Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Giants and Dwarfs

Some of the information in Sacred Monsters just became outdated!


In the chapter on giants, I listed Leonid Stadnyk as the tallest living person, at 8 feet 4 inches. He is currently not recognized as the tallest person due to his refusal to be measured; it is believed that he is "only" around 7 feet 8 inches. Instead, the record is currently held by Sultan Kösen, who made the headlines this week when he received treatment to his pituitary gland in order to prevent his growing beyond his current height of 8 feet 3 inches. The reason for the intervention was that the human skeleton is simply not strong enough to support such a large figure. (Which is a problem for those who insist that the Levi'im were all fifteen feet tall. But I don't think that there are many people who believe that anyway; I've never seen illustrations that depict them as being so tall.)


In the chapter on dwarfs, I listed Gul Mohammed of India (1957-1997) as the shortest person ever measured, at 22.5 inches tall. But a few weeks ago, a 72-year old Nepali villager, Chandra Bahadur Dangi, was measured at 21.5 inches tall. Pharaoh certainly theoretically could have been eighteen inches tall, as the Gemara says; but as I explained in Sacred Monsters, I don't think that this is what the Gemara meant.

Baruch meshaneh habriyos.

12 comments:

  1. That picture is hard to tell, but does Chandra have full legs? Does that affect the stat?

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  2. In the illustrated mishnayos by yoni on Shabbos in perek hazorek the leviim are shown to be much taller than normal men.

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  3. What publication is that?
    How tall are they depicted? 10 amos - fifteen feet?

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  4. When I was a kid I asked if Aharon was actually so tall, why did he need steps to reach the Menorah (which was three cubits high - the height of the average man)?

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  5. >>>> Which is a problem for those who insist that the Levi'im were all fifteen feet tall.

    why is this a problem. you know very well that "nishtana hatevah" and skeletons were very much sturdier 3000 years ago. or else can you explain that Og was more than 1000 feet tall.

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  6. a link for yoni

    http://www.alljewishlinks.com/the-illustrated-mishnayoth-shabbath-2/

    ar the captures meant to be a test of your intelligence to post here.

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  7. Oh no! Now I have to buy a third edition of the book?!?!?!?

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  8. > "Which is a problem for those who insist that the Levi'im were all fifteen feet tall."

    Did that fellow really insist that they were that tall, or did he perhaps, rather, intend to insist that one shouldn't be so fast to reject that possibility?

    > "Pharaoh certainly theoretically could have been eighteen inches tall, as the Gemara says"

    You mean, as many interpreters of Gemara's "amah" posit what the Gemara means.

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  9. "Pharaoh certainly theoretically could have been eighteen inches tall, as the Gemara says; but as I explained in Sacred Monsters, I don't think that this is what the Gemara meant."

    It is not easy for everyone to agree about what the Gemora or Midrashim really mean.

    For example, with regard to the relationship between Mordechai and Esther, the Gemora, Megillah 13a, states that Mordechai married Esther. Further, in Megillah 13b it states that Esther would be with Achashveirosh, dip in a mikva, and then be with Mordechai.

    Some Gedolim believe that both statements of the Gemora are literally true. They go to extreme lengths and twist logic to maintain these assumptions.

    Others believe that Mordechai and Esther were literally married, but they balk at the idea that they continued their marital relationship after Esther was taken by Achashveirosh. They understand the first statement literally while the second is understood allegorically and/or spiritually.

    Still others believe - based on their strong rationalist perspective - that neither of these statements of the Gemora are literally true. These including the Rambam (as explained by Kesef Mishna on Yad Hachazaka Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah beginning of Perek 5), Ibn Ezra on Esther 2:7, Sefer Yosef Lekach, and others. They understand these statement as being compeltely metaphorical and that the Gemora never meant for them to be taken literally.

    Evidently things have not changed very much since the Rambam's time, when as he lamented in his Peirush on Mishnayis, Prek Cheilek, that most religious Jews espoused an irrational world view and an irrational understanding of the sayings for Chazal. In our time still only a minute percentage of our co-religionists envision the Torah and the world in a rational way.

    Thankfully there is at least one place where people can go where preference for rationality is the norm. Thank you R' Slifkin.

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  10. "Baruch meshaneh habriyos."

    How do you understand this bracha? These people suffer from a grave deformity. No doubt their most fervent wish would be to be "normal".

    How could one praise Hashem for this?

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  11. Blessed are you, O mighty god who arbitrarily deforms some of his creatures at birth in all sorts of capricious and nasty ways.

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  12. PG said...

    "Baruch meshaneh habriyos."

    How do you understand this bracha? These people suffer from a grave deformity. No doubt their most fervent wish would be to be "normal".

    How could one praise Hashem for this?


    I can't speak for Rabbi Slifkin, but it is my understanding that in general, berachot are not praise of Hashem, but acknowledgement of Hashem. Baruch Dayan Haemet is a more common example. You don't stand there at the kevurah and say it with praise. You stand there at the kevura and acknowledge that Hashem is the true judge.
    Most things we say berachot for, we are actually glad or thankful for the subject of the beracha, and thus we might be moved by our acknowledgment to praise or thanksgiving. But the beracha in and of itself is not praise, but acknowledgment.

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