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Monsters and Matzos
Here's a terrific riddle for Rosh Chodesh Nissan!
On Rosh Chodesh, we recite Barchi Nafshi, which mentions leviathan - the whale. What is the connection between the relatively rare findings of ancient whale bones on the coast of Israel, and the large size of matza that many people eat on Seder night?
And the answer is...
(giving you time to guess)
In areas such as north-western Europe, there was a large whaling industry. That's because they needed whale oil for lamps. But in Israel and the surrounding regions, they lit lamps from olive oil, and so there was never much of a demand for whaling. On other hand, because they didn't have olives in north-western Europe, not only did they need to hunt whales, but they also didn't know how big a kezayis was, and thus ended up with a large shiur of matzah!
What a great riddle for Seder night!
With Pesach approaching, it's kezayis season again. The monograph that I wrote on the evolution of the kezayis, from the size of an olive to a matzah ten times that size, seems to be the most popular piece that I have ever published. If you haven't read it, you can download it at this link. And it's also in my new book Rationalism vs. Mysticism, which you can purchase at this link.
Here is a list of other posts relating to this topic:
Matzah/Maror Chart for Rationalists - so that you, too, can have a chart!
The Popularity of Olives - exploring why this paper is so popular and yet hated by some.
Why On Earth Would One Eat A Kezayis? - discussing the strange notion that one should aim to eat a kezayis of matzah on Seder night.
The Riddle of the Giant Kezayis Defense - wondering why many people would not accept that a kezayis is the size of an olive.
Maniacal Dishonesty About Olives - exposing an error-ridden critique that appeared in the charedi polemical journal Dialogue.
It's Krazy Kezayis Time! - discussing the view that one should eat a huge amount of matzah in a very short time in order to fulfill all opinions.
The Kezayis Revolution - announcing the fabulous sefer by Rabbi Hadar Margolin, which presents the same arguments that I brought but in a more yeshivish manner. He also brings an astonishing array of evidence that many recent charedi gedolim likewise held that a kezayis is very small, including even the Chazon Ish! Best of all, the entire sefer can be freely downloaded.
Meanwhile, the new Biblical Museum of Natural History is open for tours, and will be open over Pesach too. However, unless the Covid restrictions are further relaxes, we are extremely limited in how many people we can accommodate. So book your tour now! Visit www.BiblicalNaturalHistory.org for more details.