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Ask the Rabbi - 294

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December 2, 2000 / 5 Kislev 5761; Issue #294

Non-Kosher Animals


Anonymous from New York wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

I can think of good reasons why we keep kosher. (First and foremost because G-d said to, and also for reasons of purity and separation), but I have no idea how to explain to a 10 year old public school student, whom I tutor, why G-d created both kosher and nonkosher animals. Please help! Thank you!!

Dear Anonymous,

I think that you should give him/her a prize! The Sages of the Talmud ask the same question! They answer that every animal has a task to perform in the world, and there's something we can learn from them.

For example, say our Sages, we can learn modesty from a cat, and honesty and industriousness from an ant. Cats are basically shy animals and are discreet about taking care of their personal needs. Ants are hard-working, and they are "honest" in that they don't steal from each other.

King David tried to fathom the meaning behind each animal and he succeeded -- with two exceptions! One was the spider and the other was the wasp. So, G-d showed King David very clearly the need for those two animals as well:

When running for his life from King saul, David hid in a cave. King Saul and his soldiers were searching everywhere. G-d sent a spider to spin a web over the opening of the cave in which David was hiding. When the soldiers came to his cave and saw it was covered with a spider's web, they moved straight past, it not imagining that the web was freshly made!

On another occasion David entered secretly into King Saul's military camp at night. King Saul's general, Avner, turned over in his sleep and, unknowingly, trapped David with his legs. A wasp came and stung Avner, causing him to open his legs, allowing David to escape!

Another answer is that G-d made unkosher animals in order to reward us for following the commandment not to eat them.

  • Eiruvin 100b
  • Otzar Midrashim 47
  • Ma'akot 23b

Yiddle Riddle


LAST WEEK WE ASKED: What Torah mitzvah (mitzvah d'oraita) is it that, if done one way, one blessing is said, and if done another way a different blessing is said (according to Ashkenazic cusom)?

ANSWER: The mitzvah of tzitzit. The Torah commands that if we wear a four-cornered garment (tallit) we must attach tzitzit, fringes, to each corner. When donning a large tallit, the type worn for prayer, the blessing is "Blessed are You, G-d... who commanded us to enwrap ourselves in tzitzit" (l'hitatef ba'tzitzit). But when donning a small tallit (the type which is generally worn under the shirt) the blessing said (according to Ashkenazic custom) is "Blessed are You...who commanded us regarding the mitzvah of tzitzit" (al mitzvat tzitzit).

According to Sefardic custom, l'hitatef may be said on the small tallit as well.

ALTERNATIVE ANSWER: The blessing on brit mila is "Blessed are You...who commanded us regarding circumcision" (al hamila). But if the father of the child perfoms the brit himself, then according to Rambam the blessing is "...Who commanded us to circumcise the son" (Lamul et haben).

  • Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 8:5,6
  • Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 265:1,2
  • See also Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 305:10


The Public Domain
Comments, quibbles, and reactions concerning previous "Ask-the-Rabbi" features.


Re: ISAAC'S NAME CHANGE (Parsha Q&A Lech Lecha):

In ParshatLech Lecha you asked why Avraham and Yackov had their names changed, but Yitzchak did not. This question is asked by the Mattersdorf Rebbi in his Sefer B'nei Yisrael. He points out that sometimes Yitzchak's name is spelled Yischak with a "sin" and not a "tzaddi." (For example, Tehillim 105:9.) Why? He answers that originally Yitzchak was to be called Yischak, but because G-d saw that his merit would allow the Jews not to serve the complete 400 years of slavery in Egypt, G-d changed his name to Yitzchak.

The Bnei Yisrael keenly points out that the difference between the numerical value of the letter "sin" (300) and the letter "tzaddi" (90) is 210, which is the number of years the Jews actually spent in Egypt. So we see that in fact Yitzchak did have a name change!

Dov David (Bernie) May

Written by various Rabbis at Ohr Somayach Institutions / Tanenbaum College, Jerusalem, Israel.
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Production Design: Michael Treblow
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