Other interpretations have also been given
to the word racham. In the first place the word signifies
'love,' and is used in that sense in many passages of Scripture. According
to Buxtorf, the bird in question is the merops or bee-eater, 'a bird so
called from the love and pity which is shown to its parents, because it
nurtures them when hidden in the most lofty caves.' Some who study the
Talmud take it to be the woodpecker.
Another rendering of the word which has
received much favour is, that the Racham is the hyacinthine gallinule,
or sultana hen. This bird is allied to the rails, and is remarkable for
the great length of its toes, by means of which it can walk on floating
herbage as it lies on the surface of the water. The colour of the bird
is a rich and variable blue, darker on the back and lighter on the throat
and breast. It is on account of this purple hue that the bird has received
the name of Porphryo, or Purple Bird. It is spread over many parts
of Asia, Africa, and Europe.
The reading of racham as porphyria
is followed in the Septuagint, this reading having been defended on
the ground that the bird must belong to the aquatic group, being placed
between the pelican and cormorant. The Jewish Bible follows the Christian
version, but affixes the mark of doubt to the word.
Although some of the students of the Talmud
render the word as woodpecker, others identify it with the Egyptian Vulture.
In Lewysohn's 'Zoologie des Talmuds' there is a curious speculation on
this subject. This bird, according to the authors whom he quotes, is the
Schirkrek, and derives its name from its peculiar cry, which begins with
a hiss (Schirk) and ends, with a shriek (Rek). The bird utters its cry
when the rising of the Nile is expected, and so has earned the name of
Racham, or Love, this word being frequently used in the Scriptures as a
metaphor for rain, dew, or any water that nourishes plants.
Without adopting the process of reasoning
employed in this case, we may safely accept the conclusion, and consider
the Racham as identical with the Egyptian Vulture