Thursday, April 19, 2007


* Adam HaRishon initially stood from the ground until the heavens. Upon sinning, HaShem placed His hand on Adam and diminished his stature.

The Chasam Sofer (Chulin) asks: One Gemora says that the circumference of the world is equivalent to a person’s journey around the world for five hundred years; yet the Rambam in his introduction to Mishnayos Seder Zeraim states that the world is precisely twenty-four thousand milin. How can these two different measurements be reconciled?

The Chasam Sofer goes to great lengths, with extraordinary calculations, illustrating how every word of Chazal is precise and accurate.

UPDATE: Please see the comments (click 'comments' below this post) where we present the Chasam Sofer's explanation.

NEWER UPDATE - Rabbi Mordechai Kornfeld from Kollel Iyun HaDaf responds:


brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Yerushalayim
Rosh Kollel: Rabbi Mordecai Kornfeld

1. Ramban's source is Pesachim 94a. That same Gemara rejects that figure based on the Beraisa of Chagigah 13a that you quoted.

Note that it also presents the Beraisa which contradicts this value, giving a size for the world of 3600 x 400 x 4 Mil. Considering that the average person does 40 Mil/day (ibid.) and can walk approximately 300 days/year (without Shabbos and Yom Tov), this figure is pretty consistent with the 500 year walk of Chagigah 12a and 13a.

2. Tosfos ibid DH Kol points out that the other two Midrashim (the 500 years and one "Yishuv") about the size of the Earth are contradictory (even putting aside the 24,000 Mil figure). However, the figure Rashi offers there (DH Tachas) seems to reconcile the two Midrashim.

3. Regarding the scientific figure, if you look at the Gemara in Pesachim you will find it is discussing just a single hemisphere. (The hemisphere opposite Israel was not considered a habitable or inhabited region - see Rosh Hashanah 20b and Ba'al ha'Me'or). If so, the figure of 24,000 Mil is pretty compatible with the scientific figure.

4. As for answering the Gemara's (unanswered) question from the larger 500 year figure, apparently it includes much more than the Earth itself (about 31 million miles). Perhaps it includes the entire "Goldilocks zone", as it is called in which the distance from the sun is neither too little nor too much to support life.

Of course, this is what I would say to explain the Gemara about 500 years in its literal sense - the way Tosfos understands it and the way the Gemara seems to want us to understand it in the Sugya in Pesachim. However, there certainly are much deeper lessons cloaked in the Agadah. For instance, it might have to do not with physical distance, but with philosophical "distance" measered in terms of years of contemplation until it is fully understood. Nevuchadnezar the Rasha thought he knew everything and the Gemara (Chagigah 13a) is reprimanding him that he knew nothing.

This would of course vindicate Rava's 24,000 Mil figure of physical distance, in Pesachim.

Best wishes,
Mordecai Kornfeld
Kollel Iyun Hadaf

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* Ten items were created on the first day of creation; tohu and vohu were two of them. The Gemora states that tohu is a green line, which surrounds the entire world and darkness emerges from it.

Reb Yaakov Emden comments that it is evident from this Gemora that ‘darkness’ is something physical, not merely an absence of light.

There can be a distinction between the darkness in the night, which may be only an absence of sunlight and the darkness which was created during the Six Days of Creation. The darkness of the ninth plague was also not the regular darkness, but rather, one of a miracle.

Rabbi Sinclair regarding the plague of darkness: The Torah describes the plague of darkness thus: "And there was darkness on the land of Egypt and the darkness removed the light." When the Torah tells us the "the darkness removed the light" it means that darkness is not the absence of light, it means that darkness is a creation just as much as light is a creation. In the normal course of events, G-d allows light to push away the darkness. In the ninth plague, He chose to reverse nature's polarity and it was the darkness that removed the light.

Rabbi Winston cites the Vilna Gaon: G-d said to Moshe, "Stretch out your hand towards Heaven, so that darkness will come over Egypt, a darkness which can be felt (vayamaish)." (Shemos 10:21)

What is a "darkness which can be felt"?

Why do we ask such a question? Because to us, darkness is merely that absence of light, the result, for example, of when the sun leaves our part of the world for another. However, the truth is that it is not so simple, as the Vilna Gaon (Gra) indicates: "There are some who say that light is an independent creation, and that darkness is an independent creation, not like those who say that darkness is just an absence of light. In truth, it is not like this, but rather, darkness is in fact an independent creation that is pushed away by light, and that's the way The Holy One, Blessed is He, made nature. Therefore, here (in this plague), G-d changed nature, because it says, 'a darkness which can be felt,' which means that the darkness 'pushed' away the light, and not the light, the darkness (the root of the word 'vayamaish' is from 'and he [Yehoshua] didn't move (yamish) from his tent (Shemos 33:11)'." (Kol Eliyahu, Bo 53)

In other words, says the Gra, the posuk means "a darkness that can move light." A sefer called HaK'sav v'HaKabbalah on Parashas Bereishis also quotes the Gra saying that darkness is in fact an independent creation. However, the Radak seems to hold that darkness is the result of an absence of light.

The Talmud, which treats darkness as an "object," seems to provide support for the Gra's opinion: This is what it means to say: G-d called to the light and commanded it in the mitzvos of the day, and G-d called to the darkness and commanded it in the mitzvos of the night (Pesachim 2a) As well, the Talmud states that: We must mention the "trait" of night during the day blessings, and the "trait" of day during the evening blessings, to counter the heretics who claim that He who made the day did not also make the night. (Brochos 11b)

If darkness is only the absence of light, then how could the heretics think such a thing? We would only be dealing with one creation, the creation of light, and the lack of its presence. (Nevertheless, the Bach on theTur considers darkness to only be an absence of light, though there are so many proofs to support the Gra.)

* The Gemora stated that there are various heavens and each one of them have different functions. In shechakim there are mills that grind manna to the righteous.

The Bnei Yisoschar quotes the Rama Mipano that in the World to come by the feast of the Livyasan, a jar of manna that was hidden in the times of Yoshiyahu will be taken out and the righteous will recite the blessing, “He who brought out the bread from the heavens” before eating the manna. Sefer Chasidim (1640) and the Zohar in Parshas Beshalach concur.

There are those that disagree and state that there is no blessing recited on eating manna because the purpose of a blessing is to separate the favorable portions of the food away from the parts which have an adverse effect; the manna that fell in the Wilderness was purely spiritual and it did not require any separation. Perhaps the Rama Mipano was only referring to the manna in the future.

Sefer Gan Raveh posits that perhaps the blessing of “mezonos” should be recited on the manna because the Torah records that it had a taste of dough mixed with honey.

Birkas Aharon writes that the Gemora Brochos (35a) rules that it is forbidden to derive pleasure from anything in this world without reciting a blessing beforehand. The manna, he says, was not from this world, and therefore did not require a blessing. (Sedeh Tzofim)


Reb Dave (esq.) said...

These gemaras are also found in the Midrash for this weeks parsha, so it's doubly timely. Intressante.

I hate to be the skunk at the garden party, but the statements of chazal re the circumference of the world cannot be squared with the actual geometric measurements. I don't believe chazal were intending to give a scientific description, anyway. The 500 years distance occurs frequently in chazal ( "rabbinic literature", for the wissenshafte chevrah) and is an exaggerated number, simply indicating a great expanse or distance.

The Gra's statement re night being more than the absence of day is troubling, to say the least, but has been noted and discussed by others. I believe Rabbi professor Yehuda Levi discusses it in his book on science and Torah.

Avromi said...

While I agree that there are many mefarshim that state 'guzma' on many Gemoras, I don't believe that its the automatic first response - an explanation (albeit a good one) should be explored. You give me no choice - I must write over the Chasam Sofer's pshat - bli neder.

Avromi said...

The earth is 360 degrees in a complete round circle. It's circumference is obviously the same at every degree. Every location in the world has its own 'rules of nature.' One who wishes to get 'a lay of the land' of the entire earth will not be satisfied by circling once - he must circle 360 times at every degree.

Let us begin to make the calculation. Circumference of the earth is 24,000 mil (mil = 2000 amos approx - 3000 - 4000 feet). On an average, a person walks 10 parsoas each day, totalling 40 mil (4 mil = parsah). A person can walk 100 mil in two and a half days. In order to travel 24,000 mil, he will be walking for 600 days.

Multiply that by 360 (for every degree), you will get 216,000 days.

There are approx 182,500 days in 500 years (365 days in a year).

We are short by 33,500 days (only 89 years 15 days).

Three things can be said:

1. 500 is lav davka, when in fact it will take 589 years (perhaps 600 years would have been a more accurate number).

2. Perhaps Chazal had a more precise calculation in the circumference of the world and it was not 24,000 mil, but closer to 20,000. (It would seem that the Rambam relied on the Philosophers.)

3. Perhaps our calculation is not what chazal intended, but if the Gemora would have stated that it will take 589 years 15 days to traverse the breadth of the earth, people would have said : that's a bluff, exaggeration or Chazal didn't know the facts. Therefore, do not scoff when Chazal said 500 for we might be vital information.

Velvel said...

Didn't Moshe institute the first brocha of birchas hamazon, wasn't that on the man?

Avromi said...

Someone brings that proof, but perhaps it was from what they purchased from peddlers

Chaim B. said...

>>>Circumference of the earth is 24,000 mil

No matter how you slice it, this is factually incorrect. The circumference of the earth is closer to 25,000 *miles* than mil, so even using the Rambam's figure you are off by at least 25% (depending on your amah measuerment - I am giving you the benefit of the doubt), and the gemara's cheshbon comes out short of the Rambam's even with the Chasam Sofer.

Avromi said...

Rambam is close to fifty percent off then

Avromi said...

Actually it is not a perfect circle either - the width is slightly more than thru the poles

Mike S. said...

The Chasam Sofer's explanation is a little funny. Why every degree rather than 1/2 degree or every 2 degrees? A degree, after all, is an arbitrary measure; you can get any measure at all by choosing how many times you go around. Why not the Earth is 2 Pi radians, and go around every 1/10th of a radian?

Anyway, if the idea to cover the whole surface of the Earth you need a measure of area not width. Furthermore, today's Daf Yomi is based on a flat Earth (According to Rashi d"h Achor va-kedem Tzartani.)
I think one must understand this as the third group in Rambam's introduction to Cheiliek, that is, Chidah u'Moshol. It doesn not make literal sense.

Avromi said...

I was thinking o your question before and agree that its a bit arbritary

Avromi said...

I assume you meant rashi d"h misof and truthfully it can be inferred from the gemora that says adam was from one end of the world to another but we can interpret the gemora to mean otherwise

Mike S. said...

Right you are, my eye slipped between reading and typing.

Anonymous said...

"YAWN" Another science Torah conversation on a blog

Anonymous said...

It says in todays Daf that Akiva learnt By Nachum Ish Gamzu for 22 years why does it tell you the amount of years?(Warning very chassidishe torah)Yackov work for lot to marry his daughters 22 years and if you look at the name Akiva Yackov is in there

Anonymous said...

1. anonymous: Yaakov worked for Lavan.

2. Regarding manna, takea look at Ramban end of Ki Savo, that tzaddikim ate food from gentile merchants for satiation.

3. Chida brings bracha of motzi lechem min hashamayim. What about if they thought it was chazir? Nothing tamei from falls from shamayim. (Alternatively, it tasted like kechal)

4. regarding Gaon and light and darkness, in Aderes Eliyahu (Breishis 1:4) he also writes that darknes is a creation.