A Clarification on the Knowledge of the Sages on Matters of Wild and Domesticated Animals
In which it will be clarified that Chazal
were not experts about animals, as they testified in Tractate Hulin 57a:
“From the words of Bribi it is clear he is not an expert on chickens.”
An observant person should not attribute to the sages knowledge they would not have known in their era, for all who thus claim
attribute error to the Holy Spirit and the Shechinah,
as our sages said in Tractate Brachot 4a:
“Teach your tongue to say ‘I do not know,’ lest you be proven a liar.”
“These are the animals that you may eat: the shor, the se kvasim, and the se izim; the ayal, the tzvi, the yachmur, the ako, the dishon, the tao, the zamer, and any animal that has true hoofs which are cleft in two and brings up the cud–such you may eat” (Deuteronomy 14:4).
From the plain meaning of the text and from the words “and any animal that has true hoofs” which the Scripture adds to the list of animals already specified, it is clear that not only those specifically listed are the kosher animals, but that there are more. It is also clear from the plain text that if any of the additional animals have both signs of a kosher animal, it would be permissible for eating. This is indeed the opinion of Rav Acha the son of Jacob in Hulin 80a, “And maybe theayal and the tzvi are details, ‘any other animal’ is the generalization. This is a detail and generalization, so we follow the generalization, and there are many other additional animals.”
But the Gemara rejected his opinion and determined the law based on R’ Isaac’s opinion: “The Scripture detailed ten animals and no more.” This is also Rabbi’s opinion in Hulin 63b: “Rabbi says, ‘it is known to He who spoke and the world came into being that there are more impure beasts than pure beasts, and therefore the Scripture listed the pure beasts.” Pay attention, for R’ Isaac’s and Rabbi’s words are very important. You may learn from the words of Rabbi, the leader of the Jewish people and the man who compiled the Mishnah, that in this verse the Torah listed all the pure livestock and animals in the world and that there are no other additional pure livestock or animals. So we see that according to the Talmud there are no pure livestock or animals other than those G-d listed in our Torah by name.
Based on these things Maimonides ruled, in the Laws of Forbidden Foods, chapter one, halacha eight, “There are no livestock or animals (behemah orchayah) in the world which one is permitted to eat other than the ten listed in the Torah. There are three kinds of behemah, and they are the shor [ox], the se[sheep], and the ez [goat], and seven kinds of chayah: the ayal, the tzvi, theyachmur, the ako, the dishon, the tao, and the zamer. They and their kind, such as the wild ox and the fatted ox, which are of the same kind as the ox.”
The chevrotain (mouse deer) is a ruminant which has split hooves and is not listed amongst the ten pure animals in the Torah.
This is in contrast to the opinion of Rabbeynu Tam on Hulin 59a, s.v. eylu hen: “For there is a type of behema which is not found amongst us. It has horns like an undomesticated animal.” (The Tosfot rejected his words.)
We come here to explain that our Sages and our rabbis did not know and could not have known about livestock and animals which were found after the discovery of new continents, like southern Africa, America, and Australia. Before we say our piece, we will explain the way in which the various livestock and animals are sorted into groups and we see how this precise division reveals amazing things about the livestock and animals listed in the Torah. The standard division is Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. The domesticated and undomesticated animals with which we are dealing are all Kingdom Animalia, Class Mammalia, Order Artiodactyla, Suborder Ruminantia, and all are part of two of the nine families of this suborder: the shor(ox), the keves (sheep), the ez (goat), the tzvi (gazelle), the ako (mountain goat, according to Onkelus), the dishon (ibex, according to Onkelus), the tao (buffalo, according to Onkelus), and the zamer (which seems to be the mountain sheep; only according to Rabbi Saadiah Gaon is this last term to be translated as the giraffe, but we have found no supporting opinions, nor have we ever heard that anybody permitted eating the giraffe according to the law of the Torah) — all these are Family Bovidae. But there are many other kosher animals in Family Bovidae. Family Bovidae is comprised of 45 genuses and some 110 species of animals. All of these also possess both signs of kashrut.
Two of the animals listed in the Torah, the deer and the roebuck, belong to Family Cervidae, which is comprised of 17 genuses and 44 different species of animals. These, too, have the signs of a kosher animal.
If so, based on Rabbi’s view, instead of ten types of pure behemah andchayah listed in the Torah by He who spoke and the world came into being, there are 154 such species of domesticated and undomesticated animals in our world!
The view of Maimonides, who wrote, “they and their kind” is odd. The Torah did not use this method, for had it followed Maimonides’s method, it would not have separately listed the ox and the buffalo (the translation of tao according to the Gemara in Hulin 80a) nor the goat and mountain goat, which are of the same subfamily; it would have relied on the term “their kind” as learned from the Torah, and would have written only ox and goat, to which we would add the buffalo and the mountain goat.
The okapi is a pure animal found in Africa and which is not listed in the Torah as a pure animal. This is proof that the Torah only listed those animals found in the area of Israel.
But even if we follow Maimonides’s method and say that all these additional livestock and animals are the “kinds” of the ten, we will not find peace.
For there are three whole other families which are not listed in the Scriptures: Family Tragulidae, Family Giraffidae, and Family Antilocapridae. They include genuses and species which certainly were not listed in the Torah, neither on their own or as the “kinds” of the animals listed in the Torah. These animals, which are definitely kosher, include the chevrotain (a deer the size of a cat, a ruminant with split hooves which lives on the Indonesian islands and the Phillipines) and the okapi, a split hoofed ruminant of the giraffe family. No opinion claims these animals are included in the list given in the Torah, from which they are as far as the distance between east and west, yet according to the signs of purity they are kosher.
And you who loves truth, see how reality demolishes Rabbi’s determination and even Maimonides’s extensions. There aren’t ten pure animals in the world, there are some 150, and even if we add to those listed in the Torah all genuses and species similar to them, there will still be additional pure animals which neither those who wrote down the Torah, nor the great men of the Talmud, nor even the first Rishonim knew existed.
Know that all the animals listed in the Torah are animals found in the landof Israel and its surroundings during the period in which the Scriptures were written. One who wished to delve into this topic should read the book “HaChai B’Ymei HaMikrah, HaMishnah, V’HaTalmud” by the zoologist Menachem Dor.
The Strange Division Between Chayah and Behemah
We will move on to another topic and look at the Scriptural division betweenchayah and behemah, which has halachic implications.
Chazal made the following halachic distinctions between behemah and chayah:
“The tallow of a behemah is forbidden and of a chayah is permitted” (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 64:1).
“Covering the blood is customary for a chayah and is not customary for abehemah” (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 28).
“The Torah prohibition against cooking meat with milk is practiced in regard tobehemah and not chayah” (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 87:2).
“The prohibition against slaughtering a mother and offspring on the same day is practiced in regards to behemah and not chayah” (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 16:7).
“One brings a sacrifice of a behemah and not of a chayah” (Zevachim 34a).
The sages were unsure whether Capra Caucasica, which greatly resembles the mountain goat, is a chayah or behemah, simply because of the addition of a name: “goat of Karkuz.”
But how do we know what is considered a behemah and what is considered a chayah and what the differences are between them?
Chazal in Tractate Hulin 59b: “The rabbis have taught that these are the signs of an chayah whose tallow is permitted. Any animal which has horns…A goat has horns and hooves and its tallow is forbidden…” The Gemara concludes that if it has forked horns it is considered a chayah and if the horns are not forked then they must be wrapped, (“layers upon layers” like an ox’s horns), notched and defective, and sharp on top.
Since the commentaries on the signs of kashrut for animals have multiplied so, we will not expand on this issue, but we will make one point and say that according to any method, this division is quite strange. Come and see: The goat is a behemah and the mountain goat is a chayah, though they both are of the same sub-family and amazingly resemble each other, and since the distinction between behemah and chayah is not clear enough, Chazal in Hulin 59b were divided on the matter of the “goat of [the place] Karkuz.” Shmuel said that is a chayah and Rav Acha said it is a behemah. And Rashi explained: “This animal has sharp and notched horns — so should it be considered a chayah? Or, perhaps, since it is called a goat, it should be considered a behemah?” The question is odd. We find that an objective examination of the form and structure of the animal is not the determinant, but human language and what people call the animals is that which determines the Torah’s law about the division betweenchayah and behemah. Similarly, in Tractate Hulin 80a, the wild goat is said to be permissible for sacrifice (meaning that it is a behemah), and Ameimar ruled that its tallow is permissible (meaning that it is a sort of chayah)!
Know that the matter of names which people made up caused Chazal to actually change the laws; see Tractate Succah 13a, “A person fulfills his obligation on Passover with marsh bitter herbs.” They asked about this, for in the Torah it is simply written “bitter herbs” and not “marsh bitter herbs” and Rava explained, “Plain ‘bitter herbs’ is their name, and they are called ‘marsh bitter herbs’ for they are common in the marsh.” The Tosfot, s.v. mishumd’shechichin wrote that this is the reason that izei d’bala (wild goats) are permitted for sacrifice, meaning that they are goats, only they dwell in the woods. (The Tosfot disregarded the disagreement in the Gemara, Tractate Chulin 80a). This is also the case for the yonah (turtle-dove), brought on the altar, Chulin 62b: “Rav Judah said: the kuphshanei tzutzyanei are permissible on the altar, and they are the turtle-doves of Rachba.” And Rashi explained: “kuphshanei is what turtle-doves are called in Aramaic, and they are calledtzutzyanei after their habitat.” The Gemara wanted to forbid their being brought on the altar because they are not called simply yonah, but yonah tzutzyanei, until Rava came and permitted them: “Rava said: the kuphshanei tzutzyanei are simply called [turtle-doves] in their habitat.” So they are the same animal. Why were the Sages divided? Go out to the field, look with your own eyes and see if it is the same plain yonah of which the Torah wrote or not. The form and body structure are those which determine, not the name it is called by people.
See for yourself: The cow is a type of behemah from the family of the ox, but the Gemara in Hulin 80a questioned whether the buffalo is a chayah orbehemah! We find that there are types of bovines which might be chayah. But what about the cattle we now have (see the Encyclopedia Hebraica, entrybakar) such as the Friesian cattle which come from Holland and which are raised in Israel? What about the Africander and Brahman and their like, crossbreeds of other cattle varieties? You should know that the cow we have in Israel is the crossbreed of the Friesian with the Arabian, Lebanese, and Damacus cows, and in the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, section 80, subsection 6, “A crossbreed of a kosher behemah with a kosher chayah is called kvi. Its tallow is forbidden and one should not cover its blood.” The Rama, in section 28, subsection 4, wrote: “There is a doubt whether the buffalo — the wild ox — is a chayah, and therefore it is best to cover its blood without a blessing.” What the rule for our cattle is, is unknown. They are all crossbreeds and might be considered chayahs or might be considered kviwhich may be chayah and may be behemah, so we can not find our way and we must fear they are all chayahs and cover their blood and prohibit their tallow. And it is very puzzling that our rabbis do not warn the observant public about this grave matter. Go see the puzzlement of the Magid Mishneh on Maimonides, The Laws of Forbidden Foods, chapter one, halacha eight, who counted the wild ox with the behemah and yet it is the tao — so that would make four behemah and six chayah, and not as Maimonides wrote, three behemahand seven chayah. There is no end to confusion and embarrassment.
The Shach on Yoreh Deah section 80, subsection 1, wrote: “And since we do not know now [the signs of chayah] except for what we have received by tradition — as written below in section 82 concerning the signs of birds’ purity — I have abridged.” The Pri Megadim wrote: “Since the interpretations have multiplied, one should not eat tallow except in accordance with tradition, for we are not expert on notched horns and the other signs.” From these words we see that about today’s cows, which are new breeds, we have no tradition; who can tell us their status? The Chazon Ish on Yoreh Deah, The Laws of a Behemahand Chayah, section 11, forbade us all the chayahs and allowed us only sheep and cattle: “One should not breach the customs of Israel and we have no need for that; it is enough for us the sheep and the cattle on which we have tradition.” (And we have clearly shown that even concerning cattle we have no tradition.)
The buffalo (bison) is of the Bovidae family. Why is it doubtful if it is a hayah whose blood must be covered while the ox, also of the Bovidae family, is a behemah whose blood does not need covering?
And to conclude this issue we will show some of the confusion that our rabbis experience on the whole topic of identifying the chayahs. The Gemara in Hulin 59b: “The tzvi‘s [deer’s] horns are not split.” About this Rashi wrote, “I do not know why they wrote this; of course they are split and it seems to me that we call a ‘deer’ they did not call a ‘tzvi,’ but they were referring to a Steinbock[ibex in German], who has horns which are not split.” On Tractate Rosh Hashanah 26b Rashi wrote, “Yael — Steinbock.” The Tosfot there brought in the name of the Aruch that the yael is a small sheep. This fits perfectly: according to Rashi the tzvi, the yael, and the Steinbock are a single animal. But in the mishnah they are referred to as separate animals with different names! In Mishnah Shabbat chapter seven, mishnah two: “One who hunts the tzvi,” while in Mishnah Rosh Hashana chapter three, mishnah three, “The Rosh Hashanahshofar is made of the horn of a yael.” If they are the same animal, why are their names different? When is it a tzvi and when a yael? Maybe in Tractate Avot Yehuda the son of Teima actually meant, “Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a yael.” This requires study.
And the Taz wrote in Orach Chaim, section 586, “The yachmur are the yaels [this is contrary to what the Targum says, which translates the ako as yaela!]…yachmor is one of the goats, as its name — Steinbock — testifies about it, as Rashi commented. They are like the goats whose males are called Bock. Why were they called steinbok? Because they live amongst the rocks, which areStein.” From his words it is clear that the Taz was expert neither in the Talmud and the poskim nor in reality. He went and made the yachmur into “ayael which is a goat,” and meanwhile forgot that the yachmor is a type ofchayah and the goat is a behemah. (And if you read his words you will see that he even mixed up ayal, the buck, and ayil, the ram, as Chacham Tzvi noted in his Responsa, section 34.)
And if the Torah really makes a distinction between chayah and behemah, it seems most likely to be what Ibn Ezra said on Psalms 148:10, “The chayahdoes not live with people, and all behemahs live with people,” that is, behemahs are domesticated animals and chayahs are undomesticated animals. There is a hint about this in Midrash Vayikra Rabbah, parasha 27: “The Holy One, blessed be He, said: I gave you ten animals. Three are in your possession and seven are not in your possession. The three in your possession are the ox, the sheep, and the goat; the seven that are not in your possession are the ayal, the tzviand the yachmur, the ako and the dishon and the tao and the zamer. I did not make it burdensome on you and I did not tell you to go up to the hills and weary yourselves in the fields to bring before Me a sacrifice which is not in your possession, but only from what is in your possession, from that which grows in your mangers, an ox or a sheep or a goat.”
Now we will deal with the impure animals which have a single sign of purity.
“But the following, which bring up the cud or have true hoofs that are cleft through, you may not eat: the camel, the hare, and the hyrax — for although they bring up the cud, they have no true hoofs — they are unclean for you; also the swine — for although it has true hoofs, it does not bring up the cud — is unclean for you. You shall not eat of their flesh” (Deuteronomy 14).
According to this count, there are only four animals; Chazal added a fifth, theshesuah. “Rav Chanan the son of Rava said: The shesuah is a distinct creature which has two backs and two spinal columns. But was Moses a hunter or trapper? This is a response to the one that says the Torah is not from Heaven” (Hulin 60b).
On the matter of the shesuah, an animal which never did exist, it is enough to mention the words of Rav in Niddah 24a, “Rav said, ‘there never was such a creature'” and the halachic ruling of the Shach in Yoreh Deah, section 13, subsection 21: “Since G-d taught Moses that the shesuah is forbidden, it must mean a shesuah in its mother’s womb, for it would survive but an hour after it comes out to the light of the world.”
That is, the shesuah is not a certain animal species, but it is the term which denotes a rare defect which would cause the death of a newborn animal; there is no proof from this that the Torah is from the Heavens, only an imaginary situation to captivate fools. (Though there is a great deal more that can be said on this issue, we will leave it at this so that you may see how Chazal took the Scripture out of its plain context and distorted it, invented theshesuah and made it into an animal unto itself, and even used this as proof that the Torah is from the Heavens. What is the point of this? They create animals with their words, bring them as proofs about the Divine origin of the Torah and then contradict that.)
Now we will look at the issues involved with the other four animals: (about the hyrax and the hare, which are not ruminants, we have already written extensively in Pamphlet 3, and there we proved that the error did not originate with the Shechinah which dictated the Torah, but with the transcriber). We will begin with the camel: “The camel, for it chews its cud and does not have true split hoofs, is impure for you.” Rashi on Leviticus 11:26: “‘Which split the hoof but is not cloven-footed’ — such as a camel, the hoof of which is parted above but below it is joined.” Rashi’s words are puzzling, for the camel’s split hooves are parted above and below (the camel is counted among the cloven-footed by zoological classification). See the Daat Zekenim, one of the authors of the Tosfot, on Leviticus 11:3, “Rashi maintains that the camel’s hooves are split above and joined below, and this requires study, for if so, he should have removed the camel from the class of the cloven hoofed and written ‘its hooves are not cloven'” (which the Torah did not write about the camel; it only wrote, ‘and does not have true split hoofs’), just as we said.
We find that according to Rashi the camel is kosher, for it splits its hooves and has cloven hooves above and below, and chews its cud.Therefore you should say that the Torah did not call the camel “split hoofed” since it walks on the pads of its feet and not on the edge of the split like the goat and the sheep. But the factual truth is that the camel is truly cloven hoofed.
One of the ways to identify a ruminant is the lack of teeth in the upper jaw (we will preface our remarks and state that there are four types of teeth: incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. Most animals have these in their upper and lower jaws, but most ruminants do not have incisors and do not have canines in their upper jaws). Therefore Chazal determined a rule in Hulin 59a, “If it has no teeth above, it is known to be pure; otherwise it is known to be impure.”
But Chazal, who noticed the difference with the camel, asked, “But a camel is a ruminant and has no upper teeth, yet it is impure? The camel has canines.” Rashi explains: “Canines–it has two teeth in its upper jaw, one on this side and one on that.” We learn from his words that the camel’s upper jaw has two canines and no incisors at all. It is clear that Rashi never saw a camel, for he is in error. The camel has two incisors and two canines in the upper jaw, for a total of four teeth. Another thing you should know is that bucks generally have incisors in their upper jaw and they are ruminants and have cloven hooves; they are kosher and pure. So Chazal erred even in the matter of teeth, and their rule is no rule at all.
Dental formulae for behemahs and chayahs:
On that same matter the Gemara (59a) rules, “One who walks in a desert and finds an animal whose hooves are cut should look at its mouth: if it has incisors in its upper jaw – it is clear that the animal is pure, and if they does not – it is clear that the animal is impure, provided that one is familiar with the camel. But does the camel have incisors? As long as he recognizes a young camel. Yet is it possible that there is the young camel and there is also another species which is like a young camel? No, this is implausible, as R’ Ishmael said: ‘And the camel, for it is ruminant’ (Leviticus 11:4) — He who rules His world knows that there is no ruminant which is impure aside from the camel.”
One who walks and sees a young llama or guanaco whose legs are cut off would permit it, for it does not resemble a young camel. It seems that Chazal meant “one who walks in the area of Israel.”
Come see how many difficulties and mistakes are in this one short passage. First, if one found a buck (and did not recognize it) and saw it has teeth in the upper jaw, he would render it impure for no reason, for it is pure.
Second, the camel is not unique in His world. There are other animals which are ruminants and have teeth as does the camel: the llama, the guanaco, the alpaca, and the vicuna. Therefore one must recognize the young of these animals as well (and know that these animals do not look, externally, like the camel).
One who is walking and finds an aardvark whose legs are cut off would permit it, for it has no teeth in its upper jaw. We see that He who rules His world only knows the animals in the area of Israel.
Third, there are animals which do not have teeth in their upper jaws and they are impure, like the aardvark which has cloven hooves and has no incisors or canines at all. So a person walking in southern Africa and seeing an aardvark with its hooves cut off would check the upper jaw and see that there were no incisors or canines and would permit it and eat what is forbidden.
From all of this you can learn something important: Chazal did not check and did not understand at all that rumination stems from the unique build of the animals’ digestive system. Ruminants have several stomachs. Cattle and sheep have four stomachs (the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum) and the camel has three (missing the omasum). This is the absolute sign which characterizes all ruminants. Since Chazal did not check the digestive tract, we see that they did not know that there is a connection between the two, for according to this sign we would not permit the ardvark nor forbid the buck. Therefore we cannot rely on the signs which our Sages gave us — just as we find on the issue of signs of fish in the Tosfot on Avodah Zara 40, s.v. amar Rabba, we should not rely on signs about fish roe given by Chazal (that one side of the grain of roe is round and the other pointed), and they even brought a passage from the Yerushalmi that one should not rely upon this sign: “Nathan the son of Rabba said before Samuel, ‘I know to tell the difference between the fetuses of impure fish and the fetuses of pure fish. The fetuses of impure fish are round and the fetuses of pure fish are long.’ He showed him a fetus of a pure fish and asked ‘What is this?’ He answered, ‘impure.’ He told him, ‘It is bad enough you have called something pure impure, but in the end you will call something impure pure’.”
This is proof that Chazal themselves felt one should not rely upon the signs they gave, and the same holds true for us, who are expert about many animals and animal anatomy and who find many contradictions in the words of Chazal. Therefore we should not rely upon the signs, and the whole issue of one who is walking in the desert falls by the wayside in any case. We have already cited the words of the Chazon Ish on Yoreh Deah, “One should not breach the customs of Israel and we have no need for that; it is enough for us the sheep and the cattle on which we have a tradition.” When the system of signs falls by the wayside it is best to take shelter in the small amount of certainty which is left.
About the pig: “And the swine — although it has true hoofs, with the hoofs cleft through, it does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you” (Leviticus 11:7).
The Gemara in Hulin 59a: “Rav Hisda said: ‘One who walks in a desert and finds an animal whose mouth is damaged [so it is impossible to check whether it has upper incisors and/or canines, which is the way to verify whether it brings up its cud], should look at its hooves: if the hooves are split – it is clear that the animal is pure, and if they are not – it is clear that the animal is impure, provided that one is familiar with the pig [whose hooves are split, yet it is impure]. Yet is it possible that there is the pig and there is also another species which is like the pig? No, this is implausible, as R’ Ishmael said: ‘And the swine–although it has true hoofs, with the hoofs cleft through’
The warthog, Infraorder Suina, has split hooves and doesn’t look like a pig at all. So Chazal cause the downfall of one who walks and finds a warthog with a damaged mouth, for he would permit it.
— He who rules His world knows that no other animal has cloven hooves and is impure aside from the pig, and therefore the Scripture specifies ‘it’.” Know that the Gemara was right to claim that there are other species of animals which have cloven hooves and are not ruminants. In Infraorder Suina there are many species which do not resemble pigs (just as the sheep is a member of the bovine family and does not resemble a cow at all) such as the peccary, the babirussa, the warthog and others. Here is a picture of a warthog; you will see that it doesn’t resemble a pig at all. If one can recognize an ordinary pig, and he walks in a desert and sees a warthog with a damaged mouth, he would deem it kosher. (One who wishes to expand on this issue should read a book on zoology, and see with intellectual honesty whether He who rules His world really revealed the secrets of the animals to R’ Ishmael).
And on matters of purity and impurity come see something else strange:the sages say in the Mishnah, in Tractate Bechorot 5b, “A pure animal which birthed a sort of impure animal — [the impure animal] is permissible for eating,” and on page 24a, “Rabbah the son of Bar Hana said in the name of R’ Judah: if you see a pig following a ewe, it is exempt from the rituals of the first-born and forbidden for eating.” (It seems strange that Chazal considered that the ewe birthed the pig (!) and so the ewe is exempt further from the rituals of the first-born. On the question of whether the pig-born-of-a-ewe is permissible for eating, they ruled according to the more stringent line.)
Similarly, Maimonides ruled in the Laws of Forbidden Foods, chapter one, halacha four: “A pure animal who birthed a kind of impure animal, even if the latter does not have cloven hooves and is not a ruminant but is just a sort of horse or donkey, it is permissible for eating. This is said of a situation where one witnessed the [pure] animal giving birth [to the “kind of impure”], but if one leaves a pregnant cow in his flock and then finds a kind of pig following it, even if it nurses from the cow, it is a matter of doubt, and therefore [the newborn “kind of pig”] is forbidden for eating, for perhaps it was born of an impure mother [i.e. of a real pig] and just follows the pure.”
You see that Chazal did not check reality at all, but went after their own imagination, that a cow could become pregnant and give birth to an animal which resembles a pig–one without even the digestive system of a ruminant–and it would be permissible for eating. It is puzzling, for this animal wouldn’t be kosher at all, born without omasum and abomasum, and it should be considered in the class of animals missing the omasum and abomasum, as brought in the Tosfot on Hulin 42a, s.v. nikev. And know that the Sages were divided on something which can and should be checked using simple empiric checks, but this is their way, to rule without checking. In Bechorot 7a we find: “R’ Joshua the son of Levi said: never is a pure animal impregnated by an impure animal, nor an impure animal by a pure one; neither a large animal [is impregnated] by a small, nor a small one by a large; neither a domesticated animal by a wild one, nor a wild one by a domesticated, aside from R’ Eliezer and his school who said that a wild animal can impregnate a domesticated animal.” [R’ Joshua the son of Levi also erred on this matter, for a domesticated goat can be impregnated by a wild mountain goat.] If truth in the Halacha were important to them, why did they not try to breed a goat with a mountain goat to see if it would be impregnated or not? They would have seen with their own eyes that it can be impregnated. This is what we repeatedly say, that our Sages did not take their information from facts but from their imagination.
But if you want to know how far the absurdity in the words of the Sages and rabbis about animals reaches, merely go to the book Magen Avot by the Rashbatz on Tractate Avot, chapter five, mishnah 23 (on the phrase “be bold as a tiger”): “The tiger is bold because it is a bastard like the mule [!], for it [the tiger] is a cross between a forest pig and a lioness. When a lioness goes into heat she sticks her head into the forest underbrush and growls and calls the male. The pig hears her and mates her…and since he is a bastard he is bold.”
What else can we say about this sort of nonsense and what more is left to be spoken? It is obvious that these people dictated laws and commandments, restrictions and orders, both positive and negative, based on a lack of knowledge about nature and the real world; and not only that, but they were also not embarrassed to hang their rulings on the Divine Spirit which supposedly rested upon them. But we know that the Divine Spirit does not rest on nonsense, and therefore all that they said was based only on their own knowledge. For one who seeks the truth, reality will come and prove that.