Monday, January 12, 2009

Playing Possum

This passage from the Zohar Chadash describes a monkey that plays possum. But there aren't any possums in the Old World. If anyone has any ideas as to which species it is referring to, I would appreciate it!

זהר חדש פרשת תרומה מאמר נפילת אפים
מ"ט. בגין דנפילה דא, דאתמסר בר נש למותא, אצטריך לכוונא רעותיה, ולמעבד נחת רוח לההוא סטרא דשרייא ביה מותא, כמה דעביד קוף בחרבות ובהרים, אחזי גרמיה דמית, ואתחזי דמית קמי חיותא חדא דדחיל מינה. כיון דההיא חיוותא קריב לגביה, וחשיב לקטלא ליה, ולנשכא ליה, חמא ליה נפיל לארעא כמת, וחשיב דאיהו מת, כדין תב לאחורא, ולא מקטרג ליה. ועל דא אסתלקו אלין ב' אתוון, דלא ידע בהו בר קב"ה דלחודוי:

(Thanks to Rav Moshe Tzuriel, shlita, for the reference)


Holy Hyrax said...

What does that mean? no possums in the "old world"

Natan Slifkin said...

The Old World includes Europe, Asia, and Africa (collectively known as Afro-Eurasia), plus surrounding islands. The term is in distinction from the New World, meaning the Americas and Australasia.


Anonymous said...

"But there aren't any possums in the Old World."

That's a confusing way of asking the question, since the Old World is irrelevant! The bit you quoted from the Zohar never says anything about possums; it talks about a monkey that pretends to be dead.

To leap from that to the expression "plays possum" and then ask about the Old World is to invite error. If you had said it "describes a monkey that plays dead" you would not have been able to ask if there are any deads in the Old World.

Anyway, the real question is if the belief of Moses de Leon in the existence of a monkey that plays dead is based on a real or imagined animal behavior.

Natan Slifkin said...

Anonymous, good point. But I do think that the animal he is describing may not be a monkey; such names can be applied broadly.

Anonymous said...

How about you tell Which animal the Gemara is talking about in Daf yomi on Tuesday that turns into a shade or any of the others BARDALES and why is Scorpion Not a MUAD?