Monday, February 20, 2017

Bava Basra 25 The world as an excedra

The Gemara in Bava Basra 25 has a discussion between Rebbe Eliezer and Rebbi Yehoshua. Rebbe Eliezer says that the world is like an excedra, a three-walled front veranda, that is open on the north. Rebbi Eliezer explains that the sun surrounds us from the east, through the south, until the west. But it does not travel in the north. Instead, at night the sun doubles back and goes into the sky.

Rebbi Yehoshua on the other hand says that the world is surrounded completely as a domed tent. At night, the sun goes out in the north around the wall and back around to the east. This, says Rebbi Yehoshua, is reflected in the verse (Koheles 1.9) 'Goes to the south; circulates to the north'.

This passage does seem strange, especially to the modern ear. This has been pointed to as an indication that the Tanna'im believed in a flat earth.

However, anyone taking a harder look should realize that there is something very wrong with taking this whole thing at face value. Is it possible that the whole world watches the sun going down and these rabbis, scientists or not, announce that the sun is on its way up?

Moreover, Rebbi Eliezer, who held the stranger view -- that the sun rolls back into the sky -- is most famous for not saying anything he didn't learn from his teachers. These are obviously not musings of Sun observers, but rather some depiction of a different take on this planet's lighting.

We often find that great meaning is attributed to the concept of light. Light and darkness are part of a theme that transcends the plane of matter. In fact it can be said the other way around: the original, metaphysical concept named light and darkness, was manifested into this world as the light and dark that we know.

For this reason we find statements attributing the eclipses to certain base sins. These aren't scientific causes, nor are they direct causes. But the Maharal explains, the realm of the physical world allows for such sins and therefore it receives its light source in this matter. In other words, it isn't the specific act of a sin that caused the eclipse to happen, but rather a world in which such behavior is possible is not compatible with never-ending light. There would have to be a flaw in the light source to reflect the fact that this light is not completely in line with its namesake.

Back to our discussion, Rebbe Eliezer and Rebbe Yehoshua are discussing how we are to perceive our light source during the absence of light. According to both of them we don't simply view the sun as having gone below the horizon. Something more momentous is happening when the sun is disappearing from us.

Rebbe Eliezer says that we don't perceive the sun as being under the earth but rather as having gone far away from us, further into the sky. It is somewhere in the sky but not in our hemisphere, so it is said to have gone higher up and above. Rebbe Yehoshua says that we shouldn't say that the sun is completely beyond, since we do anticipate its return the next morning. Instead we view it as having gone behind a wall; it is away from our view but within our realm.

In truth, although the sun appears to be in the south at noon and head north while going west, to those at the equator the sun doesn't change its latitude during the day. The reason we see it as moving south and north is because our sense of north is not parallel to that north of the planet. Therefore, as the sun moves through the day it is changing latitude only in respect to our hemisphere latitude lines.

This being the case, it is not a stretch to speak of the sun as not going in the north at night, since in truth it never changes latitude but only to our eyes. When we don't see the sun why should we continue to give it a relative position?

And it is true, and obvious, that the sun is not under the earth at any point but rather due to the rotation we are too far and around the bend. So in fact, while in a flat earth picture Rebbe Eliezer's statement would be counter intuitive and contrary to the obvious, in a system as we have now it would be hard to argue with the notion that the sun is further out in space rather than being under the earth.

And Rebbe Yehoshua merely argues this point to say that although indeed the sun is not under the earth but rather out in the open sky, we shouldn't describe this as being too far but rather as behind the wall.

The motivation for this argument seems to be about the general concept of darkness. Rebbe Eliezer would say it is due to the light having been retracted to its origins, but Rebbe Yehoshua would say the light is still here but it is momentarily being blocked.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


The Gemara says that we gave half a Shekel to be Mechaper on the Egel
that was done at Chatzos, or six hours. If they would have done it
later it would have been worse? Had they done it in the morning one
Ma'a would suffice?

It is possible to answer that both would have been worse since it
would show Zerizus to an Aveira or planning of one. Having been by
Chatzos shows that it was one out of rashness aandd yet not through
Zerizus. This might be why we merited a Kappara in the first place.

More importantly though, the price is not important. No one went broke
over a half Shekel. The price, or weight, when it matches something
can come in place of it. This is what we find in Maseches Shabbos,
that if you find something whose weight matches that of an Even Tekuma
it can take it's place. Gematria too, works in a similar vein. Having
the same numerical value doesn't mean it is the same word. It means
that it can switch places. They are the same price.

In our case, the Kappara comes in place of the Cheit. Therefore it is
supposed to match it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Yoma 40

The Tosfos Yeshanim answers Toafos' kasha the we didn't yet know of Rebbe Shimon. The problem is that the Gemara mentions this Shita of Rebbe Shimon to ask a question. It wasn't introduced as a Terutz. It's hard to say that as of now we aren't aware of what we are about to quote in a question.

His second Terutz is likewise puzzling. In the first Braysa, if it were Rebbe Shimon there is no Safek and whether or not this is Rebbe Shimon we still have to say Rebbe Shimon didn't understand the Chachamim in the second Braysa.

Perhaps the Tosafos Yeshanim learns the the Meisivei of earlier is this same Braysa. First we tried evading this Terutz of Rebbe Shimon being unsure, but the Kasha was emphasised again until we had no choice.

Tosafos explains that if the Chachamim would be using the term Hagrala to mean Hanacha then Rebbe Shimon wouldn't use it to mean picking the Gorel. Only now that they might mean picking it can he use that term for the same thing.

My problem with this is: If the Chachamim truly mean Alah Hagorel then he would keep quiet. He is only raising his objection to the fact that they might mean Hanacha. So why would he argue against them with what can only be understood as agreeing to them?

The answer is that he is using their term to say, "I know you didn't really mean what you said literally but I do." However, if the term would not be ambiguous he would have no reason to talk that way and use a word differently than them.

In essence we can take this a step further and say that the Gemara doesn't mean the he was unsure of their intent. He knew that he is arguing. But the point is that their words are ambiguous; their words are a Safek even if we know what they hold. This is why Rebbe Shimon is using their words against them, saying that he holds of what they say in the real sense.

Perhaps another Terutz to Tosafos' Kasha is that the Gemara doesn't want it to be a Kasha on Rebbe Yochanan in the Lashon that they argue according to Rebbe Nechemia.

For this same reason we'd have to drop what was said as the next step -- that Rebbe Shimon knew that the Chachamim really hold that it is Me'akev.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pesachim 91b

When the Gemara says that if Rebbe Yosi holds like Rebbe Shimon Rebbe Shimon must hold like Rebbe Yosi, besides for Tosafos' Kasha Rashi contradicts himself. On Amud Alef he says that when we ask how Rebbe Yosi knows to Darshen the Pasuk like Rebbe Shimon rather than like Rebbe Yehuda, it is not a real Kasha since one Darshens as he sees fit, and is only a passage to say that Ish Kefi Achlo is his main source. Here however, Rashi explains that if not for Rebbe Shimon learning like Rebbe Yosi he should have rather used the Pasuk like Reb Yehuda.

Perhaps, to straighten out Rashi and the Kasha of Tosafos we can say as follows. When the Gemara says that according to Reb Yehuda it is Tarti Masha, it doesn't mean that he actively Darshens the Pasuk in two ways. It means that he derives both Halachos from the Pasuk. One is a Drasha and one is self evident.

Since Rebbe Shimon expressed that this Halacha is a Drasha he does not Darshen the Pasuk like Rebbe Yehuda, and must hold like Rebbe Yosi. And, although we can't ask why he saw fit to Darshen one way over another we can ask why he doesn't hold like Rebbe Yehuda, since his Shita seems to be more explicit in the Pasuk.

Or better, in Amud Alef Rashi is saying not to ask why he chose Rebbe Shimon but on Amud Bais we aware asking on Rebbe Shimon why he didn't Darshen it like Rebbe Yehuda rather than for something that Rebbe Yehuda considers self evident. But once there are two established Drashos we can't ask why one is better.

In the previous approach we would still be stuck wondering why Rashi didn't explain the Kasha of Amud Alef similarly to the one on Amud Bais. In the latter approach this is not Shver, since on Amud Alef the Kasha is on Rebbe Yosi whereas on Amud Bais it is on Rebbe Yosi.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ein Mukdam Ume'uchar Batorah

Rebbe Eliezer famously said that if the Torah were written in order, anyone would be able to be Mechaye Meisim. The question is, this is used to show that the Parshios are not written in order, so assuming Rebbe Eliezer is referring to the Torah not showing the sheimos of Hakadosh Baruch Hu, what does that have to do with the chronological order of the Parshios?

Perhaps it means that this order that we have is based on the Sheimos, and if it would be clear why the order is this way, then the Sheimos would be clear and open, as well.

Another explanation is that he is proving that the Torah is not in chronological order, for if this were the chronological order it would mean that anyone can be Mechaye Meisim, since we see people appearing after the Torah writes that they died.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Pesachim 9a

Rashi (Hai Mai) explains that Rava is saying that the Kasha doesn't begin, for even if it would be the nature of the weasel to leave over the meat of a Nefel, the Halacha would be the same. This sounds like in actuality Rava agrees that they don't leave over meat. If so, when we ask from the Braysa of the Cohen who looked over the pit, why don't we answer that the fact is that they don't leave over meat?

The answer to this is that Rashi (Hasam Vadai Uvadai) says that there is no going after Rov. We see from this that to qualify for a Vadai, enough to clear a Vadai Issur, we need a real Vadai and not a Rov. Therefore, the usual nature of the weasel doesn't either help.

If so, when Rashi said that Rava is talking as if the nature would be to leave over, Rava actually disagrees with Reb Zeira even though we say that they don't leave over, and he holds that we must come on to Safek Motzei Midei Safek even when normally they wouldn't leave anything over. He was only stressing the Chiddush that any Safek takes away from a Safek.

Alternatively, we can say that Rashi doesn't mean to say that Rava agrees to this fact, which might have been a conclusion drawn from the Kasha. Rava is arguing on the Terutz and its premise and says that we can even say that they do leave over.

The latter approach works better with what we say at the end, that although they leave over they definitely drag it away. Why couldn't we say that they definitely finish off meat once we are looking for a difference between the case of the Braysa and our Mishna? According to our second approach, that Rava holds that in actuality they do leave over (at least it is common enough not to make a difference), it works out well that we didn't mention that. This is not a Raaya though, because it might be that we are simply aware of the facts, and although they normally do finish it, it is not definite, while they always carry it away.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Giving to love

It has been said that the word Ahava comes from the (Aramaic) word, Hav, to give. This shows us that giving is loving. The more you care for someone and give them, the more you come to love them.

Obviously this is no different than any other case of Nifal Ha'adam Kefi Pe'ulosav. The Maharal explains the Maamar Chazal where Rav Simla'i says that the embryo lays folded like a pad. He says that this is to show us what a person is all about. A person is essentially a notenook whatever you write into it defines it. If you write acts of Sechel, you are a Secheldike person; if you write kind deeds you are a kind person.

Your actions don't only show the world your inside thoughts, they show them to you as well. Moreover, a person is fertile ground for many emotions and attitudes. You constantly stand at a crossroad with a choice of two attitudes. When you act out one of them you have chosen and solidified your view and approach.

This is why a Mitzva is supposed to consist of thought, verbal expression, and action. First realize what you are about to do, then express it and act on it.

As much as we like to think of ourselves as ironclad, our emotions and attitudes can be as easy as the flip of a coin. You can often just as easily love someone as hate them. When you think, 'I will give this person (that I love/respect/care for) something,' and then actually give it, you now think that way.

(Posted at