Bar-Ilan University's Parashat Hashavua Study Center
Parashat Re'eh 5762/ August 3, 2002
Lectures on the weekly Torah reading by the faculty
of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel.
A project of the Faculty of Jewish Studies,
Paul and Helene Shulman Basic Jewish Studies Center,
and the Office of the Campus Rabbi. Published on the Internet
under the sponsorship of Bar-Ilan University's
International Center for Jewish Identity.
Prepared for Internet
Publication by the Center for IT & IS Staff at Bar-Ilan University.
Inquiries and comments to:
Dr. Isaac Gottlieb, Department of Bible,
Parashat Re'eh 5762/ August 3, 2002
Department of Arabic
Among the subjects discussed in this week's reading are
the forbidden foods, mentioned first in Parashat Shemini. One of the forbidden
animals mentioned is the swine (Deut. 14:8). This animal bears a similar name
in Semitic languages: hazir
in Hebrew, hazira
in Aramaic, and
in Arabic. Sus Scrofa
is the current scientific
identification of the animal.
specifically mentions the swine because it is the only example in the entire
animal kingdom of a creature that has a cloven hoof but does not chew its
"He who rules His world knows that
there is nothing that has a cloven hoof and is unclean other than the swine;
therefore Scripture mentions it explicitly" (Hullin
The swine is the symbol of things ugly and repulsive:
"Like a gold ring in the snout of a pig" (Prov. 11:22). The same
impression is given by Saadiah Gaon's translation of Isaiah, which takes
references to the pig as metaphors for that which is ugly: "Who eat the
flesh of swine" (Is. 65:4) = "Who eat what resembles the flesh of
swine"; "Who present as oblation the blood of swine" (Is.
66:3) = "and whose oblations are like the blood of swine." Because
of its base image, fastidious Jews refrain from referring to it by name, using
instead the euphemism "davar aher
The Sages, therefore, compared the Roman regime to a swine:
"Also the swine
- this refers to the wicked kingdom of
Later the swine was used to
portray the Jews: the Koran speaks of people whom the Lord cursed, in His wrath
turning them into monkeys and swine.
Like the swine, so too, the dog is considered a most
despicable creature; sometimes the swine is mentioned along with the dog to
express disgust: "who ... immolate dogs, who present as oblation the
blood of swine" (Is. 66:3); "He who raises dogs is like he who
raises swine" (Bava Kama 83a); "Likewise a proselyte who
received dogs and swine in his inheritance" (Bava Kama 80a);
"There is nothing poorer than a dog, and nothing more rich than a
pig" (Shabbat 155b). The New Testament, as well, makes similar
associations: "For them the proverb has proved true: ‘The dog
returns to its own vomit', and, ‘The sow after a wash rolls in the
mud again'" (II Peter 2:22); "‘Do not give dogs what is
holy; do not throw your pearls to the pigs'" (Mathew 7:6).
The pig is the symbol of forbidden foods as whole. This is
also true in Islam: the proscription against eating the flesh of swine is
mentioned explicitly in the Koran four times.
Al-Jahth believes the origins of this proscription to lie in the fact that prior
to the spread of Islam many Arabs used to eat swine because of the excellence of
its flesh. Therefore it is explicitly mentioned in the Koran, unlike many other
animals such as the dog and the monkey, which are not explicitly singled out
since presumably they were not eaten because of their nature and
Al-antakhi cites an opinion
explaining the proscription on the grounds that in the period preceeding Islam
it was customary to sell the flesh of human corpses, passing it off as pork.
Maimonides added medical and hygienic reasons for the religious
Let me say that the foods which the Torah forbade us are, all
of them, very bad in terms of nutrition. Do not think that all the forbidden
foods are harmful save for the swine and the fatty parts. This is not so, for
the swine is overly moist and extremely fatty. Moreover, the Torah found it
disgusting because of its excessive filth, feeding itself on garbage. We know
full well how strict the Torah was about the sight of filth, even in the
encampment in the wilderness, and all the more so in urban places. Were we to
raise swine for food, our markets and even our homes would become filthier than
a latrine, as can be observed in certain lands even now. As we know, the Sages
have said: "The mouth of the swine is like feces on the move"
According to Maimonides, swine and the fatty parts are the
only animals forbidden by the Torah that one could mistakenly think are not
harmful to eat, however the contrary is true, since these foods are bad and
harmful to the body, even though they are widely eaten and thought to be
Eating swine is forbidden also
for hygienic reasons.
Note that pork was
widely thought to be the best meat of any
as Maimonides mentioned more than
once in his medical works. Loewinger noted this seeming contradiction in
Maimonides' writings and attempted to resolve
Al-Antakhi's medical treatise
mentions that the finest meat is that of the "black pig" (= wild
boar), with its thick, hairy coat, when no more than two years
He claims that pork has a certain
sweetness and that the flesh of swine is preferable to its fat. Unlike
Maimonides, Al-Antakhi believed that pork had medicinal value "in that it
generates blood and balances the humours, opening blockages and removing
leanness; when digested, it is entirely of nutritional value, since it is
closest of any animal to the human
noted that when pork is eaten without the accompaniment of wine, it can cause
chronic headaches, "elephant's
arthritis, exhaustion, or
Medieval medicine made
use of most parts of the pig: its liver, gall, fat, heel, blood, and even its
feces and urine.
Even though the swine is the most disdained and repulsive of
creatures, there is a Midrash about the swine (hazir
) that says,
"It is destined that the Holy One, blessed be He will restore it to
There is a
Midrash about Roman rule, which appears in several variants, usually containing
a phrase about the Holy One, blessed be He, "restoring our former
glory" (le-hahazir atarah
A few of the variants say
the Holy One, blessed be He, "will restore it to us" or "will
restore it to Israel."
It should be noted that the latter variants do not appear in
the Babylonian Talmud, nor in the Jerusalem Talmud. Neither do they appear in
earlier Midrashim, nor is there any indication of them in very earlier rabbinic
authorities. It is mystifying how these variants entered the works of important
exegetes such as Rabbenu Bahya, Ritba, Abarbanel, Recanati, Or Ha-Hayyim and
others, and much has been written on this
Some views were that in the
future the flesh of the swine would be permitted only after G-d gave this animal
its missing indicator of kashruth - chewing its cud. Others maintained
that it would be permitted temporarily, only as an emergency order on the
grounds of it being "time to act for the Lord; for Your Torah has been
violated," just as it had been permitted in the time of the conquest
Most scholars today tend to doubt the authenticity of this
statement, viewing it as a falsification or distortion of the text, reflecting a
Despite all we have said
above, Steinsaltz believes this remark to be
He bases his opinion on a
similar passage from Ecclesiastes
where these words are lacking,
and without them there is a missing link whose absence detracts from the sense
of the text that follows. He surmises that the disappearance of these words
from the formulation in other Midrashim was due to internal censorship, in order
not to open the way for heretics who denied the eternal validity of the
May the words of the Midrash come to pass:
In the future the Holy One, blessed be He, will proclaim: Let
everyone who has never tasted the flesh of swine come and take his reward...
Thus He will handsomely repay those entitled to
For further reading on the
swine and archaeological findings in Israel from various periods, see A. Bilik
and S. Loewenstamm, under Hazir
in the Encyclopedia
, III, 90-94. On pig farming in the land of Israel after the
Roman period, see B. Rosen, "Gidul Hazir be-Eretz Israel le-ahar
78 (1996), pp. 25-42.
Amru ibn al-Bahar al-Jahth,
, 4, Beirut 1955, p. 52, cites Aristotle as saying
that some pigs do not have cloven hooves.
On the origins of this
custom, see Berakhot
 Leviticus Rabbah
13.5. Compare Midrash Tanhuma
 Sura al-Maida
60. The explanation given by commentators is that these person's souls
were reincarnated in the bodies of monkeys and pigs.
 Sura al-Bikra
173; Sura al-Maida
, v. 3; Sura al-Anaam
, v. 145; Sura
, v. 115.
 Guide for the
, III, Kapah edition, Jerusalem 1972, p. 652.
For each thing that was
prohibited, the Lord permitted something else instead. Since He prohibited the
flesh of the swine, which is considered so fine, a substitute for it was
created: "I forbade you the flesh of the swine, but I permitted you the
tongue of the fish known as shibuta
, which is like pork" (Midrash
Cf. the remark made by
the Sages: "Ten measures of infliction were brought on the world; nine of
them were received by the swine, and the tenth by the entire world"
So an Egyptian author,
Zekhariah ibn Mahmad al-Kawaini.
"Ha-Ma'akhalot ha-Asurot ve-Ta'ameihem lefi
," Mehkarei Yerushalayim be-Mahshevet Yisrael
2, 4 (1983), pp. 515-528. Loewinger maintains there that Maimonides'
praise of the virtues of pork was said with regard to its medicinal value, not
its value as a food. As a medication it may be used, for our Sages taught us
that a pregnant woman who smells consecrated meat or pork and has a craving to
eat it, is to be fed these things until her craving is allayed (Yoma
Cf. the remark of the
Sages, "Swine is different, since its intestines
are similar to those of human beings" (Ta'anit
A disease that causes
inflammation of the calf and foot due to abscesses. Medieval Arab medical
literature knew of a skin disease called hanazir
"pigs"); apparently characterized by large abscesses that developed
around the back of the neck.
 Midrash ha-Gadol
on Leviticus, A. Steinsaltz ed., Jerusalem 1976, Shemini
11.7, p. 249.
[In what seems like an obvious wordplay on the root
 Midrash Tanhuma
For a comprehensive
discussion of all the views on this issue, see H. Karlinski, "He-Hazir
ve-‘Hetero' le-Atid Lavo
," Shanah be-Shanah
(1972), pp. 243-254.
Karlinski explains at
length the Christians' argument that, since their Saviour had come, the
Law of Moses was no longer valid and the proscription against eating pork no
longer applied. As proof of their argument, they cited this remark: "It
is destined that the Holy One, blessed be He, will restore it to us."
"Atid ha-Kadosh Barukh Hu le-Hahaziro
(1967), pp. 297-298.
On the verse,
"Only that shall happen which has happened, only that occur which has
occurred; there is nothing new beneath the sun!" (Eccles. 1:9).
 Midrash Tanhuma