Sunday, March 29, 2015

Why the size of a kezayis matters -- a transformative chumra

Rabbi Slifkin recently wrote on his blog:
Pesach is rapidly approaching, which means that it's nearly time for people to obsess over the size of a kezayis. The monograph that I wrote on the evolution of the kezayis is by far the most popular piece that I have ever published - if you haven't seen it, you can download it at this link. Here are some follow-up posts on the topic:
See there for the links to his follow-up posts.

In the comment section, some people were discussing why this really matters. Is posting about this anti-chareidi? Or, what is the big deal with being machmir? Why should we care?

Besides the answers offered there, here is my own reason - why this draws my attention. This particular chumra of a large, and measured, kezayis is Transformative Chumra. That is, the chumra is not just a stringency to eat more of a particular food at a particular time. Rather, it changes the nature, character, and feel of the seder.

Here is how. Please pardon the kvetch.

1) There is a separate chumra regarding karpas, to eat less than a kezayis -- driven by a question of whether to make a haadama on the maror and how one might have to make a borei nefashos if one ate more than a kezayis.

The result is that people starve through maggid and don't pay attention.

2) After the long period of starvation, we move to a period of intense gluttony. It is not just ONE kezayis of matzah. The practice has developed developed to eat TWO kezeisim, for reasons that need not concern us.

This is an easy chumra if a kezayis is the size of an olive. Eating the equivalent of the volume of two actual olives is relatively easy. Eating two Chazon Ish shiurim is hard. (Note the Chazon Ish maintained only one kezayis was necessary.) This is hard even if it is a standard shiur for kezayis, but not an actual olive's measure.

3) This is meant to be eaten in a rather short period of time, kdei achilas pras, and this length of time does not vary based on what one is eating. This is defined as how long it takes to eat half of a standard loaf of wheat bread, dipped in relish, while he is reclining. See here for a discussion of how long this is. It might be anywhere from 2 minutes to 9 minutes.

4) But matzah today is not standard wheat bread, or even a soft matzah, but a hard cracker. And the practice is not to dip it in relish. This is a harder task. Especially if the kezeisim are gigantic.

5) And according to some, this eating of two dray kezeisim should be done in the following bizarre manner: Both kezeisim should be thoroughly chewed in the mouth without any swallowing, and then it should all be gulped down in a single swallow. Or according to a modification, after the thorough chewing of both kezeisim, one kezayis should be swallowed, followed by the other.

If the kezayis is an actual olive's measure of soft matzah, I wouldn't even mind performing the mitzvah in this manner. If the kezayis is enormous, then I don't know if what is described here would be considered achilah, and wonder if someone would be yotzei.

6) Then, before the meal, one must a kezayis of maror. Which might be horseradish, painful to eat.

7) Then, one must eat A THIRD kezayis of matzah, and together with another kezayis of maror.  If it is enormous kezayis, we are approaching achilah gasah.

8) At long last, we reach the meal - Shulchan Orech. Nobody is in the mood to eat the meal, because (a) it is so late already, and people are tired, because of maggid and the eating of various kezeisim, and (b) because they are stuffed full of matzah. And (c), they know what is to come, namely more kezeisim of matzah to eat. So this part of the seder is a loss.

9) Then, we get to the Afikoman. This is a FOURTH kezayis. And some have a practice of eating two kezeisim here as well, so that makes is also a FIFTH kezayis.

10) And there is yet another time-pressure here, in that people rush to finish it before chatzos halaylah.

11) And because the Afikoman is supposed to be the last taste, we don't eat it with any relish. So we stuff ourselves with these last two dry kezeisim, quite against our will. And for most people, this is not eating it al hasovah, but rather achilah gasah.



If we didn't have the context of items (1) through (11), it would be no big deal to eat an enormous kezayis. It is a chiyuv, an obligation, and sometimes an obligation is hard. One could perhaps consider the halachic propriety of relaxing some of these items (1) through (11). But since this context does exist, a larger size of a kezayis is transformative.

Eating the matzah could be an enjoyable experience. We recline, as a sign of cheirus. But the compulsion involved in eating so much matzah is not cheirus. See Ester 1:8:

ח  וְהַשְּׁתִיָּה כַדָּת, אֵין אֹנֵס:  כִּי-כֵן יִסַּד הַמֶּלֶךְ, עַל כָּל-רַב בֵּיתוֹ--לַעֲשׂוֹת, כִּרְצוֹן אִישׁ-וָאִישׁ.  {ס}8 And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel; for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man's pleasure. {S}

For the idea that compulsion to consume is the opposite of cherus. Starving yourself, then acting like a glutton to repeatedly force-feed yourself tons of matzah under time-pressure is not cheirus.

Which is part of why I find the idea of a kezayis the size of an olive so compelling. Besides making sense, and appealing to my rationalist and historical instincts, there are the practical repercussion, in which eating matzah becomes a natural part of the seder rather than something which encumbers it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pesach related posts

The Haggadah of the Ri M'Josh. (Unfortunately, I did not have time to complete the edits for this year.)

1. Why burn siur (partially fermented dough) before Pesach?
2. A segulah I can (sort of) support.
3. Matzah constipated Chazal
4. Why I am in favor of selling chametz


1. The chacham's desire to learn Greek wisdomAnd that is why he wants to learn all Torah -- so that he may then study Greek wisdom. However, the response to this is אין מפטירין אחר הפסח אפיקומן.

Why does ואת עמלני refers to sons specifically? Rav Chaim Kanievsky explains, based on a gemara that רוצה לעשות כל בניו זכרים יבעול וישנה, which entails greater tircha. And this is related to the beginning of parashat Tazria, and the famous derasha about how to have male children.

My analysis of the Haggada (starting in 2010)

In order of the haggadah, some thoughts on:

  1. An interesting peshat in the importance of Nissan
  2. A review of the 2011 Absolut Haggada
  3. YU Pesach to Go
  4. From YU Torah, Last Minute Seder Preparation

    1. Why eat marorIt is to remind of the bitterness, or from some medical reason? Can we ascribe it to practical cause against the Rabbinic tradition (which also happens to make good sense)? Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Ibn Caspi. Also, how Ibn Ezra is thus frum.
    2. Is blood on the doorposts le-dorotTwo parses of a pasuk yields the blood on the doorposts as a command for just in Egypt, and as a recurring commandment. Similar to the structure by amah ivriya. I strongly favor the traditional parse as the better parse.
    3. Was it the Israelites of the Egyptians on the seashoreTwo parses of the pasuk וַיַּרְא יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת-מִצְרַיִם מֵת עַל-שְׂפַת הַיָּם? The traditional one is that the Egyptians were dead on the seashore. Rashbam and Ibn Ezra differ from Rashi and the midrash, and claim that the Israelites were standing on the seashore when they saw the Egyptians dead. I side with Rashi and Shadal, in the traditional explanation. Also, does the trup indicate anything in this regard?
    4. Charoses and the authenticity of the Zohar -- If named Tannaim or Amoraim mentioned in the Zohar think the tapuach is the apple, but according to true Chazal the tapuach is the citron, then how could the Zohar be anything other than a forgery?
    5. Does an orange belong on the seder plate?
    6. Introducing the Absolut Haggadah, 2010 Vintage -- a link, and positive review, of that haggadah. I focus on one dvar Torah therein, about the meaning of varav, as mature. You can download the Haggadah here.
    7. The text of kol chamira
    1. My review of the 2009 edition of the Absolut Haggadah. You can download the haggadah here.
    2. Prepare for Pesach by learning through all of Rif on Pesachim. This year, I put it into a single convenient PDF.
    3. "And even you shall break his teeth": parts onetwothreefourfive.
    4. Does Oto HaIsh is the Haggadah refer to Jesus?
    5. And even you shall break his teeth -- what does this mean? part iiiiiiivv.
    6. The text of kol chamira. Times are from that year, though, unless I get around to updating it.
    7. Is Nirtza a violation of ain maftirin achar hapesach afikomen?
    8. Rav Shmuel Palagi's objections to the songs after Hallel (during the seder) -- part i ; part iipart iii. And his objections against piyutim in general.
    9. Another take on minei zemer (as definition of Afikoman)
    10. The dot on the heh of rechokah, and Pesach Sheni.
    11. Who likes Gazalot? Further analysis of that Yerushalmi about minei zemer.
    12. Does Arami Oved Avi refer to a wandering / poor Aramean, or to Lavan who sought to destroyThis post deals with an interpretation of Arami Oved Avi by Ibn Ezra and Radak which goes against the classic midrashic interpretation, and the reaction of two supercommentaries of Rashi to this "daring" interpretation. What comes into play is whether Ibn Ezra and Radak can claim to have absolute knowledge of Hebrew to be able to declare the midrashic interpretation to not work out according to the rules of dikduk; and whether one can argue on midrash, as they are doing, if after the midrashic interpretation goes all the way back to Sinai! It could also be that as supercommentators of Rashi, they are simply defending Rashi's interpretation as one of peshat.a
    13. The Rav on Arami Oved Avi -- Dr. David Segal told me over a peshat he heard from the Rav zt"l, in which Arami Oved Avi as expounded in the haggadah is in line with Ibn Ezra and Radak's insistence that Oved is an intransitive verb. Rabbi Wohlgelenter also heard this from the Rav. I repeat this from memory, and from a brief conversation; therefore, I hope I have the details right.
    1. Absolut Haggadah, 2008 Edition
    2. All of Rif on Pesachim
    3. One Who Dons Tefillin On Chol Chol haMoed is Chayyav Misa?
    4. Early Seder
    5. Some Fascinating Info On Dayenu, pt i
    6. One Who Eats Matzah On Erev Pesach
    7. A Redefined Kezayis, Because They Had a Smaller Strain of Olives
    8. What should I feed my goldfish on Pesach?
    9. Dueling Chumros
    10. Reclining Be-Benei Berak According to Abarbanel
    11. Rasha Mah Hu Omer -- How Do We Know This Is The Rasha?
    12. Elijah Drinks
    13. Soft Matzah
    14. The Prayer for an Edible Matzah
    15. Davening Maariv early on Shabbos on Erev Pesach
    16. The Pizza after Pesach segulah?
    1. When did the heirs slaughter the son
    2. It Is Permitted To Own Kitniyot On Pesach!
    3. Why do we care that Lot ate matza on Pesach?
    4. Does Eliyahu haNavi Really Visit Every Seder?
    5. Eating Original Chazeres
    6. What Do You Mean, It Would Have Been Enough Had God Stranded Us On The Shore of the Reed Sea At The Mercy of the Egyptians?
    7. The Absolut Haggadah, 2007 Edition -- my review
    1. The Learner/Burner Question (7 posts)
    2. The Rif on Sefirat HaOmer
    3. Cute: Pesach seder in 60 seconds
    4. Sources for Yoshev Lifnei Rabbo Devar for Pesach
    5. Naghei vs. Leilei (7 posts)
    1. Cute Pesach Flash
    2. Blunt his teeth because of his attitude, not because of his actions
    3. Feeding Gorillas Matzah in the run-up to Pesach. But what will they feed him Erev Pesach?
    to be continued...

    Wednesday, March 18, 2015

    Outing anonymous critics and threatening them with death

    So this has me somewhat upset. A pseudonymous critic of Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi, Dana Cohen, has disappeared from Facebook, apparently shortly after one of Mizrachi's followers tracked his/her IP address.

    While one may disagree with some of Dana's positions and/or approach, this is somewhat disturbing.

    To explain, Rabbi Mizrachi has stated in the past that:

    1) Dana Cohen is worse than Hitler
    2) He wishes anonymous commenters and critics would be out in the open so that they could be killed.
    3) He has followers who are thugs who will credibly threaten with death those who criticize him.

    For #1, see this video, at the 2:10 mark.

    For #2, see this video:
    "... every IP number, have a name and automatically, if someone use his computer to public and to murder someone else in Internet, the whole world will know who he is and will be subject to lawsuits, and actions against him, and all kinds of things, even to get killed. Why? You want to kill someone else, expect him to come and kill you tomorrow."

    For #3, see this video, from the 1 hour 32 minute mark, for a few minutes.

     where he says that though he knows his critic's identity, he won't reveal it, because his followers will make things rough for her. Because they are ex-criminals and tough guys. And then boasts how, when someone was opposing Rabbi Mizrachi, one such ex-criminal called the person up and threatened, if he didn't apologize to Rabbi Mizrachi, that he would come to his house, take him into the kitchen, and fry him in a pot. Or maybe drown him in a mikveh. And Rabbi Mizrachi had to beg him not to do it. He ends with 'This is not our way. But it is very sad that people lose their olam haba because they are very stupid.'

    While it is good that he closed the anecdote with a claim that one shouldn't do this, his attitude while telling the anecdote seems (to me) to be one of amusement and pride. And there is this undercurrent of threat in the very telling of the anecdote -- he knows Dana Cohen is going to hear this, and so he is telling him / her to watch out, or else this might happen.

    Frankly, if you have followers who are thugs like this, then it is more than inappropriate to make public statements that your critics are worse than Hitler and that an appropriate response to such criticisms is murder. As the Mishna in Avot (1:11) states:

    אבטליון אומר, חכמים, הזהרו בדבריכם, שמא תחובו חובת גלות ותגלו למקום מים הרעים, וישתו התלמידים הבאים אחריכם וימותו, ונמצא שם שמים מתחלל.

    I would fault Rabbi Mizrachi for the actions of his followers (including the attempt to find his / her IP address), and of the thuggish silencing of the pseudonymous Dana Cohen.

    Wednesday, March 11, 2015

    Chiram of Tyre, the coppersmith

    This year, we read Vayakhel-Pekudei as a double sidra, and so the haftara would begin at I Melachim 7:51. This is about the haftara of just Vayakhel, which begins at I Melachim 7:13.

    In the haftara, King Shlomo obtains a craftsman of copper, Chiram Mitzor, חִירָם מִצֹּר, who aids in the construction of the Bet Hamikdash.

    יג  וַיִּשְׁלַח הַמֶּלֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹה, וַיִּקַּח אֶת-חִירָם מִצֹּר.13 And king Solomon sent and fetched Hiram out of Tyre.
    יד  בֶּן-אִשָּׁה אַלְמָנָה הוּא מִמַּטֵּה נַפְתָּלִי, וְאָבִיו אִישׁ-צֹרִי חֹרֵשׁ נְחֹשֶׁת, וַיִּמָּלֵא אֶת-הַחָכְמָה וְאֶת-הַתְּבוּנָה וְאֶת-הַדַּעַת, לַעֲשׂוֹת כָּל-מְלָאכָה בַּנְּחֹשֶׁת; וַיָּבוֹא אֶל-הַמֶּלֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹה, וַיַּעַשׂ אֶת-כָּל-מְלַאכְתּוֹ.14 He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in brass; and he was filled with wisdom and understanding and skill, to work all works in brass. And he came to king Solomon, and wrought all his work.
    טו  וַיָּצַר אֶת-שְׁנֵי הָעַמּוּדִים, נְחֹשֶׁת:  שְׁמֹנֶה עֶשְׂרֵה אַמָּה, קוֹמַת הָעַמּוּד הָאֶחָד, וְחוּט שְׁתֵּים-עֶשְׂרֵה אַמָּה, יָסֹב אֶת-הָעַמּוּד הַשֵּׁנִי.15 Thus he fashioned the two pillars of brass, of eighteen cubits high each; and a line of twelve cubits did compass it about; [and so] the other pillar.

    There are a number of interesting points which are inter-related.

    1. Why should he be described specifically as the son of a widow? Why should this matter?
    2. Was his father non-Jewish, and thus a man of Tyre as a nationality rather than just a resident. What I mean to say is, was he Tyrian as opposed to of Israelite descent? Is it strange for the child of intermarriage to be a major builder of parts of the Beit Hamikdash?
    3. Chiram was also famously the king of Tyre. Is it just that Chiram is a common name?
    4. Note the verb וַיָּצַר in pasuk 15. Might we say that אִישׁ-צֹרִי does not mean of Tyre but rather 'a craftsman'? Why don't the meforshim note this possibility or at least the pun?
    5. Chazal say that not only was he a craftsman but his father was as well, applying חֹרֵשׁ נְחֹשֶׁת to his father, and deduce from here that a person should go into his father's profession. Should we say this, as a matter of peshat?
    6. How do we resolve contradictions with the parallel account in II Divrei Hayamim II, where in response to a request from Shlomo, King Churam sends a craftsman from Tyre named Churam who is expert not just in copper but in all manners of construction, and whose mother was of the daughters of Dan, rather than Naftali?

    A short excerpt from Divrei Hayamim:

    י  וַיֹּאמֶר חוּרָם מֶלֶךְ-צֹר בִּכְתָב, וַיִּשְׁלַח אֶל-שְׁלֹמֹה:  בְּאַהֲבַת יְהוָה אֶת-עַמּוֹ, נְתָנְךָ עֲלֵיהֶם מֶלֶךְ.10 Then Huram the king of Tyre answered in writing, which he sent to Solomon: 'Because the LORD loveth His people, He hath made thee king over them.'
    יא  וַיֹּאמֶר, חוּרָם--בָּרוּךְ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה אֶת-הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת-הָאָרֶץ:  אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לְדָוִיד הַמֶּלֶךְ בֵּן חָכָם, יוֹדֵעַ שֵׂכֶל וּבִינָה, אֲשֶׁר יִבְנֶה-בַּיִת לַיהוָה, וּבַיִת לְמַלְכוּתוֹ.11 Huram said moreover: 'Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, that made heaven and earth, who hath given to David the king a wise son, endued with discretion and understanding, that should build a house for the LORD, and a house for his kingdom.
    יב  וְעַתָּה, שָׁלַחְתִּי אִישׁ-חָכָם יוֹדֵעַ בִּינָה--לְחוּרָם אָבִי.12 And now I have sent a skilful man, endued with understanding, even Huram my master craftsman,
    יג  בֶּן-אִשָּׁה מִן-בְּנוֹת דָּן, וְאָבִיו אִישׁ-צֹרִי יוֹדֵעַ לַעֲשׂוֹת בַּזָּהָב-וּבַכֶּסֶף בַּנְּחֹשֶׁת בַּבַּרְזֶל בָּאֲבָנִים וּבָעֵצִים בָּאַרְגָּמָן בַּתְּכֵלֶת וּבַבּוּץ וּבַכַּרְמִיל, וּלְפַתֵּחַ כָּל-פִּתּוּחַ, וְלַחְשֹׁב כָּל-מַחֲשָׁבֶת--אֲשֶׁר יִנָּתֶן-לוֹ, עִם-חֲכָמֶיךָ, וְחַכְמֵי, אֲדֹנִי דָּוִיד אָבִיךָ.13 the son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre, skilful to work in gold, and in silver, in brass, in iron, in stone, and in timber, in purple, in blue, and in fine linen, and in crimson; also to grave any manner of graving, and to devise any device; to do whatever may be set before him, with thy skilful men, and with the skilful men of my lord David thy father.

    These questions are all interrelated because the answer to one can constrain answers to another.

    Thus, we might say the reason for mentioning that Chiram was the son of a widow was to explain why she would marry a non-Israelite. This was a remarriage.

    Or, we might say that despite Chiram residing in Tyre, אִישׁ-צֹרִי meant craftsman, and thus he learned the craft from his (even Israelite) father, from a young age, and was a progidy. Yet his father wasn't alive and available, and besides, he was exceedingly skilled.

    The way Radak resolves the contradiction between Dan and Naftali is to say that he (and thus his father) was from the tribe of Naftali, and his mother was from the tribe of Dan. And the focus in Melachim is copper work, which is why only expertise in copper is mentioned there, but indeed, he was an expert in all manner of materials, including silver, gold, iron, timber, etc., as mentioned in Divrei Hayamim. The dimensions of the pillars seems off by one cubit between the sources, (two pillars of 18 cubits in Melachim, and in total combined 35 cubits in the II Divrei Hayamim 3:15) but that is because (as the next pasuk in Melachim states, there were capitals on top of these pillars. Radak suggests that a half cubit at the top entered into the capital, which is why the sum is taken as 35 rather than 34.

    Once we say that his father was of Naftali (as a resolution of Dan / Naftali) , then we would have him of Naftalite descent. Unless she was a widow of a man of Naftali, and remarried a man of Tyre.

    Maybe we shouldn't work at harmonizing the contrasting accounts in Melachim and Divrei Hayamim. Melachim is in Neviim while Divrei Hayamim is of a lower level of inspired writings, Ketuvim. And (some members of) Chazal say that Divrei Hayamim was only given for the sake of derash, and in many cases do not take conflicts between Divrei Hayamim and other sources on a literal level, but use it to make derashot. (Thus, for example, the many children of Bityah are simply alternate names for Moshe Rabbenu.)

    Here is a map of ancient Israel, taken from Wikipedia:

    The caption there is: Map of the twelve tribes of Israel, before the move of Dan to the North

    Note Tyre (and Sidon) all the way to the North. Tzor is an island, but also has territory on the mainland. The tribe of Naftali is also at the top. Note that Dan is below, towards the middle. But also note the city of Dan in the North, within what is described as Naftali's territory. To explain:
    According to the biblical narrative, the tribe had originally tried to settle in the central coastal area of Canaan, but due to enmity with the Philistines who had already settled there, were only able to camp in the hill country overlooking the Sorek Valley, the camp location becoming known as Mahaneh Dan ("Camps of Dan"). (Joshua 19) The region they were trying to settle included the area as far north as Joppa, and extending south into the Shephelah in the area of Timnah; as a result, the modern state of Israel refers to the region as Gush Dan (the Dan area). However, as a consequence of the pressure from the Philistines, the tribe abandoned hopes of settling near the central coast, instead migrating to the north of Philistine territory, and after conquering Laish, refounded it as their capital (renaming it Dan). (Judges 18)
    Perhaps this can explain the contradiction between Naftali and Dan. Or it can explain how a woman of Naftali could marry a man of Dan. These were both places in the north, near Tyre. And perhaps one was a city of origin and the other was a tribal origin.

    Tuesday, March 10, 2015

    Posts so far for parshat Vayakhel


    1.  Why single out kindling? As ruling out the exception of ochel nefesh.

    2. Why does Rashi change midrash Tanchuma?

    1. YUTorah on Vayakhel-Pekudei. And

    2. Why does the Torah emphasize that 'on the day of the Shabbat' there is a prohibition of kindling? From Magid Meisharim, it comes specifically to remove us from the hearts of the Sadducees...

    3. A woman's wisdom is only in the spindle? I suggest this strong response is because he was responding to a polemic attack on Pharisaic Judaism.


    1. The trup symbol of psik in וְאַתָּה תְּצַוֶּה | אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל --  to hint that it was not from the money of the Israelites, but rather that clouds brought it from Gan Eden. This according to Birkas Avraham. Based in Tetzaveh, but connected to Vayakhel.
    2. Vayakhel sources, 2012 edition. 


    1. Vayakhel sources -- further improved. For example, many more meforshei Rashi.
    2. YUTorah on parashat Vayakhel. And for 2012. And 2014 edition.
    3. Some thoughts on Onkelos on Vayakhel --   Regarding three points -- the word shaba as a back-formation; Onkelos' rendition ofal hanashim as al neshaya; and whether ve'asah should be rendered in Onkelos as a part tense verb.
    4. Betzalel did all that Hashem commanded Moshe, pt i -- based in Pekudei, but involving Vayakhel:  According to Rashi, Betzalel knew even that which Moshe didn't say to him, and also argued against the reverted order. How to understand this is a major dispute amongst super-commentators of Rashi. In this first part, we try to establish that Rashi never even juxtaposed the two midrashim, which may then impact how we understand what he does say.
    5. Betzalel did all that Hashem commanded Moshe, pt ii --  Into the fray! Looking at the Levush Ha'Orah, who takes other meforshei Rashi to task.
    6. Lo Tevaaru vs. Lo Taviru Esh --   I'm almost certain the Samaritans changed it. The question is, why?
    7. Is it היו or יהיו פני הכרובים?  The Rashba answers a query, based on the texts before him and bolstered by sevarah.
    8. Should Shemot 35:35 read כל or בכל?  Exploring a variant raised and rejected by Minchas Shai.
    9. The pesik in Et | Mizbach HaOlah --  Should we indeed darshen the trup in this way?  My very first post arguing with Birkas Avraham about this issue.


    1. Vayakhel sources -- revamped. Now with more than 100 meforshim on the parasha and the haftara.
    2. Did they donate four, or five, types of jewelry to the Mishkan? Did the midrashist have a non-Masoretic text?! A pasuk in Vayakhel lists four types of jewelry donated to the Mishkan. But a Midrash Rabba appears to indicate five types of jewelry. And LXX and the Samaritan Torah back up this reading. What shall we make of this? Could an entire word have fallen out of our Torah?!
    3. As a followup to the above post, Did an entire word fall out of the Torah, pt ii -- No, it didn't. Though I'll attempt to prove this in the third segment. Though the idea that this would be the conclusion could bias one's analysis -- after all, one does not want to be a heretic, according to the Rambam's definition!

      This segment is dedicated to analyzing the language of the midrash, and is an attempt tofurther demonstrate that the midrashist indeed was working off a text equivalent to that found in the Samaritan Torah.
    4. And Did an entire word fall out of the Torah, part iii -- No, it didn't. And in this segment, I will try to demonstrate.
    1. Vayakhel sources -- links by aliyah and perek to an online Mikraos Gedolos, and many, many meforshim on the parsha and haftara. Great for preparing Shnayim Mikra.
    2. Vayakhel thoughts, on gematria and Rashi. What is motivating Baal HaTurim to give all these derivations of the count of 39 melachos. And what is motivating Rashi to explain that Vayakhel is the hiphil? Was it the variant girsaot of Onkelos on this pasuk? I personally doubt it.
    3. The Karaite interpretation of lo tevaaru esh, and how Aharon ben Yosef responds to Ibn Ezra and Rav Saadia Gaon within this polemic. Some interesting stuff on both sides.
    4. And then, why I think the Karaite position is ridiculous; and my own suggestion of a peshat-based interpretation of this pasuk.
    5. How Zohar on parshat Vayakhel mentions Yishtabach, which might be post-Talmudic. And how Zohar on parshat Vayakhel says (citing Chazal that) one may not break off a "parsha" that Moshe did not, but misinterprets parsha to mean sidra, something which does not seem to make sense.
    • "Upon the Women" -- Does Onkelos intend a derash? I would guess not, and Rashi may not really be saying this either.
    • Behold, Hashem is Called / Credited
      • Midrash Rabba (48:5) has an interesting spin on the singling out of Betzalel. While it is homiletic, it fits into an existing theme in the peshat of the pesukim, and also relies on a very clever play on a linguistic ambiguity in the text, one which most casual and many serious readers of midrash will miss...
    • The First Word of Parshat Vayaqhel
      • Explaining Rashi's explanation of the first word of the parsha, as the perfect causative, created by vav hahipuch from the imperfect causative. You can recognize the imperfect hiph'il because it looks exactly like the imperfect Aramaic Aph'el.
    • The 39 Melachot of Shabbat as Pashut Peshat
      • How, on the simplest level of reading, the construction of the Mishkan and the prohibition of performing labor on Shabbat are linked, such that Chazal's derivation of the 39 melachot may be read as pashut peshat.

    to be continued...

    Wednesday, March 04, 2015

    The hyrax, practicing caecotrophy

    A solid candidate for the Biblical shafan is the hyrax.

    This is based on linguistic evidence (comparison to Arabic tafan and what the al-wabr was in the time and place of Saadia Gaon), zooarchaeological evidence (what areas rabbit, hares, and hyraxes were found in ancient times), and analysis of pesukim in which the shafan is mentioned.

    The difficulty is that the shafan is not a ruminant, while the Torah states it is a maaleh geira. There are several answers to this, such as:

    1. It makes constant chewing motions such that ancient peoples believed it was a ruminant (and dibra Torah kilshon benei adam).

    2. It has a multi-chambered stomach, which could cause it to be classified in the class of maaleh geira. (Or cause ancient people to believe it was a ruminant...)

    3. Rabbi Natan Slifkin has video in which it seems to practice merycism, that is, the bringing up food in the throat back to the mouth for rechewing (that is, while not scientific rumination, it is literally maaleh its geira).

    4. Here I offer a fourth reason it might be considered maaleh geira. Some animals, such as rabbits, practice caecotrophy, and this is the justification for considering the rabbit and hare to be maaleh geira (and thus the shafan and / or arnevet). To define the term:

    • "Caecotrophy" is a kind of coprophagy. "Caecotrophy" specifically refers to the ingestion of caecal feces for nutritional purposes. "Coprophagy" refers to the ingestion of feces for any reason, including mental illness.

    Meanwhile, as some in Mexico object:
    "The hyrax cannot be the shafan or the arnebet, because even the proponents of identifying the hyrax as the shafan acknowledge that there is no evidence that the hyrax practices rumination, caecotrophy, or even merycism; thus, the hyrax is not "maaleh gerah"."
    However, it turns out that every hyrax eats hyrax feces at one point in its life, when it is still a baby, for what might easily be considered nutritional purposes. It does not engage in auto-caecotrophy (eating its own feces), but it eats the feces of other hyraxes. That is, as this Wired article notes:
    2. They have multi-chambered stomachs. Although they are not ruminants, hyraxes have three-chambered stomachs filled with symbiotic bacteria that help break down the plants they eat. Baby hyraxes are not born with the bacteria they will need to digest plant matter, so to obtain it they eat the poop of adult hyraxes.
    Whether this is technically considered caecotrophy rather than caecophagy, I can see people debating. But it is surely noteworthy that it engages in this behavior, giving us a reason #4.


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