|How many legs |
does this centipede have?
Post: Towards the end of parashat Shemini, we encounter the following pasuk and Rashi:
|42. Any [creature] that goes on its belly, and any [creature] that walks on four [legs] to any [creature] that has many legs, among all creeping creatures that creep on the ground, you shall not eat, for they are an abomination.||מב. כֹּל הוֹלֵךְ עַל גָּחוֹן וְכֹל הוֹלֵךְ עַל אַרְבַּע עַד כָּל מַרְבֵּה רַגְלַיִם לְכָל הַשֶּׁרֶץ הַשֹּׁרֵץ עַל הָאָרֶץ לֹא תֹאכְלוּם כִּי שֶׁקֶץ הֵם:|
|any [creature] that has many legs: This is the centipede, a creature with legs from its head to its tail, on either side, called centipede [in French]. — [Torath Kohanim 11:163]||מרבה רגלים: זה נדל שרץ שיש לו רגלים מראשו ועד זנבו לכאן ולכאן, וקורין ציינפיי"ש [נדל]:|
The association with the נדל is in Toras Kohanim, that is Sifra, over here. But the description and the identification of the נדל as centipede is from Rashi.
Though Rashi does not say so explicitly here, centipede means 100 legs. However, in Chullin, 3rd perek, in the sugya of nesher, Rashi does say that they call the נדל meah raglayim.
In Ateres HaMikra, by R' Shmuel Goldshmidt, we find the following fascinating discussion brought down. After citing Rashi, with an explanation of centipede as 100 legs:
Torah Temima: Not precisely 100, but the intent is many.
Tosefes Bracha: But in truth, this sheretz has only 32 legs to a male and 34 to a female.The author of both Torah Temima and Tosefes Bracha is R' Baruch Epstein. Here is the text of Torah Temimah:
I did not have the opportunity to do much research, to be able to determine if there is a species of centipede where the male has a different number of legs than the female. But Wikipedia has the following about centipedes (if we are to believe Wikipedia -- but it supports it with two citations):
Despite the name, centipedes can have a varying number of legs from under 20 to over 300. Centipedes have an odd number of pairs of legs, e.g. 15 or 17 pairs of legs (30 or 34 legs) but never 16 pairs (32 legs).If so, it does not seem that male centipedes could have 32 legs. However, Wikipedia and other sources do not say this about millipedes. So the Tosefes Beracha could have been talking about a specific species of millipede. I wonder at what point millipedes were historically distinguished from centipedes.