Vayikra 11:1-8

א וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל-אַהֲרֹן, לֵאמֹר אֲלֵהֶם. ב דַּבְּרוּ אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, לֵאמֹר: זֹאת הַחַיָּה אֲשֶׁר תֹּאכְלוּ, מִכָּל-הַבְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר עַל-הָאָרֶץ. ג כֹּל מַפְרֶסֶת פַּרְסָה, וְשֹׁסַעַת שֶׁסַע פְּרָסֹת, מַעֲלַת גֵּרָה, בַּבְּהֵמָה--אֹתָהּ, תֹּאכֵלוּ. ד אַךְ אֶת-זֶה, לֹא תֹאכְלוּ, מִמַּעֲלֵי הַגֵּרָה, וּמִמַּפְרִסֵי 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. ז וְאֶת-הַחֲזִיר כִּי-מַפְרִיס פַּרְסָה הוּא, וְשֹׁסַע שֶׁסַע פַּרְסָה, וְהוּא, גֵּרָה לֹא-יִגָּר; טָמֵא הוּא, לָכֶם. ח מִבְּשָׂרָם לֹא תֹאכֵלוּ, וּבְנִבְלָתָם לֹא תִגָּעוּ; טְמֵאִים הֵם, לָכֶם.

The Ramban writes on Vayikra 11:3:

טעם הכתוב הזה שכל בהמה שהיו בה שני הסימנים הללו תאכלו, אבל לא תאכלו באחד מהם. והיה ראוי שיאמר כן בדרך כלל, אלא שפרט הגמל, והשפן והארנבת בגרה והחזיר בפרסה, מפני שאין אחרים בעולם בסימן האחד לבדו

The reason why the Torah writes this is to teach us that any animal with the two simanim [chews the cud and split hooves], those you shall eat, but you shall not eat those with only one. The Torah could have written this as a general rule, however, it detailed the camel, shafan, arnevet with regards to the their chewing of the cud [but not having split hooves] and the pig with regards to its [split] hooves [but not chewing the cud]; since there are no others like these, in the world, with [only] one siman.

Rashi on Vayikra 11:2 cites the gemara (Chullin 42a), commenting on the words ‘zot hachaya’ and says that “this teaches us that Moshe held an animal and showed Israel what we can and cannot eat”, including land animals, birds, insects and even sea creatures. This could mean that Moshe did indeed show the Bnei Yisrael all of the animals, including the ones mentioned above. However, not all animals are mentioned in the Torah, probably because listing all kosher and non-kosher animals would occupy an unnecessarily large part of the Torah.

The gemara in Chullin 42a says:

מלמד שתפס הקב"ה מכל מין ומין והראה לו למשה ואמר לו זאת אכול וזאת לא תיכל

Did Moshe hold up all animals in world or just those relevant or mentioned in the Torah (I'm not sure if it is clear from the Gemara and Rashi)?

It seems that the Torah mentions animals that are found only in and around Israel to make this passage relevant to the readers of the Torah. However it seems like the Ramban quoted above extends this to 'בעולם'. I am unaware that בעולם is ever used to only mean Israel.

In light of this, how do we understand the Ramban given that there are indeed many other animals, outside Israel and the region, that posses only one kosher siman?

  • 3
    source for last sentence would be nice
    – Baby Seal
    Commented Sep 14, 2014 at 5:51
  • 3
    Because what you've listed thus far are clearly gamals and chaszirs as far as I can tell.
    – Baby Seal
    Commented Sep 14, 2014 at 11:27
  • 1
    @BabySeal what do you mean 'clearly gamals and chazirs'? You mean animals that may look like one another? Many of these animals are not in the vicinity of Israel and do look physically different. I would imagine that if you showed an ancient world human a llama they wouldn't think that it is a camel. Even animals that look similar have different names in hebrew (donkey/horse, and different birds, etc.). Its hard to group many animals into one category e.g. 'the camel category'
    – bondonk
    Commented Sep 14, 2014 at 12:14
  • 1
    @BabySeal A dog and a wolf (only different on the level of sub-species) are Kilayim with each other (1:6). It's frankly unimaginable that an alpaca and a camel wouldn't be Kilayim with each other. (Not a proof but a significant data point.) Plus consider the babirusa which looks more like a messed-up rhino than a pig IMO.
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 14, 2014 at 18:19
  • 1
    All that ^^^ is particularly true if you think שפן is a rabbit which is much more similar to a hare than an alpaca is to a camel. Why list both hare and rabbit if the terms are meant to be taken very broadly?
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 14, 2014 at 18:30

1 Answer 1


It seems to me that despite Double AA's saying that Min in the Torah is very narrow, according to Pirkei D'rav Eliezer, it is very broad:

Hence thou mayest learn that there were 366 kinds of cattle [animals in this context] on the earth, and 366 kinds of fowl on the earth, and 366 kinds of reptiles on the earth, for thus was (the number) in the lowest compartment, so in the second compartment, and so in the third floor, as it is said, "With lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it" (Gen. 6:16). (Pirkei D'rabbi Eliezer 23)

Thus if there is only 366 kinds of animals on the earth, it's obvious that camel and llamas are the same min, and the same with piccaries and pig.

A further proof to this is that there are only 10 kosher species according to the way the Rambam understands this gemara, yet we know there are far more. The same with kosher birds and unkosher birds. Hence, the definition of species must be pretty huge.

(Thus the Shafan must be the hyrax, as if it were the rabbit, it's hard to imagine the rabbit and the hare are not the same min.)

In regards to kilayim, we are forced to say that Kilayim isn't dependedant on the large definition of min, but on whether they can interbreed, hence it must use a narrower definition of min.

  • Isn't this more of a double or nothing? The OP's questing was base on whether or not knowledge of other species was known before making a certain statement. This answer says well I have an even more confounding statement if there wasn't that knowledge.
    – user6591
    Commented Feb 9, 2020 at 22:22

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