Parshas Shmini – Kashrus and the Divine Authorship of Torah

By Avner Friedmann

This Parshah identifies the kosher animals whose flesh we may eat. It states,[1] “Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon saying, ‘Speak to the Children of Israel, saying; these are the creatures that you may eat from among all the animals that are upon the earth. Everything among the animals that has a split hoof, which is completely separated into double hooves and that chews its cud; that you may eat.” In other words, kosher animals must possess both features; they must chew their cud and they must have split hooves. All other animal are non-kosher and are forbidden for a Jew to eat.

Now, this verse is quite clear and straight forward. The Torah could have stopped right there and we would have enough information to differentiate between kosher and non-kosher animals. Nonetheless, the Torah continues and tells us,[2] “But this is what you may not eat from among those that chew their cud or that have split hooves; the camel…the hyrax[3]… and the hare, for they chew their cud, but their hoof is not split…and the pig, for its hoof is split …but it does not chew its cud; these are unclean to you.”

It is interesting to note[4] that though much of the world, such as Australia, North America, South America, Antarctica and great portions of Africa, Asia and Europe, were as yet, undiscovered when the Torah was written, the Torah, nonetheless, emphatically states that these four species possess only one kosher characteristic and not the other. The Talmud[5] concludes that since only these species were named, no other such species exist. Incredibly, though tens of thousands of previously unknown creatures have since been discovered, categorized and studied, not a single additional one fits this description. This itself is ample proof of the Divine authorship of the Torah. Only the Creator Himself could know with certainty that no other such animals exist.

Indeed, the Malbim writes[6] that had a human being, such as Moshe, authored the Torah himself, he would never have risked destroying his credibility by listing these four animals. He could simply have stated that only animals that possess both these signs are kosher and left it at that. That would have been sufficient information for us to recognize the kosher animals and reject the non-kosher ones, including those which possess only one of the two signs.

May the mitzvah of eating kosher food be a source of faith in HaShem and His Holy Torah and as our holy books tell us, just as through their faith in HaShem, the Jewish people merited to be redeemed from Egypt, so too, it will specifically be through the merit of our faith (Emunah) that we will be redeemed in the future, in the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach. May it come to pass speedily in our days, Amen.


[1] Shmini 11:1-3.

[2] Shmini 11:4-8.

[3] The Hyrax is also called Rock badger. Its Scientific name is Procavia  Capensis.

[4] Going Kosher by Rabbi A. Markel, p.52.

[5] Gemara Chulin 59a to 60b.

[6] On Leviticus 11:4.

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