RAT (Heb. חֹלֶד, ḥoled, mod. Heb. חֻלְדָּה, ḥuldah, JPS and AV "weasel"), rodent. Two species of rat are found in Israel, Rattus rattus and Rattus norvegicus. The second only reached the country in approximately the 18th century. Ḥuldah occurs as the name of a prophetess (II Kings 22:14, the same verse including two other names taken from the world of fauna: shafan ("coney") and akhbar ("mouse"). In the Torah ḥoled is mentioned with the akhbar among the unclean creeping things, from which it seems that holed is the same as ḥuldah (so rendered by Onkelos) where the Palestinian Targum (cf. Meg. 14b) has kirkushta, "rat." The name ḥuldah is derived from ḥalod ("to undermine"); "ḥuldah that undermines the foundations of the houses" (Pes. 118b in Ms. Munich). The ḥuldah is frequently mentioned in rabbinic literature. It is said to drag food into its nest for storage (Pes. 1:2; TJ, Shab. 14:1, 14c; Lev. R. 6:2). There is a well-known legend of "the rat (ḥuldah) and the pit," in which the ḥuldah bit the child of a man who did not keep faith with a maiden and married another (see Rashi, Ta'an. 8a). These characteristics do not apply to the cat or the polecat (Mustela nivalis), with which some have identified the ḥuldah. The polecat is not found in Israel, neither does it store up its food. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Lewysohn, Zool, 101f. (no. 135), 107f. (no. 139); F.S. Bodenheimer, Animal and Man in Bible Lands (1960), 227 (index), S.V. Rattus; J. Feliks, Animal World of the Bible (1962), 42; M. Dor, Leksikon Zo'ologi (1965), 122. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Feliks, Ha-Ẓome'aḥ, 226. (Jehuda Feliks) RATH, MESHULLAM RATH, MESHULLAM (1875–1963), talmudist and rabbinic authority. Rath's father and earlier forebears had occupied the rabbinate of Kolomyya for 150 years consecutively. Rath, who had a remarkable memory and a rapid grasp of essentials, was ordained at the age of 12 by isaac schmelkes and Jacob Teomim. In 1895 he was appointed rabbi of Molniza and in 1899 rabbi to his native town Horoskov and then to Ushbuza. Rath was an active community leader. He founded a yeshivah for outstanding students, was elected to the Romanian senate, and was one of the first rabbis to join the Mizrachi movement openly. He spent part of World War I in Vienna, where his renown spread. On returning to Galicia after the war, he was considered for the Lvov rabbinate but withdrew his candidacy when asked to give up his Zionist work. He was then appointed rabbi of Chernovtsy. In 1944 he settled in Ereẓ Israel and became a member of the chief rabbinate. There he was consulted by the Supreme Rabbinic Court, and examined candidates for the post of dayyan. Some of his responsa were published under the title Kol Mevasser (2 vols., 1955–62). These deal with such topical matters as the permissibility of a bat mitzvah ceremony for girls and of the wording of the ketubbah in Hebrew instead of Aramaic. He ruled that Hallel with blessings and the She-Heheyanu should be recited on Israel Independence Day. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: O. Feuchtwanger, Righteous Lives (1965), 98–101; S.N. Gottlieb, Oholei Shem (1912), 407; Kaniel, in: Shanah be-Shanah (1963), 493–7. (Mordechai Hacohen)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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