Thursday, January 24, 2019

Important updates on Torah and science regarding the Shafan (Chulin 59a)


Dear friends:
Tomorrow Chulin 59a will be studied on Daf Yomi.
On that page the shafan is mentioned, so we decided to post some news on this famous issue.

1. A few years ago we published the 1st edition of the book (292 pages):
"The Enigma of the Biblical Shafan" Torah and scientific research suggesting a solution.
(The book includes appendices on the Talmudic science-related statements about the fish's scales/fins and the reproductive biology of lice).
After all the new information found in the last years -which also includes new scientific information supporting our conclusions B"H- the book now has more than 1000 bibliographical Torah and scientific sources, more than 100 color illustrations and four indexes.
Now the 2nd expanded and completely revised edition (388 pages) is almost ready for printing.

2. The following is the English abstract of the book (also available on request in Hebrew):
The Torah included the shafan and the arnebet among the four non-kosher animals with only one kosher sign. Throughout the centuries, the usual translations of these terms were, respectively, rabbit and hare.
            Indeed, current science shows that all the characteristics Jewish classic literature attributes to these animals do occur in the rabbit[1] and the hare.[2]
            This publication will make the case that the Torah/Talmudic definition of “maaleh gerah” includes a qualified form of cecotrophy practiced by the rabbit and hare.
            The following essay B”H refutes different options (like the hyrax, the llama, the pika and the mouse-deer) suggested and published by some as the identity of the shafan. And additionally, it answers in a systematic approach, the published challenges to our conclusions regarding the identity of the shafan.
After extensive research, as presented in a comprehensive chapter (which analyzes the kangaroo and the capybara among other animals), we did not find any additional “min” (Torah-type creature) with only one kosher sign besides the four mentioned in the Torah, and we can recognize with admiration, today as always, that only the Master of the World could state this accurate information thousands of years ago.

3. A summarized edition of "The Enigma of the Biblical Shafan" in Hebrew (162 pages) is ready for printing.

4. Important modifications were made in Nov. 2018 ed. regarding the main translation for the Biblical Shafan as the rabbit in the Artscroll Gemara Schottenstein English Edition Talmud Bavli on Chulin 59a and also in the Hebrew Edition.

5. Rab Amitai Ben David shlit"a in his new 14th edition of the Sichat Chulin added important information which supports the translation of the Shafan as the rabbit. His new approach is widely explained in the approbation letter he gave to our book.

6. One of the chapters of the book explained six points of why the hyrax cannot be the Biblical Shafan. Lately we obtained the original translation of shafan as rabbit even in Ibn Janach and Rambam; therefore now a two-page article summarizing eight points is available here.
Also available in Hebrew here

7. The book "The Enigma of the Biblical Shafan" merited approbation letters written by many Gdole Yisrael, other Rabanim who are experts in these subjects and a scientist who specialized in rabbit biology.
New letters were added throughout the last years.
A document compiling all of them is available here.

Dr. Yitzchak Betech <>

[1] For example, the common rabbit, taxonomi­cally classified as Oryctolagus spp. or the Pronolagus spp.
[2] For example, the cape hare taxonomically classified as Lepus capensis or the brown hare (Lepus europaeus).


  1. BH
    Please see a follow-up entitled:
    Natan Slifkin sent a letter to Artscroll. Response to some points.

  2. The Shafan is unfortunately neither the Hyrax or the Rabbit. As the Torah clearly states regarding the Shafan and Arneves "They chew their cud but don't have split hooves". Obviously the animals under discussion must have hooves or hoove like feet in order for the Torah to suggest that their feet aren't split.

    1. BH
      Dear Modern Orthodox
      Thank you for your comment.
      It will be a pleasure trying to answer your question, as you read at the end of the post published today, it is necessary that your question or comment will be signed with the real full name.

    2. Please respect my privacy as I don't want my true identity to be known. I comment frequently on Natan Slifkin's blog mostly pointing out his errors. Trust me I seek the truth and have no intention of trolling your blog.

    3. BH
      If you want, you can send me a private email, and then we will see BH what to do.

    4. Unfortunately, this won't work for me. However, I will note that in order to come to an accurate conclusion to the identity of Shafan and Arneves, one must examine their counterparts the kosher animals that have hooves and chew their cud as well as the pig which has real hooves. If the cud chewing or the feet are unlike these animals then you know for certainty that you have the wrong identification. As the Torah is uniform and doesn't talk about 2 different types of split or not split hooves as well as 2 distinct types of cud chewing.

    5. BH
      Modern Orthodox, I understand that you do not want to identify yourself even in private email.
      In consequence your question will not be discussed in this forum, probably you are interested to know that the issue you present was addressed in our shafan book in chapter 5 (g).
      Kol tuv

    6. Unfortunately your explanation is lacking and fails to address why the Torah would make a clear distinction between kosher animals such as sheep and goats, yet by Llama, Alpaca and Camel make no such distinction and lump all these under one
      category according to your reasoning. You fail to make a compelling argument as to why the Maalay geirah of the Gamal and all other Kosher animals should somehow be different when relating to Shafan and Arneves.

    7. BH
      As previously stated and reiterated, you are welcome to fully identify yourself to continue this conversation in this forum.

    8. I am being honest, I could sign under a pen name and yet I don't want to mislead you. Let me know if that would be acceptable.

    9. BH
      As previously stated and reiterated, you are welcome to fully identify yourself to continue this conversation in this forum.
      The alternative is to to fully identify yourself in private email.

  3. It's worth mentioning that Rabbits, Hyraxs and Hares all have paws, hence they are classed under "kol holeich al kapayim" not under the category of animals that are "mafreses parsah" hooven animals.