Thursday, November 02, 2006

Splitting Hares: a proof against Judaism?


The following is a passage from Leviticus:

11:1 God spoke to Moses and Aaron, telling them
11:2 to speak to the Israelites, and convey the following to them:
Of all the animals in the world, these are the ones that you may eat:
11:3 Among mammals, you may eat any one that has true hooves that are cloven and that brings up its cud.
11:4 However, among the cud-chewing, hoofed animals, these are the ones that you may not eat: The camel shall be unclean to you although it brings up its cud, since it does not have a true hoof.
11:5 The hyrax shall be unclean to you although it brings up its cud, since it does not have a true hoof.
11:6 The hare shall be unclean to you although it brings up its cud, since it does not have a true hoof.
11:7 The pig shall be unclean to you although it has a true hoof which is cloven, since it does not chew its cud.
11:8 Do not eat the flesh of any of these animals.

This passage has been used by skeptics to disprove Judaism.

First of all, it is argued that the hyrax and hare do not chew a cud. Second of all, the Talmud (Chullin 59a) states that that the animals listed here are the only ones possessing one sign of purity – either hooves or a cud, but not both. Modern zoologists however have discovered that warthogs, babirussas, peccaries, and llamas also possess this characteristic.

In my humble opinion, this type of argument indicates the desperation which atheists resort to in trying to convince themselves and others that the Bible is bogus.

The Bible is teaching the Jewish people to eat only animals that possess both signs of purity. In order to avoid errors, the Bible then lists all those animals native to the Middle East, which is where the Bible was given, which possess only one pure sign and are therefore forbidden but which might be mistaken as permissible. Warthogs are native to sub-Sahara Africa, babirussa to Indonesia, peccaries to the southwest United States and llamas to South America. No Jews lived in those regions until modern times. Do skeptics really believe that the Bible should have listed the llama and for the next 3,000 years until Europeans reached Peru, Jews would have been scratching their heads each time they read the Bible, having no idea what this animal is? The Talmud also presumably means that these are the only Middle Eastern animals with one sign of purity. [The Talmud Megillah 11a states that Achavshveros ruled "from one end of the world to the other". This obviously means "the Middle Eastern world".]

The hare and the hyrax do appear to chew a cud and were believed until modern times to have chewed a cud. Therefore the Bible warned Jews to avoid them although they appear to have one sign of purity.

Leviticus 11:5-7 therefore perfectly accomplishes it obvious purpose – which is not to deliver a modern day zoology lecture, but rather to teach the Jews to avoid consuming animals which could have easily been mistaken as pure.

This is completely in conformance with the well known Talmudic principle “The Torah was written in ordinary conversational language”. See Maimonides, Hilchos Yesodei haTorah 1:12 for similar cases.

35 comments:

jack said...

The skeptics' arguments are pretty pathetic. The peccary, babirusa and warthog are from the pig family, and the llama is from the camel family.

Danon said...

So what about all the other arguments stated in the letter? Is that hogwash as well?

jewish philosopher said...

Yep, it sure is.

I think actually in my posts I have already answered some of main the arguments for example regarding Egyptian history and fossils. A lot of the other stuff doesn't seem very serious to me.

Anonymous said...

hi, i read your comments on gays, i think your a lil to radical. it seems u are full of hate towards them. i dont mean to be disrespectful, as far as im concerned, no human being on this earth know the truth bout religion. it is all made up as far as i know. ur entitled to ur opinion, but if we keep fueling hatred the end wont be to good. have u forgotten the holocaust? the core reason was hatred. mimi

Adam Shajnfeld said...

1) So I take it, then, that you admit that the claims of many Kiruv organizations and rabbis that the 4 animals prove the divinity of the Torah are false. This concession is, of course, necessary, given that you state that the Torah and Talmud were referring to animals in the Middle East.

2) "The Talmud also presumably means that these are the only Middle Eastern animals with one sign of purity." What is your source for this? Did the Gemara say this?

jewish philosopher said...

Hi Mimi! I have my own opinion about the causes of the Holocaust. I also understand that atheists very strongly promote freedom of sex - the freedom of all consenting adults to do whatever they want to do. What else is the point of being an atheist? I personally oppose this because first of all the Bible does. Second of all, it causes untold harm to the world in general. Fifty years ago, the abuse, including sexual abuse, of children which we take for granted was almost unknown as were a number of diseases.

Dear Adam, my source for my interpretation of the Gemora is reality. Also, the Gemora is interpreting these Biblical verses which I believe refer to the Middle East.

Adam Shajnfeld said...

"Dear Adam, my source for my interpretation of the Gemora is reality. Also, the Gemora is interpreting these Biblical verses which I believe refer to the Middle East."

You are aware, of course, that your "reality" interpretation is in disagreement is unsupported textually in either the Gemara or Torah, and that many rabbanim disagree with it. In fact, Slifkin was banned on similar grounds.

I fail to see how "reality" dictates this conclusion.

jewish philosopher said...

For example, the Talmud states the pig is the only animal having spit hooves but no cud. In reality, there are others, however not in the Middle East.

Adam Shajnfeld said...

I know that, I am wondering why you draw the conclusion that the Talmud was not claiming the Torah was exhaustive. In fact, the Talmud does make this claim, as many rabbanim do. Rabbi Slifkin, as I said in my previous post, was banned because he said that the Gemara and Rabannim were not claiming exclusivity.

Your interpretation is not dictated by the text of the Torah or Gemara. And it is not supported by Gedolei Hador.

You are saying that the Gemara isn't claiming exclusivity because you know that if it is, it is clearly wrong in terms of facts. But, most rabannim disagree with you, as does the Talmud, and does claim exclusivity. Which is exactly why it can be used as a proof, at least, against the Talmud at least. You say that the Talmud doesn't make this factually incorrect claim, but rabbanim clearly think otherwise.

jewish philosopher said...

So how do these other unnamed rabbis explain peccaries and llamas?

Adam Shajnfeld said...

I don't know. That is exactly why Slifkin wrote what he did. To try to explain it. You do get the problem: if the Talmud or the Torah were making a claim of exclusivity, they would be wrong. Slifkin recognized that the Torah was not making such a claim. But, The Talmud thinks otherwise. The Talmud, and many rabannim (for an example, simply consult any of those who signed the ban against him) argued that both the Torah and the Gemara are making exclusivity claims. How they explain this is beyond me. I assume they are wrong, but they seem to think otherwise. You should know, though, that your view is considered to be kefira, which is why Gedolim have largely banned the Slifkin book.

jewish philosopher said...

I had thought that Rabbi Slifkin was banned because he claimed that men are descended from apes.

In any case, these are my opinions. If anyone bans me, let me know.

Adam Shajnfeld said...

No, Slifkin was not banned because of that. He was banned for sugesting, as you do, that the Talmud, and the Gedolim, are wrong. If you want, I can give you specific quoted from Gedoliim to the effect that you are wrong. I happen to think you are onto something. But the Gedolim insist that the Talmud and the Torah are making exclusivity claims, which I think we both agree would be factually false. That is what people who criticize the 4 animals are criticizing it for - that it can't possible be exclusive, as is claimed. Obviously, if the list is not meant to be exclusive, there are fewer problems. But for some odd reason the gedolim, and the Talmud itself, thinks it is.

detests secret apikorsim said...

> So how do these other unnamed rabbis explain peccaries and llamas?


You are veering towards apikorsus!
Chazal explicitly said: "was moshe a huntsman that he knew all the signs of the animals? From here is proof that the Torah was given by God" It was held thruout the ages that the statement means what it says,it doesn't give any limitations.Now you come along under the influence of the apikores of the author of the "letter" & the apikorsishe site of "daat emet" & say it refers to only to animals in the Middle East!
As to your question:"So how do these other unnamed rabbis explain peccaries and llamas?"
You are forgetting what the chazal say in the Talmud & quoted by Rashi, that you should believe chazal even when they say "al yamin shehu semol v'al s'mol shehu yamin"(right is left & left is right)! Who are you to dispute their words?!
Shame,shame on you!
I think you are a secret apikores & heretic.For how else can one explain you giving the link to the 'letter',which is part of the anti religious site of daat emet?
Don't you realize how many innocent yiddishe kinder might be enticed to read this k'firah & be led off the derech?

jewish philosopher said...

Dear Detests,

My blog is specifically directed toward “someone religious who is considering
leaving Judaism or someone secular who is considering becoming religious” not innocent yiddishe kinder who should not have access to the Internet in any case.

And if you have a better interpretation of the Talmud, please, be my guest.

Anonymous said...

>In any case, these are my opinions. If anyone bans me, let me know

You are of no signficance of whatsoever...

jewish philosopher said...

Tell that to my four year old daughter.

Danon said...

JP said: A lot of the other stuff doesn't seem very serious to me.

It doesn't seem serious to you?

So you have not studied it and got all the answers to this letter of your fellow Jew?

jewish philosopher said...

I think a lot of other stuff in that letter, if you think about it a little, you can figure out the answer.

I may write about another one or two points in the future.

Danon said...

If you could write about other points as well, that'd be great.
Or when you've already written about it maybe use hyperlinks to direct us towards the things you've mentioned on your blog. That'd help too.

Danon said...

detests secret apikorsim said...
writes:
"you should believe chazal even when they say "al yamin shehu semol v'al s'mol shehu yamin"(right is left & left is right)! Who are you to dispute their words?!"

Why should I believe that when my own eyes see that left is left & right is right?

jewish philosopher said...

About the "Letter to the Rabbi", he writes for example here about the problem of Persian chronology and the Bible, however Jewish scholars have dealt with this issue. I'm not an expert on the topic, so I haven't blogged about it.

A lot of other things in the Letter seem pretty silly. What is the Zeitoun story supposed to prove for example? Maybe that apparation was a very clever hoax or an actual ghost or demon. So what? That fact that it had no impact on Egyptian society proves that the Sinai revelation must have been far more impressive.

Many topics in the Letter can be resolved by studying all the Bible commentaries.

Basically the Letter just seems to drone on forever without much substance.

detests secret apikorsim said...

>"Why should I believe that when my own eyes see that left is left & right is right?"

Don't ask me!
Are you questioning the wisdom of Chazal who said this?!
You Apikores!
Don't you know that anyone who scoffes at divrei chazal "ein lo chelek l'olam haba!

jewish philosopher said...

Detests, I think you're just trying to make fun of religious people. Please either identify yourself or cut it out.

happywithhislot said...

jp
clearly you know very well about the ban and that gedolim specifically wrote, that what you have stated, is apikorses.
basically you are a skeptic.
welcome.
go to zootorah.com to see the bans.

jewish philosopher said...

The Talmud Megillah 11a states that Achavshveros ruled "from one end of the world to the other". Is it also heresy to say that this obviously means "the Middle Eastern world"? Don't be silly.

As I understand it, the issue regarding Rabbi Slifkin is that ultra-Orthodox rabbis did not want an ultra-Orthodox publisher to publish a book which stated that man is descended from apes. Their ban put a stop to that, and rightly so.

happywithhislot said...

jp, read the ban.
stop understanding it the way you would like it to be.
understand it how they wanted it to be.

respond AFTER you go to zootorah.com and read the bans.
So the mabul according to you was the middle eastern world only?
dor haflaga was only the middle eastern world?
your kashye is good, but the gedolim do not take it to its logical conclusion. your conclusion in their mond is apikorses.

jewish philosopher said...

Where do you see anything in zootorah which bans what I've written?

Incidentally, I happen to know Rabbi Elya Weintraub very well personally. I don't believe that anything on my blog would alarm him.

I have an impression that when the Talmudic sages said "the entire world" they were writing from a human perspective and meant the world known to them. When the prophets wrote "the entire world" they were writing from a divine perspective and meant literally the entire world.

Anonymous said...

Do you think any of these animals, permitted or not, like being killed or eaten, however the act is done?

It is not necessary to eat animals to maintain humans in a good state of health, the contrary is true, I mostly eat meat only if it is put in front of me and I do not want to upset my hosts or companions.

All this you are saying worries me - it looks like worship of texts which is no less idolatrous than worship of idols, precious metals or lumps of stone.

jewish philosopher said...

God gave man dominion over the earth and we are permitted to eat animals.

We worship God but God gave us a book.

mindhumble said...

hello
i have just realised that this blog stopped over 3 years ago, but anyway.
i think the answer to the llama etc. problems was answered perfectly ok by jack. when the Torah names different animals and birds, it refers to the general species, as Rashi explains concerning the birds: whenever the Torah says "Leminehu" (to its species) it means that eventhough there are different colours and sizes of a certain species, they are still considered one species.

going on that approach, the same could be said by llamas, which are clearly in the camel family, but have certain minor differences.

i have even heard the same answer given to hippos, which have split hooves but don't chew the cud, because they are part of the pig family (according to biologists)

Anonymous said...

I cant be bothered writing an essay, but you've made many mistakes. The first of which is believing that this is actually the word of a great fairytale myth god.

Source: former yeshiva student

jewish philosopher said...

Your mistake is believing the fairytale myth called evolution.

Anonymous said...

I do not respect those who are quick to call someone an apikores. Especially someone who appears to be attempting to understand amito shel torah. If you do not like it is a question that can be added to the long list of questions which we do not know the answer to (but will one day soon). If you are bothered concerning the authenticity of the Torah and Judaism, investigate the numerous other strong supports for the authenticity of the Torah.

jewish philosopher said...

The Jewish definition of heretic is pretty clear.

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2009/06/jewish-heretics.html