Mar 28

Who is Arneves!

The Talmud relates that King Ptolemy II forced 72 Jewish sages to translate the written Torah into Greek (The Septuagint). This was the first time the Written Torah was translated into another language and it was Ptolemy’s wish that the nations of the world gain access to our Torah.

Ptolemy chose 72 Sages, and without telling them what he wanted from them, placed every one of them into a separate home. He then instructed them, “Translate the Torah of Moshe your Teacher into Greek.” Through a miracle of Divine providence, every one of the sages translated it identically. There were 15 modifications necessary to protect the Jews and they all modified the Torah the same way.

The Talmud remarks that when this occurred, three days of darkness descended on the world, since it was now possible for the unlearned to boast of a superficial and usually erroneous understanding of the Torah.

As we know, there is no way to understand the Written Torah without the interpretation, analysis and synthesis of the Oral Torah that was taught to our leader Moshe by G-d during the forty days he spent in Heaven after the Revelation at Mount Sinai. Moshe is known to us as Moshe Rabainu – Moshe our teacher – because he taught us the blend of the entire Oral and Written law.

You may be wondering, what can be in the Torah that would require the Sages to make modifications to the translation? The Talmud relates that within the first three words of the Torah they already had to make a modification. The Torah begins with, Beraishis Barah E-lo-him, which is generally translated, “In the beginning, G-d created.” However, if these words were translated literally in the format they are written, it could falsely interpreted to mean that, an entity, Beraishis, created G-d. This would be heretical and would fuel ammunition for those who wish to deny G-d’s sovereignty in creation.

Divine providence gave each of the 72 sages the clarity of mind to translate – G-d created from the beginning.

The sages also modified a word that appears in this week’s Parsha, which deals with the laws of identifying the Kosher and non kosher species of animal, fowl, fish, insects and grasshoppers.

The Torah tells us that a Kosher animal must have true cloven hoofs and ruminate its food. The Torah then lists four animals that have only one of the identifiable kosher traits; the Gomal – camel, Shafan – hyrax, and Arneves – hare, only ruminate their food but do not have split hooves. The Chazir – pig, only has split hooves and does not ruminate its food.

Ptolemy’s wife’s name was Arneves. The sages were concerned that were they to write, The Arneves is unclean to you – Ptolemy might get offended and claim that the Jews were poking fun at his wife by placing her name in the Torah. Instead of Arneves, they all wrote – an animal whose front legs are shorter than its hind legs.

But why would Ptolemy think the Jews are poking fun at his wife? The Torah Temimah explains that since the Torah refers to the Arneves in the feminine gender it would have triggered Ptolemy to think that it was a joking reference to his wife.

On a deeper level, the Medrash relates that the four animals that have only one Kosher sign in their anatomy represent the countries where the Jews were exiled. The Gomol – camel, represents Babylonia and its King Nevuchanetzar. The Shafan – hyrax, represents the Medes and its King Koresh. The Arneves – hare, represents Greece and its King Alexandrus Mukdan. A common denominator between these three leaders is that they verbally gave praise to the Almighty. The one Kosher symbol of their anatomy corresponds to their mouth area where speech emanates. The fourth animal, the Chazir – pig, which does not ruminate represents our current exile Edome – Rome who is blasphemous towards the Almighty.

Commentators equate the pig’s Kosher symbol of split hooves to Aisav, the progenitor of Edom. Aisav presented himself on the outside as a righteous person – he was even able to fool his father Yitzchok into thinking that he was righteous, although, in fact, he was a murderer, adulterer and an idol worshipper. A pig lays down unlike other animals that bend their forelegs toward their body, rather, it stretches its legs forwards as if to say, “look at me and at my split hooves – I am externally kosher.”  However, after further examination one realizes, that in fact, the pig is not kosher, just as at the end Yitzchok realized that Aisav’s goodness was a façade to mask his evil tendencies.

The Torah tells us that when we observe the laws of Kashruth, G-d instills within us Kedusha – sanctity. This sanctity enables us to see and appreciate G-d and His ways, gain clarity of His Torah and Mitzvos, and will lead us to act and conduct ourselves in a most noble way!