Religion vs. Science: The coping of Medieval and modern Rabbis (XIX-XXIst Centuries) with the Question of the Existence of the Talmudic “Evolutionary Mouse”


  • Abraham Ofir Shemesh Ariel University


Judaism, evolutionary mouse, modern halakhic authorities, spontaneously generating, ancient zoological knowledge, omne vivum ex vivo, jerboa, R. Israel Lipschuetz, R. Menachem Mendel Schneerson, R. Yosef Kapach, R. Ovadia Yosef


The current paper focusses on the identifications and the approaches of the medieval and modern halakhic authorities to the existence of the Talmudic “evolutionary mouse” (a mouse that is half flesh and half earth). Rashi believed that this was a squirrel, and R. Israel Lipschuetz tried to prove by the contemporary zoological knowledge that this was the jerboa. R. Kapach demonstrates unusual opinion. Not only is he attentive to emerging news concerning nature in the modern world, he also held his own observations of the “evolutionary mouse”. According to his findings this was not an “evolutionary mouse” but rather mice covered in mud. He also argues that there is no proof of this phenomenon in modern zoological books, showing that this is a legend and not reality. The experiments of Louis Pasteur proved that the comprehension of spontaneous generation is unfounded. The new empirical discoveries that refuted the spontaneous development of creatures are one of the many cases of the dispute between science and religion. In the 20th-21st centuries there are still halakhic authorities who hold the attitude of the ancient rabbis, such as R. Menachem Mendel Schneerson, and R. Ovadia Yosef, the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel from 1973 to 1983.

Author Biography

Abraham Ofir Shemesh, Ariel University

Ariel University, Israel Heritage Department, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Ariel, Israel






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