The verses in Vayikra 11:4-6 gives 3 examples of different impure animals which don't have split hoofs, namely: the camel, the 'hyrax' (shafan) and the hare. An interesting thing I once noticed is that if you look at the Hebrew text you'll notice that when stating how each one doesn't have split hoofs the tense is different:

ד. אַךְ אֶת זֶה לֹא תֹאכְלוּ מִמַּעֲלֵי הַגֵּרָה וּמִמַּפְרִיסֵי הַפַּרְסָה אֶת הַגָּמָל כִּי מַעֲלֵה גֵרָה הוּא וּפַרְסָה אֵינֶנּוּ מַפְרִיס טָמֵא הוּא לָכֶם: ה. וְאֶת הַשָּׁפָן כִּי מַעֲלֵה גֵרָה הוּא וּפַרְסָה לֹא יַפְרִיס טָמֵא הוּא לָכֶם: ו. וְאֶת הָאַרְנֶבֶת כִּי מַעֲלַת גֵּרָה הִוא וּפַרְסָה לֹא הִפְרִיסָה טְמֵאָה הִוא לָכֶם:

The camel...does not have a [completely] cloven hoof (present tense)

The hyrax... will not have a [completely] cloven hoof (future)

The hare... didn't have a [completely] cloven hoof (past)

I looked in a Mikraot Gedolot but couldn't find anything about this diyuk. Anyone have any insight?

  • 2
    Great question, but the distinction between prefix-conjugation and suffix-conjugation in Biblical Hebrew is one of aspect, not tense. Technically, the difference between the three verbs is as follows: מפריס (masc. hiphil participle); יפריס (masc. hiphil imperfective); הפריסה (fem. hiphil perfective). The Or haChaim and the Ramban both comment on why the third is feminine but the other three (גמל, שפן, חזיר) are all masculine, but nobody seems to comment on the morphological variation.
    – Shimon bM
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 22:35
  • By the way, there is a phenomenon in Biblical Hebrew of linguistic variation in lists. Leviticus 18 is a case in point. I've checked a handful of reference grammars (Gesenius, Joüon & Muraoka, Waltke & O'Connor, Van der Merwe), but cannot find one that deals with this passage in particular. I don't know if that's the sort of answer that you're looking for, though it may at least indicate that you'll find your answer elsewhere - ie: in a traditional commentary, but on a different biblical list.
    – Shimon bM
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 22:37

1 Answer 1


The Malbim explains this in his commentary "Hatorah Ve'hamitva" to Sifra 73 (explained here to the best of my understanding):

Camel hooves are in fact partially split, and according to common science they are considered to have "split hooves". However the Torah requires (see Vayikra 11:3 and Rashi there) that they be "שסעת שסע" - completely split into double hooves. Therefore the verse could not say "פרסה לא הפריס" (it does not have split hooves) which is not true, but rather said "פרסה איננה מפריס" - "it has split hooves which cannot be described as split [according to the Torah definition]".

Regarding the hyrax, there is a species that is called a "וועווער" that resides in the clefts of the rocks in Har Sinai, which chews its cud and its hind legs have split hooves, however the front legs are not split. Since it could have possibly been considered split due to the hind legs, the Torah says "ופרסה לא יפריס" in the future tense, meaning that although it began splitting in one part of its body, "it will not split" - nature did not continue this split in its front legs.

The hare is totally not split, and therefore the Torah simply stated "it's hooves are not split".

  • Interesting explanation from a comment here: Gamal, Shafan, Arnevet are written in the Torah in the three tenses (past, present, future) and so refer to Bactrian camels (past, where Avraham came from), dromedaries (present, where Bnei Yisrael were) and llamas and relations (future, to be discovered after 1492).
    – Michoel
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 6:34

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