On this week's parasha, Emor, Midrash Rabbah comments on why certain animals are permitted as sacrifices and others are not.
R. Huna in the name of R. Joseph explained: "God seeks that which is pursued." (Eccl. III, 15) . . .  Israel are pursued by the nations, and the Lord chose Israel, as it says,  "And the Lord has chosen you to be His own treasure." (Deut. XIV, 2). Said R. Eliezer son of R. Jose b. Zimri: In the case of the sacrifices, also, it is so. The Holy One, blessed be He, said: ‘The ox is pursued by the lion, the goat is pursued by the leopard, the lamb by the wolf; do not offer unto Me from those that pursue but from those that are pursued.’ Hence it is written, "When a bull, or a sheep, or a goat, is brought forth... it may be accepted for an offering." (Lev. XXII, 27)
In this particular midrash, chazal teach that since God favors the pursued nation, Israel, God also favors those animals which are not predators.  The predator animals are not kosher for sacrifice or for consumption.       Peaceful, tranquil, animals, on the other hand, which do not prey upon others, are permitted.  Does this mean that some animals are more precious to God than others?  If an animal is forbidden for consumption or for sacrifice, is it seen in a negative light in Jewish tradition?

These types of questions became personally relevant for me after reflecting upon Parashat, Shemini a few weeks ago.  I have long held an affinity for owls.  I happen to like them a lot.  I even relate to them in some way.


I often have a sense about people being similar to certain animals.  Then on Shabbat Parashat Shemini Rabbi Cooper taught brought a piece of Gemara (Talmud) in his drasha that I had never heard before.  The Gemara discusses Adam's experience of naming all of the animals at the time of creation, and how he chose names based on the essence of the animal itself.  
Rav Yehudah said: The hasidah is the white stork. And why is it called hasidah? Because it shows kindness [hasidut] to its companions. (Hullin 63a)
In Rabbi Cooper's drasha, he explained that the stork is considered a non-kosher animal, because despite being kind, it is only kind to its own.  Suddenly, I panicked when I realized that there are three different types of owls mentioned in the parashah, none of which are kosher!  I do not want to be associated with an owl if it is viewed negatively in Jewish tradition.  A brief Google search of "Owls in Jewish tradition" brought me full circle (see my post about Lilit from two weeks ago) when I realized that the only place the word "lilit" is found in the entire Tanach (Bible) is in Yishayahu (Isaiah) 34:14, and is often translated as referring to an owl!  Little did I know that the very animal with which I most identify is also identified with the demon Lilit.  

On a positive note, however, I did learn through the passage in the Gemara, that Jewish texts have long identified animals with human qualities.  It is not then, in any way contrary to Jewish values, that I often reflect on my family, friends, and colleagues and how they remind me of different animals.  So I ask you, dear reader:  If Lilit can be reclaimed, can owls be reclaimed?  

Many people have commented that the state of Israel suffers from a type of neurosis when it comes to being powerful.  We are so used to being the underdog for so long, that it is difficult for us to identify as a powerful nation.  Having been oppressed generation after generation has led us to feel a certain type of discomfort with pursuing our enemies.  This discomfort is mirrored in the Torah laws regarding animals of prey.    An owl is a bird of prey, therefore inherently unkosher.  But what is wrong, exactly, about being a predator animal?  Your comments are welcome!


  1. We love Owls even as a bird of prey. Nothing is "wrong" per sey with a bird of prey although such bird may not make suitable meals. The Owl is likely not Kosher because trying to catch an Owl for real may prove difficult as Owls can easily out do humans with their fierce Talons. Chickens or Turkeys are less likely to Talonize a human.

    Is Lilit part of the common spoken liturgy or an exception to the anouncements??




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