Monday, January 3, 2011

Great Icey Balls of Fire

In the previous post, I pointed out that while many learned Jews believe that the peshat of the Torah is that there was first one frog which then became many, this is not in fact the peshat - not even according to Rashi. In the comments, there were other interesting examples of the phenomenon of people thinking that something is in the Torah, whereas in fact it is a Midrash or later source. Many people assume that the Torah says that only the water supply of the Egyptians turned into blood (or whatever "dam" is), not that of the Israelites, but in fact, Ibn Ezra points out that the Torah says no such thing and he disputes it.

I'd like to point out another example. Many learned Jews assume that, in describing the plague of hail, the Torah says that the hailstones had fire inside them. Junior's parashah pictures included an illustration of blazing balls of ice. And, this time, it does indeed appear to be Rashi's view.

But it is not the unequivocal peshat of the Torah. The Torah says that there was fire flashing amidst the hail. "Hail" refers to the hailstorm in general, not to one specific hailstone (just as "Frog" refers to the plague of frogs in general, not to one specific giant frog). There was fire flashing amidst the hail - i.e., lightning! (If you want a frum source, it's the explanation of Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch.) Isn't that the most straightforward explanation of the pesukim?

Lightning is amazing. In a lightning bolt, a relatively low-powered “leader” first shoots from a thundercloud to the earth in a series of zigzag steps. When it is sixty to ninety feet from the ground, it is met by an upward-seeking discharge of electricity some two to three inches in diameter and surrounded by a five-inch sleeve of superheated air. The stroke packs 10,000 to 200,000 amperes and instantly cooks the surrounding air to a temperature of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit or more, causing it to expand violently in a roar of thunder. When the return stroke enters the cloud another leader descends and is in turn met by another rising charge. This repeats from three to twenty-six times, but the bolts all travel so fast, at about 93,000 miles per second, that we see it as a single flash of lightning!

Isn't lightning amazing enough on its own? Why do people feel that only if there was fire burning inside the ball of ice, do we have an adequate demonstration of God's wonders? It's like that anti-evolutionists who can only see God in the (allegedly) irreducibly complex phenomenon of the bacterial flagellum, not in the rest of nature. Oh ye of little faith...

108 comments:

  1. Well yes, lightning is amazing on its own, but it's not unusual. Hardly ofes u-mofesim material to shock-and-awe the Egyptians. But this is a good example of your phenomenon. I'm happy you brought this up, as it's been on my mind - our eldest is in kindergarten, and is also coming home with similar material.

    And as you're quoting RSRH, we should point out that today is his 122nd yahrzeit; someone who in his 80 years accomplished so much as a leader, political activist, and scholar. We should continue to draw on the wealth of his thought!

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  2. That's exactly what I was thinking as I listened to leining this week. Now I have a respected (dare I say "Torah-true") source.

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  3. Continuing on the volcanic activity explanation, this could literally mean "fire within the barad" but the "fire" would be molten lava and the "barad" the hardened shell of cooled lava (ie. rock). I think this is plausible in the wording of the passuk, because "barad" doesn't necessarily just mean hail, and the impact and lava would be much more damaging (and frightening) than mere hail with a bit of fire inside or hail and lightning.

    Admittedly, I am not sure that expelled lava can remain internally hot long enough for it to hit the ground containing still molten lava.

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  4. Yitznewton: “lightning is amazing on its own, but it's not unusual. Hardly ofes u-mofesim material to shock-and-awe the Egyptians.” This is anachronism mixed with urban living. Even for a modern city-dweller, being close to ground-zero of a lighting strike in a summer thunderstorm in the country is an awe-some experience. And to the ancients who believed in nature Gods...

    Note also Shemot 19:18:
    וְהַר סִינַי, עָשַׁן כֻּלּוֹ, מִפְּנֵי אֲשֶׁר יָרַד עָלָיו יְהוָה, בָּאֵשׁ; וַיַּעַל עֲשָׁנוֹ כְּעֶשֶׁן הַכִּבְשָׁן, וַיֶּחֱרַד כָּל-הָהָר מְאֹד.

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  5. The natural world is full of incredible miracles, that we routinely discard because they are so commonplace.

    Take, for example, Relativity. A beam of light always passes you at exactly the same speed (about 186,000 miles per second), no matter how fast you are going. If you are traveling at 185,999 Mi/s relative to a light source, the beam from that source will still pass you at 186,000 Mi/s! And furthermore, an observer that is motionless with respect to that light source will see it pass him at 186,000 Mi/s!

    This very concept boggles the imagination. It makes no sense, but it happens - the phenomenon has been demonstrated experimentally. Even more amazing, knowledge of this phenomenon (and other related relativistic effects) are of critical importance for modern devices like satellites and GPS to work correctly. (Without correcting for relativity, the precise clocks needed for these devices to work properly would drift out of sync with ground-based clocks, making them far less useful.)

    Is this not a miracle, just because we see it happen all the time?

    500 years ago, if you proposed the concept, the world would laugh at you and call you a madman. 100 years ago, you'd be taken seriously, but there'd be no way to explain it in detail. 50 years ago, only the best physicists understood it. Today, it's taught to all school children as a part of science class. But is it any less miraculous today than it was 500 years ago just because we understand some of it?

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  6. Once upon a time, such midrashim were a very good pedagogical resource to teach children something about G-d's omnipotence. After all, G-d who made heaven and Earth could(?) suspend the laws of nature and create hail which is both fire and ice, could He not? (Aryeh Kaplan touches on this issue [of limiting G-d to the laws of nature] with his famous question "Can G-d create a rock that He cannot lift?) It's all very stimulating conversation. But it never happens in out day schools.

    When my eight year old daughter told me this Midrash about the hail, my ten year old son piped up and asked how it could be. So I reminded them of something I say every year at Pesach when we hit the counting of plagues according to R. Akiva, 10, 200, 250 etc. That it's not important how many plagues Egypt actually had. The collateral damage done by each makkah might be considered plagues in themselves from the point of view of the Egyptians. But that's besides the point. R. Akiva is using that pasuk to extol G-d's prowess; And it's the same thing here. One can, as a matter of d'rash, say that the hail was of fire and ice together. Since that can be hermeneutically discerned in the pasuk, regardless of if it factual or not, we seize upon it to praise G-d. The problem is that elementary school morot teach such midrashim to wide eyed kids. But high school rabbeim rarely provide an adult perspective on them when those kids' eyes narrow a bit.

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  7. Now that I think about it, The Shmuz is an interesting example of this phenomenon as well. I think the one I'm thinking of is
    http://bit.ly/fc676s, where Rabbi Shafier uses the makkos, as described Midrashically, to pose the question of how one could violate devar H' in the face of such demonstrations. An excellent orator, R' Shafier presents midrash as peshat without reference to this fact. See also his compelling Purim piece: http://bit.ly/f18Hhd

    As much as I enjoy listening, this sort of "popular" (i.e. marketed to the masses) material often ignores this point. Likewise, when I was in R' Elzas's yeshiva in Bnei Brak, he was quite clear that Rashi is to be the basis for understanding Chumash.

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  8. Super-slow video of lightning where you can see the repeated, high speed strokes: http://www.collegehumor.com/video:1939264

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  9. On whether violations of nature or the constancy of nature provides greater evidence of God, I would mention the classic discussion in Spinoza's *Theological-Political Treatise* chapter 6.

    I hope mentioning Spinoza doesn't violate the terms of this blog!

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  10. It's not only Jewish school-children that are put into this trap. Most film depictions, made by non-Jewish or non-religious Jews, show actual fire accompanying the hail.

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  11. Even for a modern city-dweller, being close to ground-zero of a lighting strike in a summer thunderstorm in the country is an awe-some experience. And to the ancients who believed in nature Gods...

    That's exactly right.
    If it were a fortuitously timed ordinary hailstorm, there could be no theological lesson imparted by this makka. It would just be attributed to the angry god of lighting.

    God Himself tells us in these sidrot that these makkot are uniquely demonstrating His supreme power. Ostensibly, this is not acheived by a natural hailstorm accompanied by natural lightning.

    Hence the absolute theological necessity for the miraculous version of peshat.

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  12. Binyamin GoldsteinJanuary 3, 2011 at 11:47 PM

    I'd like to point out that A. Kaplan translates "And there was hail, with lightning flashing among the hailstones." See n.9:24 ibid., in which he notes that ibn Ezra (non ad loc) opines that it was a meteor shower (@Maverick).
    Maverick, while I used to think (back in the day) that the Torah was describing a Meteorite shower, I do not now think that such an interpretation is plausible. A) ברד in other Semitic Languages connotes hail, ice, cold, and other such things (e.g. Arabic برد), signifying that its original semantic field is only ice-falling-from-heaven, not stam rocks. B) The Torah does not mention any fire damage (which, incidentally, is also a case against taking the midrash at peshat-value). These reasons would apply to a volcanic interpretation as well. Additionally, one would have to have evidence of volcanic activity there and then (don't know how recent or accurate this is, but: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/04/070402-egypt-volcano.html)
    @yitznewton and IH - A) No one said that the "אש" was an אות or מופת, just as no one would claim that there was nothing particularly miraculous about the thunder that is mentioned in conjunction with it. B) Agreed, lightning is amazing, or at least was viewed in the ANE as so. Cf. Tehillim 29:7; 18:15; 144:6 et al., the Baal Cycle, etc.
    The thing that most surprises me most is the degree to which the classic pashtanim accept the midrashic interpretation here.

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  13. Concerning plagues that affected or didn't affect the Jews: It occured to me this past Shabbos that plagues not affecting the Jews may have been Hashem's way on upping the ante.

    The first few plagues may well have affected them. Then arov -- Hashem promises it won't affect them, but the pasuk never declares afterward that it didn't. Perhaps the Egyptians tore down boundaries and ensured that the animals (is that what arov means?) would attack the Jews too.

    Finally, dever -- Hashem promises it won't affect the Jews and then the pasuk tells us officialy afterward: It did not affect the Jews. For the first time, the Egyptians had to face the fact squarely that only they, and not the Jews, were suffering.

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  14. "It's like that anti-evolutionists who can only see God in the (allegedly) irreducibly complex phenomenon of the bacterial flagellum, not in the rest of nature."

    Did you mean to say "those"? If so, what percentage are you talking about?

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  15. Are most of you considering yourselves frum or observant? I just don't understand how you can be and entertain these notions about the Torah not meaning precisely what it says unless you are reform or something else. Please enlighten me.

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  16. Moshe F. - Velikovsky's interpretation Part 1January 4, 2011 at 4:17 AM

    In the comments on the previous blog, "When Drash Becomes Pshat," I wrote about how there are some intriguing ideas pertaining to Scriptural interpretation in the works of Immanuel Velikovsky. The interpretation of the plague of "borod" is one of the launchpads to his contentions in "Worlds in Collision" that the biblical plagues in Egypt were caused by the close encounter of the Earth with a large comet and the debris in the tail of the comet.

    He introduces this with a discussion of the day the sun stopped in the sky for Yehosua 52 years later, which he claims was a return of the comet for another close encounter with Earth. The Book of Yehosua, Chapter 10, verse 11, when describing this event, states: ויהי בנסם מפני ישראל הם במורד בית חורן וה' השליך עליהם אבנים גדלות מן השמים עד עזקה וימתו רבים אשר מתו באבני הברד מאשר הרגו בני ישראל בחרב - "And it came to pass as they fled from before Israel and were going down to Beth Horon, that Hashem cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah and they died; there were more who died by the hailstones than those who died by the sword."

    Here the verse first calls what fell from the sky "avonim gedolos," "great stones" and then it calls them "borod." It seems quite clear that the Pshat is that there was a meteor shower, which struck the fleeing kings of the Amorites and their armies. Interestingly, "science" did not accept the possibility of stones falling from the sky until the early 1800's, but here it is clearly spelled out in Scripture.

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  17. Moshe F. - Velikovsky's interpretation Part 2January 4, 2011 at 4:19 AM

    Please see Velikovsky's own words about this starting on page 57: http://books.google.com/books?id=FJst27kSVBgC&printsec=frontcover&dq=velikovsky+worlds+in+collision&hl=en&ei=5HkiTbilBcL38AaP9IjxDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Then he goes back to the plague of "borod" mixed with "aish," "fire," and he describes it as a similar event where "borod" is not "hail," but as in Yehoshua, it is "stones," "meteorites," that were accompanied at that time with burning fire, which he claims was burning naptha or petroleum of some kind from the tail of the comet. See page 68 where he returns to the events in Egypt. He also supports this interpretation with citations from Midrash and Talmud.

    This interpretation seems to fit the text better than the idea that the "aish" that accompanied the "borod" was only "lightning." The Hebrew word for lightning is "berokim," as we find in the story of Mattan Torah, that there was "kolos u'berokim," "thunder and lightning." (Powerful lightning strikes do also, however, play a major roll in Velikovsky's theories in other contexts, but this is not the place to elaborate.)

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  18. The reason most people like the explanation of fire in ice is because many believe the 10 plagues were unnatural events similar to the act of creation. Just like G-D was acting outside of nature by creating the world so too he was acting outside of nature during the 10 plagues.

    I think even the Rambam and Ralbag say that the ten plagues were miracles that were not natural. If you disagree I will gladly look up my sources again.

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  19. Having thought some more about this: Human learning of all subjects generally starts with a story that blurs details, but is used to teach a larger lesson. As we get older, we sometimes go back and re-learn the story in more detail.

    So, from a Jewish learning perspective it is natural to learn drash first and then eventually to come back to pshat. The problem is that many Jews never do. They go to shul, listen to Parshat ha'Shavua, but mostly spend any learning time on parshanut (which is almost always drash). This is curious. After all, the Torah is God's narrative to us and Chazal teach us that God wrote the Torah in human terms. So, without taking away from the drash, shouldn't we care enough about God's words to pore over their pshat (using the drash as hashkafic guidance).

    And just as most Orthodox Jews don't learn enough pshat, they also don't know that the mesorah we use today wasn't standardized until the ba'alei hamasorah in the 7th to 11th centuries CE. And we know there were textual differences between our mesorah and some of the mikra found in Qumran. And similarly, there are differences between our mesorah and the Greek translation (Septuagint) by the 72 as described in Megilla 9a.

    For me, the bottom line is that learning the Pshat is, actually, very difficult and requires quite a lot of traditional Jewish learning prior.

    The issue of rationalist explanations is orthogonal. My own belief is that God used the nature He created to effect the makot. I have no need to try to dissect or understand what specific phenomena He leveraged beyond what is written. In itself, such analysis is not relevant either to the pshat or the drash.

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  20. Dear Curious,
    I'm observant and accept that there are people who are also observant and who will believe anything...and even pride themselves on being "more credulous than thou". It doesn't crank my tractor but so what?
    I've met observant Jews who insist that Torah has brought them to their concept of a God; one who favors prayer channeled through a Messiah who is alive and buried in a grave in New York. Is there even a single va'ad that doesn't allow their hechsher? And what's wrong with that?
    "The Torah not meaning precisely what it says" is the rule and precision in meaning is the exception...if it ever occurs at all. And this seems plainly observable from the earliest explanations and translations of text and oral tradition to the present.
    Observant Judaism is a very, very big tent...as it ought to be. I'm sure we all make fun of each other at times. But, at the foundation level, we should never forget to appreciate one another as fellow Observant Jews. And we also should never forget to appreciate all types of Jewish people as an integral parts of our family.

    My opinion, anyways.
    Gary Goldwater

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  21. @Curious:

    Regarding taking the words of the Torah precisely as they are. I don't have an example handy from the Torah, but I have one from the Navi. See Yehoshua 2:7, where the people from Yericho chase the spies. They didn't actually chase the spies, though; they thought they were chasing them.

    Of course, most "frum or observant" people do not take the text of the Torah at face value as a halachic text. The whole system of midrash halacha is based on the Torah not meaning precisely what it says.

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  22. >>>> I just don't understand how you can be and entertain these notions about the Torah not meaning precisely what it says unless you are reform or something else.


    Mr. Curious … The idea of not reading the Torah literally is over 2000 years old …. Did you ever hear the idea that “an eye for eye” means money and not an eye.

    When it finally sinks in for you that the world/universe is more than 6000 years old and that there couldn’t possibly have been a global flood 4000 years ago, I think you might also begin taking the Torah a little less literal as well.

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  23. I've met observant Jews who insist that Torah has brought them to their concept of a God; one who favors prayer channeled through a Messiah who is alive and buried in a grave in New York. Is there even a single va'ad that doesn't allow their hechsher? And what's wrong with that?

    Oh, it's great to have to explain it to the curious Gentiles and secular Jews! Christianity, Islam or atheism make more sense to them and to me.

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  24. Goodness gracious, is there not anyone who can explain in a simple article to "Curious" and his friends that belief is not the ikur of being an Orthodox Jew (though it is of being a Christian) and that it requires a lot more to attain the title of "apikores" than just seeing things differently than your fellow shomer shabbos Orthodox Jew?

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  25. Belief is not the ikur? I disagree. If you don't believe in the oneness of God and His Torah what exactly makes you a Jew, other than your mother's blood? Certainly you're not an Orthodox Jew without that belief.

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  26. To Curious: Sure, the Torah's "precise meaning" is absolutely true, but what makes you think your modern 21st century understanding of the Hebrew language will be able to give you the precise meaning for the entire text?

    The Hebrew spoken today, or in the time of the Rishonim, or even during the Temple days is different from the Hebrew spoken at the time of Mattan Torah. All languages change over time, and Hebrew is no exception. Additionally, the Torah contains many words and expressions where the precise meaning is no longer known (and many Rishonim will disagree strongly about the correct meaning.) There are idiomatic expressions there that are not used today and vice versa.

    Furthermore, all observant Jews know that the Torah's text can not be properly understood without the corresponding oral interpretations. Most of these are documented in the Talmud and later texts, but not all of them. (Which is why the Gemara sometimes presents Tana'im with completely opposite opinions.)

    In other words, your (or my) understanding of the text may not be "precisely what it says," no matter how obvious it may seem to us.

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  27. I also don't understand why you all argue about these things. Wouldn't it be easier to just accept that the Torah is true? That maybe Hashem did have Moshe make the river turn to actual blood? I mean how would it upset things if it there are miracles after all? Of course this assumes, like me, that you believe the Torah was only written by Moshe via Hashem's direction, word for word, and that he didn't make any errors in the transcribing thereof. Do you say otherwise? Or is this about possible missing things in the Mesora of the Oral Torah not the Written?

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  28. Mechapeset, at the risk of being boringly repetitious I would like state again that Rambam does consider Emunah to be the purpose of the Torah and commandments. I do find this to be the correct approach.

    Barry Goldwater wrote: 'Observant Judaism is a very, very big tent...as it ought to be.' Yes, if we define its members as practitioners of Jewish ritual, customs and folklore. No, if we are to establish a pure monotheist faith as its criterion.


    Rambam allows to say 'shahada' to save one's life. I am weak in halacha and am wondering - is one allowed to say 'ihi ...' or is it yehareg veal yaavor according to Rambam?

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  29. I just don't understand how you can
    be and entertain these notions about the Torah not meaning precisely what
    it says unless you are reform or
    something else.


    I think because its Toras Chaim - a living Torah, a Torah of life and a Torah of the living, its dynamic. To say that miracles are 'being in the right place at the right time', while being a chidush and a denial of miracles the way Rambam understands the concept, is not a denial of monotheism or of any mitzvos maasiyos. Tell me what you think.

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  30. I dont know what to think Carol all I know is that for example when Hashem says He will kill the firstborn, and then He does, I dont see any other way of understanding it other than that He did what He said He would do.

    Also: Rambam allows to say 'shahada' to save one's life. I am weak in halacha and am wondering - is one allowed to say 'ihi ...

    Please explain what that means I dont understand it.

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  31. Carol, I really think that you need to study a little more about Rambam. On the one hand, you consider his approach to emunah normative, even though it was very much an aberration in Jewish history. On the other hand, you don't understand why people would want to naturalize miracles, even though this was a very important component of Rambam's approach (as well as many others). With regard to the latter point, see my book The Challenge Of Creation to understand the reasons for naturalizing miracles.

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  32. If belief is not the ikur what is?

    So let's say hypothetically you had proof positive 100% that the text and mesorah we have today is exactly what was given to Moses and that there was no question about it whatsoever. Would you believe it was all literally true and that there were real miracles performed without any rational explanations?

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  33. If my bina yeseira doesn't mislead me, Curious is Poshuter in lambs skin. Now I do like him.

    Curious asks: 'That maybe Hashem did have Moshe make the river turn to actual blood? I mean how would it upset things if it there are miracles after all?'

    This is how Dovid Hamelech takes it in Psalms 105. It's quite remarkable that every single Shacharis - weekday, Shabbos, Yom Tov, Yom Kippur we start with the words of this mizmor. Halo dovor hu?

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  34. "It's like that (you mean "those") anti-evolutionists who can only see God in the (allegedly) irreducibly complex phenomenon of the bacterial flagellum, not in the rest of nature."

    Eh, I think they see God in all of nature, but can only make a decent case of proving God's existence with the help of the (seemingly) irreducible complexity.

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  35. Binyamin GoldsteinJanuary 5, 2011 at 9:35 AM

    Shamino:
    While it is true (and sadly cannot go unstated) that "[a]ll languages change over time, and Hebrew is no exception", what leads you to believe that the Rishonim had a better, or even equivalent, understanding of תנ"ך in comparison to ours (by "ours", I do not mean the layperson, but the understanding accessible to the layperson)? With the discovery of other Semitic languages such as Ugaritic, Akkadian, Eblaite, Ammonite and others in recent years (Eblaite was only discovered in the early '70s, Ugaritic in the '30s) our understanding of many previously unknown words and phrases in תנ"ך has been greatly increased. Archaeology, too, has greatly expanded our understanding. Let me give a small example. In שמואל א ch. 13, we read "וְהָיְתָה הַפְּצִירָה פִים, לַמַּחֲרֵשֹׁת וְלָאֵתִים, וְלִשְׁלֹשׁ קִלְּשׁוֹן, וּלְהַקַּרְדֻּמִּים; וּלְהַצִּיב, הַדָּרְבָן". Now, Rashi, the Metzudos, Mahari Qara, and the Radaq all believe that פים means "double-edged" (they actually vary in their exact explanations, whether petzira pim is one object or two, but for simplicity's sake...). In any case, they completely missed the boat, but no one can possibly blame them. פים is, in truth, the name of a weight measure and a coin (just as שקל denotes both), discovered in Archaeological digs in the last 80 years (see G.I. Davies' "Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions volume 1" page 259). Thus, the meaning of the verse is, in actuality, "And the sharpening [cost] was a Payim for the ploughshares and the mattocks...".

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  36. Binyamin GoldsteinJanuary 5, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    I take issue with your paragraph "Furthermore...". I am an observant Jew, yet I think, nay, know, that the Torah cannot be understood properly by using solely traditional interpretations. Do not mistake me for a Karaite. I believe the Oral tradition is essential in terms of halakha, but in peshat, in understanding the meaning of the text, one cannot rely on Oral tradition. Would you posit that every one (or even one) of the Rishonim or Acharonim are recording a mesorah that they posses that goes back hundreds of years? Of course not! Each one explains the text based on his own understanding, sometimes influenced by the understanding of another parshan or his own teacher).
    The Torah does not contain "many words and expressions where the precise meaning is no longer known". There are cases in which the parshanim are not sure, but based on cognate languages and texts, we know the meaning beyond a doubt. This leads me to a related topic. Biblical scholarship in the frum world is horrendous, and it doesn't have to be that way. You don't think that Documentary Hypothesis "shtims" with frumkeit, fine (I personally agree). You don't feel comfortable around the good English of the Academic world, fine. Academic writing isn't heimish enough, fine. But this is Emes (with a capital E) we are talking about here! Why wouldn't a frumme yid use the Yale Anchor Bible series, or Word Commentary or the like? These commentaries aren't mezalzel the kavod of Rishonim (especially Michael V. Fox, whose perush on Mishle is, in my opinion, the best perush on Mishle ever written). So they endorse DH? Ignore it! Isn't getting the Emes worth it? OK. You don't feel comfortable being a R' Meir, or only learn תנ"ך on Shabbos, and think to read these goyishe ksovim to get the Emes you would azoi be עובר on borer. But you could at least get a Koeler & Baumgartner BH Dictionary (who, BTW, getting back to the main point of the blog post for a moment, explain אש here as lightning), a two-volume killer dictionary, 2,094 pages of the most recent linguistic scholarship. Or even if you don't feel like spending all that money, at least download the BDB, which can still hold it's own in Biblical scholarship after a hundred and four years (search google books for "a hebrew and english lexicon" in "full view" by Wilhelm Gesenius, although it's not really by him). The question is, why the phobia of Biblical scholarship, even when it does not contradict or even supports the "Mesora" of parshanut?

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  37. So let's say hypothetically...

    What difference does it make what I “would believe” in a hypothetical situation? Anyway, I don’t know because I am not in said hypothetical situation.

    Would you believe it was all literally true….

    YOU don’t believe it is all literally true, as meforshim (whose opinions are popular nowadays) explain certain things differently than the pshat in the Chumash. So why are you asking others to believe that it is “all literally true”?

    I also don't understand why you all argue about these things.

    You’ll understand when you’re older. In the meantime, if you have nothing to add to the conversation, either sit back and listen, or leave if you are offended by a Rationalist approach to Torah and Judaism.

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  38. Binyamin GoldsteinJanuary 5, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    Correction:
    The Koehler & Baumgartner does NOT explain אש here as lightning, but the BDB does.

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  39. What was the value of pim?

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  40. Dear friends,

    One post ago I asked for an explanation of how makas bchoros was being ' in the right place at the right time'? The answer I received was that the Egyptian first born were sleeping indoors on low beds as a place of honor, whereas everyone else was sleeping outside. So when a volcano spewed out poisonous gas only the first born were affected. I still have not received an explanation of how this accounts for the death of the first born of slaves or animals? Were they also sleeping in places of honor? Anyone can explain this or put this thing together somehow?

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  41. Michapeset:
    Ok i didnt mean literal like the translation, i meant according to Rashi which is what the majority use to explain it. I'm just trying to understand you dont have to insult me.

    Carol:
    I dont know what u mean by a poshitur

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  42. Binyamin GoldsteinJanuary 5, 2011 at 8:57 PM

    Carol:
    About 2/3 of a Sheqel (ca. 7.6 grams)

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  43. Binyamin Goldstein: I didn't say the Rishonim had a better understanding. I said that their Hebrew is not the same as the Hebrew that was spoken when the Torah was given. Just as our modern Hebrew is different from both of them.

    My point is not that one source is better than another (and if my writing gave you that impression, I apologize for misleading you.) I was simply trying to say that we can't read ancient texts as if they were written in modern Hebrew and expect to understand it the way it was originally meant to be understood.

    To properly understand some texts, you may have to see what the Rishonim say, but for other texts, you might have to go to even earlier sources. Unfortunately, there's a limit to this approach, because Torah study before the time of the Mishna was all oral. There are so there are no pre-Mishnaic written texts describing how those generations understood the Torah.

    Which is why we often have no way of knowing the "precise meaning of the text" that "Curious" would like us to all follow.

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  44. Carol please explain what that shahada and ihi thing you said means

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  45. Curious - I'm sorry if I insulted you, that was not my intention. I was trying to be humorous, and I guess I failed at that.

    I really have no idea how to explain to you the answers to your questions as it would take a lot more space than this website allows for comments. In very, very short:

    Rashi was one rishon out of many.

    There are different approaches to knowledge. The popular approach in Yeshivish and Chareidi circles nowadays does not work for everyone. So what do those people do for whom it does not intellectually work for? Do they go off the derech? Is that their only choice? No. There is an approach to Torah knowledge which was used by some Rishonim which is broadly called now "Rationalist Judaism". This approach helps many people stay frum, enjoy and expand their Torah learning, and practice frumkeit while relying on the valid approach of various Rishonim and Acharonim. However, there is a push nowadays by a few Yeshivish and Chareidi people in power (politicians) to outlaw this derech and call it "kefira" or "apikorsus".

    Not every size fits everyone, and if Torah has "shivim panim" and this approach was held by Rishonim of old and Acharonim of previous generations, then why should it not be good enough for those who need and use this approach now?

    Eilu V'Elilu Divrei Elokim Chayim.

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  46. Curious said: Carol please explain what that shahada and ihi thing you said means


    Poshuter, I am not going there.

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  47. Binyamin GoldsteinJanuary 6, 2011 at 1:04 AM

    Curious: the Shahada is the first of the Muslim Iqqarei Emuna. The way by which one converts to Islam is by affirming "There is no God besides God, and Muhammad is the Prophet of God". This statement is called the "shahada", a cognate of Aramaic "sahad" "witness" (think Lavan's gal'ed).
    Curious:
    "I just don't understand how you can be [frum] and entertain these notions about the Torah not meaning precisely what
    it says unless you are reform or
    something else."
    What about the Mediaeval allegorists of the Chassidei Ashkenaz? Or the whole corpus of Rabinnic non-literal interpretation? The fact is that many Rishonim understood many parts of Torah as allegory, or at least not to be taken literally.
    Shamino:
    I'm sorry for misinterpreting your statement, but my point still stands. The "precise meaning of the text" is very easily accessible to anyone who want to get it,לֹא בַשָּׁמַיִם הִוא, כִּי קָרוֹב אֵלֶיךָ הַדָּבָר מְאֹד. My point was that with proper Biblical scholarship (that is completely absent from the frum world) one can easily arrive at the "precise meaning of the text".
    "There are so there are no pre-Mishnaic written texts describing how those generations understood the Torah." What about all of the Pesharim (commentaries) and Reworked Pentateuch from Qumran, many of which date (such as pesher Chavaqquq) some TWO HUNDRED years before the compilation of the Mishna. Of course, you might retort that the Qumran community cannot represent our mesorah, but then again, with a lack of "pre-Mishnaic written texts describing how those generations understood the Torah", how can you be sure that the Pharisees contemporary with the Qumran compositions in question would not have understood Tanakh in the same (or a similar) way?
    On the Modern Hebrew thing, I sincerely hope that no one tries to read Tanakh with only an understanding of Modern Hebrew!

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  48. Moshe F. - Hail and Lightning or Meteor Fireballs?January 7, 2011 at 6:21 AM

    Does anyone here want to get back to the topic of the blog?

    Previously it was pointed out that A. Kaplan in his notes states that “Some say that [borod] denotes a meteorite shower (Ibn Ezra, Sefer HaAtzamim)” [BTW, I am unfamiliar with this sefer, has anyone seen what the Ibn Ezra writes inside?]

    I also wrote about Velikovsky’s idea that "borod" in the Makos was "meteors,"and that the "aish"-"fire" that accompanied it would either be the fiery appearance of meteors as they literally burn up as they fly to the ground, or that as suggested by Velikovsky it was a form of burning naphtha that fell together with the meteors. It is known that meteors also make noise, the “kolos” that the Torah mentions in connection with the “borod.”

    For example: “A sonic boom is sometimes heard for very bright meteors, called fireballs. If the particle is larger than the mean free path of the air molecules, a high Mach number shock wave forms in front of the meteoroid. Very rarely, this shock wave penetrates deep enough in the atmosphere that it can be heard. It sounds like the sonic boom of an airplane...” And “If a meteor is brighter than any of the planets in the sky it is deemed a fireball (also called a bolide). A blazing bolide can also create a sonic boom that can be heard up to 30 miles away…” In addition, some may produce crackling sounds – see http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1134/is_6_111/ai_87854873/

    In addition, as I wrote, the Hebrew word for lightning is "borok" or "berokim," as we find in the story of Mattan Torah, that there was "kolos u'berokim," "thunder and lightning." If "aish" in connection with "borod" means only "lightning," as Rabbi Slifkin and most of you are saying, can you point to any other place in Tanach where the word “aish” is used to mean “lightning”? Meanwhile, while no one denies that “borod” can mean “hailstones,” we do find in Tanach that “borod” is identified with real stones, “avonim,” as in the verse in Yehoshua that I mentioned, and also in Yeshaya 30:30.

    Interestingly, in Tehilim 18, verses 13 and 14, the words ברד וגחלי אש are repeated, and I would contend that “gachalei aish” does not refer to lightning (although possibly see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ball_lightning for an exception), but this does nicely describe fireball meteorites. However, the very next verse says ברקים רב, “He shot forth lightnings.” While this Tehilim does not necessarily refer to Makas Borod, perhaps it is possible to say that the plague of borod may have consisted of BOTH meteors AND lightning. Your thoughts?

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  49. Moshe F. - More noise.January 7, 2011 at 6:45 AM

    PS - Meteorites can also make a lot of noise, "kolos," when they hit the ground!

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  50. While this Tehilim does not necessarily refer to Makas Borod, perhaps it is possible to say that the plague of borod may have consisted of BOTH meteors AND lightning. Your thoughts?'


    Why not? I would think you may find support for it in Ugaritic?

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  51. Binyamin GoldsteinJanuary 7, 2011 at 9:35 AM

    Moshe F.:
    “I am unfamiliar with this sefer, has anyone seen what the Ibn Ezra writes inside?”
    Search “bhol forums co il forum” for “ספר העצמים”.
    The book is not (currently) ascribed to him. Misattribution and the Ibn Ezra have a long history. The perush under his name in the miqraos gedolos on Mishle and (ironically) Ezra are both by Qimchi.
    Seforim online has the sefer if you should wish to look at it.
    “In addition, as I wrote, the Hebrew word for lightning is ‘borok’ or ‘berokim,’ as we find in the story of Mattan Torah, that there was ‘kolos u'berokim,’ ‘thunder and lightning.’”
    No one was disputing the obvious fact that the more regularly used word for lightning in Biblical Hebrew was ברק.
    “‘If ‘aish’ in connection with ‘borod’ means only ‘lightning,’ as Rabbi Slifkin and most of you are saying, can you point to any other place in Tanach where the word ‘aish’ is used to mean ‘lightning’? “
    Yes. Tehillim 29:7. I quote from the Radaq’s perush he’arukh (tel-aviv, 1946) ‘להבות אש- והם הברקים’. The ibn Ezra in the Miqraos Gedolos ‘ולפי דעתי שהטעם על הברקים’. And for the more Yeshivish, the Metzudos agrees.
    “Meanwhile, while no one denies that ‘borod’ can mean ‘hailstones,’ we do find in Tanach that ‘borod’ is identified with real stones, ‘avonim,’ as in the verse in Yehoshua that I mentioned, and also in Yeshaya 30:30.”
    While ברד can ONLY mean ICE (see my first comment on the semantic field of b-r-d), אבן can also mean non-mineral balls (stones, blobs, whatever) as in אבני אלגביש of Ezekiel 13. In Joshua 10:11, the clear meaning of the text is hailstones, as the Septuagint translates. In Isaiah 30:30, the clear meaning (if you understand BH syntax) is ‘hailstones’, i.e. ICE, not boulders. See Targum there. The correct translation is (NIV) ‘The LORD will cause men to hear his majestic voice and will make them see his arm coming down with raging anger and consuming fire, with cloudburst, thunderstorm and hail.’ (the consuming fire is metaphor for anger, just as the arm business is metaphor, I hope you agree). Tachlis, both the Isaiah and the Joshua verses do not support a possible interpretation of ברד as a mineral stone.

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  52. Binyamin GoldsteinJanuary 7, 2011 at 11:42 AM

    By the way, it is not only the LXX that understands Joshua 10:11 as hail, but also the Malbim, Ralbag, and the Metzudos. Also, the chazal that says that the hailstones that "לא נתך ארצה" by barad were the same that fell for Yehoshua indicate that the member of chazal with whom this statement originated was of the opinion that the falling objects of Joshua were the same as those of מכת ברד. Add that to the fact that there is no opinion extant in our corpus of chazal indicating that they understood "barad" of the Exodus as stone. This combination of facts proves that this particular member of chazal was of the opinion that the "stones" of Joshua were ice as well.

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  53. Yakov said...

    I would think you may find support for it in Ugaritic?

    -- Unfortunately I don't think I would understand one word of Ugaritic, let alone finding any support for anything in that language...

    Binyamin Goldstein -- Your comments are insightful, but nothing you wrote in your last two comments is convincing. Hopefully before Shabbos starts I'll have time to reply in detail.

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  54. I ony have 1 question...why does B. Goldstein use a "Q" instead of a "K" ?

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  55. Moshe F. - fire and brimstone from heavenJanuary 7, 2011 at 11:07 PM

    The details will have to come later, it's already too close to Shabbos. Until I have a chance to write more, let me just leave these thoughts:

    Saying Tehillim for today I came across a posuk ימטר על רשעים פחים אש וגפרית ורוח זלעפות מנת כוטסם -- "He will cause to rain 'coals' upon the wicked, 'fire' and 'brimstone' and burning wind shall be the portion of their cup."

    Would anyone say that this "aish" means 'lightning'? Obviously this is more clearly a reference to meteor fireballs, and naphtha of some kind falling from the sky.

    What about Breishis 19:24, וה' המטיר על סדם ועל עמרה גפרית ואש מאת ה' מן השמים, "And Hashem rained on Sedom and on Amorah 'sulfur' and 'fire' from Hashem out of heaven." -- Can hail and lightning explain this? Clearly only a fierce meteor shower fits the text.

    The same thing by the plagues.

    And why not confront already the miraculous event of the stopping of the sun and moon for Yehoshua? Can this be rationally explained? The Rambam's pshat is very dochek. Only something on the scale of Velikovsky's interpretation can possibly fit...

    Good Shabbos to all.

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  56. Shmu: The transliteration of ק as Q is the standard academic form. The reason it is so is because the way a ק is correctly pronounced cannot be properly expressed in English letters, and is best approximated by Q (also, just a conventional answer, to distinguish between כ and ק, as there are words that are identical except those letters).

    Moshe F: I await a full response, but in response to that which you have already posted:

    "Saying Tehillim for today I came across a posuk ימטר על רשעים פחים אש וגפרית ורוח זלעפות מנת כוסם -- 'He will cause to rain 'coals' upon the wicked, 'fire' and 'brimstone' and burning wind shall be the portion of their cup.'"

    Just a point: If you learned some Hebrew grammar (I strongly suggest P. Jouon's Hebrew Grammar), you would know that there is a construct called the jussive, or volitive. It means "may...", and is constructed (in 3rd person m&f verbs) the same way as a normal imperfect. Thus, "ישימך...כאפרים וגו'" means "may He make you...", not "He WILL make you...". Thus, many people (if you wish, I will post a full list) translate this verse (Psalms 11:6) as "May He rain upon the wicked snares/coals, fire and sulfur; and hot wind is their portion". I was just pointing that out.(btw, how did you know what זלעפות means? It only occurs thrice in tanakh last time I checked. Does artscroll translate thusly?)
    In response, no one ever said that meteors or falling fire is never mentioned in Tanakh, just that it is never described as ברד.

    "Would anyone say that this "aish" means 'lightning'? Obviously this is more clearly a reference to meteor fireballs, and naphtha of some kind falling from the sky."

    See answer above.

    What about Breishis 19:24, וה' המטיר על סדם ועל עמרה גפרית ואש מאת ה' מן השמים, "And Hashem rained on Sedom and on Amorah 'sulfur' and 'fire' from Hashem out of heaven." -- Can hail and lightning explain this?"
    No, and no one was claiming that it could.

    "Clearly only a fierce meteor shower fits the text."
    Correct.

    "The same thing by the plagues."

    This is where you go wrong. Why is the fact that meteors are featured in tanakh grounds for assuming that every mention of things falling from the sky also refers to meteors? I.e. proving that meteors are mentioned in tanakh (which does not require proving) does not prove that the barad of Egypt were meteors.

    For clarity, let me make a list for you:
    THINGS I NEVER SAID:
    1. Meteors or falling fire is never discussed in Tanakh
    2. אש always means lightning
    THINGS I DID SAY:
    1. BARAD always means ICE
    2. אש CAN mean lightning
    3. אבן CAN be used to refer to materials other than stone

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  57. Binyamin Goldstein, thanks for your help for locating “ספר העצמים” and your mention that it is currently recognized that it was misattributed to Ibn Ezra. The sefer is not exactly what I was expecting, and in my initial quick flip through the pages I didn’t see the reference to ‘borod’ and ‘meteors,’ but I’m putting off a closer look till later…

    I did find other comments of Ibn Ezra (this is the real Ibn Ezra apparently) on Tehillim 78:47-48, יהרג בברד גפנם ושקמותם בחנמל. ויסגר לברד בעירם ומקניהם לרשפים., where he explains ‘chanomal’ as being like the “great stones” that fell from the sky for Yehoshua, and ‘reshofim’ as the fire that came down with the ‘borod’ – so it would seem then that Ibn Ezra does support a connection between the ‘borod’ of Yehoshua, called “great stones” or “giant rocks,” and the ‘borod’ of the plagues. [See also Rashi and Metzudos Dovid there that “reshofim” means “רשפי אש,” which seems to me to mean ‘burning fire,’ which would also exclude merely flashes of lightning.]

    While in your comments you said “In Joshua 10:11, the clear meaning of the text is hailstones, as the Septuagint translates,” however pardon my ignorance and the pun, but that is just Greek to me (are you citing the original Greek Septuagint or a translation?). “Avonim gedolim,” in plain straightforward Hebrew, however, I do understand, and it does not now and never has meant “hail.”

    To my question if there is any other place in Tanach where the word ‘aish’ is used to mean ‘lightning’?, you answered: Yes. Tehillim 29:7. I quote from the Radaq’s perush he’arukh (tel-aviv, 1946) ‘להבות אש- והם הברקים’. The ibn Ezra in the Miqraos Gedolos ‘ולפי דעתי שהטעם על הברקים’. And for the more Yeshivish, the Metzudos agrees. ------- Sorry, but I meant is there anywhere that it is מוכרח, indisputable, that “aish” means “lightning.” That some meforshim identify or misidentify the term as “lighting” is certainly not what I’m talking about.

    At any rate, since you were so good as to find and cite for us the Ibn Ezra, why didn’t you also mention the full text of his commentary, where he first brings another opinion that indeed it is a reference to (sparks from?) stones: אמר רבי משה זה רמז לאבן שהוא כדמות ברזל התורפת וטעם חוצב שחצבם מהצור (I believe this “Rebbe Moshe” he refers to is the Rambam – you perhaps know about this, and where in Rambam it is located?). Again, since there is a very reputable reference that disagrees, thus it remains inconclusive from this verse as to what exactly “aish” means there.

    To be continued…

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  58. To my question if there is any other place in Tanach where the word ‘aish’ is used to mean ‘lightning’?, you answered: Yes. Tehillim 29:7. I quote from the Radaq’s perush he’arukh (tel-aviv, 1946) ‘להבות אש- והם הברקים’. The ibn Ezra in the Miqraos Gedolos ‘ולפי דעתי שהטעם על הברקים’. And for the more Yeshivish, the Metzudos agrees.

    --- Sorry, but I meant is there anywhere that it is מוכרח, indisputable, that “aish” means “lightning.” That some meforshim identify or misidentify the term as “lighting” is certainly not what I’m talking about.

    At any rate, since you were so good as to find and cite for us the Ibn Ezra, why didn’t you also mention the full text of his commentary, where he first brings another opinion that indeed it is a reference to (sparks from?) stones: אמר רבי משה זה רמז לאבן שהוא כדמות ברזל התורפת וטעם חוצב שחצבם מהצור (I believe this “Rebbe Moshe” he refers to is the Rambam – you perhaps know about this, and where in Rambam it is located?). Again, since there is a very reputable reference that disagrees, thus it remains inconclusive from this verse as to what exactly “aish” means there.

    To be continued…

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  59. a Koof has a K sound, and there is no argument about it. And a Q ALSO has a K sound, so you're wrong on both counts. As in the word "quarrel", which I wont have with you. K WAR EL

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  60. Moshe F. - Avnei ElgavishJanuary 9, 2011 at 8:56 AM

    Binyomin. It is right in front of your eyes and you don’t want to see:

    You referred to “אבני אלגביש” of Ezekiel 13, and said “the chazal that says that the hailstones that "לא נתך ארצה" by barad were the same that fell for Yehoshua indicate that the member of chazal with whom this statement originated was of the opinion that the falling objects of Joshua were the same as those of מכת ברד..”

    --- Don’t you see from this that this ‘borod’ could not have been “hail.” Chazal are stating that the giant stones stayed in the sky for more than a generation! What hail do you know of that just “hangs out” up in the sky for years and years without falling? Chazal are saying that the same stones, from the same source in the sky, fell to earth scores of years apart. The only thing that fits this scientifically is meteors, debris from a passing asteroid, comet or something else in orbit around the earth or sun – and Velikovsky himself brings this in his book in support of his thesis. [You are obviously very learned in many areas, it wouldn’t hurt you to take a peek at some of the “forbidden” classics.]

    Incidentally, Rashi on Yechezkeil 13:13 says that it was the borod-stones themselves that shined, not any lightning around them.

    Another proof is from Yechezkeil 38:22, ונשפטתי אתו בדבר ובדם, וגשם שוטף ואבני אלגביש אש וגפרית אמטיר עליו... – these “avnei algavish,” very large and shiny-glowing borod-stones are directly associated with “fire and brimstone” as rained down on Sodom and Amorah – which now if I understand you as conceding, there was a tremendously destructive meteor shower event that fell from the sky on that area.

    To be continued…

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  61. Moshe F. - Yeshaya 30:30January 9, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    Binyomin wrote:

    In Isaiah 30:30, the clear meaning (if you understand BH syntax) is ‘hailstones’, i.e. ICE, not boulders. See Targum there. The correct translation is (NIV) ‘The LORD will cause men to hear his majestic voice and will make them see his arm coming down with raging anger and consuming fire, with cloudburst, thunderstorm and hail.’ (the consuming fire is metaphor for anger, just as the arm business is metaphor, I hope you agree).

    --- Just because you throw about acronyms doesn’t mean you are correct. There is nothing in Biblical Hebrew (BH) syntax indicating ‘hailstones,’ nor in the Targum – so I don’t know what you are talking about. I am also not particularly (or not at all) concerned about what it says in the New International Version (NIV Bible).

    Regarding the להב אש אוכלה – I can see how one might take it in this case as metaphor, like the arm as you say, but why do you insist it couldn’t refer to real consuming fire in the plain sense?

    Incidentally, this verse also contains the words “זעף אף” which means “burning anger.” My concordance of Tanach identifies the word זלעפות, with this word זעף, with the letter ל as an additive. So what you questioned - “how did you know what זלעפות means? It only occurs thrice in tanakh last time I checked. Does artscroll translate thusly?” – turns out to be no question at all.

    You might also try reading Rashi on that verse (Tehillim 11:6 – sorry for leaving the citation out before), זלעפות. לשון שריפה – so there is absolutely nothing out of order by translating it to mean “burning.” I hope you agree that it does not mean “ice.” Actually I took the translation from an ancient Soncino - do you have a problem with that?

    To be continued…

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  62. Shmu:
    OK. "a Koof has a K sound, and there is no argument about it."
    Actually, it is patently clear that the correct pronunciation of ק is the same as its counterpart in EVERY other Semitic language, which happens to correspond exactly with the way Yemenite, Iraqi, Iranian, Spanish, Turkish, and North African Jews (forgive me if I forgot any ethnicities included in the broad Ashkenazic term “sefardi”) pronounce it. Do you really think a language ever began (דוק היטב) with any two letters that were pronounced exactly the same?!
    And don't even get me started on Ashkenazic pronunciation of Hebrew.
    "And a Q ALSO has a K sound, so you're wrong on both counts. As in the word 'quarrel', which I wont have with you. K WAR EL"
    I appreciate the pun, but being a native speaker and knowing a bit of English grammar, quarrel is a two syllable word, the first being qua. The "qu" is pronounced (at least by me) not as a "kw" but with a more uvular sound. A better reason I should have cited for the use of q for ק is a simple one. The Latin letter Q is descended from the letter ק. See the wiki page on the letter Q (see the pic of the phonecian ק there. The Phonecian alphabet is the same for all intents and purposes as the old Hebrew script mentioned in bavli sanhedrin daf כא and available for perusal in every example of Hebrew from before ca. 3rd century BCE.

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  63. "I did find other comments of Ibn Ezra (this is the real Ibn Ezra apparently) on Tehillim 78:47-48, יהרג בברד גפנם ושקמותם בחנמל. ויסגר לברד בעירם ומקניהם לרשפים., where he explains ‘chanomal’ as being like the “great stones” that fell from the sky for Yehoshua, and ‘reshofim’ as the fire that came down with the ‘borod’ – so it would seem then that Ibn Ezra does support a connection between the ‘borod’ of Yehoshua, called “great stones” or “giant rocks,” and the ‘borod’ of the plagues. “
    So, fine, we see that ibn Ezra (possibly) thought that the verses in Joshua 10 and Psalms 78 refer to meteorites. Great. But if you accept ibn Ezra as an authority (I’m not really sure what your angle is on appeals to authority in this area), then why not accept his comment by the makka of ברד? The lashon of ibn Ezra by the makka makes it clear that he thought that ברד was ICE with fire inside it. He says ” "פלא בתוך פלא (cf. Rashi’s lashon).
    By the way, see Radaq on 78:47. He quotes Saadia Gaon as explaining חנמל as:
    והוא הקרח החזק שמשבר..." "בלשון ערבי صقيع
    Now, if you go in for appeals to authority, a Gaon (especially one so deserving of the position as Saadia) definitely outranks Radaq or ibn Ezra. If you don’t, he still was a huge Gaon (in both senses of the word) in Hebrew grammar and philology.
    (Also, see the beginning of Radaq from which it is clear that he thinks there are different types of ברד.)

    “[See also Rashi and Metzudos Dovid there that “reshofim” means “רשפי אש,” which seems to me to mean ‘burning fire,’ which would also exclude merely flashes of lightning.]”
    Again, accept the fact that I KNOW THAT אש IS NORMALLY FIRE!! Schoin. (btw, on what grounds does it “seem to” you to mean burning fire? You really should consider getting an academic biblical Hebrew dictionary)

    “While in your comments you said “In Joshua 10:11, the clear meaning of the text is hailstones, as the Septuagint translates,” however pardon my ignorance and the pun, but that is just Greek to me (are you citing the original Greek Septuagint or a translation?). “Avonim gedolim,” in plain straightforward Hebrew, however, I do understand, and it does not now and never has meant “hail.””
    A) You mean “Avonim Gedolos”.
    B) The Greek original
    C) Ignorance is not an excuse for ignoring the truth
    D) As you conveniently ignored, I noted in my second comment that besides the Septuagint, Malbim, Metzudos, Ralbag, and at least one shittah in Chazal (with no opposing view) hold that the “stones” of Joshua were hail.

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  64. “To my question if there is any other place in Tanach where the word ‘aish’ is used to mean ‘lightning’?, you answered… Sorry, but I meant is there anywhere that it is מוכרח, indisputable,
    (thanks for the translation, I understand 6 languages, but was lost on mukhrach ;)
    that “aish” means “lightning.” That some meforshim identify or misidentify the term as “lighting” is certainly not what I’m talking about.”

    MISIDENTIFY!? Wow, if I was a brisker I’d go whacko on you (thank God I'm not). In any case, how can you just discount the perushim of Radaq and ibn Ezra as “some meforshim”. The only other “meforesh” (that is easily accessible to me at the moment) that understands (explicitly) אש as fire is Targum.

    “At any rate, since you were so good as to find and cite for us the Ibn Ezra, why didn’t you also mention the full text of his commentary, where he first brings another opinion that indeed it is a reference to (sparks from?) stones”
    The reason I didn’t quote that R’ Moshe is because I was quoting the ibn Ezra, and was interested in representing HIS opinion, not that of R’ Moshe.
    I believe this “Rebbe Moshe” he refers to is the Rambam – you perhaps know about this, and where in Rambam it is located?)
    I doubt that he is referring to Rambam for two reasons (maybe you meant Ramban?). 1. Ibn Ezra died when Rambam was 26 and never met him. 2. Rambam never wrote a perush on any part of Tanakh (excepting explanations in the MT and the moreh). I doubt it’s the rambaN because the ibn Ezra died 30 years before rambaN was born (maybe he put the finishing touches on his perush on Tehillim posthumously? ;)
    Your guess is as good as mine. If you are really interested, I could ask some friends who would know who this “moshe” is.
    “Again, since there is a very reputable reference that disagrees, thus it remains inconclusive from this verse as to what exactly “aish” means there.”
    “very reputable?” and you know this… because the ibn Ezra quotes him as ר'? hehe, if this was the criterion for being “very reputable”, I’d be a gaon oilam by now!
    “that it is indeed a reference to stones”
    If you recall, the issue at hand in Psalm 29 is not ברד=stone or hail, but אש and lightning. The meaning of אש is not “inconclusive”, it is just stated by some “Moshe” and disputed by the ibn Ezra! That is pretty conclusive in my books. I would share with you one of my Professors’ shittah on this possuq, but I'm pretty sure you wouldn’t care to hear it.

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  65. Just saw your new comment:
    “--- Don’t you see from this that this ‘borod’ could not have been “hail.” Chazal are stating that the giant stones stayed in the sky for more than a generation! What hail do you know of that just “hangs out” up in the sky for years and years without falling? Chazal are saying that the same stones, from the same source in the sky, fell to earth scores of years apart. “
    No. First of all, לע"ד, chazal are saying that the “stones” stopped in midair when Moshe prayed, and then fell for Joshua.
    Second, I don’t really care that chazal thought that the barad was identical to the barad by Joshua. I am just quoting them for those who do care, and don’t accept the statements of Shmuel Hanaggid (not the famous one, but the one who has a pesicha to shas printed in berakhos, who was a dayan in Egypt in the 12th century) or shmuel bar chophni Gaon on aggadata.
    “The only thing that fits this scientifically is meteors, debris from a passing asteroid, comet”
    COMET?! ICE?! (jk)
    “ or something else in orbit around the earth or sun – and Velikovsky himself brings this in his book in support of his thesis.
    [You are obviously very learned in many areas, it wouldn’t hurt you to take a peek at some of the “forbidden” classics.]
    Thanks, but I'm minoring in Classics at YU (not the same type, but also forbidden ;)
    I’ll take a look at his book.
    You should read Kenneth Kitchen’s “On the Reliability of the Old Testament”. Awesome book, if a bit maximalist.

    “Another proof is from Yechezkeil 38:22, ונשפטתי אתו בדבר ובדם, וגשם שוטף ואבני אלגביש אש וגפרית אמטיר עליו... – these “avnei algavish,” very large and shiny-glowing borod-stones are directly associated with “fire and brimstone” as rained down on Sodom and Amorah – which now if I understand you as conceding, there was a tremendously destructive meteor shower event that fell from the sky on that area.”
    Don’t try to bring raayos from אלגביש, look at page 51 of the Koehler Baumgartner, who prove that it means “lumps of ice”

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  66. Reb Binyomin, Thanks again for your comments. It's too late for me to continue the discussion tonight... Here I'd just like to share that I do realize how destructive and devastating hail can be. Here's a clip (after a short pareve ad) about hailstorms: http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/wonders-of-weather-hail.html - it is just that in my opinion, even after all you've written, that a meteor shower fits the text a lot better as the explanation for Borod.

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  67. Moshe F. - Just the truth pleaseJanuary 9, 2011 at 11:35 PM

    Binyamin Goldstein said...

    So, fine, we see that ibn Ezra (possibly) thought that the verses in Joshua 10 and Psalms 78 refer to meteorites. Great. But if you accept ibn Ezra as an authority (I’m not really sure what your angle is on appeals to authority in this area),

    --- Neither the blog, post, or my comments (thank you Rabbi Slifkin) are not about me, but rather about Rationalist Judaism. My “angle” is only to try to conform to that theme, without blind appeals to authority.

    Let’s concentrate on trying to determine the true facts of the matter, regardless of who says them, however great an authority he/she may be. Our sages teach us to follow the dictum of “lo soguru mipnei ish” and “b’mokom shein anoshim hishtadel lehiyos ish,” and to the best of our abilities arrive at an honest appraisal.

    I think we should be willing to take into consideration not just the traditional sources, but also innovative investigations and studies using rational and logical principles.

    Even from the perspective of the most orthodox Judaism, no Godol is perfect and correct all the time. We may accept Ibn Ezra in many places, while finding his opinion absolutely ridiculous in others. The same for Rashi, Rambam, Ramban, “Radaq,” R’ Saadia Gaon, the Vilna Goan, and any and every other Goan – “mebechor Pharaoh hayhoseiv al kiso ad bechor hashifcha asher achar horrachoyim…” [b’derech drash!] – from Moshe Rabbeinu himself to even one in our generation who bemoans not being recognized as “a gaon oilam by now.” Everyone is bound to be wrong about something [ok, including me, though I have in the past and will continue in the future to admit mistakes when facts prove them so].

    To be continued…

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  68. Moshe F. - Rishpei AishJanuary 9, 2011 at 11:46 PM

    Binyamin Goldstein said... (Also, see the beginning of Radaq from which it is clear that he thinks there are different types of ברד.)

    --– On which posuk do you mean? [A talmid like me (no one will ever accuse me of being a 'goan') needs help sometimes.]

    --- Re: “רשפי אש,” which I said it seems to mean ‘burning fire,’ which also excludes merely flashes of lightning.]” – Sorry, I meant to say “burning coals of fire,” with the additional word “rishpei” ---- because רשף is the same letters as שרף [again my concordance notes the transposition of the positions of the first two letters to get words of similar meanings].

    In addition, and significantly, looking it up today I see that R’ Aryeh Kaplan, on the word “reshef” in Devorim 32:24, writes:

    Fever (Saadia; Radak, Sherashim; Ralbag), Reshef in Hebrew. See Habbakuk 3:5, Job 5:7. Also see Psalms 76:4, 78:48, Song of Songs 8:6. Or, “birds” (Targum; Ibn Ezra; Lekach Tov; Septuagint); “demons” (Berakhoth 5a; Rashi); “suffering” (Berakhoth 52); “burning fire” (Ibn Ezra; Chizzkuni); “hot coals,” “firebolts,” or, “meteorites?” (Baaley Tosafoth; Rashbam); “arrows” (Chizzkuni). Hence, “consumed by fever,” “with burning flesh,” “eaten by birds,” “stricken by firebolts,” “attacked by demons.

    (I still haven't had time to follow these additional sources.)

    To be continued…

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  69. Moshe F. - trying to keep it relevantJanuary 10, 2011 at 12:13 AM

    Binyamin Goldstein said... MISIDENTIFY!? Wow, if I was a brisker I’d go whacko on you (thank God I'm not).

    --- I admit ignorance as to what you mean by that (but I suppose that maybe here ignorance is bliss).

    --- You: The only other “meforesh” (that is easily accessible to me at the moment) that understands (explicitly) אש as fire is Targum.

    –--- I kind of like that Targum [it’s not really relevant here, but Targum is also Rashi's favorite (Rabbi Slifkin may understand what I mean from a previous communication, but it's not relevant here)].

    --- Re: R’ Moshe mentioned in Ibn Ezra, thanks for your history lesson, and yes I’d appreciate your friend’s input as to who this “moshe” is.

    --- You: I would share with you one of my Professors’ shittah on this possuq, but I'm pretty sure you wouldn’t care to hear it.

    --- I wouldn’t mind at all, but it’s R’ Slifkin’s show here, so for now, only if it’s relevant please.

    To be continued…

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  70. Moshe F. - Meteor in HebrewJanuary 10, 2011 at 1:46 AM

    Binyamin Goldstein said... You really should consider getting an academic biblical Hebrew dictionary)

    --- Agreed, that would be a good idea… Meanwhile, here is one of my linguistic suggestions: The English word “meteor,” spelled מטאור in my EH dictionary – see also online: http://www.milon.co.il/general/general.php?term=meteor – is likely derived from the Hebrew מטה אור, a “light that tilts/falls down,” or from מט אור, “mot” or “mateh” as in “rod” or “staff,” since when it streaks through the sky it appears as a “shooting star,” as a “rod of light” (and also because this great meteor shower of Borod-stones was brought about by the Staff of Moshe.

    See also http://www.lingvozone.com/main.jsp?action=translation&do=dictionary&language_id_from=23&language_id_to=25&word=meteor&t.x=63&t.y=11 – that אלגבאיש is also brought as the Hebrew word for “meteor.” --- Maybe Reb BG should also keep checking other dictionaries...

    Also, in my old "New Bantam-Megiddo H & E dictionary" another word for meteor is given, "shalhov," שלהב.

    In addition, if I remember correctly, the Hebrew words ברקים and זיקים can also on occasion refer to meteors and/or comets (I can’t at the moment however recall where I got this from, but it certainly was some Rabbinic work)… Isn't this correct?

    To be continued...

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  71. Moshe F. - hovering in midairJanuary 10, 2011 at 1:59 AM

    I said: “--- Don’t you see from this that this ‘borod’ could not have been “hail.” Chazal are stating that the giant stones stayed in the sky for more than a generation! What hail do you know of that just “hangs out” up in the sky for years and years without falling? Chazal are saying that the same stones, from the same source in the sky, fell to earth scores of years apart. “

    Reb BG said--- No. First of all, לע"ד, chazal are saying that the “stones” stopped in midair when Moshe prayed, and then fell for Joshua.

    ---- So the “stones,” which you continue insisting are “hailstones,” just “stopped in midair” and hovered there for a generation? Just what do you mean by this? What else hovers in midair defying gravity for decades? Do you want to buy a bridge? I can get you a great deal on the GWB, the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Verrazano Bridges, and maybe a few more thrown in for good measure…

    It seems that your idea is not grounded in reality.

    To be continued...

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  72. Moshe F. - דרך כוכב מיעקבJanuary 10, 2011 at 2:56 AM

    “Dorach kochov miYaakov,” דרך כוכב מיעקב (Bamidbar 24:17) – even though it has its detractors, we should give Artscroll a chance at least once in a while:

    “As noted above, however, Ramban interprets this entire passage with reference to Messianic times. According to him, Messiah is called a ‘star’ – more likely a shooting star, or meteor – because he will have to flash across heaven, visible to the whole world….”

    ---- So here is another Torah reference to a comet/meteor.

    It is interesting to think that just as the “go’el acharon” is compared to a comet/meteor – and so too Dovid haMelech – similarly, the “go’el rishon,” Moshe Rabbeinu, could be compared to a comet/meteor.

    It is appropriate that Moshe's so-to-speak spontaneous arrival on the scene to take the Jews out of Egypt was accompanied by a real comet and meteors that awesomely demonstrated Hashem’s power to all the world.

    To be continued…

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  73. Moshe F. - Recent Coment FindingsJanuary 10, 2011 at 3:40 AM

    ---Reb BG said: COMET?! ICE?! (jk)

    ---Is that (jk) “joke”?

    BTW, FYI up till now the prevalent theory about comets was that they are either “dirty-snowballs” or “snowy-dirtballs,” however this idea is changing since the close-up missions to several comets, and the study of impacts on them. See for e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comet#Recent_findings – comets have been found to be “hot and dry,” and not “loosely cemented rubble piles,” and “the materials retrieved demonstrate that the "comet dust resembles asteroid materials."[68] These new results have forced scientists to rethink the nature of comets and their distinction from asteroids.[69]”

    TBC...

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  74. Moshe F. - Forbidden booksJanuary 10, 2011 at 4:06 AM

    ---Reb BG said: Thanks, but I'm minoring in Classics at YU (not the same type, but also forbidden ;)
    I’ll take a look at his book.

    --- Hip Hip Hooray! What about you IH?

    --- Reb BG: You should read Kenneth Kitchen’s “On the Reliability of the Old Testament”. Awesome book, if a bit maximalist.

    ---I found it online and plan to do just that, time allowing.

    ---Reb BG: Don’t try to bring raayos from אלגביש, look at page 51 of the Koehler Baumgartner, who prove that it means “lumps of ice”

    --- Prove??? Are you sure about that? I'm not yet convinced that I have to accept "proof" from Koehler and Baumgartner... I didn't actually see their words on this though, can you give us a clue as to what you found indisputable?

    TBC...

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  75. Moshe F. - More on Comets/MeteorsJanuary 10, 2011 at 4:09 AM

    BTW, in Yehoshua ch. 10, why call these "stones" from the sky אבנים גדולות -- if it is as you say just hail, why not just say something like ברד גדולים (Borod takes loshon zochor right?) to get the idea across that they were large, we already know that ice is hard?

    Also, if we have a comet/meteor event in the time of Avrohom, and a comet/meteor event in the time of Yehoshua (I still haven't heard from you that the stopping of the sun and the moon in the sky wasn't a massive planetary event) -- so why are you and others so loath to consider the idea that the major events that happened in the time of Moshe were also very likely to also have been comet/meteor events?

    -- Here's another word interpretation for you; "comet" may come from the Hebrew כה מת, since when Moshe said כה אמר ה and he warned of the Makas Bechoros, when the firstborn would die, מת, it is very likely that a Comet was clearly visible in the sky...

    TBC

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  76. Moshe F. - Definitions and HintsJanuary 10, 2011 at 4:56 AM

    Definitions:

    Meteor: Origin:
    1570–80; < NL meteōrum < Gk metéōron meteor, a thing in the air, n. use of neut. of metéōros raised in the air, equiv. to met- met- + eōr- (var. s. of aéirein to raise) + -os adj. suffix

    Comet: Origin:
    1150–1200; ME comete < AF, OF < L comētēs, comēta < Gk komḗtēs wearing long hair, equiv. to komē-, var. s. of komân to let one's hair grow (deriv. of kómē hair) + -tēs agent suffix

    ------- [The website I got these word origins from had something else as the origin of the English word “comb,” but perhaps it is also related to the “hair” of “comet”?]

    Hints:

    Another hint in Hebrew to the word “comet”: דרך כוכב מיעקב וקם שבט מישראל – it is possible to say more specifically that “dorach kochov” hints to meteors, shooting stars, while “kom shevt” hints “komets”/”comets” – Again, this is a Drosha, not necessary Pshat.

    Both Pshat and Drush are important components of Torah. Hope you enjoyed reading these thoughts.

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  77. Moshe F:
    Thanks for the link to the hail video.
    “On which posuk do you mean?”
    Radaq Psalms 78:47 s.v. וחנמל.
    “Re: R’ Moshe mentioned in Ibn Ezra, thanks for your history lesson, and yes I’d appreciate your friend’s input as to who this “moshe” is.”
    I’ll get back to you when I find out.
    “You: I would share with you one of my Professors’ shittah on this possuq, but I'm pretty sure you wouldn’t care to hear it.
    --- I wouldn’t mind at all, but it’s R’ Slifkin’s show here, so for now, only if it’s relevant please.”
    One of my Bible Professors in YU proposed the following understanding of Ps. 29:7. He understood the אש to refer to the lighting that “cleaves” the grey cloud, which is metaphorically imagined as stone. This interpretation is motivated by the use of the verb חצב, which is normally used with stone, not other materials. (cp. חטב)

    “…is likely derived from the Hebrew מטה אור, a “light that tilts/falls down,” or from מט אור, “mot” or “mateh” as in “rod” or “staff,” since when it streaks through the sky it appears as a “shooting star,” as a “rod of light” (and also because this great meteor shower of Borod-stones was brought about by the Staff of Moshe.
    As I see you sobered up about the origin of “meteor” in a later comment, I won’t bother responding to this. Never bring any proof from Modern Hebrew for anything regarding Biblical Hebrew. It’s not a good idea.
    “I kind of like that Targum [it’s not really relevant here, but Targum is also Rashi's favorite”
    I’m doing my PhD on Targum Proverbs (hopefully). You should read up on Targum, it’s a neglected field in frum circles. I would recommend P. Churgin’s small book “Targum Jonathan to the Prophets”, which, if a bit outdated, covers all the important issues (and you have to love his footnotes, he cleans the floor with some others, less-deserving of the title “scholar”). Stating generally that Tg is Rashi’s favorite is technically inaccurate. He did not have (or did not use) TgProv (I’ve started to lean towards the second possibility recently b/c of a citation in Sam.) at all.
    (btw, Rashi only quotes Targum in Tehillim 6 times, last I counted)
    “אלגבאיש is also brought as the Hebrew word for “meteor.” --- Maybe Reb BG should also keep checking other dictionaries...”
    As I wrote, neither I nor any scholar of biblical Hebrew would consider Modern Hebrew a proof (or indeed, a support) for anything Biblical. Another area that is not widely known in frum circles is the development of Hebrew. A great book (collection of essays, really) is “Hebrew from Ezra to Ben Yehuda”.

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  78. “So the “stones,” which you continue insisting are “hailstones,” just “stopped in midair” and hovered there for a generation? Just what do you mean by this? What else hovers in midair defying gravity for decades? Do you want to buy a bridge? I can get you a great deal on the GWB, the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Verrazano Bridges, and maybe a few more thrown in for good measure…”
    No, of course I don’t think so, but I think that it is clear that some members of Chazal did. I suggest you expand your marketing audience to pre-6th century Near East.
    “So here is another Torah reference to a comet/meteor.”
    This is a little stretch of the truth. The Ramban thinks that it is. I haven’t looked into it, and will demur from offering an opinion.

    “It is interesting to think that just as the “go’el acharon” is compared to a comet/meteor – and so too Dovid haMelech – similarly, the “go’el rishon,” Moshe Rabbeinu, could be compared to a comet/meteor.”
    1. Drush has its place, and it is not in peshat. I don’t mind if you want to use drush for a drasha, moral speech, etc. , but never, never for Peshat.
    2. “and so too Dovid hamelech” Did you just stretch the connection between David and the Messiah to cover every aspect? Meheikha teisi Dovid is compared to a comet? And even the first premise is only based on the ramban.
    3. Accepting all the assumptions you have made about this, (which IMHO, no one could do with a clear conscience), how does Moshe being “compared to a comet/meteor” support saying that barad was a “comet/meteor”? Yehoshua was compared to the moon, so why didn’t the Moon stop instead of the sun (I am being facetious, this line of reasoning is obviously flawed)
    “It is appropriate that Moshe's so-to-speak spontaneous arrival on the scene to take the Jews out of Egypt was accompanied by a real comet and meteors that awesomely demonstrated Hashem’s power to all the world.”
    …and a hailstorm would not have done the same?
    “JK”
    Yes, I was kidding. Thank you for the science lesson.
    “What about you IH?”
    What is IH? (I assume you meant “your IH”?)

    “Prove??? Are you sure about that?”
    They prove it to my satisfaction.
    “ I'm not yet convinced that I have to accept "proof" from Koehler and Baumgartner”
    Statements like this one is where I came off asking what your “angle” was. It seems that you have a streak of anti-academia. They were both amazing Hebrew scholars, building on the works of other massive Hebrew scholars like gesenius and S.r. Driver., so, while one shouldn’t accept anything they say without reading the ful piece and judging for themselves, they should keep in mind that their knowledge of Hebrew is dwarfed by that of the scholars they are reading.
    “BTW, in Yehoshua ch. 10, why call these "stones" from the sky אבנים גדולות -- if it is as you say just hail, why not just say something like ברד גדולים (Borod takes loshon zochor right?) to get the idea across that they were large, we already know that ice is hard? “
    It means “great stones”, with stone not implying “rock”, as in English, the stone of a fruit.

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  79. “Also, if we have a comet/meteor event in the time of Avrohom, and a comet/meteor event in the time of Yehoshua (I still haven't heard from you that the stopping of the sun and the moon in the sky wasn't a massive planetary event) -- so why are you and others so loath to consider the idea that the major events that happened in the time of Moshe were also very likely to also have been comet/meteor events?”
    Because of the simple fact that: Just because there was an astronomical event of astronomical size in the case of Joshua (about which I have not yet decided) and Abraham, this does not mean that we should go wild and ascribe everything to this. I, too, know the feeling of discoverer’s enthusiasm. The TEXT must be analyzed and interpreted, without a predetermined bias to interpret things as connected with astronomical events (as Velikovsky does, or so I have read), to arrive at the correct meaning. I am not loath to consider it, but I am generally loath to accept incorrect interpretation in Biblical or other texts.
    “Here's another word interpretation for you; "comet" may come from the Hebrew כה מת, since when Moshe said כה אמר ה and he warned of the Makas Bechoros, when the firstborn would die, מת, it is very likely that a Comet was clearly visible in the sky...”
    See my comments on the “mateh or”
    “Both Pshat and Drush are important components of Torah. Hope you enjoyed reading these thoughts.”
    I fully agree, however, I make a distinction between them, and never use drush to understand the text of the torah. The way I see drush is that it is a genre that uses the text of the Torah, not vice versa.
    I did enjoy, very much so. I hope you enjoyed reading mine and mine on yours.

    PS: I would prefer if you didn’t call me Reb Binyamin. Thanks

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  80. Binyamin Goldstein said...Thanks for the link to the hail video.

    ----It is also quite common for there to be thunder and lightning during a hail storm, and people have been killed from hail not just from direct hits or from falling buildings they topple, but also through drowning in the accumulated hail and melt water.

    --Radaq Psalms 78:47 s.v. וחנמל.

    ---- Thanks. I see that he says “chanomal” are the largest type of “borod,” which break even strong trees, while the regular “borod” breaks only the weaker vines, which לע"ד makes sense.

    --I’ll get back to you when I find out.

    ---- Good. I don’t see why you belittle this R’ Moshe, whoever he may have been, since ibn Ezra considered his opinion worth mentioning l’doros…

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  81. Moshe F. - Psalm 29:7January 11, 2011 at 6:11 AM

    --One of my Bible Professors in YU proposed the following understanding of Ps. 29:7. He understood the אש to refer to the lighting that “cleaves” the grey cloud, which is metaphorically imagined as stone. This interpretation is motivated by the use of the verb חצב, which is normally used with stone, not other materials. (cp. חטב)

    ---- You were right, I didn’t get it at all - until I opened my Soncino, which paints the Psalm as describing the buildup of violent storm clouds, their approach upon the wind, and “chotzaiv lahavos aish” as “the forked lightnings which shoot through the dark cloud.” It is likely your professor got his idea from this.

    Rashi has a different idea, that the whole Psalm is about the giving of the Torah, and things like “the voice of Hashem shatters the cedars of Lebanon” he describes as allegorical, in that “cedars of Lebanon” really means the nations of the world whose strength was shattered at Matan Torah.

    I would like though to think that here the more literal could also have inspired the Psalm, as in the storm cloud interpretation, however, there are not too many storm winds that can shatter the mighty cedar trees. I suppose a hurricane or tornado could do it, but I envision something more akin to the mysterious 1908 event in Tunguska, Russia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunguska_event, which destroyed and flattened a forest and was accompanied by a tremendous noise, and of course some connection to either a comet or meteor. חצב להבות אש could be "cleaving" the incoming rock into various flaming fragments as it hurdles to the earth.

    --As I see you sobered up about the origin of “meteor” in a later comment, I won’t bother responding to this. Never bring any proof from Modern Hebrew for anything regarding Biblical Hebrew. It’s not a good idea.

    ---- I should not have used the word “derived,” but you figured me out anyway, I only meant “mateh orh” and the like as a remez, but it does seem to fit nicely.

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  82. Moshe F. - Targum and translationJanuary 11, 2011 at 6:34 AM

    Binyomin, you are way ahead of me on the Targum and linguistics in general. I was thinking of Targum on Chumash, where Targum Onkelus is his most quoted and depended upon peirush, with or without attribution by name. As for the translation of אלגבאיש as “meteor,” they didn’t get that out of thin air, and someone obviously made the same connection as I described.

    About stones hovering for years in the sky, you said: No, of course I don’t think so, but I think that it is clear that some members of Chazal did. I suggest you expand your marketing audience to pre-6th century Near East. ---- I expect that Chazal knew though that “hail” doesn’t hover for years, since they had ample experience with normal weather changes, it was only with respect to the extremely rare falling of rocks and fire from the sky, that they really didn’t have a clue, and therefore they expressed themselves the way they did.

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  83. Binyomin said:

    1. Drush has its place, and it is not in peshat. I don’t mind if you want to use drush for a drasha, moral speech, etc. , but never, never for Peshat.

    ---- I agree with you 100%.

    2. “and so too Dovid hamelech” Did you just stretch the connection between David and the Messiah to cover every aspect? Meheikha teisi Dovid is compared to a comet? And even the first premise is only based on the ramban.

    ---- See the Artscroll Chumash (The Stone Edition) inside, where in the same paragraph, just before the section mentioning Ramban that I quoted, it says: “The identity of the “king” is the subject of dispute. According to Rashi and Ibn Ezra, it is David, the first great conqueror among Jewish kings, who was victorious over Moab (II Samuel 8:2).”

    3. Accepting all the assumptions you have made about this, (which IMHO, no one could do with a clear conscience), how does Moshe being “compared to a comet/meteor” support saying that barad was a “comet/meteor”?

    ---- Fine, it’s a drosha, but it “fits.”

    --Yehoshua was compared to the moon, so why didn’t the Moon stop instead of the sun (I am being facetious, this line of reasoning is obviously flawed)

    ---- But the moon did also stop for Yehoshua, are you asking why the SUN stopped for him?; So if Moshe, Dovid and Moshiach are connected in some way with a comet/meteor, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind it that Yehoshua joins them in this… Somewhere it says that “dorach kochov m’Yaakov” applies to each and every Jew (and I’m not being facetious about it, and don’t think the reasoning is flawed in any way). No, a hailstorm is not the same!

    --What is IH? (I assume you meant “your IH”?) ---- No, IH was another commenter who ridiculed Velikovsky.

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  84. Moshe F. - Acedemic Stones?January 11, 2011 at 7:28 AM

    Re: accepting "proof" from Koehler and Baumgartner, you said: They prove it to my satisfaction.

    ---- Granted, I “have a streak of anti-academia” (maybe more than a “streak”), but I agree with you that if possible one should “read the full piece and judge for oneself.”

    Meanwhile, I asked you to kindly give a clue as to what this amazing proof is, by at least summarizing their argument for the rest of us amateurs [or could you at least cite a location where we can see it ourselves?].

    Re: the אבנים גדולות in Yehoshua ch. 10, you said: It means “great stones”, with stone not implying “rock”, as in English, the stone of a fruit.

    ----Huh? What does that mean? Did Hashem stone them with massive seeds?! [Did some land in Israel and sprout into giant grapes?]

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  85. Moshe F. - Trends and PardesJanuary 11, 2011 at 7:42 AM

    You said: The TEXT must be analyzed and interpreted, without a predetermined bias to interpret things as connected with astronomical events (as Velikovsky does, or so I have read), to arrive at the correct meaning. I am not loath to consider it, but I am generally loath to accept incorrect interpretation in Biblical or other texts.

    ---- I agree with you 100%, and that’s all I’m asking to be done. I’m just pointing out a trend that should be considered, and definitely not scoffed at.

    ---- There is much agreement at this website about Pshat and Drush having to be distinguished one from the other, and that serious problems develop when they are confused. But don’t forget Remez and Sod. We need to study the entire Pardes of the Torah [maybe the Pardes grows from the giant seeds that Hashem rains down....]

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  86. I’m in a hospital bed now, so I apologize if my response is a bit short or incoherent.
    “I don’t see why you belittle this R’ Moshe, whoever he may have been, since ibn Ezra considered his opinion worth mentioning l’doros…”
    I'm not sure that the fact that ibn Ezra quotes someone is grounds for assuming that he thought highly of it. For example, he quotes karaite commentators such as yefet ben Eli and others, and in many cases, he does not argue with them, but merely voices his own opinion. My point is, ibn Ezra is a slippery character (my idol, Shadal, did not like him one bit) when it comes to discerning his true opinion.
    I hope I didn’t belittle him, and if I did, I am here publicly asking mechila, he has just as much a right to opinion of biblical interpretation as me.
    “You were right, I didn’t get it at all - until I opened my Soncino, which paints the Psalm as describing the buildup of violent storm clouds, their approach upon the wind, and “chotzaiv lahavos aish” as “the forked lightnings which shoot through the dark cloud.” It is likely your professor got his idea from this.”
    I have great respect for someone who can admit they were wrong (if you have any tips on how to do it, I could use them). I don’t know for sure, but I highly doubt that my prof. ever read or referenced the soncino, as he is a very ‘’Hebrew only’’ type guy ( of course he does reference English writings, but not )
    “Rashi has a different idea, that the whole Psalm is about the giving of the Torah, and things like “the voice of Hashem shatters the cedars of Lebanon” he describes as allegorical, in that “cedars of Lebanon” really means the nations of the world whose strength was shattered at Matan Torah.”
    I know. I took the psalms course last semester. We do all the Rishonim as well as the academic commentaries. There are a bunch of different interesting overall perushim for this mizmor.
    “I only meant “mateh orh” and the like as a remez, but it does seem to fit nicely.”
    I hear, and while I appreciate cute shticklach (really), I don’t use them in serious linguistic analyses.
    “I expect that Chazal knew though that “hail” doesn’t hover for years, since they had ample experience with normal weather changes”
    I hear where you are coming from, but I'm not sure if that is correct. We aren’t talking aboutlow altitude observations here. And if chazal mistook the physical reality of clouds (masekhes rosh hashana, I cant remember what daf now, if you want ill look it up), then why couldn’t they mistakenly have thought that hail can stop in midair and fall years later?

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  87. “As for the translation of אלגביש as “meteor,” they didn’t get that out of thin air, and someone obviously made the same connection as I described.”
    I can guess at why modern Hebrew (MoH) took אלגביש as “meteor”. It’s a falling something–that fact everyone agrees with. So why not generalize the meaning. Also, the ‘’inventors’’ of moH didn’t have access to many of the reasons that we now understand it to mean just hail.
    “Meanwhile, I asked you to kindly give a clue as to what this amazing proof is, by at least summarizing their argument for the rest of us amateurs [or could you at least cite a location where we can see it ourselves?].”
    I don’t have access to the K&B at the moment, but it’s on page 51 (I referenced it before).
    “No, a hailstorm is not the same!”
    Really? In my understanding (I’m probably wrong), there really is not middle ground with meteorite damage. It’s either a shower of small pieces that all burn up in the atmosphere, or few large pieces that demolish everything, but don’t occur in large showers. Basically, my question is: do meteor showers that can properly fit the implications of the text (more of a storm covering all of Egypt) AND do significant damage, ever occur? Sodom and Gomorra could have been a single gigantic meteor (gigantic for meteors, which I understand is not particularly large) accompanied by smaller pieces that didn’t reach the ground, but were perceived as אש וגפרית.
    “Huh? What does that mean? Did Hashem stone them with massive seeds?! [Did some land in Israel and sprout into giant grapes?]”
    Not a bad idea, but I was merely indicating that just as in English “stone” could mean simply “hard ball” (not the game), so too in Hebrew, as I wrote twice before.
    “There is much agreement at this website about Pshat and Drush having to be distinguished one from the other, and that serious problems develop when they are confused. But don’t forget Remez and Sod. We need to study the entire Pardes of the Torah”
    I personally disagree with the veracity of the idea of pardes, although I do believe that there are (occasionally) multivalent meanings to a text (biblical or otherwise).

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  88. Natan,
    Icy balls of fire exist in nature, so why do you consider this aginst the rational pshat?

    See the picture at this link from Scientific American of an icy ball of fire.
    Icy Balls of Fire
    Go look at the original print picture in the 1999 issue if you can find it. It is truly amazing.

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  89. The discussion here is misguided. The idea of icy balls of fire is not drash. It's simple pshat in the pasuk "Vehaesh mitlakachat betokh habarad". If the intention was lightning it would have said so. The plain sense is fire contained within the ice ball, i.e. a gas hydrate.

    Not only is the icy ball of fire simple pshat, there is nothing irrational about it as I pointed out in my previous post. I encourage readers to look at the pictures of burning methane hydrate (or clathrate) and videos which are plentiful on the web.

    How did the balls of fire fall from the sky in the makah of barad? I don't know, but neither do we have any convincing theory about how all these icy balls of fire formed at the bottom of our oceans. As good a theory as any is that they came from comets breaking up over the earth's atmosphere. Okay, I admit this was most likely to have happened during the ice age but the physics of the formation of clathrates is not well enough understood to rule out a more recent event. Why do so many people on this list feel a need to negate the pshat. The fact that it's not part of your everyday experience, doesn't make it irrational.

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  90. Moshe F. - אש מתלקחתJanuary 20, 2011 at 10:08 PM

    Nice thought PMOses, I followed your link and others searching for burning ice. The only natural explanation for such a phenomenon would be as I have been explaining, and as you wrote, “comets breaking up over the earth's atmosphere.”

    One important thing not yet stressed in this post from the wording of the Posuk about the Borod, is that it says (Shmos 9:24) ויהי ברד ואש מתלקחת בתוך הברד – that the “aish”/“fire” (not lightning) was “mislakachas” – from the root לקח – “holding on “ in the midst of the Bord.

    It seems like quite a stretch to use such a wording if all that this fire was, was lightning. Rather to me it seems much more likely that the verse is telling us that this burning “fire” was attached to the Borod – either as PMOses suggests, to actual ice (but not H2O-water ice), or as explained above, that Borod also means rocky meteorites, and the descriptive word "mislakachas" indicates that the fire was burning from them.

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  91. Moshe F. - לפידים ואבניםJanuary 20, 2011 at 10:13 PM

    In Parshas Yisro by Mattan Torah there are other Pesukim related to the discussion, with the thundering and lightning strikes and burning fire and cloud of smoke on Mt. Sinai.

    Right after the Ten Commandments, it says (Shmos 20:15) וכל העם ראים את הקולת ואת הלפידם, that all the people saw the Sound-Blasts and the “lapidim” – the word “lapidim” can only naturally mean “torches,” i.e., something actually burning, which implies something other than lightning, but fits nicely with the idea of flaming meteorites.

    Incidentally, on this verse the Rashbam writes הברד והאבנים כדכתיב קולות אלקים וברד (שמות ט:כח, referring to “Borod” and “rocks” – seeming to imply that both at Mattan Torah and in the plague of Borod, there were mineral rocks that fell from the sky, i.e., meteorites or comet debris.

    Also incidentally, I recently had yohrtzeit for a relative and in reciting the Mishna Mikvo’os perek 7, mishna 1, where the word “Borod” is used, and there is a discussion of whether or not “snow, hail (borod), frost, ice, salt or soft mud” may be added to a mikva for it to reach the proper measure of 40 se’ah. ר' יוחנן בן נורי אומר אבן הברד כמים, R’ Yochanan ben Nuri said: Stones of hail are like [drawn] water [which disqualifies the mikveh (but the Halacha is not like this)]. Anyway, it seems that here the discussion is about hailstones, not “even haborod” that I was describing as meteorites, even though both words “even” and “borod” are used…

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  92. Moshe F. - Stuff still hanging in airJanuary 20, 2011 at 10:37 PM

    Binyamin Goldstein – hope you are better from when we last heard from you.

    You asked, “why couldn’t they mistakenly have thought that hail can stop in midair and fall years later?” --- if Chazal meant it as a totally supernatural-miraculous event, then anything at all is possible, but where else do we see a miracle sustained like this, seemingly for no reason, for the span of a generation? And “hayad Hashem tiktzor,” why would it have to be the same source of “Borod,” can’t Hashem make more Borod whenever it is needed?

    However for those like us who are trying to find an explanation that it was a natural but extremely fortuitous event by Hashgacha Protis, we can understand it now as something that remained in orbit in outer space that didn’t finish falling to earth until much later (some of that Borod may still be floating somewhere in space).

    --- Unfortunately I still haven’t found time to follow up on trying to find your K&B citation.

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  93. Moshe F. - meteorite damageJanuary 20, 2011 at 11:40 PM

    --- Binyomin Goldstein wrote: “In my understanding (I’m probably wrong), there really is not middle ground with meteorite damage. It’s either a shower of small pieces that all burn up in the atmosphere, or few large pieces that demolish everything, but don’t occur in large showers. Basically, my question is: do meteor showers that can properly fit the implications of the text (more of a storm covering all of Egypt) AND do significant damage, ever occur? Sodom and Gomorra could have been a single gigantic meteor (gigantic for meteors, which I understand is not particularly large) accompanied by smaller pieces that didn’t reach the ground, but were perceived as אש וגפרית.”

    See http://www.oberlin.edu/faculty/bsimonso/group9.htm about meteorite caused death, injury and damage.

    Also see the following examples and there is more on the web available by searching for meteorite damage etc.:

    http://www.psrd.hawaii.edu/Dec97/impactBlast.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteorite

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLM1pfgv9IE

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  94. "One important thing not yet stressed ... is that it says (Shmos 9:24) ויהי ברד ואש מתלקחת בתוך הברד – that the “aish”/“fire” (not lightning) was “mislakachas” – from the root לקח – “holding on “ in the midst of the Bord.

    It seems like quite a stretch to use such a wording if all that this fire was, was lightning. Rather to me it seems much more likely that the verse is telling us that this burning “fire” was attached to the Borod – either as PMOses suggests, to actual ice (but not H2O-water ice), or as explained above, that Borod also means rocky meteorites, and the descriptive word "mislakachas" indicates that the fire was burning from them."
    Moshe F., Thank you for wishing me well.
    1. I have conclusively demonstrated that אש CAN mean lightning
    2. Why would there be thunder (I do not assume that you believe קולות are anything but that) without lightning?
    3. a) Learn some Hebrew Grammar. מתלקחת is a participle of the hitpael construct. This means that the INDISPUTABLE meaning of the word is "self-taking" or "self-consuming" (as the construct is reflexive) i.e. FLASHING, not CLINGING. (but hey, at least you got the shoresh right!)
    b) If you stick to your guns (or folly, whichever you prefer), the only other place in the Bible where the word מתלקחת occurs is in Ezekiel in the maaseh hamerkava. In this occasion, there is nothing for the fire to "cling to", so I don't really see how you would continue to understand the word as describing the fire's clinging to the hail. Thus, even if you fail to see the simple truth of the grammar I have presented, you must agree that מתלקחת cannot indicate any association between the fire and the hail
    4. Thanks for the source. Miqvaos 7:1 is a perfect proof that אבן (at the least, in conjunction with ברד) is used in Hebrew to mean ice.

    "You asked, 'why couldn’t they mistakenly have thought that hail can stop in midair and fall years later?' --- if Chazal meant it as a totally supernatural-miraculous event, then anything at all is possible"
    You misunderstood what I said. I said "why couldn’t they mistakenly have thought that hail can stop in midair and fall years later?" What I meant by this was "Why couldn't they have mistakenly have thought that hail can stop NATURALLY in midair and fall years later?" I WAS NOT proposing that chazal thought that it was a "totally supernatural-miraculous event" at all, but that their science could have been mistaken and that they could have thought that this was natural. (This is why I went on a little tangent about their thoughts on clouds)
    On your last comment, all of these links prove my (assumed and uneducated) point, that all minor meteor events are individual events (one small meteor hits one person/car/building). In any case, since barad can only mean ice, and esh can mean lightning, and there is thunder hear, which cannot happen without lightning, all of these points are moot.

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  96. Moshe F. - difference between Can and MustJanuary 23, 2011 at 10:53 PM

    Binyamin Goldstein said...
    1. I have conclusively demonstrated that אש CAN mean lightning

    ---- Hi. Previously I wrote: “Sorry, but I meant is there anywhere that it is מוכרח, indisputable, that “aish” means “lightning.” That some meforshim identify or misidentify the term as “lighting” is certainly not what I’m talking about.”

    Now I’ve again reviewed everything that you wrote in this thread, and you still have not “conclusively demonstrated” that אש MUST indisputably mean lightning even in ANY ONE specific posuk of Torah. That individuals, including respected meforshim, occasionally interpret “aish” as meaning lightning is not convincing to me that this is necessarily correct.

    There is a difference between "Can" and "Must," for example, in your comment: “Yoel 3:4 is sufficient to demonstrate that the word [דם] CAN simply mean "red".” ---- I much appreciate your observation, especially since seemingly in that verse the word “dam” MUST mean simply the color red. I'm only asking if there is any verse where "aish" MUST mean lightning in the same way as this example about "dam."

    Incidentally, you yourself even consented “Correction: The Koehler & Baumgartner does NOT explain אש here as lightning, but the BDB does.”

    It seems that you for some reason reject the 'holy' K&B's interpretation – maybe you are not ‘with-it’ enough with the latest “academic scholarship” ;-) --- BTW, what does K&B say "aish" is here by Makas Borod?

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  97. Moshe F. - Borod=Meteorites / volcanic material / educationJanuary 23, 2011 at 10:59 PM

    Binyomin, you wrote at the beginning of your comments: “I used to think (back in the day) that the Torah was describing a Meteorite shower, I do not now think that such an interpretation is plausible.” Pray tell, why did you originally think the meteorite explanation? What led you to that idea “back in the day”?

    ---- BTW, I enjoyed your previous comments about the possibility that Makos were caused by a violent volcanic explosion, with the subsequent raining down of burning lava and ash on Egypt that the volcano ejected, etc. – I believe that this too is a definite possibility that cannot be ruled out. [Indeed Velikovsky and others write about this as well.]

    ---- Also, you should know that I agree with you concerning what you wrote about education: “The problem is NOT that our children have these ideas when they are children, but that they do not grow out of them as part of their spiritual and mental development.”

    ---- I’m still preparing my reply to the other points in your latest comment. I’ll try to express my answers as clearly as possible.

    Cheers.

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  98. Moshe F. - Kolos that are NOT thunderJanuary 24, 2011 at 2:21 AM

    Binyamin Goldstein said: 2. Why would there be thunder (I do not assume that you believe קולות are anything but that) without lightning?

    ---- The word “kolos” means any sounds, not specifically “thunder,” and in the plague of Borod there is no reason to necessarily say it means “thunder.”

    In fact I previously wrote: For example: “A sonic boom is sometimes heard for very bright meteors, called fireballs. If the particle is larger than the mean free path of the air molecules, a high Mach number shock wave forms in front of the meteoroid. Very rarely, this shock wave penetrates deep enough in the atmosphere that it can be heard. It sounds like the sonic boom of an airplane...” And “If a meteor is brighter than any of the planets in the sky it is deemed a fireball (also called a bolide). A blazing bolide can also create a sonic boom that can be heard up to 30 miles away…” – and that Meteorites can also make a lot of noise, "kolos," when they hit the ground.

    For example, the shock and sound wave that knocked down the trees down for miles around at the 1908 incident at Tunguska, Russia, was certainly not normal “thunder.”

    That is why in translating the verse (Shmos 20:15) וכל העם ראים את הקולת ואת הלפידם, I wrote that the word Kolos means “Sound-Blasts,” specifically NOT using the word “thunder.”

    So certainly Kolos can be something other than thunder. Indeed, if one wants to specify "thunder" in Loshon Hakodesh, the more correct word would be רעמים [just as the specific word for lightning is ברקים]. Interestingly, this word “Re’amim” apparently does not occur in the Chumash, and only a limited number of times in Nevi’im and Kesuvim.

    Incidentally, it is not just the אבני אלגביש that stayed “floating in the sky” for a generation – it was also the קולות that returned again even much longer than that – see R’ Bachya on Makas Borod, where he says that the Kolos returned in the days of Elisha (Melochim 2, 7:6) and the same loud sound was heard by the camp of Aram ואדנ-י השמיע את מחנה ארם קול רכב וקול סוס קול חיל גדול וכו' - i.e., a loud blast of sound (sonic boom) that originated from the effect of an extra-terrestrial source crashing through the atmosphere.

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  99. Moshe F. - Zikin, Algavis stones, "motor" of meteorsJanuary 24, 2011 at 2:32 AM

    Previously I mentioned that I remembered from somewhere that the word זיקים means meteor or comet. Now I’ve found what I was looking for, in the Mishna and Gemora, last Perek of Brochos, that when one sees “zikin” one should say a blessing, על הזיקין ועל הזועות ועל הברקים ועל הרעמים ועל הרוחות אומר ברוך שכוחו וגבורתו מלא עולם.

    Most significantly, see the Gemora there Daf 54a – הרואה מעברות הים ומעברות הירדן מעברות נחלי ארנון אבני אלגביש במורד בית חורון ואבן שבקש לזרוק עוג מלך הבשן על ישראל ואבן שישב עליה משה בשעה שעשה יהושע מלחמה בעמלק ואשתו של לוט וחומת יריחו שההבלעה במקומה על כולן צריך שיתו הודאה ושבח לפני המקום – Here it says that the Avnei Algavish that fell in the days of Yehoshua were still thought to be able to be seen in the time of the Gemora.

    This indicates that Chazal did NOT consider these Avnei Algavish to be “hailstones,” which certainly would have melted shortly after they fell from the sky, but rather they knew that the Avnei Algavish were real mineral stones and rocks that do not melt or disintegrate for generations and generations.

    The ONLY things that fit this description are meteorites or rocks that fall from a comet or its tail."

    By the way, the word מטר, although generally it means “rain,” must mean meteorites when it is used in the story of Sadom and Amorah, וה' המטיר על סדם ועל עמרה גפרית ואש מאת ה' מן השמים – and seemingly similarly when used in the story of Makas Borod (9:18), הנני ממטיר כעת מחר ברד כבד מאד and (9:23) וימטר ה' ברד על ארץ מצרים and later (9:33) ומטר לא נתך ארצה – so as I did before, I’d like to point out “motor” is very similar sounding to the word “meteor,” and there may be some real connection (even if not acknowledged by the academics).

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  100. Moshe F. - Merkavas Yechezkeil / Yad HashemJanuary 24, 2011 at 3:08 AM

    Binyomin Goldstein said, 3. a) Learn some Hebrew Grammar. מתלקחת is a participle of the hitpael construct. This means that the INDISPUTABLE meaning of the word is "self-taking" or "self-consuming" (as the construct is reflexive) i.e. FLASHING, not CLINGING. (but hey, at least you got the shoresh right!)

    ---- I’m not going to argue grammar with you, but how does "self-taking" or "self-consuming" come to mean “FLASHING”? It really is quite a stretch of the imagination to say that it means such a thing. See also my next comment on Maaseh Hamerkava.

    Binyomin Goldstein said, b) If you stick to your guns (or folly, whichever you prefer), the only other place in the Bible where the word מתלקחת occurs is in Ezekiel in the maaseh hamerkava. In this occasion, there is nothing for the fire to "cling to", so I don't really see how you would continue to understand the word as describing the fire's clinging to the hail. Thus, even if you fail to see the simple truth of the grammar I have presented, you must agree that מתלקחת cannot indicate any association between the fire and the hail.

    ---- Actually I’ll just stick to my “words” on this [neither “guns” nor “folly” (“words” of truth are much more powerful than guns)]. Boruch shekivanti, please see the words of the Metzudos Tzion on Yechezeil (1:4), מתלקחת. מתלהב ובוער כמו ואש מתלקחת בתוך הברד, והוא מלשון לקיחה כי הלהב נלקח ונאחז בדבר הנשרף – which is exactly what I wrote before. The Metzudos apparently does not understand Hebrew grammar the way you do.

    As for what it the fire is clinging to in that verse, it is possible to say that the אבני ברד, meteor rocks, are not specifically mentioned there, nevertheless they are implied and understood; or see the Radak there, that it was clinging בתוך הענן, to materials in the clouds that he saw in his prophecy.

    BTW, it is not really relevant here – but for a while now I’ve wanted to bring to the attention of Rabbi Slifkin the Rashi on the previous verse, on the words ותהי עליו שם יד ה' – Rashi says: כל לשון יד האמורה בספר זה ובכל לשון נבואה אינה אלא לשון תוקף שהנבואה תוקפת על כרחו כאדם משתגע..., that anytime it says the word “hand” of G-d in any prophecy, it does not mean literally a hand (and that Hashem chas v’sholom has a body), but rather it only means the “force” of G-d. PLEASE NOTE THIS WELL - and that this is the opinion of RASHI!

    Rabbi Slifkin, I know you are very busy with zillions of other topics, but has any of my reasoning make any impression on you with regard to Borod? Do you still insist it means only hail, and that that the fire associated with it can only be lightning?

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  101. Moshe F. - Hailstones in a MikvaJanuary 24, 2011 at 3:36 AM

    Binyomin Goldstein said, 4. Thanks for the source. Miqvaos 7:1 is a perfect proof that אבן (at the least, in conjunction with ברד) is used in Hebrew to mean ice.

    ----Yes, I mentioned this because it does seem at first glance to counter what I wrote on Yehoshua ch. 10, why call these "stones" from the sky אבנים גדולות -- if it is as you say just hail, why not just say something like ברד גדולים to get the idea across that they were large, we already know that ice is hard?

    Similarly, here in Mikvo’os, there seemingly was no reason for Chazal to have say אבן הברד when seemingly the word ברד by itself would have been sufficient.

    However I’d like to point out that perhaps this was done to stress that the Mishna is not talking about melted hail, which everyone would agree is water, but specifically about hail that is still frozen and hard as אבן, and it was only concerning this form of frozen hail that its use for a mikva was in dispute.

    Incidentally, since a mikva requires a certain specific measure of water, and since water expands when it is frozen, so if the mikva was lacking only a small volume of water and one filled it precisely with this exact volume of ice, then when the ice melts (fast I hope, as I prefer a hot mikva), it really would be found that the mikva was still lacking the required volume. However I haven’t actually studied the Mishna, and regarding all of this עדין צ"ע.

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  102. Moshe F. - Hard as the stone of a fruitJanuary 24, 2011 at 3:52 AM

    Binyomin Goldstein said, It means “great stones”, with stone not implying “rock”, as in English, the stone of a fruit…

    -- and to my question, “Huh? What does that mean? Did Hashem stone them with massive seeds?! [Did some land in Israel and sprout into giant grapes?],

    he said -- Not a bad idea, but I was merely indicating that just as in English “stone” could mean simply “hard ball” (not the game), so too in Hebrew, as I wrote twice before.

    ---- OK, I finally figured out what you meant. Hard like the “stone” of a cherry.

    I was not aware that there are precedents for this usage in the Ancient Near East (ANE) languages. I searched a bit but couldn’t yet locate a copy of the K&B citation - and others trying to follow this probably are in a similar predicament - so I’ll try one more time to ask you to please, kindly, explain this matter for the rest of us ignoramuses.

    Thanks.

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  103. Moshe F. - Natural or SupernaturalJanuary 24, 2011 at 4:06 AM

    Binyomin Goldstein said, You misunderstood what I said. I said "why couldn’t they mistakenly have thought that hail can stop in midair and fall years later?" What I meant by this was "Why couldn't they have mistakenly have thought that hail can stop NATURALLY in midair and fall years later?" I WAS NOT proposing that chazal thought that it was a "totally supernatural-miraculous event" at all, but that their science could have been mistaken and that they could have thought that this was natural. (This is why I went on a little tangent about their thoughts on clouds)

    ---- OK, you are wondering if Chazal could have imagined it to be “natural” for hail to stop in midair and fall many years later. At the moment I would contend that Chazal could not have thought this was a natural event. They all thought it was absolutely “miraculous,” higher than nature. In their eyes there could be no “scientific” explanation for this or most of the other “miracles” mentioned in Tanach. For the most part the rationalistic approach of trying to understand these miracles as natural events that were just not understood in ancient times must have started much later.

    Rabbi Slifkin has certainly studied this matter more than me, and I’d like to hear his thoughts on this (for all I know this topic may be discussed elsewhere in his writings).

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  104. Moshe F. - Midrash's understanding of מתלקחתJanuary 24, 2011 at 4:50 AM

    A note on the word מתלקחת / “mislakachas” / “seizing to”:

    This post, “Great Icey Balls of Fire” started with the Midrash that the “Borod” – hail, or as I’ve been suggesting, meteors – was literally burning with fire actually on it.

    [BTW, I'm not sure about the English (linguistics not being my strong suit, nor spelling), however here "Icey" doesn't pass the spell checker, and seemingly it should be spelled "Icy" instead.]

    As Rabbi Slifkin's described the Midrash, "Many learned Jews assume that, in describing the plague of hail, the Torah says that the hailstones had fire inside them. Junior's parashah pictures included an illustration of blazing balls of ice. And, this time, it does indeed appear to be Rashi's view."

    ---- I’d like to point out the confirmation from this Midrash, that its authors (and Rashi) clearly also interpreted the word מתלקחת / “mislakachas” – in the same way that the Metzudos and the Radak did, and as I suggested above – that as implied from the shoresh לקח, the fire was directly seized onto the Borod.

    Again, according to the Midrash the word “mislakachas” does not mean “flashing” as Rabbi Slifkin translated, and as Binyomin has insisted. Rather it means that the fire was seized onto something, i.e., it was “burning on/in the Borod,” and the fire was not lightning, but burning materials that fell from the sky.

    BTW, it seems that the writers of the Midrash were not aware of, or interested in, the “grammar” as Binyomin presented it based on the understood of the modern academics (pardon my sarcasm, I really do love their efforts as well).

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  105. Moshe F. - Meteorite damage, NOT mootJanuary 24, 2011 at 5:45 AM

    Binyomin Goldstein said, On your last comment, all of these links prove my (assumed and uneducated) point, that all minor meteor events are individual events (one small meteor hits one person/car/building). In any case, since barad can only mean ice, and esh can mean lightning, and there is thunder hear, which cannot happen without lightning, all of these points are moot.

    ----- You don’t seem to have read the study very carefully. Aside from biblical events, it gives accounts of meteorite events killing “ten,” “tens,” up to “tens of thousands” of individuals, as well as “many” animals in fields. In addition, meteorites have been observed to destroy buildings and property, and to have caused damaging fires. How can anyone say that all this shows are cases where “one small meteor his one person/car/building”?

    As for the biblical events, the destruction of Sedom and Amorah, which came from “a rain of fire and brimstone from the sky,” or the “giant rocks from the sky” that killed the enemies of Yehoshua, these clearly killed numerous people.

    With regard to the plague of Borod, even if as you imagine most meteor events a “minor,” “individual events,” still, the Torah itself testifies that this Makah was very usual, to the extent that כבד מאד אשר לא היה כמהו בכל ארץ מצרים מאז היתה לגוי, it was “so very grievous, such as had not been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.”

    Respectfully, all of these points are NOT moot.

    Cheers!

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  106. Moshe F. - Hashem's Mysterious LightningJanuary 24, 2011 at 9:00 AM

    Concerning lightning, most people do not realize how little understood it is. They imagine, falsely, that modern science has it figured out completely.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightning, which explains that there are many uncertainties and mysteries about lightning formation, and there are many different kinds of lightning: Cloud-to-ground lightning, including: Bead lightning, Ribbon lightning, Staccato lightning, Forked lightning; Ground-to-cloud lightning; Cloud-to-cloud lightning, Sheet lightning, Heat lightning, Dry lightning; Rocket lightning; Positive lightning; Ball lightning; Upper-atmospheric lightning, Sprites, Blue jets, Elves; Triggered lightning, Rocket-triggered, Volcanically triggered, Laser-triggered; Extraterrestrial lightning.

    Other electrical atmospheric fluorescence phenomenon include the various stunning auroras and what is called “St. Elmo's fire” or “St. Elmo's light.”

    In addition, Velikovsky and a number of “neo-Velikovsky” thinkers, based on traditions in many cultures throughout the world, theorized that in historical times there have been massive electric bolt discharges between bodies in our solar system, including between other planets, moons, asteroids and comets, and that our Earth also experienced such discharges.

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  107. This is the last time I’ll be responding in a while as my Spring semester just started.

    “Now I’ve again reviewed everything that you wrote in this thread, and you still have not “conclusively demonstrated” that אש MUST indisputably mean lightning even in ANY ONE specific posuk of Torah [sic]. That individuals, including respected meforshim, occasionally interpret ‘aish’ as meaning lightning is not convincing to me that this is necessarily correct.”
    You cannot set forth criteria for “indisputable” interpretation in the case of a word with multiple meanings because such criteria do not exist. What I mean when I say “I have conclusively demonstrated…” is that I have done so to my own, many modern scholars’, and many Medieval Classical Parshanim’s satisfaction, not that it is impossible for anyone to disagree. OK, you disagree, there is nothing I can do about it.

    “Incidentally, you yourself even consented ‘Correction: The Koehler & Baumgartner does NOT explain אש here as lightning, but the BDB does.’
    It seems that you for some reason reject the 'holy' K&B's interpretation – maybe you are not ‘with-it’ enough with the latest “academic scholarship” ;-) --- BTW, what does K&B say "aish" is here by Makas Borod?”
    I did not “consent”, I corrected myself. I misremembered that the KB says that, but actually it makes no mention. However, “omission does not indicate disapproval” (and don’t spring shtiqa ke’hodaah on me because it does not fit this case at all).
    K&B’s scholarship is not “holy”, but it is reliable. I do not reject it, as they do not even reference the instance of אש by barad, there is nothing to reject, they do not offer ANY interpretation. You assumed that they offered some interpretation that went against mine, and I therefore failed to mention it. I am not that unscrupulous.

    “Pray tell, why did you originally think the meteorite explanation? What led you to that idea ‘back in the day’?”
    I used to think that because I was a simpleton who had not learned Arabic or done any serious Biblical scholarship. Nothing in particular led me to that idea, just that it “seemed to fit”.

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  108. “The word ‘kolos’ means any sounds, not specifically ‘thunder,’ and in the plague of Borod there is no reason to necessarily say it means ‘thunder.’”
    I agree that it means “sounds” generically (obviously), but in conjunction with other meteorological phenomenon, show me another place in Tanakh where it is מוכרח (indisputable) that it doesn’t mean thunder (jk)!

    “For example, the shock and sound wave that knocked down the trees down for miles around at the 1908 incident at Tunguska, Russia, was certainly not normal ‘thunder.’”
    If the Barad was similar to the Tunguska event, bringing animals into the house would saved neither them nor the houses!
    Do you really think that “קול רכב וקול סוס קול חיל גדול” is the same sound as a sonic boom?
    “Berakhos 54a”
    I concede that there is an opinion in Chazal that the stones in Joshua were meteors.
    "מטר"
    No comment.

    “I was not aware that there are precedents for this usage in the Ancient Near East (ANE) languages. I searched a bit but couldn’t yet locate a copy of the K&B citation - and others trying to follow this probably are in a similar predicament - so I’ll try one more time to ask you to please, kindly, explain this matter for the rest of us ignoramuses.”
    It is true that self-deprecation is the best way to bond with an audience, but I don’t consider you an ignoramus. I don’t have the KB at hand (I’m in my apt at YU at the moment)

    “Again, according to the Midrash the word ‘mislakachas’ does not mean ‘flashing’ as Rabbi Slifkin translated, and as Binyomin has insisted. Rather it means that the fire was seized onto something, i.e., it was ‘burning on/in the Borod,’ and the fire was not lightning, but burning materials that fell from the sky.
    BTW, it seems that the writers of the Midrash were not aware of, or interested in, the ‘grammar’ as Binyomin presented it based on the understood of the modern academics (pardon my sarcasm, I really do love their efforts as well).”
    1. Please explain the binyan of the word mislaqachas in your understanding. Why is it not in the qal?
    2. Chazal are not particularly adept in matters of grammar, as the fact that the names for the (PREEXISTING) grammatical phenomena had to be invented in the 9th and 10th cent. clearly indicates.
    3. The fact that Chazal were not aware of something does not make it any less true. What would you say to the פים?

    “the destruction of Sedom and Amorah, which came from ‘a rain of fire and brimstone from the sky,’ or the ‘giant rocks from the sky’ that killed the enemies of Yehoshua, these clearly killed numerous people.”
    Correct, but that did not just pick off the people and the cattle, it LEVELED the entire city, which didn’t happen in the case of Makkas Barad.
    PS I’ve read about St. Elmo’s fire and “foo fighters” (they came half a century before the band), amazingly interesting stuff, those.
    PPS I have immensely enjoyed our shaqla ve’tarya. If you respond, I’ll most likely not get back to it until after this semester (May 25th-ish)

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