Rechev Kilayim

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, June 4, 2009

Every year around Israel’s Independence Day, the Academy of the Hebrew Language introduces new words to keep up with the rapid flow of new gadgets and terms that Israelis often call by their English names. This year, it unveiled a term for the hybrid car: rechev kilayim.

Rechev is the standard word for car and comes from the biblical verb lirkov, which means to ride. Kilayim refers to the forbidden mixtures of different breeds of seeds, animals, and cloths (Deuteronomy 19:19). Commentators such as Abraham ibn Ezra and Nachmanides explain that creating new breeds crosses the line between nurturing the world we were given and meddling with it.

More than simply an unusual combination, kilayim is about how we relate to the natural world. Tinkering with creation to the extent that we create new breeds unable to reproduce on their own is a step too far, says Nachmanides. Today’s car-culture relies on an unsustainable degree of consumption of our natural resources. It destroys the world’s beauty, something the law of kilayim aims to prevent. The rechev kilayim, though a fusion of different types, can help sustain our world.

Last updated: 12:10pm, June 4 2009