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I have a question that has been troubling me for many years and I have never received a satisfactory response.

On March 22, 2005 THE NY Times had an article entitled Religion and Natural History Clash among the Ultra-Orthodox. The article discussed among other things Rabbi Slifkin's book "The Camel, The Hare & The Hyrax" which discusses the Torah's list of animals with one kosher sign.

The article purports that there are more than just those four animals with one kosher sign (Rabbi Slifkin's book also states that and enumerates the animals). However the Gemara in Chulin 59 specifically states that the Torah lists these four because they are the only animals with one kosher sign and this is proof of TORAH MIN HASHOMAYIM. Yet even cursory analysis shows that there are many more species (for example the alpaca and llama which are not camels, yet both chew the cud and do not have split hooves).

Rabbi Slifkin's book The Camel, The Hare, And The Hyrax, enumerates other animals with only one of the two signs. Chapter Eight: Cecotrophy in Other Animals, Chapter Nine: The Controversial Capybara, Chapter Ten: Marsupials and Merycism.

It seems to me that one can not use this as proof that the Torah is from Hashem, yet Chazal say we can and most kiruv organizations use it as proof. Is the Gemara wrong?

Could you please clarify this?

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    Just because someone uses something as a proof of Torah doesn't mean that it is so in all contexts. 600 years ago someone may have used the flaatness of the earth as proof of torah (or something like that. the point is chazal are trying to prove something given the data they had. just because their proof fails doesn't mean their conclusion was wrong.) – Double AA Jan 13 '15 at 20:27
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    The Gemara in Chullin does not say that the Torah lists these 4 animals as a proof of Torah min shamayim. It merely says gmiri d'leika ("halacha l'Moshe mi'sinai that there are no other exceptions"). Its not a poof of the veracity of the Torah. Do you have a source to the contrary? – bondonk Jan 13 '15 at 21:59
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  • related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/45812/759 – Double AA Jan 14 '15 at 0:31
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This question misrepresents both the article and the Talmud.

The article can be found here. There is only one paragraph about animals with one kosher sign, and it reads as follows:

In "The Camel, the Hare and the Hyrax," Rabbi Slifkin examined the difficult separation of animals into kosher and nonkosher, and discussed apparent exceptions and contradictions to the claims of Jewish law. (The aardvark and the rhinoceros, for example, meet one test for being kosher but not another.)

Thus the article makes no claim about there being more one-signed animals than the Talmud mentions.

Here is what the Talmud says in Chulin 59a, with my emphasis:

לאו אמרת איכא בן גמל איכא נמי מינא אחרינא דדמי לבן גמל לא ס"ד דתני דבי ר' ישמעאל ואת הגמל כי מעלה גרה הוא שליט בעולמו יודע שאין לך דבר מעלה גרה וטמא אלא גמל לפיכך פרט בו הכתוב הוא ואמר רב חסדא היה מהלך בדרך ומצא בהמה שפיה גמום בודק בפרסותיה אם פרסותיה סדוקות בידוע שהיא טהורה אם לאו בידוע שהיא טמאה ובלבד שיכיר חזיר לאו אמרת איכא חזיר איכא נמי מינא אחרינא דדמיא לחזיר לא ס"ד דתנא דבי ר' ישמעאל ואת החזיר כי מפריס פרסה הוא שליט בעולמו יודע שאין לך דבר שמפריס פרסה וטמא אלא חזיר לפיכך פרט בו הכתוב הוא

You admit then that there is the young camel [which is the exception to the rule]. But there might well be other species similar to the young camel? — That should not enter your mind. For a Tanna of the school of R. Ishmael taught: It is written: The camel because it cheweth the cud. The Ruler of the universe knows that there is no other beast that chews the cud and is unclean except the camel; therefore the verse particularly stated ‘it’. R. Hisda further said: If a man was walking in the desert and found an animal with its mouth mutilated, he should examine its hoofs; if they are parted he may be certain that it is clean, but if not he may be certain that it is unclean; provided, however, he recognizes the swine. You admit then that there is the swine [which is the exception to the rule]. But there might well be other species similar to the swine? — That should not enter your mind. For a Tanna of the school of R. Ishmael taught: It is written: And the swine because it parteth the hoof. The Ruler of the universe knows that there is no other beast that parts the hoof and is unclean except the swine; therefore the verse particularly stated ‘it’. (Soncino translation)

When The Talmud states that the camel is the only exception to the chewing cud rule Rashi adds:

וחבריו האמורים בפרשה

And its fellows that are mentioned in the Torah.

I.e. the Talmud means that the three animals mentioned in the Torah are exceptions to the rule.

There is nothing here about a proof to "TORAH MIN HASHOMAYIM".

  • The Gemarra on 60b says מכאן תשובה לאומר אין תורה מן השמים, right after discussing the shesuah. Although Tosafos says the two statements are connected, the Maharatz Chiyos says it's referring to the gemarra you cited, which shows the omniscience of the Torah. He says he found it in a pesikta zutreisi as well (although the Sifrei says it on the shesuah). I've seen quoted online the Ramban also understands the gemarra this way, but I can't find where he says it. – robev Jul 16 '18 at 21:14
  • @robev That's a fair point, and someone can indeed ask a new question on the Maharatz Chayes and/or Midrashim that use the four animals as proof of divine Torah. But the question here says: However the Gemara in Chulin 59 specifically states that the Torah lists these four because they are the only animals with one kosher sign and this is proof of TORAH MIN HASHOMAYIM. That is not true. – Alex Jul 16 '18 at 22:11
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The Torah's description of taxonomy which is meant for iron age people is not like 19th-century phylum and genus type taxonomy. When you raise "llama" as an example of "not a camel" you are right from a 19th-century naturalist's POV. But you can point to the llama and tell the iron age man "hey, don't eat that camel" and achieve your goal. Is there any non-kosher near-eastern animal that is sort of like a llama that you could use besides camel?

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    Are you from the iron age that you know this? Halacha certainly does NOT consider 'similar looking' species to be identical. See Kilayim 1:6 "אף על פי שדומין זה לזה, כלאיים זה בזה." The Torah is not just the whims of an iron age man. It is a well defined system. – Double AA Jan 13 '15 at 22:28
  • No but in any case, the 19th century naturalist will point out that alpacas and llamas and camels are in the same family. – Clint Eastwood Jan 13 '15 at 22:30
  • Why should any Linnaean categorization matter at all? – Double AA Jan 13 '15 at 22:30
  • Different activities require different levels of scrutiny. Even if one holds that an alpaca is not a camel, he will not come to eat one so here it is safe to group by appearance. If you refuse to group on appearance, you may have to prove that a Bactrian camel is a torah camel. – Clint Eastwood Jan 13 '15 at 22:33
  • I don't refuse to group on appearance. I refuse to group based on your sense of appearance. Alpacas don't look like camels. End of story. – Double AA Jan 13 '15 at 22:36

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