Shemini: Seven Reasons Why the Pig Returns ~ Tzvi Abrahams

חוֹזֶר: return, renege, seek out

חַזֶרֶת: lettuce


חַזִיר: pig

חוֹזֶר: Return, Renege, Seek Out

Besides for its plain meaning “to return,” חוֹזֶרalso means to go back on one’s word. The first Mishnah in the sixthperekofBava Metziadiscusses the implications of someone who reneges on a contract, saying: כָּל הַחוֹזֶר בּוֹ יָדוֹ עַל הַתַּחְתּוֹנָה/anyone who breaks the contract has the lower hand, and is therefore obligated to pay for any losses incurred.

חוֹזֶרalso has a meaning of seeking out and going after something. The Gemara refers to someone who is born on Friday as a חַזְרָן, specifically a חַזְרָן בְּמִצְווֹת/pursuer of mitzvos, because it is the way on Erev Shabbos to run after mitzvos in preparation for Shabbos.1

חַזֶרֶת: Lettuce

The Gemara in Pesachimdiscusses the types of bitter herbs with which one can fulfill one’s obligation to eat maroron the night of the Seder. Number one on the list is חַזֶרֶת/lettuce.

One of the reasons why it is called חַזֶרֶתis because one has to be חוֹזֶר/to seek it out, as this is the מִצְוָוה מִן הַמוּבְחָר/the choicest way of fulfilling the mitzvah. Another reason for חַזֶרֶתis that at first the taste is soft and sweet, but in the end it isחוֹזֶר/returns and tastes harsh and bitter, which perfectly parallels the Egyptians, who were at first sweet in that they paid wages to the Bnei Yisrael to work, but in the end were חוֹזֶר/reneged and embittered their lives with slavery.

מַחְזוֹר: Machzor

The special siddurfor each holiday is so called because every year we return to use it again and again.

חַזִיר: Pig

Now to the returning pig! Here are seven reasons to help explain the purpose of the חַזִיר:

וְאֶת הַחֲזִיר כִּי מַפְרִיס פַּרְסָה הוּא וְשֹׁסַע שֶׁסַע פַּרְסָה וְהוּא גֵּרָה לֹא יִגָּר טָמֵא הוּא לָכֶם
And the pig, in that its hooves are split, yet it does not chew the cud; it is impure for you.2

1) Eisav and the nation of Edom are compared to the pig, because just like the pig shows its split hooves as if to say, “Look I am kosher,” yet hides his unkosher sign within, so too Edom pretends to be righteous on the outside yet has a hidden agenda within. This is particularly apparent in their ancestry, namely Eisav, who the Torah specifically mentions to be anאִישׁ צַיִד/man who traps in that he was able to trick and trap his father Yitzchak with his mouth.

When it comes to a pig, there is no such thing as squeaky clean, because the very nature of the חַזִירis to always be חוֹזֶרand return to the quagmire.

2) The brachahthat Eisav receives from Yitzchak is that he will live by the sword and he will serve his brother, meaning that the ideal purpose for Eisav is to serve his brother Yaakov by taking care of his physical needs, thereby enabling Yaakov to sit in his tent and learn Torah. However, should Yaakov throw off the yoke of Torah, then Eisav is empowered to use his sword against the Jewish Nation.

The job of Eisav, just like that of a pig, is therefore a dirty one, however its purpose is to help us clean up our act and cause us to return and be חוֹזֵר בִּתְשׁוּבָה.

3) The Midrash asks why the pig is called a חַזִירand says it is because at the end of days, Eisav will return theמַלְכוּת/kingship to its rightful owner, שֶׁמַּחֲזֶרֶת עֲטָרָה לִבְעָלֶיהָ/returning the crown to its owner.3

4) At the end of days, the nations (Edom) will return the Jewish People to their land.4

5) At the end of days,Edom will be returned to הַר שֵׂעִיר/the mountain of Sei’ir, to be judged.

6) The pig should make anyone be חוֹזֵר בִּתְשׁוּבָה. If anyone has a question whether the Torah is Divine, then the pig is the one that returns with the answer, because it is the onlyanimal in existence that has split hooves but does not chew the cud. Moshe could not possibly have known every single species to make such a statement; only the Creator, who knows all, is privy to this information.

7) And what seems like the most astonishing reason of them all, in the future the חַזִירwill itself be חוֹזֶר, in that it will become kosher!5

“There is no animal poorer than a dog and there is none richer than a pig.”6A dog is always looking for scraps — the dog ends — whereas the pig eats anything and has no shortage of food.

“Cursed is the one who raises pigs.”7Why the pig? It was a pig that stuck its fingernails into the walls of the Beis HaMikdash, causing the earth to quake from one end of the land to the other. But why the pig and not some other animal that was unkosher for the Mizbei’ach? The disgusting pig that the Torah abhors is the one that remains a pig and is unable to utilize this life to change. We are all born with the characteristics of a pig — unclean on the inside — however, Hashem gives us the Torah to clothe us with mitzvos to help us clean up our act.

“There is no one poorer than the dog” refers to the one who speaks lashon hara, for he loses all of his merits in the World to Come, and “there is no one richer than a pig” refers to one who utilizes his life to change and be חַזְרָן בְּמִצְווֹת /return after mitzvos. He is the one who is rich in the World to Come.8Perhaps this is what the Ohr HaChaim is hinting to us when he says that the pig will be kosher in the World to Come.

Within everything good there is a little bad, and within everything bad there is always a little good. With this in mind, let us return to the two-faced nature of the pig and examine when it would be good for us to be two-faced.

Generally, it is praiseworthy to be תּוֹכוֹ כְּבָרוֹ/inside like the outside.9However, there is an expression not to be a בּוֹר בִּרְשׁוּת הַרַבִּים/pit in the public domain. There was once a story about Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach whose wife had just died, yet when one of histalmidimcame to visit to inform him of the good news regarding the birth of a baby boy, the ravresponded with a hearty “Mazal Tov” without showing any outward signs of his own pain. When the talmidlater found out about the death of the rav’swife, he went back to the ravto ask him why he had not told him of his sad news. The ravresponded that even though he was in great pain, why should his situation detract from the joy of his talmid? This explains nicely the expression warning one not to be a בּוֹר בִּרְשׁוּת הַרַבִּים/pit in the public domain; even though we may be unhappy inside, we should try our utmost not to show it on the outside, and in doing so we avoid upsetting others with our misery.

There are other situations where one is obligated to be תּוֹכוֹ כְּבָרו/inside like the outside, such as what happened with Yosef and his brothers. Rashi says that the brothers were unable to speak words of shalom with Yosef because they hated him so. In that situation, it was praiseworthy not to be two-faced, because according to the Rambam, one only transgresses the aveirahof hating one’s brother in one’s heart if it remains in one’s heart. If one wears dislike for the person on the outside as well, though, it is not as serious. In this way, everyone knows where they stand and perhaps something can be done to bridge differences.

כָּל תַּלְמִיד חָכָם שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ דַעַת,נְבֵלָה טוֹבָה הֵימֶנּוּ

“Anytalmid chachamwho lacks da’as/knowledge, a piece of neveilah/unkosher meat is better than him,”10meaning that any talmid chachamwho pretends to be wise yet lacks the knowledge to fear Hashem is worse than a rotting piece of unkosher meat, because at least the rotting meat has a smell that warns a person to stay clear, yet one can come to serious harm from a rotter pretending to be righteous. This is the nature of the pig, which pretends to be squeaky clean on the outside while it is really rotten to the core.11This is why the pig is so dangerous and difficult to guard against, which is why the Torah warns us: טָמֵא הוּא לָכֶם/it is impure for you.

When we use the expression תּוֹכוֹ כְּבָרו/that the inside should be like the outside, which is more important — the inside or the outside? Always the one we are comparing something to is the more important. Just like when we say Yom HaKipurim is like Purim, where the emphasis is that Purim is more important, so too with תּוֹכוֹ כְּבָרו that, contrary to our understanding, the outside is more important. The reason for this is that we are always putting on a show; no one really knows the true depths of a person, not even the person himself.

This is the כוֹחַ/power of Purim: כְּשֶׁנִכְנַס אַדָר מַרְבִּים בְּשִׂמְחָה,וּכְּשֶׁנִכְנַס יַיִן יָצָא הַסוֹד/when we enter the month of Adar we increase simchah, and when the wine goes in, the secrets come out. Purim has the power to reveal to ourselves who we really are. Does our תּוֹכוֹ כְּבָרוֹ/inside match our outside, or are we really exhibiting the nature of a pig, just pretending to be something we are not?

Incidentally, when the English wish someone on his birthday “many happy returns,” they are really saying to them: “May your birthday return many more times.” Similarly, if on Purim we discover that we have given birth to a pig, then we can still wish ourselves happy returns, in the hope that just like the pig will one day return and be kosher, so too the day will come when we will return to a state of purity.

1Shabbos 156a.

2Vayikra 11:7.

3Vayikra Rabbah 17:5.

4Kesubos 75a, Rashi s.v., ולציון.

5See Ohr HaChaim to Vayikra 11:7.

6Shabbos 155b.

7Sotah 49b.

8Ben Yehoyada to Shabbosibid., s.v., לית.

9Yoma 72b.

10Vayikra Rabbah 1:15.

11See Me’am Lo’ez,Parshas Shemini, the story of the chassid.

Shemini: Of Corpses and Carcasses ~ Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein


In the aftermath of the Ten Spies fiasco, the Jewish people were doomed to remain in the wilderness for forty years until the rise of the next generation. In the words of G-d, “In this wilderness shall your carcasses drop… and your young children… they shall know the Land that you have despised. But you — you are carcasses which shall fall in the wilderness, and your children will roam the wilderness forty years, and you will suffer your deviance, until your carcasses finish in the wilderness” (Num. 14:29- 33). The word for carcass which appears three times in this passage is peger. That word and variations thereof appear some twenty-two times in the Bible. However, there are another two words which the Bible uses to mean carcass: challal and neveilah. The former appears close to one-hundred times in the Bible, and the latter, close to fifty. The questions with which we will grapple are what, if anything, are the differences between these three words and what are their roots?

Rabbi Eliyahu HaBachur (1469-1549) in Sefer HaTishbi and in his glosses to Radak’s Sefer HaShorashim explains that peger refers to the body of a human being, and is specifically used in reference to the rotting bodies of wicked men. Although, Rabbi HaBachur notes, there is one exception to this rule: Genesis 15:11, in which the word peger is used to refer to animal carcasses that were used in Abraham’s Covenant between the Pieces. (Rashi there writes that peger is related to the word pigul, “disgusting”, because, as other commentators note, the letters REISH and LAMMEDare sometimes interchanged.)

Rabbi Shlomo Pappenheim of Breslau (1740-1814) maintains that the word peger is a portmanteau of po gar, “here he lives”, but does not elaborate. This possibly refers to the fact that a dead person is immobile and cannot move elsewhere, so it lives in its place for eternity.

In Aramaic, the root PEY-GIMMEL-REISH refers to inactivity or, at least, lagging behind. A holiday is known in Aramaic as a Yoma dePagra (Day of Inactivity); a Modern Hebrew cognate mifager means “retard”.

From an etymological perspective, neveilah is related to the root balah, which means “worn out” or “decay,” which is the state of any carcass left to the elements. However, in halachic terminology the word neveilah refers to the prohibition against eating from the meat of a kosher animal that died without proper shechita (ritual slaughtering). Nonetheless, Rabbi HaBachur contends that the word neveilah can refer to animal or human remains, although it refers to a human only if he was killed through an outside force, but not if he dies naturally.

In light of his understanding of the word neveilah, Rabbi HaBachur grapples with one particular passage in which the word neveilah appears. When the prophet Isaiah prays for the future resurrection of the dead, he requests, “May Your dead come to life, may my corpse (neveilah) arise. Awake and sing for joy, those who dwell in the dust…” (Isa. 26:19). Rabbi HaBachur asks: Why does Isaiah use the word neveilah when talking about himself? Some commentators answer that Isaiah himself was killed by his grandson, the evil King Menashe (Yevamot 49b), so his dead body could be fittingly described as a neveilah — someone killed by an outside force. Others explain that “my corpse” in this context does not literally refer to Isaiah’s own body, but to that of future martyrs whose devotion to G-d mimicked Isaiah’s. Isaiah calls them “my corpse” because their piety resembles his own. Their bodies can fittingly be described as a neveilah because they too were killed by outside forces.

The third word which refers to a corpse or cadaver is challal. The word challal literally means “empty” or “cavity” because the body of a dead human — emptied of his soul — is like an empty vessel. In Modern Hebrew, challal also means “outer space”. The Hebrew word for flute is chalil because it is obviously “hollow” inside. A person’s inner body parts are called chalulim because they are cavities which contain important organs.

For the same reason, other things that you would expect to be “holy” but are not are considered “hallow”, because there is something missing. To that extent, chullinis the term used in the Talmud for non-sacrificial meats, and Chol HaMoed is the term used for the days of the festival which are not as holy as Yom Tov (in terms of forbidden activities). When a kohen marries somebody forbidden to him, the resulting child is called a chalal or chalalah, because that person has been “desecrated” or “emptied” from the priesthood that s/he would otherwise receive through the father’s lineage. Another related word is a concept known as a chalut(commonly pronounced by Yeshiva students as a “chaloys”) which means the creation/effectuation of a halachic status. This word may be linked to the idea that words in Hebrew can have two polar-opposite meanings, and so here a chalut is really something that fills a void.

Every morning upon waking up from our nocturnal slumber we thank G-d in the prayer Elokai Neshama for returning our souls to our otherwise lifeless bodies. In that prayer we refer to our bodies sans our souls as “the corpses of the dead” (pegarim meitim). Of all the words for corpses that we discussed above, why do we use the word peger in this context? Rabbi Yosef Teomim (1727-1792), author of Pri Migadim, in one of his letters on Hebrew grammar, draws from Rabbi HaBachur’s approach to provide an answer. As we mentioned above, Rabbi HaBachur maintains that the word peger connotes the body of a wicked person. Accordingly, Rabbi Teomim explains that this prayer specifically uses the word pegarim to illustrate G-d’s eternal kindness; He benevolently returns the souls to even the most-wicked people, despite the fact that they do not follow His commands and are otherwise undeserving of this daily act of kindness.

Shemini: The Simple Son: Dense or Perfect? ~ Yehoshua Steinberg