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Volume 16 : Number 114

Thursday, February 2 2006

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Wed, 1 Feb 2006 18:23:43 -0500
From: "Zvi Lampel" <hlampel@thejnet.com>
Re: Emunah, Perakim and the Mabul

> Bereishis 6:13 - Qeitz kol basar ba lefanai
> 7:19 - vaychassu kol-heharim haggevohim asher-tachas kol-hashamayim
> I would think that 6:13 and 7:19 are pretty clearly encompassing at
> least the entirety of civilization.

I wrote: "others are proposing the possibility that all referrence to
"aretz" means the localised area of Mesopotamia ...and that all human
and animal life were concentrated in that area, so that the Mabul did
destroy all life under the heavens but did not cover the entire globe. So
the above pesukim don't necessarily counter the idea.

I retract. I agree that "6:13 and 7:19 are pretty clearly encompassing
at least the entirety of civilization." I would go even further and say
that the fact the waters "covered /all/ the high mountains /under all
of the heavens/" is an excellent proof that the entire globe was covered.

Zvi Lampel

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Date: Wed, 1 Feb 2006 20:39:07 -0500
From: "Lisa Liel" <lisa@starways.net>
Re: Emunah, Perakim and the Mabul

"Aryeh Englander" <iarwain1@earthlink.net> wrote:
> From: "Lisa Liel" <lisa@starways.net>
>> But why would anyone want to answer that objection? There's no 
>> reason to suppose the Mabul was local in the first place.

> This is your own opinion, based on your understanding of chronology 
> and the pesukim.

Actually, let's leave my understanding of chronology alone for the time
being. Based purely on the Torah, where would you find a glimmer of a
hint of a suggestion that the Mabul was anything but the destruction of
all land and air life on earth other than what was preserved on the Ark?

This is the confidence thing I was talking about. When did we become
so fragile that our first reaction to the merest hint of conflict with
outside sources is now to question our own mesorah?

I say again, the Torah says that the Mabul was universal. Everything in
our mesorah that relates to the Mabul says that the Mabul was universal.
Secular scholarship is obsessed with making categorical claims about the
past, even when the data is fragmentary at best. Why are some of us so
embarrassed to say, "That's their opinion. The Torah says otherwise."

> Some, however, may not agree with your chronology revisions and 
> therefore may look for other answers, and they are perfectly 
> entitled to do so.

That's certainly true. But... to use the era of Shlomo HaMelech as an
example, you can say, "Okay, so archaeologists discovered an empire that
exactly matches Shlomo's, but the conventional chronology places it
some five centuries too early, so what can you do?" You can say that.
But to then suggest that Tanach and our mesorah were "exaggerating"
the extent of Shlomo's kingdom, because other than the empire that's
half a millenium too early, archaeology shows no evidence of anything
like what Jewish sources claim... I don't think that frum Jews are
"perfectly entitled" to do that.

Maybe a short review of what archaeology says about who we are and where
we came from is in order. The archaeology of Eretz Yisrael shows no new
culture arriving throughout the entire Bronze Age. None. That means that
if the Canaanites lived in Israel any time from a couple of centuries
before Hammurabi onwards, we must have been culturally identical to the
Canaanites. Unless we're the people who showed up at the beginning of the
Iron Age, which means that we came from Northern Syria and Mesopotamia,
and not from Egypt and Sinai and the Transjordan. It also means that
we didn't invade Canaan, but rather migrated in peacefully in successive
waves of migration over a period of centuries.

This archaeological evidence is worlds stronger than any evidence that
disputes the Mabul. If there's reason to argue against what we've believed
forever about the Mabul, there's hundreds of times more reason to argue
against the historical reality of Yetziat Mitzrayim and the invasion
of Canaan.

> As for the pesukim, I have shown that at least one gadol,
> R' Gedalya Nadel ztz"l (based on what he perceived to be the 
> Rambam's mehalech) felt that it was perfectly feasible to say that 
> the Mabul was local. So yes, there is good reason to suppose that 
> the Mabul was local.

I'm sorry, but I've seen R' Gedaliah's claims, and they were 100% based
on the idea that "scientists aren't lying to us". Which is a strawman
argument, since no one is claiming that scientists are lying. They seek
certainty, and if they exaggerate when it comes to some of their claims,
it's not out of dishonesty, but out of wanting it to be so.

Here is some material from R' Nadel, taken from
http://chakira.blog-city.com/betoraso_shel_rav_gedaliah_nadel.htm and

    Nadel points to the fallibility of human knowledge. "For hundreds of
    years," he adroitly explains "people thought that Newtonian physics
    governed the entire physical world." For Nadel, the surety of hundreds
    of years didn't prevent "Einstein" who "found…that Newtonian physics
    break down at high speeds close to the speed of light." "In general,"
    says Nadel "man has no assurance in regards to his knowledge of the
    physical world." Thus, there were things that Maimonides assumed that
    are no longer true. "We know now that Maimonides made a mistake,
    and there is no doubt that he would agree with us [if he were
    around today]."

    The Maimonidean answer to the problem of conflicting truths was
    allegorical interpretation. "We must read" passages that conflict with
    our current (ever-changing) state of empirical data "as allegorical."

    Maimonides had said that he was unsure of the Aristotelian position
    that posited a static universe. However, if the evidence was
    overwhelmingly in support of this view, Maimonides would have to
    reinterpret the Creation narrative to fit with it.

This is very similar to what R' Shimon Schwab wrote about the 166
year discrepancy between Jewish chronology and the commonly accepted
chronology for the Persian period. And I understand the sentiment.
Reality is reality. If it is established as absolute fact that what
we've believed is wrong, then we would certainly have to find some sort
of allegorical way of understanding our own tradition.

I think it's unfortunate that R' Gedaliah was misled as to the strength
of scientific claims regarding the Mabul. I think it's clear that he
was not suggesting that the Mabul except in a "with our backs to the
wall" sense. And our backs are not against the wall.

> (Lisa, don't slaughter me on this forum, I will bl"n look through 
> your stuff and send you any questions/comments I have privately
> in the not-too-distant future.)

I wouldn't dream of "slaughtering" you. If I've come across too strongly,
I apologize.


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Date: Wed, 01 Feb 2006 17:33:54 -0500
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
Re: Eternal Torment?

Harry Maryles <hmaryles@yahoo.com> wrote:
> reards and the punishments such match their behavior. And How do you
> explain those Gemaros that speak of burning for all eternity in a vat
> of excrement for this or that Rasha?

I don't know of such a gemara. I know of one that speaks of a sentence of
"tzoah rotachat", or "shichvat zera rotachat", whatever that really means
(I think the Maharal discusses this in Be'er Hagulah), but I don't recall
it saying anything about all eternity. My inference from the story of
Acher is that anyone who gets into Gehinnom is guaranteed of eventually
getting out, and into Gan Eden.

Zev Sero

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Date: Wed, 1 Feb 2006 22:19:28 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Shiras hayam

On Tue, Jan 31, 2006 at 08:19:14AM -0500, Lisa Liel wrote:
: I don't know if it's just the way the words are used in Modern Hebrew,
: but shir and shirah are not the same thing. Shir means song, and shirah
: means poetry. Though the example of Shir HaShirim probably provides
: a counter-example.

Mizmor shir
Lekha amru shirah

It seems to be biblical as well.

About "mecholos" as a wind instrumentor marimba... Yes, many rishonim
define it as "dancing". As does the LXX. However, we also have
"Lamenatzei'ach al hamachalas" (Teh' 53). The machloqes I cited was
about kelei shir in the beis hamiqdash.

Perhaps the word usually means instrument, but there is reason to
believe is meant dancing in the context of shiras hayam. In any case,
if one follows Rashi rather than the Mechilta, there is no proof of a
melody from the women's mecholos.

It would seem from A Midsummer's Night Dream, that pan pipes were usually
played for dance numbers. Perhaps peshat lays somewhere there.


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Date: Wed, 1 Feb 2006 23:31:02 EST
From: T613K@aol.com
Re: the Mabul

R' Simcha Coffer wrote:
> I happen to be speaking to RJO and he mentioned that the law of
> gravity would make 7:19 very difficult to understand unless the entire
> world was inundated. Water would run off and disperse around the globe
> unless there was a uniform "inundation" which brought the water level
> up universally.

But as has been mentioned, parts of Eretz Yisrael are below sea level,
and yet they are not inundated with water. Holland (and New Orleans!) are
below sea level too, but OK, they have dikes. But Eretz Yisrael?
Obviously it is possible to have topography such that water does not
flow from higher to lower ground -- natural dikes, in effect.

Toby  Katz

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Date: Thu, 2 Feb 2006 12:07:19 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: the Mabul

On Wed, Feb 01, 2006 at 11:31:02PM -0500, T613K@aol.com wrote:
: R' Simcha Coffer wrote:
:> I happen to be speaking to RJO and he mentioned that the law of
:> gravity would make 7:19...

: But as has been mentioned, parts of Eretz Yisrael are below sea level,
: and yet they are not inundated with water...

And the teiva wasn't big enough to hold all the animals.

Why are we analyzing a neis for how it could work beteva?


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Date: Thu, 2 Feb 2006 00:14:45 -0500
From: "Aryeh Englander" <iarwain1@earthlink.net>
Re: Emunah, Perakim and the Mabul

From: "Zvi Lampel" <hlampel@thejnet.com>:
> 11: "There will never again be a mabul to destroy the earth." There have
> been plenty of floods that destoyed parts of the earth. Unless one would
> suggest that Hashem's promise was never again to bring a destructive
> flood on the Ararat area of the world.

It could mean that there would never be a mabul of such huge magnitude
ever again. And indeed I know of no such cataclysmic flood that has ever
happened since.

> 14: All the birds outside the Ark were also destroyed. If the Mabul was
> localized, why couldn't the birds just fly outside of the area?

Where does it say that all birds were destroyed? And to the more general
objection of why Noach would have had to take all of the animals in if
the Mabul was local, there is a very easy answer: The Mabul, although
not global, did destroy a huge area of land and all that was in it. I
think that would be sufficient reason for needing to restart the ecology,
and especially the domestic animals essential for civilized life.

> And speaking of birds, if omnly Mesopotamia was flooded, what did Noach
> think he would gain by sending a bird out of the Ark to see if the
> wayters subsided? Surely the bird could simply fly beyond the area and
> pick up some olive leaves from unflooded land. (Indeed, why did Noach
> have to build an Ark altogether, if he could have simply relocated
> outside the area?)

Again, it was a HUGE area - all of Mesopotamia and probably quite a bit
more - so yes it does make sense to send out a bird and to get into
an Ark. Also, there is the point that the Ark was symbolic as much
(or perhaps even more) than it was a practical necessity.

> 19: "The waters rose very much on ha-aretz and covered all the high
> mountains /asher tachas haShamayim./" All life beneath the all the
> heavens. This expression seems overkill (pardon the expression) if the
> life we are talking about was all in this one tiny region.

R' Gedalya Nadel ztz"l had no issue with translating Tachas haShamayim
as "the entire region" (or something similar, I don't have the sefer
in front of me right now). As I said, however, "all the high mountains"
does seem to be a problem.

Here I think it should be pointed out something that I think is of
prime importance in this and similar issues. I myself am quite skeptical
of translating the pesukim to mean a local flood. However, there is an
historical problem to be dealt with here that is a major emunah issue for
many. I feel that this warrants looking into any and all possibilities
very, very carefully. I think it is irresponsible and foolhardy to
offhandedly dismiss suggestions that may possibly resolve the issue. I
think the responsible thing to do is to study all sides of each issue,
list pros and cons, and submit any reasoning you might have for peer
review (such as in Avodah). So yes, I would tend to say that the pesukim
are definitely mashmah a global flood, but I am still willing to play
"devil's advocate" on the possibility that someone out there may come
up with answers to my objections. So continue writing your opinions,
and especially continue writing anything and everything that you can
find against a local flood, but think long and seriously whether you
can perhaps come up with a teretz for some of the problems as well, just
on the possibility that it might actually work. This is what many of us
(I would hope) would do for a problem in halacha or Gemara, why not for
something that is a very serious issue in emunah?

> 21: "I will never again curse the adamah." Was just the region cursed
> by the Mabul? Will only this region not be cursed again, whereas the
> rest of the globe might be cursed by a Mabul?

I would answer that Hashem was stating that He will never repeat what He
had just done, to destroy a large part of civilization (alternatively: to
destroy the most important part of civilization, which is what Mesopotamia
was at the time, being the home of the leaders of the generations). So
yes, that region alone was cursed, but the the promise of no further curse
could apply to any similar situation anywhere else in the world as well.

> 22: "Od kol y'may ha-aretz zera v'katsir etc." The seasons and
> the day-night cycle will not cease again for the all the days of
> ha-aretz. Again, "eretz" obviously not referring to one region. Unless
> one proposes that Hashem promised that the seasons and the day-night
> cycle will not cease in Mesopotamia, but might in the rest of the world.

How do you know that "eretz" is not only referring to one region? Again,
Hashem is saying He will not do what He had just done - stop the seasons
for an entire region of civilization. It was this that He promised not
to repeat, whether in that or any other area of the world.

> And of course there's the Rashi citing BR (26:7) on "v'gam acharay ken,"
> which blames the dor haMabul for not learning from the Dor Enosh in
> which the Okyynus rose and covered [just] /one third/ of the earth.

Rashi is obviously not going with a local mabul, nor are any of the other
rishonim. Rashi is going with the medrash which chooses to expand on
the poshut pshat of the possuk that the Mabul was global. This does not
necessarily force us to say a global mabul, because (a) Medrashim can and
are non-literal according to many and perhaps even most understandings,
(b) if you go like the Maharatz Chiyos that Medrashim are simply to bring
out points, there is no proof from what they say that what they use as the
means to bring out their points are necessarily true, (c) there is a long
history of mefarshim arguing on Chazal in the meaning of the pesukim,
and (d) based on the Moreh Nevuchim being currently debated elsewhere
in this discussion group, RGN (R' Gedalya Nadel ztz"l) was evidently of
the opinion that it is OK to say any such radical peshatim if there is
sufficient reason to do so.

This also answers what R' Zvi wrote earlier:
> Nevertheless, I disagree with the proposal, first of all because of how
> I see mesorah sources take words and thoughts when unmodified -- if they
> thought th e pesukim's words did not mean what they naturally imply,
> they would say so, as indeed the one who says that Erretz Yisroel was
> /not/ flooded, says so.

I'd say a bigger problem than those brought up by R' Tzvi is the one
raised by RMB:
> 7:11 - nivqe'u kol ma'yenos tehom raba

This is indeed mashma that the mabul took place in the area of the tehom,
which I have always thought means the ocean. But perhaps someone can
come up with a different possibility for what "tehom" might mean?

In summary, the only major problems I have seen so far are the problem
of how to understand "harim hagevohim" and "nivqe'u kol ma'yenos tehom
raba". And once again, I'd ask you not to dismiss the possibility of a
local flood before at least taking some time to play "devil's advocate"
and trying to find a teretz to these questions.

Aryeh L. Englander

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Date: Thu, 2 Feb 2006 10:50:29 -0500
From: "Zvi Lampel" <hlampel@thejnet.com>
RE: Emunah, Perakim and the Mabul

RSC asked:
: I have always understood the mabul as
: being a global phenomenon, but a cursory reading of the mabul episode in
: the Torah reveals that the Torah never utilizes the term ""kol haaretz"",
: just ""aretz""...

But the Torah /does/ utilize the phrase "kol haaretz" in posuk 8:9 --
"ki mayyim al pnei kol haaretz" -- if that will be convincing.

I had written,
> I include myself among the many who would view as a crackpot 
> interpretation of the Torah the suggestion that the Flood -- which the 
> Torah depicts as destroying all un-Ark-protected human and animal life, 
> destroying all animals except those who were in the Ark, leaving only 
> Noach's family as the progenitors of all future mankind, and which was 
> always understood as being a global flood -- was merely a local flood.

Interpretations given by Chazal or Rishonim are not crackpot
interpretations. Adaraba. It is through Chazal, and how rishonim
understand Chazal, that we are guided to the correct approach towards
pesukim -- as opposed to through "interpretations" that fly in the face
of Chazal and rishonim, especially if they also fly in the face of the
normal use of pesukim's words. Those are the "crackpot" intepretations
to be avoided.

We have the principle that "ain mikreh yotzai miday peshuto." When, on
the face of it, a Midrash or Chazal contradicts the peshat of a posuk,
different rishonim tolerate different degrees of leeway one has in
conforming the peshat to the Chazal before concluding the the Chazal
was never meant to be taken literally.

Regarding the Mabul, the Rishonim find Chazal's statement about the
unique situation in Eretz Yisroel to be at odds with the peshat. They're
reconciliations include saying that the Chazal mean that there was
no water there, but the toxic vapors from the Mabul nevertheless
destroyed all life there; or that although EY was not rained upon,
it was nevertheless flooded by the waters coming from the rest of the
world. (Ramban on 6:11-- "But the waters spread out throughout the world
["b'chol ha'olom"] and covered all the high mountains that were under all
the heavens, as is written explicitly [k'mo sheh-kasuv mefurash (7:19)],
and there was no barrier surrounding EY to prevent the waters from
entering." (This addresses RCL's last observation in her post regarding
the liklihood of EY being flooded "in a truly global flood." I.e.,
according to the Ramban, it was.)

RCL cites a Rashi in Nida 61a. The Gemora says that Og (and, as she
noted, Tosephos adds Og's brother, Sichon) were also saved from the
Mabul. Rashi adds "shebarach l'EY," and RCL builds upon this Rashi the
notion that there must have been animals and a population who survived
the Mabul in addition to those of the Ark. She notes the difficulties
everyone has for finding a source for this Rashi. She even suspected,
rightly so -- unfortunately, she only brought her Shas to work but left
home her Breishis Rabba (while I'm left quoting Ramban on Chumash!) --
that the Midrash suggested mentions only that Og was the "palit" who
informed Avraham of Lot's capture, but does not say that Og's means
of escaping the Mabul was by fleeing to EY. Indeed, the only survival
technique Og employed that the extant sources give is his utilizing
Noach's Ark. (Thus my carefully crafted clause that the "Torah depicts
[the Flood] as destroying all un-Ark-protected human and animal life.")

What comes out of all the meforshim is that all life under the heavens
was destroyed, save for the Ark-protected people and animals. Outside of
Noach's family, the only humans who may have survived the Mabul were Og
and Sichon, and the only land that may have not been flooded is EY. And
the only reason to entertain these exceptions is because of a mesorah
that, if taken literally, is hard to conform to peshat.

This is contrary to the efforts made by some to restrict the Mabul to
a localised area. It is another example of the irresponsible attitude
of "hey, if Chazal can partially modify the meaning of a posuk, why,
we can do it, too, and go all the way!"

WADR, it is deceptive to phrase it that the Midrash, as analysed by
the rishonim, "suggests a not entirely global flood" that "fails to
destroy at least two humans." -- It doesn't suggest the survival of "at
least two humans" outside of Noach's family, but of /only/ two-- "and
[fails to destroy] an entire country." The last phrase and the phrase,
"not entirely global flood," may be technically accurate, but in the
climate of discussion of whether the Mabul was localised and whether all
mankind descends from Noach's family, they lead to the opposite of the
truth. This Midrash, if taken literally, means that the area /unaffected/
(to whatever extent) by the Mabul was localised, whereas the rest of
the globe was entirely flooded.

Zvi Lampel

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Date: Thu, 02 Feb 2006 01:31:25 -0500
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
Re: Eretz Yisrael -- the highest land

> I don't think Chazal mean to say there is a measurable quality that makes
> Eretz Yisrael the highest land. I think they're saying something that
> /defines/ Eretz Yisrael as "the highest point." Thus, a Jewish globe would
> be so oriented that Eretz Yisrael, not the north pole, would be "the top."

That's how I've long understood it.

> Parenthetically I am surprised to find that so many people don't realize
> that in Tanach, forward is EAST, that South = right, and West = behind you
> and North = left. Thus when Avraham goes to a place that the Chumash says
> is "left of Damascus" he is going to a town that is north of Damascus. The
> country of Yemen -- Taiman -- is to the SOUTH and therefore to the RIGHT --
> in Arabic as well as Hebrew, apparently.

Which is why south is associated with chessed, and north with gevurah.
Trouble comes from the north - mitzafon tipatach hara'ah, (even though
historically Israel was invaded from Egypt as well as from Syria).
And the Torah starts with a bet, because its north (left) side is open,
just as the north of the world (the Arctic) is open sea (which is where
those troubles enter the world).

> It would be cute to actually have a globe on a stand with Eretz Yisrael
> on top, and the axis almost-horizontal instead of almost-vertical.

The problem is that when you spin it, how do you keep EY on top?
(The conventional globe has the axis tilted 23 degrees from vertical,
so that the globe is perpendicular to the ecliptic. Your proposed
globe wouldn't have that feature, and also wouldn't automatically have
EY on top.)

Zev Sero

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Date: Thu, 2 Feb 2006 11:17:22 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Eretz Yisrael -- the highest land

On Thu, Feb 02, 2006 at 01:31:25AM -0500, Zev Sero wrote:
: Which is why south is associated with chessed, and north with gevurah.
: Trouble comes from the north - mitzafon tipatach hara'ah, (even though
: historically Israel was invaded from Egypt as well as from Syria).

Although Yirmiyahu was getting a warning bedavka about an immanent
Assyrian invasion in pereq 1. Isn't that the origin of the quote?

Another reason why the north is gevurah. In the northern hemisphere,
including EY, the sun is always in the southern half of the sky.
(This is why the name for north is from the shoresh /tz-f-n/, hide.
It's also why in the US, the north side of things gets mossier.)

The sun, radiating light, is a metaphor of chesed. (I say metaphor,
because in a drought, it's no favor to get more light, heat.)


Micha Berger             The waste of time is the most extravagant
micha@aishdas.org        of all expense.
http://www.aishdas.org   			-Theophrastus
Fax: (270) 514-1507      

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