1) THE "SHAKNA'I" AND "BATNA'I" BIRDS
OPINIONS: Ameimar says that the Shakna'i and Batna'i are eaten in certain places but not in others. The Gemara explains that in places where the Peres and Ozniyah (non-Kosher birds) are common, the Shakna'i and Batna'i may not be eaten, but in places where there were no Peres and Ozniyah, the Shakna'i and Batna'i may be eaten.
Why does the presence or absence of the Peres and Ozniyah affect whether the Shakna'i and Batna'i may be eaten?
(a) RASHI (DH d'Shechichi) explains that in a place where the Peres and Ozniyah are common, there is a concern that perhaps the local Shakna'i and Batna'i are a subspecies of Peres and Ozniyah. In a place where there are no Peres and Ozniyah, the Shakna'i and Batna'i may be eaten, and there is no concern that perhaps they are a subspecies of Peres and Ozniyah.
(b) TOSFOS (DH Ha b'Asra) has difficulty with this explanation. If in some places there is reason to suspect that the Shakna'i and Batna'i are subspecies of Peres or Ozniyah, then why should those birds not be prohibited even in places where there are no Peres and Ozniyah?
Tosfos explains instead that these two birds indeed are Kosher. Nevertheless, in a place where the Peres and Ozniyah are common, they may not be eaten lest people confuse them with the Peres and Ozniyah and begin to eat the Peres and Ozniyah as well.
Perhaps Tosfos' question on Rashi's explanation may be answered as follows. Perhaps there are two distinct (but similar-looking) subspecies which are both called Shakna'i (or Batna'i). One is Kosher, and the other is a subspecies of Peres or Ozniyah and is not Kosher. In order to determine which of the two similar species is the specific bird in question, we must see whether the Peres or Ozniyah frequent this area.
2) THE "RACHAM"
QUESTIONS: Rav Yehudah says that the "Racham" (Vayikra 11:18) is the Sherakrak. Rebbi Yochanan says that it is called "Racham" because mercy ("Rachamim") comes after it appears. RASHI explains that this refers to rainfall. Rav Bibi bar Abaye says that this is true only when it was perched on something and chirping. He says further that there is a tradition that if this bird would sit on the ground and chirp, Mashi'ach would come.
(a) What is the identity of the Racham, or Sherakrak?
(b) In what way does it herald the coming of rainfall, or, according to Rav Bibi bar Abaye, the coming of Mashi'ach?
(a) As a number of early authorities write (see SICHAS CHULIN, page 423), the exact identity of the birds mentioned in the Torah have become unclear to us ("b'Avonoseinu ha'Rabim") and difficult for us to discern. However, we may speculate, based on the evidence available to us, what the identity of the Racham is.
(The following discussion is adapted from the forthcoming work, "The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom.")
The Gemara here implies that the Sherakrak is so called because it makes a "sherakrak" sound. RASHI explains that when the bird calls, it sounds like the bird is saying "sherakrak." Rashi is emphasizing that "sherakrak" is the actual sound itself, and not that it is a verb describing the act of making a sound, as "Sharak" means "to whistle," as in the verse that the Gemara quotes, "I shall whistle (Eshrakah) to them and gather them in" (Zecharyah 10:8). It is unclear why Rashi insists that it refers instead to the actual sound itself. Perhaps he derives it from the fact that the Gemara says that the bird "makes a Sherakrak" rather than simply saying that the bird whistles. (Rashi's explanation clearly excludes the bee-eater, which is the bird that is referred to by the word "Sherakrak" in modern Hebrew. The bee-eater makes a shrill, piping sound that can described as whistling, but not one that sounds like "sherakrak.")
1. The CHIZKUNI identifies the Racham as the "pie," which is the magpie. This bird indeed makes a "sherakrak" sound. However, magpies are not found in the vicinity of Eretz Yisrael or Bavel.
2. RAV SA'ADYAH GA'ON identifies this bird with the "rakham" in Arabic, which is the Egyptian vulture. TOLDOS HA'ARETZ also cites this view. However, that bird emits no sound that resembles "sherakrak." (See also HA'KESAV VEHA'KABALAH to Vayikra 11:18.)
3. HA'KESAV VEHA'KABALAH cites a naturalist by the name of Hest who writes about a bird found in Morocco called by the Arabs "serkrak." (This bird is between the size of the dove and the starling, its chest and wings are yellow-green, its wings are dark, close to blue in appearance, its back is brown, and its beak is slightly hooked.) TEVU'OS HA'ARETZ also identifies it as "al-serakrak" in Arabic and notes that it is found in Egypt and North Africa.
The bird they are describing is the roller (Coracius garrulus). Its English name comes from its habit of tumbling and rolling through the sky. In addition to the sound of "sherakrak" that this bird makes, it also matches TARGUM ONKELUS' description of the Racham as the "Yerakraka," a green bird.
(b) The MAHARSHA points out that Rebbi Yochanan's statement -- that the arrival of the Racham heralds the coming of mercy, or rainfall -- seems to be a statement based on empirical observation. The roller is a common passage migrant through Eretz Yisrael in September and October, on its way to wintering in the savanna regions in eastern and southern Africa. It comes through Eretz Yisrael just before the rain season, and thus serves as a sign of impending rainfall.
However, when Rav Bibi bar Abaye says that this is true only when the bird sits on something and makes the "sherarak" sound, and that there is a tradition that if it sits on the ground and makes a "sherakrak" sound, Mashi'ach will come, this obviously cannot be based on empirical observation, but rather is a tradition. The roller indeed rarely perches on the ground.
Others explain that there is a deeper meaning behind Rav Bibi bar Abaye's words.
RAV BETZALEL ZEV SHAFRAN, Av Beis Din of Akko, in SHE'EILOS U'TESHUVOS HA'RAVAZ (volume 1, Yalkut ha'Chinuchi 30, cited by K'MOTZEI SHALAL RAV, Vayikra 11:18), suggests the following approach. In the Hebrew alphabet, the first letter, "Alef," symbolizes oneness and unity. Every successive letter progressively indicates a move away from that unity into a greater degree of plurality. The progression of letters from "Alef" to "Tav" symbolizes the move from unity to divisiveness. Conversely, the sequence of letters in reverse, from "Tav" to "Alef," represents the move from divisiveness back to unity.
The word "Sharak" is comprised of the letters "Shin," "Resh," and "Kuf," which are adjacent letters in the alphabet but are written in reverse order in this word. The word therefore represents the movement from divisiveness to unity. (The fact that one purses one's lips together in order to whistle also alludes to the idea of gathering together and unifying. See MAHARAL, Netzach Yisrael 42.)
It is divisiveness and the lack of unity that brought about the Churban and the present Galus. The Beis ha'Mikdash was destroyed because of the sin of baseless hatred (Yoma 9b). Consequently, the redemption will come about through a return to unity. "If you make yourselves into one group, then you will have prepared yourselves for redemption" (Bereishis Rabah, Parshas Vayechi 98:2).
The Gemara's teaching about the Racham may be understood as follows. "The Racham is the Sherakrak" -- the word "Sherakrak," which has letters steadily decreasing in numerical value, alludes to a move away from divisiveness and towards unity. "When it comes, mercy comes to the world" -- when Jews unite in love and brotherhood, then Hash-m, too, will shower love and mercy upon us. "And we have a tradition that if it sits on the ground" -- if this love spreads throughout the world -- "And makes the sound 'sherakrak'" -- symbolizing the Jewish people's move to unity, then it is a sign that "Mashi'ach is coming." (See MAHARAL, Netzach Yisrael 42, for a different explanation.)
3) THE TWENTY-FOUR NON-KOSHER BIRDS
QUESTION: The Gemara quotes Rav who states that there are twenty-four non-Kosher birds. The Gemara concludes that twenty of these are listed in the book of Devarim (since, as the Gemara concludes (63b), Ayah and Dayah are the same, and Ra'ah and Da'ah are the same), and the remaining four are derived from the four words "l'Minah" (Devarim 14:13), "l'Mino" (14:14), "l'Minehu" (14:15), and "l'Minah" (14:18).
However, it seems that Rav should have said that there are twenty-five non-Kosher birds, because the previous Gemara cites a Beraisa that includes the Orev ha'Amaki in the list of non-Kosher birds, which it derives from the verse, "Es Kol Orev" (14:14). Why does Rav not say that there are twenty-five non-Kosher birds?
(a) The RIF has a different Girsa in the Beraisa earlier (as noted in the margin of the Gemara here). According to the Rif's Girsa, the Beraisa teaches, "'Orev' -- this is the black Orev. 'Es Kol Orev' comes to include the Orev ha'Amaki and the one that has a pigeon's head. The word 'l'Mino' includes the Zarzir, and 'l'Mineihu' includes the white Senunis."
According to the Rif's text of the Beraisa, the question on Rav's statement is answered. The words, "l'Minah," l'Minehu," and "l'Mino" include birds that do not have the same name as the other non-Kosher birds, but rather they have only similar features, such as the Zarzir and the white Senunis, thus adding four birds with different names to the list of twenty. The Orev ha'Amaki and the pigeon-headed Orev that are derived from the word "Kol" are called Orev, and thus are included in the general category of birds called "Orev." They need to be derived from another verse only because they have different features than the ordinary Orev. Since they are called "Orev," they do not count as separate birds on the list.
(According to our Girsa, the Beraisa derives the Orev ha'Amaki from "Es Kol Orev," and "l'Mino" includes the pigeon-headed Orev. Hence, "l'Mino" includes a bird called "Orev" just as "Kol" does.)
The Rif's text answers another question. The TIFERES YAKOV points out that according to our text, the Beraisa argues with the Derashah of Rebbi Eliezer (62a), who derives the Zarzir or the white Senunis from "l'Mino." Perhaps the Rabanan, who argue with Rebbi Eliezer, understand the verse in the way that the Beraisa explains it. This poses a problem, since the Halachah follows the view of Rebbi Eliezer, and yet the Beraisa supports the opposing view. However, according to the Girsa of the Rif, the Beraisa itself is expressing the view of Rebbi Eliezer, and thus an anonymous Beraisa indeed supports the view of Rebbi Eliezer.
(b) The RASHASH points out that our text of the Rif does not quote the Beraisa at all! The source for this variant Girsa quoted in the marginal note is not clear. The Rashash also asks that according to that Girsa, how can "l'Minehu" include the white Senunis, when that word is not written with regard to the Orev (only "l'Mino" is written with regard to the Orev)?
The Rashash quotes the text of the Toras Kohanim that reads, "'l'Mino -- this includes the Senunis." This text both supports the opinion of Rebbi Eliezer and answers the question on Rav's count of non-Kosher birds.
4) THE EYE OF THE "AYAH"
AGADAH: The Gemara (63a) quotes Rav who states that there are twenty-four non-Kosher birds. In order to arrive at this number in the verses, the variations of the word "l'Minah" are counted (see previous Insight), and, as Abaye proves, the Da'ah and Ra'ah are the same bird, and the Ayah and Dayah are the same bird. Rebbi Avahu argues and maintains that there are only twenty-three non-Kosher birds. He asserts that the Ra'ah and Ayah are the same species (and, as the Gemara explains Rebbi Avahu's opinion, those two are the same as Da'ah and Dayah, such that all four names refer to the same bird). The reason why the bird is called "Ra'ah" is that it sees ("Ro'eh") very far, as the verse states, "It is a path the Ayit does not know, and which the eye of the Ayah has not seen" (Iyov 28:7). The Beraisa adds that a Ra'ah can "stand in Bavel and see a carcass in Eretz Yisrael."
Although there are a number of opinions regarding the identity of the Ayah, it seems that the best candidate is the buzzard (see "The Animal World of the Bible," by Prof. Yehudah Feliks, page 67), which is not otherwise mentioned in the list of non-Kosher birds. The buzzard is renowned for its superb eyesight, which is described as a feature of the Ayah. While a marginal note in the Gemara points out that the Beraisa's statement about a Ra'ah in Bavel being able to see a carcass in Eretz Yisrael is an exaggeration, buzzards still possess outstanding visual acuity.
The Midrash (Peskita d'Rav Kahana, Nispachim 2) mentions the buzzard's phenomenal eyesight. "Rebbi Yitzchak said in the name of Rebbi Yochanan ben Sitnah: There is a type of buzzard which raises itself twenty five Mil high and surveys the land. Rebbi Meir, Rebbi Yosi, and the Chachamim [argued about its visual acuity at this height]: one said that it can see a vessel measuring three Tefachim on the ground, one said it can see a vessel measuring one and a half Tefachim, and one said it can see a vessel measuring three Etzba'os. Hash-m said: Anyone who fulfills the commandment of Sukah in this world, I shall give him a portion in the future that no bird can look at, as it says, 'It is a path which no bird of prey (Ayit) knows, and which the eye of the buzzard (Ayah) has not seen' (Iyov 28:7)."
RAV MEIR SHAPIRO zt'l (cited in Torah l'Da'as, Parshas Shemini) suggests a homiletical meaning to the Beraisa's statement. There are those who stand in the Galus, in Chutz la'Aretz, and look at Eretz Yisrael, seeing only bad in the holy land, like the buzzard that sees the carcass from afar. From the time of the Meraglim, who brought back evil reports about the land, until today, when there are those who constantly criticize Eretz Yisrael and complain about it, people are like the buzzard, seeing only death, destruction, and negative aspects. However, we are commanded, "u'Re'eh b'Tuv Yerushalayim" (Tehilim 128:5) -- we are commanded to see the good in Eretz Yisrael. (-Adapted from the forthcoming work, "The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom.")
5) HALACHACH: THE TURKEY
OPINIONS: Rebbi Yitzchak states that a bird with all of the signs of a Kosher bird may be eaten as long as there is a Mesorah (tradition) that it is Kosher. A hunter, though, is believed to say that a bird is Kosher when he says that he has such a tradition from his teacher. (The Gemara concludes that this refers to his hunting teacher, who was a Chacham, and not to his Torah teacher.)
(DH Chazyuha) rules that we may eat a bird only when we have a tradition that it is Kosher. Although the SHULCHAN ARUCH
(YD 82:3) rules that under certain circumstances a bird that has three signs of a Kosher bird may be permitted without a tradition (see Insights to Chulin 62:1
), the REMA
argues and rules that our practice is to follow the opinion that a tradition is absolutely necessary for any bird to be eaten, and one should not change this custom.
It follows that there is considerable discussion regarding whether or not we may eat certain birds that have the signs of a Kosher bird, but for which we have no Mesorah that they are Kosher. The most well-known question involves the turkey.
(a) The DARCHEI TESHUVAH (82:26) quotes the NACHAL ESHKOL who questions the widespread practice of eating turkey. After noting that these birds look very different from chickens, he says that he does not know how these birds are permitted to be eaten. Under the assumption that their country of origin was India (when the early explorers landed on the American continent, they thought they had arrived at India), he says that even if someone in India had a Mesorah, the Shulchan Aruch (YD 82:5) clearly rules like the opinion of the RASHBA that a country which does not have a Mesorah cannot rely on one that does.
The Darchei Teshuvah then quotes the SHO'EL U'MESHIV who knew that the turkey's country of origin was America and says that it is impossible to have a tradition that turkey is Kosher (since no Jews lived in America until three thousand years after the Torah was given). He concludes that, nevertheless, it seems that the custom to eat turkey became so widespread because the earlier generations did not follow the Rema's stringency. We, however, who have accepted the Rema's opinion, cannot eat turkey. This is also the opinion of the MELAMED L'HO'IL (YD 2:15).
(The Darchei Teshuvah's reference to the Sho'el u'Meshiv's stringent position seems to be in error. The Sho'el u'Meshiv himself (5:1:69) actually writes a scathing attack on a Rav who said that turkey is forbidden.)
(b) However, the NETZIV in MESHIV DAVAR (YD 22) says that eating turkey today does not contradict the opinion of the Rema. The Rema refers to the issue of whether or not we should permit a bird, in the first place, to be eaten when we have no tradition that it is Kosher. Once it has already become the custom to eat turkey -- even though it is unclear how the custom developed -- we should not rule that it is forbidden and say that our ancestors were eating a forbidden food. Only when we can prove that it is not Kosher should we then refrain from eating turkey.
In a similar vein, the Darchei Teshuvah quotes the ARUGAS HA'BOSEM who says that the Rema himself said only that a tradition is required if it is in the realm of possibility that the bird is Dores. Since the turkey has been among us for many years and we see that it definitely is not Dores, even the Rema would agree that a tradition is not required. The Arugas ha'Bosem continues and says that we find that everyone eats turkey. This is apparent in the many letters written by the Poskim in response to specific questions that arose regarding the state of Kashrus of individual turkeys. The Arugas ha'Bosem writes that "we have heard of only one family in Russia that does not eat turkey, and if one marries into that family, then that person is not allowed to feed turkey to his or her children."
(The SICHAS CHULIN (end of note 60:27) proposes an innovative, although highly unlikely, explanation for how the custom to eat turkey developed. For a comprehensive overview in English of the Halachic literature, see Rabbi Ari Z. Zivotofsky's article, "Is Turkey Kosher?" at http://www.kashrut.com/articles/turk_part5/.) (Y. MONTROSE)
6) HALACHAH: BUYING EGGS FROM A NOCHRI
OPINIONS: The Beraisa states that we may buy eggs from Nochrim in all places, and we do not need to be concerned that they come from non-Kosher birds. Avuha d'Shmuel adds that this applies only when the seller names the specific Kosher bird from which the eggs came.
On what basis may we trust the word of the Nochri?
(a) RASHI (DH Shel Of Ploni) and the RAMBAN explain that we may trust the Nochri because he knows that we can easily compare this egg to an actual egg of the bird from which he claims it came. Therefore, the Nochri will not lie.
(b) The RAMBAM (Hilchos Ma'achalos Asuros 3:18-19) has a different reading of the text. According to the Rambam's reading, the Gemara here is not discussing buying eggs from a Nochri, but rather it is discussing buying eggs from a Jew with questionable credibility. Such a Jew is believed only when he specifies the name of the Kosher bird from which his eggs came. A Nochri, in contrast, is not believed even when he tells us the name of the specific Kosher bird from which his eggs supposedly came. According to the Rambam, we may purchase eggs from a Nochri only when we recognize the eggs as those of a Kosher bird.
The ACHIEZER (3:8) explains that the basis of the argument between Rashi and the Rambam is the question of whether or not we may rely on the word of a Nochri with regard to a Torah law in a case in which the doubt can be clarified at a later time and the Nochri might be caught lying. The Achiezer points out that in a different ruling, the Rambam concludes that a person should begin observing Aveilus based on the word of a Nochri who said, in the manner of "Mesi'ach l'Fi Tumo" (he randomly mentioned what happened in casual conversation), that a relative died, because the words of the Nochri can be checked later for their authenticity.
HALACHAH: What is the basis for permitting the purchase of eggs from Nochrim nowadays without first asking the seller which birds produced the eggs?
(a) TOSFOS (64, DH Simanim) writes that most of the eggs sold in the market today come from Kosher birds, and therefore we may rely on "Rov." The REMA (YD 86:2) adds that we may rely on Rov only when buying common eggs, like chicken or goose eggs. When buying exotic eggs, we must first ascertain that they came from a Kosher bird.
(b) The RAMBAM (Hilchos Ma'acholos Asuros 3:19), consistent with his opinion quoted above, rules that we may buy eggs from a Nochri only if we know that the eggs come from a Kosher bird. (Z. Wainstein)