Abominations

I did a quick survey of “abomination” and its close synonyms in the Torah in response to a question from a good friend. I had to correct a couple of misconceptions that I have entertained for years. There are several Hebrew words used for this idea, but two in particular stood out:

Hebrew: Shekets/shakats/shikuts
English: Something detestable/abominable, to detest, to make detestable
Context: Non-kosher animals of all kinds are to be considered detestable to you. Things that are shekets are also tamay (from a root word meaning hidden, hence walled off, usually translated as unclean, defiled, or impure). Eating non-kosher swarming things (presumably all kinds of insects except a few approved locusts) makes you unclean/tamay.

Hebrew: Toaybah
English: Disgusting, abominable
Context: Idols, idolatry, idolaters, sorcery, witchcraft, copying pagan worship, homosexuality, bestiality, wife swapping, and using unjust weights are all toaybah to God and the land. Eating with Hebrews and sacrificing sheep are toaybah to Egyptians.

There is definitely a difference between the two words, but it seems to be lost on the English translators. The major difference that I can see is that “shekets” is used when God commands us to hold a thing to be detestable, like trying to train a child not to eat something he found on the ground. It’s not that the parent is repulsed by the child eating it so much as he needs to teach the child to be repulsed for himself. On the other hand, if something is “toaybah,” then God doesn’t want us to do it for his sake, because he finds it repulsive or because the land itself rebels against it.

With that perspective, it seems perfectly reasonable to say that God told us not to eat those animals because it’s bad for us to do so. Whether it’s bad physically or spiritually or both is another question. The last option gets my vote.

This entry was posted in Kashrut, Parsha 26 - Sh'mini, Parsha 49 - Ki Tetzei, Theology, Torah and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Abominations

  1. Jair says:

    Very good summary, I did a study on that a few years ago and that’s pretty well what my conclusions where as well.

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