts. (The only reason why some want to explain that it is a rabbit, is in order to preserve the infallibility of a simple interpretation of a statement in the Gemara regarding the list being exclusive.)

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  7. Jumping Elephants Batman, what a ruckos over something so simple!

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  8. Can you comment at all on the origin of the concept of the Rishonim having ruach hakodesh? Where did it come from? And if it does have a legitimate origin, can't it simply be 'divinely inspired' (however one chooses to define that)?

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  9. It could very well be that G-d didn't show Moses animals from obscure planets, but that could be because they probably don't exist. Yet many animals live outside the environs of Israel, and if the Talmud says that G-d showed Moses ALL the animals, I have no reason to doubt this.

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  10. Can you comment at all on the origin of the concept of the Rishonim having ruach hakodesh? Where did it come from?

    That's a complicated topic. See my paper on Sod Hashem Liyreyav. There are many statements by Raavad regarding he himself having had some sort of ruach hakodesh, but it is disputed as to how literally he intended such statements.

    And if it does have a legitimate origin, can't it simply be 'divinely inspired' (however one chooses to define that)?

    Of course it can. Which is another reason why people who use it to mean that Rashi is infallible are incorrect.

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  11. Yet many animals live outside the environs of Israel, and if the Talmud says that G-d showed Moses ALL the animals, I have no reason to doubt this.

    It's probably futile to debate this, since you are approaching this from a non-rationalist perspective, but here are some questions for you to think about:

    1) What is the ultimate source of this claim that Hashem showed Moshe all the animals?

    2) What reason is there to think that "all the animals" means "all those on planet Earth" rather than "all those animals in the region"?

    3) Did Hashem also show Moshe all animals that have ever existed (but were since extinct) and that will ever exist?

    4) What on earth would be the point of telling Moshe whether a kangaroo is kosher?

    And, by the way, none of this is relevant to arguing that shafan is the rabbit since, as I mentioned, the shafan is also mentioned in Tehillim and Mishlei as a familiar animal.

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  12. On the topic of the hyrax and rumination, R. Josh Waxman has a good post today at http://parsha.blogspot.com/2011/08/hyrax-as-ruminant.html

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  13. Havn't finished reading yet but... " and in Israel there are plenty of hyraxes (there is one ten feet away from me right now!)" Having a hyrax in a cage doesn't count!

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  14. Ok, finished reading. I also don't feel comfortable saying that people in Spain had zero access to people in Israel to ask them about animals living there.

    You don't have to be a navi to send communications to people living in the middle east to ask about the definitions of words and animals. Going as far back as the 700s there is evidence of ships sailing from Israel to the end of the mediteranean. (Or rather, ships from end of the meditereanean sailing to Israel)

    I think you need more than a mistake to claim that someone didn't have any knowledge of something.

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  15. You don't have to be a navi to find out if the trachea leads to the heart. And yet Rashi got it wrong.

    You don't have to be a navi to find out how many ribs and teeth people have. And yet virtually EVERYONE got this wrong for THOUSANDS of years.

    Ditto for numerous mistakes made by the ancients.

    Your mistake is in your assumptions regarding epistemology. When the Rishonim of Europe are writing a perush on Chumash, it would never have occurred to them to avoid identifying the animals and to wait to ask someone who has been to Israel.

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  16. By the way, the same thing happened with the olive (see my monograph on kezayis). The Rishonim of Ashkenaz never saw an olive, and tried to figure out its size from the Gemara. They didn't launch an investigation to ask travelers from the Mediterranean.

    In fact, the case of the animals is even more straightforward - with kezayis, they knew that they didn't know what it looked like, whereas with the animals, they had no reason to assume that the animals in Israel were different from those in Europe.

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  17. Can you comment at all on the origin of the concept of the Rishonim having ruach hakodesh? Where did it come from?

    R' Yeshaya Horowitz in Shnei Luchos Habris, Maseches Shvu'os Daf 181 writes that Rashi wrote with Ru'ach Hakodesh. It seems from his wording that this means "Divine inspiration" and NOT supernatural knowledge.

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  18. Amateur

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_Revolution specificaly 4.5 empiricism.

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  19. " they had no reason to assume that the animals in Israel were different from those in Europe."

    I don't think that is true. Tanach talks about the zoos and strange animals brought to Shlomo. Exotic animals being different from region to region was a commonly known thing.

    As for your points about human anatomy, you don't have to be a Navi, but you do have to be willing to defile a dead person.

    I think its worth looking more deeply into the rishonim who say its a rabbit, and try to understand why they thought that way other than lack of access to hyraxes. I'd say the same about human anatomy as well. I think its a common mistake to just assume that people had no access to other sorts of knowledge that they could have conceivably gotten. It's fully possible that they knew of the alternatives but chose one option over the other.

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  20. Tanach talks about the zoos and strange animals brought to Shlomo. Exotic animals being different from region to region was a commonly known thing.

    It's one thing to be aware that exotic countries have exotic animals. It's another thing entirely to assume that everyday animals discussed in the Torah are different in Israel than in Europe.

    As for your points about human anatomy, you don't have to be a Navi, but you do have to be willing to defile a dead person.

    Not to know the number of teeth! And with regard to the number of ribs, even the gentiles got it wrong. Your assumptions about epistemology in antiquity are all wrong.

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  21. " Your assumptions about epistemology in antiquity are all wrong."

    Your assumptions about my assumptions are all wrong.

    Two things. 1. You think non Jews didn't get heebiegibbies from dead people? If i remember correctly the first people to disect other people were badly frowned upon, and called monsters.
    2. My assumption about animals and asking other people from far away about them has nothing to do with epistemology. It has to do with novels and books written during the Byzantine period of people doing just that. Common and exotic animals were asked about in literature far and wide, and it was the best for of 'adventure' story. Many Arabic scholars wrote about these things and Jews often translated their works.

    This isn't about a debate between people trusting local knowledge and wisdom vs testing it. It's about not assuming that people had no source of information other than their own backyard.

    I find many people ignore how much knowledge was traded around the world, correctly or not.

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  22. "It's one thing to be aware that exotic countries have exotic animals. It's another thing entirely to assume that everyday animals discussed in the Torah are different in Israel than in Europe."

    Camels are not 'everyday animals' they are as exotic to Europeans as Lions and Elephants. And Camels are listed right up next to Hyraxes.

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  23. "R' Yeshaya Horowitz in Shnei Luchos Habris, Maseches Shvu'os Daf 181 writes that Rashi wrote with Ru'ach Hakodesh. It seems from his wording that this means "Divine inspiration" and NOT supernatural knowledge."

    Ruach Hakodesh means 'theologically correct' in all places except for Charedim who have decided it also means nevuah :)

    I'd be curious to know when 'divine inspiration' entered Jewish popular usage, seems a foreign concept to me.

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  24. Ameteur, nobody gets the heeby-jeebies from counting teeth on live people! And yet people got it wrong. You keep ignoring this point.

    Look, there are countless cases where the Rishonim of Europe identify animals differently from Rav Saadiah. They ALWAYS identify them as European animals. Not ONCE do they even mention the possibility that the animals of Israel might be different - even when they admit that they have problems, such as with Rashi and Tosafos regarding the Gemara about the tzvi having non-branched horns, which not true of the deer (and is true of the gazelle, which they didn't know about). It's plain as day that they didn't think of the possibility that the animals of Israel were different. Otherwise, what is your explanation for all this?

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  25. See the following example I brought in a post in the seforim blog (http://seforim.blogspot.com/2010/01/review-or-hayyim-commentary.html):
    הדוגמא האחרונה מהסגנון הזה שבחרתי להביא הוא מדברי האור החיים על הפסוק "ויאמר ה' לא ידון רוחי באדם לעולם" (בראשית ו' ג'), שם כותב האור החיים:

    ומשחרב המעון נסתם חזון ונשארה בחינת רוח הקודש, וכשנסתתמו עיני ישראל אין אתנו משיג ריח הקודש ואין צריך לומר רוח הקודש, וזו היא צרת בית ישראל שאין למעלה ממנה הצמאים להריח ריח אבינו שבשמים ותחי רוחינו.

    כאן מעיר המהדיר כך:

    עי' שו"ת דברי חיים לגה"ק ר' חיים מצאנז (ח"ב יו"ד סי' רה) שאלה אודות אחד שפגע בכבוד רבינו האוה"ח הקדוש ואמר שלא עשה ספרו ברוח הקודש, ומסיים שם את תשובתו שודאי רבינו אוה"ח הק' חיבר את ספרו ברוח הקודש, ולפי"ז מ"ש כאן הוא רק מחמת ענתנותו (- כך במקור).

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  26. I think Rashi and Tosfos in the 4th Perek of Kiddushin have a dispute about the borders/geography of the land of Israel.

    Similarly, Rashi, Tosfos, and the Ramban in Perek Bameh Madlikin have a dispute about the efficiency of candles (regarding the issue of using a candle sitting in a bowl of oil) to the effect that the Ramban says something like "Candles don't burn well- this is easily confirmed by anyone who has tried to use one." Rashi felt differently. I thought that it might be another example where Rashi, living in a place where olive oil was not commonly used for light was familiar with well- made candles while the Ramban lived where olive oil was a common fuel and thus candles were not well made in his environs.

    I think this type of thing comes up anytime we have a "machlokes in metzius."

    And btw- if the Rishonim had such strong ruach hakodesh, certainly Chazal's ruach hakodesh was stronger. So why is there a machlokes re: what is a terua, for example. Let them just use ruach hakodesh to figure it out. Simple answer: lo bashamayim hi. But if so why did Rashi merit ruach hakodesh to identify the shafan?

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  27. "Ameteur, nobody gets the heeby-jeebies from counting teeth on live people! And yet people got it wrong. You keep ignoring this point."

    Do you commonly open people's mouths and ask to inspect them?
    Do you commonly read books?
    Do you understand the difference?
    You seem to think I am making some sort of argument which I am not making.


    "Look, there are countless cases where the Rishonim of Europe identify animals differently from Rav Saadiah. They ALWAYS identify them as European animals. "

    I'm not sure what you are saying here. Are you saying that when Rishonim from Europe translate different from Rav Saadiah that they always choose European animals, or are you saying that Rishonim from Europe only ever translate animals as European ones?

    If the latter, then that is false, as Elephants and Camels etc are not found in Europe. If the former, then it seems it would be interesting to find the pattern. Why do they sometimes agree and why do they sometimes disagree? What is the context of their disagreement?

    There are many reasons why a rishon in Europe might choose to define an animal as a local one rather than an exotic one. A. Practical Halacha. B. Some greater drash/musar,dvar Torah point they wish to be making. C. They don't know of any other option. D. A belief that they are the same base animal and only a different breed. E. A lack of word in their native or known languages for that other animal. F. Writing to their audience which may not know of the other animals. G. Fear of losing credibility if they introduce a new animal that they only know about from non-Jewish sources. H. This is what they were told the animal is by their Rebbe I. Some other reasons I haven't thought of but you might.

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  28. 1) What is the ultimate source of this claim that Hashem showed Moshe all the animals?

    Talmud Hulin 42a

    2) What reason is there to think that "all the animals" means "all those on planet Earth" rather than "all those animals in the region"?

    Rational people would say that ALL means All.

    3) Did Hashem also show Moshe all animals that have ever existed (but were since extinct) and that will ever exist?

    Good question. Probably not, unless they will be resurrected one day via dna cloning or other yet-unknown technology,

    4) What on earth would be the point of telling Moshe whether a kangaroo is kosher?

    So that his descendants won't eat one when the day comes that they reach Australia.

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  29. " And yet people got it wrong. You keep ignoring this point."

    btw, I'm ignoring the point because it is irrelevant to what I am saying and seems to just be a tangent to the issue of Rishonim in Spain being limited in knowledge to the animals in spain.

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  30. I think the Rashi you are referring to (that makes a mistake in simple geography) is the Rashi in Kiddushin 71b, where Rashi says that the river Pras (known to us as the Euphrates) flows from Eretz Yisroel, which Rashi says there is in the south, to Bavel, which Rashi says there is in the north. This is clearly incorrect, as the Euphrates flows from the northwest to the southeast. (Tosfos there argues with Rashi, but for a different reason.) It is interesting that many times Rashi will explain something in a way which is clearly wrong mathematically, and Tosfos will argue and give the correct explanation. See R' Achikam Kashet's "Kovetz Yesodos V'chakiros" (available here: http://www.yeshiva.org.il/midrash/Hmidrash.aspx?cat=816) pg. 762.

    I think that you cannot say simply that Chazal and Rishonim did not try to prove things empirically, as some commementers have been suggesting that they were not believers in scientific method. While it seems to be true that experimentation was not as important to them as proofs from earlier sources, emprical proofs were certainly used. See the previously mentioned "Kovetz" (by the way, I highly recommend this sefer, it's amazing), pg. 749, where he says this is one reason we are loathe to say a machlokes is a machlokes in "metzius". I think this topic (how much Chazal used experimentation) would be an interseting topic for further research. There are many places in the Gemara where we find Amoraim experimenting. It would be interesting to know if Chazal experimented more or less than the Greek naturalists (I'm sure the academics have discussed this).

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  31. In previous posts Rav Belsky's changing view of the identity of the hyrax has been discussed. I just heard a Q&A session he gave in August 2007 where he was asked this question. He said, "Nobody knows precisely what a shafan is, because a shafan is hardly mentioned in tanach... There was someone who wrote a book and published with my haskamah. It was a very learned attempt at being able to identify the shafan and arneves.... The shafan is still not perfectly identified. On the other hand, the conclusions that the author of that book came to would lead one to believe that there's one or two other minim - but they're out in the far East, Eastern Asia. It's quite possible that there is another min, one that he had, the author of this book had, with the same characteristics as the arneves and shafan...

    "That's the difficulty with his book, but other than that we've had no succesful identification of the arneves and shafan. But, there was a yid from Mexico, a very, very ehlricher Yid, a great scholar, Dr. Betech and he wrote a book length treatise ... and he found minim ... that these two minim are very much maaleh gerah-like and in a way that no other animal is domeh to them, and so trhe number is back at four like chazal said.

    "The discussion is not closed on that, but it definitely is something that the kiruv people are entitled to use because chazal do say shalit b'olamo yode'a... So I think in retrospect that that's a much better and more successful explanation of arneves and shafan..."

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  32. "Can you comment at all on the origin of the concept of the Rishonim having ruach hakodesh? Where did it come from?"

    A place to start looking is the buch Chaim B emunasam, if you let it into your house.

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  33. "I'd be curious to know when 'divine inspiration' entered Jewish popular usage, seems a foreign concept to me."

    And why is that? is 'divine spirit' less "foreign" to you? Or how about 'holy ghost'?

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  34. Wow, all this about a little Hyrax. Wait 2-3 months till the Daf gets up to the mishna about the half-dirt half-mouse, and Dr. Leiman's toireh on the subject.

    R Slifkin - how did R Feldman distinguish rishonim from chazal? Meaning, if he thinks chazal - which includes people living c. 400 CE - had ruach hakodesh, what logical reason did he articualte to say that rishonim, a mere 600 years later, did not? Curious.

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  35. "...I seem to recall various statements by Rashi and other Rishonim which demonstrate their unfamiliarity with the geography of Eretz Yisrael - perhaps someone can remind me of where this is."

    I don't know about Rashi, but if he had a map of the Middle East, it was hidden from view of at least one of his grandchildren - see the R"I bar Rav Shmuel's depiction of the region in the map on Erchin 15a.

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  36. Your assumption that God showed Moshe only the animals relevant to the BY or to he himself and the region they were in is just wrong. God showed Moshe everything that would matter at that time and for the entire future of klal Yisrael up to and including today. Moshe saw turkeys, rabbits, elephants and polar bears too. There were no parts of the Torah given to Moshe for just the desert people. The Torah is all encompassing. I believe Moshe was shown iPads and stealth bombers as well, while he stood at Sinai and again on Nebo before he dies.

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  37. see rashash pesachim 94b where he sais rashi and tosafos there assume the world is flat. and the same can be deduced from rashbam bava basra 74a where he sais the sky touches the earth at the corners. also regarding the chasam sofer,there is also a teshuvah from him about it, i saw it in yehudah levy's book science and torah and see there that he defends rashi to fit with modern science.

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  38. Camels are not 'everyday animals' they are as exotic to Europeans as Lions and Elephants. And Camels are listed right up next to Hyraxes.

    All three are extremely distinctive animals that were so significant that they were even known of in remote countries - although the specific of their nature was murky. This has no relevance to our topic.

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  39. 1) What is the ultimate source of this claim that Hashem showed Moshe all the animals?

    Talmud Hulin 42a


    And what is the Gemara's ultimate source?

    2) What reason is there to think that "all the animals" means "all those on planet Earth" rather than "all those animals in the region"?

    Rational people would say that ALL means All.


    Actually, rationalists would say that it is only referring to all the animals that are in the relevant part of the world. Just like when the Gemara says that someone who makes a neder not to drink from the Euphrates is prohibited from all the rivers in the world (since they may be tributaries of it), it is not referring to rivers in America.

    4) What on earth would be the point of telling Moshe whether a kangaroo is kosher?

    So that his descendants won't eat one when the day comes that they reach Australia.


    And how did showing Moshe a kangaroo prevent his descendants from eating one?

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  40. "And how did showing Moshe a kangaroo prevent his descendants from eating one?"

    I'm some what in the "see the word 'hyrax' in a post and stop reading category, but how did showing him all the local animals help? What purpose did it achieve that it wouldn't also achieve for all animal's world wide?

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  41. I find many people ignore how much knowledge was traded around the world, correctly or not.

    Well, it did take about 400 years from the time of first discovery for the knowledge of how to cure scurvy to become common knowledge.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_C#History_of_human_understanding

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  42. "And why is that? is 'divine spirit' less "foreign" to you? Or how about 'holy ghost'?"

    Yeedle, I don't understand you. Those terms are even MORE foreign than 'divine inspiration'

    We do not find anyone ever talking about 'divine inspiritation'. We either get a Bat Kol ( a voice from heaven) or Nevuah (direct prophecy) and later we get 'ruach hakodesh' (a wind of holiness)

    Sorry for being curious!

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  43. "There were no parts of the Torah given to Moshe for just the desert people."

    Norman, that just isn't true. The Torah tells us that anybody who kills a cow,sheep, or goat, and does not bring it to the Mishkan is a murderer. However, once bnei Yisrael left the desert and conquered Israel that rule was nullified.

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  44. דתנא דבי רבי ישמעאל זאת החיה אשר תאכלו מלמד שתפס הקב"ה מכל מין ומין והראה לו למשה ואמר לו זאת אכול וזאת לא תיכול


    Source is Rabi Yishmael. Hulin 42a.

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  45. Regarding geography: Look in the Mizrachi (perush on Rashi) in Maasei, and see the map there. It is similar to many maps made in the middle ages and later of Israel, and is obviously made by someone who had only the vaguest idea of what Israel's geography was. (And he's basing himself on Rashi's words, remember.) One common feature of these maps supposes that the Dead Sea connects to the Red Sea.

    The Israel Museum once had an exhibit on historical maps of Israel; the catalog has a chapter on maps based on Rashi.

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  46. Chaim'el said... "...if the Talmud says that G-d showed Moses ALL the animals, I have no reason to doubt this."

    Well, since the Torah mentions kosher and non-kosher sheratzim & insects, do you also presume that Moshe was shown the 1 MILLION plus species of insects, the 30 thousand species of fish, etc etc?
    To say that this is a silly idea is being kind.

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  47. Zach to add to your point … it is obvious that this midrash cannot be literal. After all, what would be purpose of showing Moishe which animals are kosher….how does that help teaching the people what they have to know. Besides in Deut 14:4, the word “zot” is spoken by Moishe addressing the people.

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  48. Ameteur, See Ramban in Bava Basra 12a:

    הא דאמרינן מיום שחרב ביהמ"ק אע"פ שנטלה הנבואה מן הנביאים‚ מן החכמים לא נטלה ... הכי קאמר ... נבואת החכמים שהוא בדרך החכמה לא נטלה אלא יודעים האמת ברוח הקדש שבקרבם

    Wind of holiness? Or divine inspiration?

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  49. I get very irritated when people go down the Ruach Hakodesh route. It's not that I don't believe it's possible for a great sage to possess it, it's just that their is no basis to assume that this imparts infallibility to their every pronouncement.

    The Rambam in the Mishneh Torah discusses how an individual who is PROVEN to be a Navi doesn't necessarily have to be followed when they are paskening halachah from their own intellect. We see from the Tanach that prophets could err in their personal judgements--i.e. they were far from infallible, whatever status we want to accord their navuah itself. And navuah is certainly of a higher sort of knowledge than ruach hakodesh.

    I'd like to know who has the ability to determine, with complete accuracy, which pronouncements made by a particular sage, and in what proportions, were made by ruach hakodesh, versus springing from their intellect. Shouldn't this problem be obvious to everyone?

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  50. Betelgeuse is a star not a planet. (Yes, your point is clear but I couldn't resist the nitpick)..

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  51. DF, the source for differenciating between Chazal & the Rishonim is Kesef Mishnah on Mamrim 2:1? where he discusses the sealing of the Talmud. Chazon Ish explains that after the Talmud, the later generations saw themselves inferior to those of Talmudic times. R Shlomo Fischer offers a different explanation but R Feldman probably follows Chazon Ish

    Regarding geography, IIRC De Rossie argues with Rashi's geography

    Regarding Minim, פרקי ר אליעזר פרק כג [23] ורדל שם say that there are 365 minim of animals 365 of birds etc. Moshe could do all. Minim could be larger groups each containing many species. By the same token Moshe didn't necessarily show new world or australian animals. he might have only shown their middle east cousins [but thereby covering all animals]. what is a cousin? that depends what classification system the torah uses.

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  52. I think it's best if we stop claiming "ruach HaKodesh". What that really means is one of two things. Either it means that "even though a person has no compelling reason to make a claim....s/he makes it anyways". Or, the way it appears to be used here is that if we rely on say, Rashi, for his erudite scholarship... when he makes a mistake, he's really right. Why? "Because he had ruach haKodesh"?!


    I think RNS's view is much more flattering of Rashi. That is, there's a scholastic reason behind Rashi's commentary. As we realize how the scholarship was limited by circumstances we can get the commentary closer to what the author intended...and probably would have written had he had better information.

    Gary Goldwater

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  53. you wanted a geography mareh makom. I can th recall one at the moment, namely the first Tosphos Yom Tov in maseches Shevi'is perek 6, where he writes that the Rav miBartenura and the Rash were not correct in their understanding of the map of Eretz Yisroel and in placing Akko and Cheziv they were mefaresh "m'omed". The Tosphos Yom Tov brings the Kaftor Vaferach who spent several years mapping Eretz Yisroel as the authority to disprove the Rash and the Rav.

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  54. "Wind of holiness? Or divine inspiration?"

    Neither... the Rambam is talking about knowledge, not muses and art.

    Divine inspiration means you are an observer looking onto something you know nothing about, and get inspired to your own idea. Rambam there is talking about Emet, not fanciful thoughts of creative people.

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  55. about geography of eretz yisroel.

    rashi in first perk of gitin, I think puts achu in west instead of east.

    the radvaz say about someone that he makes nachal mitzrayim the nile
    only because he has never been there and seen how deep into egypt it goes and so cannot be the border, which is wadi al arish.
    he is not referring there to rashi, but rashi holds that nachal mitzrayim is nile. so presumably the radvaz would have the same criticism of rashi (there may be a stirah in rashi about this to rashi in joshua)

    rambam has a doubt in m. nev. about the number of gilgalim there are. but in yad he says with certainty the amount. if stated with ruach hakodesh, there is no room for a doubt.

    chosid yaavetz or hachaim says we do not reach with our ankles in scientific knowledge to the goyim.
    although he cannot be called a fully fledged rishon

    (a weaker example) rashba says we cannot scientifically explain why metal ships float

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  56. Ameteur, it seems your underlying mistake is that you assume anything we commonly do/think is normal today, the rishonim also commonly did/thought was normal. This is a highly flawed way of looking at things.

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  57. Somewhere in ketuvot there is a tosfos about the elevation of (I think) har habayit. I forget exactly the details but I think it was claimed that this is the highest place in the world. Whatever it was I remember it was obviously not correct and the rav I was learning with tried to explain it non literally referring only to eretz yisrael or some such.

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  58. If someone could provide the source, I'd be indebted.

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  59. dovid said... he is not referring there to rashi, but rashi holds that nachal mitzrayim is nile. so presumably the radvaz would have the same criticism of rashi (there may be a stirah in rashi about this to rashi in joshua)

    I heard from Rabbi D. Schwartz, author of אלה מסעי on Israel's geography that Rashi's נילוס is only a generic name [in egyptian?] for a river. He claimed that Rashi's נילוס is in fact Wadi l Rish.

    Rabbi Brown's 'Mysteries of the Creation' has a chapter entitled 'summit of the world' about the Har Habayit being higher than everyplace else. Part of the problem is that that Rashi on ובין כתיפיו שכן says that en itam was higher than the Har Habayit which was only 'shoulder' height.

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  60. Can some one please explain why Moshe would have to have been shown a kangaroo in order to for warn Yidden who would travel that it is not kosher?

    Isn't the two signs plainly giving in the Torah 'chewing it's cud' and 'split hooves' enough with out having to take the midrash literally?

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  61. "Ameteur, it seems your underlying mistake is that you assume anything we commonly do/think is normal today, the rishonim also commonly did/thought was normal. This is a highly flawed way of looking at things."

    StudentV, it seems your underlying mistake is that you assume things about me for no reason. Do you think it was normal for Rishonim to go around opening people's mouths and counting teeth? Do you think it was abnormal of them to search out and find books? Why would you ever think that?

    Using an electronic device for me is normal, for a rishon it would be unheard of. Separating literature into fiction and non-fiction is normal for me, for a Rishon that also would be unheard of.

    Al-Jahiz was writing about animals in the 800s. His writings and influence extended to Spain.

    There is no shortage of letters going from Western European rabbis to Babylonian Geonim. Have you read about how Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, knew about the Kaazars?

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  62. student v

    you do not mean tosfos sanhedrin 87side 1 where according to one answer the walls of the temple are the highest point in israel?

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  63. Found the official name of the group of people I was thinking of.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radhanites

    Seems to be a forgotten piece of Jewish history.

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  64. Dovid: you're right! I'm sorry, that was the one I was thinking of. My mistake. I don't know how I mixed up the masechta but I guess that shows I need to review my learning some more.

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  65. Ameteur, I wasn't intending to make assumptions about you but to form a basis for comments you were making.

    You say "you don't have to be a navi to send communications to the middle east to ask them what animals they have there"

    Underlying this comment is an assumption that the scholars in France suspected the animals in france were different and the ones in eretz yisrael could not be found there. But (and here comes my interpretation) that assumption would only be made because: 1. We today know for a fact that animals vary greatly in different places - we know to such an extent that it is now common knowledge- and 2. The one making the assumption also assumes that since we know this about animals varying place to place, the rishonim also knew this basic fact (but really in their time it was not basic fact and not known).

    That is just one example but there are others. I'm not saying you have a character trait to always think they knew what we know or what they thought was normal we think is normal, I'm saying that several of your comments in this thread reflect an assumption like that and this represents the fundamental error behind certain of your statements.

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  66. On second thought I think there is an additional source besides the one in sanhedrin which I am thinking of but it is about eretz yisrael's elevation, not the temple mount. And this one was indeed obviously incorrect if taken literally. I just need to figure out where that one was.

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  67. " But (and here comes my interpretation) that assumption would only be made because:"

    You are ignoring possible assumption number 3. (the one I'm actually making) They read the books from the Arab world and noticed that the animals in the middle east are not the same as the animals in Spain.

    Personally, I think these errors come from two possible sources. 1. There was no word in common usage to distinguish between rabbits and hyraxes, or deer and gazelles etc. 2. A desire to make the Torah more relevant to the people they were writing to.

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