Signs of Kosher Animals

August 20, 2011 | by

When God spoke about kosher animals in the Torah, why does it only list the animals known to the people at that time? It never mentions any animals in Africa like the hippo or giraffe.

The Aish Rabbi Replies

What makes an animal kosher? The Torah says (Leviticus 11:2, 3, 7):

"Speak to the children of Israel saying: Of all the animals in the world, these are the ones you may eat. Among mammals, you may eat (any one) that has true hoofs that are cloven, and that chews its cud... The pig shall be unclean to you although it has a cloven hoof, since it does not chew its cud."

There must two signs: Every animal must have fully split hooves and it has to be cud-chewing. Is a horse kosher? No, because it doesn't have split hooves or chew its cud. What about a lion? It also lacks these signs. What about a cow? Yes, because it has both signs.

The practical law is explained by Maimonides (Laws of Forbidden Foods 1:2-3):

"The identifying signs of clean animals are specified in the Torah as two: the true cloven hoof and the chewing of the cud (rumination). Both must be present… Consequently, if a person finds an animal in the wilderness… whose muzzle has been mutilated, he should examine the hoofs. If they are cloven, the animal is clean – provided he can ascertain it is not a pig."

This is amazing! Even though the Torah already gave us the two signs that make an animal kosher, it decides to add some extra information. The Torah lists only one animal – the pig – that has the kosher sign of split hooves, but not the other sign of chewing cud.

Why does the Torah stick its neck on the line to tell us there is only one animal that has the kosher sign of split hooves, but not the other sign of chewing cud? All we have to do is find a second animal with that one kosher sign and we know the Torah is wrong! All we need is one more species, at any time in existence, that does not chew its cud yet has split hooves and we know the whole Torah is a farce. You can close up the religion. There goes Judaism. It's been a nice few thousand years. Why risk the whole religion and expose it to fraud, for no gain?

Certainly, in Moses’ time the Jews were not able to identify every existing mammal in the world. Was Moses a hunter or a safari expert that he knew this information?! Obviously not. And yet, the Bible put very specific information in there without fear of being proven wrong.

Zoologists today have identified over 5,000 different species of mammals. And still there is only one – the pig – that has the kosher sign of split hooves, but not the other sign of chewing cud.

Why would the Torah write this, and more incredibly, how could it have gotten it right?

The Talmud (Chulin 60b) concludes: This refutes those who question whether the Torah was given by God.

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