Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Free Hyrax!

Since this week's parashah mentions the hyrax, I've decided to make the chapter on hyraxes from my forthcoming Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom available as a free download. Click on this link to download it (7.5 megabyte PDF).

Much of the information in this chapter is the same as in my book The Camel, The Hare And The Hyrax (with the addition of some small sections, and some amazing pictures that I found). However, it is organized very differently. When I wrote The Camel..., I presented the information yeshivah-style: A list of all the opinions that identified it as the hyrax, a list of the opinions that identified it as a llama, a rabbit, etc. But now that I have undergone academic training, the information is presented in a more meaningful way. The chapter explains how the various opinions arose, based on the context of the scholars.

I'm still tinkering with the page layout of the encyclopedia, so if you have any comments, please let me know; I think that the title bar for each chapter (where it mentions the animal's name in English and Hebrew) needs improving, but I'm not sure how.

On another note, I will be visiting Canada (Toronto and Montreal) for 10 days over Shavuos; I will post my speaking schedule once it is finalized. I also have a free Shabbos in New York on August 2-3, if anyone wants to arrange a scholar-in-residence program; please write to me if you are interested.


  1. It is not completely in academic encyclopedia style.
    You have many paragraphs that start "Some say" or 'Some have the opinion" but you dont say who it is. You need to say who said it.
    It is still too much in oral style "One could possibility say"
    They dont say "We shall discover" "we have seen" They write "As presented above" or "As presented below"
    Encyclopedic are written in a definite voice and without rhetorical phrases.

    Citations such as Shaw and Bruce need first names.

    Tanhuma needs an edition.

    These are just from a quick look.

    Encyclopedia Brown

  2. Thank you for your comments. This is not intended to be an academic work (though it is intended to be of use to academic research), but rather a popular work.

  3. Your work is absolutely brilliant. Clear, informative and enthralling. I can't wait for the entire work to be published.
    Behatzlacha rabba!

  4. I read the headline and was hoping you were offering pets!

    So disappointing :(

  5. the "s" in Chayos is inconsistent with the the "t" that you use everywhere else.

  6. Where do I use "t"? I generally use "s," unless it's a transliteration of the title of a work written in Modern Hebrew.

  7. perhaps I just assumed so because you switched to Natan.

  8. Adding a few personal notes of your experience with animals would lend the encyclopedia an unmatched appeal.

  9. Fascinating! Thank you!

    One thing in this debate over the identity of the shafan that I have trouble reconciling is what prompted rishonim who were unfamiliar with the hyrax to positively identify the shafan at all? It appears that rabbit was a wild guess based on the animals known to them. Shouldn't they rather have just said that we are not sure what a shafan is, or at least qualified their identification as being just a guess?

  10. It seems that they weren't very aware of the fact that different countries have very different types of animals. They assumed that whatever animals lived around them, were also the animals available for the Torah to discuss.

  11. On page 43 you write, "Aware of the problems with identifying the shafan as the rabbit..." But you haven't mentioned the problems yet (unless I missed them -- I did skim a bit in the beginning). Perhaps delete the word "the" or replace it with "potential." Just a suggestion.

    Thanks for the link.

  12. Upon reflection I believe this chapter is not in the spirit of rationalist Judaism. By this I refer to the careful and nuanced approach that numerous medieval commentators employed when confronting the problematics of faith and reason. I have not read a prominent rishon who views applied science as a challenge against articles of faith. This is for good reason.

  13. My apologies. I read the sentence as "Aware of the problems with identifying the shafan as the hyrax" (not "the rabbit" -- which is what you wrote). I said to myself, "You haven't yet mentioned that the hyrax doesn't chew its cud."

    I did see the previous column, but I misread your sentence even though I read it several times and even pasted it in my comment! I suppose my mind was expecting the fundemental question about the hyrax chewing its cud, which made me misread your sentence. Anyways, sorry again and yasher koach.

  14. I enjoyed the chapter.

    I agree with the first comment - even though it is a popular work, it contains a fair amount of detail and avoiding generalities like "some say" would make it a more valuable resource.

    As for hyraxes and mistaken identity...several years ago, we went to Israel and hiked in the Ein Gedi Reserve. On seeing the rock hyraxes, my 6 year old yelled out, "Look - it's the Dead Sea Squirrels!" [She had heard that the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit was coming to Toronto.]


Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.

Tzedakah: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

How do you tell apart a good charity from a bad one? It can be very difficult to know who is actually honest. But the first step is to be aw...