Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Why shouldn't we eat the chassidah?

In parshat Reeh we read of all sorts of birds we should not eat, and one of them is the chasidah. Thus, in Devarim 14:18:
יח וְהַחֲסִידָה, וְהָאֲנָפָה לְמִינָהּ; וְהַדּוּכִיפַת, וְהָעֲטַלֵּף.18 and the stork, and the heron after its kinds, and the hoopoe, and the bat.

The deep mystical nistar reason behind avoiding eating it is that we might develop timtum halev and become chassidim*.

The gemara in Chullin 63a records the position of Rav Yehuda about why the chasida was called this:
אמר רב יהודה החסידה זו דיה לבנה למה נקרא שמה חסידה שעושה חסידות עם חברותיה האנפה זו דיה רגזנית למה נקרא שמה אנפה שמנאפת עם חברותיה
This might not be obvious, especially since one typically reads the gemara without looking into the full pasuk, but I would offer the following chiddush: Why specifically with her friends? This question goes for both the chasidah and for the anafah, for Rav Yehuda says עם חברותיה regarding both of them? I would answer that the pasuk says וְהַחֲסִידָה וְהָאֲנָפָה לְמִינָהּ, with leminah distributing across both of them. And therefore, the chasidah does this with its own min, and the anafah does this with its own min.

There is a famous vort from the Kotzker Rebbe, which in my limited experience has become so famous that people now understand it as the simple peshat in the gemara. The inspirational vort is:

Why then is she a non-kosher bird? Surely this is a good trait to emulate?

The Kotzker Rebbe explains that the problem lies in her being "benevolent toward her own kind." That is all very well and good, but what about others who are not "her kind"?

Besides being a wonderful and inspirational homiletic devar Torah, it is one firmly in the mystical camp. Why in the world should there be a relationship between the bird's traits and its non-kosher or kosher status?! Couldn't we say that this bird was so nice that Hashem decided to spare it from our plates, so it could live a joyous and carefree life in Eretz Yisrael? Or better, for some reason unknown to us Hashem declared it forbidden to eat. Maybe there is even no reason, and we keep it because it is the decree of the King!

To ask further: the anafa has the trait of being menaefet (or perhaps meanefet, as we shall see) with her own kind. Would we make the same diyuk that its flaw was only being angry with its own kind, when it should have been angry with everyone? This is a question that has a ready answer, that it the becoming angry that is the bad trait. But if so, why mention "with its own kind?" Well, because that just happens to be its trait. This may be so, but why should we be so confident of making such a diyuk in which that aspect of עם חברותיה is all important in the former case but merely incidental in the latter?

Indeed, the assumption behind the Kotzker Rebbe's question is that the bird would be non-kosher specifically because of a negative trait it has. This is founded on the idea of timtum halev. And that idea actually may be found in the gemara, not just in kabbalistic sources. In Yoma 39a, we have:
תנא דבי רבי ישמעאל עבירה מטמטמת לבו של אדם שנאמר (ויקרא יא) ולא תטמאו בהם ונטמתם בם אל תקרי ונטמאתם אלא ונטמטם

The idea there is not specifically eating non-kosher food, but rather the act of performing some aveira. (And such that if it is not an aveira, but you are following a pesak that X is permitted, there should be no timtum.) And the effect of it, is that it confounds the heart (which was the seat of the intellect). According to Rashi, it is from the language of atum, sealing or closing off, in that it seals the heart off from all wisdom.

This is a far cry from the kabbalistic idea of the food taboo being a result of these being totem animals, and that one will absorb the negative trait of that animal. We are not speaking of particular and different spiritual taints as a result of eating specific foods.

So for a rationalist, the question does not even start. Even though one might appreciate the great moral lesson the Kotzker Rebbe derives from it.

Before leaving off, I just want to address one other segment of that gemara, which relates to another bird in the pasuk in Reeh, namely the anafa. Recall, the gemara in Chullin stated that:

אמר רב יהודה החסידה זו דיה לבנה למה נקרא שמה חסידה שעושה חסידות עם חברותיה האנפה זו דיה רגזנית למה נקרא שמה אנפה שמנאפת עם חברותיה

The gemara says that it is menaefet with all its friends. This would mean to commit illicit relations with them. But the words beforehand label the true name of the bird ragzanit, where rogez means anger. And Rashi, while using menaefet in the dibbur hamatchil, explains it on the basis of the pasuk from Devarim 4:
כא וַה' הִתְאַנַּף-בִּי, עַל-דִּבְרֵיכֶם; וַיִּשָּׁבַע, לְבִלְתִּי עָבְרִי אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן, וּלְבִלְתִּי-בֹא אֶל-הָאָרֶץ הַטּוֹבָה, אֲשֶׁר ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ נַחֲלָה.21 Now the LORD was angered with me for your sakes, and swore that I should not go over the Jordan, and that I should not go in unto that good land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance;
Bach therefore emends the text to read mitanefet, and attributes this reading to Rashi as well. What would be involved is a switching around of two letters. And this is likely based on context, and based on niuf, adultery, being a more common word, and thus as likely to be the result of a misinterpretation or miscopying by a scribe -- something like lectio difficilior.
* Yes, it was a joke.

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin