Parsha Halacha

Parshat Shemini/Parshat Parah

No Pig Farming

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In the Torah portion of Shemini we read about the laws of kosher and non-kosher animals. Regarding non-kosher fish the Torah says, וְשֶׁקֶץ יִהְיוּ לָכֶם מִבְּשָׂרָם לֹא תֹאכֵלוּ וְאֶת נִבְלָתָם תְּשַׁקֵּצוּ – “And an abomination for you they shall remain: you shall not eat of their flesh, and you shall abominate their carcasses.”[1]
The Talmud[2] interprets the words וְשֶׁקֶץ יִהְיוּ לָכֶם “And an abomination for you they shall remain” to mean that one may not purposefully profit from non-kosher foods. The words וְשֶׁקֶץ יִהְיוּּ are thus translated to mean “It shall remain an abomination (to benefit from).” If one happens to get non-kosher food but did not intend to do so (for example, if one received it as a gift), one may sell it for a profit. This is derived from the word לָכֶם- “it is yours” which is interpreted to mean that in some cases, you may benefit from it. (Please note, there are some forbidden foods from which one may never benefit at from, such as Chametz on Pesach.[3])
Most authorities understand this to mean that it is forbidden by Torah law to purposefully do business with non-kosher foods.[4] The reason the Torah forbade it is to ensure that one does not mistakenly eat the forbidden foods.[5] The verse alludes to this by saying לֹא תֹאכֵלוּ after the prohibition against doing business with forbidden foods. This indicates that the reason for the prohibition is that it may lead to eating something forbidden. Some say that this law is simply a decree of the A-lmighty which we cannot necessarily comprehend.[6]
Others are of the opinion that the law of not doing business with forbidden foods was enacted by the rabbis as a fence to prevent people from accidentally consuming such foods.[7] Although the Talmud cites a verse in the Torah as the basis for this law, that is not the actual meaning of the verse. It is rather an asmachta – a verse interpreted by the rabbis to support their enactment.
According to the opinion that this law is ordained by the Torah, one should be strict in a case of doubt and not do business with an food that may or may not be forbidden.[8]

A Curse on Pig Farmers
The Talmud[9] recounts the following incident that led to a rabbinic curse against raising pigs:
After the death of Queen Shlomtziyon,[10] widow of the Hasmonean king Yannai,[11] there was a war between her two sons, each of whom wanted to ascend to the throne. Hurkanus, who was also the Kohen Gadol, had control of the city of Jerusalem while his brother Aristobulus had surrounded the city and laid siege to it.[12] Every day those inside the city would lower a basket of gold coins to those outside the city and would, in turn, receive two goats for the daily (Tamid) sacrifice.
There was an old man inside the city who communicated in Greek with those outside the city that as long as the sacrifices were being offered, those inside would have the upper hand. So the next day, (the 17th day of Tammuz[13]), instead of sending back the goats they sent back a pig.
When those inside began to haul up the basket, the pig stuck its hooves into the walls of Jerusalem and the entire land of Israel shook.[14] (It is noteworthy that the pig symbolizes Rome[15] who established a foothold in Judea as a result of the brothers asking Rome to adjudicate their dispute.[16]) Consequently, the Talmud says that the sages uttered a curse against anyone who breeds pigs as well as against anyone who teaches their child the Greek language.[17]

Why a Special Curse?
The commentaries question why the rabbis needed to make a curse against pig breeding when it should already be forbidden under the prohibition of doing business with non-kosher foods as explained above.
The commentaries offer various answers to this question:
1)     An Added Curse
Tosfot[18] says that although pig breeding was already forbidden, in light of the above-mentioned story, the sages added a curse to whoever would do so.
2)     No Pig Breeding to Make Footballs
Alternately, Tosfot writes that were it not for the curse, it would have been permissible to raise pigs for purposes other than eating. As the Jerusalem Talmud[19] indicates that it is only forbidden to do a food business with forbidden foods. Whereas if one is using a non-kosher product for other uses (i.e., lard to oil machinery or pigskin to make leather), it is permissible.
This is derived from the verse (quoted above) which says וְשֶׁקֶץ יִהְיוּ לָכֶם… לֹא תֹאכֵלוּן (“It shall be an abomination… you shall not eat it”), indicating that the prohibition of doing business is only if it relates to eating in some way. In addition, since the reason behind the prohibition is that it may lead to eating the forbidden food, this is highly unlikely in cases where one is using the product in a non-edible manner. Due to the above incident however, the sages forbade any type of pig breeding even if the intent is to use them for a purpose other than eating.
3)     Inherited Pigs
As mentioned above, although it is forbidden to buy and sell forbidden foods, if one happens to get them inadvertently, they may sell them.[20] In the case of pigs, however, if one inherits them or gets them as a gift, one must sell them immediately and may not raise or breed them.[21]
4)     Live Animals are Different
Some say that by Torah law it is only forbidden to do business with dead, non-kosher animals as the verse is referring to something which is already edible. Whereas the prohibition of doing business with live animals was only added by the rabbis at a later time. As such, it is possible that at the time of the above story there was no prohibition against doing business with live animals, which is why the rabbis established a curse specifically against breeding pigs.[22]

Anywhere in the World
It is forbidden for a Jew to breed pigs anywhere in the world.[23] Some say that although it is forbidden in the entire world, the curse only applies to those who do so (G-d forbid) in Yerushalayim.[24]

Pigs for Heart Valves
If necessary, one may breed pigs in order to procure valves from their hearts that can be used in life-saving operations. This is because the mitzvah of saving a life overrides the above-mentioned prohibitions and curses.[25]

Pig in the Messianic Era
According to the Midrash, in the Messianic era pigs will become kosher.[26] Presumably, at which time, it will be permissible to breed them as well.

May that time come quickly!

[3] See Pesachim 21b in the opinion of Chizkiyahu and Rabbi Abahu as opposed to the opinion of Rabbi Yossi HaGelili
[6] Chavot Yair quoted in Chatam Sofer Y.D. 105
[7] Terumat HaDeshen 200, citing a gilyon Tosfot (note of Tosfot). It has been pointed out that the Tosfot D.H. Lo Yegadel on Bava Kamma 82 b has a similar discussion as the Tosfot in Pesachim but does not specify that it is a Torah-level prohibition.
[10] She was a righteous woman. See here, and Brachot 48a among other sources
[11] He was a wicked king as he killed all of the rabbis that he could find. See ibid, Sanhedrin 19a and Kiddushin 66a. But see Sotah 22b
[12] This is the version of the story in Bava Kamah ibid. But see Sotah 49b where it says that Yochanon was outside and Aristobulus was inside. Rabbi Tzvi Meir Beck suggests (Imrei HaTzvi on Bava Kamma ibid) that this incident happened twice and that the positions of the brothers were reversed the second time around.
[13] Tiferet Yisroel on Ta’anit 4:6
[14] The Talmud says that an area of 400 by 400 parsa (a parsa is about 1 kilometer) shook. This is referring to the entire land of Israel which is exactly that size (Yavetz, see Megillah 3a). Since Jerusalem is in the center of the land of Israel, this indicates that this desecration “shook up” the entire land just as a blow absorbed in the center of the body shakes the entire body (Iyun Yaakov on the Ein Yaakov).
[15] See Bereishit Rabbah 65:1 that both the pig and Rome pretend to be “kosher.”
[17] But see Sotah ibid that this is referring to a certain dialect of Greek called Chochmat Yevanit and is not the common Greek language.
[18] Tosfot D.H. Amar Kra on Pesachim 23a
[19] Bava Kama 3:3 or 34a
[21] Tosfot ibid and Rashbah on Bava Kammah ibid
[22] Imrei HaTzvi on Bava Kamma ibid
[24] Daf al Daf on Bava Kammah by Rabbi Avraham Noach Klein on Bava Kammah 79b based on the Nimukei Yosef on ibid
[25] Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein in Chashukei Chemed on Bava Kama ibid
[26] Midrash cited in Ohr HaChaim 11:3. See Likutei Sichot 12:175 and 35:118

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and a Chodesh Tov!

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