Project Genesis

Unicorns in the Talmud

Question: What does the Talmud tell us about unicorns?

Answer: Thank you for your excellent question. There are several references in the Talmud and other Torah literature that may be interpreted as unicorns.

The Talmud in Zevachim 113b mentions an animal called “Orzila” in Aramaic, which is considered the same as the great horned mammal known as “Re’em” in many places in the Bible (Job 39:9-12; Ps. 22:21, 29:6; Num. 23:22, 24:8; Deut. 33:17, et al). The Talmud says that this animal was too large to fit into Noah’s ark, but survived the Flood by grasping onto the ark with it’s horn. This animal is described as a wild kosher animal.

The Talmud in Chullin 60a tells us that Adam sacrificed a one-horned mammal. If it was used as a sacrifice, it was most likely a domesticated kosher animal.

The Talmud in Chullin 59b mentions a mammal called a “Keres” which has one horn and is kosher to eat.

The Talmud in Shabbos 28b describes the “tachash” mentioned in the Bible (Exodus 26:14 et al) as an animal used for its skins, particularly to make the curtains of the Tabernacle, as a colorful unicorn that only appeared at that location in the desert for Moses to use for the Tabernacle, and afterward became extinct in that location. It is also assumed to be a kosher mammal.

There are also references in the Kabbalah to unicorn like animals living under the earth. This can be found in the Zohar Parshas Bereishis and in the Sefer Chesed L’Avraham concerning the “Sod Sheva HaAratzos” – “The Secret of the Seven Lands”.

All the best,
Rabbi Kolakowski
Richmond, VA

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