Monday, February 18, 2013

And the “Zoo-Rabbi” did not answer!


Chazaka” in Torah literature means that if something happened three times in a similar way, you may presume that it was not an accident but follows a particular pattern.

Natan Slifkin (NS) in his “rationalist blogspot” explicitly refused three times to answer my questions which challenged his published position.

A brief background:

1. I published an article on Dialogue Magazine No. 3 (Fall 5773) about the identity of the Biblical shafan, where 15 reasons are presented to support the rabbit as the Biblical shafan and 6 reasons to disqualify the hyrax as a candidate.
Being that it is a short article, I did not include in it an analysis of the objections that could be presented to my identification of the rabbit or against my suggested definition of “maale gera” and my response to them.

2. NS published in his blogspot an extensive but non-systematic response to it.

3. I asked if he was ready to discuss the contents of his letter.

4. He initially agreed.

5. I decided to begin the discussion by pointing out to one of his published erroneous statements written in his response, i.e.
“But rabbits do not, and did not, live in Eretz Yisrael or anywhere nearby”.

6. Since I think that the above statement is not accurate, I posted a comment including nine sources, among them, six supporting the existence of native rabbits in Egypt.
The latter is particularly significant -even according to my opponents’ position- for the following reasons:
a) Bene Yisrael lived in Egypt for more than two hundred years.
b) Egypt is very close to Eretz Yisrael and both countries were connected by a common trade route.

7. Then, a long comment-thread developed, where most of my questions and challenges were repeatedly ignored.
Many evasive strategies were used by NS, including omissions, distortions, taking texts out of context, citing mutilated paragraphs, inadequate generalizations, unsupported claims, faulty cause-effect connections, “appeal to authority”, proclaiming premature conclusions, sarcasm, “straw man arguments”, etc.

8. Although NS initially agreed to discuss, now despite a long list of unanswered questions, he has decided to stop answering my challenges, questions and comments.
The unanswered points could be summarized in my posts dated:
February 1, 2013 at 5:09 PM (20.1 IB)
February 2, 2013 at 1:44 AM
February 5, 2013 at 1:07 AM (first and second part)
February 11, 2013 at 8:24 AM (first and second part)
February 11, 2013 at 8:27 PM
February 14, 2013 at 12:09 AM
February 14, 2013 at 7:20 PM

Additional thoughts:

9. An important point is that even if no evidence of rabbits in the ancient Middle East could be found, that would not be a challenge to my suggestion that the Biblical Shafan is the rabbit, since Bene Yisrael got acquainted with the rabbit when Moshe presented it to them.
The inherent difficulty[1] in identifying these species and their signs is evident from the very first moment when Hashem instructed Moshe Rabbenu regarding them, and told him (Leviticus 11:2):
Zot hachaya asher tochelu (This is the living thing that ye may eat among all the beasts that are on the earth).
The Talmud (Chulin 42a) reports that, as indicated by the words “this is”, when enumerating the various species, the Almighty miraculously showed Moshe each and every species[2] and exclaimed, “this one you may eat” or, “this one you may not eat”.
It is also reported that Moshe did the same with Bene Yisrael.[3]
Thus, even in the remote case that Bene Yisrael were not yet acquainted with the rabbit in Egypt, and even if there were no rabbits in Eretz Yisrael, nevertheless David HaMelech and Shelomo HaMelech were not speaking about an unfamiliar species.

Even if rabbits were absent in Eretz Yisrael in Biblical times, and even in the whole Middle East, Am Yisrael -in any case- would become familiar with them in their journeys through the exile-long centuries; thus it would be necessary to warn them against their consumption.

10. Besides questions regarding rabbits in the ancient Middle East, NS refused to answer additional important questions, among them:

a) NS wrote in his response to my article in Dialogue Magazine:
“Some zoologists, however, have observed that hyraxes do in fact regurgitate small quantities of food for remastication”,

Could you please provide the sources supporting that?

NS never published any support to his questionable statement. Nullius in verba.

b) IB: The hyrax cannot be the shafan, because even the proponents of identifying the hyrax as the shafan acknowledge that there is no evidence that the hyrax practices rumination, caecotrophy or even merycism; thus, the hyrax is not “maaleh gerah”.
In any case, as explained elsewhere, merycism (practiced by the kangaroo) is not equivalent to “maaleh gerah”, because nutritionally it does not resemble rumination or caecotrophy.

NS never tried to engage in discussing with me to refute this argument.

11. More challenges against NS’s response could not be presented because the discussion was abruptly aborted by NS on February 14, 2013 at 12:13 AM.

12. As a side note, it should be emphasized that NS’s refusal to debate is very significant, because I agreed to debate with NS in a clearly non-neutral environment, i.e. in his blogspot, a forum where comments are moderated by NS himself, where he can decide what to publish and what not, when to publish, when to erase a comment, allowing or not bloggers using simultaneously double identities, etc. All this censorship and manipulation is done without the public’s awareness.

13. Sadly, the number and intensity of ad hominem attacks made by NS and other “bloggers” (not filtered by NS), were a big hindrance to the flux of ideas. Needless to say, these attacks were not reciprocated by me.

14. With NS´s refusal to continue the discussion on the Biblical shafan we could integrate another “chazaka”.
In the past NS declined to debate the scientific evidences in favor of “his” evolution of the species, then he refused to debate the reproductive characteristics of lice and now the zoological characteristics of the biblical shafan.

15. All the above, should give us something to think about...

Finally, I do believe I have partially presented my case for any objective reader.

Yitzchak Betech

P.S. Nevertheless, I am still willing B"H to continue this interchange immediately after NS will start answering the unanswered questions.

[1] Bamidbar Rabba 15:4
[2] Midrash Tanchuma Shemini 8 s.v. “veim tameah
[3] Sifra Shemini 11:62