Friday, February 2, 2018

Why Mystics Incorporate Technology Into Halacha

Over the last few posts, we have been discussing the difference between those who check fruit and vegetables for bugs in a simple way, and those who engage in extensive checking and cleaning procedures. This correlates with the rationalist/mystic divide in two ways.

First is that rationalists tend to be more historically aware, and further are aware that our ancestors were greatly limited in their ability to check and clean fruit and vegetables, and are further aware that there is evidence against their having done so. Non-rationalists usually view halacha in a vacuum, evaluating a halacha on its own merits without thinking too much about the history of that halacha. If they do think about history, they take the non-rationalist stance that our ancestors were superhuman, and they presume that they therefore were observing halacha at least as well as we do.

But there is another, perhaps more significant reason, as to why mystics are much more concerned about checking and cleaning food for bugs. It is due to the basic difference between how rationalists and mystics view the prohibition against eating bugs.

As explained at great length in Menachem Kellner's fabulous Maimonides' Confrontation with Mysticism, there is a fundamental difference between how a rationalist like Rambam and a mystic like Ramban viewed the prohibitions against eating non-kosher foods.

According to the rationalist view, there is nothing inherently metaphysically harmful about foods. Rather, for various reasons relating to how God wants us to improve our minds, our character and society, He prohibits their consumption. We are given various commandments that we have to observe in order to effect the change in our mind, character and society that God intends.

According to mystical view, on the other hand, there are antecedent metaphysical harmful elements present in non-kosher foods. If you had the right kind of spiritually-sensitive technology, you could actually detect it. God therefore prohibits these foods to us, because of the danger that they pose to our spirituality.  

The difference between these views can lead to significant ramifications with regard to the halachic implementation. According to the rationalist view, there is a certain degree of diligence which is halachically required in order to fulfill God's intent. If one has performed one's due diligence, but then somehow ingests non-kosher food through absolutely no fault or negligence of one's own, then little harm has been done.

According to the mystical view, on the other hand, there is objective metaphysical danger present in non-kosher food. Even if one has exercised all due diligence in avoiding it, and one ingests some through absolutely no fault or negligence, it will cause the same spiritual damage.

Thus, the mystical view naturally leads to an obsession with avoiding eating insects even beyond that which is halachically required. And as technology increases, and we become more aware of smaller insects and we develop ways to avoid eating them, the mystics rush to act accordingly.

What we have here, then, is an interesting inversion. Whereas normally, it is the rationalists that are more connected with science, here it is the mystics!

See too these posts:
The Ghostbusters Analogy
Tylenol and Timtum

See this post for my forthcoming US lecture schedule. 
And remember that you can subscribe to this blog via email using the form on the right of this page. (Don't forget to look for the confirmation email in your inbox - it might go to the spam folder.)


  1. So does this apply to the folks who say "Even if the Torah says 'batel b'shishim' I still won't eat something with a suspicious fragment of treif in it!"?

    1. Garnel - I think the attitude you express is a driving force behind the chumraization of kashrut and why certain kashrut standards, once pervasive in america, are no longer considered "acceptable standards" or "recommended."

    2. Yes Jeff but this is the frustrating part. There is an easy answer to them in the halachic literature:
      God said 1:60 is batel. You're saying it's not. You know better than God?
      -Well I just want to be careful.
      God said there's no reason to be careful. Are you going to say He's wrong?
      - Well there's the negative spiritual material hidden in there.
      God says it's nullified and becomes positive like the rest of the food. Are you saying He's wrong?

    3. I think the Torah view is that usually 1 in 3 is batel.
      1 in 61 or sometimes 1 in 101 is a D'rabbanon.Similarly the idea that a whole insect warrants a special Chumra is according to most Tanna I'm a D'rabbanon.

    4. Garnel - actually the bnei yissoschor, hardly a non mystic, claims that for the purpose of העלאת ניצוצות it is proper to eat something that is muttar due to bitul. That is how we are מעלה ניצוצות of non kosher food.

  2. I am getting more and more convinced that you haven't the foggiest clue what rationalism means. The simple translation of the word. If dietary laws are somehow health related, they wouldn't follow medical research, even according to the Rambam. So the miniscule bug is equally likely to cause medical problems as mystical problems. What does this have to do with the two mehalchim?

    The connection is somewhere else. The new age rationalists tend to be 'kalim', people who do bot take their religious obligations as seriously as those who see Torah as objectively true. Sorry if it sounds harsh, but this blog has shown me this point quite clearly.

    1. Who said that the dietary laws are health related?!

    2. You have this knack of isolating one point of minor relevance, and using that to make your argument. Your refusal to actually deal with the issue is telling.

      If you want to offer opinions about hilchos tolaim, how about taking a comfortable seat and learning siman 84 in yo"d withh all of the source material. Really trying to figure out what the shitos are and how they understood the metzius and the halacha. Afterwards, an opinion has a validity. But this idea of staying out of the details, out of the mareh mekomos abd away from the sevaros, is the path of ignorance.

    3. I am getting more and more convinced that you haven't the foggiest clue what rationalism means. The simple translation of the word.

      I must assume you were thinking about yourself when you wrote that.

      So the miniscule bug is equally likely to cause medical problems as mystical problems.

      Even assuming you meant to write "they would follow", that statement is a non sequitur. Why would small bugs cause health problems? It's certainly not equally likely, as the mystical approach states that small bugs definitely cause some kind of metaphysical defect.

      In a very broad sense, rationalists want things to make sense. Mystics want things to be as non-sensical as possible. As a generally rational being, I prefer the former approach to my life.

    4. Good luck with that. Many years ago he was told to actually finish Shas and then discuss his issues with people who have spent their whole lives immersed in Torah. You can't have an opinion on something you don't understand. But it's much easier (and a better salve to the ego) to write a blog with your (misguided and simplistic) opinions than actually begin to rectify being so unlearned...truth be told, it's doubtful the author is capable of understanding the deeper truths of the Torah. Which is obvious to anyone who reads most of his stuff.

    5. Too true! If only he would have finished shas, he would have realized that the sun really does go behind the sky at night!

    6. I always wonder when I read this type of comment: what kind of person is both a) a devoted, brainwashed drone to the point that he (or she) can write this whiny nonsense and b) spends his time on the Rationalist Judaism blog?

      Usually they don't fail to miss a post! Don't they know that the Internet is assur? All the gedolim said so...

    7. Deeper truths of.... my ass.
      Deeper truths means stupid nonsense made up to protect dumb simplistic souk from having to deal with the fact that most of the stuff their rabbis told them was juvenile prima school level stuff.

    8. Souk => souls
      Prima => primary
      Apologies for the typos

    9. @Duh,

      You can't have an opinion on something you don't understand.

      This is proven false literally millions of times a day. Anyone can have an opinion on anything. Why would you even write that sentence?

    10. Duh,

      Aside from your rude personal attack on Rabbi Slifkin, you are also wrong about the substance of your comment.

      Those who have spent their lives 'immersed in Torah' are most likely to be the last people you should discuss the ramifications on Torah of scientific knowledge - because they know nothing about it.

      Interestingly, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein z"l makes exactly that point in his section of the book "Judaism's Encounters Secular Culture". IIRC, he notes also that those with no exposure to secular culture are also most likely the ones who despise it the most simply because they are unfamiliar with it.

      Hatred is based on ignorance.
      Which point also nicely returns us to the discussion of your personal attack....

    11. There's actually another point to be made. It's vague to the point of inaccuracy to say that such people have "spent their lives immersed in Torah." They've spent their lives immersed in Gemara according to a very narrow non-rationalist approach. They haven't spent their lives, or even any significant time, immersed in theology, or in the approach of Rambam and other rationalist Rishonim.

  3. There are weaknesses to both approaches.
    Mystics need to explain why the halacha permits bugs smaller than can be observed without magnification or are mixed in; rationalists need to explain why Hashem thinks it's a big deal to eat bugs in the first place.

  4. "According to the mystical view, on the other hand, there is objective metaphysical danger present in non-kosher food. Even if one has exercised all due diligence in avoiding it, and one ingests some through absolutely no fault or negligence, it will cause the same spiritual damage."
    Help me to understand. According to the mystical side, ingesting bugs regardless of how careful you are would be a problem. My confusion is when fruit is pureed, and the bugs are actually still there, they become ingested too. And that's halachically OK. Why would that not be a (mystical)problem? Would that mean any non-kosher or non-halachically permissible food that somehow becomes permissible becomes transformed? Like Mum-Ra from Thundercats? IDK. "Hey mom,look, it's non-permitted strawberries!...Wait a minute, now it's a smoothie. All is good in the universe.

    1. If it made sense, it wouldn't be mysticism.

  5. (I would like my nym to, be DavidTheK but the older OS on my IPad may not let it got through). This is a vey deep post - Todah Rabbah! I have seen this related to disputes between Tanaaim over whether to use Clal-Prat-Clal or Mi'ut-Ribui-Mi'ut. And to a dispute of world views over whether the world is a dark and dangerous place and the daled amot of Halacha are the only safe passage or whether the world is a great and holy place and the Halacha enables extraction of its best elements.

  6. The question is what is the definition of "reasonable due diligence" and why should that not change with the times?

    I don't think your distinction between rationalism and mysticism does the work you think it does.

    One can be perfectly rationalist and come to the conlcusion that "reasonable due diligence" is based on what is reasonably possible to do at the time one is doing the checking.

    What you are calling for is not, strictly speaking, rationalism but "formalism." I.e, the goal is comply with the legal forms established by chazal, whether or not it achieves the underlying goal.

    The alternative to formalism, in legal philosophy, is functionalism. I.e., the focus should be on achieving the goals of the law rather than merely following the forms.

    There is a constant tension between these tendencies and it felt both by "rationalists" and "mystics" but plays out in different ways.

    I am sympathetic to the position you are taking here, but I don't think you can base it on the chilluk between rationalist and mystical.

    For example, R. Asher Weiss takes the position that the murex techeilis is of no relevance or significance because the proofs for it are primarily based on archaeology and history and not from internal halachic sources. You have described this approach as non-rational. However, it is just as rational as the argument you make here. Halacha has to follow its own formal logic. It is a formalist position.
    On the other hand, lemaase, I am 99% sure that the murex is techeilis and would find it hard to justify repeating the pesukim of shema multiple times a day without wearing what is actually techeilis.
    To refrain from doing so seems to exalt form over substance.
    On the other hand, virtually everyone sells their chometz on Pesach via all kinds of formal transactions that rarely (if ever) have functional consequences.
    Eruvin are another example of formalist construct.
    Food for thought. Pun intended.

    1. "You have described this approach as non-rational."

      No, I haven't.

      (Also, in this forum, I am usually talking about non-rationalIST, not non-rational.)

    2. I meant non-rationalist. A typo.

      Re: the techeilis issue if I thought I recalled you describing his position that way. If that is not the case, I apologize.

      However, the point remains that the position you take here seems to be more formalist than rationalist.

    3. Here is the comment I remembered:

      BaruchJanuary 8, 2014 at 11:25 AM
      See Rav Asher Weiss' teshuva on the subject -

      I'm not quite sure his arguments fit into any of the categories you mentioned. IIUC he is saying that the identification of the murex does not accommodate the mekoros and so it is not even a safeik. Significantly, though, he explicitly says that he does not object to wearing techeles, but rather feels that this does not qualify as a safeik de'oraysa.


      Natan SlifkinJanuary 8, 2014 at 11:27 AM
      His arguments are about as anti-rationalist as you can get.

      And here is the question and answer referred to in the comment you responded to:


      What is the Rav’s opinion about wearing the “new” Tcheiles derived from the Murex snail? The archeological evidence seems quite convincing, and there seems to be nothing to lose by wearing it on the chance it’s the real T’cheiles.


      The sources from which we derive our direction for kiyum hamitzvos is the Torah. Our classical Torah sources, namely the Talmud, Midrash, the early commentaries of the Rishonim, namely the Rambam, Rashi, Tosfos and others, all strongly indicate that the Murex is not the source for T’cheiles. In addition the archeological evidence is inconclusive, based on much speculation and probability. This does not qualify as a real halachic safek, and therefore while wearing Murex involves no prohibition, there is no kiyum of mitzvas T’cheiles by wearing it.

      I think my characterization is accurate.

    4. Also, if you read some of the processes one is expected to do to eat fruits and vegetables, "reasonable" is not a word I would use to describe it.

  7. A thought that occurred to me...

    Mystics: For parnasa we only need to do our reasonable due diligence (i.e. minimum hishtadlut) - it's all in the hands of heaven.
    Rationalist: For bug checking we only need to do our reasonable due diligence, (i.e. look it over) the rest is in the hands of heaven.

    1. The difference is that hishtadlus for parnassa has no minimum. Or, if you like, the question is what is "reasonable"? For hishtadlus, there is no objective measure, so rationalists can always say it's not enough if you aren't self-sufficient. For bugs, there's an objective standard, defined by Halachah.

  8. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Many rationalists in the beginning of this century thought the kosher laws were health-related. Also, Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch suggests that somehow kosher food makes our bodies (which is the medium through which our spirit processes the world) more receptive to spirituality (although he writes that we don't understand why or how this is so).

    In other words, I understand your general point and agree with it in terms of practical halacha. I don't think, for example, that a person who ate something with an OU should feel terrible if he later finds out the product was mislabeled and wasn't kosher. As a general rule, I believe Hashem rewards us for following His mitzvos and that is all that is required of us.

    So, you're right, it's not really important if you eat a bug if you followed halacha. But to say that there is no rationalist reason to care if one eats a bug -- that might be going a little too far.

  9. Another example of changing times leading to chumrah:
    In the time of Chazal, everyone probably understood that obligation to not leave "the tiniest amount" when doing one's needs could not be literal because the cleaning material used at the time was three stones as the Gemara tells us.
    With the passing centuries, an opinion arose and became accepted that water was necessary. Anyone living in Gemara times would have known this was not so.

  10. The N'ztiv said on the Rambam "if he hadn't secluded himself for 10 years while writing the yad hachazah and instead engaged with other chachamim, - we wouldn't have all the contradictions and kashahs in the Rambam and many missing halachos would have been incorporated into the Rambam ".

    The same can be said about Dr Slifkin "if he would actually confer with other talmidei chachamim before publishing his books, they would be more accurate and less mistake ridden ".

    Which why the whole Slifkin-gate came about to begin with - Natan never actually had any dibuk chaveirim while putting together the material for his books.

    1. You're absolutely right. If only Slifkin had dibuk chaverim and shimush talmide chachomim, he would have realized that mice really do grow from dirt and the sun really does go behind the sky at night.

    2. "Modern Orthodox," why do you claim that R. Slifkin didn't discuss his ideas with chaverim and talmidei chachamim? What is your basis for that? If you look at this books, he clearly says otherwise. And besides, there are clear many talmidei chachamim who have the same views (not to mention Rishonim and Acharonim....)

    3. Folks, we've been trolled. Let's not give him a minute of our very rational time

    4. One can't have the same views as Rishonim, if he is misinterpreting or misunderstanding what they say.

    5. Modern_Orthodox 4:09 PM,

      And Rav Slifkin says you are misunderstanding Rishonim and Achromim & many talmidei chachomin. Why should I believe you and not him?

    6. A simple reading of the Torah was presented to Dr Slifkin, and he had no viable reason as to why he would misconstrue the simple reading in exchange for an extremely far-fetched one - with many questions on it. See instance below: (never mind that he wrote an entire book based on erroneous conclusions)

      The Torah clearly states about the three animals that chew their cud - "their hooves are not split". Clearly the animals under discussion have hooves, yet they are not split. Hares, Hyraxs and rabbits have paws not hooves.

      To date Dr Slifkin has not responded to this challenge and has written other books based on this and other erroneous conclusions. His mistakes have been pointed out, but he stubbornly digs himself in deeper.

      Among his other great errors, is the repeated referencing of unverified and obscure Rishonim, that somehow concur with his views.

    7. Oh dear. Not only are you badly mistaken in your understanding of chumash, you are also apparently unaware that I discussed this in great detail in my book. And you are also making a basic zoological error. But since you finally made a specific point instead of vague claims, I will respond:

      1. There is countless evidence that the arneves is the hare. Plus there is firm mesorah (which I am surprised to see you discarding). So if there was a problem with the description of its feet, this would not mean that the arneves is not the hare. It would mean that you have misunderstood the description. Because the universal mesorah since Sinai was that arneves is the hare, and nobody ever had a problem with the description of its feet.

      2. CAMELS DO NOT HAVE HOOVES EITHER! And yet the Torah has the same description of their feet as with the hare and hyrax. Which leads us to the next point:

      3. There is a dispute between Rashi and Rashbam as to how to translate this passuk. According to Rashi, it means that "its foot (not hoof) is not split." According to Rashbam, it means "It does not form a hoof." According to both, it perfectly matches the hare. All this is discussed in great detail in my book, which you appear not to have read. (Hey, you are just like the Gedolim!)

      With regard to the "repeated referencing of unverified and obscure Rishonim", I will refer you to, or to my essay on the Sun's Path At Night, which contains many dozens of references to perfectly verifiable and not-at-all-obscure Rishonim and Acharonim.

      Look, just give it up. Nobody ever succeeded in making a coherent case for saying its kefirah to say that Chazal erred in science. Everyone who tried just ended up looking foolish, because there's no way around the fact that dozens of prominent Rishonim and Acharonim said exactly that. (Not to mention the fact that Chazal very clearly were incorrect in various statements about the natural world.) You're just making yourself look silly, which I guess is why you're writing under a pseudonym.

    8. Firstly, I have read your book camel, hare and Hyrax cover to cover.
      Secondly, you make a grave error in understanding that possuk and Rashi.
      There are 2 classes of animals mentioned in the Torah those with parsaos and those that are "holeich al kapayim" the Torah definition of hooves is not the same as the scientific definition of hooves. Clearly camels don't have paws which is why they are classified as hooved animals as opposed to those that have paws i.e. rabbits, which are included in holeich al kapayim.

    9. "Firstly, I have read your book camel, hare and Hyrax cover to cover."

      Ah, so when you said that my book never responded to this topic, you were just lying?

      Camels don't have paws, but they don't have hooves, either. Plus, you neglected to respond to any of the other points that I mentioned.

      What are you ultimately trying to claim? That the arneves and shafan described in Tanach, Chazal and Rishonim are the llama and alpaca? Or that Chazal and the Rishonim misunderstood the Torah?

    10. Just because King James translation of Arneves and Shafan say Hare/Hyrax doesn't mean that's what they are. I honestly have questions on all translations, but Hare and Hyrax are not even in the running based on the irrefutable questions of hooves vs paws and lack of truly chewing its cud.
      As far as mocking my use of a screen name, one should accept the truth from one who says truth regardless of who they are.

    11. Who cares about King James? We are talking about an unequivocal mesorah and clear statements in Chazal. Along with countless evidence from other sources that I presented in my book. What do you claim these animals to be?

      The irony is that you claim to be defending the viewpoint of the Gedolim, whereas in fact it is you who is attempting to overturn the mesorah in this case.

    12. Show one place in chazal which demonstrates unequivocally that these animals are Hare and Hyrax. R' Sadia's translation of Tapaz doesn't demonstrate that he was talking about the same animal that we today call tapaz.

    13. There's not "one place", there is a convergence of evidence from several places. As well as countless statements in the Rishonim. It's all presented in my book.

      What do YOU propose that these animals are (and why do you keep avoiding answering that)?

    14. Before discussing what I think they are, it makes sense to first rule out why they cannot be as you suggest. I am very familiar with camel hare and Hyrax as well as most of your other books. You haven't addressed the questions I presented here. In your book No mention of how a pawed animal could be described as having parsaos. Also you don't address scholarly, the issue of how chewing of the cud of a camel can in any way shape or form be comparable to the "eating process of a hare or hyrax. It is utter nonsense to suggest the Torah is referring to 2 distinct types of regurgitation.

    15. "Before discussing what I think they are, it makes sense to first rule out why they cannot be as you suggest."
      No, let's see if your candidates are stronger or weaker than mine. Or, to put it another way: before ruling out the mesorah, it makes sense to see if we should rule out your novel suggestions.

      "You haven't addressed the questions I presented here."
      Er, yes I did. You, on other other hand, failed to address any of my questions.

      "No mention of how a pawed animal could be described as having parsaos."
      Er, I addressed that. And according to Rashbam (and Malbim), the pasuk is saying that the hare DOES NOT have parsaos.

      "It is utter nonsense to suggest the Torah is referring to 2 distinct types of regurgitation."
      I am inclined to agree, which is why in my book I prefer a different explanation. (But what's even more nonsensical is to claim that the arneves and shafan are not the hare and hyrax. There's just no other remotely viable candidates.)

      No more comments from you until you act like a mensch and respond to my questions and give your real name.

    16. Actually, I'll even let you off giving your name, if you actually respond to my questions.

    17. .נדרים סה - Nebuchadnezzar could have eaten anything raw/eiver min hachai
      :מגילה ט - Many animals have shorter front legs then hind legs: Kangaroo, Wallaby, Bactrian Camels
      .חולון נט - Many animals have top front incisors or nevee: including llama and alpaca
      תהלים קד:יח - Many creatures live in mountainous or rocky areas
      משלי ל: כד - כו - Live IN the rocks or AMONG the rocks is the key point here
      בראשית רבה יב: ט - Medrash says the shafan hides UNDER the rocks from a large predator bird (while it sleeps - Rashi) Key here is it hides under rocks NOT IN rocks.

      Summary of the above:
      *The passage in Mishley is the only indication it may be referring to a small animal such as a hyrax. Although this is inconclusive, since the other animals seem to be referring to extremely small animals. Once one takes the leap to suggest it refers to a hyrax the leap to a small mammal such as the alpaca, is not so far off.
      *As far as the Medrash, it could just as easily be referring to an alpaca hiding under rocks from large predatory birds.
      (Rav Hirsh on chumash notes the improbability of these animals being hare and rabbit)
      *The Rashbam and malbim on hooves are hardly the conventional way of interpreting the passuk. Rashi clearly doesnt learn that the possuk means the shafan and arneves "have no hooves".
      *The inverse of the pig having hooves split is a strong indicator that the other 3 animals parsaos are not split, refers to feet structures similar to those of a pig which clearly a Hare and hyrax don't have.
      *The hare and hyrax don't chew their cud, contrary to the torah saying a shafan and arneves chew their cud
      *As far as nativity of camels, llamas and alpaca: lack of evidence [such as archeological findings of remains] is not conclusive evidence of a species not being in biblical lands thousands of years ago. Extinction of a species is also a fairly common phenomenon, hence possible and further detracts from having conclusive evidence.
      *To suggest that the Torah only mentions species found in the biblical areas, is a novel idea not found in any early or later source for that matter. That idea needs to be proven on its own merit, and not be the by product result of the fact that you couldnt think or come up with any other way to answer certain questions you have.
      That said the gemarah in chullin clearly states that moshe was privy to seeing all species of animals in the world. You can skew the meaning and understanding of that gemarah, however at face value it indicates moshe had access to all animals, even those outside of biblical lands. Regardless, this is a novel interpretation of yours with no source whatsoever - very strong proofs and sources are needed in order to suggest we constrict the meaning of the Torah. The Torah is extremely broad and inclusive, to minimize or confine the meaning of ideas in the Torah is a quantum leap on your part.
      *perhaps you will be clever enough to respond to each of these points, regardless however if you fail to make a strong case for you position, the strong questions on identifying the shafan and arneves as hare and hyrax will not go away. The fact that perhaps many generations erred in properly identifying these creatures is no reason to stick with a flawed interpretation of a possuk in chumash. Like you yourself have declared many times, the earlier generations just didn't have access to the information we have today.

      Yours truly,

    18. Addendum to my previously submitted comment:

      The case for Shafan and Arneves being alpaca and Bactrian camel.
      If one were to make a check list of all the requirements in Torah and chazal for the identification of shafan and arneves, the highest scoring animals would be alpaca and Bactrian camel.
      1. They both are true ruminants in every Torah and scientific aspect.
      2. They are grouped together in the Torah with camel, and they happen to all be in the ungulate family.
      3. They fit the Torah criteria of their “hooves” not being completely split all the way to the back of its foot like those of its counterpart the pig.
      4. Nebuchadnezzar could have eaten any of these animals raw/aiver min chai.
      5. The Bactrian camel has shorter front legs than hind legs and could be the reference of the gemarah in megilah of the wife of Ptolemy. (or perhaps it is the camel species with smaller legs i.e. Bactrian has shorter legs than the dromedary)
      6. The gemarah in chullin requires shafan and arneves to have upper incisors or neeve in which case both these animals have neeve.
      7. The posuk in tehilim 104:18 could refer to a alpaca seeking dwelling/refuge in the rocks/mountains.
      8. The Medrash Rabah Beraishis 12:9 could easily be referring to an alpaca hiding under large rock crevices while it sleeps, to obtain protection from large predatory birds that could pull it off the mountain to its death.
      9. The following is the hardest one to fit, but it doesn’t negate all the previous points, hence I will attempt to justify it. The possuk in Mishley describes qualities of 4 small creature of the land. The shafan in contrast to all other 3 seems to be quite larger by any stretch of the imagination. The other 3 according to many interpretations are all in the insect family. Therefore it would indeed be somewhat perplexing that the shafan is a larger creature. But whether you say its a hyrax or alpaca, both don’t seem to fit the criteria. In any case, the alpaca is indeed small comparatively in the ungulate family.
      10. The following is certainly mainstream thought, so I will address this point even though I am aware that you are disagreeable with this idea. The Torah list 3 animals that chew their cud but don’t posses fully split hooves. Simple understanding is that these 3 alone poses these traits and no others. Which clearly fits if you identify the 3 as camelids. (I have addressed your idea of the Torah only being given regarding biblical species, I will add here however that the idea itself is self contradictory, since fish species and bird species include all animals in the world regardless of geographic location)
      11. The following is an idea about why the Torah singled out the four exceptions to the rules of cud chewing and split hooves. The 3 camelids are all true ruminants and have split hooves albeit not all the way to the back of the foot as Rashi describes by the camel. Hence these animals are a hairs breath away from actually being kosher, therefore the Torah spoke out that these are unkosher. The pig is the only non kosher animal in the world that has split hooves hence one may have thought it could be included in the kosher list despite lacking chewing of the cud.

    19. Perhaps the above discussion presented, is to date, one of the most thorough and compelling arguments, why the Shafan and Arneves cannot be the Hare and Hyrax and very likely are the Bactrian camel and alpaca. Perhaps you could present these points in a separate post (if you are agreeable to that) While I don't expect a retraction of your book Camel, Hare and Hyrax, I think there is enough evidence to support this thesis as a viable interpretation of Shafan and Arneves.

    20. So when Mishlei speaks about the "small ones of the land," and mentions insects and lizards and the shafan, it is referring to the alpaca - an animal the height and weight of a human.

      And when Tehillim describes it as hiding in the rocks, in contrast to the ibex of the hills, it means the alpaca hiding under crags of rock to avoid being carried off by eagles. (I wonder why the ibex don't need to worry about that. And I also wonder why Tehillim would describe something that is never observed.)

      And Chazal (and Nebuchadnezzar) were all familiar with alpacas, which somehow existed in the Old World without leaving any trace at all, and misleading every zoologist into thinking that they are only in the New World.

      If you think that this is viable, and not completely absurd and going against all evidence, then there is nothing to discuss.

      (But what I don't get is this. Once you're happy to throw reason and science out of the window, why not just stick with the traditional identification of hare and hyrax, and say that nishtaneh hateva, and back then they chewed the cud?)

    21. Oh, and I missed out the best bit. When the Torah and Neviim and Chazal spoke about these animals, they referred to them with the exact words which are used in other languages for the hare and hyrax, thereby completely misleading all the Rishonim and every subsequent scholar!

    22. "(But what I don't get is this. Once you're happy to throw reason and science out of the window, why not just stick with the traditional identification of hare and hyrax, and say that nishtaneh hateva, and back then they chewed the cud?)"
      This point is so obscenely absurd, not sure why I'm even responding. The only animal in the world that ever did or will make this sort of drastic change, is the pig as recorded in chazal. No other animal has this miraculous distinction. To suggest otherwise is the epitome of irrational thought.
      I'm not sure I'm dealing with a rational counterpart to bother responding to the other points. I don't see a willingness to seek truth. (I suppose it is a giant test to retract all of one's deeply entrenched ideas) I suppose also once an author has published books on his ideas and ideologies it is expecting the impossible that they reject those writings even if found to be flawed.

    23. "This point is so obscenely absurd... the epitome of irrational thought."

      Hey, I agree with you entirely. But I would also put in the same category the claim that the alpaca is a small animal that hides under rocks and was described by King David and Chazal.

    24. You are mixing up the Arneves - Bactrian camel with Shafan - alpaca. Chazal and David and shlomo Hamelech could have all seen the Bactrian camel, it's not in the real of impossible. As far as Shafan I did agree that the possuk in misley is difficult according to this interpretation. However, there are answers, such as saying Shafan and shefanim are 2 distinctly different animals the same way tanim and taneenim are 2 completely different animals. You are refusing to accept the truth, I don't see why you jump to conclusions without even hearing out all possibilities as if your mind is made up. The way you dismiss these ideas with weak answers that would never be used to be mattir an aguna is indicative of your willingness to hear other's opinions and truth.

    25. In reality this should be a no starter. The Hare and Hyrax don't chew their cud and are not ruminates. The Torah permits the consumption of cows,goats and sheep etc. because they are ruminates and chew their cud. The camel which does chew it's cud is non kosher. There is no reason to believe that the requirement of maaleh gairah of these animals should be any different for the Shafan and Arneves. How do you even get off the ground to continue the discussion?

    26. "You are mixing up the Arneves - Bactrian camel with Shafan - alpaca. Chazal and David and shlomo Hamelech could have all seen the Bactrian camel"

      Er, no, you are mixing them up. David and Shlomo describe the shafan.

      "However, there are answers, such as saying Shafan and shefanim are 2 distinctly different animals."

      How incredibly misleading of the Torah!

      "the same way tanim and taneenim are 2 completely different animals."

      Taneenim is a plural form of tanin. Tanim is a plural form of tan.

      "You are refusing to accept the truth, I don't see why you jump to conclusions without even hearing out all possibilities as if your mind is made up. "

      You've gotten the timeline wrong. I spent years and years, many years ago, examining this from every possible angle. Nothing that you've said is something that I didn't already work through, before making up my mind.

    27. "The Hare and Hyrax don't chew their cud and are not ruminates."

      Actually, the hyrax does indeed regurtitate its food, chew it and swallow it again. I've seen it with my own eyes countless times. So there's absolutely no problem there.

      "There is no reason to believe that the requirement of maaleh gairah of these animals should be any different for the Shafan and Arneves. "

      But the bottom line is that's infinitely more striaghtoward to say that dibra Torah b'lashon bnei adam than to say that the arneves is a Bactrian camel.

    28. The logic you state is entirely flawed by any standards. 1.Regurgitation is not the same thing as malaih geira. All kosher animals have 4 stomachs as recorded in chullin regarding teraifah status.
      2. You have not answered the malaih geirah of the Hare.
      3. Why is it straight forward to say a regurgitating animal has anything to do with a ruminant?
      4. In the previous comment I was responding to what nevuchadnetzar may have eaten, which is an Arneves not a Shafan.
      5. You still haven't provideda viable reason why hare and hyrax even get off the ground as anoption

    29. 1. No, camels have three stomachs. There is no requirement of four stomachs to be maale gerah.

      2. The Torah speaks according to human perception. That's why it describes the dew as rising, the heart and kidneys as having cognitive functions, and the sky as a solid dome.

      3. Because maaleh gerah means bringing up food.

      4. So he ate a live camel. Right!

      By the way, isn't it a little odd that the entire Jewish nation at one point in history transferred the name arneves from the gigantic Bactrian camel to the hare?

      5. Actually, I've explained why there is an overwhelming convergence of evidence that they are the hare and hyrax and there are no other remotely viable candidates.

    30. To declare a possuk in the Torah as "dibra Torah kloshen bnei adam" is at the digression of the talmudical sages not contemporary Rabbis.

      Additionally the rumination must take place in multiple stomachs, not a singular stomach.

      There is nothing unique about the rumination of Hare and Hyrax different from any creatures who perform the same "regurgitation", yet they are not listed in the Torah!

      These novel interpretations of yours to defend "mesorah" is commendable, however they just don't hold water. No reputable scientist would suggest hypotheses and theories to prove absolute ideas.

    31. "To declare a possuk in the Torah as "dibra Torah kloshen bnei adam" is at the digression of the talmudical sages not contemporary Rabbis. "

      OK, well if that's how you feel, then I guess you'll just have to conclude that the Torah is wrong.

      "Additionally the rumination must take place in multiple stomachs, not a singular stomach. "

      Where on earth do you get that from? It's nowhere in the Torah.

      "There is nothing unique about the rumination of Hare and Hyrax different from any creatures who perform the same "regurgitation", yet they are not listed in the Torah!"

      Actually there are no other creatures in Biblical lands which do such a thing.

      "These novel interpretations of yours to defend "mesorah" is commendable, however they just don't hold water. No reputable scientist would suggest hypotheses and theories to prove absolute ideas. "

      And no reasonable person would take King David's description of a small animal hiding under rocks to refer to an alpaca.

  11. Interesting is that iirc of one has intent to eat forbidden chelev and instead eats permitted shuman, he still has to do tshuva. IIUC the mystical approach here would yield the opposite type result (i.e. result based vs. process based)

  12. If doing something has a psychological effect on us then doing it more diligently would also have that psychological effect. I don't see this as a philosophical divide and in the world of Kashrus bug checking at a technological level is being demanded by Chareidi and Modern Orthodox alike. I'm not familiar enough with the full range of halachic opinions on this issue. The usual YA.

  13. Not directly related to this post, but I thought you'd be interested to see that there's been a decrease in insects over the past couple of decades:

  14. I'm not sure I buy this. The Rambam writes that kashrut was given to sanctify the Jewish people by separating them from the crude ways of the gentiles, like eating bugs, pigs, and other dirty animals. Presumably, the more strict, the more sanctified you are.

    But that's besides the point. Halacha isn't decided by motivations, but by halachic proofs and arguments. As zichron devorim has repeatedly pointed out to apparently no avail, if you look at what the Shulhan Arukh and the Nosei Keilim and add modern scientific knowledge, you end up with Rav Vaye's approach. It's true that Rav Henkin (הי''ד) draws somewhat different conclusions, but he's still pretty strict (if memory serves he forbids corn on the cob for the entire duration of summer) and, anyway, he's what MO theologians call 'outside the halakhic process'.

    Therefore, in order to advocate a lenient approach while accepting the authority of the SA, you are forced to argue that we should just ignore science, which doesn't look very rationalist at all. The wider issue is that because Rationalist Judaism is unprepared to challenge the anti-rationalist halakhic paradigm, it resorts to all sorts of ad hoc reasoning, which is impossible to take seriously and mainly attracts agnostics looking for an easier life.

  15. Rabbi Dr.,

    Wondering if you are aware that you are oversimplifying the divide between rationalist and mystic? That is to say, there is a middle ground where one does not have to reject all mystical ideas but also not insist that if you swallow a bug by accident you're in the same boat as someone who chows down on locusts. The unkosher kind, of course. :-)

  16. Technology is generally defined as the practical application of scientific knowledge in the commercial and industrial field. Have you ever tried to imagine how the business world would function without technology? Everybody will agree that technology is indeed essential for all businesses whether they are small or large. antminer u3 manual


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.

The Heresy of Noah's Crystal

Following on from last week's post about the ban on "Peshuto Shel Mikra," let's discuss an example of the purported heres...