Sent: Monday, September 06, 2010 5:37 AM
Subject: Chazal and science
I'm having difficulty with a passage the gemara (Zevachim 22) quotes from a braita, stating that if the eye of a large fish were to dissolve and pool in its socket; one would be able to immerse himself in it as if it were a mikva, provided it has the 40 saah required for a mikva. And this is codified as law in Rambam and Y"D (201.33).
Without doubting chazal for a second, can this be explained or reconciled with modern science?
From what I recall the largest eye ball is that of a horse and or a squid (while the large fish whose primary senses are scent and sound have relatively small eyes) Which is still drop in the bucket from the 25-35 cubic feet of volume required for 40 saah.
Any information or guidance would be greatly appreciated.
A fascinating question! Without doubting Chazal for a second, this cannot be explained or reconciled with modern science. However, while the Rishonim of Ashkenaz and many Acharonim would not doubt Chazal for a second, this is not true of the Rishonim of Sefarad and many other Acharonim, such as Rav Hirsch. They would take the approach that Chazal were simply adopting prevalent beliefs of the period in considering that such creatures may exist. A friend of mine has put together a comprehensive list of such opinions at torahandscience.blogspot.com