Lost In Translation
‘A Shesua Is A Creature…’
R. Chanin bar Abba, on our daf, interprets the pasuk (Devarim 14:7) “Ach es zeh lo sochlu mi’ma’alei hagerah u’mi’mafrisei ha’parsah ha’shesuah, es hagamal v’es ha’arneves v’es hashafan… – But of these you must not eat of those that chew their cud or have cloven hooves that are cleft through, the shesua, the camel, the hare and the hyrax…” The shesua, according to him, is a creature that has two kosher signs but is nonetheless not kosher. The Gemara elaborates that the shesua is an animal with two backs and two spines.
Not A Cow
Rav and Shmuel disagree regarding the shesua. Rav maintains that the animal does not exist as a distinct species. Rather, the Torah is referring to a freak case in which an ordinary kosher animal (e.g. a cow) conceived such an offspring. Thus, in Rav’s view, the Torah is teaching us that if such a fetus is found inside the womb of a slaughtered cow, it isn’t kosher even though it is the offspring of a kosher animal.
A Part Of The Whole
Shmuel contends that a shesua species does exist. Thus, according to Shmuel, if one slaughters a cow and finds a shesua inside the womb, it is kosher since it is the offspring of a kosher animal.
We might ask: Why does the Gemara frame the dispute of Rav and Shmuel in the context of a fetus found in an animal’s womb (a ben pakua)? Why not talk about a regular live shesua living independently?
A Question Of Survival
The answer is that Rashi (sv “b’veheima asur b’achila”) maintains that it is impossible for a cow to give birth to a viable shesua. Such a freak of nature cannot survive a pregnancy. Therefore, their dispute only concerns a shesua that is a ben pakua.
The Missing Word
One difficulty with the above Gemara, which is cited by Rashi in Chumash (Devarim, ad loc.), is that Onkelos and all subsequent translators and redactors do not translate shesua as being an animal. Rather, they translate the word as part of the phrase “u’mi’mafrisei ha’parsah ha’shesuah.” It simply modifies the pasuk’s split hoof requirement and means that the hoof must be fully split.
It’s possible that since a shesua is only found in wombs and since the whole matter is in dispute, Onkelos and others avoided translating in such a manner that would suggest that a shesua is a distinct species. This is essentially the view of the Ramban, who maintains that Rav and Shmuel dispute whether a cow can actually give birth to such a shesua. Rav maintains that it is impossible, while Shmuel contends that it is. According to Shmuel, a shesua that a cow gave birth to is exactly what the pasuk prohibits. A ben pakua, however, found in a cow’s womb after she was slaughtered is permitted.
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