Tuesday, January 12, 2010
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 apparent problem is easily explained.
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.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 7:22 PM