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The Popularity of Olives
Pesach is approaching, which means that many people will be obsessing over the size of the olive-sized amount of matzah which is the minimum quantity to be consumed at the seder. My monograph "The Evolution of the Olive" is the most popular post ever on this blog. It has nearly 5000 views, which doesn't count all those who received it via e-mail. Countless people have expressed appreciation of it.
Why is this monograph so popular? Perhaps it is because so many people have wondered at the strangely large size of the kezayis given in most halachic works today. The mind cannot help but reel when confronted with a kezayis-book presenting, in pictures, a kezayis as being the size of several olives. And the historical explanation for this incongruity makes so much sense that it is immensely satisfying. "There is no pleasure like the resolution of doubt," as Redak famously stated (except that most people think that Chazal said it). Likewise, my Matzah Chart for Rationalists is also extremely popular.
Of course, there are some people who dislike the monograph (and it was rejected from a certain halachic journal). In some cases, this is because it reveals that the great Rishonim of Ashkenaz were not omniscient. But I wonder if in other cases the dislike is precisely because it makes so much sense. In a previous post, I asked why a certain theory is regarded as frum when expressed by kabbalists, but quasi-heretical when expressed by Rambam. One person suggested as follows:
Because one makes sense and one doesn't, and religious matters do not have to make sense... If it made perfect sense, it would be mathematic, not religious. By contrast, matters which today we call "kabbalistic" [even though they were never received from anyone] you can say literally anything you want, and adherents will nod enthusiastically. The less comprehensible it is, the more kabbalistic is it said to be.
I wonder if that might be the case here too. Perhaps it is precisely the mysteriousness and incongruity of the large kezayis that shows dedication to a higher authority.
(See too the following posts:
Why On Earth Would One Eat A Kezayis?
The Riddle of the Giant Kezayis Defense
The All-Time Most Popular Post)