Sunday, March 3, 2019

Return of the Mexican Rabbit Zealot

Here is a letter that I sent to ArtScroll last week:

Rabbosai,

Sometimes, there are additions to a work which detract from it. It is disappointing to see that a certain note was added to the latest edition of the ArtScroll Talmud. (As you may recall, 16 years ago you hired me as zoological consultant for Chullin.) The problematic addition in the latest edition is a note to Chullin 59a, regarding the identity of the shafan, which reads as follows:
"[For a wide-ranging discussion of this topic, and a strong defense of the traditional view that the shafan is the rabbit and not the hyrax, see The Identity of the Shafan, by Dr. Isaac Bettech.]"

I have long been familiar with Dr. Isaac Betech of Mexico, who was one of the zealots involved in engineering the notorious controversy over my works. Dr. Betech is single-minded in his religious obsession that the shafan must not be the hyrax (because in order to contrive his own particular forced explanation of how the Torah's four animals with one kosher sign are the only such animals on the planet, he wants the shafan to be the rabbit). In order to attain this objective, he engages in the most ludicrous pretzel-twists of intellectual dishonesty, which I and others have documented at length (and links are provided below).

To call his discussion of the topic "far-ranging," therefore, is a little misleading. He tries to overwhelm the reader by writing about a wide range of animals and sources, but what he describes as "Torah and scientific research" is entirely directed towards a predetermined goal. And amazingly, in a book that professes to be the definitive and comprehensive study of this topic with "more than 1000 bibliographical Torah and scientific sources," he fails to cite the only dedicated work on this topic that had ever been published - because it was written by me!

But far more problematic is the description of Betech as attempting to defend the "traditional" view. The view that the shafan is the rabbit is not the "traditional" view; it's the medieval European view, because they didn't have hyraxes in Europe. They broke from the original tradition of people from the Geonic era, who lived in the region of Israel, and were familiar with the hyrax. To describe the identification of the shafan with the rabbit as being the "traditional" view is akin to speaking of the "traditional" view that the tzvi is the deer (which Rashi points out to be a mistaken European innovation), that the nesher is the eagle, or that the olive is the size of seven olives. These are medieval European Ashkenazi views that were innovations, not traditions from Jewish communities in other parts of the world or from antiquity.

(Amusingly, Betech tries to make the reverse argument. In his summary at http://www.tovnet.org/files/ShafanHyraxEnglish%205779.pdf, he writes that since the Spanish Rishonim identified the shafan as a local animal, and there are no hyraxes in Europe, therefore the shafan cannot be the hyrax! He can't countenance the fact that it was precisely because the hyrax was not a local animal that Europeans transposed its identification to the local rabbits!)

You can ask anyone in the field of Biblical natural history (such as Dr. Zohar Amar and Dr. Moshe Raanan), and they will all tell you that it's clear beyond any doubt that the shafan is the hyrax, and cannot possibly be the rabbit. The reason is the very clear passuk in Barchi Nafshi:

הָרִים הַגְּבֹהִים לַיְּעֵלִים סְלָעִים מַחְסֶה לַשְׁפַנִּים: תהילים קד:יח 
"The high hills are for the ya'elim, the rocks are a refuge for the shefanim."

The pasuk tells us two things about shefanim: that they hide in rocks, and that they are associated with ya'elim. Ya'elim are ibex, the mountain goats of the Judean hills that are especially prominent in Ein Gedi, which is named after them (and in Shmuel I 24, it states that David was hiding among the ya'elim in Ein Gedi). If you go to Ein Gedi, you see ibex climbing the hills, and you can also see small furry animals hiding among the rocks, exactly as the pasuk describes - hyraxes.


Isaac Betech would have you believe that the author of this passuk, who groups his reference to the ibex with a description of animals that hide in the rocks, was not speaking about the animal that hides in the rocks right next to the ibex! Instead, he claims, David HaMelech was speaking about the rabbit of Spain - an animal that never lived anywhere near the Land of Israel and was thus completely unfamiliar to David HaMelech and to his audience, and which moreover does not hide under rocks but rather in burrows! It's simply ludicrous.

(The hyrax also matches the description in Shemini of an animal that brings up food via its throat, which it does in small quantities, as I have observed and filmed on several occasions. And contrary to Betech's claim, the shafan is no more of a sheretz than is a rabbit - in fact, it is much larger, and more of a leaper.)

I understand that you were probably placed under a lot of pressure - Isaac Betech is experienced at manipulating Gedolei Torah to write letters in support of his agenda, which he uses to bully people into kowtowing to his demands. Indeed, a few years ago he launched a massive campaign to prevent Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks from coming to Mexico. However, he was ultimately unsuccessful, which shows that it is possible to stand up to that kind of pressure.

For the sake of intellectual integrity, as well as retaining a good name with intelligent people, you might wish to consider removing the new note. Or perhaps you could re-write it to be more accurate:
"For a passionate defense of the medieval European view that the shafan is the European rabbit and not the hyrax of the Land of Israel, see The Identity of the Shafan, by Dr. Isaac Bettech. For a discussion of the classical definitions and the historical processes which led to many of the Torah's animals having their names later transposed to other animals, see Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin's work The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom."
Meanwhile, I am attaching the chapter on hyraxes from my encyclopedia, for your interest. The more involved discussion is in my book The Camel, The Hare And The Hyrax (second edition), and I am available for any questions that you may have. You might also like to visit The Biblical Museum of Natural History in Beit Shemesh, where the passuk from Barchi Nafshi is illustrated in an exhibit that combines both ibex and a live colony of hyraxes. (In fact, there are numerous zoos that exhibit both species together, because of their close geographical and environmental association).

Finally, here is a list of some of my articles pointing out the absurdities in Dr. Betech's presentation, and explaining further evidence why the shafan has to be the hyrax and cannot be the rabbit:

Where are the Pandas, Penguins and Polar Bears of Psalms?
Ruach HaKodesh and Reason
The Quest for Truth: A Fascinating Case Study
From Non-Disprovable to Possible to Probable to True
The Primary Reason - Clarified
Circular Reasoning at its Best

And here are two articles by Rabbi Dr. Josh Waxman that further illustrate Betech's intellectual dishonesty:

The Problem with Dr. Betech's Book
A Review of The Enigma of the Biblical Shafan

Best wishes,
Natan Slifkin

Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin
Director, The Biblical Museum of Natural History

108 comments:

  1. I suspect you are fighting a losing battle vis a vis artscroll.

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    1. Yoni, was your comment intended to strengthen R' Slifkin's resolve, or weaken it? If neither, then what's the point?

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  2. The Shafan is unfortunately neither the Hyrax or the Rabbit. As the Torah clearly states regarding the Shafan and Arneves "They chew their cud but don't have split hooves". Obviously the animals under discussion must have hooves or hoove like feet in order for the Torah to suggest that their feet aren't split.

    The more obvious problem with these claims, is the fact that Rabbits and Hyraxs DON'T chew their cud.

    For Natan to Kvetch his peshat as well as Dr. Betesch, is intellectually dishonest.

    Interestingly enough, the only 3 animals in the world that chew their cud, but don't have split feet (entirely split from front to the back are the Camel, Llama and Alpaca.

    Natan will counter with a possuk in Mishley regarding 4 small animals of which the Shafan is mentioned. While this is certainly a good question, it should be noted that the other 3 animals mentioned are insects (according to most mefarshim) Natan will have to explain even according to his peshat of Hyrax why this animal is mentioned with insect like creatures.

    It is also interesting to note that a Bactrian camel has longer hind legs (which are connected near the tail) than it's front legs. Which Rashi in Megilah describes the Arneves as having shorter front legs than hind legs.

    It also worth pointing out that the Torah describes the pig as an animal WITH split hooves. In contrast to the other 3 which don't have split hooves presumably having similar feet as the pig.

    To make up that somehow looking like chewing the cud, or at one point having chewed the cud but the nature of the Hare and Hyrax changed, is embarking on fantastically wild presumptions.

    Additionally a common concept Natan mentions is the geographic location of these animals. Arguing that the Torah limits itself to talk only about animals in the middle east ( since that is where the Torah was given) This Siri is completely unsubstantiated. There is absolutely no conclusive proof of this.

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    1. Obviously the animals under discussion must have hooves or hoove like feet in order for the Torah to suggest that their feet aren't split.

      Why is this obvious? It is perfectly logical to mention animals that Bnei Yisroel would have been familiar with that have one sign, but not both. That there's no question that hyraxes don't have hooves does not appear to be an issue.

      The theory that the authors of TaNaCH would not mention animals they didn't know about is logical, even if unprovable.

      You sound much more Charedi than MO. Or maybe it's just irrational.

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    2. "It is also interesting to note that a Bactrian camel has longer hind legs (which are connected near the tail) than it's front legs. Which Rashi in Megilah describes the Arneves as having shorter front legs than hind legs." This is fairly silly. Rashi is describing a Hare, not an abstract mesorah about Arneves.

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    3. Interestingly enough, the only 3 animals in the world that chew their cud, but don't have split feet (entirely split from front to the back are the Camel, Llama and Alpaca. Vicuna and Guanaco at least.

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    4. Interestingly enough, the only 3 animals in the world that chew their cud, but don't have split feet (entirely split from front to the back are the Camel, Llama and Alpaca...
      Vicuna and Guanaco at least.

      They all cameloids and therefore in Torah can be referred to simply as camel.

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    5. Camaloids, is a scientific classification not a Torah classification. Accordingly goats and sheep are mentioned separately in the Torah as well as many other "related" species. Interestingly, the Torah always uses the word Shafan but in Tehilim and Mishley the term Shefanim is used.

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    6. Interestingly, the Torah always uses the word Shafan but in Tehilim and Mishley the term Shefanim is used.

      It's not that interesting, considering the only two appearances in Chumash are amongst the lists of animals we may not eat, and all the listed animals are phrased in the singular.

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    7. @MO

      "The Shafan is unfortunately neither the Hyrax or the Rabbit. As the Torah clearly states regarding the Shafan and Arneves "They chew their cud but don't have split hooves". Obviously the animals under discussion must have hooves or hoove like feet in order for the Torah to suggest that their feet aren't split."

      The above is only true if you learn MP like Rashi, Rambam and Radak. But if you learn like Rashbam and company, then Aina Mafris Parsa means that it does not form a true hoof, and that is a true statement, as none of the cameloids have true hooves.

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    8. @MO

      "Interestingly enough, the only 3 animals in the world that chew their cud, but don't have split feet (entirely split from front to the back are the Camel, Llama and Alpaca. "

      What about my cousins the Guanaco and Vicuna?

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    9. (Part 1)
      I’m confused... when I went to a Lubavitcher school (Cincinnati Hebrew Day) & Chabadnik camps, my rebbes taught us that the shafan *a lagamorph*.

      I’ve always been a huge animal lover- currently being owned by shalosh chatulim (those Vilde Chaiya’im!) & growing up with my adoptive brother, kelev Coffee. ��

      My rebbes & rebbetzin (middle school teachers) knew my love for animals, fantasy & mysticism. Focusing on zoology, animal welfare, anthropology & special needs & children’s rights ended up the only way I could remain engaged with the Lubavitcher community as I became older. My little cousin ended staying longer w/in the community longer until he had an estranged break with the community after his Bar Mitzvah (his tutor & the local shul really courted Matty for a long time to get him back as my Bubbe’s & Zayde’s families are both Cohenim & my Bubbe’s family are Chazan [I’m named after great-grandmother]. The only unusual aspect that has affected my family is that uncle couldn’t be a pall bearer at my Zayde’s funeral & he still had to go to the mikvah afterward. Actually, the only one in my family who is (currently) Orthodox is one of my uncles.

      Anyway, I was sorely disappointed that I couldn’t be a Kabbalist as I didn’t identify as a cis male nor would I be able to have children, so there was little place to stay within the community. I consider myself an unaffiliated progressive/ Renewelist, but try to keep up to date with many viewpoints, academics, folklores, spirituality, religions, sects, various perspectives, anthropology, and various elements of earth science.

      My background is to give one an idea of where I’m coming from:
      Religous texts aren’t exact biological science. They don’t replace earth science nor evolution.
      At most, they give context of various Peoples’ values, traditions, spirituality, community & ways of being.
      The Tanakh is one of those texts. They are a map of anthropology, not necessarily an exact biological & zooological science.

      What were considered truths then, some have been proven in history & science. Other older truths have now been considered as allegories, symbolism, or misinterpretation of evidence. (Cyclops were really due to prehistoric people discovering elephant head skulls. Goliath likely suffered a form of Gigantism that affected his eyesight, intellect, gross motor coordination & hormones that triggered cell growth of his bones, muscles, fat, etc. His Gigantism made him a target & David, an agile young man who climbs above him & has expert aim would easily best him & be able to cause Goliath to fall over & injure himself. And certain types of Gigantism, especially if one has a comorbid connective tissue disorder such as Marfan’s, tend to contribute to heart problems such as MFS & a dilated aorta.

      Considering all of the above, the interpretation of what is a shafan may be up to debate.

      Continued in the following post:

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    10. Now,

      My partner, who is Israeli, said when he was growing up, thought a shafan was like a squirrel.
      I commented that perhaps a shafan perhaps a pika as pikas are a type of lagamorph & are the size of a small squirrel. However, I don’t think pikas are native to Israel/Canaan. Yes, there are lagamorphs that aren’t rabbits or hares.

      Then my partner looked in one resource & said that a shafan is a small land mammal & had a vague description. When I asked his mother, she said a shafan is a rabbit just like my rebbes said.

      And it’s possible that a shafan originally is an extinct animal. Or that it’s a mythical animal - like the Bavarian Wolpertinger. (Wolpertinger is mythical
      animal that resembles a jackalope with split hooves, hind paws that look like duck feet, wings & squirrel tail. Totally made up, but there are congenital conditions & mutations that make some lagamorphs develop tumors, & excessive skin)

      And if you’ve had a pet rabbit, they do look like they are chewing their cud (even though they have one stomach). And they digest cecotropes to get all their nutrients (which acts the same way bovines chew cud).

      They definitely don’t have split hooves- unless there’s an extinct relative that had paws that resembled hooves.

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    11. Did further research: often the pika is confused with a hyrax. They have some physical resemblances: size-wise, shape, colour, plush fur, similar habitats, & both are very cute.

      Keep in mind that historically, people often confused various animals with others. It wasn’t that long ago that rabbits were assumed to be rodents- and even most airlines won’t let you travel with your pet rabbits in the cabin- I had to fly United as others said my house bun was a rodent.

      And technically, guinea pigs aren’t rodents. They are cavies, which is a closely related species, but different. Their only living relative is the capybara.

      And Flying Lemers aren’t lemurs. They are closer related to us & more similar to primates than lemurs despite their appearance. Flying Lemurs aren’t flying mammals, but gliders, not unlike Flying Squirrels, Sugar Gliders and... domestic cats.
      While Flying Squirrels & Sugar Gliders look similar, they are not from the same species.
      Porcupines & hedgehogs are unrelated.
      Duck billed platypus aren’t avians.

      I don’t think it’s a far stretch that there’s an extinct animal or animal that hasn’t been discovered by modern animal scientists that had a strong physical resemblance to the hyrax or pika but is really from the bovid family. So, there could’ve been an adorable, plush, tiny bovine that physically resembles the pika & hyrax but have different biology.

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    12. And if you’ve had a pet rabbit, they do look like they are chewing their cud

      I have two. They don't look like they are chewing their cud. I am sure that even Biblical-era Jews could distinguish between mouths and noses.

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  3. Dr. Isaac Bettech IS ACTING LIKE A weasel

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  4. it's worth mentioning that Rabbits, Hyraxs and Hares all have paws, hence they are classed under "kol holeich al kapayim" not under the category of animals that are "mafreses parsah" hooven animals.

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    1. Interestingly, Sefaria translates וּפַרְסָה לֹא יַפְרִיס as "it has no true hoofs".

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    2. Actually, the correct translation using that method would read: "it doesn't walk on its hooves" interestingly, camels, llamas and alpacas have a cushion covering their hooves which they indeed walk on as opposed to walking directly on their hooves.

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    3. Actually, most rishonim learn precisely as Joe Q., that Mafris means hooved, just as Makrin means horned. Rashbam, Chizkuni, Ralbag, Ibn Ezra, Bechor Shor etc. Rav Saadia Gaon also learns this way. Sifrei says that there are 3 simanim. The first is Mafris Parsa, that the animals are hooved. The second is Shosaas Shesa, that the hoof is totally split. The final siman is that the animal chews the cud.

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    4. Actually, mafris comes from prusah the word used in "breaking bread" as in half or split.

      Targum Yerushalami however translates it that way which is not like Rashi or Onkleos. As in it's hooves become 2 as in two toes another way to describe the split. Those 2 twould toes are not connected but rather split.

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    5. See the מכלול שרשים by the רד’’ק. His entry for פרס contains the following text:

      אשר היא מפרסת פרסה ושסע איננה שסעת כמו הגמל והדוב והכלב והחתול

      This clearly shows that the רד’’ק has no problem with these pesukim referring to animals that have no hooves at all, so there's no reason at all the hyrax can't be indicated here.

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    6. Actually, see Rav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch on Shemini (11: 3-7) where he brings proof to the fact that Parsa means hooved, from Shemos 10:26. Moshe tells Paroh, Lo Sishaer Parsa, not one hoof will remain. He is not saying "one split will remain". You see many times in Chumash where PRS means covering i.e. by the Mishkan.

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  5. Be on the lookout for an email that begins:

    "B"H
    Natan Slifkin wrote . . . "

    Or does that give you PTSD? :)

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    1. IB1: First we need to create a protocolized debate.

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    2. BH
      Dear Weaver
      You must have ruach hakodesh!
      Please see:
      Natan Slifkin sent a letter to Artscroll. Response to some points.
      At:
      https://slifkin-opinions.blogspot.com/2019/03/natan-slifkin-sent-letter-to-artscroll.html

      Delete
  6. Interesting how your crusade is so similar to that of the modern left wing to decentralize Europeans (ie, whites.) Columbus was not the first man to discover America, but only the first European. Jesus didn't look like the way he is portrayed, but he was actually dark skinned. Etc. Your arguments to "debunk" what most of us have understood for many centuries - what is the tzvi, what is the shafan, how big is the zayis, etc - are very similar.

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    1. As Rabbi Berel Wein has said "sometimes in one's quest for complete rationalism, one becomes irrational" i.e not everything is or can be explained rationally - yet those who try to do so are in essence irrational.....

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    2. Studying is so disagreeable to people with fixed beliefs. You'd think religious Jews would want to better understand their tradition. But apparently they prefer superficiality.

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    3. I don't see them as quite in the same category. No-one is eating rabbits or hyraxes, so that argument is mostly an intellectual one, but proper estimation of a kezayit has practical ramifications in Jewish life.

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    4. Your arguments to "debunk" what most of us have understood for many centuries

      Are you against all of modern science? After all Galileo and Newton "debunked" what everyone new since the days of Aristotle.

      BTW, did you read the post? The earlier tradition was Shafan = Wabr = Hyrax. So the tradition you claim is being debunked was actually a "debunking" (or bunking?) of a prior tradition.

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    5. Interesting how the arguments you're complaining about happen to be true.

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    6. Joe Q..."no one is eating rabbits...." Ever heard of a guy with a speech impediment hunting for "Wabbit Stew"...? Rabbit is a gourmet dish in many parts of the world including the Middle East.

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    7. I didn't complain about the arguments nor did I suggest all or some were wrong. I just pointed out that RNS's crusade to debunk "medieval European Ashkenazi views" is very similar to the modern leftist crusade to devalue most of civilization is being merely the product of white Europeans.

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    8. It's not a crusade, it's about accuracy. RNS is out to debunk *wrong* views. Considering your worldview i'm not surprised you find this offensive.

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    9. I'm fairly certain that R' Slifkin isn't out to devalue western civilization. If anything, charedim are.

      By the way, Columbus wasn't the first European to discover America. A guy named Bjarni Herjólfsson was.

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    10. Nachum - Obviously he's not intent on devaluing civilization as the others are, but he IS intent on devaluing the views of Europeans. The similarities are unmistakable. Quite apart from the merits of the arguments, you can see why that alone makes him suspect in the eyes of many.

      [Incidentally, what do you think of petitioning the S. Ct over Otzma running? Would a legislative body just allow the Court to dictate to them who can be a member? Clayton v House?]

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    11. but he IS intent on devaluing the views of Europeans.

      He seems intent on devaluing views that are objectively wrong. Says a lot about you that you consider this a negative trait. Is it R. Slifkin's fault that Europeans were wrong about a lot of things?

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    12. I understand that to hammers, everything is a nail, but not every single issue in the world can be reduced to the same binary that applies elsewhere.

      And I don't think those who find R' Slifkin "suspect" care one whit about the bigger issues you do in any case. Unless "many" means "me".

      I think everyone who wants to run for office should be able to.

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  7. My edition (first edition first impression February 2004) of Chullin 59a4 footnote 30 has: The terms shafan and arneves are widely translated as hyrax and hare, respectively. This is near the beginning of the footnote. Has ArtScroll changed the wording of "widely translated as hyrax" in the latest edition, or they just added to the footnote the above reference [which once we're referring to modern-day material should definitely not lack an accompanying reference to your book]? Also and particularly considering that your contributions helped shape the form of the ArtScroll Chullin volume, I hope no omission has since been made, from the Acknowledgments section, of the paragraph noting what everyone must agree is a historically truthful statement "We are also very grateful to RABBI NOSSON SLIFKIN of Jerusalem, whose expertise in ornithological and zoological matters greatly assisted us in clarifying the latter sections of this volume. His graciousness in sharing his insights with us is sincerely appreciated."

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    1. Artscroll infamously removed their thanks to R' Slifkin from their second edition of Perek Shira (which was basically lifted from his work) and restored it, in the third edition, only after pressure.

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  8. First of all, it's about economics. Rav Menachem Mendel Kasher, in Hatekufah HaGedolah, shreds the idea that the Three Oaths prevent Zionism from being legitimate but guess who gets referenced at the end of Kesubos when the topic comes up? Why? Because very few MO's will refuse to buy an Artscroll Gemara if it quotes the Vayoel Moshe but lots of UO's will take their business elsewhere if it quotes Rav Kasher, zt"l.
    It's the same with the shafan. How many people will look at this page in Chullin, say "I can't believe they didn't reference Rav Slifkin" and put the book back on the shelf?
    Also, what's the nafka minah anyway? You can't eat both and a fur coat of either would be really expensive.

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    1. First of all, just because ArtScroll didn't cite a source doesn't mean it's "about economics." There are a whole lot of sources ArtScroll doesn't cite and I'd be quicker to posit that citations reflect the perspective of the editor in question and what he's learnt than to flippantly say "it's about economics." Rav Kapach has a succinct two page discussion proving that the Three Oaths have no halakhic import, but how many people are even aware of its existence in כתבים ב עמ' 619-620? Have you read it before? It's apropos that you chose this post for your comment about ArtScroll not citing Rav Kasher somewhere. It just happens to be that ArtScroll ends Chullin 59a footnote 30 with a whole paragraph referencing Torah Sheleimah.

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    2. Or Garnel meant that they don't quote R Kasher *about the oaths*!.

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    3. Except Artscroll goes *out of its way* to quote the Satmar Rav on the topic, when they could have left well enough alone. Or they could have had a footnote saying something like, "The Three Oaths have naturally been raised as an issue in the light of the rise of modern Zionism, a discussion beyond the scope of this work."

      Except outside of non-Artscroll branded books, like Sha'ar, Artscroll policy seems to be not to even acknowledge the existence of Zionism, Israel, or Modern Orthodoxy in their pages. When they produced volume four of their "World That Was" series, about early America, they switched labels from Artscroll to Sha'ar because they couldn't avoid mentioning YU. (They attacked it, of course.)

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  9. The word rabbit and hare are used interchangeably certainly in Yiddish. Hares I believe were known in the Middle East in Ancient times.

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  10. Gotta love the intellectual 'honesty' on this blog. The fake peshat of Rabbit , Hare and Hyrax are sold to you all and you guys just buy the whole thing lock stock and barrel despite it's glaring deficiencies that I posted earlier. The Hyrax, Rabbit and Hare DON'T CHEW THEIR CUD AND HAVE NO HOOVES TO SPEAK OF THAT THE TORAH WOULD CALL "NOT HAVING SPLIT HOOVES"

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    1. erm so if they don't have hooves and the Torah says they don't have hooves because that is a critical piece of detail then it can't be true?

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    2. The various camelids also do not have hooves, but soft two-toed feet. From Wikipedia: "Camelids do not have hooves, rather they have two-toed feet with toenails and soft foot pads (Tylopoda is Greek for "padded foot"). Most of the weight of the animal rests on these tough, leathery sole pads. The South American camelids, adapted to steep and rocky terrain, can move the pads on their toes to maintain grip.[3] Many fossil camelids were unguligrade and probably hooved, in contrast to all living species.[4]"

      The modern biologist would recognize 7 species of camelid. Not sure how you collapse that into exactly 3, unless you assume the Torah refers to genus, but that assumption will cause you trouble with pigs which compose several genera. And even if you do, rather than assuming they all fit under "gamal", you have to contend with the fact that Tehilim says a "shafan" hides under rocks, which none of the camelids do.

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    3. Those "toes" or bone like structures are the same material as hooves.

      Yes, llamas dwell in the "slayim" mountain ranges. There they are protected by the rock crags. You can search YouTube for videos demonstrating large birds carrying mountain goats off the mountain side. Llamas and alpacas aren't that much larger.
      As to why bats are called "ofos" because they have wings and fly - the Torah needn't concern itself whether it's a mammal or not.

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    4. The Hyrax, Rabbit and Hare DON'T CHEW THEIR CUD AND HAVE NO HOOVES TO SPEAK OF THAT THE TORAH WOULD CALL "NOT HAVING SPLIT HOOVES"

      The רד’’ק disagrees with you, quite explicitly. I'll take his understanding of both Torah and grammar over yours, even if my life depended on doing the reverse.

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    5. Llama Llama Red PyjamaMarch 7, 2019 at 4:21 PM

      "There they are protected by the rock crags."

      No they aren't.

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    6. "Those "toes" or bone like structures are the same material as hooves". Toes, no: they are bone, muscle and skin, like your toes. But the camelid toenails are the same material as hooves. So are the claws of cats and dog and, for that matter, the fingernails of people. That proves nothing. For that matter, hair is the same material too.

      Delete
  11. From the Tenach verses the Shafon is: Small, wise, make their homes in the rocky cliffs, are associated with wild goats of the mountain and seek safety among the rocks. Surely the verses are referring to local known animals otherwise what would the readers think ? Do not eat the Shafonim making their homes in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York ?

    These characteristics match the hyrax which is and was widespread in Israel. FROM THIS WE LEARN: If it looks like it might be a Hyrax, behaves like it may be Hyrax and lives like a Hyrax its is a RABBIT.

    P.S I cite numerous sources on my blog post supporting the notion Shafan=Hyrax

    ReplyDelete
  12. M_O, you with your dishonest name contaminate this blog with an ample amount of falsehood. Don't complain about others.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Nor should you think that your dishonesty hasn't impaired your sensitivity to tell truth from falsehood. Thanks for wasting people's time with your premeditated untruth.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Earlier ones to call rabbits and hyraxes the same name were the Phonecians ie. by then the Northern Coastal Canaanites and later the Arabs coming to Spain. So it was already in the days of the Tannaim and continuing to the days of the Gaonim if not from even before the days of the Tannaim that someone could conflate the terms from.

    http://www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/news/staff-blog/rabbits-fish-and-mice-but-no-rock-hyrax/

    ReplyDelete
  15. MO does have a very strong question, in that neither hare nor hyrax chew the cud. If one faults RIB for sticking to the rabbit theory, I don't see why RNS can be faulted in insisting it's the hyrax.

    The llama contingent theory is possible, since RNS already agrees that names can be transposed. It certainly fits well with the Shafan, given the future tense in Parashas Shemini.

    As for Artscroll, there may be hope. Didn't they resurrect your contributions to Perek Shira after trying to delete them for some time?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hyraxes look like they chew their cud. That was good enough for the Torah, and the Torah was probably right to mention them.

      Bats aren't actually birds. But they are for the Torah's purposes, and again the Torah was right.

      Delete
    2. As the many Rishonim and R Saadia Gaon who learn Mafris Parsa to mean "hooved" and not split hooves, we are talking about a hooved animal for shafan. And we are talking about an animal that brings up the cud. So the hyrax fails miserably. Sorry.

      As for Tehilim and Mishley using shafan seemingly for hyraxes, I would venture to say the name was transposed over the millenium.

      The Torah is clearly speaking about an animal that is hooved but does not chew the cud. The only animals we know like this are the Gamal (bactrian and dromedary) Shafan - Llama family - llama, alpaca, vicuna and guanaco, and Arneves. Perhaps the Arneves is extinct and was prohibited because it may be revived one day by science.

      Delete
    3. The shafan and arneves are not described as hooved animals. The phrase used literally means "And does not hoof a hoof" i.e. does not form a hoof.
      Camels don't have hooves either.

      Delete
    4. @Llama Llover,

      You seem oblivious to the fact that the שפן is listed amongst the animals that do chew their cud, and are not מפרסת פרסה.

      Delete
    5. @Natan, @Avi,

      Pardon me, but I wasn't thinking properly when I wrote the above post. I will correct it here.
      The Gamal, Shafan and Arneves are MP, which (unlike Rashi and Rambam who say it means split hoof) according to Rabeinu Yeshaya, Targum Yerushalmi, R Saadia Gaon, Rashbam, Ralbag, Ibn Ezra, Chizkuni, Raah, etc means "Hooved". So when the Torah says they are not MP, it means that they are not "hooved", and as you know, any good zoologist will tell you that the cameloids are not "true hooved". They also are MG, as the Torah says (they just have 3 stomachs instead of the usual 4).
      Today we know of 6 cameloids: Dromedary and Bactrian which I consider the Gamal; and Shafan which I include the llama, alpaca, vicuna and guanaco.
      The past, present and future tense of the pesukim, as per Rabbi Meir Lubin, give hints to their translation. The Arneves, past tense, could very well be an extinct animal which may be resurrected one day, the future "Shafan" are the South American cameloids which were unknown at that time (other than what Hashem showed Moshe as per Chulin 42A) and the Gamal which was with them in the present of Midbar Sinai.
      As for Tehilim and Mishlei which refer to Shefanim, I propose that the name was transposed due to the fact that the llama family was unkown in ancient Israel. The same way the Europeans were mistaken because there were no hyraxes there, the Jewish Kings thought that Shafan was hyrax.
      The problem with saying Shafan is Hyrax, is that the Hyrax does not chew the cud, and neither does the hare/rabbit.
      And so, as far-fetched the idea may be that in the time of the Kings the shafan was assumed to be the hyrax, it is a more preferred peshat than trying to kvetch MG into rabbits, hares or hyraxes. The "far-fetched" :-) llama family of South America fits more precisely in the words of the Torah.

      Delete
    6. Avi: He is not oblivious. He is saying that it is awkward to say about an animal that it does not have a split hoof if it does not have hooves at all; that the passuk seems to be describing an animal with hooves, but whose hooves are not split.
      He might be wrong about that, though.

      Delete
    7. The Gamal, Shafan and Arneves are MP,

      should read The Gamal, Shafan and Arneves are NOT MP,

      Also, add Bechor Shor to the list of those who say MP means Hooved.

      Delete
  16. The Artscroll Chumash in Shemini (11:5) translates shafan as hyrax.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I will note that in order to come to an accurate conclusion to the identity of Shafan and Arneves, one must examine their counterparts the kosher animals that have hooves and chew their cud as well as the pig which has real hooves. If the cud chewing or the feet are unlike these animals then you know for certainty that you have the wrong identification. As the Torah is uniform and doesn't talk about 2 different types of split or not split hooves as well as 2 distinct types of cud chewing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will note that the רד’’ק disagrees with you, and his textual analyses of Chumash are far more likely to be correct than yours.

      Delete
    2. R Saadia Gaon, Rabbeinu Yeshaya, Rashbam, Ralbag, Ibn Ezra, Bechor Shor, Chizkuni and the recent Kesav Vkabala, RSRH all disagree with Radak here. Rashi and Rambam agree with Radak. But there are many difficult questions on learning that MP means split hooves, rather than hooved. See Daas Zekenim, Maharal regarding the Stira between Pesukim 3-7 and 26-27 of Vayikra 11. Most notably, The Torah says that the Gamal is not MP, yet on pasuk 26 Rashi says that the Gamal is a MP. There are many other problems with learning MP to mean split hooves.

      Delete
    3. @Llama Lover,

      The הכתב והקבלה quotes the רשב"ם as follows:

      פי' מפרסת פרסה צפורן אחד כעין מנעל ולא צפרנים בכל אצבע כארנבת ושפן

      He is clearly contrasting an animal with a פרסה to one without, and he uses ארנבת and שפן as examples of those without. This agrees with the רד’’ק, in that the phrase מפרסת פרסה ושסט אנינה שוסעת can apply to the hyrax and the hare.

      The בכור שור writes:

      אבל מי שאין להם פרסה כלל, כגון כלב וחתול וכיוצא בהם, שיש להם פושט וצפרנים וכן ארנבת ושפן ואפילו יש להם פרסה ואינה שסועה כגון חמור וסוס

      Again, we clearly see that he believes the שפן is an animal which does not have a hoof, but is included in the phrase used in the פסוק. This again agrees with the רד’’ק.

      The רלב’’ג:

      ר"ל במפרסת פרסה שלא יהיו לה אצבעות וצפורנים כמו הכלב והחתול והדומה להם

      Also agreeing with the רד’’ק.

      I really don't understand how you understand these sources, but I don't see how any of them disagree with the רד’’ק on the point I made to M_O, which is that the phrase in the פסוק can refer to animals without hooves of any kind. The רד’’ק does not state that the dog, bear or cat has hooves. He is saying that the term מפרסת פרסה refers to animals that are not like them. The logical inference is that the phrase ופרסה לא יפריס can apply to an animal such as the hyrax that has no hoof at all.

      Essentially, M_O's assertion is that the Torah is only talking about animals that have hooves, but some of which are not split. None of the מפרשים I can find support such a reading. They all support a reading in which animals that have both are טהור (if also מעלי גרה, of course), and animals missing either are טמא. I don't have ready access to all the sources you list, but I doubt any of the others disagree.

      Delete
    4. @AVI

      There is a major machlokes rishonim here in how to translate MP. Rashbam says it means "hooved with a hoof" and PRS is explained by HKVK to come from the shoresh "cover". So the term MP according to the list I supplied above means a leg that is covered with hoof, or in simpler terms, HOOVED. Not MP, means "not covered with hoof". According to Rashi, Radak and Rambam, MP means split hoof, so you have the shoresh PRS twice and one of them means hoof and one means split. Not so simple to say that. And then why would you need two more splits, when the pasuk goes on to say Shosaas Shesa?

      Please see Shem Olan available at Hebrewbooks.org on vayikra 11: 3-7 and 26-27.

      Delete
    5. Make that Shem Olam. Below are the links:

      http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=37847&st=&pgnum=158
      http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=37847&st=&pgnum=159
      http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=37847&st=&pgnum=160
      http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=37847&st=&pgnum=168
      http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=37847&st=&pgnum=169

      Delete
    6. @Llama Llover

      You are missing the forest for the trees. The exact semantic meaning of מפרסת פרסה is not the point here.

      M_O made the following claim:

      If the cud chewing or the feet are unlike these animals then you know for certainty that you have the wrong identification. As the Torah is uniform and doesn't talk about 2 different types of split or not split hooves as well as 2 distinct types of cud chewing.

      Most of the sources I could find, including several on your list, state clearly that animals which have what we call paws (cats, bears, dogs, etc.) are to be contrasted with מפרסת פרסה. That is, according to these מפרשים, the Torah is excluding such animals when it requires מפרסת פרסה. That means it is not at all a mistake to identify the hyrax as the שפן, based on the nature of its feet.

      Whether שוסעת שסע is an elaboration on מפרסת פרסה, or a separate requirement, is not the point I was trying to discuss.

      Delete
    7. @AVI

      OK, I misunderstood why you were quoting Radak.
      In any event, The Torah states that the Gamal, Shafan and Arneves are MG, and the Hyrax, Rabbit and Hare are not MG, so it makes much sense to look for alternate animals.

      Delete
  18. For a discussion of the classical definitions and the historical processes which led to many of the Torah's animals having their names later transposed to other animals, see Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin's work The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom."

    ...


    Rabbi Slifkin,

    The above is probably worth buying just for itself. Any possibility it could be purchased as an ebook?

    ReplyDelete
  19. "speaking of the "traditional" view that the tzvi is the deer (which Rashi points out to be a mistaken European innovation)"

    Where is Rashi please? Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chulin 59b DH Vharei Tzvi

      Delete
  20. There is a narrowly obsessive score- settling quality complete with cross references which simply re-litigate the same arguments being made time after time. It's overkill.

    I think it's time to stop chewing the cud.

    My reading is that Rationalist Judaism hasn't lived up to its promise because it was so self consciously concerned with itself as a movement. Because it is so busy defending its own reputation and ego. Because "it's particularly unpleasant for me because there is a whole crowd of people who hate me and who leap on such a thing gleefully".

    Because not being open to evidence and argument and change is irrational and self defeating. If you wish to be the standard bearer for rationalism you need to welcome corrections whole-heatedly, and rather than grudgingly. In nuanced and arguable but on balance likely wrong cases, as well as in cases of of manifest error.

    Your reputation won't be damaged to good faith observers if you are scrupulously fair and admit error. To the contrary. As for the bad faith interlocutors - they started from a position of holding you in contempt, and will end up at that position regardless of what you do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "If you wish to be the standard bearer for rationalism you need to welcome corrections whole-heatedly, and rather than grudgingly."

      I think I do. Just look at the numerous posts where I say "I was wrong."

      Delete
    2. I think this deserves a pinned post. All the times you had the intellectual honesty to admit you were wrong.

      It makes you look bigger not smaller and is a partial refutation of your critics of an arrogant slifkin thinking he is smarter than the giants of chazal.

      Delete
    3. "whole-heatedly"

      LOL! What a delicious typo ....

      Delete
    4. Chayim, you plop-for-brains,

      If you think that is what R. Slifkin is thinking or saying then you have totally not understood his blog at all

      Go back to the beginning and start reading again. This time pay attention.

      Delete
    5. Actually, having re-read chayim's comment it's possible I am the plop-for-brains.

      Chayim apologies for thinking you were criticizing the baal hablog and for the bad language.

      Delete
    6. Rabbi Natan Slifkin:""If you wish to be the standard bearer for rationalism you need to welcome corrections whole-heatedly, and rather than grudgingly."

      I think I do. Just look at the numerous posts where I say "I was wrong."

      As for being a standard bearer, I would say it is of a certain kind of rationalism, concensus rationalism.

      Since you're human and this blog is basically you thinking back and forth, how fast your corrections are depends like for the rest of us thinking back and forth basically to ourselves.

      Delete
    7. I believe that you have formed an erroneous self image as someone open to criticism from the fact that you wrote a monograph in defence of your opponents. It wasn't actually in defence of your opponents. The closest you got was a concession that "the charedi world has a right" to disagree with you. To be fair, their position was indefensible, but then so was yours, mine and apparently absolutely any attempt to apply a consistent philosophical toolkit to the variegated problems of life, including this attempt.

      Lacking in qualitative data, I decided the rational approach was to google site:www.rationalistjudaism.com I was wrong

      19/01/2019
      16/11/2013 (?)
      01/07/2012
      17/08/2009


      Breaching important scientific protocols, I didn't form a clear hypothesis about how many corrections would constitute an openness to corrections .And I stopped after the first 100 hits when I got bored. But regarding these "numerous posts" - are 4 posts per decade numerous? Please correct me if I've missed many corrections.

      Put it this way: I haven't proven that my impression that you are excessively thin skinned and closed to intellectual challenge; but my work didn't do anything to persuade me that you weren't.

      Delete
  21. It's worth pointing out, there seems to be some contrived agenda to show somehow that the Torah is lav davka. When it says "chews it's cud" it doesn't really mean that. When says it's hooves aren't split it doesn't really mean that when it says the world was created in 6 days it really means billions of years. Anyone else see the pattern of trying to manipulate the Torah to fit their world veiw......

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When the Torah says the sun was created on day 4.....

      Delete
    2. "there seems to be some contrived agenda..."

      Right, and saying that David Hamelech was talking about llamas is not a contrived agenda at all!

      Delete
    3. What a strange thing to find on a site whose owner follows the Rambam's view that Torah must be reinterpreted to fit the facts, rather than dismissing or twisting the facts to fit preconceived notions of what the Torah means. I mean, like it's totally unexpected!!!111eleventyone!

      Delete
    4. Are you a tzeduki?

      When the Torah says put tefillin between your eyes it doesn't really mean that. When the Torah says ממחרת השבת it doesn't really mean that.

      Delete
  22. Some of the underpinnings for this contrived agenda are worth pointing out. If indeed Shafan and Arneves are not the Hare and Hyrax then it would come out chazal actually knew what they were talking about in this instance. What a travesty to rationalist movement where chazal must be perceived as archaic and out of touch with science and the world. Tana dbei R' Yishmael said "there are only these 3 that chew their cud and don't have split hooves". It would also show that Moshe Rabbeinu was indeed familiar with all the animals of the world as the Gemarah in chullin states. I suppose it would be frightening if one's entire straw ideology of "rationalism" blew apart....
    Don't snipe at Chazal from behind straw towers, delegitimizing chazal only serves those who are itching to be recognized in the annals of Jewish history as the true saviors of Judaism. It's the blind sheep that sing along in Natan's choir of seeking renown and recognition as being the supreme authority in Zoological studies vis-a-vis the Torah.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't bothered replying to your silly comments, but this one really takes the cake. You're claiming that I actually approached this topic with the goal of proving Chazal wrong, and that's why I chose to identify the arneves and shafan as the hare and hyrax?! That's not just crazy, it's sick.

      Delete
    2. Apparently you're not in touch with your subconscious...
      But clearly your life's mission /goal is to "teach" the world that chazal were ignorant of science, hence we are not beholden to their teachings. Did you ever say this much outright, perhaps not, but the underlying idea is certainly present to a very intense extent. Perhaps the most revealing post you ever made was regarding R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. A pro- zionist, pro-science gadol and a Tzaddik of the greatest caliber. If you could talk about him as you did, well....nothing else needs to be said.

      Delete
    3. Yes it’s sick and we’re sure not true but please respond to his points that seem to be in the mark like they don’t chew it’s cud..

      Delete
    4. view that the tzvi is the deer (which Rashi points out to be a mistaken European innovation)
      ...

      Rabbi Slifkin,

      Rashi points out it is mistake. Does not say a mistaken European innovation. Rashi was a European.
      Does this need rewording?

      http://www.hebrewbooks.org/shas.aspx?mesechta=31&daf=59b&format=pdf

      Delete
    5. I have absolutely nothing to say about this whole topic, because I know absolutely nothing about it. However, I was inrigued by Rabbi Slifkin's very out-of-character emotional retort above. Two possible explanations for the apparent rawness of that nerve, of suggesting you sought to prove Chazal wrong: One possibility is that you have so much respect and love for Chazal that it greatly pains you to bear accusations of attempting to undermine them. The alternative explanation is that there is a certain truth about the deepest roots of your motives which you are desperate to avoid facing. I guess none of us can really know which it is, but i wonder if even you do..

      Delete
    6. "Modern_Orthodox", actually my life's work is to reach the truth about the topics that I investigate. (And when I started with the topic of the camel etc., I was convinced that I would be able to prove that the claim of this topic proving the wisdom of Torah was correct - I was absolutely devastated when I realized otherwise. I know that intellectual honesty is a foreign concept for you.

      Delete
    7. "please respond to his points that seem to be in the mark like they don’t chew it’s cud."

      He is correct, they don't chew the cud. And the sky is not a dome, and dew does not descend from Heavens, and the kidneys are not cognitive organs. As I've explain elsewhere, dibra Torah k'lashon bnei Adam.

      Delete
    8. "A Yid"- see my comment above. That's why I was so offended by MO's slur.

      Delete
    9. By the way, "Modern_Orthodox", what is the "secret anti-Torah agenda" of every other scholar of Biblical natural history, who all likewise believe that the arneves and shafan are the hare and hyrax?

      (I also wonder - are you claiming that all the references in Chazal and Rishonim to the arneves refer to the llama, or that Chazal and the Rishonim didn't know what an arneves was?)

      Delete
    10. MO,
      I don't think that 'the world ' needs taching that rabbis from 2,000 years ago didn't have the same scientific information that we have today.
      You, on the other hand, do need to be taught that.

      Delete
    11. 'your life's mission /goal is to "teach" the world that chazal were ignorant of science, hence we are not beholden to their teachings.'

      Everyone is 'ignorant' of discoveries and conclusions which happen centuries after their lifetimes. It has no bearing on philosophical or spiritual teachings. But who am i to disagree with you, someone great enough to be in touch with another person's subconcious?

      Delete
    12. MO, I am giving you a platform to post your views, no matter how nonsensical I find them. However, I am not posting your comments which fabricate and falsify my positions and approach. Feel free to start your own blog where you can post whatever you want to make up about me.

      Delete
    13. 'your life's mission /goal is to "teach" the world that chazal were ignorant of science, hence we are not beholden to their teachings.'

      Is your life's mission to libel others, or is it just a side hobby?

      Perhaps you should read R. Slifkin's writings on lice.

      Delete
    14. He is correct, they don't chew the cud. And the sky is not a dome, and dew does not descend from Heavens, and the kidneys are not cognitive organs. As I've explain elsewhere, dibra Torah k'lashon bnei Adam

      Can you please give the source for these statements? Are they Biblical or Rabbinic.

      Thank you

      Delete
    15. To make a very limited defense of 'Modern Orthodox', I think it is true in general that when people come up with a mahalach about some issue or another that they are less receptive/more keen to disprove arguments that make the mahalach unnecessary. I have noticed this with followers of the 'Halachic Process' school. When you explain out that something in halacha that everyone assumes makes no sense may actually makes sense, they get uncomfortable, sometimes even irritable because it seems to render their explanation of why it's a good thing for halacha to make sense moot.

      Similarly, those of us who subscribe - give or take - to an accommodationist 'dibra Torah...' explanation of discrepancies between scientific knowledge and parts of the Torah are probably biased against explanations that 'vindicate' the Torah's account. I personally become intensely bored when I hear explanations of why the 6 days of creation actually correspond to what we know about the history of the universe when, I suppose, really I should be eager to find out if such things are true disappointed when I found they don't.

      Delete

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