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BAR YOKNI (written and ):

A gigantic bird mentioned several times in the Talmud. An authority at the beginning of the third century, in relating a number of wonders, says that this bird was so large that once one of its eggs dropping from a height flooded sixty cities and shattered three hundred cedar-trees (Bek. 57b). In two other passages the egg and the bird are similarly used as examples of huge size (Yoma 80a; Suk. 5b, top). The Talmud identifies Bar Yokni with the ostrich, mentioned in Job xxxix. 13, and says that the bird lifts its egg from the place where it happens to lay it and flies with it at a great height until it reaches its nest, where it puts it gently down (Rashi on Bek. l.c.; Rashi and Tos. on Men. 66b; compare Sifra, Wayiḳra, Nedabah, xiv. 13; ed. Weiss, 12b). The opinion that the bird was reserved for the food of the pious in Messianic times occurs only in Elijah Levita, Tishbi, s.v. .

The name of the bird, "Bar Yokni" (Son of the Nest; "Yokni" = Arabic "wukanatun," nest), is probably due to a prevailing belief that the female ostrich does not sit upon her eggs, but merely lets them lie in the nest. Some scholars connect Bar Yokni with Vâraghna, the swiftest bird mentioned in the Zend Avesta; but the two do not resemble each other in their characteristics.

Bibliography:
  • Eisenmenger, Entdecktes Judenthum, i. 396, ii. 877;
  • Kohut, Aruch Completum, ii. 176, 177;
  • Windischmann, Zoroastrische Studien, p. 93.
J. Sr. L. G.
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