March 27, 2008

Genesis Shmenesis Part 2

I decided to write this post because the last one started to get too long with the same comments being repeated over and over again. So with this post, I hope to break down the actual arguments and perhaps make it easier for other people to understand the topic and perhaps even get their opinion on the matter. If anything, I should thank RG for at least forcing me to think more about this topic, even though I do not agree with him. So thank you.

Here is the verses from Lev. 11: 20-23 Parashat Shemini.
20 ‘All flying insects that creep on all fours shall be an abomination to you. 21 Yet these you may eat of every flying insect that creeps on all fours: those which have jointed legs above their feet with which to leap on the earth. 22 These you may eat: the locust after its kind, the destroying locust after its kind, the cricket after its kind, and the grasshopper after its kind. 23 But all other flying insects which have four feet shall be an abomination to you.
My question was simply, what does verse 20 mean? There is no such thing as a four legged insect.

RG's tries to answer it like this:

The Torah only allowed the insects specifically set forth in verse 22 (locusts, grasshopper and cricket). The Torah calls these insects (albeit with an extra two jumping legs) as a four legged insects. Jewish Tradition technically does not allow for ALL four legged jumping insects, only the ones named in our mesorah, hence, many Jews don't eat locusts and grasshoppers etcs, since they do not know the exact identification for them. RG contends that the answer to verse 20 is that ALL the REST of the locusts and grasshoppers and crickets that are NOT specifically part of the mesorah is what the actual prohibition is talking about (ie. Yeminites will only eat locusts found in a swarm).

My problem is this:

1) This does not seem pshat. The Torah in verse 20 seems to be talking about OTHER insects OTHER than the exception it layed out.
2) The Torah gives you specific simanim. What is the point of the Torah giving us simanim if the only insect we will be allowed to eat are the specific ones named in verse 22? If the only thing we can eat would be those specific insects, then the torah should just have given us a list like it did with the bird section and not bothered with simanim. I am contending that technically any insect with four legs and two jumping legs are kosher and that the torah is simply giving you an example list of what is allowed. (RG disagrees)

Mevaseretzion sent me this:
well here is rambam on which ones are kosher

כא מיני חגבים שהתירה תורה, שמונה; ואלו הן: (א) חגב; (ב) ומין חגב, והיא הדובנית; (ג) חרגול; (ד) ומין חרגול, והיא עצרוניא; (ה) ארבה; (ו) ומין ארבה, והיא ציפורת כרמים; (ז) סולעם; (ח) ומין סולעם, והיא יוחנה ירושלמית.
כב מי שהוא בקי בהן ובשמותיהן, אוכל; והצייד נאמן עליהן, כעוף. ומי שאינו בקי, בודק בסימנין; ושלושה סימנין יש להן: כל שיש לו ארבע רגליים, וארבע כנפיים שחופות רוב אורך גופו ורוב היקף גופו, ויש לו שני כרעיים לנתר בהן--הרי זה מין טהור. ואף על פי שראשו ארוך ויש לו זנב--אם היה שמו חגב,
טהור

he takes the simanim as good enough, with the torah's list just giving you the names, so you dont have to worry about simanm for those ones so it would seem that all 4/2 [four legged w/two jumping legs] that have wings that cover most of their body are kosher! and the list is to show you that they have to have wings covering most of their body the ones that are 4/2 that arent kosher DONT have large enough wings
This seems to suggest that the Rambam (from the gemara) merely made a list to help you identify the ones allowed to make it easier for us and chazal identified that these insects wings must be large enough to cover their bodies (does there exist a locust, grasshopper or cricket that doesn't have large wings?). Hence, from these lists, Jews decided that it is better to simply work from a list which chazal gave.

The question is, and this is how it ties in to RG's point, is verse 20 referring to locusts, grasshopper and crickets that did not make the list? I do not see that as pshat at all. Also, from the Yeminite example, it seems that Jews had a subjective hand in decided what fits the definition of a locust and what does not. The Yeminites decided that locusts that are not in a swarm are not kosher. So does that mean that single locusts found among themselves fit verse 20? Verse 20 is clearly talking about OTHER four legged insects, and NOT simply four legged w/two jumping legged insects that are not on the list in verse 22 or that do not have large wings.

3) From what I remember, Ramban comments that verse 20 is referring to a bee. He says it uses its two inside legs merely to balance, but not to walk. If the pshat is like what RG is saying, wouldn't the Ramban know about it? Also, I am told (you can check for yourself as I will) that other achronim asked the same qeustion that I am regarding verse 20. Again, if the insects that that verse was referring to were simply OTHER four legged jumpers that are not on the list (like RG) why did they not know that?

I hope I managed to clear things up :)