Friday, June 01, 2007

Head. Wall. Bang.

I had a conversation with an interesting fellow on the subway this past week. He tried to prove to me that the Torah is true from the "four animals*" proof.

Once he got into his shpiel I told him very simply that the hyrax and hare are not, in fact, true ruminants.

"Yes they are," he told me.

"If you're certain that the hare and the hyrax are ruminants, how do you answer zoologists that say that they've observed and studied these animals and found that they aren't ruminants?"

"I don't have to answer them," he told me. "I know that they are ruminants. How do I know? Because it says in the Torah that they are ma'ale geirah."

The Wolf


* The "four animals proof" to the divinity of the Torah goes like this: The Torah lists four animals that have only one of the two signs of a kosher mammal. The fact that the Torah listed these four shows that they are the only four in existence (otherwise, the Torah could have just specified the rule and not given the examples). Since no other animals with only one sign have been discovered, and we know that Moshe did not hold a PhD in zoology, the information could only have come from God.

For more on this, read Rabbi Slifkin's book "The Camel, the Hare and the Hyrax"

19 comments:

zach said...

It's actually a proof used by the Gemara in Chulin. Here's an interesting take on it that I've never seen before:
http://www.divreitorah.co.uk/vayikra/shemini.html

BrooklynWolf said...

That may be. I wasn't really commenting on the proof one way or the other. My point (and I guess I didn't make it clear) was that he was trying to prove the Torah is true by relying on the Torah to tell us that the shafan and arneves are ma'ale geirah.

Rabbi Slifkin also discusses the Gemara there in Chulin (Rav Chisda's rule) in his book as well.

The Wolf

Holy Hyrax said...

amazing how you meet all these people. May I be zachus to meet such people. Although, I may end up throwing them out of a 5 story window.

BrooklynWolf said...

Well, when I walk around with Rabbi Slifkin's book out in the open, that tends to attract people into commenting and questioning.

zach said...

That may be. I wasn't really commenting on the proof one way or the other.

Yeah, I know. You were banging your head on the wall because you weren't on the madreiga of this fellow's emunah peshuta...

Shabbat shalom!

Zach Kessin said...

Short version, its true because I want it to be, and I will ignore any data which says otherwise.

Orthoprax said...

Fun fact: kangaroos chew their cud too.

I guess a kangaroo is a type of camel, right?

Zach Kessin said...

oh and 2+2=5 (really) :)

zach said...

Fun fact: kangaroos chew their cud too.

Not if you define cud properly as the food of a ruminant that is regurgitated to be chewed again. Kangaroos are not ruminants.

(With that said, I don't think Wolf wants this to devolve into a discussion of maaleh gerah. I think that most of us here agree that the Gemara's proof of TMS in Chullin is deeply flawed as it reflects archaic notions of animal physiology.)

Hyrex said...

Zach,

This explanation of what the Gamal, shafan and arnevet was originated by Rabbi Meir Lubin in an article he wrote for Intercom magazine in 1973. The problem with his definitions, lies in the talmud chulin 59a, where it states clearly that shafan and arnevet have upper teeth. Hares and Hyraxes have upper teeth, but camels and llamas don't. This may be why Slifkin gave this idea short shrift in his book.

Orthoprax said...

Zach,

"Not if you define cud properly as the food of a ruminant that is regurgitated to be chewed again. Kangaroos are not ruminants."

LOL! Yes, that's what the Torah meant. The same Torah biology that defines a bat as a bird - but they knew the technical 20th century definition of 'cud.'

To note too, by your strict definition neither the camel, the hare nor the hyrax are ruminants.

"(With that said, I don't think Wolf wants this to devolve into a discussion of maaleh gerah. I think that most of us here agree that the Gemara's proof of TMS in Chullin is deeply flawed as it reflects archaic notions of animal physiology.)"

Fair enough.

incorrect said...

No. Rabbi Slifkin debunks this not because of the teeth problem, but because the Shafan is described as an animal that hides among the rocks to avoid birds of prey (In proverbs and psalms). Llamas are too large to be considered prey of birds - unless you cite nishtana hateva and birds were larger in those days. Of course both the teeth problem and this problem preclude the llama from being the shafan.

Anonymous said...

Ortho, check your facts, the camel is definitely a cud chewer. The only diff being that the camel/llama has 3 stomachs, and the regular cud chewers have 4.

still incorrect said...

IIRC, R' Slifkin's main arguments against the llama being the shafan are (a) that David HaMelech is clearly talking about a familiar animal, not one from S. America, and (b) that he describes the shafan as being small.

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

"Ortho, check your facts, the camel is definitely a cud chewer. The only diff being that the camel/llama has 3 stomachs, and the regular cud chewers have 4."

If you define cud as 'the food of a ruminant that is regurgitated to be chewed again' then it all depends how you define a 'ruminant.' If you're defining it as members of the suborder Ruminantia then camels do not belong. If you want to widen it to all even-toed regurgitating mammals then camels join in. If you want to widen it again to all mammals that re-chew regurgitated food then the kangaroo is right there.

Of course, this is all silly nonsense in the context of the Torah's definition because it doesn't define 'cud' (i.e. maalat gerah) as far as any modern definition does.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

then how come when i read R' Soloveitchik's "The Emergence of Ethical Man" on the subway i get crazy beggars shuffling by and tapping me on the head? :-P

Anonymous said...

Read LONEly Man of Faith, and then they might leave you aLONE.

defenestration said...

Probably a definitive source on kangaroos and cud -- even though it's a moot point by now, thanks to Orthoprax:

http://books.google.com/books?id=WoHz4roGke8C&pg=PA201&lpg=PA201&dq=kangaroos+chew+cud&source=bl&ots=c3kVdV0-lS&sig=PNzNXwYiWiSgaQXL-MIKIsjGupY&hl=en&ei=OToKSrWTK52xmAfGr6DzCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6

defenestration said...

Arrgh, it looks like it got cut off:
http://books.google.com/books?id=WoHz4roGke8C&pg=PA201&lpg=PA201&dq=kangaroos+
chew+cud&source=bl&ots=c3kVdV0-lS&sig=PNzNXwYiWiSgaQXL-
MIKIsjGupY&hl=en&ei=OToKSrWTK52xmAfGr6DzCw&sa=
X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6