Announcement: Enigma of Biblical Shafan

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We are happy to announce the publication of the book The Enigma of the Biblical Shafan by Dr. Yitzchak Betech and Dr. Obadia Maya. It is available in some Jewish bookstores in USA (color edition) and also in (where a preview of the hardcover and softcover versions is available).

Torah and scientific research suggesting a solution to the enigma of the identity of the Biblical shafan. Appendices on the Talmudic science-related statements about fish (scales/fins) and lice (reproductive biology). Includes about 1000 bibliographical references, more than 100 color illustrations and four indexes. With many approbation letters by leading Roshei Yeshiva and by experts on the issue.

The Torah included the shafan and the arnebet among the non-kosher animals with only one kosher sign. Throughout the centuries, the usual translations of these terms were, respectively, rabbit and hare.

Indeed, current science shows that all the characteristics Jewish classic literature attributes to these animals do occur in the rabbit and the hare.

This publication will make the case that the Torah/Talmudic definition of “maaleh gerah” includes a qualified form of cecothropy practiced by the rabbit and hare.

The following essay B”H refutes different options (like the hyrax, the llama and the pika) suggested and published by some as the identity of the shafan. And additionally, it answers in a systematic approach, the published challenges to our conclusions regarding the identity of the shafan.

After extensive research, as presented in a comprehensive chapter (which analyzes the kangaroo and the capybara among other animals), we did not find any additional “min” (Torah-type creature) with only one kosher sign besides the four mentioned in the Torah, and we can recognize with admiration, today as always, that only the Master of the World could state this accurate information thousands of years ago.

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About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student has served two terms on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and currently serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.


  1. R. Natan Slifkin on his blog, has demonstrated that this book is, let us say, in error. I suggest reading R Slifkin prior to buying the book. Thereby not only saving money but also not being misled

  2. I apologize, I should not have written being misled. However I suggest checking out what R Slifkin has to say about the book.

  3. I’ve also discussed the book a bit.
    Regarding fins and scales, hyraxes, and llamas.

  4. This is not the place for a book review. However, having read both this book and R. Slikin’s “The Camel, The Hare, and the Hyrax”, I would recommend that anyone buying this book first buy and read R. Slifkin’s book. They take opposing viewpoints as to the meaning of Shafan, but R. Slifkin’s sources are much wider ranging and include, to a much greater degree, potential issues and problems resulting from his identification of Shafan as Hyrax (and the traditional identification of Arnevet as Hare).

    Dr. Betech’s sources are, for the most part, a subset of the sources used by R. Slifkin and his book is more of a “lawyer’s brief” for his position of Shafan as Rabbit.

    Here is a litmus test: if you think of evolution as a well established scientific principle, you will probably gravitate to R. Slifkin’s way of thinking. If you think of evolution as a weakly supported theory (or worse) foisted upon us by scientists to support a generally “agnostic/atheistic” worldview, then Dr. Betech’s approach is more likely to have an appeal for you.

    Either way, I would encourage reading R. Slifkin’s book first to get a fuller treatment of all the sources, or at least to have it handy as you read Dr. Betech’s book to check R. Slifkin’s parallel development of the topics.

    You also want to visit R. Slifkin’s blog and Dr. Betech’s “anti-Slifkin” blog for further discussion (as Dr. Stadlan already pointed out).

  5. My word is not significant, but I was going to say the same thigns that Noam Stadlan and David Ohsie were going to say. See R’ Slifkin’s book first or at least in addition to this one.

  6. lawrence kaplan

    I just wanted to add that Dr. Betech’s responses to comments and criticisms on the blogs do not exactly inspire one with confidence.

  7. Dr. Isaac Betech

    Dear Dr. Noam Stadlan
    Indeed, in our book two typos, some ambiguous words and a few minor omissions have been found that have been corrected in the revised edition.
    I am not aware of any factual or conceptual mistakes on the book, if you are, please feel free to point it out them here or by email.

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