Friday, June 21, 2013

The Shafan

Dear Reader;

After a much-anticipated arrival, we are happy to announce the publication of the book The Enigma of the Biblical Shafan by Dr. Yitzchak Betech and Dr. Obadia Maya. The material contained in this book is the result of decades of research and is accompanied by the haskamos of a number of gedoley Torah.

The following is the Abstract as found on page 3 of the book.

The Torah included the shafan and the arnebet among the non-kosher animals with only one kosher sign. Throughout the centuries, the traditional translations of these terms were, respectively, rabbit and hare.
Indeed, current science shows that all the characteristics Jewish classic literature attributes to these animals do occur in the rabbit and the hare. 
This publication will make the case that the Torah/Talmudic definition of “maaleh gerah” includes a qualified form of cecothropy practiced by the rabbit and hare. 
The following essay B”H refutes different options (like the hyrax, the llama and the pika) suggested and published by some as the identity of the shafan. And additionally, it answers in a systematic approach, the published challenges to our conclusions regarding the identity of the shafan. 
 After extensive research, as presented in a comprehensive chapter (which analyzes the kangaroo and the capybara among other animals), we did not find any additional species with only one kosher sign besides the four enumerated in the Torah, and we can recognize with admiration, today as always, that only the Master of the World could state this accurate information thousands of years ago.  

Dr. Betech is a frequent contributor to this blog and has graciously consented to respond to any queries relating to the conclusions of his thesis.



If you would like to preview the book, please visit this link

396 comments:

  1. Hi, thanks for your contributions to the last post, you left off saying “How to decide between these two approaches? I have a mehalech. I hope to write a post tomorrow clarifying the issue.”
    I hope you still plan on writing your mehalech

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  2. we did not find any additional species with only one kosher sign

    Could you please explain (as I don't have your book,and the preview does not actually show the book itself) how the llama, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos do not have only one kosher sign (i.e. it appears that they chew the cud but do not have split hooves).

    Thank you.

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  3. please see this link: http://parsha.blogspot.co.il/2013/06/that-wascally-wabr.html

    elemir

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  4. Danny,

    Hi, thanks for your contributions to the last post, you left off saying “How to decide between these two approaches? I have a mehalech. I hope to write a post tomorrow clarifying the issue.”

    I hope you still plan on writing your mehalech


    I do. Hopefully no later than next week. I apologize for the delay. Pre-summer life in our home is hectic (we run four camps!). As soon as camp season gets off the ground I will hopefully have some time to devote to this important sugya. Thank you for your patience.

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  5. Elemir Amsel

    please see this link: http://parsha.blogspot.co.il/2013/06/that-wascally-wabr.html

    Elemir


    Hi Elemir,

    Although R’ Josh Waxman’s thesis is sound (words can change their meanings over time), its application to the term al-wabr is faulty, at least within the context of the debate between Rabbi Slifkin and Dr. Betech regarding the identity of the shafan. You see, Josh’s point of departure is the fact that shafan most-likely means hyrax because that’s what the Israelites were familiar with. He accepts Rabbi Slifkin’s arguments from the pesukim in Mishlei and Tehilim which describe the “behavior and habitat for the shafan that matches that of the hyrax”. But now he’s left with a kasha. Ibn Janach says that al-wabr means rabbit? In order to reconcile this with his predetermined definition of shafan as hyrax, he posits that Ibn Janach erred in his understanding of Saadia Gaon’s usage and that his rendering of the term al-wabr as rabbit is a product of this error. He then posits that this error was possibly the beginning of a shift in usage which found its way into the writings of the rest of the Rishonim.

    Now, while all this is lovely speculation, unfortunately it is not very convincing (for reasons I will point out shortly). Furthermore, it is irrelevant to the current debate. In order to use the term al-wabr as an indication, both Rabbi Slifkin and Dr. Betech much approach the sources objectively. Today, in modern Arabic, al-wabr apparently means hyrax. By extrapolation, it seems reasonable to assume that tis was its meaning 1100 years ago when Saadia Gaon used it. But Ibn Janach lived just after Saadia Gaon, was an expert in his works, and was a highly-regarded grammarian who translated Biblical terms into Arabic and he understands the wordal-wabr to mean rabbit. So, an objective analysis of the source material would seem to support Dr. Betech’s claim that shafan means rabbit. So, whereas Dr. Betech would agree to RJW’s ikkar vort (primary thesis) about words changing meaning over time, it seems clear that this was not the time it changed. At this time it meant rabbit and only sometime in the future did it begin to mean hyrax.

    Continued in the next comment

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  6. I mentioned before that RJW’s speculations were unconvincing. Here are my objections.

    1) Ibn Janach is one the most highly-regarded Jewish grammarians. His works are considered highly influential in the field and are recognized as laying the foundation for future biblical interpretations. It seems a bit presumptuous to conjecture that he really didn’t understand what a specific term in Arabic – a language he was expert in – meant and therefore mistranslated it. It seems even more presumptuous to speculate that it was this mistake which caused all the subsequent Rishonim – men who are well known for linguistic precision – to mistranslate the term.

    2) According to RJW, there were two linguistic shifts, not one. In the tenth century al-wabr meant hyrax. Then about 50 years later Ibn Janach came along, made a mistake, and everyone started using al-wabr to mean rabbit. Then at some undisclosed period in time, there was another shift and everyone started using the term to denote hyrax. RJW’s speculation is possible, but it is not likely. Dr. Betech’s position is consistent with the more reasonable assumption that originally the word meant (a) and subsequently there was a shift in meaning and now it means (b).

    3) RJW’s speculation is based on the fact that Ibn Janach was unfamiliar with the fauna of Israel. Here’s the problem. Ibn Janach writes: (my colleague’s translation – my emphasis)

    “And the shafan”. It is the wabr, an animal the size of a cat, which is found [only] a little in the East, but is abundant among us. Nevertheless the masses do not know it by that name, but by the name conilio, a Spanish name [for rabbit].”

    This demonstrates two things. First of all, it demonstrates that Ibn Janach’s translation was not made in ignorance. Apparently he knew about the animals in the East although he never travelled there (actually I don’t know if he travelled there or not; I’m taking RJW’s word for it. The fact is, Ibn Janach was a traveler. According to Wikipedia, he travelled all over the Iberian Peninsula).

    The second thing it demonstrates is that although the rabbit population in Israel was indeed small in the 11th century, according to Ibn Janach there were definitely rabbits in Israel. Today they are not there at all. Perhaps during Dovid and Shlomo’s time they were found in abundance?

    The bottom line is, an objective analysis of the material reveals that Ibn Janach is consistent with Dr. Betech’s position and inconsistent with Rabbi Slifkin’s position.

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  7. Rabbi Sedley

    Could you please explain (as I don't have your book,and the preview does not actually show the book itself) how the llama, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos do not have only one kosher sign (i.e. it appears that they chew the cud but do not have split hooves).

    Thank you.


    Rabbi Sedley; Shalom aleichem!

    I have R’ Isaac’s book (he graciously sent me a copy in the mail which I just received – the book is amazing! I recommend you buy it online here. You may end up disagreeing with his conclusions but there’s no denying the fact that Dr. Betech and Dr. Maya put an enormous amount of time and effort in the production of their thesis! Their research is exhaustive. It is worth buying the book just for the mareh mikomos!) so I can answer your question.

    Dr. Betech feels that the llama, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos all belong to the family Camelidae. In fact, he notes (page 176) that scientists have actually been successful in hybridizing the camel and the llama. Dr. Betech has a suggested definition for the Torah’s classification of “min” based on the gemara in Bava Kama 55a (Chapter 5 of his book) and following his suggestion the above-noted animals all possess similar morphological and physiological reproductive biology to the camel as delineated in the gemara.

    Please Note: Rabbi Slifkin (Camel, Hare, Hyrax, pg. 77) acknowledges this possibility. His objection is based on a side point (he feels that lumping all these animals into one classification broadens the definition of the biblical term min inordinately).

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  8. Thank you Rabbi Coffer for your answer.

    The abstract of the book stated that "we did not find any additional species with only one kosher sign"

    The answer (if I understood you correctly) is that llamas and camels are all part of the same family of camelids.

    In which case I have two further questions:

    1. Will Dr Betech update the book to reflect his answer, that it is "family" rather than "species"?

    2. If Dr Betech is limiting himself to families, then rabbits and hares are also the same family Leporidae. If so, there are only three families, not four. So it would seem that still has to find one more family to include. Do you agree?

    Thank you

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  9. Rabbi Sedley

    The abstract of the book stated that "we did not find any additional species with only one kosher sign"

    The answer (if I understood you correctly) is that llamas and camels are all part of the same family of camelids.


    No. That’s not what I meant. We don’t need Dr. Betech to tell us that llamas and camels are all part of one taxonomic (Linnaean) Family. In my opinion, the reason Dr. Betech notes that they are all part of one Family is merely for the purpose of demonstrating that mainstream taxonomy recognizes certain fundamental similarities between these animals. However, when he writes "we did not find any additional species with only one kosher sign", I think the term “species” here refers to his definition of the biblical “min”.

    R’ Isaac, if I am wrong, please correct me.

    In which case I have two further questions:

    1. Will Dr Betech update the book to reflect his answer, that it is "family" rather than "species"?


    This is a good point. Notwithstanding my response above, most people relate to the term “species” as it is used in contemporary science. I will leave it to Dr. Beech to consider your suggestion.

    2. If Dr Betech is limiting himself to families, then rabbits and hares are also the same family Leporidae. If so, there are only three families, not four. So it would seem that still has to find one more family to include. Do you agree?

    Well, as I mentioned, Dr. Betech is not limiting himself to Linnaean classifications. He has a unique and original pshat for the term “min” in the Torah. In line with this pshat (which is based on the gemara in Bava Kama), he understands the hare and the rabbit to be two separate minim because they possess certain fundamental differences in their reproductive characteristics which he terms “superfetation” (page 113-114). Please don’t ask me what that means! I just got the book now. I need to study it.

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    Replies
    1. B"H
      Dear Rabbi Sedley and Rabbi Simcha Coffer
      I appreciate your suggestion, although inside the book in Chapter 5f (pages 106-115) there is no ambiguity where the issue is addressed with detail, nevertheless I agree and I am modifying the abstract, in the next edition the paragraph will read:

      After extensive research, as presented in a comprehensive chapter (which analyzes the kangaroo and the capybara among other animals), we did not find any additional "min" (Torah-type creature) with only one kosher sign besides the four enumerated in the Torah, and we can recognize with admiration, today as always, that only the Master of the World could state this accurate information thousands of years ago.

      Thanks
      PS. Other issues related with this comment will be addressed B"N later.

      Delete
  10. Hi Rabbi Coffer,

    Let me begin by providing a click-able link to my blogpost. While Elemir pasted it in plaintext, people are less likely to copy and paste than to click, and I think that it would be useful for readers to see my actual words prior to your summary of my words (which I don't feel to be accurate in this instance).

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  11. I apologize for whatever imprecision on my part led to your misunderstanding what I wrote, but here is a crucial point:

    According to RJW, there were two linguistic shifts, not one. In the tenth century al-wabr meant hyrax. Then about 50 years later Ibn Janach came along, made a mistake, and everyone started using al-wabr to mean rabbit. Then at some undisclosed period in time, there was another shift and everyone started using the term to denote hyrax. RJW’s speculation is possible, but it is not likely.

    I said no such thing. According to me, there was only a single linguistic shift, localized to areas in which hyraxes did not live but rabbits did.

    That is, al-wabr originally meant hyrax. At some point (maybe 10th century, maybe earlier) localized to areas in which hyrax was not present, the word was used to describe a similar animal, the rabbit.

    But, at the same time, in Eretz Yisrael and Egypt, people continued to use al-wabr for the hyrax, and continued to this very day. And elsewhere people continued to use al-wabr for the rabbit.

    And as I wrote in my post:
    Indeed, I've seen wabr translated as 'weasel', 'guinea pig', 'coney', and 'hyrax'. Coney means rabbit.

    You then used this non-existent implausibility in 'my' theory to show that Dr. Betech's theory was more plausible.

    Now that you understand that I also have only a single linguistic shift, do you retract that portion of your comments?

    I have other responses to other points you made, but I will first wait a bit for your retraction, so that we can make sure we are on the same page on this point.

    Thanks,
    Josh

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  12. Rabbi Coffer

    Now I understand. Dr. Betech is not using recognized classifications based on either traditional secular or Torah sources, but rather has devised his own classification system to show that camelids are the same 'min' but leporidae are not.

    In that case I think he should also emend the last sentence of the Abstract:

    We can recognize with admiration, today as always, that only the Master of the World could state this accurate information thousands of years ago.

    It is more a case of Dr Betech taking information and devising his own classification system (unknown, if I understand you, before he defined it) to make the facts fit with the conclusion. So he should write:

    "We can recognize with admiration, today as always, that only through a unique and innovative classification can Dr Betech maintain the truth of the statement of the Master of the World from thousands of years ago."

    This is not quite as strong a statement.

    In fact, it sounds almost heretical. If I have understood you correctly, it doesn't seem to me that Dr Betech's approach is an appropriate traditional Jewish one, but quite the opposite.

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  13. oops,
    "At some point (maybe 10th century..."
    should read maybe 11th century.

    I await Rabbi Coffer's response.

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  14. Josh Waxman,

    Hi R’ Josh. Thank you for writing. I’ll get straight to the point. You wrote:

    I said no such thing. According to me, there was only a single linguistic shift, localized to areas in which hyraxes did not live but rabbits did.

    That is, al-wabr originally meant hyrax. At some point (maybe 10th century, maybe earlier) localized to areas in which hyrax was not present, the word was used to describe a similar animal, the rabbit.

    But, at the same time, in Eretz Yisrael and Egypt, people continued to use al-wabr for the hyrax, and continued to this very day. And elsewhere people continued to use al-wabr for the rabbit.


    To be honest, I’m a bit confused. I acknowledge (on your position) that in Eretz Yisrael and in Egypt there may have been no shift but in Europe there definitely was a shift, right? And in Europe (as everywhere else) today, al-wabr means hyrax, right? So doesn’t this add up to two shifts, at least in a very large part of the world? Describing the initial shift as “localized to areas in which hyraxes did not live” doesn’t mitigate the force of the shift.

    Besides, I have another kasha for you. Arabic is not a Jewish language. It’s an Arab language. Ibn Janach was an expert in Arabic and he claims that the Arab term al-wabr means rabbit. Surely you do not maintain that the “localized” shift occurred only amongst the Jews, right? So, what emerges from your thesis is that Saadia Gaon used the common Arabic term al-wabr to mean hyrax because that’s how all the Arabs (and anyone else using their language) used it, but then Ibn Janach came along, made an error, and now there was a “localized” linguistic shift in the entire Arabic world outside of Eretz Yisrael and Egypt from hyrax to rabbit because of Ibn Janach’s error. Doesn’t this proposition stretch our credulity a tad?

    Now that you understand that I also have only a single linguistic shift, do you retract that portion of your comments?

    R’ Josh, I will gladly retract this portion. But please don’t make me retract an objection that you still haven’t responded to. On your position, before Ibn Janach came along, al-wabr meant hyrax. Then Ibn Janach came along and al-wabr experienced a linguistic shift in the Arabic tongue from hyrax to rabbit outside of Israel and Egypt where there were no hyraxes. That’s shift #1. Today al-wabr means hyrax in Arabic in all localities. That’s shift #2. If you can show me the flaw in my cheshbon, I will gladly retract my objection.

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  15. Rabbi Sedley

    Rabbi Coffer

    Now I understand. Dr. Betech is not using recognized classifications based on either traditional secular or Torah sources, but rather has devised his own classification system to show that camelids are the same 'min' but leporidae are not.


    I’m sorry but apparently you still do not understand. I specifically told you that Dr. Betech’s criterion for the term “min” is based on chazal! How then can you claim that “Dr. Betech is not using recognized classifications based on either traditional secular or Torah sources”?

    It is more a case of Dr Betech taking information and devising his own classification system (unknown, if I understand you, before he defined it)

    Not unknown. Unarticulated. There are all kinds of chiddushim in the rishonim and achronim that are not spelled out in Chazal. Accusing Dr. Betech of “devising his own classification system” is unfair. R‘ Isaac, as many before him, has attempted to provide a clearly delineated definition of the Torah’s classification of ”min”, and bases himself on sources in Chazal. If you have an alternative thesis, I’m all ears.

    So he should write:

    "We can recognize with admiration, today as always, that only through a unique and innovative classification can Dr Betech maintain the truth of the statement of the Master of the World from thousands of years ago."


    Let me get this straight. For the record, do you believe that when Chazal said in maseches Pesachim that the fact that the pesukim lump together the Camel the Hare, the Hyrax and the Pig, this proves that they could only have been written by the Creator of the world; do you believe that Chazal erred in this assertion? And if not, forget Dr. Betech! How do you explain this gemara???? Do you have a better approach than R’ Isaac? If so, I’m all ears…

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  16. Perhaps I was out of line in accusing Dr Betech of heresy. But his reasoning is certainly circular. Claiming that he is the sole holder of the truth is (in my mind) dangerously close to denying G-d and the transmitters of His Torah.

    "Based on a Gemara" but "unarticulated". That means that Dr Betech has no tradition of this definition. Before he "articulated" it nobody had ever heard of it before. Are you saying that before Dr Betech none of the Rishonim or Acharonim understood the Torah correctly (and according to you the Gemara in Pesachim)?

    Could you please quote the Gemara in Pesachim which says, "that the fact that the pesukim lump together the Camel the Hare, the Hyrax and the Pig, this proves that they could only have been written by the Creator of the world."

    Perhaps you mean the Gemara in Chullin 60b? But that is speaking about an animal called "Shasua" which is not even discussed by Dr Betech (as far as I know). Or Chullin 59a which does speak about the camel (or according to Tosefot, the four animals: Camel, shafan, arnevet and shasua)? Look at the Rishonim there, who all explain differently than Dr Betech.

    Whether I have a better answer or not is irrelevant. No answer is certainly better than a wrong answer.

    More importantly, Dr Betech is suggesting that his answer is the ONLY answer! According to his abstract he explicitly rejects every other explanation of Shafan. So anyone who did not have his chidush (articulation) is in error. That is a very bold claim.

    If Dr Betech were to present his explanation as one possibility, that would be perfectly reasonable. Everyone is allowed to have their attempt at understanding Gemara. But if he claims that his is the ONLY legitimate explanation of that Gemara, and of the Torah, then he had better bring extremely good and convincing proofs, and not something that he "articulated" for the first time in the past couple of years.

    Of course there is a lot more to say on this topic. And we can discuss it. But bear in mind that asking me for my opinion is not relevant to this discussion. (I have an opinion, but it is irrelevant). Since Dr Betech claims that his is the only valid answer, it is he who must defend his position. Not challenge others for a better one.

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  17. Hi Rabbi Coffer,

    Thanks for your response. Please, since it was so long, it was not entirely clear that (or if) you were retracting from your original summary of my blogpost, could you write another, much shorter response, saying explicitly that you retract. Namely, you had said that I said that in EY, al-wabr was (1) hyrax, then (2) rabbit, then (3) hyrax again. I think you were retracting (when you wrote 'that portion' thanks!) but I would prefer it more explicit.

    In the next comment, I can answer your query about whether there were two shifts in Spain.

    I won't address your new "kasha" just yet, because there are at least two other inaccuracies in your summary of my position, and I think it is important that first you understand my position before I address any questions on my position.

    So again, could you write in a short comment, something like "Rabbi Waxman, I retract that summary of your position."

    kol tuv,
    josh

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  18. Rabbi Sedley

    Perhaps I was out of line in accusing Dr Betech of heresy. But his reasoning is certainly circular. Claiming that he is the sole holder of the truth is (in my mind) dangerously close to denying G-d and the transmitters of His Torah.

    Rabbi Sedley, before we proceed with this discussion there’s something I must clarify. I don’t know anything about your history with Dr. Betech. I’ve read some of the comments here and on Rationalist Blog but that’s it. You and I need to stick to the here and now. I don’t see anything in the Abstract I posted about Dr. Betech claiming to be the sole holder of the truth nor am I interested in discussing the hashkafic ramifications of his professed opinions. I am a critic of Rabbi Slifkin’s views and have written extensively on them but NEVER will you find me making remarks like those you’ve made against Isaac. I will argue with Nosson. I will debate him till the cows come home. But I will NEVER, EVER, accuse him of heresy or even state that his claims come close to the denial of God! If you want to discuss this sugya with me, we need to stay on point. By this I mean that we need to stick to the substance and the substance alone, nothing else. Besides being my friend, Dr. Betech is one of the most sincere and dedicated Jews I’ve ever met. It breaks my heart to see the denigration and mockery he has had to suffer, both on this blog and on Rabbi Slifkin’s. I am here to discuss the sugya of shafan but I simply refuse to allow my online discussions to function as a vehicle for further attacks against his person. I hope you understand my position.

    "Based on a Gemara" but "unarticulated". That means that Dr Betech has no tradition of this definition. Before he "articulated" it nobody had ever heard of it before.

    Well, actually, Rabbi Slifkin articulated it in his book 10 years ago! And although Rabbi Slifkin doesn’t like this explanation (he considers it “not straightforward”) he considers it a legitimate explanation (page 136). So somehow Rabbi Slifkin is not bothered by the fact that no one ever heard of it before.

    Are you saying that before Dr Betech none of the Rishonim or Acharonim understood the Torah correctly (and according to you the Gemara in Pesachim)?

    First of all, I made a mistake. It’s not Pesachim; it’s Chulin (59a). Second of all; of course not! All the Rishonim and Acharonim accepted that the shafan and the arneves were maaleh geeira. But to any intellectually honest person, the question remains: why does the Torah classify these two animals as maaleh geira? Dr. Betech has developed the cecatrophy approach as a response to this question. Did the achaaronim know this? Did the rishonim know this? I have no idea! They knew that the hare didn’t chew its cud, right. All they had to do was look! So they knew that the arneves was an exception to the standard definition of rumination. How did they resolve this in their minds? I don’t know, you don’t know, Rabbi Slifkin doesn’t know and Dr. Betech doesn’t know. Unfortunately they didn’t speak about it. Both Rabbi Slifkin and Dr. Betech are trying to discover the identity of the shafan using a combination of science, Torah and personal conjecture. Lets’ just discuss their respective arguments and not worry about what the rishonim did or didn’t know.

    Continued…

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    1. All the Rishonim and Acharonim accepted that the shafan and the arneves were maaleh geeira. But to any intellectually honest person, the question remains: why does the Torah classify these two animals as maaleh geira? Dr. Betech has developed the cecatrophy approach as a response to this question. Did the achaaronim know this? Did the rishonim know this? I have no idea! They knew that the hare didn’t chew its cud, right. All they had to do was look! So they knew that the arneves was an exception to the standard definition of rumination.

      R. Coffer, do you have evidence of this? The hare and hyrax were thought to chew the cud in pre-modern times by people such as Aristotle (with the hare) who took great pains to observe and classify animals. If you look at R. Slifkin's videos of the Hyrax, you can see why the Hyrax was considered a ruminant.

      Do you have evidence that the Rishonim had any different view? The very fact that this question is not addressed until relatively recent times is an indication that they did not perceive any problem here and that they thought that the hare was a ruminant.

      On page 78 of his book, R' Slifkin references R. Hirsch, R.Herzog and R. Kappach all shifting the meaning of these animals to extinct ones, in order to answer this contradiction. They clearly did not feel that the "Rishonim must have had some answer".

      Delete
    2. Note - R. Lampel below corrects my ignorance in this post. Aristotle did not think the hare to be a ruminant.

      Delete
    3. This kind of gracious retraction is a breath of fresh air and a demonstration of intellectual honesty. Thank you!

      Now, could you tell me what source originally misled you?

      Delete
    4. At this point, I have no idea :).

      Looking back at R. Slifkin's book, I notice that he similarly debunks this idea (page 130 note 3), although his starting point is a variant false theory about hares. I should have read more carefully :).

      But Aristotle makes mention only of hares sharing with ruminants the feature of producing rennet (Historia Animalium, III:21).

      Delete
  19. Could you please quote the Gemara in Pesachim which says, "that the fact that the pesukim lump together the Camel the Hare, the Hyrax and the Pig, this proves that they could only have been written by the Creator of the world."

    Actually it’s a gemara in Chullin 59a. Do you still want me to quote it?

    Perhaps you mean the Gemara in Chullin 60b? But that is speaking about an animal called "Shasua" which is not even discussed by Dr Betech (as far as I know). Or Chullin 59a which does speak about the camel (or according to Tosefot, the four animals: Camel, shafan, arnevet and shasua)? Look at the Rishonim there, who all explain differently than Dr Betech.

    I don’t know what you’re talking about. Rashi s.v. ela hagamal explains that the gemara is referring to the camel and the other animals mentioned there in the accompanying pesukim i.e. the arneves, the shafan and the chazir. Which rishonim argue on rashi?

    More importantly, Dr Betech is suggesting that his answer is the ONLY answer! According to his abstract he explicitly rejects every other explanation of Shafan. So anyone who did not have his chidush (articulation) is in error. That is a very bold claim.

    Of course he rejects every other explanation of shafan! He toiled to come to a proper Torah conclusion about the definition of the shafan and in his opinion he achieved his goal. As far as your comment “So anyone who did not have his chidush (articulation) is in error”, I’ve already addressed this. Dr. Betech is not being michadesh that the shafan is the rabbit! This is the classical Torah interpretation of the vast majority of our baalei mesora. What Dr. Betech has developed is a scientific explanation for how the shafan is a maaleh geira. I hope you understand the distinction.

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  20. Josh Waxman,

    Thanks for your response. Please, since it was so long, it was not entirely clear that (or if) you were retracting from your original summary of my blogpost, could you write another, much shorter response, saying explicitly that you retract. Namely, you had said that I said that in EY, al-wabr was (1) hyrax, then (2) rabbit, then (3) hyrax again.

    Dear Josh,

    You are obviously a very sincere person but unfortunately I am at a loss for words. I never said that you said that “in EY, al-wabr was (1) hyrax, then (2) rabbit, then (3) hyrax again”. All I can do is cut and paste my objection again. Here it is.

    On your position, before Ibn Janach came along, al-wabr meant hyrax. Then Ibn Janach came along and al-wabr experienced a linguistic shift in the Arabic tongue from hyrax to rabbit outside of Israel and Egypt where there were no hyraxes. That’s shift #1. Today al-wabr means hyrax in Arabic in all localities. That’s shift #2. If you can show me the flaw in my cheshbon, I will gladly retract my objection.

    Do you understand my objection?

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  21. I repeat. Dr Betech believes that he is the sole holder of this truth. Therefore, to argue with his explanation is to argue with the Divinity of the Torah. That is a HUGE claim to make, yet you accept it ("of course he rejects every other explanation") as if that is normative in Judaism.
    Similarly, Rabbi Slifkin gave many possible resolutions of the difficulties posed by the verse and the Talmud. At the time he wrote he was not trying to argue with anyone else's view, but to examine all the options. In contrast, Dr Betech's book was written with the express view of proving Rabbi Slifkin wrong. Therefore he has set a much higher standard for himself. One which is not normally set by students of Torah.

    Most of your other comments seem to avoid my points, but I want to point out that it is NOT the Gemara which makes the "four animal" claim. As you point out (and as I pointed out) it is Rashi and the Rishonim. And to be precise, Rashi does not mention "shafan" (as you pointed out) but merely refers to the animals mentioned in the verse. Whether he agrees with Tosefot (s.v. ain lecha) that it refers to "shafan, arnevet and shasua", or whether only to shafan and arnevet, as you seem to assume, is not the discussion for now. But the Gemara does NOT make the claim that these are the only three animals. It is the Rishonim. And the Rishonim each had their own explanation of what that meant. None of them gave Dr. Betech's answer, or even alluded to it.

    Your last paragraph is back to front. If you assume that the shafan is the rabbit, then Dr Betech is entitled to his opinion (though not entitled to claim it is the only valid interpretation of Torah) as to how to explain that. But since his book was written to show that the shafan IS the rabbit, he can't have the assumption in the proof. Similarly, from what you have written, his explanation is not scientific (in the sense of discovering truth) but the reverse. He knows that the answer must be "rabbit" and therefore disregards any evidence which argues on that. It is not scientific, and is exactly the reason that Rambam rejects the Muslim theology of Kalam in Moreh Nevuchim.
    Scientists begin with a question and seek an answer. Dr Betech has begun with the answer and then defines the facts to fit his solution.
    I have never met Dr Betech. I am prepared to believe you that he worked very hard on this book. And he may be giving a valid answer. But to claim that this is the ONLY correct answer is not scientific, and it is not the traditional way of learning Torah.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I want to point out that it is NOT the Gemara which makes the "four animal" claim. As you point out (and as I pointed out) it is Rashi and the Rishonim. And to be precise, Rashi does not mention "shafan" (as you pointed out) but merely refers to the animals mentioned in the verse. Whether he agrees with Tosefot (s.v. ain lecha) that it refers to "shafan, arnevet and shasua", or whether only to shafan and arnevet, as you seem to assume, is not the discussion for now. But the Gemara does NOT make the claim that these are the only three animals. It is the Rishonim. And the Rishonim each had their own explanation of what that meant. None of them gave Dr. Betech's answer, or even alluded to it.

      There has been some confusion here since there are two passages in Chullin, one on 59b and one on 60a, that speak of “The Ruler of the World” and His knowledge about animals and their feautires. R. Coffer was referring to the first one, and you thought he was referring to the second, which mentions the shesuah. (If you take another look at the back-and-forths, you’ll see.)

      The first one derives from the restrictive word “hu” (or heim) that the animals listed are the only ones that exist with the features mentioned. Not only Rashi, but Tosefos too, as well as many other rishonim, and none arguing, explicate what is obvious from the context: that although the Gemora makes this drasha explicitly naming only the camel, it is referring to all the animals in the list. There is no other way to learn the Gemara.


      So it indeed is the Gemara that makes the “four animal” claim.

      (Dr. Betech provides a list of rishonim, etc., in his book, but if you still want me to post a list, let me know.)

      The Gemora inter alia says that one actually doesn’t even need to see both simanim to know an animal is kosher. Roughly paraphrased, in adult animals, even if its hooves are cut off, one need only ascertain that it has no upper teeth in order to trust that it is [therefore] a maaleh geyrah.

      All halachiuc sources, from the Geonimn to the rishoinim and acharonim, apply the Gemora (academically if not halacha l’ma’aseh) globally. Not only to Egypt and Israel, but Bavel and Europe and the entire diaspora, as is the natural way to understand a memra that states it takes ‘’The Ruler of the Olom’’ to know that the animals listed are the only ones with such features.

      None entertain R. Slifkin’s formerly unheard of exposition of the Gemora that (unrealized by Chazal?), the posuk is really referring only to animals of the Mideast, so that it is to be understood as saying, “it is out of the question that there is also another such species in the region of Egypt, Israel, and Babylonia]! The Ruler of His [Mideastern] world knows that these are the only animals [in these regions] with such features.”

      Delete
    2. Dear Rabbi Lampel
      I am surprised at your lackadaisical approach to learning Gemara and Rishonim. Do you really believe that there are sugyas where Rishonim do not argue?
      Of course I know that there are two sugyas in Chullin (in fact I cited them both in one of my earlier comments). Yet I maintain that shesua may well be relevant to both of them.
      If you look at Rashi on 59a he writes:
      Camel: And the others mentioned in the parsha
      Whereas Tosefot write:
      Camel: Meaning, and also the other animals mentioned with it - shafan, arnevet and shesua.
      When I learn Gemara I find it very rare that Tosefot uses different words to say the same thing as Rashi. If he is writing something, and especially in different words, then he is arguing on Rashi.
      But even if he is not arguing in this case (I'm only saying that according to your reasoning, that all the Rishonim agree) - Tosefot explicitly includes shesua as one of the animals. In other words, there are not four animals with only one kosher sign (including the pig) but FIVE (pig, camel, shafan, arnevet and shesua)! So clearly Tosefot is not holding like Dr Betech.
      I suspect that Rashi is learning that shesua is not a separate species, but an explanation of the other species, but to be honest I am not interested in learning the sugya b'iyun now. I just wanted to show that with even the most basic reading, your argument is not correct.

      You claim that you cannot think of any other reading of the Gemara. I believe you. But that does not mean that there IS no other reading of the Gemara. I will repeat. It is NOT the Gemara which makes the claim of four species. It is (some of) the Rishonim (and not Tosefot). Do you agree?

      Finally, why do you keep bringing Rabbi Slifkin into this discussion? Have I mentioned his book in any of my comments? Does it make any difference to Dr Betech's argument?

      Apparently Dr Betech is of the opinion that if he is correct Rabbi Slifkin must be wrong. (Perhaps (probably) Rabbi Slifkin holds the inverse, but that does not interest me in these comments). However, Dr Betech's claims and evidence have to stand on their own merit, regardless of whether Rabbi Slifkin or anyone else is correct. Conversely, even if Rabbi Slifkin is wrong, it doesn't necessarily make Dr Betech right. Can we please stick to discussing Dr Betech's book, and leave Rabbi Slifkin's book out of it.

      And I'll also repeat. The fact that you claim "There is no other way to learn the Gemara" does not mean that the Gemara is saying something. The Gemara does NOT say the same thing as Dr Betech says. You, he, some Rishonim (possibly) say it, and read it into the Gemara. As a talmid chacham I'm sure you understand the importance of being precise with your words.

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    3. BTW it is Chullin 59a and 60b, not as you wrote. 59a is the one I just discussed. 60b seems to discuss only the shesua.

      Delete
    4. I stand corrected on the page numbers. Thank you.

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    5. Do you also stand corrected that Tosefot holds that there are a total of five species with only one sign? Thus disagreeing with Dr Betech's entire argument?
      The five, according to Tosefot are:
      1. Pig
      2. Camel
      3. Shafan
      4. Arnevet
      5. Shesua.

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    6. I wrote the following before seeing your last question. The answer is in it.

      Rabbi SedleyJune 26, 2013 at 4:17 PM
      Dear Rabbi Lampel
      I am surprised at your lackadaisical approach to learning Gemara and Rishonim. Do you really believe that there are sugyas where Rishonim do not argue?


      Yes. There are also sugyas where they do argue. (You think there are no sugyos where they agree?) There are also specific points within sugyas about which they sometimes argue and sometimes do not.

      Of course I know that there are two sugyas in Chullin (in fact I cited them both in one of my earlier comments). Yet I maintain that shesua may well be relevant to both of them.
      If you look at Rashi on 59a he writes:
      Camel: And the others mentioned in the parsha
      Whereas Tosefot write:
      Camel: Meaning, and also the other animals mentioned with it - shafan, arnevet and shesua.


      I think that in this case you are creating a machlokess that does not exist. Here, the difference in language is due their different goals in their commentaries. At the point of the Gemora that Rashi and Tosefos are commenting on (59a), the interpretation was not yet introduced of shesuah being an additional creature that is maaleh geyrah but not mafris parsa.

      Rashi, whose goal is to guide the learner as the Gemora develops (sometimes, when peshat really needs to introduce information the Gemora only provides later, he will provide it, or say “v’haGemora y’fareish”), just refers to them collectively as ‘’the accompanying ones said in the parsha.’’ This payrush accommodates both what the reader knows now, and what he will find out later.

      Tosefos, who notifies the reader of other talmudic passages, often ones that apparently conflict with the one the reader has in front of him, tends to include more information that is to be gained later.

      Whether or not you agree to what I’m saying about Rashi's and Tosefos’ different aims in their payrushim, the fact remains: Rashi does not question the Gemora’s conclusion on p. 60b that the shesuah is actually another creature. (He does not deal at all with whether the shittah is right or wrong or l’halacha or not.)

      Both Rashi and Tosefos on p. 59a are commenting on the words “You do not have a maaleh geyrah that is tamei except for the camel,” and they say the obvious, that since this is based on the word “hu,” the Gemorah means to include the other creatures described as maalei geyrah in that portion. Once we get to p. 60b and learn about the shesuah, we have that, plus the gamal, arneves and shafan. That’s 1+3 which is 4, not five.

      So again, I must disagree with your opinion that ‘’It is NOT the Gemara which makes the claim of four species. It is (some of) the Rishonim (and not Tosefot).’’ Although now I better understand what your point was.

      Accordingly, I agree, and I’m Dr, Betech will agree, that he needs to edit his statement “we did not find any additional "min" (Torah-type creature) with only one kosher sign besides the four enumerated in the Torah” to indicate that he is referring to the maaleh geyrah kosher sign, or change the number “four” to “five” to accommodate the pig, which also has but one kosher sign, mafris parsa.

      But actually, I’m surprised that it turns out that this point was your complaint with Dr. Betech. Whether the word shesuah is referring to a creature or not, and whether the Gemora is referencing four creatures or five, the fact remains: The point that the Gemorah is making is that the minnim that are maaleh geyrah yet unkosher are only those listed in the pesukim. So there are three such minnim, plus the shesuah which is an unfamiliar creature that is has two backs and two spines and unfamiliar to Moshe Rabbeynu. (Rabbeynu Gershom says that even the name of that animal was knowable to Moshe only through ruach hakodesh).

      Finally, why do you keep bringing Rabbi Slifkin into this discussion? Have I mentioned his book in any of my comments?

      Well, yes. June 23, 2013 at 3:13 PM

      Delete
    7. Typo: I wrote: Accordingly, I agree, and I’m Dr, Betech will agree....

      Should be:

      Accordingly, I agree, and I'm sure Dr. Betech would agree...

      Delete
    8. There has been some confusion here since there are two passages in Chullin, one on 59b and one on [60b], that speak of “The Ruler of the World” and His knowledge about animals and their feautires. R. Coffer was referring to the first one, and you thought he was referring to the second, which mentions the shesuah. (If you take another look at the back-and-forths, you’ll see.)


      There are lots of confusions and conflations in this thread.

      The Gemara on 59b does not claim that the exclusive list animals proves the divinity of the Torah. Instead, it says the inverse: since we know the Torah is divine (presumably because we are maaminim) and if we darshan "Hu" (according to the Vilna Girsa) as the Bereitha does, that the list is exhaustive, then we know that it must be right since God is Shalit B'Olamo. There is no indication that divinity of the Torah is proved by the list.

      The gemara also lists a rule that is only partially supported by the Bereitha, that you can just look at the mouth of the animal: if it has no upper teeth and you can exclude the young camel, then the animal is a Kosher species. This appears to be a combination of the guarantee of the Passuk and the assumption that animals that have no upper teeth are ruminants. This is brought down le'halachah.

      The first one derives from the restrictive word “hu” (or heim) that the animals listed are the only ones that exist with the features mentioned. Not only Rashi, but Tosefos too, as well as many other rishonim, and none arguing, explicate what is obvious from the context: that although the Gemora makes this drasha explicitly naming only the camel, it is referring to all the animals in the list. There is no other way to learn the Gemara.


      R. Lampel, there is. See Rambam הלכות מאכלות אסורות 1:2

      ב. סימני בהמה וחיה נתפרשו בתורה והם שני סימנין מפרסת פרסה ומעלת גרה עד שיהיו שניהם וכל בהמה וחיה שהיא מעלת גרה אין לה שינים בלחי העליון וכל בהמה שהיא מעלת גרה הרי היא מפרסת פרסה חוץ מן הגמל וכל בהמה שהיא מפרסת פרסה היא מעלת גרה חוץ מן החזיר

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    9. So it indeed is the Gemara that makes the “four animal” claim.

      Not on 59b, if you mean by "four animal claim" that this proves the divinity of the Torah. 59b has the inverse.

      The Gemora inter alia says that one actually doesn’t even need to see both simanim to know an animal is kosher. Roughly paraphrased, in adult animals, even if its hooves are cut off, one need only ascertain that it has no upper teeth in order to trust that it is [therefore] a maaleh geyrah.

      All halachiuc sources, from the Geonimn to the rishoinim and acharonim, apply the Gemora (academically if not halacha l’ma’aseh) globally. Not only to Egypt and Israel, but Bavel and Europe and the entire diaspora, as is the natural way to understand a memra that states it takes ‘’The Ruler of the Olom’’ to know that the animals listed are the only ones with such features.

      None entertain R. Slifkin’s formerly unheard of exposition of the Gemora that (unrealized by Chazal?), the posuk is really referring only to animals of the Mideast, so that it is to be understood as saying, “it is out of the question that there is also another such species in the region of Egypt, Israel, and Babylonia]! The Ruler of His [Mideastern] world knows that these are the only animals [in these regions] with such features.”


      Forget the answer and first understand the question: It is clear that you can't apply the halacha today the way it is written, because it is not true that if you can rely on looking only at the upper teeth to determine if an animal is Kosher as long as you can recognize the young camel: Today it could have no teeth, not be a young camel and still be an unkosher alpaca, llama, guanaco, or vicuna.

      I don't agree with Dr. Betech's Minim, but admitting them for the sake of argument, his Minim doesn't help the halacha. The halacha is a practical rule and the Gamal in that halacha means Camel, not a Camelid category that no one had defined yet and is not brought down anywhere else. Even if that is what the Torah meant by Gamal, that is not what the Rishonim meant. For a practical non-esoteric rule, they could not write Gamal and then really mean something completely different.

      So, R. Lampel, you don't like R. Slifkin's answer. Do you have another? Or do you just leave this as a question (also reasonable)?

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    10. Rabbi Lampel

      I'm glad that you understand me now. It is not the Gemara which makes a claim of 4 species. The Gemara makes a claim of 1 species ("hu" is specifically a limitation of 1). The Rishonim (at least Rashi and Tosefot) explain the Gemara to be including other species (and you agree with me that there may be different ways of interpreting Rashi and Tosefot. As you say, whether we learn the same way or a different way is not the issue here, the point is that we have to try to interpret Rashi and Tosefot to the best of our abilities).
      You also agree with me that according to some Rishonim (Rashi AND Tosefot according to you - and you may be right) there are 5 species with only one sign.

      And if we are being specific (which we should be) it is also important to note that the Torah itself makes two different claims as to the number of animals. In Vayikra (11:4) there are FOUR animals with only one sign. In Devarim (14:7) there are FIVE animals mentioned (Rashi points this out in his commentary on Chumash).
      The Chumash in Vayikra, which does not have the shesua mentioned, is the one that the Gemara is learning from ("Gamal Hu") so if Rashi says "the others mentioned in the parsha" he is (possibly/probably) not referring to the shesua, which is not mentioned in that verse. (As you pointed out, it makes no difference whether you agree with my reading of Rashi or not, the fact is that we are permitted to have different readings of Rishonim without denying the validity of the Torah).

      [David Ohsie left a comment along similar lines while I was writing this]

      Also (and I don't have the book, so perhaps this is explained there): If the Gemara is really using these animalss to make a claim of proof of the Divine Truth of the Torah (as Dr Betech claims), could you please explain the proof from Shesua?
      For those who don't know the Gemara, I will cite Soncino's translation:

      R. Hanan b. Raba said: The shesu'ah11 is a
      specific creature that has two backs and two
      spinal columns. Was Moses a hunter or an
      archer? This refutes those who maintain that
      the Torah was not divinely revealed.


      Rashi explains that the shesua refers to an extinct animal. Tosefot (clearly not based on mesorah) asks a question from another Gemara and gives an answer.

      Clearly (I think) the Gemara does not intend this to be a 'proof' in the modern sense of the word. If it were a proof it would read as follows:

      1. Moshe knew of an animal with which we are unfamiliar (but which perhaps was known to Moshe's generation) and which is now extinct.
      2. Only G-d could have told him this information.
      3. Therefore G-d must have written the Torah.

      I think it is obvious to all why this is not a convincing proof.

      Therefore, it is certainly not unreasonable to assume that the earlier statement of the Gemara (about the 4/5 animals) is also not intended as a proof (in the modern sense of the word).

      You are correct that I mentioned Rabbi Slifkin. I was responding to Rabbi Coffer who brought him into the discussion. It was by way of illustration of a point. My questions to Dr Betech are independent of whether I agree or disagree with Rabbi Slifkin's interpretation. Showing me that his answer is not convincing to you in no way strengthens the claims made on this blog or in Dr Betech's book.

      Delete
  22. Hi Rabbi Coffer,

    Firstly, you can refer to me as rabbi, just as you do to Rabbi Sedley. I indeed have semicha, to clarify.

    Where you say:
    I am at a loss for words. I never said that you said that “in EY, al-wabr was (1) hyrax, then (2) rabbit, then (3) hyrax again”.

    To demonstrate this, you quote your later comment. But your later comment is not the same as your initial comment, for which I am asking for an explicit retraction. In your earlier comment, you wrote the following (emphasis mine):

    "According to RJW, there were two linguistic shifts, not one. In the tenth century al-wabr meant hyrax. Then about 50 years later Ibn Janach came along, made a mistake, and everyone started using al-wabr to mean rabbit. Then at some undisclosed period in time, there was another shift and everyone started using the term to denote hyrax."

    The unqualified "everyone" in the first and second statements seems to include the entire world. If that is not what you meant, then you can say so.

    Furthermore, you wrote:
    I acknowledge (on your position) that in Eretz Yisrael and in Egypt there may have been no shift

    where the acknowledgement seems to indicate that initially you were stating otherwise.

    And if by your original statement, you meant specifically Spain, then no, in Spain no one ever in the beginning used al-wabr to mean hyrax, such that one could say "everyone". the first usage in Spain of al-wabr was rabbit.

    I am at a loss for words myself, that it takes such a back-and forth to extract a clarifying retraction.

    Are you saying that you are not retracting? One way of the other, let me know, and I will move on.

    kol tuv,
    (rabbi) josh waxman

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  23. Hi Rabbi Coffer,

    I had promised an explanation ("in the next comment") about Spain. I said that assuming that we would move on after a retraction of the initial summary of my position, but anyway, I am prepared to move on. (I was being a stickler because often people bury admissions within larger comments, and so people might miss the refutation / retraction of the initial point.)

    I still consider it a separate objection than the original, which indeed seemed to be about the entire world. But anyway:

    Here is why I would not really consider al-wabr as hyrax today in Spain to be a real second linguistic shift:

    1) it wasn't a shift away from 'rabbit'. it is still correct to call a rabbit al-wabr.

    2) besides many many local dialects (see here for a list), there is Modern Standard Arabic, which is based on the Classical language. I don't know whether they have cause to refer to hyraxes in Spain, or if they refer to them as al-wabr. But if they do, this is to be expected, as al-wabr was always hyrax in the standard Arabic.

    This is a very different story of linguistic shift than I think one would have surmised from your summary of my words.

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  24. Josh Waxman,

    Hi Rabbi Coffer,

    Firstly, you can refer to me as rabbi, just as you do to Rabbi Sedley. I indeed have semicha, to clarify.


    No offence meant Rabbi Waxman. Rabbi Sedley’s moniker is “Rabbi Sedley”. That’s why I call him Rabbi Sedley. I don’t know his first name. Yours is “joshwaxman” so I do know your first name. Nonetheless, initially I used “R’ Josh” to let you know that I was machshiv you. As we became more familiar, I dropped the R’ and reverted to first name basis. This too was calculated. It was my way of letting you know that I consider you a friend and an equal. I apologize if you felt slighted. I can assure you I meant no disrespect chs’v.

    The unqualified "everyone" in the first and second statements seems to include the entire world. If that is not what you meant, then you can say so.

    But I already did! My very first comment to you was to qualify my statement! I wrote:

    Hi R’ Josh. Thank you for writing. I’ll get straight to the point… I acknowledge (on your position) that in Eretz Yisrael and in Egypt there may have been no shift but in Europe there definitely was a shift, right? And in Europe (as everywhere else) today, al-wabr means hyrax, right? So doesn’t this add up to two shifts, at least in a very large part of the world?

    With all due respect, I would like to hear some responses from you regarding the substance of my objections. It seems we are expending an inordinate amount of time on non-essential elements.

    where the acknowledgement seems to indicate that initially you were stating otherwise.

    OK Rabbi Waxman. Let’s say you’re right. But now (i.e. my very first comment to you) I am acknowledging, right? So what is the issue here? What more do you require from me?

    And if by your original statement, you meant specifically Spain, then no, in Spain no one ever in the beginning used al-wabr to mean hyrax, such that one could say "everyone".

    But on your blog you wrote that Ibn Janaach “accidentally shifted the identification of al-wabr to the rabbit. This is similar to the way in which various Rishonim living in Europe identify Chazal's shafan as the rabbit. Indeed, perhaps Ibn Janach is the very vector of the shift.”

    If everyone in Spain understood that al-wabr meant rabbit, then what’s this “accidental shifting” you’re talking about? And why is Ibn Janach a possible “vector for the shift” of future Spanish rishonim? After all, al-wabr always meant rabbit in Spain!!!
    Are you saying that you are not retracting? One way of the other, let me know, and I will move on.

    What I am saying is that I acknowledge that on your position there was only one linguistic shift in Eretz Yisrael and in Egypt. But I am NOT conceding my objection of “two shifts” because it is still valid as pertains to the rest of the civilized world. You clearly wrote on your blog that Ibn Janach erred as to the meaning of the Arabic word al-wabr and this error constituted an accidental shifting of the standard meaning of the word. Ergo, the word meant hyrax and Ibn Janach shifted it to rabbit. I’m sorry but that’s what you wrote!

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  25. Josh Waxman,

    Hi Rabbi Coffer,

    I had promised an explanation ("in the next comment") about Spain….


    Dear Rabbi Waxman,

    Unfortunately I need to drop out of this conversation for now. I am travelling to the Catskills tomorrow and I haven’t even begun to pack yet! (see how much I’m machshiv you!).

    I hope to return to this venue by Wednesday or Thursday. Meanwhile, I encourage you (and all our beloved readers) to address any questions directly to Dr. Betech. He is far more qualified to address this sugya than me.

    Hatzlacha raba u’muflaaga b’chol ma’aseh yideichem!!!

    Simcha Coffer

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  26. Dear Rabbi Sedley,

    You are mistaken to think that ‘’Dr Betech's book was written with the express view of proving Rabbi Slifkin wrong.’’ This issue of identifying the shafan is a very old one, and Rav Betech began his research on the topic 20 years ago, before R. Slifkin appeared on the scene. He has reached a conclusion, and despite your accusations, admits it is tentative. Why you consider this to be a huge chutzpah is puzzling. Just as R. Slifkin, based on what he considers strong evidence, rejects the suggestion that the shafan is the llama or the jerboa, or the rabbit, etc., R. Betech rejects the suggestion that the shafan is the llama or jerboa or hyrax, etc. He does this based on what he considers strong evidence, and without resorting to an explanation that claims that all the rishonim and acharonim misread the Gemora’s meaning about the single-siman animals.

    The strength of his arguments can be gauged by the reaction of others who wrote on the subject and, because of his arguments, have retracted their views. This is a clear sign of non-biased objectivity, no?

    I do not understand your claims that “the Gemara does NOT make the claim that these are the only three animals. It is the Rishonim. And the Rishonim each had their own explanation of what that meant. None of them gave Dr. Betech's answer, or even alluded to it.”

    First, I don’t know how else you can read the Gemora.

    But perhaps, then, there is also another species similar to a young camel [in terms of lacking teeth yet also lacking split hooves and being maaleh geyrah] and is therefore unkosher?

    That is out of the question! For the school of Rabbi Yishmael taught:

    [The verse says, “These, however, you may not eat among those who are maaleh geyrah or of split hooves:] the camel, for (though) that is maaleh geyrah, it is not split-hoofed; it is unkosher for you. And the shafan, because [although] that is maaleh geyrah, it is not split-hoofed… And the arneves, because [although]that is maaleh geyrah, it is not split-hoofed; it is unkosher for you.”

    The Ruler of His world knows that you have nothing else [among animals without upper teeth, the Talmud later clarifies] that is maaleh geyrah yet unkosher, except for the camel [and, (among those with upper teeth) the shafan and arneves—Rashi, Tosefos and all commentators]. Therefore [in each case] He specified in the verse, hu (“that is”).


    At any rate, who’s chutzpah is it to suggest that all the Geonim, rishonim and acharonim learned the Gemora incorrectly? Why is it a chutzpah for Rav Betech to attempt to disprove those who say such a thing, and to collect evidence to defend our baalei mesorah? As learned rabbi, you must surely know that the shitta of rishonim (and geonim and acharonim) counts for a lot.

    Second, as R. Coffer already pointed out, the rishonim do not deal with the problem that however ones identifies the arneves and shafan, the simple understanding of ‘’maaleh geyrah’’ does not seem to work. So of course none of them give R. Betech’s answer. But, as a ben Torah, why do you find it unreasonable for R. Betech to search for a definition that would fit what they do address, viz. what Chazal meant regarding the exclusivity of the Torah’s list of single-siman animals?

    Your other accusation that Rav Betech “knows that the answer must be "rabbit" and therefore disregards any evidence which argues on that” is simply untrue. His book is devoted to dealing with the alleged evidence.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hi Rabbi Coffer,

    " Meanwhile, I encourage you (and all our beloved readers) to address any questions directly to Dr. Betech. He is far more qualified to address this sugya than me.

    What a mean thing to say! Why would you encourage me to engage in fruitless and aggravating back and forth?! :)

    I would rather engage you because it was you who provided the summary of my words, which I feel to be inaccurate on four or five counts.

    This brings us to the second misrepresentation of what I wrote.

    You incorrectly summarize my position as follows:
    According to RJW, there were two linguistic shifts, not one. In the tenth century al-wabr meant hyrax. Then about 50 years later Ibn Janach came along, made a mistake, and everyone started using al-wabr to mean rabbit.

    In other words, that it was Ibn Janach, and his error, which caused the shift in the term.

    However, I said (or meant) no such thing. I meant that, in Spain, some people starting using al-wabr to mean rabbit, and so Ibn Janach made a mistake.

    Further evidence that this is how you understood my words is your recent question:
    If everyone in Spain understood that al-wabr meant rabbit, then what’s this “accidental shifting” you’re talking about?

    The "accidental shifting" was not in the meaning of the term in Spain. The accidental shifting was in the interpretation of Saadia Gaon's masorah as to the meaning of shafan. My words were:
    And so, Ibn Janach reports and passes on the masorah of shafan as al-wabr from the authority or authorities before him, but accidentally shifted the identification of al-wabr to the rabbit.

    And that meant:
    Saadia related the masorah that shafan was al-wabr, by which he meant hyrax. Due to a local dialect in Spain, rarely though occasionally used, in which al-wabr meant rabbit, Ibn Janach shifted the meaning of shafan (and Saadia Gaon's definition of that as al-wabr/hyrax) to be the rabbit.

    In terms of your question:
    And why is Ibn Janach a possible “vector for the shift” of future Spanish rishonim? After all, al-wabr always meant rabbit in Spain!!!
    This is again based on a misunderstanding of my words. I meant that he was, perhaps, a vector for later Spanish Rishonim who did not consult Saadia Gaon, in identifying the shafan as the conilio, the rabbit. Since Ibn Janach has not just used a term he admits is rarely used, but explicitly has defined shafan as the rabbit, he is an explicit source for shafan as rabbit.

    Those subsequent Spanish Rishonim maybe never saw Saadia Gaon's Tafsir, or referred to the Arabic. But others quoting him now had a source for shafan as rabbit. Not for al-wabr as rabbit, which was indeed local dialect. It is a game of telephone.

    This was the second accidental misrepresentation of my remarks. More to come, after you get back and respond to this one.

    Thanks,
    Josh

    ReplyDelete
  28. The strength of his arguments can be gauged by the reaction of others who wrote on the subject and, because of his arguments, have retracted their views. This is a clear sign of non-biased objectivity, no?

    No. The strength of his arguments can be gauged by the strength of his arguments. Dr Betech has been commenting or writing on blogs for quite a while now (that I have seen) and has yet to convince me that he has a strong argument. I don't know who the "others" who retracted their views are - perhaps you can provide a list. If they are academics/Talmidei chachamim working in the field then it would certainly strengthen his case (in so far as it would be 'peer reviewed'). So please, provide a list, preferably with their review of Dr Betech's book, so that laypeople like myself can see what other experts think of his writing.

    Rabbi Coffer said that the "Gemara claims..." I pointed out, that in fact it is (some of) the Rishonim who make this claim. Of course I am not disagreeing with the Rishonim (and once again, whether I have a better way of reading the Gemara or not is irrelevant). However, it is important to be precise in terminology. What Rabbi Coffer meant (I think) is that "The Gemara, according to the interpretation of all the Rishonim, claims that..." Such a statement would allow for a discussion of the opinions of the Rishonim.

    You cited the Gemara as:
    The Ruler of His world knows that you have nothing else [among animals without upper teeth, the Talmud later clarifies] that is maaleh geyrah yet unkosher, except for the camel [and, (among those with upper teeth) the shafan and arneves—Rashi, Tosefos and all commentators]. Therefore [in each case] He specified in the verse, hu (“that is”).

    I am not sure who wrote the words in square brackets. As I already wrote twice here, that is not what Tosefot says. I have not seen all commentators, but often when people write "all commentators" instead of listing the commentators who say it they are sometimes covering up the truth (this is a common device of Nosei Keilim on Shulchan Aruch to strengthen their opinion). At any rate, look at Tosefot. He does not say what you claim.

    as a ben Torah, why do you find it unreasonable for R. Betech to search for a definition that would fit what they do address, viz. what Chazal meant regarding the exclusivity of the Torah’s list of single-siman animals?
    I do not find that unreasonable at all. Trying to understand the Rishonim is limud haTorah. However it is not "scientific". Furthermore, it is an attempt to understand Rishonim, not Gemara and/or Tanach. Finally, there are some who would claim that any explanation of Rashi (for example) must be based on Rashi's statements elsewhere, and may not use terms or concepts with which Rashi was unfamiliar (though there are those who disagree with the latter clause).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bli nedder, I will respond to this eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later. Baruch Hashem, I have a very full and busy life, and only the stamina I have been granted. I'm sure we all share in these things to whatever extents. My apologies for the delays in my responses (blogosphere time, especially).

      Delete
    2. R. Sedley wrote:

      I am not sure who wrote the words in square brackets. As I already wrote twice here, that is not what Tosefot says. I have not seen all commentators, but often when people write "all commentators" instead of listing the commentators who say it they are sometimes covering up the truth (this is a common device of Nosei Keilim on Shulchan Aruch to strengthen their opinion). At any rate, look at Tosefot. He does not say what you claim.

      I wrote the words in square brackets, to clarify the Gemora (or at least to clarify how I understand it. I think anyone would agree to what I wrote.)

      Please see my 6/26/13/ 2:00pm response to your 6/23/13 3:13 comment to R. Coffer.

      I emphasize with your observation about abusing the term "all rishonim, etc." It is indeed used in halachic works to create an appearance of non-controversey (and has its precedent in the Mishna). But in discussions such as ours, I think it is only appropriate if a good many rishonim indicate they understand a Gemora a certain way, and no others argue, especially if it matches what the Gemora plainly says.

      Delete
  29. "The strength of his arguments can be gauged by the reaction of others who wrote on the subject and, because of his arguments, have retracted their views. This is a clear sign of non-biased objectivity, no?"

    Not if they have a very strong bias in favor of saying that Chazal and the Rishonim were correct!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is what Rabbi Sedley wrote, and what I was responding to:

      Dr Betech believes that he is the sole holder of this truth. Therefore, to argue with his explanation is to argue with the Divinity of the Torah. That is a HUGE claim to make, yet you accept it ("of course he rejects every other explanation") as if that is normative in Judaism. …. Therefore he has set a much higher standard for himself. One which is not normally set by students of Torah.

      …I want to point out that it is NOT the Gemara which makes the "four animal" claim. As you point out (and as I pointed out) it is Rashi and the Rishonim.


      I was danning Rabbi Sedley l’chaf zchus, taking what he wrote at face value, that he was interested in a standard “normally set by students of Torah,” i.e. an unbiased and unperverted understanding of Chazal and rishonim, and accusing Rav Betech of veering from that standard.

      To this I responded that others with that same time-honored standard of Jewish scholarship (which indeed has a very strong bias in favor of saying that Chazal and the Rishonim were correct) found his arguments persuasive, even those who had studied the Jewish sources and originally came to different conclusions therefrom.

      The context was talmudic scholarship and standard methodology. I was not referring to R. Betech’s interpretations of the scientific data, nor to the conclusions that would be held by someone with an unbiased opinion who deifies the interpretations of the data favored by zooarcheologists.

      Delete
    2. Can you please explain what you mean by this phrase:
      who deifies the interpretations of the data favored by zooarcheologists.?

      In a book which claims to be using scientific evidence to prove the truth of the Torah, should one not expect science? And if one wishes to follow the conclusions of the scientists and their evidence does that mean that one is 'deifying' them?

      Is it reasonable for someone to write a book claiming to use science, and then reject the consensus of scientists to fit an agenda, rather than based on alternative scientific research?

      I'm not sure in what way you were 'danning me l'chaf zchus'. Do you wish to clarify?

      Or perhaps you can tell me whether you think Dr Betech's book is limud Torah, and should be judged by those standards, or scientific, and should be judged by those standards. I had assumed the latter, based on the abstract, which states:
      current science shows that all the characteristics Jewish classic literature attributes to these animals do occur in the rabbit and the hare.

      Delete
    3. "Deifying the interpretations of the data favored by zooarcheologists" was my hyperbolic way of criticizing the equating of scientists with science, scientific consensus with truth, intepretations of the evidence with the evidence, and the belief that one who challenges the interpretations is thereby being unscientific and untruthful.

      I already explained that the reference I made to peer approval was regarding the Torah scholarship.

      I thought I made it clear how I was danning you l'chaf z'chus: that as any ben Torah worthy of the name, you honor Torah methodology as it has been practiced by the rishonim and acharonim, and demand that the Torah be understood by their standards. (Maybe I need to qualify, by the standards of the consensus of Torah scholars.)

      I thought my "danning" was validated when upon seeing the haskomos, you expressed being impressed by at least some of them.

      The science in Dr. Betech's book is regarding the anatomical and behavioral features of animals and judging what the data factually reveals about their whereabouts in the past. It should be judged by its relationship to factual data.

      I think that by applying the above to your questions, you will see they are all answered.

      Delete
    4. I don't think that someone who challenges the conclusions of interpretation of scientific data is being untruthful. But if they only challenge based on 'religious' reasons, rather than scientific reasons, it is definitely 'unscientific'.

      If Dr Betech would have written that he is not convinced by the evidence of scientists, that would be fine. But not a basis to reject any other approach or answer.

      Furthermore, Dr Betech implies in the abstract that his book is based on science. It does not seem unreasonable to expect him to use the scientific method.

      If his was a book of chidushei Torah, explaining p'shat in the Rishonim and showing that science is not necessarily a contradiction, I would not argue. But then he cannot use it as proof that G-d wrote the Torah. He can only show that the apparent contradictions to the words of Torah, Chazal and Rishonim are not insurmountable.

      That would not be evidence of the 'truth' of anything, nor would it justify his conviction that his is the ONLY valid interpretation.

      Delete
  30. B”H
    Dear Rabbi Sedley

    You wrote:
    …The strength of his arguments can be gauged by the strength of his arguments…

    IB:
    I agree with you.
    I tried my best B”H to explain my arguments in the book. Of course my English is limited and I might have used some synonyms that may be substituted B”H in the next edition.

    You wrote:
    I don't know who the "others" who retracted their views are - perhaps you can provide a list. If they are academics/Talmidei chachamim working in the field then it would certainly strengthen his case (in so far as it would be 'peer reviewed'). So please, provide a list, preferably with their review of Dr Betech's book, so that laypeople like myself can see what other experts think of his writing.

    IB:
    1. As you know, the first edition of the Hyrax book included an approbation letter from HaRab Yisroel Belsky shlit”a (one of the chief experts for the Orthodox Union), where he wrote that after reading NS´s book he accepted his identification of shafan=hyrax.
    After Rab Belsky read our book, he explicitly changed his mind and wrote an approbation letter to my book.
    You can see the following link to his letter:
    http://www.tovnet.org/shafan/ShafanHaskamaRavYisroelBelsky19Tamuz5771.jpg

    2. NS wrote in his book 1st edition, page 102 (2nd edition pages 90-91):
    “… that shafan refers to the hyrax… this is also the preferred conclusion of the contemporary Torah scholars who have published works specializing in animals of the Torah, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Levinger and Rabbi Amitai Ben David…”

    Both of them, after reading a draft version of my book explicitly changed their minds.
    You can see the following links to his letters:

    http://www.tovnet.org/shafan/ShafanHaskamaRavYisraelMeirLevinger18Tamuz5771.pdf

    http://www.tovnet.org/shafan/ShafanHaskamaRavAmitaiBenDavid16Tamuz5771.pdf


    3. The shafan book includes also a professional approbation letter written by Dr. Esther Van Praag, an expert in rabbit medicine, who read the entire book more than once.

    4. Dr. Angela Troncino, an expert in rabbits´ nutrition reviewed the chapters about cecotrophy.

    5. Almost every scientific controversial point in the book was consulted with many of the world renowned experts in their respective fields, as documented in the book.

    6. The book cites about 1000 bibliographical references; including hundreds of recent scientific sources published in the professional literature.

    ReplyDelete
  31. "3. The shafan book includes also a professional approbation letter written by Dr. Esther Van Praag, an expert in rabbit medicine, who read the entire book more than once.
    4. Dr. Angela Troncino, an expert in rabbits´ nutrition reviewed the chapters about cecotrophy."

    Nobody is disputing your description of rabbit nutrition and cecotrophy, so this is irrelevant.

    "Almost every scientific controversial point in the book was consulted with many of the world renowned experts in their respective fields, as documented in the book."

    What a hilariously, tragically misleading statement.

    You are trying to give the impression that the world renowned experts in their respective fields AGREED with your scientific controversial points.

    On pages 96-97 you refer to several zooarcheologists. How many of them agreed with your argument that rabbits lived in Israel in Biblical times, and how many disagreed?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In footnote 211, Dr. Betech admits that "some of them sometimes disagreed with some of [his] points".

      Since that part of the book relies so much on personal communication, could you post that communication, with personal info suitable redacted, to the this blog or some other accessible website?

      Delete
    2. B"H
      David Ohsie

      You wrote:
      Since that part of the book relies so much on personal communication, could you post that communication...

      IB:
      Please read again that part of the book and you will see that it does not depend on personal communication but on the professional published literature.
      I wrote to many experts just to verify if I was missing something when I read their articles.
      In chapter 5(b-6) and 5(c) we present a lot of detailed information regarding archeozoology.
      My conclusions are based there on the detailed and annotated professional published literature on archeozoology of leporids in the Middle East (about 30 papers).

      If you think I misrepresented the published information please let me know why.

      Delete
    3. You wrote:
      Since that part of the book relies so much on personal communication, could you post that communication...

      IB:
      Please read again that part of the book and you will see that it does not depend on personal communication but on the professional published literature.
      I wrote to many experts just to verify if I was missing something when I read their articles.
      In chapter 5(b-6) and 5(c) we present a lot of detailed information regarding archeozoology.
      My conclusions are based there on the detailed and annotated professional published literature on archeozoology of leporids in the Middle East (about 30 papers).

      If you think I misrepresented the published information please let me know why.


      Dr Betech,

      In your book you wrote the following:

      "After reading various reports in the professional literature lacking the required biometrical and morphological and distinguishing data and maintaining personal communication with some known experts, in my humble opinion, the objective reader cannot find the published information sufficient to rule out the existence of rabbits' fossils from ancient Israel." (emphasis mine)

      At the word "experts", you have 7 footnotes to personal communication with 7 experts.

      So you yourself support your conclusion by appeal to personal communication. You seem to again be following the pattern of claiming that a challenge to some part of your book is irrelevant because it is not needed to support your thesis.

      Delete
    4. Also, I distracted you from R. Slifkins's question:

      On pages 96-97 you refer to several zooarcheologists. How many of them agreed with your argument that rabbits lived in Israel in Biblical times, and how many disagreed?

      Surely, you can answer that one.

      Delete
    5. B”H
      David
      Thank you for clarifying your question.
      The personal communication with most of the experts was mainly about their above mentioned articles asking for unpublished data related to the type of leporid fragments found and the diagnostic methods used for distinguishing between rabbits and hares.
      Please correlate between footnotes #
      212 with 206
      213 with 208
      216 with 209
      217 with 207
      218 with 189, 195 and 242

      If you do that, you will find the contents of some of our personal communication.

      Delete
    6. In those footnotes, you don't quote from the authors. You just give your interpretation that they did not supply sufficient evidence that the hare fragments were not rabbit fragments. Did they agree that the evidence was not sufficient? Could you just quote on the internet (where there are not the same space constraints as in the book) what they wrote? I paid for the book already.

      Delete
    7. B”H
      David

      As you have the book already, you can compare the case in question with what I wrote on Appendix II regarding the capybara.
      In that Appendix, you will find that I quoted verbatim extensively the contents of my personal communication with those experts.
      There, the only way of refuting their publications was providing the contents of the unpublished data they kindly shared with me, but here, with the published data regarding zooarchaeological findings on leporids on the Middle East, if you read the articles you can arrive to my conclusions regarding their findings. This is the reason I do not need to publish the communication I interchanged with them.

      Of course you are free to write them asking for unpublished data related to the type of leporid fragments found and the diagnostic methods used for distinguishing between rabbits and hares (as mentioned, the questions I asked them).

      Nevertheless, if you think I misrepresented the published articles, please let me know why.

      Delete
    8. As you have the book already, you can compare the case in question with what I wrote on Appendix II regarding the capybara.

      In appendix 2, you quote the authorities as saying that Capybaras may not performing Cecotrophy in captivity depending on their diet. You also point out that most studies finding Cecotrophy were performed in the dry season. So it seems that Capybaras practice Cecotrophy sometimes, but not always. While your interlocutors we confused by your motivation in asking, they seemed to say themselves quite clearly what you were trying to prove.

      In chapter 5 section 6 you dispute that the authors of various papers did a good job of checking bones properly, despite the fact that "differences between the genera in the proportions of of several post-cranial elements are obvious and can be used to distinguish them". But then you provide no evidence.

      Did the researchers agree with you? All you have is your assertion that they did things wrong. Unless you provide more information, there is nothing to base your conclusion on. Again, you were the one that reference the personal communication as support for your argument.

      Delete
    9. B”H
      David:
      My personal conclusions regarding leporid fossils in Middle East are based on the literature I read and quoted on footnotes 205, 206, 207, 208 and 209, expanded with my additional comments on those footnotes (these additional comments are not required for arriving to the same conclusions I arrived, so I do not have to publish the personal communications, as explained in my previous comment).
      The reason I questioned the conclusions of 205-209, is because they did not follow the published discriminating methods as referenced on footnotes 190, 191, 192, 193 and 194.

      In case you read the original articles 205-209 and find that they used any of the methods described in 190-194, please let me know.

      Of course, you could find additional publications from the Middle East zooarchaelogy which indeed followed these methods or any other discriminating objective method.
      In that case, please let me know.

      Delete
    10. Did I miss your answer to Rabbi Slifkin's question above? How many of the experts you consulted agreed with your argument that rabbits lived in Israel in Biblical times, and how many disagreed?
      So far you have explained that you disagreed with the conclusions of several experts. But that was not the question asked of you. Looking forward to your answer.

      Delete
    11. The reason I questioned the conclusions of 205-209, is because they did not follow the published discriminating methods as referenced on footnotes 190, 191, 192, 193 and 194.

      1) Agree with R. Sedley: Could you answer R. Slifkin's question. Who agreed with you?

      2) What in the published papers indicate that they did not follow the protocol? Can you be specific? All I have is your claim with no evidence.

      3) Let's take one example: In Tchernov's paper he says: "For identification and taphonomic appraisal, bone fragments were compared with those of Lepus capensis from the Comparative Collection of Mammals at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Schmid's Atlas of Animal Bones was also referred to." Your book says: "... differences between the two genera [rabbit and hare] in the proportions of several postcranial elements are obvious and can be used to distinguish them." On what basis did you challenge their identification, and what was their response?

      4) Why the secrecy on communication that you believe supports your point?

      Delete
    12. B”H
      David:

      1.- To answer your question, let me say that since I am not appealing to authority, but to the facts, even in the case that nobody agreed with me (which is not the case), it would be irrelevant.

      2.- That they did not describe which published objective discriminatory method they used.

      3.-
      a) See footnote 205.
      b) They did not answer the email one of our dear collaborators sent more than once to the living co-author.

      4.- None.
      See my previous comments on this thread.
      Please read the published articles as I did.

      Delete
    13. 1) Agree with R. Sedley: Could you answer R. Slifkin's question. Who agreed with you?

      1.- To answer your question, let me say that since I am not appealing to authority, but to the facts, even in the case that nobody agreed with me (which is not the case), it would be irrelevant.

      a) Could you humor us and answer anyhow?

      b) Their answer is important because whether or not someone sufficiently observed and compared bones is not something that is going to be readily apparent from a few sentences in a paper. If they said something like: "yes, I really meant hare or rabbit and I have observed a few rabbits", then this would be convincing. If they disagreed with your judgement of the proper criteria, I would tend to trust theirs because you are not experienced in this. Either way, we need to see the response. Your bald statement of error is not sufficient.

      2) What in the published papers indicate that they did not follow the protocol? Can you be specific? All I have is your claim with no evidence.

      2.- That they did not describe which published objective discriminatory method they used.

      This reasoning is faulty. The fact that they did not describe some part of their method doesn't mean that they did it wrong.

      3) Let's take one example: In Tchernov's paper he says: "For identification and taphonomic appraisal, bone fragments were compared with those of Lepus capensis from the Comparative Collection of Mammals at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Schmid's Atlas of Animal Bones was also referred to." Your book says: "... differences between the two genera [rabbit and hare] in the proportions of several postcranial elements are obvious and can be used to distinguish them." On what basis did you challenge their identification, and what was their response?

      3.-
      a) See footnote 205.


      Where you say that Schmid's atlas does not distinguish different species of Leporidae. For the sake of argument, let's say that is right. They also mention that they compared the bones to Hare skeletons and you also say that there are obvious difference between hares and rabbits. So what is your point?

      b) They did not answer the email one of our dear collaborators sent more than once to the living co-author.

      OK, so basically they do describe their methods in two sentences, and based on those two sentences, you can't tell whether not they did a good job. So you send them an email and they didn't respond. That adds up to a failed investigation.

      On what basis do you then say that they made a mistake?

      4) Why the secrecy on communication that you believe supports your point?
      4.- None.

      Then just supply the data.

      See my previous comments on this thread.
      Please read the published articles as I did.


      I did read one article and when I pushed you on one article, you had nothing to show for it. Why would anyone trust you on the other articles?

      Delete
    14. B”H
      David:
      When I began reading your last comment on this thread, I found what you wrote:

      “a) Could you humor us and answer anyhow?...”

      IB:
      Please explain me the meaning of “humor us”.

      Delete
    15. “a) Could you humor us and answer anyhow?...”

      IB:
      Please explain me the meaning of “humor us”.


      Dr. Betech, the word in the context I was using it has nothing to do with being "funny", in case you felt that I was poking fun.

      I was using the term in the following sense:

      "Comply with the wishes of (someone) in order to keep them content, however unreasonable such wishes might be."

      I was asking you to show us the personal correspondence even though your opinion is that it would not shed light on the topic, and you would merely be "humoring" us if you did show it.

      Delete
    16. Dear Dr Betech

      While David Ohsie is jumping through all the hoops (and I am very impressed with his patience and diligence) you have still not provided us with the source, or sources, amongst scientists, who agree with you that there were rabbits in Biblical Israel.

      There are many reasons why it is important that you have experts who agree with you, but the most important reason now is to show that you are being honest. I am sure that you are not a dishonest person, and you have agreed to make changes to any points in the book which are not accurate. I am sure that you will stand by that.
      You have implied numerous times here on this blog, and written explicitly, that you have scientists who are of the opinion that there were rabbits in Biblical Israel. Can you please tell us who they are, and the names of their published papers.
      If you have now realised that you do not actually have any scientists who state explicitly that there were rabbits in Biblical Israel, please state so now, and retract your earlier statement. (We all make mistakes sometimes, and you are excused if you overstated your case accidentally).
      I don't think it is acceptable for you to claim that you have an invisible, anonymous source that agrees with you. Unless you can explain clearly why you cannot give his/her name here on this blog.

      So please, show us that you are trustworty, and give a clear, honest answer.

      Do you have any scientists who agree with you that there were rabbits in Biblical Israel?
      What are their names, and the names of their published papers?
      If you cannot provide such details, please explain why?
      If you do not have such sources, please acknowledge your error.

      Yashar Koach.

      Delete
    17. Rabbi Sedley, June 30, 2013 at 1:27 AM, writes:
      Dear Dr Betech, While David Ohsie is jumping through all the hoops (and I am very impressed with his patience and diligence) you have still not provided us with the source, or sources, amongst scientists, who agree with you that there were rabbits in Biblical Israel.


      I do not recall Dr. Betech saying what you attribute to him. Perhaps you can provide the quote where he writes what you claim?

      So please, show us that you are trustworty, and give a clear, honest answer.

      Kindly refrain from this kind of remark.

      Yashar Koach.

      Delete
    18. Comment from Dr Isaac Betech June 17 2:16
      even in the case that nobody agreed with me (which is not the case), it would be irrelevant.

      In addition, he has implied throughout this comment section that he has scientists who agree with him.

      5. Almost every scientific controversial point in the book was consulted with many of the world renowned experts in their respective fields, as documented in the book.

      6. The book cites about 1000 bibliographical references; including hundreds of recent scientific sources published in the professional literature.


      In the book:
      In footnote 211, Dr. Betech admits that "some of them sometimes disagreed with some of [his] points". which is the same as saying that some of them sometimes agreed with him.

      Is that enough examples? If not, please reread this comment thread.

      Please explain why I should refrain from asking someone to show that they are trustworthy? Was it also wrong of me to state (in the same comment)
      I am sure that you are not a dishonest person?

      Delete
    19. R. Sedley, so far as I can see, none of your quotes above mention the zooarchaeological topic of interest which is the existence of rabbits in Biblical Israel. Here is your sentence in question: "you have still not provided us with the source, or sources, amongst scientists, who agree with you that there were rabbits in Biblical Israel." I do not find Dr. Betech saying that explicitly in your quotes, so that it remains your unsubstantiated inference.

      Dr. Betech's presentation of the topic is in his book in Chapters 5(b) and (c). It could be that there is some place in his presentation that he unintentionally mis-spoke. If you find such a place, I am sure that Dr. Betech will resolve it.

      Delete
    20. It seems that you conceded that Dr Betech has no source for his claim that there were rabbits in Biblical Israel. I would very much appreciate it if he would also confirm this. It is unfortunate that he did not concede this point from the beginning, for it would have saved a lot of time and words.

      For example, when David Ohsie wrote:
      David OhsieJune 28, 2013 at 11:58 AM
      I see no evidence, or even colorable argument, for the presence of rabbits in Biblical Israel


      You responded:
      Thank you for doing all your research, but you did not quote the relevant sentence in Schmid's Atlas.

      But what you meant to say was "there is no evidence." Am I correct?

      Or Dr. Isaac BetechJune 25, 2013 at 12:22 PM

      Rabbi Sedley wrote:
      If so, what evidence do you have of rabbits living in Biblical Israel?...

      IB:
      As explained, this issue is elaborated in Chapter 5b, 5c (pages 84-102).


      What he meant was "I have no evidence" - am I correct?

      Perhaps I am being pedantic, but I would appreciate it if you and Dr Betech would state explicitly that after years of research you have found no scientific evidence or support for the fact that rabbits lived in Biblical Israel.

      Thank you.

      Delete
    21. B”H
      Rabbi Sedley:
      As explained, the zooarchaeological issues are presented in Chapter 5 (b) and (c).
      I have not changed my opinion on what I wrote there; I have not expressed intentionally in the blogosphere any change of mind about it.
      If I unintentionally contradicted myself or appeared to change my mind, please point out where (as you claim) I have “written explicitly, that I have scientists who are of the opinion that there were rabbits in Biblical Israel.”
      If you show a contradiction, I will try to solve it B”H or fix my error.
      Thanks.

      Delete
    22. For some reason the continuation of this discussion has moved to the end of the comments section.

      I'm pretty sure that you are saying here that you have found no scientists who are of the opinion that there were rabbits in Biblical Israel. I had understood from earlier comments that you felt that you had such scientific evidence, but it is irrelevant now.

      Can you please confirm (or deny i.e. yes or no), just so that it is stated clearly and without room for misinterpretation (because it seems that I have misunderstood - perhaps through no fault of your own) what you have written over the past week):

      I, Dr Betech, after years of investigations and study of the scientific literature, has not found any evidence or support, either in published works or in personal communications, which states explicitly that rabbits lived in Biblical Israel.

      Yes? No?

      Delete
    23. B”H
      Dear Rabbi Sedley

      Thank you for your answer.

      Could you please state that you retract what you previously wrote, i.e.

      “You have implied numerous times here on this blog, and written explicitly, that you have scientists who are of the opinion that there were rabbits in Biblical Israel…”

      Delete
    24. Surely you are joking!! Look at my comment above from June 30, 2013 at 10:15 PM.

      But before you do, please answer my question. I can honestly say that you have misled me (whether intentionally or unintentionally). I have been reading the blog and the comments for the past week, and I was under the impression that you had at least one scientist (I had though more, but let's go with one) who holds that there were rabbits in Biblical Israel. Rabbi Slifkin, in a comment above, stated that there is no such source. I was giving you the benefit of the doubt. Whether it was you who wrote the claim, or me who misunderstood, doesn't really matter. As far as I know, you have written a book which claims to be based on science. You claim that the Biblical shafan is the rabbit. Since I believe that the Biblical shafan lived in Biblical Israel (which may not be your opinion) I naively believed that you had some scientific evidence of this. Please tell me why you want me to retract that statement? Have you never written or implied that you have such sources?

      CAN YOU PLEASE ANSWER MY QUESTION, SO THAT I WILL NO ONCE AND FOR ALL. DO YOU, OR DO YOU NOT, HAVE ANY SCIENTISTS WHO BELIEVE THAT RABBITS LIVED IN BIBLICAL ISRAEL?

      (was that clear?)

      Delete
    25. B”H
      Rabbi Sedley

      You wrote:
      Surely you are joking!! Look at my comment above from June 30, 2013 at 10:15 PM.

      IB:
      I am not joking.
      I saw the comment you are referring (please see the context of my statements) and I could not find where (as you claim) I have “written explicitly, that I have scientists who are of the opinion that there were rabbits in Biblical Israel.”
      Please show me where I did that or retract.

      Delete
    26. Retracted. Now what is your answer?

      Delete
  32. I'll be honest, the haskama from Rav Amitai ben David is very impressive, and he goes through all the sugyas, and admits that he has changed his mind.

    With all due respect to Rav Belsky, he does say that he changed his mind, but not discuss the sugya, or explain why he changed his mind. If I recall correctly he was also under a lot of 'political' pressure after Rabbi Slifkin's books were banned, so there may have been other factors which caused him to change his mind (I'm not saying that there were - I don't know. I haven't spoken to him.)

    The endorsement from Rabbi Levinger is very solid, but he doesn't say that he changed his mind based on what you wrote. He says that he had already come to the same conclusion as you had. (Which doesn't take away from his support of your book, but he does not write in the letter that he has "changed" his mind).

    What would also be interesting, from an objective point of view, would be if the book were to be peer reviewed - by both Jewish and scientific experts. Do you have plans to submit it to the relevant journals for review?

    BTW I'm not sure if anyone argues with you about rabbits and hares practicing coprophagia. Nor about the digestive benefits and importance. (Just as there are many other animals which also eat their fecal pellets for digestive benefit).
    One can argue whether or not this fits the biblical definition of 'maaleh gerah', but since everyone agrees that 'arnevet' means 'hare' it remains an issue even for those who do not agree with your definition of 'shafan'.
    Many of the Rishonim considered that the 'shafan' means 'rabbit'. (I don't know about all of them, because I cannot claim to have seen all of them).
    The crucial question is whether the biblical shafan is the rabbit or not. Rabbi Ben David is certainly convinced.
    However, I don't see any experts in archeozoology in your list. Perhaps they are some of the experts you consulted with. Would it be possible for you to share with us the relevant pages in your book where you demonstrate that David HaMelech and his audience were familiar with the rabbit? Did your experts agree with you that the rabbit was commonly found in Ein Gedi?
    I am not trying to 'attack' you. I am impressed by Rabbi Ben David's letter. I too am prepared to change my mind (not that it makes the slightest bit of difference what I think on this issue). But Rabbi Ben David only deals with the Rishonim. As do all the comments on this blog so far. I would like to see your scientific (because there can be no Jewish evidence from the time of Tanach outside of the Tanach) which corroborates your theory.
    Thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. B”H
      Dear Rabbi Sedley
      Thank you for your kind and detailed comment.
      I will write B”H a few comments regarding what you wrote.

      Rabbi Sedley wrote:
      With all due respect to Rav Belsky, he does say that he changed his mind, but not discuss the sugya, or explain why he changed his mind…

      IB:
      I do not like to insist on this point, but probably if you read again the letter, a short explanation could be found.

      Rabbi Sedley wrote:
      The endorsement from Rabbi Levinger is very solid, but he doesn't say that he changed his mind based on what you wrote. He says that he had already come to the same conclusion as you had…

      IB:
      I agree with you.
      My intention was to present the contrast between what NS wrote about Rabbi Levinger position, i.e. “this [the hyrax] is also the preferred conclusion of the contemporary Torah scholars who have published works specializing in animals of the Torah, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Levinger…” and what Rabbi Levinger wrote about his own position.

      Rabbi Sedley wrote:
      What would also be interesting, from an objective point of view, would be if the book were to be peer reviewed - by both Jewish and scientific experts. Do you have plans to submit it to the relevant journals for review?

      IB:
      I would like it very much, but I doubt that the relevant journals would be interested in doing a review of a book with about 340 pages.

      Rabbi Sedley wrote:
      BTW I'm not sure if anyone argues with you about rabbits and hares practicing coprophagia. Nor about the digestive benefits and importance. (Just as there are many other animals which also eat their fecal pellets for digestive benefit).

      IB:
      In the book we explain with great detail the difference between cecotrophy as practiced by the rabbit and hare and between coprophagy, practiced by some animals when exposed to limited food availability.

      Rabbi Sedley wrote:
      However, I don't see any experts in archeozoology in your list. Perhaps they are some of the experts you consulted with. Would it be possible for you to share with us the relevant pages in your book where you demonstrate that David HaMelech and his audience were familiar with the rabbit? Did your experts agree with you that the rabbit was commonly found in Ein Gedi?

      IB:
      In chapter 5(b-6) and 5(c) we present a lot of detailed information regarding archeozoology. On footnote 212 to 218 I write the names of the experts I consulted on this issue.
      There we clarify the following: “Who kindly and patiently answered my questions even when some of them sometimes disagreed with some of my points.”
      Nevertheless my conclusions are based there on the detailed and annotated professional published literature on archeozoology of leporids in the Middle East (about 30 papers).
      As far as I remember I did not find any excavations looking for leporids in Ein Gedi.

      Rabbi Sedley wrote:
      … I would like to see your scientific (because there can be no Jewish evidence from the time of Tanach outside of the Tanach) which corroborates your theory.

      IB:
      I appreciate your interest; any suggestion on how to improve the book is welcomed.

      Delete
    2. I appreciate that you want people to purchase your book, and therefore you don't wish to give away all the answers on the internet. But would it be possible to give the names of (even some of) the 30 papers which show evidence of rabbits in Israel in the Biblical period?
      I notice that I asked about rabbits and you answered about leporids (which includes hares). Could you perhaps direct me to the specific papers which demonstrate, or convinced you, that rabbits were known in Biblical Israel?

      As far as Rav Belsky's haskama, he writes that your answers agree with ALL the words of Chazal, without exception, and agree with the gedolei rishonim (I am not sure which Rishonim are not Gedolim in his eyes, perhaps he means to exclude Rav Saadia who identifies the shafan as hyrax, for example. Or perhaps he means that all the Rishonim are Gedolim, and he feels that your answer fits with them all). What I meant to say is that Rav Belsky does not bring any examples (unlike Rav Ben David) of Chazal or Rishonim that fit your explanation and no other, and it looks to me as though he is simply using hyperbole to show his strong support for your position. I am not convinced that one can be 'medayek' in his words.

      Thank you

      Delete
    3. B”H
      Dear Rabbi Sedley
      Just a short technical answer to one of your points.

      You wrote:
      “I notice that I asked about rabbits and you answered about leporids (which includes hares).”

      IB:
      Since leporid species (rabbits and hares) are so similar anatomically, it is critical to analyze the diagnostic osteological characteristics that set these two creatures apart…

      …For the above reasons, Callou concluded that in cases of doubt, it is preferable to designate the skeletons only as pertaining to family Leporidae, without defining if they are rabbits or hares.

      Callou C. “Diagnose différentielle des principaux éléments squelettiques du lapin (genre Oryctolagus) et du lièvre (genre Lepus) en Europe occidentale.” Valbonne, Juan-les-Pins, Centres de Recherches Archéologiques du CNRS, A.P.D.C.A, 21 pp. Fiches d’ostéologie animale pour l’Archéologie. 1997 Série B: mammifères, No. 8

      Thank you

      Delete
    4. Is Callou's conclusion agreed with by all the experts you consulted (verbally or in writing)? If so, what evidence do you have of rabbits living in Biblical Israel? Are there any rabbit skeletons that have been discovered that were not in doubt? Are there any hare skeletons that were discovered that were not in doubt? In other words, I'll repeat my original question: Do you have any evidence of rabbits living in Biblical Israel? (I'm not asking if it conceivable or possible. I'm asking if you have any evidence).

      It also seems odd (and I'm sure you have thought of this and answered it, but it still seems odd) that rabbits and hares are so similar that they cannot be distinguished from their skeletons, yet you classify them as two 'minim' whereas (for example) camels and llamas which look entirely different are considered one 'min'. Just odd.

      Delete
    5. B”H
      Dear Rabbi Sedley

      Rabbi Sedley wrote:
      Is Callou's conclusion agreed with by all the experts you consulted (verbally or in writing)?

      IB:
      I do not remember any paper or expert who has explicitly disagreed with Callou, but I remember many who have approvingly cited her.

      Rabbi Sedley wrote:
      If so, what evidence do you have of rabbits living in Biblical Israel?...

      IB:
      As explained, this issue is elaborated in Chapter 5b, 5c (pages 84-102).

      Rabbi Sedley wrote:
      It also seems odd (and I'm sure you have thought of this and answered it, but it still seems odd) that rabbits and hares are so similar that they cannot be distinguished from their skeletons, yet you classify them as two 'minim' whereas (for example) camels and llamas which look entirely different are considered one 'min'. Just odd.

      IB:
      In Chapter 5f pages (106-115), we present a suggested definition of “min” based on Bava Kama 55a and other classic sources, which conciliate your two questions and additional similar questions.

      Warm regards.

      Delete
    6. Thank you for your answer. Regarding 'min' I expected that you would give that answer.

      But you have not answered my original question in this thread. Let me repeat it for you:

      I appreciate that you want people to purchase your book, and therefore you don't wish to give away all the answers on the internet. But would it be possible to give the names of (even some of) the 30 papers which show evidence of rabbits in Israel in the Biblical period?


      You have referred me to your book. Since I don't have the book, is there any source(s) that you are prepared to share with readers of this blog?

      Delete
    7. B”H
      Dear Rabbi Sedley
      I understand your question. If I now share in the Internet one chapter as per your request, tomorrow it will not be nice to deny another reader’s request.
      I can publicly say that B”H my “parnasah” does not depend at all on this book. As you could see, the book does not have “donated dedications”.
      I am not planning to make even a dollar for me with this book.
      Nevertheless, this book is the result of a collaborative project as explained in the acknowledgments section. My collaborators are not ready to make the book free on the Internet, after it was already printed in paper. Sorry!
      Besides that, I think the message of the book is better understood when it is read from beginning to end.

      Delete
    8. I understand that. But I'll ask again:

      Would it be possible to give the names of (even some of) the 30 papers which show evidence of rabbits in Israel in the Biblical period?

      Surely the names of papers written by others is not something that must be read as part of the entire book. Nor is it something which you collaborators could complain about. Just the names of the authors and their papers who write that rabbits lived in Biblical Israel.
      Thank you

      Delete
    9. Rabbi Sedley, I have the book, and I'll help you out. No, he does not cite a single zoologist or zooarcheologist who says that there is evidence for rabbits in Biblical Israel. He's trying to deceive his readership by giving the impression that he has support from experts.

      Delete
    10. No he is not trying to deceive he is trying to give his opinion.

      Delete
  33. I sent some of my objections to Rav Levinger and Rabbi Ben David.

    The former wrote to me that he did not mean that he reached any kind of definitive conclusion.

    The latter wrote to me that he also did not definitively conclude that it is the rabbit. But he also wrote to me that he is of the view that the Ashkenazi Rishonim had ruach hakodesh and therefore their views should be supported.

    ReplyDelete
  34. You see, Josh’s point of departure is the fact that shafan most-likely means hyrax because that’s what the Israelites were familiar with.

    The point of departure is that Wabr means hyrax, and meant hyrax in Medieval times. You can see that for yourself from Lane's lexicon on this page:

    http://www.studyquran.org/LaneLexicon/Volume8/00000169.pdf

    and "...Lane does not use his own knowledge of Arabic to give definitions to the words. Instead, the definitions are taken from older Arabic dictionaries, primarily medieval Arabic dictionaries. Lane translates these definitions into English, and he carefully notes which dictionaries are giving which definitions." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic-English_Lexicon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. B"H
      David
      Thank you for your very interesting link.

      You wrote:
      ...Wabr means hyrax, and meant hyrax in Medieval times. You can see that for yourself from Lane's lexicon on this page:

      IB:
      Could you please be more specific?
      In which Medieval dictionary is it written that "wbr" means hyrax?
      Is this evident from the link you presented?
      Thanks

      Delete
    2. In which Medieval dictionary is it written that "wbr" means hyrax?
      Is this evident from the link you presented


      Yes, next to each element of his definition, Lane notes which dictionary he got that part of the definition from.

      Delete
    3. B"H
      David
      I will repeat my question with more details:
      In this particular case where Lane is saying that wbr means hyrax, please tell me from which dictionary he is taking his information, because if you kindly answer my question I will be able to verify that this particular information comes from a medieval dictionary and not from a recent one.
      Thanks

      Delete
    4. In this particular case where Lane is saying that wbr means hyrax, please tell me from which dictionary he is taking his information, because if you kindly answer my question I will be able to verify that this particular information comes from a medieval dictionary and not from a recent one.

      Dr. Betech, I posted the link to the .pdf which has the entry copiously footnoted with his sources. I have no information beyond what is in the lexicon itself. Lane himself is dead.

      Cutting to the chase, are you actually asking a question or is this a rhetorical device where you are asserting that he is not footnoting his sources or something like that?

      If it is a real question, can you explain it to R. Coffer or R. Lampel and have one of them explain it here in their own words so that we don't go in circles.

      Delete
    5. I went a bit further and tracked down two of the many references in that entry. They are definitely from medieval dictionaries.

      One of the elements of the entry is "having no tail". I picked that element since it clearly matches the hyrax and excludes the rabbit, so there would be no ambiguity.

      This is attributed to al-Misbah al-munir fi gharib al-Sharh al-Kabir by Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Muqri al-Fayyumi who died in 1368. It is also attributed to Al-Surah min al-Sihah which the linked page dates to the 14th century. Lane refers to this second source as "the Sihah" and doesn't list the author, but I think that this is it.

      So I think that your question is answered in full. There are a lot more references that you can follow if you want to.

      I also think that this addresses your unfounded speculation in #2 on page 103 that the translation of al Wabr to "the hyrax" is a modern phenomenon.

      Delete
    6. B”H
      David
      Thanks for you additional comment, that proves that you understood my question without any further clarification and without the help of the interpreters you suggested.
      I am glad that my English is improving.
      Regarding the contents of your new comment, I will write later B”N.

      Delete
    7. B”H
      David

      You wrote:
      One of the elements of the entry is "having no tail".
      I picked that element since it clearly matches the hyrax and excludes the rabbit, so there would be no ambiguity.

      IB:
      Before I further elaborate on your comment, please clarify are you saying that hyrax has no tail and the rabbit has?
      If so, rabbit’s tail is small, medium or large?
      Thanks

      Delete
    8. B”H
      David
      Thank you for your answer.

      You originally wrote:
      “The point of departure is that Wabr means hyrax, and meant hyrax in Medieval times. You can see that for yourself from Lane's lexicon on this page:
      http://www.studyquran.org/LaneLexicon/Volume8/00000169.pdf”

      You also added:
      “Lane does not use his own knowledge of Arabic to give definitions to the words. Instead, the definitions are taken from older Arabic dictionaries, primarily medieval Arabic dictionaries.”

      I followed your link and found the information:
      [hyrax Syriacus…]
      Before and after the brackets, there are some codes directing to the dictionary sources, like (M,) and (Lth, T, S, Mgh, Msb, g,).
      That is excellent.
      But I have some problems in understanding the real meaning of your quote:

      “hyrax Syriacus” is written inside the brackets, so I do not know if it is a latter addition by Lane or not.
      But if you continue reading in the same page you will see a bracketed comment citing John Kitto who lived from 1804 to 1854.
      Thus we can conclude that the bracketed comments are added by Lane.

      So “hyrax Syriacus” was written by Lane in the 19th century and this is not a medieval source.

      Thanks!

      Delete
    9. David
      Thanks for you additional comment, that proves that you understood my question without any further clarification and without the help of the interpreters you suggested.
      I am glad that my English is improving.
      Regarding the contents of your new comment, I will write later B”N.


      Sorry, I can't let that pass. Your question still makes no sense because I didn't provide any new information and so did not answer any questions that was not already answered in the source. I merely transcribed.

      I only did it because reader might interpret your question as an assertion and not click the link that would prove your assertion wrong. Now that they don't have to do that and can see that your implied assertion is incorrect.

      Delete
    10. IB:
      Before I further elaborate on your comment, please clarify are you saying that hyrax has no tail and the rabbit has?
      If so, rabbit’s tail is small, medium or large?
      Thanks

      You claim the expertise in rabbits and hyraxes. Make your point if you have one.

      Delete

    11. You originally wrote:
      “The point of departure is that Wabr means hyrax, and meant hyrax in Medieval times. You can see that for yourself from Lane's lexicon on this page:
      http://www.studyquran.org/LaneLexicon/Volume8/00000169.pdf”

      You also added:
      “Lane does not use his own knowledge of Arabic to give definitions to the words. Instead, the definitions are taken from older Arabic dictionaries, primarily medieval Arabic dictionaries.”

      I followed your link and found the information:
      [hyrax Syriacus…]
      Before and after the brackets, there are some codes directing to the dictionary sources, like (M,) and (Lth, T, S, Mgh, Msb, g,).
      That is excellent.
      But I have some problems in understanding the real meaning of your quote:

      “hyrax Syriacus” is written inside the brackets, so I do not know if it is a latter addition by Lane or not.
      But if you continue reading in the same page you will see a bracketed comment citing John Kitto who lived from 1804 to 1854.
      Thus we can conclude that the bracketed comments are added by Lane.


      Dr. Betech, I get the impression that you have not read the introduction to the lexicon where he discusses the meanings of the brackets as well as his method for translating plants and animals, nor the section on how to understand his various notations. Thus, it seems your the research for your book on a such a central point has been quite deficient. I suggest that you simply admit that you missed an important source that might affect the thesis of your book, do some research and come back with some fully-baked analysis.

      So “hyrax Syriacus” was written by Lane in the 19th century and this is not a medieval source.

      Dr. Betech, perhaps you didn't realize that these were Arabic dictionaries that he was using, so they would not be translating the words into other languages, but rather into other Arabic words. Any words in English or Latin are going to be Lane's translation for our benefit based on the descriptions in the dictionary.

      Again, please go back, research and then you can either try to rehabilitate your thesis or perhaps retract a bit from some of the the overly broad assertions in the book.

      In the meantime, the assertions in this comment thread and the book that there is "no evidence" of the meaning of al Wabr in pre-modern times has been falsified. You are free to analyze and dispute the evidence as you see fit, but the assertion of "no evidence" is wrong.

      Delete
    12. B”H
      David:

      You wrote:
      You claim the expertise in rabbits and hyraxes…

      IB:
      Interestingly, you previously wrote:
      “One of the elements of the entry is "having no tail".
      I picked that element since it clearly matches the hyrax and excludes the rabbit, so there would be no ambiguity.”

      Now, you are unwilling to confirm that you wrote that hyrax has no tail, and are refusing to qualify if the rabbit’s tail is small, medium or large.
      Indeed, I understand your unwillingness, because probably you know that rabbit’s tail is small, and in the same page of Lane’s dictionary, same entry, next line of what you quoted (“having no tail”) it is also written “having a small tail”.
      Thus, according to what you wrote, that the hyrax has no tail, and your dictionary says that Wbr has a small tail, the Wbr would be the rabbit and not the hyrax.

      Then I am wondering what you meant when you wrote: “…so there would be no ambiguity”.
      No ambiguity means according to Lane the Wbr is the rabbit?

      Furthermore, you originally quoted Lane’s dictionary, Book I, page 2915 (central column) about what you announced that there it is written that the Wbr is the hyrax Syriacus.
      As previously stated, this identification is only in brackets, which means that it is an addition written by Lane (19th Century, not medieval), but if you continue reading in the same page you kindly linked, in the next column under additional “Wbr” entries, there the name of the rabbit appears three times without brackets!

      Finally, I think B”H that from the page you linked, there is more support from ancient sources to Wbr=rabbit than to Wbr=hyrax.

      Delete
    13. You wrote: You claim the expertise in rabbits and hyraxes…

      IB: Interestingly, you previously wrote: “One of the elements of the entry is "having no tail". I picked that element since it clearly matches the hyrax and excludes the rabbit, so there would be no ambiguity.”

      Now, you are unwilling to confirm that you wrote that hyrax has no tail, and are refusing to qualify if the rabbit’s tail is small, medium or large.

      Indeed, I understand your unwillingness, because probably you know that rabbit’s tail is small, and in the same page of Lane’s dictionary, same entry, next line of what you quoted (“having no tail”) it is also written “having a small tail”.


      Dr. Betech, you have trouble getting to the point and instead do odd things like ask questions that you know the answers to. I prefer to wait for you to make your point before I respond. I stand 100% by what I wrote.

      Thus, according to what you wrote, that the hyrax has no tail, and your dictionary says that Wbr has a small tail, the Wbr would be the rabbit and not the hyrax.

      Dr. Betech, I'm afraid that your powers of analysis here are not up to the task:

      1) This is not "my" dictionary. It is lexicon based on the sources describing classical Arabic by an someone who was an expert. In your book, you say that the meaning of Wabr today is known, but not at the time of R. Saadia Gaon. Obviously that is false and there is a ton of evidence.

      2) Lane is a scholar, so unlike you, he does not try to squeeze all his sources into a predefined picture and ignore ones that don't fit. When look at a hundred sources, they are not all going to agree especially on the details of an animal. Even Aristotle, who was a keen observer, thought that women had fewer teeth than men.

      In this case, brings two sources that Wabr has no tail. He brings another one that can be read as Wabr having a short tail or as having a long tail. He discards the long tail translation because he knows based on the totality of sources the animal he is talking about (hyrax) has no tail, so he reads it as short tail because long tail would be too obviously wrong. Thus, his note [Golius. says, on the authority of Dmr., "longiore cauda," which is a mistake, for it has no tail,]. (emphasis mine).

      In any case, this Lane knew the hyrax had no tail, but still translated al Wabr as hyrax based on the totality of his sources.

      BTW, the fact that he gives two sources for no tail and one for short tail does not indicate how many sources he had for each. He says in the introduction that where sources are substantially similar, he cites only the oldest ones. And of course, the sources saw each other and corrected each others mistakes (also in the intro that you have not read).

      3) You argued that he was not trying to give a modern, not classical Arabic translation and I showed that he was in fact giving a classical one. So if you want to argue with Lane's understanding of Arabic and substitute your own, you are free to do so, but since you apparently can't even decipher his dictionary without help from me, you opinion will have little weight.

      Delete
    14. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    15. [Updated slightly to tone down rhetoric. Substance remains the same]

      Then I am wondering what you meant when you wrote: “…so there would be no ambiguity”. No ambiguity means according to Lane the Wbr is the rabbit?


      What I meant was quite obvious. I wanted preempt an argument by you that the sources whose dates I figured I gave didn't really have anything to do with Lane's identification with al Wabr as hyrax. These ones clearly do relate and they exclude the rabbit.

      Furthermore, you originally quoted Lane’s dictionary, Book I, page 2915 (central column) about what you announced that there it is written that the Wbr is the hyrax Syriacus.
      As previously stated, this identification is only in brackets, which means that it is an addition written by Lane (19th Century, not medieval)


      Dr. Betech, are missing basic concepts yet again. Everything in the dictionary was written in the 19th century, not just what was in the brackets. His sources are from earlier times and those sources wrote in Arabic, not English or Latin. When describing an animal all they can do is say it is an animal and then give whatever description and context that they give. They can't say "Hyrax". So he read the sources and translated them, but the translation to English has to be done by him. Again, you are free to argue with his translation, but your own authority is going to be a bit weak here. Why not go to an Arabic department near you and find out the truth?

      , but if you continue reading in the same page you kindly linked, in the next column under additional “Wbr” entries, there the name of the rabbit appears three times without brackets!

      Surely you're joking, Dr. Betech! He writes the following: words in these {braces} are arabic words that I could not transcribe:

      {Wabr}: The {other word}, [here meaning the fur, or soft hair,] of the camel, (Lth, T, ,'- M, A, ],) and of the hare or rabbit, and the like; (Lth, T, M, A, ].

      So he says that other translation of Wabr is to "the fur or soft hair of the camel, hare or rabbit, and the like." Now you think that where he translates "rabbit" that the word in the original works that he was translating was Wabr? So they wrote "Wabr is the fur of the Wabr"? And then Lane forgot his previous definition and instead of translating Wabr as hyrax, he translated it as rabbit? The sources clearly used another word for rabbit, not Wabr.

      Finally, I think B”H that from the page you linked, there is more support from ancient sources to Wbr=rabbit than to Wbr=hyrax.

      Your argument reminds me of this brilliant, but very old, internet joke: http://www.chaosmatrix.org/library/humor/reject.html

      Bottom line: Lane is an authority in Classical Arabic who looked all the available material including material going farther back than R. Ibn Janach and concludes that Wabr = Hyrax. Please provide some evidence from someone expert in Classical Arabic to dispute this or that part of your thesis needs to be updated.

      Delete
    16. A bit more on this:

      1) I found the word for hare/rabbit in the lexicon:

      http://studyquran.org/LaneLexicon/Volume3/00000330.pdf

      2) There is a variant of Wabr translated in the lexicon as the animal possessing Wabr (fur) (see the forth subentry under the Wabr entry). So one variant is "Camel having much fur (Wabr) and in a like manner hare or rabbit and the like". So Wabr can refer to an furry animal generally as well as the fur of a furry animal.

      Delete
    17. B”H
      David:

      You wrote:
      So Wabr can refer to an furry animal generally…

      IB:
      Thank you for sharing your conclusion, which I think matches what we wrote in the shafan book and also with what I wrote in my detailed comment yesterday.

      Delete
    18. IB:
      Thank you for sharing your conclusion, which I think matches what we wrote in the shafan book and also with what I wrote in my detailed comment yesterday.


      It doesn't match at all, but since you provide no reasoning for your conclusion, there is nothing for me to engage on.

      Delete
    19. B”H
      David:
      You wrote:
      It doesn't match at all, but since you provide no reasoning for your conclusion, there is nothing for me to engage on.

      IB:
      For the readers’ convenience, I will copy part of Chapter 5 (d), where four sections are written, two of them read as follows:

      2. Rav Saadia did not describe any specific characteristic of the animal that would force us to recognize its identity; he just called it “wabar”, meaning “hair” or maybe “hairy”. Although this word is the modern common name for the hyrax in certain Arabic countries, this is no proof that “hyrax” was his intended meaning one thousand years ago.

      4. There is still the possibility that Rav Saadia Gaon z”l was indeed actually referring to the rabbit, which is no less hairy than the hyrax, and has wool no less valuable than the hyrax.
      This point could be supported by the explanation of Rav Ibn Janach z”l (who was almost Rav Saadia’s contempo¬rary) which equates “shafan” = “wabr” = “rabbit”; see below (e).


      On the other hand, you wrote yesterday:
      …So Wabr can refer to an furry animal generally…

      To what I answered:
      “Thank you for sharing your conclusion, which I think matches what we wrote in the shafan book and also with what I wrote in my detailed comment yesterday.”

      If you still think that it doesn’t match, please let me know why.

      Delete
    20. Dr. Betech, thank you for making an argument. Here is the refutation:

      IB:
      For the readers’ convenience, I will copy part of Chapter 5 (d), where four sections are written, two of them read as follows:

      2. Rav Saadia did not describe any specific characteristic of the animal that would force us to recognize its identity; he just called it “wabar”, meaning “hair” or maybe “hairy”. Although this word is the modern common name for the hyrax in certain Arabic countries, this is no proof that “hyrax” was his intended meaning one thousand years ago.


      This is wrong and misleading on a number of counts.

      1) The fact that Wabr means hyrax today in the same geographic area where R. Saadia Gaon lived is obviously very strong evidence.

      2) You leave open the meaning of the word 1000 years ago as some mystery that we have no way to solve. Actually, Arabic was an intensively studied language for over 1000 years at least and we even have Arabic dictionaries going back that far, as well as lots of extant literature. If you really thought that the meaning changed, there are ample resources to research and find out.

      3) When you actually look at a work that references Classical Arabic usage, like Lane's lexicon, http://www.studyquran.org/LaneLexicon/Volume8/00000169.pdf you find that al Wabr did mean "the hyrax" going back as far as R. Saadia Gaon.

      4. There is still the possibility that Rav Saadia Gaon z”l was indeed actually referring to the rabbit, which is no less hairy than the hyrax, and has wool no less valuable than the hyrax.

      He could have been referring to anything but he used al Wabr which means hyrax.

      This point could be supported by the explanation of Rav Ibn Janach z”l (who was almost Rav Saadia’s contempo¬rary) which equates “shafan” = “wabr” = “rabbit”; see below (e).

      Who wrote 85 years later and in a place where there were no hyraxes! What is most significant about R. Ibn Janach is that he is a further testimony that Shafan = Wabr. He never saw a Hyrax and so could not identify it, but his entry indicates that R. Saadia Gaon was not the only one to have Shafan as Wabr.

      Delete
    21. On the other hand, you wrote yesterday:
      …So Wabr can refer to an furry animal generally…


      So here are the definitions given:

      a) A certain small animal (the Hyrax)

      b) Fur or soft hare of a camel; Fur of the hare or rabbit and the like; fur of the sable, fox, and marten.

      c) A camel with much fur, hare or rabbit or the like with much fur.

      First off, you conveniently leave out the first definition because is it directly contradicts your thesis.

      As you mention he only gives the one word Wabr. That fits exceedingly well with first definition which refers to a specific animal. It does not fit in with "fur", nor does it fit with being a "camel, hare or rabbit with much fur", since that definition doesn't specify a type of animal (species), and even if you ignore that it is not referring to a species of animal and just pick out rabbit of the the hat for no particular reason, Shafan certainly doesn't mean a "rabbit with much fur". He is referring to a species not to especially furry instances of some species and certainly not very furry instances across species.

      Just as an analogy, suppose the word was referring to a species that we could not decipher called "the fox" and all I knew that it was kind of mammal, but no more. I look in the dictionary and I find the following definitions:

      a : any of various carnivorous mammals (especially genus Vulpes) of the dog family related to but smaller than wolves with shorter legs, more pointed muzzle, large erect ears, and long bushy tail
      b : the fur of a fox
      2: a clever crafty person
      3 archaic : sword
      4 capitalized : a member of an American Indian people formerly living in what is now Wisconsin
      5: a good-looking young woman or man


      I suppose by your reasoning we could say that the writer was referring to "people" since two of the definitions refer to cunning people and good-looking people.

      Finally, as you yourself pointed out (thank you), the word rabbit is inside those definitions of Wabr using some other Arabic word! In fact at least one word for rabbit/hare can be found here: http://studyquran.org/LaneLexicon/Volume3/00000330.pdf


      To what I answered:
      “Thank you for sharing your conclusion, which I think matches what we wrote in the shafan book and also with what I wrote in my detailed comment yesterday.”

      If you still think that it doesn’t match, please let me know why.


      Certainly, I did.

      Delete
  35. Today, in modern Arabic, al-wabr apparently means hyrax. By extrapolation, it seems reasonable to assume that tis was its meaning 1100 years ago when Saadia Gaon used it.

    It is not "by extrapolation". It is by looking at medieval dictionaries. Wabr means and meant hyrax. See my previous post for the link.

    But Ibn Janach lived just after Saadia Gaon, was an expert in his works, and was a highly-regarded grammarian who translated Biblical terms into Arabic and he understands the wordal-wabr to mean rabbit. So, an objective analysis of the source material would seem to support Dr. Betech’s claim that shafan means rabbit.

    Dr. Betech actually doesn't claim that Saadia Gaon thought Wabr meant Rabbit, although he says that "there is still the possibility".

    Instead he offers the following:

    1) Perhaps Wabr was added by a copyist.

    2) He ignores the dictionary entry for Wabr as hyrax and choose a different entry for Wabr (see my reference above) as "[the fur, or soft hair] of the camel, and of the hare or rabbit, and the like".

    This theory is that when R. Saadia Gaon gave a one word definition for Shafan, he used a word which means "the hyrax" but really meant, not the hyrax, but "the soft fur" which is not animal at all and applies to the soft fur of many different animals. He then switches the noun to an adjective (the fur -> hairy) and says that adjective can apply to a rabbit.

    3. Maybe Wabr did mean hyrax, but the name had many meanings that included rabbit (the very semantic shift that he will not accept for Ibn Janach or the Spanish Rishonim!)

    4. Maybe he thought that Wabr actually meant Rabbit since a rabbit which has valuable fur. (See pages 102-104). This seems to be a variant of #2.

    5. Incredibly, he then offers that perhaps Saadia Gaon was simply wrong! (based on an Ibn Ezra that criticized some of Saadia Gaon's translations). Apparently only sources that disagree with your thesis can be wrong. The ones that agree are said with Ruach Hakodesh.

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  36. “And the shafan”. It is the wabr, an animal the size of a cat, which is found [only] a little in the East, but is abundant among us. Nevertheless the masses do not know it by that name, but by the name conilio, a Spanish name [for rabbit].”

    This demonstrates two things. First of all, it demonstrates that Ibn Janach’s translation was not made in ignorance. Apparently he knew about the animals in the East although he never travelled there (actually I don’t know if he travelled there or not; I’m taking RJW’s word for it. The fact is, Ibn Janach was a traveler. According to Wikipedia, he travelled all over the Iberian Peninsula).

    The second thing it demonstrates is that although the rabbit population in Israel was indeed small in the 11th century, according to Ibn Janach there were definitely rabbits in Israel. Today they are not there at all. Perhaps during Dovid and Shlomo’s time they were found in abundance?


    The Iberian Peninsula if far from Israel. His knowledge of animals of the east would have been through scholarship. If Ibn Janach though Wabr was Rabbit he would have to assume the existence of some number of rabbits there, otherwise the translation would not make sense (R. Slifkin has mentioned this last idea). Rather than trying to prove the existence of rabbits in Israel based on testimony of someone is Spain, it would make more sense to find writings of people who lived there, or archeological evidence, but none is apparently available.


    ReplyDelete
  37. I am a critic of Rabbi Slifkin’s views and have written extensively on them but NEVER will you find me making remarks like those you’ve made against Isaac. I will argue with Nosson. I will debate him till the cows come home. But I will NEVER, EVER, accuse him of heresy or even state that his claims come close to the denial of God!

    This may be true, but it is definitely misleading. In the blog entry immediately below this one http://slifkin-opinions.blogspot.co.il/2013/03/bh-lacking-in-derech-eretz-and-in.html, there are indeed such accusations on your blog, although they were made by someone else who is allowed to post entries to the blog.

    So you may be stating your own standards (which I wholeheartedly agree with), but not that of the blog as it exists today.

    ReplyDelete
  38. we did not find any additional species with only one kosher sign

    Could you please explain (as I don't have your book,and the preview does not actually show the book itself) how the llama, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos do not have only one kosher sign (i.e. it appears that they chew the cud but do not have split hooves).

    R. Sedley, although you are right that Dr. Betech's sentence needs some correction, the real issue here is not "species" vs. "genus" vs. "family". The problem is that definition of "Min" is malleable and depends on what conclusions are to be drawn.

    So where it is important the hare and rabbit be different "Minim", they are, whereas when it is important that camel, llama, guanaco, alpaca, vicuna be one "Min", then they are. Thus, the targets for Min are drawn around the arrows to achieve the desired result.

    Of course, once you go down this path, you are really giving up on the interpretation that you were trying to save. It is hardly a proof of the divinity of the Torah that you can find some definition of Min, after the fact, that includes new species that were discovered later and unknown to any of those who accepted the Torah.

    I would also point out that Dr. Betech is rightly careful to state that his definitions of Min are not to use p'sak halacha (pg 113 note 290). So while the "definitions" of Min satisfy the aims of the book, when when it comes to breeding llamas and camels, you may end up with a different conclusion.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Another halach that you can't save with Dr. Betech's method is the following: if you find an animal without upper front teeth, but hooves cut off, you can be sure it is Tehorah as long as you can exclude the young camel. The problem is that the young llama also lacks upper front teeth (see http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/digestion/pregastric/llamapage.html.). Same applies to Alpaca: http://alpacasofmontana.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-anatomy-of-alpaca-teeth.html

    Now, Dr. Betech would like to interpret that halacha not as a practical one for the area where it was given, but universal over time and space (and he has support for that interpretation).

    The problem is that the "answer" that Camel = Camelidae is not going to help here. The halacha assures you that if you can exclude the young Camel, you are good to go. Does it makes sense to say that person is supposed to know that this is a Camel? If all kinds of other criteria were really needed to invoke this halacha, they would need to be included in the halacha and not left for "future" investigation.

    Thus new world discoveries indicate that this halacha is valid as a Chazaka for the places intended and not as part of a universal divine declaration.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Natan SlifkinJune 25, 2013 at 3:05 PM
    He's trying to deceive his readership by giving the impression that he has support from experts.


    R. Slifkin, kindly refrain from words like "deceive" directed at Dr. Betech and please stick to substance.

    On the issue of the rabbit fossil record that you raised, you write on your blog that: The reference to rabbits in the Negev is likewise a mistake in a second-hand reference. The original study was by Tchernov, who notes that the hare is "the only endemic species of lagomorph known from the Middle East since the Middle Pleistocene.

    Dr. Betech mentioned earlier that "Since leporid species (rabbits and hares) are so similar anatomically, it is critical to analyze the diagnostic osteological characteristics that set these two creatures apart ... For the above reasons, Callou concluded that in cases of doubt, it is preferable to designate the skeletons only as pertaining to family Leporidae, without defining if they are rabbits or hares."

    My question to you is, have you read the Tchernov's 2000 paper? I read it and was quite suprised at how they reached their conclusion. For example, can you explain how they decided that the fossils they examined were hares and not rabbits? I think once you have done so, we will be able to see that their claim is more speculation than fact.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. YSO, I asked Dr Betech to provide references to the papers that state that rabbits lived in Biblical Israel. He replied that I had to see the book in context, and referred me to some footnotes. This implies that were I to read the book I would find the answer to my question (evidence of rabbits living in Biblical Israel). Since Dr Betech did not answer my question directly, Rabbi Slifkin looked at the references provided (as well as the rest of the book presumably) and wrote that the answer to my question is NOT contained within the book.

      That does make it seem as though Dr Betech is being deceptive. I hope that it was a miscommunication, and that he will answer my question directly, or explain that he has no references (if that is the case) but nevertheless feels that his claim is valid (for whatever reason). I am sure that he did not intend to deceive, but until he clarifies it does seem deceptive.

      I have not read Tchernov's paper. (I assume that Rabbi Slifkin has, but that is irrelevant). However, whether you are surprised by his conclusions or not is not really the issue here. Unless you are Dr. Betech's source (academic paper or personal communication) that rabbits existed in Biblical Israel. I have no idea of your academic/scientific background. If you have published on this topic please give the references. Furthermore, even if I accept what you say (and since I have not read Tchernov let me give you the benefit of the doubt), the fact that Tchernov is not convincing is NOT evidence of rabbits in Biblical Israel. It is only (in your opinion) inconclusive evidence of hares in Biblical Israel. That is not the same thing.

      Delete
    2. Natan SlifkinJune 25, 2013 at 3:05 PM
      He's trying to deceive his readership by giving the impression that he has support from experts.


      R. Slifkin, kindly refrain from words like "deceive" directed at Dr. Betech and please stick to substance.


      How about this:

      Dr. Betech writes imprecisely and thus gives the impression that he has support from experts for his theories on lagomorph distribution, but he actually does not provide any evidence of such support in his book.

      My question to you is, have you read the Tchernov's 2000 paper? I read it and was quite suprised at how they reached their conclusion. For example, can you explain how they decided that the fossils they examined were hares and not rabbits? I think once you have done so, we will be able to see that their claim is more speculation than fact.

      The purpose of that paper is to record the percentage of hares compared other animals in order to prove that there was a shift to small game for consumption. So the paper is not going to spend time specifically reconfirming what is generally known about lagomorphs in the Middle East. What you are doing is akin to looking for proof of Newton's laws of motion in a paper on analysis of auto crash safety results. Those laws would be used extensively in such an analysis but not re-proven each time.

      I've never dug a bone out of the ground and identified it, so I have very little to go on here. But can you provide any support from anyone who is an expert who feels that the identification of lagomorphs in that region have been systematically misclassified? Dr. Betech does not do so in his book.

      Delete
    3. "My question to you is, have you read the Tchernov's 2000 paper? I read it and was quite suprised at how they reached their conclusion. For example, can you explain how they decided that the fossils they examined were hares and not rabbits? I think once you have done so, we will be able to see that their claim is more speculation than fact."

      The purpose of that paper is to record the percentage of hares compared other animals in order to prove that there was a shift to small game for consumption. So the paper is not going to spend time specifically reconfirming what is generally known about lagomorphs in the Middle East. What you are doing is akin to looking for proof of Newton's laws of motion in a paper on analysis of auto crash safety results. Those laws would be used extensively in such an analysis but not re-proven each time.


      No need to go all the way back Newton's laws. The authors in the paper do provide their methods in a section entitled "Materials and Methods". The quote from Callou will also provide you with important guidance, should you care to dig further. I will have more to say on their methods; but, in the mean time I will wait for R. Slifkin's response to my question, i.e. can you explain how they decided that the fossils they examined were hares and not rabbits?

      Delete
    4. No need to go all the way back Newton's laws.

      I was making an analogy. Just an an engineering text which is entirely dependent on Newton's laws and theorems based on them will utilize them without re-proving, detailing or investigating them, this paper is not going to describe exactly how they know that all the lagomorphs in the middle east are hares. The focus the paper is how the relative prevalence of small game changes over time.

      The authors in the paper do provide their methods in a section entitled "Materials and Methods".

      No need to argue this in the abstract. Here is the relevant quote:

      For identification and taphonomic appraisal, bone fragments were compared with those of Lepus capensis from the Comparative Collection of Mammals at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Schmid's Atlas of Animal Bones was also referred to.

      Were you expecting a step-by-step tutorial?

      The quote from Callou will also provide you with important guidance, should you care to dig further. I will have more to say on their methods; but, in the mean time I will wait for R. Slifkin's response to my question, i.e. can you explain how they decided that the fossils they examined were hares and not rabbits?

      I don't see any quotations from Callou in the book, but Dr. Betech does paraphrase some statements. Cut and pasting from above:

      Since leporid species (rabbits and hares) are so similar anatomically, it is critical to analyze the diagnostic osteological characteristics that set these two creatures apart…

      …For the above reasons, Callou concluded that in cases of doubt, it is preferable to designate the skeletons only as pertaining to family Leporidae, without defining if they are rabbits or hares.


      So this is saying that when you want to decide whether something is a hare or a rabbit, compare the bones carefully. If you are not sure, then don't assume. What you trying to prove from that? Tchernov identified hares by looking at bones.

      I'll also give another quotation from Dr. Betech's book that seems relevant (and that I give him credit for including since it doesn't help his argument):

      "... differences between the two genera [rabbit and hare] in the proportions of several postcranial elements are obvious and can be used to distinguish them." (emphasis mine)

      Could you give your reasons for thinking that Tchernov et al. are mistaken?

      Delete
    5. Hi David Ohsie. On what page is the quote from Dr. Betech? I don't recall seeing it. But I have not had a chance to read the whole book.

      And, yes, I would like to give my reasons for thinking that the claim by Tchernov et. al. is more speculation than fact. When I first read the abstract I took Tchernov's conclusion at face value.

      For identification and taphonomic appraisal, bone fragments were compared with those of Lepus capensis from the Comparative Collection of Mammals at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Schmid's Atlas of Animal Bones was also referred to.

      R. Coffer obtained a copy of Schmid's Atlas. When I saw what she wrote, I began to have doubts and did some further research (some of which appears in the book). What I wondered, is did R. Slifkin do any further research. Or, did he accept Tchernov et. al. at face value?

      So again, my question to R. Slifkin: My question to you is, have you read the Tchernov's 2000 paper? I read it and was quite suprised at how they reached their conclusion. For example, can you explain how they decided that the fossils they examined were hares and not rabbits? I think once you have done so, we will be able to see that their claim is more speculation than fact.

      Delete
    6. On what page is the quote from Dr. Betech?

      It's on p. 91.

      Delete
    7. Dear (R.)? YSO,

      You seem to have me at a disadvantage since you appear not to be anonymous on this site, but I don't know what YSO stands for.

      I read it and was quite suprised at how they reached their conclusion. For example, can you explain how they decided that the fossils they examined were hares and not rabbits?

      You repeat something that I addressed above. What specifically about the quotation makes you think that they did something wrong? It is just two sentences and it looks fine to me for the reasons that I stated.

      More importantly, can you cite anyone that has actually dug up a rabbit bone or that think they dug up something that might be a rabbit bone in Ancient Israel? If you are trying to give evidence that they lived there, you are going to have to find something like that.

      Delete
    8. Dear David, as I mentioned, R. Coffer obtained a copy of Schmid's Atlas. When I saw what Schmid wrote, I began to have doubts and did some further research (it appears in Dr. Betech's book). What I wondered, is did R. Slifkin do any further research. Or, did he accept Tchernov et. al. at face value?

      Still waiting for R. Slifkin to respond to my earlier question.

      Yoel S. Ostroff (YSO)

      Delete
    9. Dear David, as I mentioned, R. Coffer obtained a copy of Schmid's Atlas. When I saw what Schmid wrote, I began to have doubts and did some further research (it appears in Dr. Betech's book).

      But your and Dr. Betech's research didn't turn anything up. You found no evidence of rabbit bones in any digging, nor any evidence that the research was faulty. Your observation about Schmid's Atlas is irrelevant, as they did not say that "we relied on Schmid's atlas to distinguish between rabbit and hare bones". In fact, they specifically mentioned that "bone fragments were compared with those of Lepus capensis from the Comparative Collection of Mammals at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.". The notion that you can find fault in their method of work from a two-sentence description in a paper is not well-founded, to put it politely.

      What I wondered, is did R. Slifkin do any further research. Or, did he accept Tchernov et. al. at face value?
      Still waiting for R. Slifkin to respond to my earlier question.


      Not sure why it is important to know this, but I suggest that you post the question to R. Slifkin's blog or email R. Slifkin. This blogs posts direct personal attacks against R. Slifkin (I don't mean sarcasm and snark; I mean direct "you are a kofer/avaryan/fraud" type of attacks). While he does respond in some cases, I think that he prefers to stay away, for obvious reasons. I make no predictions in this case, but if you really want to know, that is the route to go.

      Delete
    10. Dear David. May I suggest that you take a look at Schmid's Atlas. And, sure, I think it is important and that is why I refer you to it. The relevant discussion is in Dr. Betech's book. You would then be more qualified to answer my question directed at R. Slifkin (who has commented on this blog and on this post). At some point, time permitting, I might write a post as the subject is important. But, if you would like to see why I don't buy R. Slifkin's argument about the fossil record, the book is the place to go. A guten erev Shabbos.

      Delete
    11. Dear David. May I suggest that you take a look at Schmid's Atlas. And, sure, I think it is important and that is why I refer you to it. The relevant discussion is in Dr. Betech's book. You would then be more qualified to answer my question directed at R. Slifkin (who has commented on this blog and on this post). At some point, time permitting, I might write a post as the subject is important. But, if you would like to see why I don't buy R. Slifkin's argument about the fossil record, the book is the place to go. A guten erev Shabbos.

      Rabbi Ostroff, I was able to get a copy of part of the atlas that had been scanned on the internet. Here it seems is the most relevant part:

      Lepus [hare-DO]: Lepus europaeus no. 1330 of the Natural History Museum served as a pattern, that was partially completed with no. 5857. The characteristic differences in comparison with the rodents are clear in the dentition. To differentiate between the hare, blue hare and the wild rabbit, see the corresponding literature (Mohr 1938; Koby 1959). [Emphasis mine-DO].

      So now I've read the through Tchernov's paper, Dr. Betech's book and now your reference to Schmid's Atlas. I did the legwork (fingerwork?) to collect all the relevant pieces into this thread that you claim is needed to make your argument. Now that I've jumped through the requisite hoops, can you present your findings? I see no evidence, or even colorable argument, for the presence of rabbits in Biblical Israel, nor anything that casts doubt on the experts' opinion that they did not.

      Delete
    12. Dear David, given that I am not a Rabbi please just call me Yoel as you have graciously allowed us to say David.

      Thank you for doing all your research, but you did not quote the relevant sentence in Schmid's Atlas. I am hoping that you will look up the whole sugya in Dr. Betech's book, rather than me just regurgitating (no pun intended) the material here. However, I believe that Rabbi Coffer's letter (April 12, 2013) to the second author of the Tchernov paper does not appear in the book. I have obtained permission from Rabbi Coffer to post the text version of his letter (I did not put in all the relevant italics. etc.). So here it is.

      Theodora Bar-El
      The Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences
      Hebrew University of Jerusalem

      Dear Dr. Bar-El,

      My name is Ronny Coffer. I am currently doing some research in lagomorph paleontology specifically as relates to Israel and came upon your paper Lagomorph Remains at Prehistoric Sites in Israel and Southern Sinai which appeared in Vol. 26 N°1 of the science journal Paléorient (2000). In your paper you document six locations in Israel (Hayonim Terrace, Netiv Hagdud, Ohalo II, and the Caves of Hayonim, Kebara and Nahal Hemar) where lagomorph remains were unearthed. These remains are identified in your paper as belonging to the species Lepus capensis (Cape Hare) and in your abstract you write that Lepus capensis “has been the only species of lagomorph known from this region”. I’m sure you are very busy but I have two questions which relate to your presentation. I tried to contact your colleague (and collaborator on this project) Dr. Eitan Tchernov but unfortunately he has since passed away so and I would be very grateful if you managed to find some time to provide me with some clarification. The first issue relates to methodology so I’ll begin with that.

      1) On page 95 under the heading Materials and Methods, you write as follows: “For identification and taphonomic appraisal, bone fragments were compared with those of Lepus capensis from the Comparative Collection of Mammals at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Schmid's Atlas of Animal Bones was also referred to.” My question is, were there any methods utilized to distinguish between the Leporid species Lepus capensis and other Leporid species such as, say, Lepus timidus (mountain hare) or Oryctolagus cuniculus (European rabbit)? After all, their skeletons are practically identical. In fact, although Schmid’s Atlas deals specifically with eight animals (Horse, Ox, Sheep, Pig, Wolf, Bear, Beaver and Hare), the author writes that “the hare stands for all Leporidae” (pg 11, under the section Sequence of the Animals). Since all hares and rabbits fall under this category, is it possible that some of the bone fragments you found may indeed have belonged to another species from the Leporid family?

      2) As mentioned earlier, you write that “Since the Middle Pleistocene the cape hare (Lepus capensis) has been the only species of lagomorph known from this region.” What I am wondering is, how reliable are the results of nine locations (several of them caves) over the size of such a region (roughly 30,000 sq. kilometers)? How authoritative are the conclusions based on these results? When you write that the cape hare is the only known species in the region, do you mean to say that it is reasonable to conclude that no other species of lagomorph occupied this region in the past, or do you mean to say that as of now (the time of your paper) there are simply no other known species of lagomorph that have been documented in the strata?

      Looking forward to your response, I remain

      Sincerely yours,

      Delete
    13. Dear David, given that I am not a Rabbi please just call me Yoel as you have graciously allowed us to say David.

      Certainly. Dr. Betech referred to you with the term of respect "Rav" in the acknowledgements of his book and I didn't want to leave out a title inadvertently.

      I am hoping that you will look up the whole sugya in Dr. Betech's book, rather than me just regurgitating (no pun intended) the material here.

      I did do that and quoted all the material related to the books purported challenge to Tchernov et al.'s identification of bones as hare bones. There is simply nothing there that seems untoward or suspicious and nothing that indicate that there was any misclassification.

      I do appreciate your reproduction R. Coffer's letter to Dr. Bar-El. However, I'm not sure what point you trying to prove with the letter. If R. Coffer got no response, then the letter doesn't provide any additional illumination.

      In case you were implying that lack of response is like an admission (Sh'tikah K'Hodaah), I can tell you from my experience in academia that this is not the case. Professors (I was not one, but talked to them while in graduate studies) get all kinds of letters from writers hoping to promote their crackpot theories, and these end up in the circular file. I'm not saying that happened here, but I am saying there is really no way to know why no response was proffered.

      I'd also point out that while R. Coffer quotes the sentence from page 11, he leaves out the quotation that I reproduced on page 14 that specifically deals with how to distinguish hare from rabbit, and also ignores the similar quotes in Dr. Betech's book that indicate that there are obvious differences.

      So again, I'll say that all the relevant quotations have been presented and there isn't even the beginning of a case for your position, let alone evidence of the rabbit's existence in the time and place we are referring to.

      Delete
    14. Dear David:

      I realize that you said "in case" w.r.t. the letter to Dr. Bar El, but please realize that I made no assumption of shteika kehoda (even though the letter was sent twice). I find this type of comment unproductive because I then have to defend myself against posible assumptions I never made. I will respond to your comments when I find something that tickles my fancy, so please don't assume shtika kehodaa in future correspondence.

      May I also point out that the relevant quotations have not been obtained, only one so far. So I do not see how you are in a position to say that there is not even the beginning of a case. May I ask you to consult Dr. Betech's book for the full story, as I have mentioned before.

      I am puzzled by the thrust of your comments which seem to ignore both points in R. Coffer's letter. I will just mention one of them for illustration. Tchernov et. al. state that they consulted Schmid's atlas. But Schmid’s Atlas deals specifically with eight animals (Horse, Ox, Sheep, Pig, Wolf, Bear, Beaver and Hare), and Schmid writes that “the hare stands for all Leporidae” (pg 11, under the section Sequence of the Animals). Now I am sure that you understand that Leporidae includes the hare and the rabbit, right?. So it seems to at least raise the issue that consulting with the atlas will not help to definitively identify fossils as hares as opposed to rabbits?

      Delete
    15. I realize that you said "in case" w.r.t. the letter to Dr. Bar El, but please realize that I made no assumption of shteika kehoda (even though the letter was sent twice). I find this type of comment unproductive because I then have to defend myself against posible assumptions I never made. I will respond to your comments when I find something that tickles my fancy, so please don't assume shtika kehodaa in future correspondence.

      I obviously wasn't referring to your own responses when I mentioned "Sh'tikah K'Hodaah"; I was trying to make heads or tails out of your argument based on a letter from R. Coffer. You've replied a number of times with references that I resolve but then don't support your argument out so I'm trying to speed things along as best as I can. I you can make a clear A->B->C type of argument, then it will eliminate confusion.

      May I also point out that the relevant quotations have not been obtained, only one so far.

      Hold your horses there. On the topic of challenging Tchernov et al. on their identification of hare remains vs. rabbit remains:

      1) You referred to the methodology documented in the Tchernov et al. paper. I pulled out that reference and found nothing to support your argument.

      2) You referred to Schmid's atlas. Again, I pulled the quote and there is no support for your argument.

      3) You referred to Dr. Betech book. Again I pulled the quotes and found no support for your argument.

      4) You provide the correspondence (thank you for doing that) and again there is no support for your argument.

      So I do not see how you are in a position to say that there is not even the beginning of a case. May I ask you to consult Dr. Betech's book for the full story, as I have mentioned before.

      First off, before I go chasing down other references, could you either make an argument out of the ones the references that we have already?

      Also, Dr. Betech's book is 322 pages long and only a tiny percentage is relate to the topic under discussion. I don't think that I missed anything relevant, but if it is too much work to quote your argument, could you at least give page numbers?

      Delete
    16. I am puzzled by the thrust of your comments which seem to ignore both points in R. Coffer's letter. I will just mention one of them for illustration. Tchernov et. al. state that they consulted Schmid's atlas. But Schmid’s Atlas deals specifically with eight animals (Horse, Ox, Sheep, Pig, Wolf, Bear, Beaver and Hare), and Schmid writes that “the hare stands for all Leporidae” (pg 11, under the section Sequence of the Animals). Now I am sure that you understand that Leporidae includes the hare and the rabbit, right?. So it seems to at least raise the issue that consulting with the atlas will not help to definitively identify fossils as hares as opposed to rabbits?

      Yes, and I actually addressed that point a number of times above and then I again addressed that specific element of his letter in my response!

      I'd also point out that while R. Coffer quotes the sentence from page 11, he leaves out the quotation that I reproduced on page 14 that specifically deals with how to distinguish hare from rabbit, and also ignores the similar quotes in Dr. Betech's book that indicate that there are obvious differences.

      Your arguments here are just not sensible. You and your colleagues have provided some evidence of the following (I'll assume for the sake of argument that these statements in the book are accurate):

      1) If you want to distinguish between don't rely on only on bone size measurement alone because those have changed over time. (I'm not sure if this applies here where the majority are less than 20ka, B.P.). Instead measure proportions of post-cranial bones to each other (for obvious differences) or use morphological traits (peculiarities of the bones to hare or rabbit).

      2) Shmid's Atlas which is mentioned as one of the source of information for classification in the Bar-El, Tchernov paper has a hare in it and some reference some rules for distinguishing hares and rabbits.

      3) You asked a bunch of researchers if they did a good job or not of distinguishing hares and rabbits and either got no response or something else (Dr. Betech doesn't want to report what he got back).

      So again, no examples of bones that indicate rabbits, and no evidence of a general incompetence among the researchers undermining their conclusion. You have a conclusion that you don't like, but nothing more.

      Delete
    17. Dear David,

      Your copious comments seem, to me, to avoid answering the questions raised by R. Coffer regarding the methods used Tchernov et. al. Note that Tchernov et. al. nowhere say that they consulted Mohr and Koby. What they say is that they consulted Schmid's Atlas of Animal Bones about which Schmid writes that "the hare stands for all Leporidae", so that there does not seem to be a basis merely by consulting the bones in the atlas to distinguish between a hare and a rabbit.

      I will leave it to you to re-read R. Coffer's email to Dr. Bar-El.

      Delete
    18. Dear Yoel, your sparse comments referencing various sources do not constitute any kind of coherent challenge to the claims of the various papers that you seek to refute, nor does your mere reference to what you characterize as my "copious comments" constitute a reasoned response.

      You say one thing of apparent substance: "Note that Tchernov et. al. nowhere say that they consulted Mohr and Koby."

      It appears to be that you are arguing since that they didn't explain that they used apparently well documented techniques present in both the book that they refer to and that papers that Dr. Betech refers to, they must not have done that.

      That argument is exceedingly weak. The purpose of the methodology section at best is to give enough information to enable a reader skilled in the art to reproduce their findings. It is not a step by step recipe, nor is it going to repeat what people in the field know, and certainly not information contained in the very books they refer to. In case the reader is confused at this point, I'll reproduce again what is written because it is obvious that he kinds of deduction that you are trying to make is not possible give what they write:

      For identification and taphonomic appraisal, bone fragments were compared with those of Lepus capensis from the Comparative Collection of Mammals at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Schmid's Atlas of Animal Bones was also referred to.

      Your attempts to read something nefarious out of that summary is akin to divining, well, rabbit entrails.

      I'll leave it to you construct a coherent argument for rabbits in ancient Israel characterized by a propensity to hide in rocks. The book doesn't have one.

      Delete
  41. joshwaxman June 23, 2013 at 9:02 AM
    Hi Rabbi Coffer, Let me begin by providing a click-able link to my blogpost. While Elemir pasted it in plaintext, people are less likely to copy and paste than to click, and I think that it would be useful for readers to see my actual words prior to your summary of my words (which I don't feel to be accurate in this instance).


    R. Waxman, a question. Did you obtain the information about Ibn Janach (with translation by Zohar Amar) from R. Betech's book? I did not see any attribution and so I am curious to find out where you got the information as I did not see it in R. Slifkin's book. Ibn Janach's translation of alwabar as rabbit (rather than hyrax) is of course important.

    At your blog, you write:
    Great, but we don't know what a wabr is. Is the wabr a hyrax? An octopus? ... There is good evidence that where Saadia Gaon was (Egypt, Eretz Yisrael, etc.), it meant hyrax, which is indigenous to the area and was indeed referred to as al-wabr.

    What is the evidence for your claim that in Saadya Gaon's time alwabar meant hyrax?

    ReplyDelete
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    1. At your blog, you write:
      Great, but we don't know what a wabr is. Is the wabr a hyrax? An octopus? ... There is good evidence that where Saadia Gaon was (Egypt, Eretz Yisrael, etc.), it meant hyrax, which is indigenous to the area and was indeed referred to as al-wabr.

      What is the evidence for your claim that in Saadya Gaon's time alwabar meant hyrax?


      R. Waxman is much more competent than me in these areas and may supply his own better answer, but have you followed the link to Lane's lexicon that I gave above?

      http://www.studyquran.org/LaneLexicon/Volume8/00000169.pdf

      So one pretty strong piece of evidence is the translation of al Wabr in medieval Arabic dictionaries.

      Delete
  42. R. Waxman's source is Lane's work which he says goes back to medieval dictionaries. Apparently those dictionaries also give alternative definitions to alwabr such as "hairy one". Since, I don't read Arabic, I would very much appreciate it if R. Waxman can provide a translation of the complete entry.

    The problem is that Ibn Janach was also an expert in Arabic and he lived in even earlier times very close to the time of R. Saadia. He translates alwabr as rabbit.

    So you are right. Let's wait for R. Waxman to answer the question. What is the evidence for R. Waxman's claim that in Saadya Gaon's time alwabar meant hyrax?

    ReplyDelete
  43. R. Waxman's source is Lane's work which he says goes back to medieval dictionaries. Apparently those dictionaries also give alternative definitions to alwabr such as "hairy one". Since, I don't read Arabic, I would very much appreciate it if R. Waxman can provide a translation of the complete entry.

    Lane's lexicon is entirely in English, so you can already see for yourself. Did you click the link?

    If R. Saadia was trying to translate an animal name, why would you think that he meant "the hair" (not the hairy one), when "the hyrax" is a meaning of the word? Also hyrax is not some random animal. It does hide in rocks near the Ibex and described in the Pesukim.

    The problem is that Ibn Janach was also an expert in Arabic and he lived in even earlier times very close to the time of R. Saadia. He translates alwabr as rabbit.

    He lived in Spain where there were not hyraxes but there were rabbits. Also, he was translating Shafan, not Wabr. He may have thought that Wabr meant Rabbit; he may have "known" what Shafan meant locally and simply reported that. Or he may have known the description of Wabr and found the closest matching local animal he could find as the Phoenicians likely did. There's no way to know.

    But are you really going to translate Wabr based on a single source in a different location from R. Saadia where the animals familiar to R. Saadia were, or are you going to go with a lexicon based on 100 or so Arabic sources?

    So you are right. Let's wait for R. Waxman to answer the question. What is the evidence for R. Waxman's claim that in Saadya Gaon's time alwabar meant hyrax?

    Sorry, my OCD about "something wrong on the internet" is kicking in again...

    ReplyDelete
  44. YSO:
    R. Waxman, a question. Did you obtain the information about Ibn Janach (with translation by Zohar Amar) from R. Betech's book?
    No, I do not have Isaac Betech's book. (I don't believe he is a rabbi.) That was obtained privately and publicly, as a result of the earlier linked post from 2011.

    I still have other clarifying points to make regarding the summary Rabbi Coffer provided here of my remarks, so I will (for the while at least) leave other questions unanswered, at least for the while.

    But I am annoyed at people putting words in my mouth, whether or not I in fact agree with those words. What you just said:
    R. Waxman's source is Lane's work which he says goes back to medieval dictionaries.

    Can you point to where I said any of these words you are attributing to me? This is the same problem I was having with Rabbi Coffer!

    thanks,
    josh

    ReplyDelete
  45. btw, the preface of the book, where Lane starts talking about the age of various lexicons, is here:
    http://www.studyquran.org/LaneLexicon/Volume1/00000012.pdf

    the year of the flight was 622 CE, I think, based on this. Would you please put a date to each of the dictionaries Lane cites, and also give a date to Ibn Janach's dictionary as well?

    In the meantime, I will first direct by attention to other misrepresentations. (But I'd like to first wait a day or two for Rabbi Coffer to return. He said that he would possibly be back on Wednesday or Thursday. I don't want my assertion about misrepresentation #2 to get lost.)

    kol tuv,
    josh

    ReplyDelete
  46. on reflection, when you said "which he says", you might have meant Lane. in which case I take back my annoyance, and replace them with my apologies.

    (though i don't believe i ever explicitly said my source was Lane. and my reasons for asserting al-wabr as hyrax originally are broader than dictionary entries. i may elaborate on this point sometime in the future.)

    regardless, please look up the date of each of Lane's sources, so that you can clarify your question, so that your question will either get stronger, or else will answer itself. 'medieval' encompasses a greater span than you may realize, and Ibn Janach certainly wrote his dictionary later than Rabbi Coffer asserted above.

    kol tuv,
    josh

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    1. R. Waxman, your apology is accepted and I take no offence. It is hard to keep track of context in the comboxes. It's not an ideal forum for a technical discussion.

      You say you will elaborate in the future. Since you have some expertise in this matter, I will look forward to as much elaboration as you care to give. In particular, I don't read Arabic so would very much appreciate an English translation of the complete entry for alwabr in Lane (it's mostly in English but the interpolated Arabic words are problematic for me). Also, we do not have the actual text of T to be able to check Lane's translation into English.

      I would also like to point out that R. Slifkin's book CHH, p88, contains a major error. He writes that Ibn Janach identifies the shafan as the hyrax. We now know from Ibn Janach himself that this is not so, but the shafan, i.e, alwabar is the conilo [rabbit]. This is our earliest original dictionary like entry that I am aware of at this time.

      So my question to you, R Waxman, returns. You write: ... There is good evidence that where Saadia Gaon was (Egypt, Eretz Yisrael, etc.), it meant hyrax, which is indigenous to the area and was indeed referred to as al-wabr.

      What is the evidence for your claim that in Saadya Gaon's time alwabar meant hyrax?




      Delete
  47. David Ohsie,

    I wrote: You see, Josh’s point of departure is the fact that shafan most-likely means hyrax because that’s what the Israelites were familiar with.

    To which you responded: The point of departure is that Wabr means hyrax, and meant hyrax in Medieval times.

    Actually no, it’s not. I was having a discussion with Josh Waxman and addressing what he wrote on his blog. His point of departure is exactly as I presented it. Here it is, copied and pasted from his blog:

    Next, we have the shafan. The Biblical term most likely refers to the hyrax, which the Israelites were familiar with. Pesukim in Mishlei and Tehillim describe behavior and habitat for the shafan that matches that of the hyrax.

    He doesn’t reference Lane, nor does he state that there are any medieval Arabic dictionaries that identify al-wabr as the hyrax. On the contrary, he quotes Ibn Janach as the one medieval Arabic lexicon which identifies the shafan (as the rabbit) and then explains why it is that Ibn Janach erred in his identification.

    As far as the rest of your comment to me:

    You can see that for yourself from Lane's lexicon on this page...Lane does not use his own knowledge of Arabic to give definitions to the words. Instead, the definitions are taken from older Arabic dictionaries, primarily medieval Arabic dictionaries. …

    Ibn Janach is a highly regarded grammarian and his lexicon Sefer HaShorashim is a seminal work. He clearly identifies the Arabic term al-wabr with the rabbit so Dr. Betech has now provided an authoritative definition of the tem as understood in the early 11th century. You appeal to Lane, a 19th century compiler, and then point to a Wiki article which asserts that Lane’s definitions are taken primarily from medieval dictionaries. In my opinion, your counter-example fails for the following reasons.

    If you are providing counter-evidence to Dr. Betech’s verifiable quote from an accepted medieval source (i.e. Ibn Janach), it behooves you to produce an equally verifiable source in a medieval Arabic dictionary. Lane’s dictionary is very difficult to decipher. As the Wiki article you quoted states, over 100 lexicographic works are sited in his compendium. I looked at the page you linked to and did not come away with a clear source for al-wabr = hyrax in a medieval dictionary. Of course, I have no idea what all the initials stand for in the book. I would have to read the introduction and familiarize myself with his sources and the initials he uses to represent them. Unfortunately, I am way too busy to chase down possible counter-sources. If you wish to challenge Ibn Janach, I need you do do the hunting. Sorry.

    Please note: I am aware that in further comments you strive to delineate such a source. I will study it when I have time and if it turns out that your source is valid, I will acknowledge same. However, I have an objection to it right off the bat. I skimmed your future comment and from what I can see you quoted a 14th century authority. In my opinion, such a source is irrelevant. Why? Because if your source is not as old as Ibn Janach (or a reasonably limited amount of time after), it doesn't prove anything. Nobody denies that eventually the term al-wabr was widely used to denote hyrax. But this may very well have occurred 300 years later during the tenure of your quoted authority.

    The bottom line is, if you can show that the term meant hyrax even in the 11th century, then you have a case for challenging the definition of the term as portrayed by Ibn Janach. But if you don’t, then the mere fact that you can quote a “medieval” dictionary is insufficient as counter-evidence to Dr. Betech’s source. Your only recourse would then be to claim that Ibn Janach erred which is exactly what R’ Waxman does.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Hi Rabbi Coffer,

    It is good to see that you are back. In my post, I deliberately did not weigh in on how we know al-wabr meant hyrax, since that was not my point. I am not saying that Lane was not part of the equation.

    Since you are weighing in on what I wrote and did not write, would you care to respond to what I labelled above as the second misrepresentation of my words? Do you now understand what I was saying, and do you now take back that portion of your summary?

    Thanks,
    Josh

    ReplyDelete
  49. I wrote: You see, Josh’s point of departure is the fact that shafan most-likely means hyrax because that’s what the Israelites were familiar with.

    To which you responded: The point of departure is that Wabr means hyrax, and meant hyrax in Medieval times.

    Actually no, it’s not. I was having a discussion with Josh Waxman and addressing what he wrote on his blog. His point of departure is exactly as I presented it. Here it is, copied and pasted from his blog:

    Next, we have the shafan. The Biblical term most likely refers to the hyrax, which the Israelites were familiar with. Pesukim in Mishlei and Tehillim describe behavior and habitat for the shafan that matches that of the hyrax.


    1) R. Waxman also said this: "There is good evidence that where Saadia Gaon was (Egypt, Eretz Yisrael, etc.), it [al Wabr] meant hyrax, which is indigenous to the area and was indeed referred to as al-wabr." I'm not saying that he got this from Lane (sorry if I added to that confusion, R. Waxman).

    2) The important thing is not who said what when on which blog. The important thing is that R. Saadia Gaon said al Wabr, and that word means hyrax. That evidence is independent of our knowledge of Shafan from other sources.

    3) As I mentioned above, even Dr. Betech doesn't try to claim that R. Ibn Janach's entry proves that R. Saadia Gaon meant rabbit when he wrote "al Wabr". Instead he gives other irrelevant translations, questions the accuracy of the manuscripts, and then questions whether R. Saadia Gaon simply made a mistake.

    He doesn’t reference Lane, nor does he state that there are any medieval Arabic dictionaries that identify al-wabr as the hyrax.

    No he says this: "Indeed, I've seen wabr translated as 'weasel', 'guinea pig', 'coney', and 'hyrax'." He doesn't specify which dictionaries. Again, this is neither here nor there, except for the history of blogs, I suppose.

    On the contrary, he quotes Ibn Janach as the one medieval Arabic lexicon which identifies the shafan (as the rabbit) and then explains why it is that Ibn Janach erred in his identification.


    R. Coffer, I think that you are laboring under a misconception. Ibn Janach is a Hebrew lexicon written in Arabic, not an Arabic lexicon. You can see that here: http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nnc1.cr60115300;view=1up;seq=380. R. Ibn Janach wanted to understand the Torah, not the Quran.

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    1. As far as the rest of your comment to me:

      You can see that for yourself from Lane's lexicon on this page...Lane does not use his own knowledge of Arabic to give definitions to the words. Instead, the definitions are taken from older Arabic dictionaries, primarily medieval Arabic dictionaries. …

      Ibn Janach is a highly regarded grammarian and his lexicon Sefer HaShorashim is a seminal work.


      He is a highly regarded grammarian of Hebrew, not Arabic. His concern in this entry was to translate Shafan, not to translate al Wabr.

      He clearly identifies the Arabic term al-wabr with the rabbit so Dr. Betech has now provided an authoritative definition of the tem as understood in the early 11th century.


      1) To the degree that Ibn Janach is evidence at all of the meaning of al Wabr outside of his work, it would only be in his location where there were no hyraxes, far from where R. Saadia Gaon lived.

      2) The evidence from Ibn Janach's testimony is very weak. He himself has to use another non-arabic word Conilio so that his readers would know what he was talking about. So al Wabr may have had zero connotation with rabbit at the time. If he was referring to a current, but non well-known usage, this still proves nothing about the meaning of al Wabr in other times or places. His goal is to translate Shafan, not to translate al Wabr. Again, this is not an Arabic dictionary.

      You appeal to Lane, a 19th century compiler, and then point to a Wiki article which asserts that Lane’s definitions are taken primarily from medieval dictionaries. In my opinion, your counter-example fails for the following reasons.

      If you are providing counter-evidence to Dr. Betech’s verifiable quote from an accepted medieval source (i.e. Ibn Janach), it behooves you to produce an equally verifiable source in a medieval Arabic dictionary.


      I'm not countering Ibn Janach with Lane. I'm countering the assertion Dr. Betech's book and this thread that while we know that al Wabr means hyrax today, we don't know what it meant in the past. The answer is that we obviously do have a lot of evidence (Arabic has been the object of intense study for a long time) and al Wabr is thought by experts in Arabic to have meant Hyrax in Saadiah Gaon's time. Lane was not a "compiler".

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    3. Lane’s dictionary is very difficult to decipher. As the Wiki article you quoted states, over 100 lexicographic works are sited in his compendium. I looked at the page you linked to and did not come away with a clear source for al-wabr = hyrax in a medieval dictionary. Of course, I have no idea what all the initials stand for in the book. I would have to read the introduction and familiarize myself with his sources and the initials he uses to represent them. Unfortunately, I am way too busy to chase down possible counter-sources. If you wish to challenge Ibn Janach, I need you do do the hunting. Sorry.

      R. Coffer, I'm afraid that your lack of understanding of Lane's lexicon and Arabic is not an argument for anything.

      Please note: I am aware that in further comments you strive to delineate such a source. I will study it when I have time and if it turns out that your source is valid, I will acknowledge same.


      I brought those to refute Dr. Betech's unsupported suggestion that the sources might be modern. I just picked out two of his many references to show that he hyrax entry was not any different from the rest of the book.

      However, I have an objection to it right off the bat. I skimmed your future comment and from what I can see you quoted a 14th century authority. In my opinion, such a source is irrelevant. Why? Because if your source is not as old as Ibn Janach (or a reasonably limited amount of time after), it doesn't prove anything.


      Lane himself says that the Sihah was first composed in 999 and his copy is from 1277.

      But your premise is faulty. The lexicons in question are attempt to translate classic Arabic. They themselves utilize even earlier sources.

      Nobody denies that eventually the term al-wabr was widely used to denote hyrax. But this may very well have occurred 300 years later during the tenure of your quoted authority.


      R. Coffer, is this your personal opinion or are you claiming that scholars of Arabic think this way?

      The bottom line is, if you can show that the term meant hyrax even in the 11th century, then you have a case for challenging the definition of the term as portrayed by Ibn Janach. But if you don’t, then the mere fact that you can quote a “medieval” dictionary is insufficient as counter-evidence to Dr. Betech’s source. Your only recourse would then be to claim that Ibn Janach erred which is exactly what R’ Waxman does.


      This makes no sense. I am not an expert in Arabic and neither or you or Dr. Betech. If you want to claim that al Wabr meant rabbit and not hyrax in classical Arabic, bring some sources who are expert in Arabic to back you up. I brought Lane, because he was available on the internet and is in English and appears to be an authority. Your personal analysis of a single instance of a single word in a Hebrew lexicon is completely unconvincing.

      Also, I'm not sure what you mean by "recourse". al Wabr means and meant hyrax. Ibn Janach either didn't know what it meant, erred, or was reporting a local meaning.

      Delete
  50. T is the Lane entry is the Tahdheeb, written by an author born in 282 to year of the flight, died 330. So add 622 which is year of the flight, and have 952, which is earlier than ibn janach, who wrote in 1013 at the very earliest.

    I still await you response on misportrayal number two of my position.

    T in the lane entry, not is. I cannot use arrow keys right now.

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    1. T in the lane entry, not is. I cannot use arrow keys right now.

      Begging R. Coffer's pardon, I must waste some of his valuable commenting space with the following:

      :)

      Delete
  51. Nuts, 370 not 330, so add 40 years. 992 for latest date of authorship. Still earlier than ibn janach.

    ReplyDelete
  52. The book gives two diff dates, first 202 to 270, then later 282 to 370. Looks like a typo in one of the dates, prob a 0 and 8 switch off.

    Sorry for errors, device getting in the way.

    ReplyDelete
  53. At http://www.omlet.us/guide/rabbits/about+rabbits/history/ it says something that shows that the Canaanites referred to in the following quote used loosely at least the term Shaphan for rabbits.

    "The original European wild rabbits evolved about 4,000 years ago in the red shaded area of the world known as Iberia. In fact the visiting Phoenician merchants referred to part of Iberia as \'I-shephan-im\' which means land of the rabbits. This was translated as \'Hispania\' or as we know it - Spain. The scientific name for rabbits is \'Oryctolagus cuniculus\' which sounds much more complicated than it actually is because it means \'a hare-like digger of underground passages\'."

    ReplyDelete
  54. yes, that is one theory. see the other theories listed alongside it on Wikipedia for Spain.

    The origins of the Roman name Hispania, from which the modern name España was derived, are uncertain and are possibly unknown due to the inadequate evidence. Hispania may derive from the poetic use of the term Hesperia, reflecting the Greek perception of Italy as a "western land" or "land of the setting sun" (Hesperia, Ἑσπερία in Greek) and Spain, being still further west, as Hesperia ultima.

    There are also claims that Hispania derives from the Basque word Ezpanna meaning "edge" or "border", another reference to the fact that the Iberian peninsula constitutes the southwest of the European continent.[8]
    The Renaissance scholar Antonio de Nebrija proposed that the word Hispania evolved from the Iberian word Hispalis, meaning "city of the western world". Jesús Luis Cunchillos argues that the root of the term span is the Phoenecian word spy, meaning "to forge metals". Therefore i-spn-ya would mean "the land where metals are forged".

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    1. Dear Joshwaxman, Thank you for your reply. Yes etymologies can be a matter of dispute but the fact is that the European rabbit has its origins in North Africa, Southern Europe and Western Mediteranean islands. It seems to me that the Phonecians who yet made settlements in Spain as well as North Africa would try to at least roughly describe the rabbit with a looser term if not a the official term irrespective if Hispania does trace back to I-Shephanim.

      Delete
    2. and therefore what, exactly?

      Delete
    3. Nothing concerning what Shaphan properly meant. The fact is though to simply say that assuming it is true, there were no rabbits in Biblical Israel and so the word Shaphan could not have meant rabbit, seems to be based on too many negatives for the Israelites coming from Egypt where there may have been knowledge from the empire about those short eared "hares" called rabbits. The Israelites were not native to Canaan. So Hebrew amongst the Canaanites was not the last word for the Israelites. Their Hebrew was influenced by their wanderings.

      Delete
    4. yes, certain things are remotely possible.

      however, many factors make it more probable that shafan refers to hyrax, imho. for example, the descriptions in mishlei and tehillim, which match the behavior of the hyrax but not the rabbit (except for an obscure rock-rabbit elsewhere in the world), juxtaposed to the ibexes in Ein Gedi where both ibex and hyrax live. that the hyrax appears to be a ruminant, just like a hare, such that one would expect the Torah to target the local animal to warn against its consumption. that the only explicit descriptions of shafan as a rabbit come from later medieval authorities who lived in places where rabbits and not hyraxes lived. and so on. i would not say 'could not have meant rabbit'. but i am weighing relative likelihood and plausibility (rather than mere possibility).

      kol tuv,
      josh

      Delete
    5. I don't say you are wrong about its proper meaning. I am not sure if this is just a matter of linguistics either though since this is the Torah we are talking about.

      Kol Tuv,

      YA

      Delete
  55. On torahmusings.com blog, I find the following commenting rule: Important Policy: This blog is intended only for the interchange of ideas for the purpose of Torah study, promoting enlightened public policy and/or the refinement of character. Comments in that spirit are welcome but those that entail denigration of character are not welcome and if they appear will be deleted upon discovery. Since editing is rarely feasible, comments that are deemed inappropriate will be deleted entirely or, if possible, edited.

    I believe that all the commenters on this blog have contributed in various way to bring greater clarity, but not always in the most refined way (I include myself). Each person can consult his own conscience. May I appeal to the olam to pursue civil discourse while making robust arguments for your case. Attack the arguments if you disagree, not the person. We are in the 3 weeks of mourning for the churban of the Bais HaMikdash. I prefer to keep the comments open to allow for the free flow of information. I would not like to be forced to delete comments, where I feel that the refinement we seek is missing. But I will do so if it continues to get out of hand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Point taken. I edited my entry to remove gratuitous sharpness.

      Delete
  56. By the way, the above commenting rule remarks do not apply to the immediately preceding comment by YA, who is always polite.

    ReplyDelete
  57. Hi Rabbi Coffer,

    I hope you have gotten a chance to review what I called the second misrepresentation of my view, namely that you summarized my position as that Ibn Janach came along, made a mistake, and everyone started using al-wabr to mean rabbit. while in truth my position was that some people in Spain started using al-wabr to mean rabbit, and as a result, Ibn Janach reported this and made a 'mistake' in connecting it to shafan.

    The reason it is important to clarify is that questions on my position are based on first understanding my position. Indeed, questions were asked based on this specific point of misunderstanding.

    Here is the third portion of your summary that I found to be a mischaracterization.

    According to RJW, there were two linguistic shifts, not one. In the tenth century al-wabr meant hyrax. Then about 50 years later Ibn Janach came along, made a mistake, and everyone started using al-wabr to mean rabbit. Then at some undisclosed period in time, there was another shift and everyone started using the term to denote hyrax. RJW’s speculation is possible, but it is not likely.

    It is fine for you to say 50 years. It suits your purpose, which is to put Ibn Janach as close to Saadia Gaon as possible.

    However, it is not fair to attribute this "50 years" to me. I explicitly gave a different time frame, where I wrote At some point, at least 85 years later (that it, some time after 1013 CE)

    This was based on the following rather conservative calculation:
    Saadia Gaon wrote wabr in his Tafsir late in his life, between between 922 and 928 CE. (he was b. Egypt 882/892, d. Baghdad 942.) Ibn Janach lived (c. 990 - c. 1050), but he did not write conilio as a definition of wabr when he was still in diapers. Ibn Janach worked on his sefer Hashorashim while engaged in dispute with Shmuel Hanagid (see here, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7998-ibn-janah-abu-al-walid-merwan), after both of them had left Cordova. And Shmuel Hanagid left Cordova in 1013 (see here, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13132-samuel-ha-nagid-samuel-haleviben-joseph-ibn-nagdela).

    So taking 928 as Saadia's wabr, and conservatively taking 1013 as Ibn Janach's wabr, we are not talking about "a few decades". We are talking about approximately 85 years, at least.


    And that is the most conservative calculation. Put Saadia Gaon's writing of al-wabr at 922, six years earlier, and put Ibn Janach's writing later, up to 1050, one would arrive at a greater distance.

    Given this, can you please retract your attribution to me of the 50 year difference?

    Thanks,
    Josh

    ReplyDelete
  58. Aristotle did NOT think the hare is a ruminant

    Simcha Coffer, June 23, 2013 at 2:51 PM, presented reasoning that the rishonim and acharonim must have had a broader definition of maalei geyrah than classic rumination. This is because they identified the arneves to be the hare and the shafan to be the rabbit despite the fact they must have observed that these creatures do not practice it.

    R. David Ohsie June 25, 2013 at 9:05 AM, responded:

    R. Coffer, do you have evidence of this? The hare and hyrax were thought to chew the cud in pre-modern times by people such as Aristotle (with the hare) who took great pains to observe and classify animals. If you look at R. Slifkin's videos of the Hyrax, you can see why the Hyrax was considered a ruminant.

    I have seen the claim made before that Aristotle thought the hare chews the cud. I don’t know who started that rumor. But the fact is that the opposite is true.

    ===============

    http://books.google.com/books?id=YvwYAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA216&lpg=PA216&dq=aristotle+hare+ruminant&source=bl&ots=YzGk9jJCWW&sig=ezcbPX36saip1xsJPkmgeO9TB9M&hl=en&sa=X&ei=jyrKUYmDE7CP0QGwy4DIBg&ved=0CD8Q6AEwBDgK#v=onepage&q=%22ruminants%20and%20the%20hare%22&f=false

    ARISTOTLE ON THE PARTS OF ANIMALS
    Tramslated, with introduction and notes by W. Ogle, M.A., M.D., F.R.C.P
    Lomdin, 1882
    p. 91

    (Ch. 13.) The substance called rennet is found in all animals that have a multiple stomach, but only in the hare 2 among animals whose stomach is single.

    p. 216

    2. Moses reckoned the hare among “those that chew the cud.” A.[ristotle] did not make that mistake; and it is said that on this account the Septuagint translators introduced boldy the world “not” before “chews the cud into their version (Stanley, Lect. On Jewish Church, iii. 261). But A.[ristotle] considered the hare as so far allied to animals that ruminate, as that it is the only other animal besides them that forms rennet. Varro also (De Re rustiea, ii. 11) speaks of the rennet of the hare as highly efficacious. Whether there be any foundation for the asserted superiority of this animal’s rennet I do not know; but all mammals furnish rennet, and not only ruminants and the hare.

    The History of Animals, by Aristotle
    Book III
    http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/a/aristotle/history/book3.html
    21
    Rennet then consists of milk with an admixture of fire, which comes from the natural heat of the animal, as the milk is concocted. All ruminating animals produce rennet, and, of ambidentals, the hare. Rennet improves in quality the longer it is kept; and cow’s rennet, after being kept a good while, and also hare’s rennet, is good for diarrhoea, and the best of all rennet is that of the young deer.

    =============

    Notice the contrast of ambidentals such as the hare, with ruminants.

    A city slicker such as myself may know only the external features of animals and identify them from such appearances. But the rishonim, geonim, amoraim, tannaim, and especially people of biblical times ate and tore apart and knew of the innards. Chulin 3:1 mentions the four stomachs of classic ruminants and presumably the connection between that and ruminating was known. (Acknowledgement to R. Dovid Kornreich for pointing this out to me.)

    This made we wonder: So how could Aristotle think the hare is a ruminant? Now we know the answer. He knew it isn’t.

    (Obviously, he did not have R. Slifkin’s home video to mislead him.)

    So we are back to R. Coffers observation. And to answer R. Ohsie’s question:

    Do you have evidence that the Rishonim had any different view? The very fact that this question is not addressed until relatively recent times is an indication that they did not perceive any problem here and that they thought that the hare was a ruminant.

    --The truth is just the reverse. The fact the question was not addressed before is that it was known that maaleh geyrah did not refer to classic rumination alone. After all, the Torah called the arneves and shafan maaleh geyrah.


    ReplyDelete
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    1. David Ohsie, in the comments on his post of June 25, 2013 at 9:05 AM, issued a gracious retraction of the idea that Aristotle thought hares are ruminants (which was originally used as evidence that this is what people thought, and so too regarding hyraxes--my parenthetical remark, not his). So the idea that biblical people thought the hyrax practiced classical rumination is reduced to mere speculation, and at least one counter-example.

      But I am curious as to where this misrepresentation of Aristotle began.

      Delete
    2. here:
      http://books.google.com/books?id=vTdV_uhewGAC&pg=PA430&lpg=PA430&dq=aristotle+hare+ruminant&source=bl&ots=amgoORfo1o&sig=Ek9IrttlwDHBnF88ttgpJg6dxto&hl=en&sa=X&ei=9brLUaT8Nam60QGsyoDoCA&ved=0CFQQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=aristotle%20hare%20ruminant&f=false

      in a letter from John Hogg, May 22nd, 1863, London, to the Journal of Sacred Literature.

      another source for this is apparently:
      "See David Zvi Hoffmann, Sefer Vayikra, vol. I (translated into Hebrew by Z. Har Shefer and A. Lieberman; Jerusalem: Mossad Harav Kook, 1953), p. 228;"

      Delete
    3. From Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason L Archer.

      He claims that Linnaeus first classified hares as ruminants. I don't see that on this table from Linnaeus first edition where rabbit and hare are in Order "GLIRES" while other ruminants that I can easily recognize such as camel, ibex, gazelle, bison in "PECORA".


      Does the rabbit really chew its cud?

      Leviticus 11:5 refers to the sapan (or Hyrax syriacus) as an unclean animal (e.g., unfit for sacrifice or human consumption) because "though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof" (NASB). Clean animals had to do both to be eligible for food. The question at issue is the chewing of the cud. Did (or does) the sapan (translated "coney" in KJV and "rock badger" in NASB) really "chew the cud" (Heb. ma`aleh gerah, lit., "raising up what has been swallowed")? Similarly in Leviticus 11:6 the same statement is made about the 'arnebet ("rabbit," "hare"). Does the hare ruminate? The answer to both statements must be in the negative so far as the acutal digestive process is concerned. True ruminants normally have four stomachs, and that which has been worked over in these stomachs is regurgitated into the mouth when it is ready to be chewed again.

      In this technical sense neither the hyrax nor the hare can be called ruminants, but they do give the appearance of chewing their cud in the same way ruminants do. So convincing is this appearance that even Linnaeus at first classed them as ruminants, even though the four-stomach apparatus was lacking. But we need to remember that this list of forbidden animals was intended to be a practical guide for the ordinary Israelite as he was out in the wilds looking for food. He might well conclude from the sideways movement of the jaws that these animals ruminated like the larger cattle; and since they fed on the same kind of grass and herbs, they might well be eligible for human consumption. Thus it was necessary to point out that they did not have hooves at all and therefore could not meet the requirements for clean food.

      G.S. Cansdale gives this interesting information concerning the habits of the 'arnebet: "Hares, like rabbits, are now known to practice `refection': at certain times of day, when the hare is resting, it passes droppings of different texture, which it at once eats. Thus the hare appears to be chewing without taking fresh greens into its mouth. On its first passage through the gut, indigestible vegetable matter is acted on by bacteria and can be better assimilated the second time through. Almost the same principle is involved as in chewing the cud" ("Hare," in Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia, 3:33).

      Delete
    4. David, thank you for a very interesting link. I have downloaded the book and look forward to reading it. However, the author of that book (like some Jewish writers) is working on the assumption that the Bible is infallible.

      Throughout the history of the Christian church, it has been clearly understood
      that the Bible as originally given by God was free from error. Except for heretical groups
      that broke away from the church, it was always assumed that Scripture was completely
      authoritative and trustworthy in all that it asserts as factual, whether in matters of
      theology, history, or science.


      I did a quick search to see whether anyone else thinks that Linnaeus classified "rabbit" as "ruminant". Nothing came up (in other words, the earliest source for this claim appears to be Archer himself). But I did find this very interesting link, discussing the possibility of coprophagy as the real meaning of "bringing up the cud"

      Delete
    5. David, thank you for a very interesting link. I have downloaded the book and look forward to reading it. However, the author of that book (like some Jewish writers) is working on the assumption that the Bible is infallible.

      R. Sedley, I understand and was not endorsing the book. I was more interested in the reference to Linnaeus.

      There is definitely the idea among both believers and non-believers of the Bible (Jews and Gentiles) that the characterization of Hyrax and Hare as ruminants was due to the fact that they both exhibit chewing motions during a time when they are not "eating" and thus appear to ruminate. For non-believers, this indicates the "errancy" of the Bible; for believers, this was to eliminate a confusion, since the hare and hyrax were thought to ruminate by the target audience.

      However, as R. Lampel correctly points out, this is somewhat speculative. Of course we have the fact that none of the Jewish sources seem to notice any difference between the two oddball Maaleh Gerah animals and the Ruminants, but it would be good to get something more solid. Thus, the reference that he gives to Linnaeus is interesting, but appears to be wishful thinking based on the Linnaeus chart that I found.

      Delete
  59. nice. indeed, that very passage is what appears to have led some to think this about Aristotle.

    But the rishonim, geonim, amoraim, tannaim, and especially people of biblical times ate and tore apart and knew of the innards.
    The Rishonim, Geonim, and Tannaim ate and tore apart hares?!

    and presumably the connection between that and ruminating was known
    presumably is a presumptuous word. but in the ancient world, were there not exceptions? e.g. Bechorot daf 7? כל המוליד מניק וכל המטיל ביצים מלקט חוץ מעטלף שאף על פי שמטיל ביצים מניק

    which is a reference to the strix, by the way.

    maybe they were so clever that they also associated rennet with rumination, and since they knew that the hare produced rennet, it must be a ruminant despite the lack of more than one stomach? Especially given that it also makes chewing motions. One can presume many things.

    kol tuv,
    josh

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    1. R. Lampel, thank you very much for your correction. I was repeating a falsehood through ignorance.

      Also, "R." seems to mean Rav/Rabbi on this blog and so I am not an "R." and "David" is perfectly fine.

      A city slicker such as myself may know only the external features of animals and identify them from such appearances. But the rishonim, geonim, amoraim, tannaim, and especially people of biblical times ate and tore apart and knew of the innards. Chulin 3:1 mentions the four stomachs of classic ruminants and presumably the connection between that and ruminating was known. (Acknowledgement to R. Dovid Kornreich for pointing this out to me.)

      Is there any evidence that they tore apart non-kosher animals mammals (such as the hare)? If not, then even if you are right they they understood the 4 stomachs to be related to rumination, they may still have not known the difference between that and the hare. (And my use of "they" is imprecise, since different generations know different things.)

      So we are back to R. Coffers observation. And to answer [David Ohsie's] question:

      Do you have evidence that the Rishonim had any different view? The very fact that this question is not addressed until relatively recent times is an indication that they did not perceive any problem here and that they thought that the hare was a ruminant.

      --The truth is just the reverse. The fact the question was not addressed before is that it was known that maaleh geyrah did not refer to classic rumination alone. After all, the Torah called the arneves and shafan maaleh geyrah.


      Where is the evidence of this? Each of the explanations that I have seen quoted are of a singular nature with no exceptions listed for Shafan and Arneves. It seems very odd to maintain that they had some explanation for the discrepancy, but noted neither the discrepancy nor the explanation.

      We'd also have to explain how and why that knowledge was suddenly lost in recent times so that he question of why Shafan an Arneves are called Maalei Gerah suddenly was revived after being known for so long. How could it be lost everywhere simultaneously?

      These questions are not rhetorical. I'm definitely interested to know the history of the problem better. I'm most fascinated actually by Chulin 59a and the Rambam listing only the Gamal as Maalei Gerah one sign animal.

      Delete
  60. "The fact the question was not addressed before is that it was known that maaleh geyrah did not refer to classic rumination alone. After all, the Torah called the arneves and shafan maaleh geyrah."

    huh? so when Rashi on Chumash defines maaleh geira (as מעלה ומקיאה האוכל ממעיה ומחזרת אותו לתוך פיה) and is entirely silent about the different process for the arneves and shafan, it is because everyone knew this such that this was not a point to raise and explain? chizkuni and ibn ezra, who often explain medical topics, thought this so obvious to the general audience that it did not bear mentioning? interesting...

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  61. Hi Rabbi Waxman,

    I’m not back. I signed up to get new comments via email and my Blackberry hasn’t stopped buzzing for the last two days. I went nuts and decided to join the fray for a couple of minutes here and there. But I can’t do this with you. We are in the middle of a discussion so it wouldn’t be fair to drop a hit and run comment and leave you hanging for another day or two.

    The fact is, I can’t immerse myself in this sugya until next Wednesday. I’m not avoiding you. I’m actually in the middle of another project (if it works out, you will become aware of it next week bi’ezras Hashem). Please give me another week to clear my plate. I apologize for the delay.

    ReplyDelete
  62. No prob; I can't promise I'll be avail then though.
    All the best,
    Josh

    ReplyDelete
  63. Dr Betech et al.,

    There is a huge and obvious flaw in the reasoning in one of the central chapters of the book. Dr. Betech's definition of Maaleh Gerah which he uses to include Rabbit and exclude Hyrax is circular:

    1) In order to find a definition of "Maaleh Gerah", Dr. Betech looks to find a common denominator among the 13 animals listed in the Torah, including the rabbit! On page 53:

    "Although the rabbit and the hare are not usually classified as ruminants, they do chew with lateral movements in the same efficient way as animals classified as ruminants...as a consequence, we now have the first common denominator for all of the "maaleh gerah", i.e. lateral mastication (ectental), directly related to efficient digestion.
    ... Additionally, the the rabbit and the hare, just as the ruminants, do redigest their own semi-digested food on a regular basis to obtain the maximum efficiency from the food (caecotrophy). This practice is nutritionally imperative and it is not the consequence of food shortage or any other abnormal circumstance." (For readers who don't have the book, the ellipsis (...) only take out some formatting between sections. No content is skipped; emaphasis mine).

    Then in chapter 3 page 71, when evaluating whether or not rabbit is Maaleh Gerah:

    "It is Maaleh Gerah. This is true of the rabbit. It was demonstrated in chapter 3." (Using a definition that was defined based on the behavior of the rabbit).

    Chapter 6 (Why the hyrax cannot be the biblical Shafan), page 118: "thus the hyrax is not "Maaleh Gerah". See definitions in chapter 3.

    So first Dr. Betech chooses a definition of Maaleh Gerah specifically intended to include rabbit and hare and exclude all other non-ruminants. Then he uses this as evidence that that rabbit is Maaleh Gerah and the hyrax is not.

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    1. Your objection is not a valid objection at all. Dr. Betech from your description was looking for the one common denominator of more than just a rabbit and a hare. The hyrax he says does not have that common denominator. There is nothing circular about it.

      Delete
    2. YA, it is completely circular. He defines Maaleh Gerah as the common characteristic between the 11 Ruminants, Rabbit and Hare. With this method, you are guaranteed to match the Rabbit no matter what: you have already assumed that the Shafan is Rabbit and you are changing the definition of Maaleh Gerah to match Rabbit. In addition, the definition has been drawn in order to exclude other any other animal, since he wants the list to be exclusive. If you do this, then of course you will exclude any other animal.

      Delete
    3. "YA, it is completely circular. He defines Maaleh Gerah as the common characteristic between the 11 Ruminants, Rabbit and Hare. With this method, you are guaranteed to match the Rabbit no matter what: you have already assumed that the Shafan is Rabbit and you are changing the definition of Maaleh Gerah to match Rabbit."

      It is not circular. If there would be another creature other than the rabbit that would have in common closer that a rabbit, in his estimation, the common denominator, that creature would have been chosen by Dr. Betech.


      "In addition, the definition has been drawn in order to exclude other any other animal, since he wants the list to be exclusive. If you do this, then of course you will exclude any other animal."

      That's not circular. That's saying: "There is a list that is exhaustive. Here is what I feel should be in the list and why."

      Delete
    4. "YA, it is completely circular. He defines Maaleh Gerah as the common characteristic between the 11 Ruminants, Rabbit and Hare. With this method, you are guaranteed to match the Rabbit no matter what: you have already assumed that the Shafan is Rabbit and you are changing the definition of Maaleh Gerah to match Rabbit."

      It is not circular. If there would be another creature other than the rabbit that would have in common closer that a rabbit, in his estimation, the common denominator, that creature would have been chosen by Dr. Betech.

      "In addition, the definition has been drawn in order to exclude other any other animal, since he wants the list to be exclusive. If you do this, then of course you will exclude any other animal."

      That's not circular. That's saying: "There is a list that is exhaustive. Here is what I feel should be in the list and why."


      YA, your answer is not coherent. To simplify: he comes up with a definition of Maaleh Gerah using the (hare + rabbit + ruminants) to come up with the definition. I'm not implying that he did this. He says explicitly that he did this.

      He then uses that definition of Maaleh Gerah (which he carefully drew to include hare + rabbit + ruminant) to prove that only the ruminants + hare + rabbit fits. That is circular.

      Delete
    5. David, this is why I ended up not allowing YA to post comments to my blog. His comments were simply incoherent.

      Delete
    6. "YA, your answer is not coherent. To simplify: he comes up with a definition of Maaleh Gerah using the (hare + rabbit + ruminants) to come up with the definition. I'm not implying that he did this. He says explicitly that he did this.

      He then uses that definition of Maaleh Gerah (which he carefully drew to include hare + rabbit + ruminant) to prove that only the ruminants + hare + rabbit fits. That is circular."

      If you can find another creature that does the same thing than you would prove him wrong. It is not circular. In order to show any circularity you would have to show that he chose the rabbit to the list and did not choose others for some reason that would imply circularity.

      Delete
    7. In order to show any circularity you would have to show that he chose the rabbit to the list and did not choose others for some reason that would imply circularity

      Then in chapter 4 page 71, when evaluating whether or not rabbit is Maaleh Gerah (and therefore the Shafan):

      "It is Maaleh Gerah. This is true of the rabbit. It was demonstrated in chapter 3." (Using a definition that was defined based on the behavior of the rabbit).

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    8. It was defined on the basis of a common denominator of all those animals. In order to say the reasoning is circular I'll have to know why he felt he could only have a rabbit as the only other animal on that list to see a common denominator. I am missing information. If there is no information missing then it is circular. But I don't have proof from you either way. You are asking me to believe that he would have just put the rabbit on the list and then used that list as proof only to have readers supposedly all so unthinking about it.

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    9. Last try:

      It was defined on the basis of a common denominator of all those animals.

      100% correct, in Chapter 3, Maaleh Gerah is defined based on the assumption that Shafan = Rabbit, and that it includes exactly the set of Rabbit, Hare, and Ruminants. This the assumption which may have good or bad grounding, it matters not.

      In order to say the reasoning is circular I'll have to know why he felt he could only have a rabbit as the only other animal on that list to see a common denominator.

      Doesn't make a difference. For the sake of this argument, I'll say he had a good reason, although I don't agree.

      I am missing information. If there is no information missing then it is circular. But I don't have proof from you either way. You are asking me to believe that he would have just put the rabbit on the list and then used that list as proof only to have readers supposedly all so unthinking about it.

      Let's assume for the sake of argument that you have the information, and he had a good reason to at least initially assume that was the list and then he defined Maaleh Gerah from that list.

      He then does two things which are complete the circle:

      1) In chapter 4 page 71, when evaluating whether or not rabbit is Maaleh Gerah:

      "It is Maaleh Gerah. This is true of the rabbit. It was demonstrated in chapter 3."

      This is circular, it was not demonstrated in chapter 3, rather it was assumed (for good/bad/indifferent reasons) and the definition of Maaleh Gerah constructed around Rabbit. You can't then count that as evidence without circularity.

      2) Chapter 6 (Why the hyrax cannot be the biblical Shafan), page 118: "thus the hyrax is not "Maaleh Gerah". See definitions in chapter 3.

      Again, this proof is circular. You assumed in chapter 3 (for good/bad/indifferent reason) that Shafan is not hyrax and constructed a definition of "Maaleh Gerah" to exclude hyrax. To then use that definition of "Maaleh Gerah" to exclude the hyrax is circular.

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    10. He has a list you say, ok fine. Now let's say the rabbit is not on the list. If the common denominator fits the rabbit but not the hyrax then it is not circular. It matters why he put the rabbit in. I don't know why. You haven't told me. I haven't the book even. I am just using your words and saying if you are correct so far I have no evidence of circularity.

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    11. He has a list you say, ok fine. Now let's say the rabbit is not on the list. If the common denominator fits the rabbit but not the hyrax then it is not circular. It matters why he put the rabbit in. I don't know why. You haven't told me. I haven't the book even. I am just using your words and saying if you are correct so far I have no evidence of circularity.

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  64. Dr. Betech et al.,

    Another clear instance of circular reasoning in your book is your use of factors to identify the Shafan that are derived from descriptions of the rabbit by those Rishonim who thought that Shafan is rabbit (and lived where there were no hyraxes):

    1) Page 46 (n): "It has long and wide ears". This Rashbatz's description of a rabbit.

    2) Page 46 (o): "Its skin is thin". This again from Rashbatz's description of a rabbit.

    3) Page 46 (p): "The shafan is called 'conilio'". Conilio is just a word for rabbit!

    4) Page 45 (p); "It has many superior (upper) front-teeth." Again, this is a description from the Rashba who may have thought that Shafan was Rabbit. The reasoning of the Gemara that he explaining only requires that the Shafan has teeth, not many teeth.

    If you are going to assume that the Rishonim that described Shafan as rabbit were correct, then there is no need to write a 337 page opus. Just say that these Rishonim are conclusive and end the conversation.

    But if you are going to try to prove those Rishonim correct vs R. Saadia, Malbim and others, then you can't use their conclusions as criteria for defining the Shafan. Your reasoning is circular.

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    1. It's not circular at all. He is using the Rishonim who support his analysis as a proof that it is a legitimate point of view and then he has to contend with other viewpoints and so he uses his analysis to do so.

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    2. It's not circular at all. He is using the Rishonim who support his analysis as a proof that it is a legitimate point of view and then he has to contend with other viewpoints and so he uses his analysis to do so.

      YA, I don't want to sound condescending, but I'm going to explain what it means for an argument to be circular. An argument is circular if one of the premises (starting points) of your argument is derived from the thing that you are trying to prove (the conclusion). In this case, Dr. Betech wants to prove this conclusion:

      "European Rishonim were right when they said that Shafan = Rabbit."

      On of the premises or starting points of his proof is the following:

      "The Shafan is called Conilio"

      Where did get this premise from? From Rashbatz, a European Rishon who identified the Shafan as Rabbit. In fact was Conilio is just another word for Rabbit! Thus this premise depends on his assumption that Shafan = Rabbit. Therefore the reasoning is circular.

      To make it simpler, he is arguing that Shafan is a Rabbit, because a Shafan is called by the name "Rabbit". You can't find a truer circle.

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    3. It is not circular. Here is the argument you are making: Shaphan he says was called Conilio by someone. That word means rabbit so it is a circular argument.

      Now think of the same argument used for a hyrax: A Shaphan, Saadya Gaon calles an al-wabr. That word means rabbit so it is a circular argument.

      Neither is a circular argument. It is just citing an authority.

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    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    5. [Corrected reference to Rashbatz to Ibn Janach]

      It is not circular. Here is the argument you are making: Shaphan he says was called Conilio by someone. That word means rabbit so it is a circular argument.

      Now think of the same argument used for a hyrax: A Shaphan, Saadya Gaon calles an al-wabr. That word means rabbit so it is a circular argument.


      You are correct, if I said the following:

      "R. Saadiah Gaon says that Shafan = Hyrax. He is the earliest known authority to state the identity of the Shafan clearly, and he lived in an area where he could properly identify the Shafan. Nevertheless, some have questioned whether R. Saadiah Gaon was correct in his identification, so we will attempt to identify Shafan based on its known characteristics. 1) The Shafan must be called al Wabr. 2) Shafan must be..."

      That would be completely circular.

      In fact that is what Dr. Betech does. The beginning of the chapter is as follows:

      "Throughout history, the traditional translations of shafan and arnebet have been 'rabbit' and 'hare' respectively" [This is false for Shafan, but we'll go with it for the sake of argument].

      "Nevertheless, at present, the identification of the shafan is somewhat controversial; therefore we can follow the precedent set by Tosfot [Chullin 59b Vhare Zvi], and search for the characteristics describing the shafan that have been published in the classic Jewish literature".

      So to close the circle:

      1. Various Rishonim said Shafan = Rabbit, but we want to see if we can provide other support based on characteristics of the Shafan.

      2. R. Ibn Janach says Shafan = Conilio.

      3. Conilio = Rabbit, thus we have support for the position of the Rishonim that Shafan = Rabbit.

      Wait, I have to go now, my copy of the book is rolling downhill...

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    6. Furthermore it is not circular to cite an opinion of a Rishon to support Rishonim. It is not the same as saying "the Rishon's right to say X because that Rishon said X." I took logic class and received an A or a B and believe me if you just pile on supposed logical fallacies or supposed circular reasonings you will give an in class demonstration of your arguments as logical fallacies compliments of the professor.

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    7. [This comment is just to satisfy my curiosity and doesn't have anything to do with my observations or argument]

      I took logic class and received an A or a B and believe me if you just pile on supposed logical fallacies or supposed circular reasonings you will give an in class demonstration of your arguments as logical fallacies compliments of the professor.

      YA, are you really going to try to argue this by authority? With the authority being a self-description in an anonymous internet comment on a somewhat shaky memory (A or B?) about how the commenter him/herself did in a logic class. Are all people who get an A or B in a logic class henceforth to be treated as infallible in their logic?

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  65. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  66. No. It was not an argument of authority.

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  67. Rabbi Sedley, June 30, 2013 at 11:04 PM, writes:
    It seems that you conceded that Dr Betech has no source for his claim that there were rabbits in Biblical Israel. I would very much appreciate it if he would also confirm this. It is unfortunate that he did not concede this point from the beginning, for it would have saved a lot of time and words.


    R. Sedley, you have shifted emphasis and I am surprised that you think that that I conceded what you claim. I hope you recall your initial statement which was "you have still not provided us with the source, or sources, amongst scientists, who agree with you that there were rabbits in Biblical Israel." I now speak for myself. I don't know of any scientists who say that there were rabbits in Biblical Israel. I never said there were. So far as I know, nor did Dr. Betech. This was your unsubstantiated inference.

    We have constructed, what I believe is a robust argument, using scientific sources that makes the claim by Tchernov et. al. (the one used by R. Slifkin) more speculation than fact. The details are in Dr. Betech's book for any one who would like to investigate. A dialogue of substance would focus on those sources.

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  68. Dear YSO

    Thank you very much for your direct, clear and honest answer. I hope that Dr. Betech will find time to leave a comment confirming whether or not he agrees with what you have written.

    I apologise if you think I have shifted emphasis. It was not intentional. I thought I was quite clear when I wrote (June 27 12:57pm)

    How many of the experts you consulted agreed with your argument that rabbits lived in Israel in Biblical times, and how many disagreed?

    I was hoping that Dr Betech would provide names of scientists who were of the opinion that there is evidence that rabbits lived in Biblical Israel. He was asked that question several times in the comments on this blog, and did not answer. Now that you have understood my question and answered clearly, I hope that Dr. Betech will do the same.

    Since I am still in pedantic mode, I think (based on the discussion between David Ohsie, yourself and others) that your last paragraph is not entirely correct. You wrote:
    We have constructed, what I believe is a robust argument, using scientific sources that makes the claim by Tchernov et. al. (the one used by R. Slifkin) more speculation than fact.

    It seems to me that you have made your point by disagreeing with scientific sources, rather than using them. This was evidenced by Rabbi Coffer's letter which was reproduced in the comments of this blog, and by comments from yourself and Dr Betech.
    "Using scientific sources" implies that you based your argument on them. In fact, your arguments seem to be (partially) based on an unanswered letter in which you suggest that the scientific sources are wrong.

    Have I understood your claim correctly?

    Thank you.

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