The Swine Flu in the Gemara



Gemara Taanis 21b (elucidation in brackets):

They once said to Rav Yehudah: There is a deadly plague among the pigs. He decreed a fast [even though Jews would not be directly affected by the destruction of pigs].

Shall we say that Rav Yehudah holds that a plague which is visited on one species [of animal] is [apt to be] visited on all species? [Thus, kosher livestock were threatened by the plague that struck pigs.

No. Pigs are Pigs are different in that their digestive tracts resemble those of humans. [Therefore, a plague that strikes pigs bodes ill for the people of that place, which is why Rav Yehudah decreed a fast. Note: Pigs, like humans, have no rumen, unlike other livestock (Rashi). Thus, people are more susceptible to epidemics that affect pigs than to those affecting other livestock.]

א”ל לרב יהודה איכא מותנא בחזירי גזר תעניתא נימא קסבר ר”י מכה משולחת ממין אחד משולחת מכל המינין לא שאני חזיר דדמין מעייהו לבני אינש

(תענית כא עמוד ב)


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  1. The above-mentioned plague cannot be referring to swine flu. Influenza is respiratory in nature, so the similarity of humans and pigs in matters of digestion has no relevance,

    In addition, pigs are not the only livestock that lack a rumen. Horses and donkeys lack one as well. Only cattle, sheep, goats, and camels have a rumen.