Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Reader's Guide to The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom

The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom is, thank God, very popular and receiving wide acclaim. However it does suffer from some drawbacks. One is that it is really heavy. Another, related to this, is that there is so much information in it, that it might be hard to get "into it." Not everyone wants to wade through page after page exploring the multitude aspects of lion symbolism, or the finer points of animal identification. Many people therefore probably just settle for looking at the beautiful photos. But I thought that it would be a good idea to provide a list of what I consider to be the most interesting parts of the book to read (which is admittedly somewhat subjective). So here goes:

  • The second paragraph in the acknowledgements
  • “The Wildlife of the Torah” pp. 29-31
  • “The Prestige of Wild Animals” pp. 37-38
  • “The Lurking Lion” pp. 93-94
  • “The Lion Hunter of Zion” pp. 101-102
  • Bear – entire chapter!
  • “When the Wolf Lay with the Lamb” p. 166
  • “Hour of the Hyena” pp. 176-177
  • “Foxes and Jackals” p. 180
  • “The Narrow Womb: Conception and Birth” pp. 234-235
  • "Return of the Deer" p. 238
  • “Writing Torah Scrolls on Gazelle Hide” p. 252
  • “The Mighty Aurochs” pp. 280-281
  • “The Return of the Re’em” p. 285
  • Giraffe – entire chapter!
  • “Hares, Hounds, and the Haggadah” p/ 325-6
  • “The Untamable Onager” pp. 341-343
  • Elephant – entire chapter!
  • “Monkey Hands” – pp. 387-8

Enjoy! If you'd like to buy the book and simultaneously support The Biblical Museum of Natural History, please buy it at this link.


  1. Are those chapter titles or new movies to be released next year?

  2. Do you have plans to publish further volumes, covering the other Torah categories of animals?

    1. He's going to go down the Star Wars path and write the prequel. "Volume 0: Extinct Animals".

    2. Future volumes will cover birds, sheratzim, domestic animals, etc. However they are years away from completion!

  3. You quote in your book on Shafan:

    “The rocks are a refuge for hyraxes”—These hyraxes hide under rocky outcrops from birds flying overhead, that they should not eat them. And if the Holy One created His world in such a way on behalf of a non-kosher animal, how much more so did He create it for the merit of
    Abraham! (Midrash Bereishis Rabbah 12:9)

    Check out these two videos depicting an eagle snatching Goats/(Llama?) from mountain ranges.

    According to Rabbi Meir Lubin - this Medrash could certainly be refering to the Llama! The possuck in Mishlay 30:26 could also refer to the Llama as well as the possuck "The high hills are for the ibex, the rocks are a refuge for the shefanim." (Psalms 104:18)

    If you look at the Medrash (Midrash Bereishis Rabbah 12:9) regarding the ibex it states that they are weak! Which could certainly apply to the Llama as well being "not strong": There are four in the land that are small, but are exceedingly wise… The shefanim are not a strong people, but they place their home in the rock. (Proverbs 30:24, 26)

  4. "There are four in the land that are small"

    The llama is not small.

    1. I thought about that, firstly the same way that in (Midrash Bereishis Rabbah 12:9) regarding the ibex it states that they are weak! So to in (Proverbs 30:24, 26) The shefanim "are not a strong" can refer to a Llama. On that same token "There are four in the land that are small" "small" can be relative. But more so, if you look at the other three listed creatures they are way smaller in class to whatever the Shafan is! Be it a hyrax or Llama - they don’t seem to fit in the same size class of species regardless!

      Saying that the Llama is a Shafan is a far superior claim, since it truly does chew its cud!
      The Gemarah in Megilah (9b) regarding Arneves can also work very well with this theory of Arneves being the bactrian camel. The Gemarah says the sages used the expression "short legged" instead of Arneves. One could suggest the "short legs" in context of the bactrian camel, refer to its two short humps! (which in relation to its legs are indeed short!)

      Perhaps you should revisit this approach to identifying these three species; Gamal, Shafan and Arneves. The evidence suggesting these to be the Dromedary, Bactrian and Llama is very compelling.

      If you look in Rabbi Lubins sefer on this subject (Thrilling Discoveries in the Torah), he has added numerous proofs to back up this theory. His questions regarding the grammar usage in the Torah regarding these species have not been addressed using your theory.

    2. So because the little hyrax is not as small as a locust, and a llama is small relative to an elephant, then a llama can be described as "small"?! With all due respect, are you nuts?

      And "short legs" refers to "short humps"??!!

      I'm sorry, I have to ban you from this blog, for sheer lunacy.

    3. Yes, but the fellow just concocted a llama in a most creative way. One cannot wait to see what he'll do for a kangaroo or a platypus.

  5. @Modern_Orthodox: Can you clarify your comment? Shafan is hyrax not ibex. The animals depicted in the videos were not protected by hiding under rocks. Nor were they protected from the birds by being on high hills.

    Also, think back to geometry. There is a difference between a necessary condition and a sufficient condition (the difference between "only if" and "if"). An animal can be Shafan, only if it hides under rocks, a Yael only if it dwells in high places. It is a necessary condition. But it is not a sufficient condition. Not ever animal who hides in rocks is a Shafan, neither is every animal in high places a Yael.

  6. I just ordered a copy yesterday. I did so not only because I think it will be interesting and informative, but also because its a way of recognizing you for the work you put into this blog. Hatzlacha.

  7. Temujin has read through the entire volume over a series of shabbats and is about to start on another reread. The surprising volume of information and commentaries with sound zoological facts on what is but a fraction of the animals in the Torah, all properly cited and annotated was unexpected and is truly astounding; one can understand why the Rabbi will take a while with the other volumes.

    The only complaint one can make is the weight of the volume; propped on one's chest whilst reclining for a pleasant read before the shabbat shluf can bring on respiratory interference and losing a grip of the thing when dropping off to sleep may result in a concussion... and a better shluf. The public has been warned.

  8. The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom is a classic; I can read it for hours and the younger ones can look at the pictures; one more breathtaking than the next. We're all learning the names of exotic creatures. A great way to appreciate Hashem's amazing and beautiful world. (And I haven't found anything not worth reading, yet.)


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