Monday, August 1, 2011

Natan Slifkin’s 10 questions


NS published today a pilpul around the Torah understanding of the animal world and the profound motivations of his ideological opponents.

This is explicitly related to my approach to this issue, as he mentions my name many times.

Interestingly, he did not answer the questions I posted recently in our blogspot, even the most elemental one, i.e.

NS: wrote:

“…In fact, the hyrax appears to be more of a maaleh gerah than the hare.”

I asked:

In which page in NS’s book (first or second edition) did he write what is his definition of “maaleh gerah” and the sources on what he based his definition?

As far as you do not define a category, you cannot include or exclude any animal.

I am still waiting…

Now he wants to distract the readers with his 10 questions:

  1. Are the lama, alpaca, vicuna and guanaco to be classified as being of the same min (type) as the camel?
  2. Is the rabbit classified as being of the same min as the hare?
  3. Does cecotrophy (the reingestion of special fecal pellets) by hares and rabbits rate as ma’aleh gerah?
  4. Do we believe those zoologists who say that the capybara practices cecotrophy?
  5. Is the capybara considered to be a sheretz or a chayah?
  6. Is the shafan the hyrax?
  7. Does the hyrax practice merycism?
  8. Is merycism considered to be maaleh gerah?
  9. Is the alleged merycism of koalas and proboscis monkeys the same as that of the hyrax?
  10. Is it likely that the shafan and arneves are extinct, unknown animals?

I have to acknowledge that after reading these 10 questions I am very happy bechasde Hashem Yitbarach, because the first 9 questions are frontally approached in our B”H forthcoming book “The enigma of the biblical shafan” (with more than 500 Torah and science sources).

Question number 10 was not addressed in our book because I did not consider it relevant to our approach.

Special attention was invested B”H in defining all the relevant concepts and checking that the answers to the 9 individual questions are consistent with each other.

Meanwhile, I would like to ask in which page of his first or second edition, a scientific source was provided for the purported hyrax merycism.

Otherwise, please specify any definition of “maaleh gerah” that includes the hyrax.


  1. Dr. Betech,

    If you are interested, check out this link:

    I did several posts on the "gerah" itself as it is also related to the Tabernacle (tabernacle silver shekel, to be precise).

    IMHO, i think before even starting the discussion of what "maale gerah" is, it is important to sort out what the actual expresion "gerah" means.

    In other words, as far as I know, no one really knows what "gerah" truly is...

  2. Dr. Betech seems asks for sources for the merycism of the hyrax. The implication here is that the Doctor has studied the sources and has concluded that the hyrax does not exhibit merycism.

    Personally - beets the heck out of me.

    In March 2001,

    RNS said:

    There are conflicting reports as to whether the hyrax regurgitates its food. It is possible that the hyrax practices merycism, which can be defined as ma’aleh gerah without too much difficulty. If it does not practice merycism, then it can only be defined as ma’aleh gerah on the basis of its complex gut or manner of chewing, and perhaps requiring us to invoke the concept that “the Torah speaks as in the language of men.” As with the hare, these approaches are viable, albeit somewhat difficult.

  3. B"H
    Dear Yitz
    I have to acknowledge that I did not understand the meaning of "Personally - beets the heck out of me." I even looked in the dictionary but did not find. Sorry but as you know I am not fluent in English.
    Meanwhile I have to clarify that what is required is not a "source" but a "a scientific source" for the purported hyrax merycism.
    And just then it will appropriate to evaluate if merycism could be rated as "maale gerah" or not.

  4. Yitz Waxman,

    Shalom Aleichem,

    Although I do not have nearly the level of expertise in this sugya as Dr. Betech, there are a few obvious comments I feel I can make.

    Dr. Betech writes that “what is required is not a "source" but a "scientific source" for the purported hyrax merycism” and he is, of course, correct. Rabbi Slifkin’s claim that “It is possible that the hyrax practices merycism” is unsupported in the scientific literature, at least to the best of my knowledge. But I’d like to tackle another issue here.

    Rabbi Slifkin writes that “It is possible that the hyrax practices merycism, which can be defined as ma’aleh gerah without too much difficulty.”

    I wonder how he reaches this conclusion. Merycism is not a form of rumination at all; it is a chronic condition of the digestive system. It needs to be treated in humans like any other disease. According to Wikipedia, “The chewing of cud by animals such as cows, goats, and giraffes is considered normal behavior. These animals are known as ruminants. Such behavior, though termed rumination, is not related to human rumination syndrome [i.e. Merycism sc] but is ordinary.”

    In other words:

    1) rumination is not merycism, and
    2) merycism is not ordinary. It is a condition.

    To my mind this means that it is very difficult indeed to define merycism as a form of ma’aleh geira.

    Now, in Rabbi Slifkin’s defense it can be said that the phenomenon of merycism in a certain select number of animals is considered by some as a regular feature of their digestive system and is thus considered normal. As it happens Rabbi Slifkin devotes an entire chapter in his new book (The Camel, Chapter 10) to this issue and lists the scientific sources for “normal” merycism in certain animals. But here’s the kicker; the Hyrax is not found in the list of these animals! Rabbi Slifkin lists marsupials and some primates, that’s it! So according to Rabbi Slifkin himself there is no scientific evidence whatsoever that the Hyrax practices merycism.

    Now you know why Dr. Betech insisted on scientific evidence for merycism in Hyraxes…