Thursday, March 07, 2013

How the rabbit is מַעֲלֵה גֵרָה

What is the shafan? Some say it is a rabbit. The pasuk states:
ה  וְאֶת-הַשָּׁפָן, כִּי-מַעֲלֵה גֵרָה הוּא, וּפַרְסָה, לֹא יַפְרִיס; טָמֵא הוּא, לָכֶם.5 And the rock-badger, because he cheweth the cud but parteth not the hoof, he is unclean unto you.

Faced with the fact that the rabbit is not a ruminant, they say it practices, caecotrophy, poop-eating, which is obviously the same. And where Rashi defines maaleh geira as:

מעלת גרה: מעלה ומקיאה האוכל ממעיה ומחזרת אותו לתוך פיה 
"which brings up its cud: It brings up and regurgitates the [ingested] food from its stomach"

this presents not the slightest difficulty, because we can redefine ומקיאה as defecating [even though this is not its meaning in terms of all the other animals, it clearly refers to regurgitation], say that מעלה is appropriate because "the partially fermented food of the cecum “ascends” through the ascending colon, then it is excreted from their inners", and in general, dramatically reinterpret every single word in Rashi until he says what we mean. And then, it is all good. We are "compatible" with the Rishonim!

Along similar lines, I present the following evidence that the rabbit is  מַעֲלֵה גֵרָה. So far, I've only made it fit with the words of the pasuk. We'll have to work on getting it to work with the words of the Rishonim.

How much is a geira?

שמות פרק ל
  • פסוק י"ג: זֶה יִתְּנוּ, כָּל-הָעֹבֵר עַל-הַפְּקֻדִים--מַחֲצִית הַשֶּׁקֶל, בְּשֶׁקֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ:  עֶשְׂרִים גֵּרָה, הַשֶּׁקֶל--מַחֲצִית הַשֶּׁקֶל, תְּרוּמָה לַה. 

So, a geira is 1/20th of a shekel is weight. And how many grams is a shekel?
We don’t know exactly how much that was (and it may have been different at different times), but most scholars place it at around 10.5 grams– roughly the weight of two US quarters.
So, a geira is 10.5 / 20 grams.

Let us assume that the 1/20th of a shekel is a shekel's weight of gold.

The price of gold is currently 50.72 US dollars per gram:

Gold price per gram in USA in U.S Dollar (USD)

The following table shows gold price per gram in USA in U.S Dollar (USD) in 24k, 21k, 18k, 14k, and 10k carats.
CaratGold price per gram in U.S Dollar (USD)
24K Gram50.72 USD
22K Gram46.51 USD
21K Gram44.38 USD
18K Gram38.04 USD
14K Gram29.57 USD
10K Gram21.15 USD
So, 50.72 * 10.5 / 20 = $26.628.

How much does a rabbit cost?
Typical costs:
  • Among the many distinct breeds of rabbits, common pets include Lops (droopy-eared bunnies) that cost $15 -$60, Dwarfs (weighing only 1-3 pounds) priced $25 -$40 and Mini Rex (gentle and intelligent creatures with alert pointy ears) for$10 -$50. The higher prices tend to be for animals with distinct markings or unusual colors.
  • More unusual rabbits include Angoras, known for soft fur which can require daily grooming, which run $25 -$50Flemish Giants for $45 -$100, and Lionheads for$20 -$50.
Most of these rabbits can be purchased for $26.63.

And מַעֲלֵה means cost, or value. As in כמה זה עולה? So, the pasuk may be understood as:
ה  וְאֶת-הַשָּׁפָן, כִּי-מַעֲלֵה גֵרָה הוּא, וּפַרְסָה, לֹא יַפְרִיס; טָמֵא הוּא, לָכֶם.5 And the rabbit, because he costs $26.63 but parteth not the hoof, he is unclean unto you.


Hillel said...

R' Waxman,
If not for the dagesh in the gimmel, you'd be golden. (Golden! See what I did there...)

jake said...

Umm... wasn't Purim a while ago already?

Good stuff though. I'm gonna have to think twice now before I eat anything to make sure it is a real maaleh gerah.

Roger Rabbit said...

For Dr Isaac Betech, every day is Purim.

Unknown said...

Dear Rav Waxman,

Why will the torah mention the price of the rabbit as a cause for why we should not eat it?

joshwaxman said...

Elias Cohen:
in this case, the price of $26.63 is a reason we would think we should eat it. (after all, it is maaleh geirah.) a rabbit carcass is 80% meat. depending on how heavy your rabbit is (between 2 to 40 pounds), that is a lot of meat for your chulent.

Roger Rabbit:
may we merit soon the yom shekulo Purim!

kol tuv,

Unknown said...

Dear Rav Waxman,

1. It could be that the price of te rabbit and te price of the rabbit are not equal in differet places of the world, then there would be a contradiction between the definition of maaleh guera. What can you sau about this?
2. A cow is also known to be maaleh guera but its price is much more than the rabbits. What can you say about this?
3. It is know in chassidus that those things prihibited by the Torah belong to some spiritual influence names "shalosh kelipot temeot". I could understand that the spiitual influence of an animal can could be distiguished by its appereance like the splitt hooves cognotation, but do you suggest that there is a spiritual impurity influence that changes in relation to the demand and offer of gold and certain animals?

Kind Regards

Unknown said...


joshwaxman said...

are you being serious?

because i certainly am not.

for a cow, maaleh geira is different. for a cow, we need to realize that a geir is a convert, and so a geirah is a convertess. if you place a female convert on one side of a large scale and a cow on the other side, then the cow will be heavier, and so the female convert will be lifted up.

Unknown said...

What do you mean with: because i am certainly not"

Is your answer not serious?

joshwaxman said...

of course it isn't serious. (are you playing with me?)

note the wink emoticon I used when I linked to the post on Rationalist Judaism, a ;)

And Rabbi Slifkin pretty clearly referred to it as facetious.

Poe's Law in action, I guess...

Unknown said...

The first thing a thought was: you got to be kidding me. But since I have recently seen crazy behaviour and answers from a person who seems honest and smart at first glance, then I thought that everything was possible...

Kind regards


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