Thoughts on Judaism

Saturday, November 05, 2005

New Noach Question

Besides the miracles that we enumerated before, there is something that puzzled me in flood land. Rashi says that Kol HaChai refers to Shaidim, spiritual entities usually associated with harm, like demons. I understand why Rashi says this, since the pasuk says kol Basar already, why say kol Hachai, so it must refer to a "chai" that is not basar. I wonder:

a) Does Rashi hold that medrashic demons are D'Oraisa? Obviously so, though they are never directly mentioned.
b) Does Rashi hold that demons are real? Again, obviously so, since they are "CHAI".
c) Why save the demons? Let 'em drown. I know, Iknow, why create them at all ...?
d) Why do they need to be on the Taiva at all? Can the water harm them?
e) Were they there to keep the dinosaurs at bay? (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
f) Do they procreate male and female, as implied?

Another puzzlement. It says that the water covered "all of the mountains of the Earth". Yet, Rashi says that the water only went 15 amos above the peaks of Ararat, some 17,000 feet. Obviously, there are mountains in Pakistan and Himalayas that are twice that high. Therefore, the water could not have covered them. Homework: Answer this without resorting to nishtaneh Hateva or miraculous mountain manipulation.


  • Umm, the moutains themselves were depressed, and rose again after the flood.

    So do you think Rashi subscribed to the "mystical approach"?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:18 PM  

  • No, Yaakov. The "mystical approach" is a modern way of understanding Rashi.

    Rational approach:
    Rashi was under some popular preconceived notions of his day, which turn out to be wrong.

    Mystical approach:
    Whatever Rashi says is true since he is an infallible tzadik with Ruach HaKodesh. By the very fact of hos saying it, the facts conformed to it.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 6:36 AM  

  • perhaps we should not assume that arrarat has any relationship to the similarly named mountain in turkey

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:07 AM  

  • LB
    Very good. Only one liiiiiiiittle problem. Ararat IS the highest mountain in the area of the Mesopotamia. To make your pshat work, it must be Mt. Everest. there would be little traditionally to link Ararat in the Noah story to Mt. Everest.

    Basically you have taken the same approach a Rav Hirsch took to Arneves and Shafan. They are not the animals that we call by those names today.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 9:46 AM  

  • Awesome Blog Rebel...Yasher Koach!

    Rashi says in a few places that he "only comes to explain the Peshuta shel Mikra", which seems to imply that Rashi was dead serious about some of the wacked out stuff he wrote, and expected that WE would take it just as seriously.

    Now if Rashi was crazy enough to talk about 'shaydim' as the only/best possible peshat(and why wouldn't he, since Shass is replete with stories of them), then we have to ask ourselves a)how did Rashi reach this conclusion b)how does it affect the poshut peshat and c)now that we know its crazy, can we now do without Rashi altogether?

    I'm willing to bet that this question fueled the machlokes between Rashi and the RamBam, though the RamBam would hard pressed to explain how, if the Tanaim and Amoraim talked about sheydim, how he manages to reject the idea and still claim to be part of the Mesorah.

    Kol Tuv

    By Blogger Shlomo Leib Aronovitz, at 11:11 AM  


    re:some of the claims and how to view them properly.

    By Blogger Shlomo Leib Aronovitz, at 11:17 AM  

  • Even the rambam, who writes that these medrashim can be allegorical, seems hard pressed to come up with a good explanation for why they need to be written this way.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:36 AM  

  • SLA

    There is no doubt that Rashi believes in magic, astrology and demons, from a darshan's standpoint, and that he has ample support for this nonsense. The Rambam understands the references allegorically in Shas, as they were probably intended. If a scientist described the descent of a ball down a tube in physics as "Santa going down the chimney", we would not suspect that he meant to sustain Santa in scientific reality. The Rambam documented his hashkafa and that seems to be the gist of it, to my reading of it anyway.

    What blew me away about this is that for Rashi's pshat:

    a) Shaydim are real, we can not allegorize them
    b) they are "living"
    c) they need some sort of physical sustenance
    d) they have male and female and reproduction

    Now Rashi's pshat is almost universally taught. You bring up a good question which I would like to rephrase. Can we discard PARTS of Rashi's hashkafa, or is the whole thing an interdependent system of belief?

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 11:55 AM  

  • OSM

    According to mystical approach, you are 100% correct. As I commented above, IMO the Rambam understood Chazal pronouncements, not as holy pasukim, but as parable, given in a way that their CURRENT AUDIENCE would understand. Thus they spoke of demons, astrology and such because the people understood what it meant, not to sustain a belief in them.

    Your thought does raise a huge point though. The Rambam definitely thinks that magic etc is bogus. But he definitely cannot EXCLUDE it from valid hashkafa and say that those who follow it are going "HEPECH HADAS" (against the faith), even according to SOME opinions. Even if they are only parables, the sayings of Chazal definitely did not DISCOURAGE belief in these things. The Rambam's hashkafa definitely DOES. There are few clear opinions in Talmud that sustain the Rambam's rationalism in these matters. The best we can say is that the Rambam is not in violation, hashkafa-wise. Yet in Mishna Torah the Rambam claims that he is only bringing what is already brought, nothing new. He must be following SOMEBODY earlier than Rav Saadia.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 12:07 PM  

  • The fact that Shedim procreate like man is actually an explicit talmudic statement in Tractate Chagigah 16a

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:28 PM  

  • The equation of Ararat to Everest or K2 would explain the "journeying from the east" line later. I thought that "the east" means generally Gan Eden. I have no idea how Rashi interprets it.

    By Blogger blueenclave, at 2:24 PM  

  • quark

    I assume you mean:
    In three things they are like man; they eat and drink, the reproduce, and they die.

    It implies that they reproduce as men do, meaning by male and female. It also implies that they needed the ark, not for the floatation, but since it would have been the only food source.

    The only real question then, is , since their existence is definitiely perceiveable, why can we not perceive their presence?

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 6:04 PM  

  • I asked a chabad rabbi this question, and he told me it's because the Baal Shem Tov and the Rambam banished them. Yes, the skeptic, rationalist, Rambam. Don't ask!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:25 PM  

  • Yaakov

    Lately I heard that they were only banished from the inhabited places. This is because they appear in stories and because the halachic customs pertaining to them still apply.


    I still do not understand what a shaid ism sort of half demon, half something else, but I thank you for pointing out the agadata.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 12:06 AM  

  • The Rambam banished them from inhabited places. The Besht banished them entirely.

    I do wonder if our astronauts will have to worry about them when we set up a permanent base on the moon and Mars. Scary.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:35 AM  

  • Rebel,

    Got a question for you. Would a Jewish astronaut be able to make kiddush on Mars between 6 and 7?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:36 AM  

  • :)
    And what will the year be like. Obviously, the lunar solar month thing is all gone. The year and seasonal cycle is longer. And there are two moons so how are months counted anyway?

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 12:42 AM  

  • Thanks to the post above from SL, I had something of a revelation today.

    We know from the Zohar on Parshas Noach that the the fountains of the deep were supposed to burst forth in the year 1840. But what happened in the year 1840, other than nothing? Well, I finally found it. There was a volcano (small one) on Mt Ararat!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:46 AM  

  • Rebel,

    I thank you for even honoring my question.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:49 AM  

  • For the next hurricane tracking ; the easy way to keep going.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:10 AM  

  • Yankele! That would be mean that the word 'tehom' implies volcanic activity and the 'mayim' really means magma/lava?

    Interesting because there was a Medrash that said the mayim was boiling hot, which we know now could be water heated by volcanic activity, or from thermal vents at the ocean floor. It is a stretch though and such volcanic upheaval would really leave it's mark all over the place.


    Would such an peshat change the way we use the word 'mayan' everywhere in Tanach? (with or without tehom)

    Kol Tuv

    By Blogger Shlomo Leib Aronovitz, at 6:46 AM  


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:39 PM  

  • "Sheidim" are mentioned in Ha'azinu.

    By Blogger Mar Gavriel, at 7:37 PM  

  • I asked a chabad rabbi this question, and he told me it's because the Baal Shem Tov and the Rambam banished them. Yes, the skeptic, rationalist, Rambam. Don't ask!

    As I'd heard it told, when he declared that they didn't exist, out of respect for him, they ceased to do so.

    By Blogger fleurdelis28, at 9:42 PM  

  • Actually, Rashi claims to explain the straightforward meaning of the text (=peshuto shel miqra) along with those midrashim that make sense with it. He's not trying to be 100% peshat.

    Maybe Rambam got rid of sheidim by the old "if i don't believe in them they don't exist" trick ;-)

    By Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der ┼íteg), at 9:43 PM  

  • The Himalayas are fairly recent, geologically speaking. They are still rising, a result of India detaching from Africa and smashing into Asia. They may not have been as high in Noah's day. In fact, the continents might have been in somewhat different positions, which would mean that Noah's mountain wasn't necessarily Arrarat.

    By Blogger Judith, at 2:41 AM  

  • Sure. Coulda' been Mt. Raineer. And the flood was in the Grand Canyon. Boulder, CO might very well be the sight of Gan Eden. Why, I think we're on to something here!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:32 AM  

  • "As I'd heard it told, when he declared that they didn't exist, out of respect for him, they ceased to do so."

    Correct. I actually mentioned that in a previous post.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:34 AM  

  • Yaakov and fdl
    You have a difinitive case of the "mystical approach", where reality warps around dogma.

    While you are correct, "geologically recent" would span far more than 4500 years or even 45000. We are talking DOUBLE the height. Unless of course, all the dating is wrong because of the flood, but here we go chasing our tails again.

    I think there for I am, says DeCartes. I do not think, therefore I am not, says the horse, and disappears in a puff of logic.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 6:14 AM  

  • MG

    Seirim are mentioned in Ha'azinu. Pashtanim made them into shaidim.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 11:12 AM  

  • Some just put Descartes before the horse!

    By Blogger Shlomo Leib Aronovitz, at 4:13 AM  

  • "You have a difinitive case of the "mystical approach", where reality warps around dogma."


    Thats what happens when you make the "genre mistake".

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:24 PM  

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