Iyar 5764 – The Four Almost Kosher Animals and Galut

1 Iyar 5764

The Four Almost Kosher Animals and Galut
By Rabbi Z. Rudman

Sefirah is a time of spirituality and growth. Parashat Shemini, one that we read at the beginning of the sefirah period contains a Midrash, which discusses the correlation between the four specific non-kosher animals and the four kingdoms, which are destined to subjugate the Jewish people. The fact that the Torah lists four specific non-kosher animals when obviously there are many more, is itself a cause for question. The obvious answer is in the fact that these animals have one kosher sign, as opposed to all other animals, which do not have any. Therefore, they need to be mentioned separately. What then, does this teach us about the four kingdoms?

The Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 13,5) writes the following:
‘And the camel’ this is Bavel ‘for he chews his cud [the Hebrew word is Geirah which also means to drag along] that it pulls another kingdom after it.’
‘And the arnevet’ this is Yavan ‘for he chews his cud that it pulls another kingdom after it.’
‘And the shafan’ this is Madai ‘for he chews his cud that it pulls another kingdom after it.’
‘And the chazir’ this is Edom ‘and he does not chew his cud’ and he does not pull another kingdom after it.
And why is it called a chazir [which in Hebrew is from the root to return]?
Because he returns the crown to its owners; as it says, “And the rescuers will go up from the Mount of Zion to judge the Mount of Eisav and the sovereignty will be for Hashem.” From this Midrash we learn that the history of the four kingdoms is a progression. As the Midrash says, each one brings on the next one; each galut brings on the seeds of the next galut. Meaning, Chazal are telling us that the purpose of the four kingdoms is not simply as isolated punishments throughout Jewish history, rather they are nation-defining experiences, which were necessary to mold the Jewish People. So if we view each galut as a learning experience, one from we are supposed to develop, then we have a chance to grow as a nation.

This concept doesn’t only exist on a communal plane, but exists on an individual plane as well. In our own personal growth towards reaching the ultimate goal of dveykut ba-shem we must all progress by experiencing our own personal galut, whereby we develop from stage to stage, from level to level.

This message is found in the mitzvah of sefira as well. Here, we count towards Shavuot and unlike any other chag, the Torah does not gives us a specific date for the holiday. Rather, it was left to us to determine when we celebrate kabalas haTorah, because true kabalas haTorah requires personal toil and investment. However, just as spiritual growth and sefirah both have a goal so too there is a goal and an end to galut. Therefore, the last galut is described as the chazir, whereby we achieve the required spiritual personality and return the glory of Hashem.

The use of the term “return”, however, is difficult. Where do we see that Eisav returned anything to the Jewish People? Furthermore, in the context of ‘maaseh avot siman lebanim’ where do we see this idea?

If we examine the first time the Torah describes an interaction between Yaakov and Eisav, we find the following fascinating insight. Eisav willingly sells his Bechorah, the birthright, to Yaakov. Eisav and Yaakov make a deal. You give me food, and I will sell you my spiritual access. Here we find a hint, that Eisav will actively give Yaakov his due! Therefore, Eisav is known as the ‘Returner’, because that is his role: to return his stolen property to Yaakov.

Now we can understand why these four animals are unique and what exactly their connection is to the four kingdoms. These animals have some connection to being kosher, which might fool some people into thinking that they are truly kosher when in actuality they are not. Therefore the Torah emphasizes their lack of true kashrus. So too it is with the different kingdoms. One might think that they have true royalty. Yet we know that all sovereignty derives its source from the Royalty of Hashem. Interestingly, the text of the brachah that is said upon seeing a king, even a non-Jewish monarch, is: Who gave from His Honor. Therefore, any royalty, which does not acknowledge the Honor of Hashem, is in fact stealing from the Divine Royalty. Throughout history this theft is passed on from one kingdom to another. However, someone must return it. That someone is Eisav, who will at some day soon return this loyalty to Hashem!