Angry Rabbits and Ticked-Off Tigers
This is too funny!
On the advice of a reader, I just purchased a book in Hebrew for toddlers. On the cover is the title, Shafan, with a stripe of black paint over it. Beneath it is the animal who painted it over: an angry rabbit!
The book is about how this rabbit is very angry that everyone calls him by the wrong name. Instead of calling him arnav, which is the proper name for "rabbit," he is called shafan. Eventually, he leaves town in disgust, and goes to find the real shafan in the wilderness - a hyrax. They switch places, but it doesn't work out too well - the rabbit does not like living in the wild, and the hyrax doesn't like being pulled out of a magician's hat. And so the story ends with the rabbit going back to his old life, and hoping that writing this book will help people call him by the right name.
The transposition of the rabbit with the hyrax is, of course, a classic case study for Biblical zoology. But the book deals with other transpositions, too. During the course of the story, the rabbit goes to a therapy group for animals that are frustrated due to their often called by the wrong name. There's an eagle that is complaining about being called a nesher and a tiger that is called ticked-off about bein called a namer, amongst others.
The transposition of nesher from vulture to eagle is a case similar to that of the shafan. Just as the name shafan was transferred from the hyrax to the rabbit due to there being no hyraxes in Europe, so too the name nesher was transferred due to the eagle's status as the king of birds in Europe. But the transposition of the namer from the leopard to the tiger is more difficult to understand. It is a very common error - see, for example, this painting from the 17th century Rymanow synagogue. Yet tigers are not found in Europe either. I am still trying to figure out the cause of this transposition.
I'm not sure what the message of the book is for its intended readership, but I enjoyed it immensely!
(On a related note, for those interested to read the new Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom, the LA book launch is taking place this Monday evening, at Beth Jacob, 8pm - please spread the word to anyone you know in LA. Or, if you're not in LA, you can order it online at www.BiblicalNaturalHistory.org. Israel orders are already being shipped out, and US orders will be shipped out soon. Free shipping in Israel, Europe and North America!)