Thursday, July 2, 2009

Shafan and Arneves- What are They and Do They Chew Their Cud?

In Leviticus (11:1-6) It discusses what land animals are kosher and which not kosher even if they have at least one sign of kashrus. It says,

א וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל-אַהֲרֹן, לֵאמֹר אֲלֵהֶם. 1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses and to Aaron, saying unto them:

ב דַּבְּרוּ אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, לֵאמֹר: זֹאת הַחַיָּה אֲשֶׁר תֹּאכְלוּ, מִכָּל-הַבְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר עַל-הָאָרֶץ. 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: These are the living things which ye may eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.

ג כֹּל מַפְרֶסֶת פַּרְסָה, וְשֹׁסַעַת שֶׁסַע פְּרָסֹת, מַעֲלַת גֵּרָה, בַּבְּהֵמָה--אֹתָהּ, תֹּאכֵלוּ. 3 Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is wholly cloven-footed, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that may ye eat.

ד אַךְ אֶת-זֶה, לֹא תֹאכְלוּ, מִמַּעֲלֵי הַגֵּרָה, וּמִמַּפְרִסֵי הַפַּרְסָה: אֶת-הַגָּמָל כִּי-מַעֲלֵה גֵרָה הוּא, וּפַרְסָה אֵינֶנּוּ מַפְרִיס--טָמֵא הוּא, לָכֶם. 4 Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that only chew the cud, or of them that only part the hoof: the camel, because he cheweth the cud but parteth not the hoof, he is unclean unto you.

ה וְאֶת-הַשָּׁפָן, כִּי-מַעֲלֵה גֵרָה הוּא, וּפַרְסָה, לֹא יַפְרִיס; טָמֵא הוּא, לָכֶם. 5 And the shafan, because he cheweth the cud but parteth not the hoof, he is unclean unto you.

ו וְאֶת-הָאַרְנֶבֶת, כִּי-מַעֲלַת גֵּרָה הִוא, וּפַרְסָה, לֹא הִפְרִיסָה; טְמֵאָה הִוא, לָכֶם. 6 And the Arneves, because she cheweth the cud but parteth not the hoof, she is unclean unto you.

ז וְאֶת-הַחֲזִיר כִּי-מַפְרִיס פַּרְסָה הוּא, וְשֹׁסַע שֶׁסַע פַּרְסָה, וְהוּא, גֵּרָה לֹא-יִגָּר; טָמֵא הוּא, לָכֶם. 7 And the swine, because he parteth the hoof, and is cloven-footed, but cheweth not the cud, he is unclean unto you.

Most commentators translate Shafan as the hyrax and the Arneves as the hare. However, there are several disagreements on this idea. When deciding how to understand what these creatures actually are there are several factors to consider. First, we must understand what the words Maaleh Geirah mean. Second, we must decide whether these animals, the hyrax and the hare, can fit into the definition of Maaleh Geirah that we conclude with. Finally, if they can not fit, we must consider the alternative understandings of the Hebrew words Shafan and Arneves.

Maaleh Geirah, what does it mean?

1)Rashi says that it means to bring up and vomit the food from its insides and it returns the food to its mouth. He says that Geirah refers to the food that is regurgitated to the mouth aka cud.

2)Onkelos renders the word Geira as dissolved food.

3)Ibn Ezra says that it refers to the action of returning food through the throat.

All three of these understandings seem to point to one conclusion. They all seem to say that the animal must chew its cud. Whether you hold the word Geira refers to an adverb, like Ibn Ezra, or a noun, like Rashi, it all seems to mean chew the cud. Also, the most compelling evidence that exists for how to describe Maaleh Geirah is to see how a camel digests food. The Gamal, or camel, chews its cud and the phrase Maaleh Geirah is used to describe the gamal, shafan and arneves' digestive characteristics. However, it could also be understood as chew the food that is brought from the stomach back into the mouth since this would also accurately describe a camel. We will discuss the difference shortly.

Now that we have defined Maaleh Geirah, can the hyrax and the hare fit into this understanding?

Here is a quote for a basic understanding of the Hyrax's digestive system from this website.

"Unlike the even-toed ungulates and some of the macropods, hyraxes do not chew cud to help extract nutrients from coarse, low-grade leaves and grasses. They do, however, have complex, multi-chambered stomachs which allow symbiotic bacteria to break down tough plant materials, and their overall ability to digest fiber is similar to that of the ungulates."

Although Hyraxes are able to digest food just as well as animals that do chew their cud, they perform no such action that can be described as chewing their cud. Also, they create no item that can even be considered cud. So whether we go according to Rashi and Onkeles that say Geirah refers to the ball of cud, or Ibn Ezra that says Geirah refers to the adverb of bring up the food there is no way to describe the Shafan as being Maaleh Geirah. This means that there must be another animal that the Torah meant when it said the word Shafan.

However, the Arneves is another story. This is classically translated as the Hare. Is this correct? Let us take a look at the Hares digestive system.

A basic understanding of the special digestion of the hare can be found on this website. "Cecotropes (also 'caecotrophes') also known as 'night feces', are the product of the cecum, a part of the digestive system, in mammals of the order lagomorpha, which includes two families: Leporidae (hares and rabbits), and Ochotonidae (pikas). Cecotropes are passed through the intestines and subsequently re-ingested for added nutrients in a process known as 'caecotrophy', 'caecophagy' 'pseudo-rumination', 'refection', or 'coprophagy.' Re-ingestion is also practiced by a few species of rodent (such as the capybara and guinea pig), a marsupial and a primate.

The process by which cecotropes are produced is called 'hindgut fermentation.' Food passes through the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, where nutrients are absorbed, and then into the colon. Through reverse peristalsis, the food is forced back into the cecum where it is broken down into simple sugars (i.e. monosaccharides) by bacterial fermentation. The cecotrope then passes through the colon, the anus, and is consumed by the animal. The process occurs 4 to 8 hours after eating. This type of re-ingestion to obtain more nutrients is similar to the chewing of cud in cattle."

Now we come to the second understanding of Maaleh Geirah, chew the food that is brought from the stomach back into the mouth. This is a good understanding since it accurately describes the camel's act of rumination. It will also describe the hares act of Cecotrope. This "night feces" can be described as cud in every aspect. The hare creates specific types of feces that would be described as Geirah according to Rashi and Onkeles. Even according to Ibn Ezra we could say that the hare's act of returning the dissolved food to its mouth from its anus could be the act of Maaleh Geirah. Therefore, we can say that the hare is the correct understanding of the word Arneves.

Still, we need to understand what is the Shafan's true translation. Perhaps the Pika, the cousin of the Rabbit, is the real Shafan. It has the same digestion habits as the hare. Therefore, it could be described as being Maaleh Geirah just like a hare. Also, as described on this website, "Pikas are native to cold climates, mostly in Asia, North America and parts of eastern Europe. Most species live on rocky mountain sides, where there are numerous crevices to shelter in, although some also construct crude burrows." This shows that the Pika fits with the descriptions of the Shafan. It is small, weak and lives in the mountains.

2 comments:

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

"Although Hyraxes are able to digest food just as well as animals that do chew their cud, they perform no such action that can be described as chewing their cud. Also, they create no item that can even be considered cud. So whether we go according to Rashi and Onkeles that say Geirah refers to the ball of cud, or Ibn Ezra that says Geirah refers to the adverb of bring up the food there is no way to describe the Shafan as being Maaleh Geirah. This means that there must be another animal that the Torah meant when it said the word Shafan."

Excellent.
If only you knew...

E-Man said...

Nu, what did you think about the Pika idea? Also, what do you think about this whole idea? Do we know what the shafan is or not?