Sunday, February 20, 2011

More on mor dror

A depiction of Mara Dachya,
from the 15th century
Summary: Considering more sources, namely the Rambam and Raavad, Rabbenu Yona and Rama, and the Tur.

Post: In the previous post on this subject, I discussed Rav Saadia Gaon, Ibn Ezra, and the first part of Ramban. Here I turn to discuss the position of Rambam and Raavad.

In Mishneh Torah, sefer Avodah, hilchot klei hamikdash, perek 1, halacha 3, Rambam writes:

ג  הַמּוֹר--הוּא הַדָּם הַצָּרוּר בַּחַיָּה שֶׁבְּהֹדוּ, הַיָּדוּעַ לַכֹּל שֶׁמִּתְבַּשְּׂמִין בּוֹ בְּנֵי הָאָדָם בְּכָל מָקוֹם.  וְהַקִּנָּמוֹן--הוּא הָעֵץ הַבָּא מֵאִיֵּי הֹדוּ, שֶׁרֵיחוֹ טוֹב וּמִתְגַּמְּרִים בּוֹ בְּנֵי הָאָדָם.  וְהַקִּדָּה, הִיא הַקֹּשְׁטְ.  וּקְנֵה בֹּשֶׂם--הֶם הַקָּנִים הַדַּקִּים כַּתֶּבֶן הָאֲדֻמִּים הַבָּאִים מֵאִיֵּי הֹדוּ, וְרֵיחָן טוֹב וְהֶם מִמִּינֵי בְּשָׂמִים שֶׁנּוֹתְנִין אוֹתָם הָרוֹפְאִים בַּצֳּרִי.

"Mor is the blood which is collected within the wild animal in India which is known to all that people in all places perfume themselves with it."

Thus, he is following the description mentioned as well by Ibn Ezra that it is blood that collects in the throat of  the specific deer that lives in India. In other words, musk from the musk deer. Yet, he does not mention that it is domeh letzvi, similar to the deer. He simply calls it a chaya, such that one might suppose it is perhaps even a non-kosher wild animal that produces this.

The Raavad objects to this:
"My mind does not accept that there would enter in מעשה הקדש any sort of wild-animal blood in the world, all the more so the blood of a non-kosher wild animal! Rather, the mor is that which is mentioned in Shir HaShirim 5:1, בָּאתִי לְגַנִּי, אֲחֹתִי כַלָּה--אָרִיתִי מוֹרִי עִם-בְּשָׂמִי, 'I am come into my garden, my sister, my bride; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice;' and this is of a species of herb or tree, and its scent spreads out."

He does not specify the precise species, but perhaps one can suggest myrrh.

Yet he would appear to be working based on a mistaken description of the origin or musk. It turns out that Rambam is incorrect that it comes from the blood of this animal. (He might well be working with theories of humors that account for all bodily fluids as an adaptation of one of these humors.) And it is almost certainly a kosher animal, for it has split hooves and chews its cud.

The Tur writes, in Orach Chaim, siman 216, seif 2:

"And if it is neither species of tree nor herb, such as the mor, which is a species of wild animal, one blesses upon it Borei Minei Vesamim. Mor -- since it has come to our hands, we will say a word about it. There are those who say that it is the sweat of the animal. And what seems correct to me is that it is a known animal, and it has something akin to a hump in its neck, and at first gathers there something akin to blood, and afterwards it dries and from this is made the mor. And the Ramah (=a Rishon, Rabbenu Meir Halevi Abulafia) would forbid one to eat it because of worry of blood. And Rabbenu Yonah wrote that it is possible to give a reason to permit it, for it is {likened to} merely excrement, even though initially it was blood, for we go after its present state. Know this is so, for behold honey, if a piece of forbidden foodstuff fell in it, even if the forbidden stuff melted into it, since it is the way of honey to turn something which falls into it into honey, we judge it to be as honey. So too here, even though initially it was blood, we go after its present state. And my father, my master, the Rosh za"l wrote regarding his words, "and it appears to me that even his proof requires a proof".

I wonder whether by כמין דם, the Tur is expressing reservations as to whether it is in fact initially blood, something assumed by the Rishonim he discusses.

The Bach discusses something rather interesting, in that the gemara states that muska is "min chaya hu". Is that spelled מין or מן, with or without a yud. With a yud, it means species. Without a yud, it means that it comes from an animal. Also, that rather that the sweat (זיעה) of this animal, the feces (צואה) of this animal.

In Berachot 43a:
אמר רבי חייא בריה דאבא בר נחמני אמר רב חסדא אמר רב ואמרי לה אמר רב חסדא אמר זעירי כל המוגמרות מברכין עליהן בורא עצי בשמים חוץ ממושק שמן חיה הוא שמברכין עליו בורא מיני בשמים
Or, in English:
R. Hiyya the son of Abba b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Hisda reporting Rab — according to others, R. Hisda said in the name of Ze'iri: Over all incense-perfumes the blessing is 'who createst fragrant woods', except over musk, which comes from a living creature and the blessing is, 'who createst various kinds of spices'.
You can see Rabbenu Yona inside here, d"h chutz and d"h veRabbenu Meir. It is interesting that he does not believe, because of the pesukim in Shir Hashirim, that musk is the same as Biblical mor. See also the Pri Megadim.

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