Midrash and Method
Midrash and Method
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Meir Levin

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Shemini 5765

A Kosher Pig.

As discussed on this site many times, a central principle of interpretation is that an explanation, whether of a verse or a Midrashic passage, must conform to what we know to be true from other places in Tanach, Oral Tradition, knowledge of the how the world functions and theology and Jewish thought. How do we approach a midrash that creates surprise and amazement? Let us consider one such passage.
Can a pig be kosher? According to a midrash, well, yes and no and maybe.

These are the ones that you shall not eat... and the chazir for it splits its hoof but the cud it chews not (Leviticus 11, 4-7).

Why is its name called chazir? Because the Holy Name Blessed Be He will return it to Israel.[1]

On the face of it, the midrash seems to say that pig will become kosher after redemption[2] and this is how Rama MiPano understands it in Asara Maamaros, Chikur Hadin 2:17. Harama MiPano was a Kabbalist and the idea that the unclean will be transformed into pure apparently did not present a difficulty to him. His is however, an isolated view, for the idea of a kosher pig is certainly a startling one. It appears to be in conflict with basic Jewish sensibility and most sources therefore offer explanations that limit or particularize this midrash. R.Bachya in his commentary to Shemini, for example, explains that the reference is to victory over Edom, whose symbol, the pig, is well known to us from other Midrashic passages[3]. Alternatively it may refer to the might and power of Rome, which will be inherited by those who observe the Torah (R. Bachya and Rekanti to Shemini). Ritva to Kiddushin 49b offers a similar explanation.

The Radvaz 828 suggests that the meaning is that in the world after redemption Jews will consume fat portions, as appetizing as if they were fatty meat of chazir. The Ohr Hachauym to this verse proposes that in the future time the pig will chew cud and therefore turn into a kosher animal. In Makor Chaim, a supercommentary on Ibn Ezra, R. Shem Tov Ben Falkira is quoted as saying that that the taste of pig meat will become known to the wise ones in the future time, not by eating actual pig, but through their wisdom they will be able to perceive it in other foodstuffs.[4]

One might ask why should pig meat be different from other Torah laws regarding which the statement, 'Commandments will cease in the world-to-come' appears to be more readily accepted (Nidddah 61b)?[5]

One can only speculate that it is due to the emotional impact of the idea that not only will pig become kosher but that it is something of spiritual value and importance. We think of pig as being the very epitome of uncleanliness and it is hard to imagine that it will turn into something desirable. Why after Maschiach should eating pig's meat acquire positive religious value? The simple meaning of this midrash conflicts with standard assumptions. It is for this reason that many commentators sought to discover another meaning in this perplexing midrash.

1 This midrash is quoted by many sources but it is not found in any of our standard collections. It is cited in Ritva Kiddushin 49b, R. Bachya Shmini, Radvaz 828, Avraham Anochi (A. Palaggi) in the name of Ramban and a number of Acharonim.

2 See Otsros Aharis Hayomom by Yehuda Chiyun, p. 100 in regard to the statement in Niddah 61b, "Commandments will cease in the future to come". Some take it to mean only after resurrection of the dead and others in the days of Mashiach; there are also views that restrict it in other ways.

3 Lev. Rabba 13.

4 Pri Megadim in Sefer Notrikon suggests that this midrash is the reason why the Talmud often refers to pig meat as 'davar acher', to indicate that pig will turn into a different entity at a future time.

5 As codified by the Rambam in Kelaim 10, 25 (but see Melachim 12,2, see Otsros Acharis Hayomim ibid) and Shulchan Aruch YO"D 301,7. Regarding this principle there are a number of commentators beginning with Rashbo that restrict it only to the time after resurrection, or to the dead themselves as long as they remain dead, or claim that it applies to resurrected individuals only or only to the short period immediately after the resurrection and only to the meal of Leviathan.