Sunday, July 21, 2013

Were there Rabbits in Biblical Israel?

(Click here, for a revised version of this post; an earlier version appeared in Dialogue Fall 5774, No. 4)

Could the shafan be the rabbit?

R. Slifkin's answer is no. He concedes that many rishonim understood the shafan to be the rabbit, but summarily dismisses their position. He claims that, as Europeans, the rishonim were unaware of the fauna of the Middle East. On his blog R. Slifkin has written that:

The original study was by Tchernov [2000], who notes that the hare is "the only endemic species of lagomorph known from the Middle East since the Middle Pleistocene".
Lagomorphs include hares, rabbits and pikas. So the study by Tchernov claims that hare remains have been found in the Middle East, but not the remains of rabbits.  On the other hand, R. Slifkin claims that early authorities such as Rav Saadia Gaon (who lived in the Middle East) and Ibn Janach (about 100 years later) identified the shafan as the hyrax.
Traditional sources for identifying the shafan as the the hyrax include Rav Saadia Gaon (882-924CE), Ibn Janach and Tevuos Ha-Aretz. [N. Slifkin, The Camel, the Hare and the Hyrax, p88, 2011, 2nd edition]
R. Slifkin thus concludes that the shafan is the hyrax. Even though the hyrax does not regurgitate its food, the Torah calls it ma'aleh geira because its chewing motion superficially resembles that of ruminants, even though the chewing action is not needed for nutrition. 

This weakened criterion poses a problem as it would apply to other animals not mentioned in the Torah's exhaustive list (e.g. the kangaroo). As a consequence, R. Slifkin is forced to assert that the Torah's list is limited to just those animals in the general region surrounding the land of Israel. This contradicts Chazal's exegesis of the applicable verses in the Torah in which the Almighty (the "Ruler of His World") uniquely identifies the four types possessing a single sign of purity (according to one opinion in the Talmud, there is a 5th species called shesuah).

What is the shafan according to Rav Saadia and Ibn Janach?

Dr. Betech's recent book (here) has raised important challenges to R. Slifkin's thesis. First, R. Slifkin erred when he wrote that Ibn Janach identified the shafan as the hyrax.  This is what Ibn Janach actually wrote:
"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). [Ibn Janach, Sefer Hashorashim, translated from the Arabic]
R. Slifkin's error is significant. Ibn Janach unambiguously identifies the shafan (Arabic: wabr) as a rabbit. R. Slifkin's response is that Ibn Janach (living in Spain) did not know of the hyrax, but he did know of the rabbit, and that some people called the rabbit by the term wabr, and so he assumed that this was the meaning of R. Saadia's term.

Now, it is possible that the term wabr was used for both the hyrax and the rabbit. But, we also note that Ibn Janach was a Torah authority, a grammarian, and an expert in Arabic.  He lived soon after the times of Rav Saadia Gaon. Was he unaware of the fauna of the Middle East? Apparently not. He writes that the wabr (rabbit) is abundant where he lived (in  Spain) but scarce in the East (where Rav Saadia lived). This matches the rabbit very well, but rules out the hyrax, which is hardly found in Spain. 


This also raises the issue of what Rav Saadia meant by wabr.  R. Slifkin refers us to Lane's Arabic-English Lexicon. This was published in the 19th century with definitions taken from older Arabic dictionaries, some from the time of Rav Saadia. 
Second sub-entry in Lane:
وبر [Wbr]…
[The hyrax Syriacus; believed to be the animal called in Hebrew shafan] a certain small beast, (Lth, T, S, Mgh, Msb, K,) like the cat, (Msb, K,) or of the size of the cat, (Lth, T, M, Mgh,) or smaller than the cat, (S,) of the beasts of the desert, (M,) of a dust-colour, (Lth, T, Mgh, Msb,) or of a hue between dust-colour and white, (...) or white, (TA,) having beautiful eyes, (Lth, T, Mgh,) or having eyes bordered with black, or very black eyes, (xxx, Msb,) having no tail, (S, Msb,) or having a small tail, (Mgh,)...".

Fourth sub-entry in Lane: 
وبر [Wbr] A camel having much وبر [Wbr] [i. e. fur, or soft hair]; (S, M, A, Msb, K;) and in like manner, a hare or rabbit, and the like; (K;)…
Many of the older dictionaries are no longer available so that we cannot check the complete entry. But Lane does quote snippets from these dictionaries. The older dictionaries refer to the wabr as cat-like, a dust colour or white, and having no tail or a small tail. 

It is Lane [in the square brackets] who interprets these dictionaries to be describing the hyrax. But Lane does not state how he knows this, as the cat-like attributes may also refer to the rabbit.

In Lane's fourth-sub entry, wabr refers to animals having much hair, such as the camel, the hare or the rabbit. So, ultimately, Lane's lexicon does not rule out the rabbit. In fact, wabr as rabbit is explicitly allowed. 

As we have already mentioned, the claim that Ibn Janach had no awareness of the fauna of the Middle East is unsupported. It is one thing for R.Slifkin to conjecture that the rishonim living in Christian France and Germany had no awareness of the fauna in the Middle East. But it is quite something else to conjecture the same for the early rishonim living in Arab Spain, and living in the cultural milieu of the Arab Caliphate.
The Moorish conquest and rule of most of the Iberian peninsula and the open Moslem imposition of the Arab language and culture upon it served to open Spain to the influence of its neighbours on the shores of the southern Mediterranean. The open channels of communication to the entire Moslem world of that day acted as a homogenizing factor giving a certain sense unity to the Jewish communities in this region. Migration to and from the diverse and far-flung corners of the Arab Caliphate strengthened this tendency. [Rabbi Hersh Goldwurm, The Rishonim, Artscroll, revised edition, p16-17, 2001. Emphasis added.]
To take another example. R. Tovya ben Eliezer, author of  Lekach Tov, was originally thought to have lived in Mainz. However, according to the editor of the Vilna edition (S. Buber) of Lekach Tov, he lived in Kastoria, Greece. According to Buber, this is why he demonstrated great familiarity with the state of affairs in the Middle East. This also means that we cannot totally discount his knowledge of the fauna of the Middle East. R. Tovyah writes:
פסיקתא זוטרתא (לקח טוב) ויקרא פרשת שמיני דף כט עמוד ב: את זה תאכלו. לא הוצרכו לפרט את אלו, אלא מפני שיש להן סימני טהרה. שפן מין חיה הוא וטלפו כשל חתול, וכן הארנבת טלפיה דומות לחתול.
Shafan is a type of chaya and its foot is like that of the cat. Lekach Tov
Again we have the theme that the shafan is cat-like. Specifically, R. Tovyah writes that the distal foot of the shafan is cat-like. This is true of the rabbit. As a lagomorph, it moves about as if walking on its toes (digitigrade locomotion) like a cat. However, the hyrax has hoof-like claws (stumpy toes with four hoof-like nails on each front foot and three on each back foot) and is plantigrade. 

Thus, the early authorities such as Ibn Janach and Lekach Tov provide clear unambiguous indicators that the shafan is the rabbit (and not the hyrax). 

The high hills are for the ibex, the rocks are a refuge for the shefanim

In  his letter to Dialogue, R. Slifkin writes: "But to reiterate the main point: When David HaMelech writes that The high hills are for the ibex, the rocks are a refuge for the shefanim, he was not describing the behavior of animals from southern Africa. Instead, he was referring to the animal in the immediate vicinity of the ibex, which characteristically hides under rocks: the hyrax."

R. Slifkin believes that all the phenomena described by King David in Psalms, must have been local to the land of Israel. 


I don't see why this must be so. King David is describing the whole scope of creation with ruach hakodesh. According to the Rambam, Psalms was written with the second level of ruach hakodesh:
The second degree [of prophecy] is this : A person feels as if something came upon him, and as if he had received a new power that encourages him to speak. He treats of science, or composes hymns, exhorts his fellow-men, discusses political and theological problems; all this he does while awake, and in the full possession of his senses. Such a person is said to speak by the holy spirit. David composed the Psalms, and Solomon the Book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon by this spirit; … This class includes the seventy elders of whom it is said, "And it came to pass when the spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, and did not cease" (Num. xi. 25): also Eldad and Medad (ibid. ver. 26): furthermore, every high priest that inquired [of God] by the Urim and Tummim; on whom, as our Sages say, the divine glory rested, and who spoke by the holy spirit; … [Moreh Nevuchim, Friedlander translation, II:45, emphasis added]
So it is entirely possible that King David was describing rock rabbits in South Africa. But, we do not need to go all the way to South Africa for rock rabbits. Bunyoro rabbits (Poelagus marjorita) are found in rocky habitats as far north as Sudan in association with the hyrax:
Habitat and Ecology: Poelagus marjorita exists primarily in moist savanna grassland, woodlands with rocky outcrops, and less prominently in forested areas (Duthie and Robinson 1990). They often dwell in rock crevices, and are associated in some areas with hyrax habitat (Kingdon 1974). ...

Range Description: The accounts are restricted to Uganda, southern Sudan, northeastern DRC, and eastern (and possibly central) Central African Republic (Happold and Wendelen 2006). (link)

It also seems that, today, you can see the ibex, the hyrax and the rabbit in the red sea area of Egypt.
Today the area [mountain of porphyry] is uninhabited except for the occasional Ma'aza Bedouin grazing his camels. Ibex, hyrax, and rabbit live here now. Around water holes, trumpeter bullfinches, desert larks, and mourning chats flock in sayaal trees (Acacia raddiana) and the wispy-needled yasar trees (Moringa peregrina). In the fall, thousands of white storks cross overhead, riding thermal currents on their way from the Sinai to central Africa. [Via Porphyrites, Stonexus magazine, Louis Werner, Issue 5, Summer 2004, p. 64-65. Emphasis added.]

 In Egypt, there are three breeds of rabbits, Giza White, Baladi and Gabali. For Baladi rabbits, there are three strains; Baladi Red, Baladi White and Baladi Black, while Sinai Gabali and Desert Gabali are considered the two strains of Gabali rabbits. Giza White rabbits are usually called improved Giza or El-Giza El-Mohassan. These Egyptian rabbits are medium-sized breeds and used mainly for meat production. [M.H. Khalil, Rabbit genetic resources of Egypt, AGRI 1999 26: 95-111]
Dr. Betech has pointed out that some breeds of rabbits are native to Egypt. Among them the Baladi rabbit, which in Arabic means "native" rabbit and the "Sinai Gabali" rabbit which live in the Sinai and eastern and western deserts of Egypt and are raised by the Bedouins for food consumption. They are referred to by Mahmoud (1938) as native Egyptian rabbits. (See Enigma p98). R. Slifkin writes (here):
And I can give you plenty of sources that I am a native Englishman. For the last three generations! … If you want to say that they were already released and established in Egypt in Biblical times, the onus of proof is on you. Then, of course, you also have to bring evidence that they were in Israel.
I am not sure if R. Slifkin's ancestors were in England in the stone age. But it is believed that already very early on, rabbits had spread from Spain to North Africa.
The oldest anthropogenic transportation of a mammal could be the introduction of the rabbit to North Africa. The Palaeolithic material attributed to this species is represented by two questionable old findings from Algeria and Morocco (Romer, 1928; Gobert & Gaufry, 1932). The abundance of the species in Neolithic deposits (Romer 1928; Hopwood & Hollyfield 1954) suggests an early introduction from Iberia, where the species has been know since at least the Mindel. [C. Cheylan, Pleistocene turnover, current distribution and speciation among Mediterranean mammals, in Biogeography of Mediterranean Invasion, R. H. Groves, F. Di Castri (eds.), p247-248, Cambridge 1991, Emphasis added).

At the other end of the Sahara, species have travelled northwards following the Nile valley; these species are likely to be found in the Israel, sometimes reaching Lebanon and Southern Turkey: e.g.. species of Mellirova, Genetta, Herpestes, Procavia, Alcephalus, and Acomys. [ibid. p239]
So rabbits arrived on the African continent early on, and just as the ibex and the rabbit are reportedly found together in Egypt today, so too they may have been there in Biblical times. Given that there are species of rabbits (such as those in South Africa and Sudan) that live in rocky areas, rabbits (like the hyrax) may have built-in adaptability to a variety of terrains. 

Cheylan explicitly identifies a Sahara migration route, north through the Nile Valley and into Israel. One of his examples is the genus Procavia which includes the Cape hyrax. Given that the hyrax and the rabbit are found in the same habitat, this is a possible route for rabbits to get to Egypt and ultimately Israel. Even if rabbits never actually reached Israel, nevertheless, the Bnei Yisroel lived in ancient Egypt for many years and there were also established Biblical trade routes between Egypt and Israel from at least the times of the Patriarchs. So it is possible that this knowledge could have been preserved. 

The fossil record

Given that there are rock rabbits in the southern Sudan and Sahara migration routes going north, following the Nile valley to Israel we cannot rule out either knowledge, or actual presence, of rabbits in Biblical Israel. 


Thus, R. Slifkin is forced to refer us to the Tchernov [2000] paper stating that the hare is "the only endemic species of lagomorph known from the Middle East since the Middle Pleistocene". Tchernov et. al. are experts in the zooarcheology of the Levant and thus their opinion seems to count heavily in R. Slifkin's favour. 

However, we may always ask what evidence do Tchernov et. al. advance for their claim. Several months ago, Rabbi Coffer emailed Dr. Theodora Bar-El (at the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences Hebrew University of Jerusalem) for clarification. Here is R. Coffer's letter:
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 N1 of the science journal Paleorient (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 taxonomic 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,
Indeed, as Schmid states, the bones in her atlas stand for all Leporidae which includes the hare and the rabbit. Thus the atlas itself cannot be used to specifically distinguish the hare from the rabbit. No evidence is presented in the Tchernov paper that indicates how the authors made the identification that the bones they dug up were specifically that of the hare. This does not mean that they did not employ such a determination. It is just that the paper itself does not present the relevant evidence. There is thus a rather large gap between claim and evidence for the claim.


So are there methods that might be used to distinguish between the hare and the rabbit? Dr. Betech writes:
However, because of the adaption of Lepus towards fast locomotion, reflected in an enlongation of the distal parts of the hind limbs, and the digging adaptation of Oryctolagus, reflected mainly in the forelimbs (see e.g., Sych, Donard, Fladerer, Fostowicz-Frelik ) differences between the two genera in the proportions of several postcranial elements are obvious and can be used to distinguish them. [Enigma, p92]
However, given the similarity of the hare and rabbit, this determination is not always an easy task. 
 The differences between the living species of rabbits and hares are subtle, even though we have the whole animal for comparison. Since most fossil and sub-fossil finds consist of isolated teeth or small fragments of skull or other bone, the difficulties of confidently distinguishing species in the fossil record is acute.The problem is exacerbated by the burrowing ability of the rabbit and consequent difficulty of recognizing remains that have thereby been intruded into earlier strata. [“Taxonomy and origins”, G.B. Corbet, p4, in The European Rabbit: The History and Biology of a Successful Colonizer, edited by Harry V. Thompson and Corolyn M. King, Oxford University Press, 1994. Emphasis added]
As Dr. Betech writes, Wible has studied 59 osteological cranial characteristics among lagomorphs, and found that Lepus capensis (cape hare) and Pronolagus crassicaudatus (the rock rabbit) differ only in one of them, i.e. in the size and location of the sphenopalatine vacuity (SPV). [Wible J.R. "Cranial Osteology of the Lagomorpha". Bulletin Carnegie Museum of Natural History. 2007; 39:213-234.]

Thus, some of the fossils found in Biblical Israel and indiscriminately identified as fossils of Lepuscapensis, could indeed correspond to Pronolagus crassicaudatus, a species which dwells specifically in rocky habitats. 

Another major issue is that the fossil record for Lagomorphs is incomplete. Many living lagomorph genera lack a fossil record.
Only 12 genera and about 75 lagomorph species are still living in recent times, most of them almost devoid of paleontological record. (p27)

(8) Many living lagomorph genera lack a fossil record. The others are mainly recorded by extinct species, indicating a recent renewal of the lagomorph fauna. (p44, summary)

Living leporids with a palaeolagine-type p3, which appear as a natural group in some molecular phylogenies, are poorly represented in the fossil record. Among them, the Japanese Pentalagus is the only one with a fossil relative, +Pliopentalagus from the European and Asiatic Pliocene. It assesses the refugee status of the surviving insular Amami rabbit. From the remaining palaeolagine-like living taxa (Bunolagus, Pronolagus, and Romerolagus), only Pronolagus has been documented by fossil remains from South African Plio-Pleistocene.  (p. 37-38)
[The Lagomorph Fossil Record and the Origin of the European Rabbit, Nieves Lopez-Martinez, in Lagomorph Biology, Springer-Verlag, 2008, pp 27-46. Extinct taxa have a ‘+’ preceding their names. Emphasis added]

So, for example, Lopez-Martinez mentions the genus Bunolagus as lacking documentation in the fossil record. The riverine rabbit (Bunolagus monticularis), also called the bushman rabbit, is the only living member of this genus. This rare and endangered species of rabbit, living in the Karoo (in South Africa), has no fossil record. As another example, there is a rare species of rabbit in Mexico (genus Romerolagus) that has no fossils record. 

Conclusion

In summary, the hyrax is disqualified ab initio as it is not a ma’aleh geiraThe hyrax is not a ruminant. It does not have an alternate regurgitation mechanism such as cecotrophy, analogous to that of ruminants. It is doubtful that the hyrax practices merycism, and certainly not as a nutritional imperative.

The fossil record is known to be incomplete and cannot be used to exclude the rabbit from Biblical Israel. There are many living species of lagomorphs for which there is no rock record. The differences between the living species of rabbits and hares are subtle, even though we have the whole animal for comparison. Since most fossil and sub-fossil finds consist of isolated teeth or small fragments of skull or other bone, the difficulties of confidently distinguishing species in the fossil record is acute. No evidence has yet been presented that appropriate measures have been taken to confidently identify lagomorph fossils as hares rather than rabbits. Even if such measures have been taken, is the sample size sufficiently large?


The most reasonable candidate for the shafan is the rabbit, as per our mesora going back to early authorities such as Ibn Janach, Lekach Tov and many others. The Talmud states that the Almighty, Ruler of His world, knows that there is no creature that is maaleh geira and is non-kosher except for the camel, hare and shafan. With the shafan now identified as the rabbit, the Torah’s list of four (or five, according to one opinion in the Talmud) exceptions is exhaustive, as identified by Chazal in their exegesis of the relevant verses in the Torah.



And if the shafan is the rabbit as per our mesora, then there were indubitably rabbits in the region of Biblical Israel, and it would indeed be expected that rabbits lived in the same habitat as the ibex. Contemporary writers describe the ibex, the hyrax and rabbit (or at least lagomorphs) occupying the same habitat in mountains in the Red Sea area. There are rock rabbits as far north as Sudan and migration routes north to the Nile valley and Israel. This fits in with King David’s description of the high mountains as the habitat of the wild goats (ibex) and the rocks as a refuge for the shafan (rabbit). At first glance, the remote and barren mountains appear to serve no purpose; but in fact they were created to provide a habitat for the ibex. Even the rocks and boulders which litter the wilderness are created with plan and purpose to protect the fragile rabbits from the predatory birds which seek to swoop down on them (see Radak).  

47 comments:

  1. Ah, so since Baladi means native, the three strains of Baladi rabbits must be native, in the sense that they existed for thousands of years in Egypt?

    Or maybe, since they wanted to create modern strains of rabbits native to Egypt, they mated rabbits which were presently native with Flemish Giant rabbits, in a breeding plan, produced these three modern strains, and called them Baladi.

    http://www.iamz.ciheam.org/medrabbit/docs/baladir.pdf

    "Crossbreeding for several generations was practised between local (native) rabbits and
    Flemish Giant (G) in stations of the Poultry Breeding Section, Ministry of Agriculture
    (Badawy, 1975; Galal and Khalil, 1994). The breeding plan used for producing three
    native strains of Baladi Red (R), Baladi White (W) and Baladi Black (B) is presented in
    Table 2."

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  2. Josh Waxman,

    Or maybe, since they wanted to create modern strains of rabbits native to Egypt, they mated rabbits which were presently native with Flemish Giant rabbits, in a breeding plan, produced these three modern strains, and called them Baladi.

    Lovely. So you’re asking the same question Rabbi Slifkin did on Dr. Betech, to wit, “And I can give you plenty of sources that I am a native Englishman. For the last three generations! … ”

    Dr. Ostroff broaches this issue in the very next line of his post. Ayin sham v’timtzeh nachas…

    By the way, your comment is curious. Ostensibly, you’re trying to point out that the native Egyptian rabbits Dr. Ostroff refers to are modern iterations crossbred with Flemish Giants but your very source claims that the three strains of Baladi rabbits you discuss (red white and black ) were generated by breeding contemporary rabbits already native to Egypt with the Flemish Giant. So, what have you accomplished?

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  3. #1, have you considered / acknowledged / rejected the allegations of dishonesty in the Enigma book? namely, deliberately concealing from the reader that proponents of hyrax have evidence (though debatable) of merycism. and not mentioning rabbi tendler's position on llamas and not mentioning the physical difference between the two type of camels under discussion, in the llama chapter?

    I was responding to the point, first raised by Dr. Betech, that "Among them the Baladi rabbit, which in Arabic means "native"", which was initially offered as a proof that these were native rabbits, in the sense of long standing indigenous species. That certainly is the implication given by this post as well, that these three strains identified as Baladi have been native for quite a while. Whereas in fact, they were **created** in the study cited, and were modern.

    I know that these contemporary native rabbits were already native to Egypt. You are not pointing out something that I somehow cluelessly missed. But this shows that people using the term "native" don't always mean "indigenous for millennia". Which means that triumphantly saying "look, these are Baladi!" is not right. And that by native rabbits, you would have to also consider just how native they are.

    The rest of the evidence I will leave alone. I don't intend to contend with all of this. E.g. whether the first part of the quote, about North Africa, includes Egypt, and whether the later includes rabbits. (it was just meant to show plausibility?) i don't intend to get sucked in.

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    1. Deleted a comment which susbtantially duplicates R. Waxman's accurate argument in his middle two paragraphs.

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  4. Josh Waxman,

    I know that these contemporary native rabbits were already native to Egypt. You are not pointing out something that I somehow cluelessly missed. But this shows that people using the term "native" don't always mean "indigenous for millennia". Which means that triumphantly saying "look, these are Baladi!" is not right.

    Triumphant? Are we talking about the same post? Dr. Ostroff mentioned Dr. Betech’s point about certain rabbits being native to Egypt. He then raised Rabbi Slifkin’s objection, basically the one you raised in your last comment, and then proceeded to address it, quite well I might say. Nothing “triumphant” here.

    And that by native rabbits, you would have to also consider just how native they are.

    “Native” means originating in Egypt, or perhaps flourishing in Egypt. You’ve shown that the Baladi rabbits are relatively recent (I think you’ve shown that, I haven’t had the time to review the material) but you haven’t shown that rabbits in general are a modern phenomenon in Egypt. The Rabbits from which the Baladi were bred existed in Egypt for an indefinite period of time before the Baladi. This is quite significant. Of course you have to consider the duration of their nativity. But that’s a lot different than Rabbi Slifkin’s claim that rabbits never existed in the region. That’s all Dr. Ostroff meant to say.

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    1. Of course you have to consider the duration of their nativity. But that’s a lot different than Rabbi Slifkin’s claim that rabbits never existed in the region. That’s all Dr. Ostroff meant to say.

      No, not "of course". In chapter 5, #7, pg 97-98, Dr. Betech does make the argument from the word "native".

      Dr. Ostroff's subsequent arguments to not rescue that silliness; they offer a different argument for rabbits in Egypt in antiquity.

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  5. On the issue of whether the Baladi are native to Egypt I indirectly mentioned R. Waxman's source.

    "The Gabali rabbits" (E.A. Afif): Origin of the breed: Sinai and eastern and western (in the north coast belt) deserts of Egypt. They are raised by the Bedouins for their food. They are referred to by Mahmoud (1938) as Native Egyptian rabbits.

    As one of my other sources mentions: "The oldest anthropogenic transportation of a mammal could be the introduction of the rabbit to North Africa." Humans introduced rabbits persumably for their fur and their meat. As Afif writes, "They are raised by the Bedouins for their food."

    The meforshim explain that the simanim of purity in the permitted animals are signs that the nature of these animals is more suitable for food for the devlopment of a wise and moral character (e.g. see Chizkuni and Ralbag). Just to give one example, the Ralbag writes that the hoof is a weapon of attack, but a split hoof weakens the ability of the animal to cause damage.

    Now we know that people all over the world eat virtually anything that moves, and they are permitted to do so subject to ever min hachai. But it does appear that the animals permitted by the Torah (or those having one siman) are eaten more widely. (More investigation is obviously needed to substantiate this point). In the haskama on p27 of Dr. Betech's book, Rav Miller, Shlita, mentions the gemora (Bechoros 10) that the animals having one siman do not need hechsher (perhaps because the sevora is that even one siman makes them more suitable for achila).

    (continued below)

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  6. Continued from above:

    On p93 of his book, R. Slifkin mentions that the the flesh of the hyrax is much prized by the Arabs (Tristam). However, I have not found too much information about the extent of this phenomenon. When it comes to the chazir, rabbit, hare and even the camel, the phenomenon is more widespread.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit: Leporids such as European rabbits and hares are a food meat in Europe, South America, North America, some parts of the Middle East. Rabbit is still sold in UK butchers and markets, and some supermarkets sell frozen rabbit meat. Additionally, some have begun selling fresh rabbit meat alongside other types of game. At farmers markets and the famous Borough Market in London, rabbits will be displayed dead and hanging unbutchered in the traditional style next to braces of pheasant and other small game. For the hyrax, there is no such statement on Wikipedia or Britannica.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2013/apr/16/camel-meat-one-hump-two
    Boris [London's Mayor at the time] may not have realised it, but camel meat is prized in the Middle East, according to food writer and chef Anissa Helou. "It's a delicacy; nowhere in the region is it eaten as a daily thing. In Syria and Cairo there are specialist camel butchers, while in the Gulf, camel meat is eaten at parties and wedding receptions." The hump is the most prized part of the animal as it is tender and fattier than the rest of the beast (camel humps are essentially mounds of fat, and not full of water as many people believe). Helou tried camel hump in Abu Dhabi and describes its taste as a "cross between beef and lamb. It was from a baby camel – older camels will taste dry and tough." .. In the UK, you're most likely to come across camel burgers. Chef Luke Mackay cooked a keema curry for a cooking demo at Borough Market in south London, using camel mince from the burgers sold at The Exotic Meat Company stall there. ... But why go to the trouble of seeking it out? Camel meat is reputed to be healthier than other red meats such as beef – it is leaner and a good source of protein and vitamin E. And it's not just the meat. Camel milk contains three times the vitamin C of cow's milk and is rich in iron and B vitamins. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation says that the potential value of a commercial camel milk industry could be $10bn.

    Perhaps others will find more detailed information. The hyrax is not a ruminant. It does not have an alternate regurgitation mechanism such as cecotrophy, analogous to that of ruminants. It is doubtful that the hyrax practices merycism, and certainly not as a nutritional imperative. As the rishonim explain, the simanim are signs of the essential nature of the relevant animals. Pretend signs such as that of the hyrax do not cut it.

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  7. David Ohsie

    SC: Of course you have to consider the duration of their nativity. But that’s a lot different than Rabbi Slifkin’s claim that rabbits never existed in the region. That’s all Dr. Ostroff meant to say.

    DO: No, not "of course". In chapter 5, #7, pg 97-98, Dr. Betech does make the argument from the word "native".

    Maybe. But Dr. Ostroff doesn’t make this argument here, does he? Let’s try and keep our eye on the ball.

    Dr. Ostroff's subsequent arguments to not rescue that silliness; they offer a different argument for rabbits in Egypt in antiquity.

    Dr. Betech does not need me to defend his thesis. His book speaks for itself. But since I’m already here…

    Any objective reader of the above noted source (chapter 5 #7) in Dr. Betech’s book understands that the thrust of his argument is to demonstrate that rabbits have populated Egypt in the past. He’s not trying to prove that they must have lived in Biblical times. #7 comes on the heels of #6. In #6 he questions the assertion (by academia) that the hare is the only lagamorph indigenous (historically) to the Levant.
    #7 is meant to support this idea. He’s trying to show that rabbits have existed in historical Egypt. If you don’t like his argument from Baladi, fine. Skip it! There are other arguments in that chapter, such as from the Sinai Gabali rabbit. In fact, Dr. Ostroff made explicit mention of this in this post!

    You know, to my mind all this bickering over technicalities amounts to one big giant red herring. There’s an elephant in the room that nobody wants to discuss. In the final analysis Dr. Betech’s argument against the hyrax is simple. Dr. Ostroff paraphrases it succinctly, as follows:

    “The hyrax is not a ruminant. It does not have an alternate regurgitation mechanism such as cecotrophy, analogous to that of ruminants. It is doubtful that the hyrax practices merycism, and certainly not as a nutritional imperative.”

    That’s it! The hyrax is not a ruminant, period! That’s Dr. Betech’s strongest argument against the hyrax – while simultaneously being his strongest in favor of the rabbit – and it is, thus far, undefeated. If you look back at Dr. Betech’s old posts on this sugya, you will see that this was the point he kept on trying to hammer home. As long as Rabbi Slifkin can’t provide a biologically sound explanation as to why the Torah would call a hyrax a ruminant, his position is automatically knocked out of the box. As Dr. Ostroff writes:

    “the hyrax is disqualified ab initio as it is not a ma’aleh geira…”

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    1. SC: Of course you have to consider the duration of their nativity. But that’s a lot different than Rabbi Slifkin’s claim that rabbits never existed in the region. That’s all Dr. Ostroff meant to say.

      DO: No, not "of course". In chapter 5, #7, pg 97-98, Dr. Betech does make the argument from the word "native".

      Maybe. But Dr. Ostroff doesn’t make this argument here, does he?


      Yes, he does.

      Dr. Betech has pointed out that some breeds of rabbits are native to Egypt. Among them the Baladi rabbit, which in Arabic means "native" rabbit and the "Sinai Gabali" rabbit which live in the Sinai and eastern and western deserts of Egypt and are raised by the Bedouins for food consumption. They are referred to by Mahmoud (1938) as native Egyptian rabbits. (See Enigma p98).


      He then brings R. Slifkin's correct refutation of that argument and then brings up a completely different one.

      If you don’t like his argument from Baladi, fine. Skip it! There are other arguments in that chapter, such as from the Sinai Gabali rabbit. In fact, Dr. Ostroff made explicit mention of this in this post!

      Which Dr. Betech similarly says is native (his emphasis). Same problem applies.

      Dr. Betech’s argument against the hyrax is simple. Dr. Ostroff paraphrases it succinctly, as follows:

      “The hyrax is not a ruminant. It does not have an alternate regurgitation mechanism such as cecotrophy, analogous to that of ruminants. It is doubtful that the hyrax practices merycism, and certainly not as a nutritional imperative.”


      1) Defeating the hyrax does not crown the rabbit.

      2) The rabbit is excluded because it doesn't fit the description in Nach, while the Hyrax fits perfectly. And the definition in Nach is easy to understand.

      3) The rabbit and hare are not Maaleh Gerah either. Dr. Betech is one of many how have composed alternate definitions of Maaleh Gerah to encompass the animals that they prefer. Some instead excluded all non-ruminants.

      Delete
  8. There is so much wrong here, it is hard to know where to begin.

    Could the shafan be the rabbit?

    R. Slifkin's answer is no. He concedes that many rishonim understood the shafan to be the rabbit, but summarily dismisses their position.


    He doesn't dismiss their position summarily. Rather he endorses the position Saadia Gaon (882-942 CE), Tevuos Ha-Aretz, Malbim, Rabbi Dovid Tzvi Hoffman. He notes that hyraxes perfectly match the description of Shafan in Nach as taking refuges in the rocks near the Ibex who take refuge on the high hills, while the rabbit does not match and in fact was not present in Israel at the time (nor do they live there now).

    He claims that, as Europeans, the rishonim were unaware of the fauna of the Middle East.

    This is not a claim, but a possible explanation of why the European Rishonim endorsed the Rabbit: they had never seen a hyrax. We know that this transposition happened with the Tzvi, from Gazelle to Deer, almost certainly because there are no Gazelles in Europe.

    Since they could read books, they might have known something about the fauna of Israel at varying levels of understanding. That is not the same as seeing the animal in it's habitat. See for example, the odd pictures of elephants on the page: They knew about elephants, but never saw one, so got lots of stuff wrong: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2012/10/elephants-on-parade.html

    Anyhow if could somehow show that the source of the Machlokes is something else, that would have no impact on the argument.

    On the other hand, Dr. Betech does endorse R. Ibn Ezra's position that R. Saadiah Gaon "dreamed up" some of his animal translations (although R. Waxman points out that he doesn't actually say anything about R. Saadiah Gaon's translation of Shafan as he does with some others). I would call that more of a "summary" dismissal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. On his blog R. Slifkin has written that:
      The original study was by Tchernov [2000], who notes that the hare is "the only endemic species of lagomorph known from the Middle East since the Middle Pleistocene".
      Lagomorphs include hares, rabbits and pikas. So the study by Tchernov claims that hare remains have been found in the Middle East, but not the remains of rabbits. On the other hand, R. Slifkin claims that early authorities such as Rav Saadia Gaon (who lived in the Middle East) and Ibn Janach (about 100 years later) identified the shafan as the hyrax.
      Traditional sources for identifying the shafan as the the hyrax include Rav Saadia Gaon (882-924CE), Ibn Janach and Tevuos Ha-Aretz. [N. Slifkin, The Camel, the Hare and the Hyrax, p88, 2011, 2nd edition]
      R. Slifkin thus concludes that the shafan is the hyrax.


      Except that you left out his entire argument, yes, he "thus" concludes such.

      Even though the hyrax does not regurgitate its food, the Torah calls it ma'aleh geira because its chewing motion superficially resembles that of ruminants, even though the chewing action is not needed for nutrition.


      None of the Hare, Rabbit, or Hyrax are Maaleh Gerah as has been understood and translated until modern times: ruminants.

      This explanation is one of a number in including merycism and the colonic appendages of the hyrax.

      That Maaleh Gerah is "nutritionally imperative" is something dreamed by Dr. Betech to get around the fact that the Capybara also practices Cecotrophy, but possibly only in the dry season. There is no such criteria listed in the Torah or any traditional source.

      This weakened criterion poses a problem as it would apply to other animals not mentioned in the Torah's exhaustive list (e.g. the kangaroo).

      The exhaustive list of animals is problematic whatever the Shafan is, because it is brought down L'halacha that if one can recognized an top-toothless animal as not being a young camel, then he can assume it is Tehora. This is not true, because the Lllama and Alpaca also lack front teeth at birth. Shafan plays no role, and redefining Gamal doesn't help because this is brought L'halachah where no definition other than the natural one for Gamal is supplied.

      Dr. Betech's endorsement of Maaleh Gerah as cecotrophy (which he does not properly attribute) actually doesn't save the day. He also has to add on "nutritionally imperative" just to exclude the capybara, and then insist on a particular definition of Sheretz to exclude other cecotrophs.

      Delete
    2. What is the shafan according to Rav Saadia and Ibn Janach?
      Dr. Betech's recent book (here) has raised important challenges to R. Slifkin's thesis. First, R. Slifkin erred when he wrote that Ibn Janach identified the shafan as the hyrax.


      Actually, all R. Slifkin says is that the R. Ibn Janach translates Shafan as Wabr. You are correct that R. Ibn Janach does not however translate Shafan as rabbit.

      This is what Ibn Janach actually wrote:
      "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). [Ibn Janach, Sefer Hashorashim, translated from the Arabic]
      R. Slifkin's error is significant. Ibn Janach unambiguously identifies the shafan (Arabic: wabr) as a rabbit.


      Careful here. He says that Shafan is Wabr and says that Shafan is Rabbit. He explicitly also says the Rabbit is not known as Wabr and therefore he must use an Spanish word to indicate that he is speaking of the Rabbit.

      R. Slifkin's response is that Ibn Janach (living in Spain) did not know of the hyrax, but he did know of the rabbit, and that some people called the rabbit by the term wabr, and so he assumed that this was the meaning of R. Saadia's term.


      R. Slifkin's basic response would be probably be as I described above: rabbit doesn't fit Shafan and hyrax fits perfectly and therefore R. Saadia Gaon and the others are right. He might also give the explanation that you gave, but I haven't seen him write that.

      Now, it is possible that the term wabr was used for both the hyrax and the rabbit. But, we also note that Ibn Janach was a Torah authority, a grammarian, and an expert in Arabic.

      He was a Hebrew grammarian. Do we know he was an expert in Arabic including Arabic culture? He wrote in Arabic for an Arabic-speaking audience, but not every great Rabbi that writes Torah in English for an Anglo audience is an expert in English, especially in the meaning of animals he has never seen.

      He lived soon after the times of Rav Saadia Gaon.

      85 years or so after in a very different place (where there were no hyraxes).

      Was he unaware of the fauna of the Middle East?

      No one says that he was "unaware" of the fauna of the middle east, as he could read. But he likely never saw a hyrax.

      Apparently not. He writes that the wabr (rabbit) is abundant where he lived (in Spain) but scarce in the East (where Rav Saadia lived). This matches the rabbit very well, but rules out the hyrax, which is hardly found in Spain.

      Agree that he meant rabbit, but how does this show that he ever saw a hyrax?

      Delete
  9. This also raises the issue of what Rav Saadia meant by wabr.

    The "mystery" of what Wabr means is a completely manufactured one. Wabr means Hyrax today. Dr. Betech claims that no one knows what Wabr meant a the time of R. Saadia Gaon, but in fact Arabic has been an intensively studied language for more than 1000 years. I don't know Arabic, but Dr. Betech, R. Lampel, and Dr. Ostroff have not brought even an single Arabic authority who says it did not mean Hyrax or that it meant Rabbit.

    R. Slifkin refers us to Lane's Arabic-English Lexicon.

    Actually he didn't (AFAIK); I did because of Dr. Betech's odd claim that the meaning of Wabr in medieval times was lost. Lane is translating classical Arabic. He says it means Hyrax.

    The rest of your post on Lane is silly as you are trying to argue with his translation when you can't even read Arabic.

    This was published in the 19th century with definitions taken from older Arabic dictionaries, some from the time of Rav Saadia.
    Second sub-entry in Lane:
    وبر [Wbr]…
    [The hyrax Syriacus; believed to be the animal called in Hebrew shafan] a certain small beast, (Lth, T, S, Mgh, Msb, K,) like the cat, (Msb, K,) or of the size of the cat, (Lth, T, M, Mgh,) or smaller than the cat, (S,) of the beasts of the desert, (M,) of a dust-colour, (Lth, T, Mgh, Msb,) or of a hue between dust-colour and white, (...) or white, (TA,) having beautiful eyes, (Lth, T, Mgh,) or having eyes bordered with black, or very black eyes, (xxx, Msb,) having no tail, (S, Msb,) or having a small tail, (Mgh,)...".

    Fourth sub-entry in Lane:
    وبر [Wbr] A camel having much وبر [Wbr] [i. e. fur, or soft hair]; (S, M, A, Msb, K;) and in like manner, a hare or rabbit, and the like; (K;)…
    Many of the older dictionaries are no longer available so that we cannot check the complete entry.


    You can't check any part of the entry (or indeed anything that Lane says) because you can't read Arabic. But what leads you to believe that the dictionaries were lost in the last 150 years?

    But Lane does quote snippets from these dictionaries. The older dictionaries refer to the wabr as cat-like, a dust colour or white, and having no tail or a small tail.

    And some other stuff that you can't read.

    It is Lane [in the square brackets] who interprets these dictionaries to be describing the hyrax. But Lane does not state how he knows this, as the cat-like attributes may also refer to the rabbit.

    And therefore he is wrong? How about he knew classical Arabic and had lots of reasons that you haven't the first clue about?

    In Lane's fourth-sub entry, wabr refers to animals having much hair, such as the camel, the hare or the rabbit.

    No he wrote that it was a camel having much Wabr (fur) (5 references) or a hare or rabbit having much Wabr (fur) (1 reference). This definition is not describing a species, and probably saying Wabr can refer to a Wabr (hyrax)-like camel. In any case, R. Saadiah Gaon was using the word for a particular animal. That is other entry.

    So, ultimately, Lane's lexicon does not rule out the rabbit. In fact, wabr as rabbit is explicitly allowed.

    No it isn't. But do you have even one Arabic authority how thinks that Wabr is not hyrax and is instead Rabbit?

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. David, I understand that you are a loyal follower of R. Slifkin and I admire your loyalty and your need to rush to his defence. But, kindly refrain from accusations such as "willful misrepresentation" etc.

      As to your question, I have already asked you to show if (yes or no) the methods of Mohr 1938 and Koby 1958 are explicitly referenced in the Tchernov et. al. paper. This question you never answered and might be the basis for further discussion.

      (Please don't bother repeating your previous non-response that the question is rhetorical).

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

      Delete
    3. Dear David (feel free to call me Yoel),

      When you are able to calm down and refrain from making accusations such as "wilful misrepresentation" etc., then we can continue this discussion.

      We seek non-vitriolic comments of substance.

      I wish you well.

      Delete
    4. I'm not going quote all your speculation about how you know that there really were rock rabbits in Israel where the hyraxes are now, since you have zero evidence for your theory. But I have to again object to your continuing negligent misrepresentation of Schmid's atlas:

      Indeed, as Schmid states, the bones in her atlas stand for all Leporidae which includes the hare and the rabbit. Thus the atlas itself cannot be used to specifically distinguish the hare from the rabbit.


      There is a point where a misleading quotation becomes obfuscation. Schmid says this:

      "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)

      So Schmid says: "Please use my book to distinguish hare and rabbit." Your purported contradiction is completely invented.

      Delete
    5. David, I understand that you are a loyal follower of R. Slifkin and I admire your loyalty and your need to rush to his defence.

      I have no loyalty to R. Slifkin and I disagree strongly with some of his positions and tactics.

      What I have is an aversion to those who engage in the censorship and character assassination as this blog and some of its membership does. And slipshod argumentation and the implied and explicit characterization of a large percentage of practicing Jews (including myself) as little better than Cofrim.

      But, kindly refrain from accusations such as "willful misrepresentation" etc.

      Fair enough. I'll amend that to say: "But I have to again object to your continuing selective quotation Schmid's atlas. At some point selective quotation becomes negligent misrepresentation":

      As to your question, I have already asked you to show if (yes or no) the methods of Mohr 1938 and Koby 1958 are explicitly referenced in the Tchernov et. al. paper. This question you never answered and might be the basis for further discussion.

      (Please don't bother repeating your previous non-response that the question is rhetorical).


      This is a absurd misrepresentation, either negligent or worse. Do I need to repeat the answer here? I guess so. Hold on, let me go find it... Need to hit "Load more" a few times... Here it is:

      You say one thing of apparent substance: "Note that Tchernov et. al. nowhere say that they consulted Mohr and Koby." [Note: this is direct quotation from you, Dr. Ostroff]

      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.

      Also this:

      Also this sentence is a product of your imagination: "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": You not basis to say that were incompetent and "merely consulted the atlas". They did consult the atlas; what else they did you have no way of knowing, except to know that they did a lot more that what they could describe in two sentences in a paper. [Again, that quotation is from you, Dr. Ostroff].

      Delete
    6. [Posting again to see if I can meet the standards of this blog]

      Dear David (feel free to call me Yoel),

      When you are able to calm down and refrain from making accusations such as "wilful misrepresentation" etc., then we can continue this discussion.

      We seek non-vitriolic comments of substance.

      I wish you well.


      OK, those are all edited to remove that word [willful]. So you can safely respond now.

      In the same spirit, I'd ask you to remove the following statements from your blog. However, since it may take some time, I'm willing to respond to you while you work on removing this content:

      [Redacted a bunch of very offensive quotations from this blog that seem to trigger a deletion when they are quoted in the comments. I would still ask them to be removed since they are clearly violations of your standards.]

      Delete
  11. Conclusion
    In summary, the hyrax is disqualified ab initio as it is not a ma’aleh geira. The hyrax is not a ruminant.


    In summary the rabbit is excluded because it doesn't match the clear description of Shafan in Tanach while the Hyrax matches perfectly.

    Neither the hare, rabbit, nor hyrax is a ruminant as described by all the Rishonim who gave a description of Maaleh Gerah, so this cannot be used to distinguish what the Shafan is. Dr. Betech uses circular reasoning to come up with his particular definition to include rabbit and exclude hyrax.

    It does not have an alternate regurgitation mechanism such as cecotrophy, analogous to that of ruminants. It is doubtful that the hyrax practices merycism, and certainly not as a nutritional imperative.

    Which means that it doesn't fit in with Dr. Betech's circular definition.

    The fossil record is known to be incomplete and cannot be used to exclude the rabbit from Biblical Israel. There are many living species of lagomorphs for which there is no rock record. The differences between the living species of rabbits and hares are subtle, even though we have the whole animal for comparison. Since most fossil and sub-fossil finds consist of isolated teeth or small fragments of skull or other bone, the difficulties of confidently distinguishing species in the fossil record is acute. No evidence has yet been presented that appropriate measures have been taken to confidently identify lagomorph fossils as hares rather than rabbits. Even if such measures have been taken, is the sample size sufficiently large?

    Long way of saying that you wish you had evidence for Rock Rabbits in Israel, but you don't.


    The most reasonable candidate for the shafan is the rabbit, as per our mesora going back to early authorities such as Ibn Janach, Lekach Tov and many others.


    Per our Mesorah, one of the candidates for Shafan is hyrax, and now that we can, with God's help, see the hyrax in Israel as David and Shlomo saw it, we can see that is what he referred to.

    The Talmud states that the Almighty, Ruler of His world, knows that there is no creature that brings up the cud and is non-kosher except for the camel, hare and shafan. With the shafan now identified as the rabbit, the Torah’s list of four (or five, according to one opinion in the Talmud) exceptions is exhaustive, as identified by Chazal in their exegesis of the relevant verses in the Torah.

    Except for those pesky South American camelids and assorted other animals that are conveniently included and excluded by tuning the definition of Min and Sheretz to get the desired result. And the halacha about finding an unrecognizable animal that is not a young camel. Other than that, we are good.

    And if the shafan is the rabbit as per our mesora,

    Or one of multiple Shitos within our mesora

    then there were indubitably rabbits in the region of Biblical Israel, and it would indeed be expected that rabbits lived in the same habitat as the ibex.

    Now you're really rolling with the circular arguments. I know that I'm right, so that must be how it was. Perfect characterization of Dr. Betech's reasoning.

    Contemporary writers describe the ibex, the hyrax and rabbit (or at least lagomorphs) occupying the same habitat in mountains in the Red Sea area. There are rock rabbits as far north as Sudan and migration routes north to the Nile valley and Israel. This fits in with King David’s description of the high mountains as the habitat of the wild goats (ibex) and the rocks as a refuge for the shafan (rabbit). At first glance, the remote and barren mountains appear to serve no purpose; but in fact they were created to provide a habitat for the ibex. Even the rocks and boulders which litter the wilderness are created with plan and purpose to protect the fragile rabbits from the predatory birds which seek to swoop down on them (see Radak).

    The hyrax precisely!

    ReplyDelete
  12. David Ohsie

    SC: Maybe. But Dr. Ostroff doesn’t make this argument here, does he?

    Yes, he does.

    No he doesn’t.

    SC: If you don’t like his argument from Baladi, fine. Skip it! There are other arguments in that chapter, such as from the Sinai Gabali rabbit. In fact, Dr. Ostroff made explicit mention of this in this post!

    Which Dr. Betech similarly says is native (his emphasis). Same problem applies.

    This is false. When it comes to the Sinai Gabali rabbit Dr. Betech does not emphasise the term “native” in bold as you would have our readers believe. Not that any of this makes any difference. In both cases Dr. Betech was merely pointing out that there are historical records of rabbits native to Egypt, a country close to Israel. Within the context of his presentation his point has merit as I’ve explained and as Dr. Ostroff has explained.

    1) Defeating the hyrax does not crown the rabbit.

    It comes pretty close. I’m pretty sure everyone would agree that Rabbit is the primary contender.

    2) The rabbit is excluded because it doesn't fit the description in Nach, while the Hyrax fits perfectly…

    Umm… you just misappropriated Dr. Betech’s argument in your own service. The Torah describes the shafan as a maaleh geira. Rabbit is consistent with this description. Hyrax is not.

    3) The rabbit and hare are not Maaleh Gerah either. Dr. Betech is one of many how have composed alternate definitions of Maaleh Gerah to encompass the animals that they prefer.

    Nice try. But no cigar. Dr. Betech’s definition is novel. It is a product of extensive scientific research, is consistent with the digestive process of rumination, is echoed by the Rishonim, and is consistent with ma’amarei Chazal. Dr. Betech’s thesis is not “one of many”. It is unique. And quite cogent I might add.

    ReplyDelete

  13. SC: Maybe. But Dr. Ostroff doesn’t make this argument here, does he?


    Yes, he does.


    No he doesn’t.

    Wonderful technique. You cut out the evidence and then just say "no".

    Here it is again. Will you just cut it out again?

    Dr. Betech has pointed out that some breeds of rabbits are native to Egypt. Among them the Baladi rabbit, which in Arabic means "native" rabbit and the "Sinai Gabali" rabbit which live in the Sinai and eastern and western deserts of Egypt and are raised by the Bedouins for food consumption. They are referred to by Mahmoud (1938) as native Egyptian rabbits. (See Enigma p98) (My emphasis).


    Which Dr. Betech similarly says is native (his emphasis). Same problem applies.

    This is false. When it comes to the Sinai Gabali rabbit Dr. Betech does not emphasise the term “native” in bold as you would have our readers believe. Not that any of this makes any difference. In both cases Dr. Betech was merely pointing out that there are historical records of rabbits native to Egypt, a country close to Israel. Within the context of his presentation his point has merit as I’ve explained and as Dr. Ostroff has explained.

    Why do you post things like this? Is it just to force me to type out the sentence from his book? (Although I admire your panache in accusing me of deceiving "the readers". Your statement could not be more ferrous.)

    '7. Even their supposition is questionable, because there are some breeds of rabbits native to Egypt (which is very close to Eretz Yisrael). Among them are the "Baladi" rabbit, which in Arabic means "native" rabbit and the "Sinai Gabali" rabbit which actually live in the Sinai and eastern and western deserts of Egypt and are raised by the Bedouins for food consumption. They are referred to by Mahmood (1938) as native Egyptian rabbits.' (emphasis in original)

    The bolded reference to "native" refer to "some breeds" which are then listed in the next sentence as "Baladi" and "Sinai Gabali". He then finishes up with the quote from Mahmood that the rabbits are "native" and Mahmoud was referring the Sinai Gibali. He was trying to convince the reader by the fact that they are referred to as native, they they must have been there for a long time. He then launches directly into the implications of them having lived in Egypt at the time of the slavery of the Israelites.

    ReplyDelete
  14. 1) Defeating the hyrax does not crown the rabbit.

    It comes pretty close. I’m pretty sure everyone would agree that Rabbit is the primary contender.

    Again, a mere assertion. The rabbit doesn't match the Pesukim in Nach because they don't behave properly and they weren't there. If the Hyrax was somehow disqualified by the Maaleh Gerah criterion, this wouldn't help make the rabbit match better. And if the rabbit matched well and so did the hyrax, then we would say we have two candidates.

    2) The rabbit is excluded because it doesn't fit the description in Nach, while the Hyrax fits perfectly…

    Umm… you just misappropriated Dr. Betech’s argument in your own service. The Torah describes the shafan as a maaleh geira. Rabbit is consistent with this description. Hyrax is not.

    Umm... Does Dr. Betech have a patent on "A fits the evidence and B doesn't"? I think that was invented before Matan Torah...

    The rabbit hare and hyrax are all completely inconsistent with the definition of Maaleh Gerah used until the 19th century. The rabbit is consistent with Dr. Betech's definition of Maaleh Gerah because he used rabbit to derive his definition of Maaleh Gera. That proves nothing.

    No one is arguing over the meaning of "rock" and "refuge".

    3) The rabbit and hare are not Maaleh Gerah either. Dr. Betech is one of many how have composed alternate definitions of Maaleh Gerah to encompass the animals that they prefer.

    Nice try. But no cigar.

    I don't smoke and your frankly your mere judgement one way or the other does not impress me.

    Dr. Betech’s definition is novel.

    Novelty ain't the problem, although he does fail to give proper credit to his predecessors including R. Slifkin.

    It is a product of extensive scientific research,

    Are you hawking a food supplement?

    is consistent with the digestive process of rumination,

    I can agree with that, since one of his starting points is to include all the ruminants.

    is echoed by the Rishonim, and is consistent with ma’amarei Chazal.

    Not at all. He picks out words and shows that you can interpret them in ways that they were not intended. For example, he claims that the Rashbam is compatible because he mentions the word "Gargeret" (throat/esophagus) because the cecotrope goes through the throat twice. Of course Rashbam says nothing about twice, but he does say "raises it's food "B'"the throat after it is eaten. (I put "B'" because the prepositions can be ambiguous). It's clear he saying that the food goes back with or through the throat/esophagus, not up to the mouth and then down through the throat. But by highlighting Gargeret, he fabricates compatibility from thin air.

    But all this matters not, because he derived the definition by looking at rabbit, hare and the ruminants and drew a line around them. So it can't be used as evidence for whether the rabbit is or is not Maaleh Gerah:

    Page 52: 'Consequently, it would be proper to seek out the common characteristics among all the 13 animals that the Torah named as "maaleh gerah".'

    Dr. Betech’s thesis is not “one of many”. It is unique.

    Dr. Betech theory is the only way to translate Maaleh Gerah? Has he managed to ban all of the other books? That's interesting because he quotes many others; for example R. Hirsch as saying that Maaleh Gerah is rumination and therefore Hare and Rabbit are doubtful; there is probably some other animal that are the right ones.

    And quite cogent I might add.

    I hope that you know by now that this kind of statement doesn't have much currency.

    ReplyDelete
  15. By the way, I pointed this out (about Baladi rabbits being cross-breeds) to Dr. Betech prior to the publication of the book. see here:
    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2013/01/where-are-pandas-penguins-and-polar.html?showComment=1360291954606#c1497129167997820725

    And yet he wrote in the book what he did.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. By the way, I pointed this out (about Baladi rabbits being cross-breeds) to Dr. Betech prior to the publication of the book. see here:
      http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2013/01/where-are-pandas-penguins-and-polar.html?showComment=1360291954606#c1497129167997820725


      At least he omitted the "pet store" argument. And he also seems to have resigned himself to the fact that Tchernov et al were not providing private communications to other authors contradicting their own positions.

      And yet he wrote in the book what he did.

      DO 25: R. Josh Waxman, author of this comment, is a nudnik whose comment I did not need to heed.

      :)

      (Indicates humor intended with a light heart, in case anyone think I was serious and doesn't get the smiley).

      Delete
  16. I apologize to Dr. Betech for not quoting him precisely

    You quoted him correctly. His book has a mistake (understatement).

    ReplyDelete
  17. I apologize to Dr. Betech for not quoting him precisely, and to our readers for causing unnecessary confusion. The edited PDF version of this post now reads as follows:

    How long have rabbits been in Egypt and the Sinai? The date is undetermined, but Mahmoud (1938) calls the Sinai Gabali native Egyptian rabbits"

    "(i) Breed name synonyms: El-Gabali, Al-Gabali. (ii) Strains within breed: Gabali of Sinai, Gabali of the western desert (Khalil, 1999). … Origin of the breed: Sinai and eastern and western (in the north coast belt) deserts of Egypt. They are raised by the Bedouins for their food. They are referred to by Mahmoud (1938) as Native Egyptian rabbits."

    [Mahmoud, I.N. (1938). Bases of Veterinary Medicine, 2nd edn. Cairo University, Egypt (in Arabic). This source was taken from: E.A. Afifi, “The Gabali Rabbits (Egypt)”, Options Méditerranéennes. Série B: Etudes et Recherches. 2002;38:55-64. Emphasis added. See
    Enigma p98 and http://www.iamz.ciheam.org/medrabbit/docs/gabali.pdf.]

    Please see the continuation of the post (or better the PDF) for my response to R. Slifkin's remark that he is a native Englishman. For the last three generations! ...

    (Any further clarifications would be much appreciated)

    I see there has been a considerable activity in the comments section (over 12 comments while I was at work by one gentleman alone). I am slow typer, so am amazed at the generated output. It reminds one of the increasing need to add epicycles to the Ptolemaic model (all those circular arguments, right?). If I see anything that tickles my fancy I will try to clarify.

    ReplyDelete
  18. "The hyrax is not a ruminant. It does not have an alternate regurgitation mechanism such as cecotrophy, analogous to that of ruminants. It is doubtful that the hyrax practices merycism, and certainly not as a nutritional imperative."

    Cellulose is hard to digest. So, animals are provided by the Almighty with different strategies for eating plant material. Ruminants and rabbits (via cecotrophy) redigest thier own partially digested meals. Leporids (rabbits and hares) are entirely herbivorous and eat a wide variety of grasses, forbs, and shrubs. They engage in cecotrophy, i.e. they reingest fecal pellets with essential nutrients (proteins and vitamins) from material as it passes through the alimentary canal a second time.

    In contrast, hyraxes to not redigest their food. Instead, they have a "simple" stomach in which digestion is aided by microbiota in a caecum at the anterior end of their colon

    Hyraxes are a unique order of small mammal, because they have a multi-chamber stomach which frees them from the act of chewing cud to extract nutrients from plant material. Each chamber in the stomach has symbiotic bacteria that allows them to break down plant material and also digest fiber. Hyraxes often make an antagonistic chewing motion, but this is different than the act of chewing cud, as it is not done for dietary purposes.”
    http://thewebsiteofeverything.com/animals/mammals/Hyracoidea/, accessed July 23, 2013.

    Hyraxes are herbivores; their stomach is simple, but digestion is aided by microbiota in a caecum at the anterior end of their colon and a colonic sac positioned just anterior to the distal colon (Bjornhag et al. 1994)." (Terry A. Vaughan, James M. Ryan, Nicholas J. Czaplewski, Mammalogy, Jones & Bartlett Publishers, p142, 2011).

    ReplyDelete
  19. On p93 of his book, R. Slifkin mentions that the the flesh of the hyrax is much prized by the Arabs (Tristam). However, I have not found too much information about the extent of this phenomenon. When it comes to the chazir, rabbit, hare and even the camel, the phenomenon is more widespread.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit: Leporids such as European rabbits and hares are a food meat in Europe, South America, North America, some parts of the Middle East. Rabbit is still sold in UK butchers and markets, and some supermarkets sell frozen rabbit meat. Additionally, some have begun selling fresh rabbit meat alongside other types of game. At farmers markets and the famous Borough Market in London, rabbits will be displayed dead and hanging unbutchered in the traditional style next to braces of pheasant and other small game. For the hyrax, there is no such statement on Wikipedia or Britannica.


    Despite what you write here and what is in the approbations of Dr. Betech's book, Hyrax meat is eaten as a desirable food. Rabbits have been domesticated while hyraxes have not, so consumption of rabbit can be more widespread than hyrax or the Kosher Chayot such as Ibex.

    See here for a paper describing an attempt to domesticate hyrax to supply meat for those who eat hyrax: http://ethnobiology.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/JoE/10-1/Stevenson.et.al.pdf

    "Hyraces are skinned, dressed, and cut in pieces (including the head) for cooking. Like all meat, hyrax is boiled in water with spices. Both the broth and the meat is consumed. Yemeni report the meat tastes like lamb, the highest quality
    meat in Yemen. In fact, to the author, both in texture and taste, hyrax seems to be indistinguishable from chicken."

    and here

    http://www.kasparek-verlag.de/PDFs/ZME21%20019-026%20Rifai.pdf

    "The locals hunt the Hyrax for its meat. It is considered a delicacy. We were told that Hyrax were hunted near Wadi Zarqa’ Ma’in about 30 years ago, when groups of 30–40 individuals could be spotted. The hunters usually blow a whistle, probably similar to that of the Hyrax call and then Hyrax come out from their hiding places, making them an easy target. At present, the population of Wadi Zarqa’ Ma’in has almost vanished."

    Perhaps others will find more detailed information.

    Yes, if they bothered to look. (I searched google scholar for "hyrax meat"). This kind of sloppy "research" is characteristic of the book and this blog on this topic. If you don't look for contrary evidence, you won't find it.

    ReplyDelete
  20. David Ohsie,

    I apologize for the delayed response. Unfortunately my time is not my own.

    You wrote: Wonderful technique. You cut out the evidence and then just say "no".

    I don’t need to re-quote your “evidence” in order to disagree with you. It’s right there for everyone to see. Besides, my response was tit for tat. I wrote a long comment explaining what Dr. Ostroff meant. You countered with: Dr. Betech does make the argument from the word "native". I responded with: “Maybe. But Dr. Ostroff doesn’t make this argument here, does he?” You replied with: Yes, he does. So… I replied with “no he doesn’t”. I don’t see your problem…

    Why do you post things like this? Is it just to force me to type out the sentence from his book?

    No. But I thank you for spending the time to type it out. We can now refer to the material directly.

    (Although I admire your panache in accusing me of deceiving "the readers". Your statement could not be more ferrous.)

    If this is intended as a personal remonstration (my accusation is a product of “panache” although in reality it is really “ferrous”), I accept! (I think…) But can you first tell me what a “ferrous statement” means? Sounds nefarious…

    Let’s re-quote R’ Isaac here (I’m copying and pasting your quote).

    “Even their supposition is questionable, because there are some breeds of rabbits native to Egypt (which is very close to Eretz Yisrael). Among them are the "Baladi" rabbit, which in Arabic means "native" rabbit and the "Sinai Gabali" rabbit which actually live in the Sinai and eastern and western deserts of Egypt and are raised by the Bedouins for food consumption. They are referred to by Mahmood (1938) as native Egyptian rabbits. (emphasis in original)”

    Here’s your comments:

    The bolded reference to "native" refer to "some breeds" which are then listed in the next sentence as "Baladi" and "Sinai Gabali".

    True. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about his statement right after his bolded reference which associates the term “Baladi” with “native”.

    He then finishes up with the quote from Mahmood that the rabbits are "native" and Mahmoud was referring the Sinai Gibali. He was trying to convince the reader by the fact that they are referred to as native, they they must have been there for a long time.

    Sorry but that’s plain wrong. Just look at your quote!

    Among them are the "Baladi" rabbit, which in Arabic means "native" rabbit and the “Sinai Gabali" rabbit which actually live in the Sinai and eastern and western deserts of Egypt

    When it comes to Baladi, Dr. Betech appeals to semantics. When it comes to Gabali he clearly appeals to geographical distribution. Note the term “actually”.

    Continued…

    ReplyDelete
  21. Continued from previous…

    1) Defeating the hyrax does not crown the rabbit.

    It comes pretty close. I’m pretty sure everyone would agree that Rabbit is the primary contender.

    Again, a mere assertion.

    There’s nothing “mere” about it. Up until about 150 years ago, “rabbit” was the only contender. 19th century biblical exegeses proposed an alternative. One alternative. Hyrax. That’s it. If you would like to propose another definition, go for it! But historically rabbit is most definitely the primary contender.

    The rabbit doesn't match the Pesukim in Nach because they don't behave properly and they weren't there. If the Hyrax was somehow disqualified by the Maaleh Gerah criterion, this wouldn't help make the rabbit match better.

    Wow. Wasn’t it you who accused R’ Isaac of circular reasoning? Maybe not. But whatever the case, you are arguing in a circle. You can’t disqualify the rabbit because “they weren't there”. This is the very point of contention! If shafan means rabbit, then rabbits were there!

    As far as them “not behaving properly”, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Continued…

    ReplyDelete
  22. Continued from previous…

    2) The rabbit is excluded because it doesn't fit the description in Nach, while the Hyrax fits perfectly…

    Umm… you just misappropriated Dr. Betech’s argument in your own service. The Torah describes the shafan as a maaleh geira. Rabbit is consistent with this description. Hyrax is not.

    Umm... Does Dr. Betech have a patent on "A fits the evidence and B doesn't"? I think that was invented before Matan Torah...

    Snappy comeback. Unfortunately, bereft of any substance. Dr. Betech’s primary argument is that rabbit fits with the “evidence” (i.e. the Torah’s description). You then turn around and use the very same argument in your defense with no explanation and without a shred of evidence. You simply hijacked the formula in your own service. It sounds good. But I’m on to you…

    The rabbit hare and hyrax are all completely inconsistent with the definition of Maaleh Gerah used until the 19th century.

    And yet you assert that hyrax “fits perfectly” with the description in Nach… (Ok, I’m being a wise guy…)

    You are not correct. According to many meforshim, “geirah” refers to the cud, not the throat. The root word – composed of “gimmel” and “resih” – is sovel both interpretations. Rabbit is consistent with the idea of a re-masticated cud; hyrax is not.

    The rabbit is consistent with Dr. Betech's definition of Maaleh Gerah because he used rabbit to derive his definition of Maaleh Gera. That proves nothing..

    This argument is invalid on several levels.

    1) Your premise “Dr. Betech… used rabbit to derive his definition of Maaleh Gera” is explicitly challenged by the fact of your protagonist’s opposing position. Furthermore, it is unproven. You can’t make an argument based on a challenged, unproven premise.

    2) Even if Dr. Betech did begin with the pre-conceived notion of rabbit, so what? You don’t subscribe to his notions, right? So, judge his arguments based on their merits. Your attempt to delegitimize his position by appealing to bias (i.e. “he used rabbit to derive his definition of Maaleh Gera”) rings hollow.

    3) It is impossible to ignore the plain simple fact (once Dr. Betech has revealed it) that the rabbit’s digestive system is, substantially, identical to that of a standard ruminant.

    I don't smoke and your frankly your mere judgement one way or the other does not impress me.

    Yup. I know what you mean. My wife has exactly the same attitude…

    Are you hawking a food supplement?

    When I first read this comment, I laughed out loud!

    is consistent with the digestive process of rumination,

    I can agree with that, since one of his starting points is to include all the ruminants.

    Aha! You’re right! This is his starting point! But it needs to be yours too! The Torah calls a shafan a ruminant. There’s no getting around that! Rabbi Slifkin’s apologetic (dibra Torah etc.) is a dismal failure.

    I hope that you know by now that this kind of statement doesn't have much currency.

    Opinions vary my friend…

    ReplyDelete
  23. You wrote: Wonderful technique. You cut out the evidence and then just say "no".

    I don’t need to re-quote your “evidence” in order to disagree with you.


    You need to address it if you want to carry on a argument rather than engage in mere gainsaying.

    Besides, my response was tit for tat.

    OK, so were not making an actual argument. Your post now makes sense.

    I wrote a long comment explaining what Dr. Ostroff meant. You countered with: Dr. Betech does make the argument from the word "native". I responded with: “Maybe. But Dr. Ostroff doesn’t make this argument here, does he?” You replied with: Yes, he does.

    And the quotation where he does it.

    So… I replied with “no he doesn’t”. I don’t see your problem…

    I don't suppose that you do.

    Let’s re-quote R’ Isaac here (I’m copying and pasting your quote).

    “Even their supposition is questionable, because there are some breeds of rabbits native to Egypt (which is very close to Eretz Yisrael). Among them are the "Baladi" rabbit, which in Arabic means "native" rabbit and the "Sinai Gabali" rabbit which actually live in the Sinai and eastern and western deserts of Egypt and are raised by the Bedouins for food consumption. They are referred to by Mahmood (1938) as native Egyptian rabbits. (emphasis in original)”

    Here’s your comments:

    The bolded reference to "native" refer to "some breeds" which are then listed in the next sentence as "Baladi" and "Sinai Gabali".

    True. But that’s not what we’re talking about.


    I was talking about his book, and those sentences that I refer to. I'm not claiming that in every sentence of the book, he argues that Baladi and Gabali rabbits are native. I'm sure >99% of the time he isn't.

    He then finishes up with the quote from Mahmood that the rabbits are "native" and Mahmoud was referring the Sinai Gibali. He was trying to convince the reader by the fact that they are referred to as native, they they must have been there for a long time.

    Sorry but that’s plain wrong. Just look at your quote!

    Among them are the "Baladi" rabbit, which in Arabic means "native" rabbit and the “Sinai Gabali" rabbit which actually live in the Sinai and eastern and western deserts of Egypt

    When it comes to Baladi, Dr. Betech appeals to semantics. When it comes to Gabali he clearly appeals to geographical distribution. Note the term “actually”.


    And he then says "They are referred to by Mahmood (1938) as native Egyptian rabbits." That they live in the Sinai is to establish that they were in the right place. Native is to establish the right time. He needs both.

    ReplyDelete
  24. 1) Defeating the hyrax does not crown the rabbit.

    It comes pretty close. I’m pretty sure everyone would agree that Rabbit is the primary contender.


    Again, a mere assertion.

    There’s nothing “mere” about it. Up until about 150 years ago, “rabbit” was the only contender. 19th century biblical exegeses proposed an alternative. One alternative. Hyrax. That’s it. If you would like to propose another definition, go for it! But historically rabbit is most definitely the primary contender.

    1) You are forgetting R. Saadia Gaon. Even Dr. Betech says "I don't know of any proof that this is the Hyrax".

    2) From the 11 century until the 19th we have many attestations of Rabbit. Before and after that we have Hyrax and before that we don't know. Those other centuries count too.

    3) There is no principle of stare decisis is science are there is in Halacha. So this argument doesn't even begin.

    4) The argument is agains the Rabbit is not the Hyrax, but the mismatch to the description in Nach. The rabbit must stand on its own.

    The rabbit doesn't match the Pesukim in Nach because they don't behave properly and they weren't there. If the Hyrax was somehow disqualified by the Maaleh Gerah criterion, this wouldn't help make the rabbit match better.

    Wow. Wasn’t it you who accused R’ Isaac of circular reasoning? Maybe not. But whatever the case, you are arguing in a circle. You can’t disqualify the rabbit because “they weren't there”. This is the very point of contention! If shafan means rabbit, then rabbits were there!

    R. Coffer I honestly think that you need to stick to Rabbinics and leave investigation of scientific areas to others. The modes of reasoning are different. However let me try to walk you through this.

    You assert "A". I say, but if "A", then "B". And we have evidence of "not B". Therefore "not A". This is called "proof by contradition". You can read abou tit here : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proof_by_contradiction. It is not a defense to say: "But I was asserting A. And if A is true, then B. So by asserting 'not B', you are assuming 'not A' and have circular argument".

    In our example, A is "Shafan is rabbit", B is "Rabbit lived in Biblical Israel".

    As far as them “not behaving properly”, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    They don't use rocks as their refuge. They use burrows that they dig. But we've been over this many, many times.

    ReplyDelete
  25. 2) The rabbit is excluded because it doesn't fit the description in Nach, while the Hyrax fits perfectly…


    Umm… you just misappropriated Dr. Betech’s argument in your own service. The Torah describes the shafan as a maaleh geira. Rabbit is consistent with this description. Hyrax is not.


    Umm... Does Dr. Betech have a patent on "A fits the evidence and B doesn't"? I think that was invented before Matan Torah...

    Snappy comeback. Unfortunately, bereft of any substance. Dr. Betech’s primary argument is that rabbit fits with the “evidence” (i.e. the Torah’s description). You then turn around and use the very same argument in your defense with no explanation and without a shred of evidence. You simply hijacked the formula in your own service. It sounds good. But I’m on to you…


    The evidence is clear. "The rabbit is excluded because it doesn't fit the description in Nach, while the Hyrax fits perfectly…". We've discussed ad nauseam why that is, in fact scroll back to the last exchange.

    The rabbit hare and hyrax are all completely inconsistent with the definition of Maaleh Gerah used until the 19th century.

    And yet you assert that hyrax “fits perfectly” with the description in Nach… (Ok, I’m being a wise guy…)

    Yes, it fits perfectly with the the descriptions in Nach (Tehillim and Mishlei). I missed your joke.

    You are not correct. According to many meforshim, “geirah” refers to the cud, not the throat. The root word – composed of “gimmel” and “resih” – is sovel both interpretations. Rabbit is consistent with the idea of a re-masticated cud; hyrax is not.

    You are 100% correct that the word Gerah by itself does not prove anything according to those who explain that word in ways other than "throat/esophagus". But they describe other aspects and it clear that they referred to rumination and that is how everyone understood them. No one bothers to mention "two types" of rumination. This is why R. Hirsch doubted the identification of both Shafan and Arnevet, when he realized that that are not ruminants.

    ReplyDelete
  26. The rabbit is consistent with Dr. Betech's definition of Maaleh Gerah because he used rabbit to derive his definition of Maaleh Gera. That proves nothing..

    This argument is invalid on several levels.

    1) Your premise “Dr. Betech… used rabbit to derive his definition of Maaleh Gera” is explicitly challenged by the fact of your protagonist’s opposing position. Furthermore, it is unproven. You can’t make an argument based on a challenged, unproven premise.


    I'm not going to repeat the whole thing here because we already discussed it. I'll just say here that one of Dr. Betech's defenses was that he is allowed to use circular reasoning since he is not striving to prove anything.

    2) Even if Dr. Betech did begin with the pre-conceived notion of rabbit, so what? You don’t subscribe to his notions, right? So, judge his arguments based on their merits. Your attempt to delegitimize his position by appealing to bias (i.e. “he used rabbit to derive his definition of Maaleh Gera”) rings hollow.

    It is not his "preconceived notion". He explicitly says that "it would be proper to seek out the common characteristics among all the 13 animals" to get the definition of Maaleh Gerah. This includes the rabbit. That is an explicit circle.

    3) It is impossible to ignore the plain simple fact (once Dr. Betech has revealed it) that the rabbit’s digestive system is, substantially, identical to that of a standard ruminant.

    1) He didn't reveal it. He just doesn't do a good job of sourcing his arguments.

    2) A rabbit is not a ruminant. "Substantially identical" doens't have much meaning, since "substantially" is malleable. By this reasoning, you, I, Moshe Rabbeinu and O.J. Simpson are substantially identical. Here's how you can do it for hyrax: "The presence of the midgut sacculation (cecum—N.S.) appears to be
    the most unusual feature of the digestive tract… This digestive organ
    appears analogous to a misplaced rumen.".

    is consistent with the digestive process of rumination,

    I can agree with that, since one of his starting points is to include all the ruminants.

    Aha! You’re right! This is his starting point! But it needs to be yours too! The Torah calls a shafan a ruminant. There’s no getting around that!

    And the hare and rabbits are not ruminants. There is a puzzle here. To begin to try to figure it out, you need to first find the animals referred to.

    Rabbi Slifkin’s apologetic (dibra Torah etc.) is a dismal failure.

    However, it has the advantage of including the Shafan. I agree that none of the explanations including those of Dr. Betech are particularly good.

    I hope that you know by now that this kind of statement doesn't have much currency.

    Opinions vary my friend…

    Thank God for that...

    ReplyDelete
  27. David Ohsie,

    I don’t need to re-quote your “evidence” in order to disagree with you.

    You need to address it if you want to carry on a argument rather than engage in mere gainsaying.

    I did address it. I explained exactly what Dr. Ostroff meant and asserted that he was not making an argument from semantics (Baladi means “native”). You responded with “yes he does”, I replied with “no he doesn’t”. Anyone reading this thread can see this.

    I wrote: Besides, my response was tit for tat.

    OK, so were not making an actual argument.

    Speak for yourself. I made an argument. You replied with “yes he does”. That does not qualify as a counter-argument. So, tit for tat, I responded with “no he doesn’t”. Obviously I wasn’t trying to make an argument. My response was proportional.

    And he then says "They are referred to by Mahmood (1938) as native Egyptian rabbits." That they live in the Sinai is to establish that they were in the right place. Native is to establish the right time. He needs both.

    You are not correct. I already explained that with the term “native” R’ Isaac means to demonstrate that there were rabbits in Egypt in the historical past for an indefinite period of time. The term “native” was never meant to establish a specific time. Stop flogging a dead horse…

    Continued…

    ReplyDelete
  28. Continued from previous comment…

    There’s nothing “mere” about it. Up until about 150 years ago, “rabbit” was the only contender. 19th century biblical exegeses proposed an alternative. One alternative. Hyrax. That’s it. If you would like to propose another definition, go for it! But historically rabbit is most definitely the primary contender.

    1) You are forgetting R. Saadia Gaon. Even Dr. Betech says "I don't know of any proof that this is the Hyrax".

    I’m not forgetting anything. R’ Saadia refers to the biblical shafan as “al wabar” in Arabic. That’s it! That’s all we have. The question is, what does “al wabar” mean in Arabic? Or actually, the real question is, what did Rabbeinu Saadia mean when he used the term “al wabar”? This question is an important one but its mere presence does not suffice to unseat our longstanding tradition of “rabbit”.

    2) From the 11 century until the 19th we have many attestations of Rabbit. Before and after that we have Hyrax and before that we don't know. Those other centuries count too.

    Count for what? The centuries “before” do not reveal anything about the definition of shafan and the “centuries” (actually only one century) after are the very matter under consideration! We all know that some 19th century biblical exegetes proposed “hyrax” as the definition for shafan. The issue we are discussing is, were they right?

    3)There is no principle of stare decisis is science are there is in Halacha. So this argument doesn't even begin.

    You are confused. We’re not talking about halacha here. “Mesora” is not some magical formula. Our traditions are supported by historical evidence!

    R. Coffer I honestly think that you need to stick to Rabbinics and leave investigation of scientific areas to others.

    This is my site, not yours. If you have a problem with my investigation into scientific areas, you are welcome to leave! Keep your “honesty” to yourself.

    The modes of reasoning are different. However let me try to walk you through this.

    Spare me…

    You assert "A". I say, but if "A", then "B". And we have evidence of "not B". Therefore "not A". This is called "proof by contradition". You can read abou tit here…

    Stop patronizing me. It doesn’t help your case…

    You have no evidence of “not B”. If you did, this conversation would have been over long ago. Dr. Ostroff spent a lot of time discussing this in his post. Even Tchernov himself doesn’t claim “not B”. His paper concludes that the only known species of lagamorph in the Levant is the hare. This leaves open the possibility of future investigation, as any real scientist would do. And as Dr. Ostroff demonstrated in his post, the paleontological “evidence” is weak, at best. Here’s one simple argument he made:

    “Only 12 genera and about 75 lagomorph species are still living in recent times, most of them almost devoid of paleontological record. (p27)”

    And

    “Many living lagomorph genera lack a fossil record.”

    You have conveniently ignored his argument. If “living lagomorph genera” do indeed “lack a fossil record”, this invalidates your supposed “evidence” for your “not B” assertion.

    They don't use rocks as their refuge. They use burrows that they dig. But we've been
    over this many, many times.


    You and I have not been over this “many times”. Although I am a member of this blog I do not necessarily follow the threads so please give me the benefit of the doubt.

    As far as the substance of your comment, your objection is valid! I looked in R’ Isaac’s book for an answer and he addresses this issue on page 73-74. Ayin sham…

    Continued…

    ReplyDelete
  29. Continued from previous comment…


    You are 100% correct that the word Gerah by itself does not prove anything according to those who explain that word in ways other than "throat/esophagus". But they describe other aspects and it clear that they referred to rumination and that is how everyone understood them. No one bothers to mention "two types" of rumination. This is why R. Hirsch doubted the identification of both Shafan and Arnevet, when he realized that that are not ruminants.

    Look David, you are obviously correct. Both the hare and the rabbit are not standard ruminants. But you need to get past this. The Torah refers to the shafan and the arneves as maaleih geirah. That’s a fact. We now have to figure out why. R’ Isaac’s resolution is indeed novel but it is scientifically sound and it has the advantage of being physically consistent with a ruminant digestive system. Its primary assertion (cecotrophy in the hare and rabbit = classical “chewing the cud”) is reasonable. Also, it manages to reconcile the Torah, our Mesora, and empirical scientific evidence with each other. Taken as a whole, his mehalech is quite compelling (no, I am not hawking any food supplements) as evidenced by the haskamos. If his argument is not compelling to you, fine! If you wish to propose an alternative explanation, go for it! But all this “he said, she said” bickering is getting us nowhere. It is a colossal waste of time, both yours and mine.

    I'll just say here that one of Dr. Betech's defenses was that he is allowed to use circular reasoning since he is not striving to prove anything.

    And I’ll just say here that I am not Dr. Betech. You and I are discussing the merits of his argument in favor of the rabbit. I’m interested in substance, not “he said she said” nonsense. I have no desire to discuss what Dr. Betech is or is not “allowed” to use in his defense. I want to stick to the sugya at hand, period! And I want you to do the same!

    It is not his "preconceived notion". He explicitly says that "it would be proper to seek out the common characteristics among all the 13 animals" to get the definition of Maaleh Gerah. This includes the rabbit. That is an explicit circle.

    Oh common, you can’t be serious! Here’s what Dr. Betech writes on page 50 of his book.

    “1) The written Torah did not define clearly what maaleh gerah means. Also, in the Talmud or Midrashe Halacha we do not find the expected description of what is “maaleh gerah” (as we find in Chulin 59a descriptions of what is “kaskeset” and “snapir”).
    This justifies and behooves our own attempt, applying our own analyses of Torah literature and nature, to identify a common denominator among the 13 animal species which the Torah explicitly calls “maaleh gerah”, so as to arrive at a working definition of the term.”

    This is a very reasonable statement. There is nothing circular about it.

    1) He didn't reveal it. He just doesn't do a good job of sourcing his arguments.

    Great. Now quit wasting my time. I argued that it is impossible to ignore the fact that the rabbit’s digestive system is substantially identical to that of a standard ruminant. Your #1 response is to say that R’ Isaac didn’t reveal it and that he is poor when it comes to documenting his sources. This is entirely irrelevant to our discussion. If your purpose here is to score debate points, let me know now and I will govern myself accordingly.

    2) A rabbit is not a ruminant. "Substantially identical" doens't have much meaning, since "substantially" is malleable.

    Not its not! The “substance” has been clearly delineated in Chapter 3 of R’ Isaac’s book. I’m pretty sure you have a copy. Just read.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I'll try to address some of the main points here quickly without the n layers of back and forth, especially since you mention that you are not familiar with some of the prior arguments. Here is the circularity explained:

    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.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Here is a second circularity:

    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.

    ReplyDelete
  32. David Ohsie,

    Re your last two comments :

    You’ve given me some homework. I’m printing off your two comments and I will review R’ Isaac’s book over Shabbos in light of your objections. I’ll let you know what I think next week bl’n.

    Good Shabbos,

    Simcha

    ReplyDelete
  33. Re your last two comments :

    You’ve given me some homework. I’m printing off your two comments and I will review R’ Isaac’s book over Shabbos in light of your objections. I’ll let you know what I think next week bl’n.

    Good Shabbos,

    Simcha


    Thank you. Good Shabbos.

    ReplyDelete
  34. You are 100% correct that the word Gerah by itself does not prove anything according to those who explain that word in ways other than "throat/esophagus". But they describe other aspects and it clear that they referred to rumination and that is how everyone understood them. No one bothers to mention "two types" of rumination. This is why R. Hirsch doubted the identification of both Shafan and Arnevet, when he realized that that are not ruminants.

    Look David, you are obviously correct. Both the hare and the rabbit are not standard ruminants. But you need to get past this. The Torah refers to the shafan and the arneves as maaleih geirah. That’s a fact. We now have to figure out why. R’ Isaac’s resolution is indeed novel but it is scientifically sound and it has the advantage of being physically consistent with a ruminant digestive system. Its primary assertion (cecotrophy in the hare and rabbit = classical “chewing the cud”) is reasonable. Also, it manages to reconcile the Torah, our Mesora, and empirical scientific evidence with each other. Taken as a whole, his mehalech is quite compelling (no, I am not hawking any food supplements) as evidenced by the haskamos. If his argument is not compelling to you, fine! If you wish to propose an alternative explanation, go for it! But all this “he said, she said” bickering is getting us nowhere. It is a colossal waste of time, both yours and mine.

    This has nothing to do with "he said; she said" (I'm not sure what you mean when you say that). One of Dr. Betech's arguments (repeated here many times) is that the hyrax can't be the Shafan because it is not Maaleh Gerah. By the classic definition, this is true for hare, rabbit and hyrax. You can change the definition to match other animals, but then that definition cannot be used as evidence for the animals that you chose: the definition was shaped to match the animals you chose! And it is possible that we simply don't understand what Maaleh Gerah means as applied to Shafan and Arnevet. Not every question has answered.

    The point being that the question is not introduced by the hyrax, so it is not evidence against the hyrax. The question applies to Rabbit as well, and Dr. Betech gives an answer to the question. This is an answer to evidence against the rabbit and doesn't make Maaleh Gerah into evidence for the rabbit.

    Now, Dr. Betech does claim his definition of Maaleh Gerah was actually the original definition according the Rishonim. I detailed my objections to that in another comment. His claim doesn't match his sources.

    I'll just say here that one of Dr. Betech's defenses was that he is allowed to use circular reasoning since he is not striving to prove anything.

    And I’ll just say here that I am not Dr. Betech. You and I are discussing the merits of his argument in favor of the rabbit. I’m interested in substance, not “he said she said” nonsense.

    You argued that I was mischaracterizing Dr. Betech's argument as circular. Since Dr. Betech himself says that he is allowed to use a circular argument, since he does not seek to prove that Shafan = Rabbit (his reasoning), it lends a bit more weight to what I said. If Dr. Betech is saying that he can use circular reasoning, it might be easier for you to believe that he does. I'm not sure what you mean by "he said, she said". Since this is an ongoing discussion, there will be references to what has been previously discussed.

    ReplyDelete