Cleanliness is next to COOKIE!

A Facebook friend of mine posted a question about whether, under the Levitical law, Cookie Monster would be considered a clean or unclean animal. This is a surprisingly arguable question.

Both sides agree that it is highly unlikely that there is a specific exception for Cookie Monster one way or the other. Aside from the exceptions, the general rule in Leviticus 11:3 is that an animal is usually clean if it both chews the cud and has cloven hooves.

Start with the part about the divided hooves. This is a difficult question due to the fact that Cookie Monster is in fact a puppet. The most common portrayals of the mythical beast have no legs at all, so we may have to make a guess about the biology of the animal itself.

Since Sesame Street doesn’t answer this important theological question, there are other options. Consider another creature from the same source:

See those hooves? They can’t get more divided than that. And if the great and powerful wizard Frank created such a being once, it’s reasonable to suppose that the same applies to Cookie Monster. Not certain, but at least reasonable.

Here the opposing side may interject that that’s not a fair assumption. This is serious business, and we don’t want to hazard an answer based on a guess. Besides, simply from looking at any of the Cookie Monster toys that have been sold it is obvious that at least some people think the species has feet, not divided hooves. But those toys are apocryphal, and their canonicity is disputed. The short answer is that we don’t know whether Cookie Monster has hooves, but there is a factual answer even if we don’t know it. It could reasonably go either way.

The other requirement refers to how a creature chews its food. Whether Cookie Monster’s method of eating cookies counts as chewing a cud is a subject of intense debate among theologians. The phrase used in most contemporary English translations of Leviticus is “chews the cud,” which is far too specific. While Cookie Monster’s method of eating does not fit the strict definition as used by modern biologists, we don’t really care about the current definition.

In fact, mentioning a cud at all is a bit of a mistranslation. Cud-chewing is what ruminants do, where they swallow their food, regurgitate it back into their mouths, chew some more, and swallow it again into their nuclear-powered adamantium extra stomach. That is not what cookie monsters do. But it’s not what rabbits do either, and Leviticus 11:6 clearly states that rabbits count.

According to the people who argue about this kind of thing, one of the Hebrew words in question is “ma‘alat,” meaning “chew.” In the Hebrew, it’s a participle form of the word ” ‘alah,” an extremely broadly used word meaning “to bring up.” (Allegedly, anyway, I don’t know Hebrew and this is coming from people with a vested interest in Cookie Monster being considered clean under this verse.) Supposedly ” ‘alah” is used in pretty much any context: Raise a sword, raise a child, flood a river, even carry a box horizontally.

The other word is “gerah,” meaning something along the lines of a thing that has been chewed.  Literally it means something that scrapes the throat, which clearly does happen when Cookie Monster eats a cookie. This word never appears in any other context, so there isn’t a lot of information on it. But it’s clear that a cow chewing and swallowing, then unswallowing and chewing some more would definitely fit this description, hence the cud translation.

The standard argument is that rabbits count as cud-chewers for the purposes of the book of Leviticus because they engage in a disgusting-to-humans process most politely referred to as—pardon my Greek—caecotrophy. Eating the same matter twice is apparently enough to satisfy the requirement of “bringing up the thing that has been chewed.”

And if that’s a small enough stretch to be reasonable, then Cookie Monster definitely counts as well. The proof is seen in this documentary footage of a wild cookie monster’s mastication process. Almost every crumb of what gets chewed gets brought up, thereby ending any debate.

See? Absolute proof.

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One thought on “Cleanliness is next to COOKIE!

  1. Jiro

    I believe that human breast milk is considered pareve. Consumption of it is prohibited except by babies, but the rules that prohibit it are not rules about kosher food. Assuming that the Cookie Monster is considered a person, the Cookie Monster would not be an animal at all, and consuming him would fall under laws prohibiting cannibalism, but not under laws which classify him as clean or unclean.

    Reply

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