Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom

I am pleased to make available a free sample chapter from my forthcoming work The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom. The chapter is about the leopard and strongly relates to Chanukah. You can download it at I would greatly appreciate it if people would circulate it as widely as they can. I also plan to print this sample chapter in full color this week, but I am not yet sure how it will be distributed.

This is a project that I began over ten years ago (and although I have revised the material, readers will notice that it is quite different from my writing style today). But then I was sidetracked with the ban on my books, with their subsequent republication, and with my MA. However, I was able to return to it here and there, and now I am able to devote more time to it. Baruch Hashem, the first volume (on Chayos - wild animals) is nearly complete, but I cannot give an estimated date of publication.

Incidentally, my website is clearly long in need of a thorough overhaul, but I lack the resources (time and financial) to devote to it. If anyone would like to volunteer to do it, please be in touch!


  1. Very exciting. Been waiting for this for a while.

    I'm curious if all your animals will focus on Israel or not. (I hope it does)

  2. Congratulations on getting this ready.

    The photos are amazing and I think many will pick up the work for that reason alone. The problems I foresee are finding the right publisher (assuming Artscroll is not an option at this point) and cost of a full-color work.

    I enkoyed the content of this article, thought you would darshin Boaz - Bo-Az and Ez-Az for goats. Does R. Hirsch use his etymology for these examples?

    The other part I found interesting was the "psul" of combining Torah and Greek chochmah. I realize that things have changed in the past decade but how do you look at that peirush through the eyes of rationalist judaism? Or are you just presenting a classical peirush without necessarily agreeing?

    While this is OK for the machshavah parts, I am curious how you will deal with the natural science problems given your more recent approach to conflicts between Torah and science.

  3. I did not read everything, just skimmed, but I would like to offer the following compliment:a mark of a good teacher is his ability to spark interest when such interest did not previously exist. I was never particularly interested in the field of animals, but as I leafed through this segment it inspired me to want to read more. You have successfully piqued my interest in such fashion on more than one occasion-thank you.

  4. There's a kefirah vote on this post. You've gotta laugh. There are some really passionate Slifkin-haters out there!

  5. wow! Really beautiful! It's a shame that many people won't buy this book, just because you're the author. On the other hand, I'm sure there are people out there who would buy the book just because you are the author (talk about a paradox).


  6. SO GOOD! Thank you for sharing this Rav Slifkin!

  7. "But then I was sidetracked with the ban on my books, with their subsequent republication, and with my MA."

    Umm, and blogging? (smirk)
    I definitely look forward to reading your book.

  8. I imagine that in order to identify certain animals, you'll have to go into detail about some flora, too. Maybe your next book will be on botany!

  9. >>David T. said...
    >>There's a kefirah vote on this post.

    I noticed that there is a kefirah vote on nearly every post - even things as inoccuos as "I'll be in NYC next week".

  10. A thought-this is exactly the sample which should be distributed in order to raise funds and expand staff. Imagine what could be accomplished with a staff under your direction!

  11. Looks wonderful. I love your explanation (in the leopard entry) of the "salting the afterbirth of a mule" pasuk. A message very appropriate for Chanukah.

  12. Is the encyclopedia going to have to have original research, i.e. more than what Dr. Felix wrote about?

  13. From simply glancing at the sample chapter, I have 3 comments:
    1) I don't know of any other book that even comes close to explaining the animal kingdom as this one.
    2) I was taken aback to see the fictitious illustration of the verse in Daniel (page 7 of the pdf) (to say nothing of the fact that the verse is not meant to be taken literally).
    3) Perhaps it may subtract from the aesthetics of the content presented, but do you really want to inconvenience people (e.g., readers who aren't contented with a superficial reading of your book) with endnotes! From about 10 pages in the sample chapter, readers will be compelled to flip to the endnotes approximately 4 times for each page. Who wants to do that?

  14. wait... so this is one chapter... of one volume?!?!?!?!? how big is this thing going to be? either way I'm very excited and looking forward to buying all of them, no matter how many volumes of chapters there are. You've done an excellent job.(i just hope there isn't too much rationalism stuffed in there cuz i wanna b able to show it to my more yeshivish friends ;) ) THANK YOU!

  15. I was taken aback to see the fictitious illustration of the verse in Daniel (page 7 of the pdf) (to say nothing of the fact that the verse is not meant to be taken literally).

    But it was a VISION. This is what he saw. Why not convey it visually?

    do you really want to inconvenience people (e.g., readers who aren't contented with a superficial reading of your book) with endnotes!

    As you can see from my other books, I prefer footnotes. But in a book like this, it just wouldn't work - both from a technical perspective of page design, and because most readers would not want it.

  16. I assume that not every animal mentioned in Tanach and Gemara/Midrash is going to get such a large chapter.

    Are you going to try to identify all the birds listed in the Chumash?

    BTW I think the Daniel vision pic is great.

  17. Impressive, comprehensive research, fascinating material, beautiful pictures. Thank you for doing this.

    How about R' Wein's Shaar Press?
    Also, when you publish it, do you think it would be possible to have the Hebrew phrases in addition to the transliteration and translation?

  18. Just a few weeks ago I became aware of the confusion that has arisen with respect to the translation of "namer," when I saw a stained glass window in a shul (built in 1928) with inscription "Havi az ke-namer" -- and illustrated with a tiger.

  19. "How about R' Wein's Shaar Press?"

    That's Artscroll. R' Wein's last book was published by Koren.

    How many volumes will this be total?

  20. Oh, four. Sorry! How will they be divided?

  21. Why not convey it visually?

    I didn't say that you cannot convey it visually, but that I was taken aback (that was just after simply glancing at the chapter). However, considering that you are not printing the picture without commentary, I don't know of any reason why you shouldn't be able to convey it visually. Also, considering the סכלות of so many of your detractors, אשר לא ידעו במה יכשלו, I do apologize for writing such an indeterminate comment.

    As you can see from my other books, I prefer footnotes. But in a book like this, it just wouldn't work - both from a technical perspective of page design,

    If it's not possible to do from a technical perspective then there's nothing to talk about.

    and because most readers would not want it.

    If it's because "most readers would not want it", why not please those readers such as yourself who would prefer it. דעלך סני לחברך לא תעביד (שבת לא א).

  22. "Which shul was it?"

    A shul which is unfortunately in the process of closing down because of dwindled membership and vandalism, Cong. Bnai Israel Ahavas Achim in Rochester, NY. The namer/tiger window is one of many that has been damaged. I'll see if I can send you a photo by private email.

  23. Dan, please can you email me directly (not via Snapfish).

  24. Beautiful & informative. These types of articles would be a great resource to any Tanach library. It's a great bar or bat mitzvah gift.

    Gary Goldwater

  25. Thank you for the leopard chapter; I look forward to reading the remainder of the Encyclopedia.

    The discussion of the leopard interbreeding with other big cats cause me to wonder about kilayim. There have been documented instances of almost every one of the four big cats -- lion, tiger, jaguar, leopard -- interbreeding with each of the others, and often the offspring are fertile. Domestic cats have interbred with wildcats -- their wild ancestor -- and many other of the small cat species in the world, some of which have on occasion interbred with each other. In fact, there are a few of these hybrids that are now popular as pets!

    One can list a number of cat species across which there are fewer differences in looks, and even in underlying anatomy, than in the many breeds of domestic dogs, all of which are a single species. But the Torah's definition of min is not identical to the scientific definition of species, which itself is quite vague. And this brings up the question of where the kilayim boundaries fall. Can a Jew breed dogs? Can a Jew breed, say, Bengal cats or Savannah cats?

    This came up recently in Daf Yomi as we were studying hybrids. Goat/sheep hybrids have occurred, but of greater practical interest are hybrids of different goat species where the child will not look like its mother. Can a Jew breed such hybrid goats?

    Any halachic literature on this?

  26. I just got a virus warning from pdf. False positive?

  27. I sure hope so! I have anti-virus software on my machine.

  28. My belated compliments – this is a magnificent read! A great Chanukah treat with fantastic photos. One day you’ll have to tell the background of how you took the photo at the end of the article. I ‘missed Chanukah’ sending this, thanks to my great busy-ness, but I enjoyed the article on Chanukah itself.

    Some comments:

    1- “Oth¬ers relate it to the term chaburah, “wound,” and explains that it refers to the mark left by a wound.13 ”

    Uhm, I think you mean ‘explain’?

    2- [paraphrasing] “Since נמר means leopard ברדלס must mean cheetah….”

    Or נמר means cheetah, as it sometimes does, so ברדלס must mean leopard. [See my next comment]

    3- “It was [WILD ANIMALS 10] believed that the leopard was a hybrid of the lion with this pard, and this is how the leopard received its name:leo (Latin for lion) combined with pard spells leopard.”

    This suggests a derivation for ברדליס, ברד-ליס = Pard Leus, but that might be a stretch.

    4- 28 But see the comments of Rashah to Chullin 79b where he retracts…

    5- Endnotes are a nuisance where you have to scroll down vertically to get to get to them and then scroll back up. Flipping back and forth horizontally in a book made out of paper is much less of a challenge. There will be less/no complaints when you actually print.



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