Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Nature of "The" Rakia, Part One

clip_image002Chazal (and most of the Rishonim) universally interpreted various words in the Torah to be describing the heavens as a solid firmament above us. And yet, nobody today believes that such a structure exists. …[T]his means that the mesorah was reinterpreted [actually, rejected][1] in light on modern science. Hence, we can do the same with regard to the mesorah about the nature of creation.

(Rabbi Natan Slifkin, Rationalist Judaism blog, Thursday, January 6, 2011, “The Big Picture of the Firmament”).

To grant himself license to dispute the mesorah, Rabbi Slifkin calls to evidence Chazal’s treatment of a verse in Sefer Iyov:

Chazal (and most of the Rishonim) universally interpreted various words in the Torah to be describing the heavens as a solid firmament above us. This was the universal, uncontested, view of Chazal, based on Pesukim such as that in Iyov 37:18: "Can you spread out the heavens with Him, hard[2] as a mirror of cast metal?" as well as various other usages in Tenach of the root רקע.”

Ibid., “How the Firmament was understood by our Sages,” Monday, November 22, 2010

Rabbi Slifkin (see ibid, “The Firming and Flattening of the Firmament,” Sunday, November 28, 2010”) is referring to the Talmud Yerushalmi at the beginning of Maseches Berachos (and a similar passage in Midrash Bereishis Rabbah 4:2)[3] on the verse, "Let there be a rakia."

מסכת ברכות דף ה/א פרק א הלכה א גמרא

רב אמר לחים היו שמים ביום הראשון ובשני קרשו.

רב אמר: "יהי רקיע"--יחזק הרקיע! יקרש הרקיע! יגלד הרקיע! ימתח הרקיע!

אמר רבי יודה בן פזי: יעשה כמין מטלית, הרקיע--היך מה דאת אמר, "וירקעו את פחי הזהב וגומר."

תני בשם ר' יהושע עוביו של רקיע כשתי אצבעיים.

 

מילתיה דר' חנינא פליגא דא"ר אחא בשם ר' חנינא תרקיע עמו לשחקים חזקים כראי מוצק.--תרקיע מלמד שהן עשויין כטס. יכול שאינן בריאין ת"ל חזקים. יכול שהן נתרפין ת"ל כראי מוצק--בכל שעה ושעה נראין מוצקים.

רבי יוחנן ור' שמעון בן לקיש:

ר' יוחנן אמר: בנוהג שבעולם, אדם מותח אוהל--על ידי שהות, רפה. ברם הכא, [ישעיה פרק מ כב "הַיּשֵׁב עַל-חוּג הָאָרֶץ וְיֹשְׁבֶיהָ כַּחֲגָבִים הַנּוֹטֶה כַדֹּק שָׁמַיִם] וַיִּמְתָּחֵם כָּאֹהֶל לָשָׁבֶת--וכתיב חזקים.

רבי שמעון בן לקיש אמר: בנוהג שבעולם, אדם נוסך כלים--על ידי שהות, הוא מעלה חלודה. ברם הכא, "כראי מוצק")--בכל שעה ושעה הן נראין כשעת יציקתן.

Rav says that true, Hashem created the heavens on the first day. But on the second day, by saying "Let there be a rakia," He meant, "Let the rakia become strong [which Rabbi Slifkin mistranslates as “hard”—ZL], let it become congealed, let it become encased, let it become taut."

Rabbi Yudeh ben Pazi says: ["Let there be a rakia" means] "Let the rakia become like a cloth”—as you would say, “And they stamped (“va-y’raku”) the plates of gold…”

Rebbi Yehoshua taught: the rakia is about two fingers wide.

Rebbi Chanina’s statement is at odds, for Rebbi Acha said in Rebbi Chanina’s name, [It says in the Book of Iyov] “Can you tarkia the shechakim with Him, strong as a cast iron mirror?”—“Tarkia” teaches that they are made like a metal plate. Could it be that they lack robustness?—It says, “Strong”! Could it be that they become weak?—It says “like a cast metal mirror”: every single time they are seen as if [newly] cast!

Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish [speak about this]. Rabbi Yochanan says: Normally, when someone stretches out a tent, it eventually sags. But here [regarding the rakia, Isaiah the Prophet (4:22) says, “[G-d is The One Who sits on the Circle of the Earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers. He is One Who stretches out the heavens like a tent for dwelling—and [here in Iyov it says: “[they are] strong!”

Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish says: Normally, when someone casts a vessel in a mold, it eventually rusts. But here [with the rakia], “it is [always] like an iron mirror that is being cast.”—Every moment the heavens look as they were at the time they were cast.

מדרש רבה בראשית פרשה יב:יג

ר' יצחק ור"ש בן לקיש:

רבי יצחק אמר מלך ב"ו בונה אהל ומותח אהל אננקי על ידי שהות הוא רפי קימעה ברם הכא (איוב לז) תרקיע עמו לשחקים ואם תאמר שהן רפים ת"ל (שם) חזקים כראי מוצק

ר"ש בן לקיש אמר ב"ו מוצק כלים אננקי על ידי שהות היא מעלה חלודה ברם הכא חזקים כראי מוצק נראים כמין תרקיא...

Rabbi Yitzchak and Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish speak about this:

Rabbi Yitzchak says: A king of flesh and blood constructs and stretches out a tent. Eventually, it weakens a little. But here [regarding the rakia, it says, [in the Book of Iyov], “Can you tarkia the shechakim with Him, strong as a cast iron mirror?” And if you will say they are weak, it teaches, “strong as a cast metal mirror.”

Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish says: A man of flesh and blood casts vessels. Eventually they rust. But here it says, “Strong as a metal mirror being cast.” They appear as when they were tarkia.

It is based on these descriptions that Rabbi Slifkin asserts, “Chazal (and most of the Rishonim) universally interpreted various words in the Torah to be describing the heavens as a solid firmament above us. This was the universal, uncontested, view of Chazal, based on Pesukim….”

Rabbi Slifkin’s Poor Job

But Rabbi Slifkin’s house of cards falls apart upon the realization of a simple fact:

The “tarkia” verse in Iyov about the שחקים being “strong as a cast metal mirror” is about the cloud region--the region of the sky where the clouds form, and are moved about by the wind [4]—obviously not a region that is impenetrably solid and literally metallic-like!

It is therefore implausible that Chazal had in mind the coarse, superficial sense of impenetrable solidity Rabbi Slifkin imputes, when they ascribed “strength” “like a cast metal mirror”—derived from the “tarkia” verse in Iyov—to the formation of the rakia. They used these terms in a more sophisticated way. There is every reason to recognize that the descriptions of the rakia, created on the second day, of being “congealed water,” “a plate,” “like a cloth tent” “encased,” “rusting ” and “non-sagging” were meant not in a superficial, coarse sense. Rather, we see the clear-headedness of the rishonim, who—in consonance with, and (despite Rabbi Slifkin’s accusations) not in opposition to, the mesorah—indeed indicate a more sophisticated understanding of these ascriptions.

To elaborate:

What Rabbi Slifkin promotes as a definite proof for his position is actually a total contradiction to it. The verses at issue in Iyov read—

טו הֲתֵדַע, בְּשׂוּם-אֱלוֹהַּ עֲלֵיהֶם; וְהֹפִיעַ, אוֹר עֲנָנו

15. Dost thou know wherewithal G-d placed them, and causeth the light of His cloud to shine? יח תַּרְקִיעַ עִמּוֹ, לִשְׁחָקִים; חֲזָקִים, כִּרְאִי מוּצָק

18. Canst thou with Him spread out the skies/clouds, strong/intense as a molten mirror?

Now, the object of the verb tarkia is שחקים, the region of rain-bearing clouds, or the clouds themselves. The entire context of this[5] and other such passages in Iyov is the grandeur of G-d’s present-day manipulations of the skies, the awesome and majestic phenomena of the formation of thunderclouds bringing mighty thunderstorms, and their eventual clearance. And the commentators reflect this. The Book of Iyov itself refers to the shechakim elsewhere, too, and it obviously means by that term the clouds or cloud region of the sky:

איוב לו:כז כִּי יְגָרַע נִטְפֵי-מָיִם יָזֹקּוּ מָטָר לְאֵדוֹ

27. For He increases the water drops; they pour water [up] into his cloud.

כח אֲשֶׁר-יִזְּלוּ שְׁחָקִים יִרְעֲפוּ עֲלֵי אָדָם רָב

28. That the shechakim drip; they fall upon a great [or: many a] man

איוב פרק לח

כא וְעַתָּה, לֹא רָאוּ אוֹר--בָּהִיר הוּא, בַּשְּׁחָקִים; וְרוּחַ עָבְרָה, וַתְּטַהֲרֵם

21. Just now, men had not seen [the sky’s] light. It is patchy[6] in the shechakim; the wind passeth by [the clouds] and clears them.

לז מִי-יְסַפֵּר שְׁחָקִים בְּחָכְמָה; וְנִבְלֵי שָׁמַיִם, מִי יַשְׁכִּיב

37 Who [else] can number[7] the shechakim by wisdom? Or who [else] can pour out the flasks of heaven?

Indeed, throughout Scripture, שחקים is a reference to the clouds and/or the cloud region of the sky.[8] Chazal naturally recognized this, and they saw as well the clouds to be vaporous in nature, formed by water rising from the earth and/or descending from higher points in the sky.

That Chazal understood shechakim to be the clouds or cloud region of the sky can be seen from the Targum on Isaiah 45:5. The verse reads:

הַרְעִיפוּ שָׁמַיִם מִמַּעַל וּשְׁחָקִים יִזְּלוּ-צֶדֶק תִּפְתַּח-אֶרֶץ וְיִפְרוּ-יֶשַׁע וּצְדָקָה תַצְמִיחַ יַחַד אֲנִי יְהֹוָה בְּרָאתִיו

And it is rendered by the Targum:[9]

ישמשון 'מיא מלעלע וענניא יגדון טובא...

And likewise, in the Talmud:

מסכת תענית דף ז/ב

"בהיר הוא בשחקים." תנא דבי ר' ישמעאל אפילו בשעה שרקיע נעשה בהורין בהורין להוריד טל ומטר רוח עברה ותטהרם.

The fact that Chazal saw the שחקים (clouds) to be the result of water vapor—either arising from the seas or descending from higher areas of the sky—can be seen in Midrash Rabbah:

מדרש רבה בראשית פרשה יג:י

ומהיכן הארץ שותה? רבי אליעזר אומר: ממימי אוקינוס, דכתיב "ואד יעלה מן הארץ.".. .מתמתקים הן בעבים, דכתיב (שם לו) "אשר יזלו שחקים... ואין טיפה נוגעת בחברתה, דכתיב (שמואל ב כב)" חשרת מים עבי שחקים."

The point of all this is: Once one recognizes that the object of the verb tarkia can be the thin atmosphere the clouds occupy—or even the vaporous clouds themselves—it becomes manifest that the verb tarkia cannot by definition connote that the object of the verb is solid, and the noun rakia cannot by definition be limited to something that is impenetrably solid.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the Rambam,[10] Ralbag,[11] who both cite for their explanation the Midrashic passage (MR 4:2) about the rakia of day two coming from a “drop of water that congealed” identify it as the earth’s atmosphere. The Ibn Ezra also identifies the rakia of Day Two as the atmosphere, citing the comparison of the rakia to a “stretched out cloth tent”:

אבן עזרא בראשית שיטה אחרת - פירוש פרק א

והנה הרקיע הוא זה האויר ועוף תעופף עליו. ועליו כתוב וימתחם כאהל לשבת האדם תחתיו (ישע' מ, כב) כמשפט האהלים. ונקרא  שמים בעבור היותו עליון על כל הארץ

Neither is it surprising that even the rishonim who identify it as the rakia containing the stars (Rashi, Ramban,), still do not describe it as a hard substance. Indeed, how hard would one expect a small drop of water that was stretched out and spread over the entire world to be![12]

And it is only natural that the Aruch, Ibn Ezra, Ralbag and Radak do not make solidity part of their definitions of rakia and shechakim. It is defined by the concept of “emptiness,” from the root ‘רק,”[13] or as “something flattened out to be made to expand”[14] –not solidity.[15] Chazal see the connection between “cloud” and “shechakim to be based upon the concept of “grinding” the salty sea water from which the clouds are formed.[16] And perhaps one can relate the clouds to the word “שחק” by taking it as a reference to their appearance of “powdery,” or “pulverized material.”[17] Of course, when the verb form of rakia, spreading something out, is applied to solids, it is talking about doing so to something solid. But when applied to non-solids and nebulous phenomena, such as clouds, skies or ethereal spheres, it is not.[18]

How does all this affect the claim that when Chazal applied the terminology of “congealing” and “strengthening” and “cast metal mirror” to the formation of the rakia, they likely meant the rakia is an impenetrable, solid, hard substance? It exposes the assertion as uninformed foolishness (whether one takes rakia as a reference to the cloud region or the celestial region).


[1] See above, note 1.

[2] See paragraph in this series titled, “Mistranslation…Again.”

[3]מדרש רבה ד:ב

"ויאמר אלהים יהי רקיע בתוך המים." רבנן אמרין לה בשם רבי חנינא, ור' פנחס, ורבי יעקב בר' אבין, בשם רבי שמואל בר נחמן: בשעה שאמר הקב"ה "יהי רקיע בתוך המים," גלדה טיפה האמצעית, ונעשו השמים התחתונים ושמי שמים העליונים. רב אמר לחים היו מעשיהם ביום הראשון, ובשני קרשו. "יהי רקיע"-- יחזק הרקיע. ר' יהודה בר' סימון אמר: יעשה מטלית לרקיע היך מה דאת אמר (שמות לט) וירקעו את פחי הזהב.

Rabbi Shmuel Bar Nachman said: When Hashem said "Let there be a rakia in the midst of the waters," the middle drop frosted/congealed (גלדה) and the lower heavens and higher “heaven of heavens” were made. Rav said: The way they were made on the first day, they were in fluid form, and on the second day they congealed (קרשו).—”Let there be a rakia” means: the rakia should become strong. Rabbi Yehuda Bar R. Simon said: [It means] A plate should be made, to be the rakia--just as you say, “they beat out thin sheets of gold.”

[4] In his blogs, comments and monographs about “the” rakia, the “Rationalist” confuses and conflates the atmospheric rakia with the rakia of the stars. Just one example among many: In the January 27 2011 comments on his blog, when some noted that it seemed perfectly acceptable to understand the rakia as [sometimes] meaning the earth’s atmospheric layer, the “Rationalist” insisted that the word rakia always refers to a solid, flattened layer, wherein the stars are located:

Commenter: While there are limits to reinterpretation of torah phrases and descriptions, interpreting 'rakia' as the atmospheric layer seems perfectly acceptable to me. The “Rationalist”: Aside from the word always referring to a solid, flattened layer, there is also the fact that the stars are placed IN the rakia.

[5] See Addendum II

[6] “Spotted” can either be referring to the clouds that had been blocking the sky’s light or, on the contrary, the spots of the sky’s light that eventually shine through when the wind lightens the clouds.

[7] מי-יספר is given various interpretations by Radak, Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Ralbag: “Who [else] commands” (Rashi), “who else can: “number,” “make the skies like a book,” “can sufficiently describe the wisdom of,” “make [clear—Ibn Ezra] like sapphire.”

[8] Throughout Scripture, שחקים is a reference to the cloud region of the sky:

תהלים יח:יב

יָשֶׁת חֹשֶׁךְ סִתְרוֹ סְבִיבוֹתָיו סֻכָּתוֹ חֶשְׁכַת-מַיִם עָבֵי שְׁחָקִים

תהלים עז: ח

זֹרְמוּ מַיִם עָבוֹת קוֹל נָתְנוּ שְׁחָקִים אַף-חֲצָצֶיךָ יִתְהַלָּכוּ:

משלי פרק ג

יט יְהוָה בְּחָכְמָה יָסַד-אָרֶץ כּוֹנֵן שָׁמַיִם בִּתְבוּנָה: כ בְּדַעְתּוֹ תְּהוֹמוֹת נִבְקָעוּ וּשְׁחָקִים יִרְעֲפוּ-טָל:

[9] The online Jewish Encyclopedia dates the Targum’s composition to before the fall of Rome in 476 A.C.E.

[10] See Addendum III: The Rambam and Ramban both understand the Chazal about the “congealing” of the rakia to mean that the original ethereal created matter was transformed to a less ethereal, but still not earthly-physical, substance.

[11] The Ralbag specifically comments on the tarkia verse in Iyov:

רלב"ג איוב פרק לז

האזינה זאת איוב עמוד והתבונן נפלאות אל. התדע הסבה איך גזר השם על העננים שיסודרו מהם אלה העניינים בזה האופן. הידעת מה הסבה אשר קבל בה האור והתלהבות האד הקיטורי הנעצר בעננו... האם תרקיע עמו השמים שהם חזקים בתכלית החוזק עד שלא יתפרד דבוקם בשום פנים, והם ספירים כמו הראי הנתך--ר"ל הזכוכית שיעבור האור בו ...שבקצת העתים יהיה הענן חזק עד שלא יראה האור--אשר הוא בהיר וזך—בשחקים. ר"ל שאין סיבת העדר האור, שילקה הככב.--כי הוא בהיר בשחקים. אבל רבוי העננים יהיה סבה שלא יראה האור עם חזקו. ועם כל זה, לא יהיה מהם מטר. אבל תעבור הרוח ותטהר העבים ותפזרם או תוליכם אל מקום אחר, ובזאת הסבה ישלם, על הרוב, ענין המטר.

I.e., the shechakim are the skies whose clouds, when they form a mass, are strong in their ability to block out the skies’ strongly radiant skylight. Yet at other times, when the wind disperses them, the clouds also turn translucent as a clear alloy, and the skylight shines through.

[12] The “Rationalist” almost realized this in his admission that “’Congealed water’ is not ice, and is not a scientifically-acknowledged phenomenon, so it can be misleading to describe it as a ‘solid.’ However, he reverts to confusion by continuing: “But it [the rakia] is substantive, by which I mean it is firm. Unlike the atmosphere, which while being substantive in the modern scientific sense of being made of molecules, is not firm, and is not what Chazal were describing when they spoke of the rakia, which the sun travels on both sides of.” (Comment on Blog, Analysis of Rabbi Slifkin’s January 6, 2011 11:24 PM .) He has not yet provided evidence that it is universally maintained by the rishonim that it is the rakia which the sun travels on both sides of, that Chazal were describing when they spoke of the rakia being firm. As I have shown, there is strong basis to say, and several rishonim indeed hold, that the rakia is the atmosphere, and it is indeed the atmosphere’s nature to which Chazal referred to as “firm”; and several rishonim who describe the celestial rakia as ethereal, still say that this entity is accurately described by Chazal as being “firm.”

[13] Ibn Ezra associates the word rakia to the word רק, “empty,” being that it is such a דק (thin/delicate/nebulous/ethereal substance( and identifies it as the cloud region of the sky:

תרקיע עמו. בחסרון ה"א התימה. והשחקים הם על העבים ונקראו כן בעבור היותם אויר דק והוא מן ושחקת ממנה הדק וכן נקראו רק ורקיע והם תחת הגלגלים והענין האתה תעזור אותו להרקיע השחקים ולשום אותם חזקים ולהיותם כראי מוצק על כן יראה האור מהם:

[14] Radak:

רקערוקע הארץ (ישעיה מב, ה), פירוש פורשה, כלומר שתקן שטחה להיות הצאצאיה עליה. לרוקע הארץ על המים (תהלים קלו, ו), עדקם ארקעם (שמואל ב' כב, מג). והשם: "ויעש אלקים את הרקיע" (בראשית א, ו). וכן בענין זה.

In the overwhelming bulk of his comment, Rav S.R. Hirsch treats the rakia as the atmosphere. He ends by noting that the usages of rakia elsewhere refer to solid objects. But even he, who was no doubt exhibiting that “bias” (as do all our teachers) that the “Rationalist” eschews, stops at attributing the idea to Chazal that the rakia is a metallic substance, or any solid one.

[15] HaAruch:

מחברת הערוך לר׳ שלמה בן אברהם הידוע ן פרחון נב״ת

רקע רוקע הארץ על המים (תחלים קלו) פ' מותח ומודד. ומזה נקראו שמיס רקיע...

שחקים...ובגאותו שחקים (דברים לג) פי׳ אויר העליון הקרוב לשמים...

[16] Midrash Tanchuma Mikeitz siman aleph:

מי אוקינוס מלוחין הן... מתמתקין מן העבים שברקיע, דאמר ר"ש בן לקיש למה נקרא שמן שחקים שהן שוחקין את המים וממתקין אותם ואח"כ הן יורדין

The ocean waters are salty… [but] they are sweetened by the clouds in the rakia. As Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said: “Why are the clouds called shechakim?—Because they scrub the waters and sweeten them, and afterwards the waters descend [to the earth].

(Also, Midrash Rabbah Breishis parsha 13.)

[17] Rakia and Shevakim may share the meaning of “pulverized material”—an entity with the appearance of something that had been rubbed, grounded, or pounded into what it is.

ביצא ב:ח, שולקין את הפלפלין.

ירושלמי ברכות א: ויין לאו שחוק הוא...שאר [כמו שמן זית]...אע"פ ששחוקים הן

Powderized water and fire=vaporous mist. This would obviously be a reference to the resultant appearance of the clouds, not the method by which it became so. After all, no one would say the sky was originally a hard material on day two of Creation, but became a looser substance as of day four!

=======================================================

ADDENDA

ADDENDUM II

THE CONTEXT OF THE IYOV PESUKIM IS THUNDERCLOUDS

יד הַאֲזִינָה זֹּאת אִיּוֹב; עֲמֹד, וְהִתְבּוֹנֵן נִפְלְאוֹת אֵל14. Listen carefully to this, Iyov. Stand, and make yourself contemplate the wonders of the Almighty!

טו הֲתֵדַע, בְּשׂוּם-אֱלוֹהַּ עֲלֵיהֶם; וְהֹפִיעַ, אוֹר עֲנָנוֹ15. Dost thou know wherewithal God placed upon them, and maketh shine, His cloud’s light? טז הֲתֵדַע, עַל-מִפְלְשֵׂי-עָב; מִפְלְאוֹת, תְּמִים דֵּעִים16. Dost thou know about the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of the One of perfect knowledge? יז אֲשֶׁר-בְּגָדֶיךָ חַמִּים--בְּהַשְׁקִט אֶרֶץ, מִדָּרוֹם. 17. Thou, whose garments are warm--when the earth is quietly still, because of the south wind-- יח תַּרְקִיעַ עִמּוֹ, לִשְׁחָקִים; חֲזָקִים, כִּרְאִי מוּצָק. 18 Canst thou with Him spread out the skies/clouds, strong/intense as a molten mirror? יט הוֹדִיעֵנוּ, מַה-נֹּאמַר לוֹ; לֹא-נַעֲרֹךְ, מִפְּנֵי-חֹשֶׁךְ. 19 Let us know, what we can say to Him? We cannot organize, because of darkness. כ הַיְסֻפַּר-לוֹ, כִּי אֲדַבֵּר; אִם-אָמַר אִישׁ, כִּי יְבֻלָּע. 20 Shall it be told Him that I would speak? Or should a man wish that he were swallowed up?

כא וְעַתָּה, לֹא רָאוּ אוֹר--בָּהִיר הוּא, בַּשְּׁחָקִים; וְרוּחַ עָבְרָה, וַתְּטַהֲרֵם 21. And now men see not the light [of the sun], it is mottled through the [heavy and dark] clouds (shechakim); but the wind passeth by, [moves the clouds away] and purifies them [the skies]. כב מִצָּפוֹן, זָהָב יֶאֱתֶה; עַל-אֱלוֹהַּ, נוֹרָא הוֹד. 22 Out of the north, golden splendor will come, alongside G-d is awesome majesty. כג שַׁדַּי לֹא-מְצָאנֻהוּ, שַׂגִּיא-כֹח; וּמִשְׁפָּט וְרֹב-צְדָקָה, לֹא יְעַנֶּה. 23 The Alm-ghty, whom we cannot find out, excels in power, [yet out of] judgment and plenteous justice, He doeth no violence. כד לָכֵן, יְרֵאוּהוּ אֲנָשִׁים; לֹא-יִרְאֶה, כָּל-חַכְמֵי-לֵב. 24 Men do therefore fear Him; He regardeth not any that are wise of heart.

Chap. 38

ח וַיָּסֶךְ בִּדְלָתַיִם יָם; בְּגִיחוֹ, מֵרֶחֶם יֵצֵא. 8 Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it broke forth, and issued out of the womb;

לז מִי-יְסַפֵּר שְׁחָקִים בְּחָכְמָה; וְנִבְלֵי שָׁמַיִם, מִי יַשְׁכִּיב. 37 Who can number the clouds by wisdom? Or who can pour out the jugs of heaven

=================

ADDENDUM III

Rambam and Ramban understand that by “strengthening” of rakia, Chazal were referring to the process of the materialization of the rakia on the second day from a more ethereal state to the more physical, but still not earthly-physical, substance. (The Rambam, however, understands—in accordance with his understanding of Chazal--the rakia of the second day to be the atmosphere, whereas the Ramban--in accordance with his understanding of Chazal—understands the rakia of the second day to be the celestial spheres and their contents.)

מורה נבוכים ב:ל

והרקיע עצמו מן המים נתהוה, כמו שאמרו: "הוגלדה טפה האמצעית."...הנה כבר התבאר שחמר אחד היה משותף וקראו מים, ואח"כ הובדל בשלש צורות, והיה קצתו ימים, וקצתו רקיע, וקצתו על הרקיע ההוא, וזה כלו חוץ לארץ.

Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim 2:30

The rakia itself came into being from the water, as Chazal said, “The middle drop congealed” (Breishis Rabba, 4:2).* …It is therefore clear that there was a certain common matter, and He called it “Water.” And afterwards, it was divided into three different forms: one part became the seas, another the rakia, and a third part is something above the rakia, all of it beyond the earth.

[The Rambam continues that the “ ‘water’ above the rakia,” meaning the “water” above the atmosphere, is a mysterious phenomenon.]

*Breishis Rabbah 4:2

"ויאמר אלהים יהי רקיע בתוך המים." רבנן אמרין לה בשם רבי חנינא, ור' פנחס, ורבי יעקב בר' אבין, בשם רבי שמואל בר נחמן: בשעה שאמר הקב"ה "יהי רקיע בתוך המים," גלדה טיפה האמצעית, ונעשו השמים התחתונים ושמי שמים העליונים. רב אמר לחים היו מעשיהם ביום הראשון, ובשני קרשו. "יהי רקיע"-- יחזק הרקיע. ר' יהודה בר' סימון אמר: יעשה מטלית לרקיע היך מה דאת אמר (שמות לט) וירקעו את פחי הזהב.

Rabbi Shmuel Bar Nachman said: When Hashem said "Let there be a rakia in the midst of the waters," the middle drop frosted/congealed (גלדה) and the lower heavens and higher “heaven of heavens” were made. Rav said: The way they were made on the first day, they were in fluid form, and on the second day they congealed (קרשו).—”Let there be a rakia” means: the rakia should become strong. Rabbi Yehuda Bar R. Simon said: [It means] a plate should be made, to be the rakia--just as you say, “they beat out thin sheets of gold.”

Ramban

רמב"ן בראשית פרק א

אם כן יהיה פשט הכתובים על נכון. משמעותו, בתחלה ברא אלהים את השמים, כי הוציא חומר שלהם מאין...והנה בבריאה הזאת, שהיא כנקודה קטנה דקה ואין בה ממש, נבראו כל הנבראים בשמים. ... וכן אמרו רבותינו (ב"ר א יד) את השמים לרבות חמה ולבנה כוכבים ומזלות...

The correct peshat teaching of the verses implies: In the beginning, G-d created the heavens, for he brought out their material ex nihilo….And behold, in this Creation, which was like a miniscule, ethereal, non-physical point, all the created things in the heavens were created. And so Chazal said, (Breishis Rabbah 1:14): “Ess HaShamayim” means to include the sun and moon, stars and constellations….

רמב"ן בראשית פרק א פסוק ו

יהי רקיע. החומר ההווה בתחלה שבראו מאין, אמר שיהיה רקיע מתוח כאהל בתוך המים, ויהיה מבדיל בין מים למים. ושמא לזה כוונו באמרם (ב"ר ד א) רב אמר לחים היו שמים ביום הראשון, וביום השני קרשו, רב אמר: יהי רקיע יחזק הרקיע. רבי יהודה ברבי סימון אמר יעשה מטלית הרקיע, כמה דאת אמר (שמות לט ג) וירקעו את פחי הזהב וגו':

Breishis 1:6

“Let there be a rakia.” He said that the matter brought into existence originally, which was created ex nihilo, should be a rakia, stretched like a tent, within the “Water,” and it should separate between one “Water” and the other “Water.” Perhaps this is what Chazal meant when they said (Breishis Rabbah 4:2) “Rav says the heavens were moist/liquidy on the first day, and on the second day they “frosted,” Rav said, “Let the rakia be” means, “Let the rakia become strong.” Rabbi Yehuda b’Rabbi Seemon said, “Let the rakia become a plate,” as you would say, “They flattened the gold plates.”

Ibid. 1:8

והנה בארו הכתובים כי הנבראים הראשונים הם מאין, והשאר מוצאם מן החומר הראשון הנברא. ואל יקשה עליך מאמר רבי אליעזר הגדול (פרקי דר"א ג) שאמר שמים מהיכן נבראו מאור לבושו של הקב"ה, וכן הוא בבראשית רבה עוד, כי בעבור שירצו החכמים עוד להעלות החומר הראשון עד תכלית ולעשותו דק מן הדקים, לא יראו שהשמים--שהם גוף מתנועע בעל חומר וצורה--הם הנבראים מן האין. אבל אור הלבוש הוא הנברא הראשון, וממנו יצא חומר הממש בשמים. ונתן לארץ חומר אחר ואיננו כדקות הראשון, והוא "שלג שתחת כסא הכבוד," כי כסא הכבוד נברא, וממנו היה השלג שתחתיו, וממנו נעשה חומר הארץ, והנה הוא שלישי בבריאה:

And behold the verses made it clear that the first things were created ex nihilo, and all the rest was extracted from the first created matter. And [so] do not be troubled by Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol’s statement (Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer 3), “What were the heavens created from?—From the Light of the Holy One Blessed be He’s Garment.” (And Breishis Rabbah has more [such statements.]) For Chazal wanted to describe as fully as possible, in terms reaching the most non-physical description, the first material’s high degree of etherealness. They did not see that the heavens, which are a moving body consisting of material and shape, were created directly from nothing; but the Light of the “Garment” is what was created first, and from that came the [more] physical material in the heavens. And He gave the Earth a different material, not as ethereal as the first, and that is [what Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol went on to describe as] “the ‘Snow’ under the Heavenly Throne.” …

פסוק ח

ואמר בשני שיהיה רקיע בתוך המים, כלומר שיתהוה מן המים הנזכרים, שהזכיר בריאתם, דבר מרוקע מבדיל ביניהם, וקרא גם לאלו הכדורים שמים כשם השמים העליונים הראשונים, ולכן יקראם בפרשה (בפסוק יז) "רקיע השמים" ויתן אותם אלהים ברקיע השמים, לבאר שאינם הנזכרים בשם השמים, רק הרקיעים שקראם שמים:

On the second day it says that there should be a rakia inside the Water. This means the from the Waters spoken of before as being created, there should come into existence something spread out that separates between them. These spheres [of the celestial bodies] are also called “heavens,” just as are the original upper [spiritual] heavens ….

וגם זה דעת רבותינו, הזכירוהו בבראשית רבה (ד ב), אמרו כל רבנין אמרין לה בשם רבי חנניה ברבי פנחס ורבי יעקב ברבי אבין, בשם רבי שמואל ברבי נחמן, בשעה שאמר הקב"ה "יהי רקיע בתוך המים" גלדה טיפה האמצעית ונעשו שמים התחתונים ושמי השמים העליונים. ומאמר זה יתפשט לכדורי הגלגלים שבהם תחתונים ועליונים, נקראים "שמי השמים"... אבל השמים הנזכרים בראשון ששם כסאו של הקב"ה....

This too is the position of Chazal mentioned in Breishis Rabbah (4:2), …When The Holy One Blessed be He said “Let there be a rakia inside the Waters,” the middle drop “frosted” and the lower heavens, and the higher heavens of heavens, were formed. This statement applies to the celestial spheres that have within them “uppers” and “lowers,” called “heaven of heavens.”…But the Heavens originally mentioned are the [spiritual] ones with the Throne of the Holy One blessed be He.

No comments:

Post a Comment