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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...