Monday, May 18, 2009

In the days of mashiach, will we all be 200-foot tall hermaphrodites?

A rather fascinating statement in Tiferes Yehonasan, on parshas Bechukosai. The pasuk states:
יג אֲנִי ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, מִהְיֹת לָהֶם, עֲבָדִים; וָאֶשְׁבֹּר מֹטֹת עֻלְּכֶם, וָאוֹלֵךְ אֶתְכֶם קוֹמְמִיּוּת. {פ}13 I am the LORD your God, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bars of your yoke, and made you go upright.
What is meant by קוֹמְמִיּוּת? Well, Rashi explains:
upright: Erect in stature [due to relief from bondage]. — [Torath Kohanim 26:17]
Rav Yonasan Eibeschutz, in his sefer, Tiferes Yehonasan, gives an interesting interpretation of this pasuk. He notes that
the stature {height} of Adam Harishon has 100 cubits.

And there is in the midrash that this only gives me males; women, from where? Therefore it informs us {Tehillim 144:12}
יב אֲשֶׁר בָּנֵינוּ, כִּנְטִעִים-- מְגֻדָּלִים בִּנְעוּרֵיהֶם:
בְּנוֹתֵינוּ כְזָוִיֹּת-- מְחֻטָּבוֹת, תַּבְנִית הֵיכָל.
12 We whose sons are as plants grown up in their youth; {N}
whose daughters are as corner-pillars carved after the fashion of a palace;
For with two faces were they created, and now, there is but one stature, for the male is forbidden from being constantly by the female, lest they come to the prohibition of hergel aveira {becoming accustomed to it}. But in the future, for then the Evil Inclination will be removed from the land, then in truth there will be two statures. And this is the explanation of וָאוֹלֵךְ אֶתְכֶם קוֹמְמִיּוּת.
To expand upon the midrashim at play: The word קוֹמְמִיּוּת can mean upright. But komah by itself can mean height, or stature. And we can there break up the word to komah meot, a stature of hundreds. This would yield 200, or perhaps 100. The pasuk in Tehillim is intended to encompass women as well, but as we see from the full pasuk, it does mention men. And furthermore, that pasuk in Tehillim mentions tavnit heichal, and the Heichal was 100 cubits high. (I did not advance this by myself -- Rabbi Yehuda in the gemara offers this. Meanwhile, the pasuk in Bechukosai is taken specifically to mean 100.)

What about the two faces? Well, the midrash brings in the pasuk in Tehillim, which places men and women together in this scheme. But even before getting there, the local pasuk in Bechukosai can yield it. Komah is the singular. Komemiyut is the dual, and thus connotes two statures. Thus, though Rav Eibeshutz does not make it explicit, there is a dual derasha on the word komemiyut.

There are likely also pesukim local to Bereishit which will yield Adam's tall stature, or his having a woman {=Chava} on his back. Specifically, for male and female joined, the most likely sourcetext is {Bereshit 1}:
כז וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ, בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתוֹ: זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה, בָּרָא אֹתָם. 27 And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.
In the back of my mind, I remember this as the prooftext. There is also reading the division of Chava from Adam, וַיִּבֶן יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הַצֵּלָע אֲשֶׁר-לָקַח מִן-הָאָדָם, לְאִשָּׁה, as this. And perhaps וְדָבַק בְּאִשְׁתּוֹ, וְהָיוּ לְבָשָׂר אֶחָד.

There might have also been Greek myth (such as Hermaphroditus) which influenced the reading of the pesukim this way.

There is a slightly different version of this aforementioned midrash in Bava Batra 75a:
מיתיבי (ויקרא כז) ואולך אתכם קוממיות רבי מאיר אומר מאתים אמה כשתי קומות של אדם הראשון רבי יהודה אומר מאה אמה כנגד היכל וכתליו שנאמר (תהילים קמד) אשר בנינו כנטיעים מגודלים בנעוריהם בנותינו כזויות מחוטבות תבנית היכל

Was this intended as literal, or metaphorical? I don't know. In terms of Rav Yonasan Eibeschutz, given that he discusses practical reasons before and after for having or not having a dual male-female human, it seems to me that he understood this literally. But a case might be made in the other direction.


yaak said...

Related post of mine here.

joshwaxman said...

i prefer the komah + meot being plural, with the minimum plural being 2, such that there are two hundreds though.

so, would you take this midrash literally? what do you think the rambam would say?


yaak said...

The Ben Ish Hai seems to have taken it literally. Lich'ora, the Rambam doesn't take it literally since he holds like Shmuel that the only new thing for Yemot Hamashi'ah is Shi'bud Malchiyot. It's possible though that this midrash is not referring to the first stage of Yemot Hamashi'ah, but rather, at a later stage, and perhaps, the Rambam will be Modeh to this being literal. Or, perhaps not.

joshwaxman said...

my inclination is that, because of the physical impossibility of it (impossible to get blood flow to sustain human life at such proportions), based on Rambam in perek chelek he would not take it literally, and not look to kindly on rabbonim who do take the midrash literally rather than allegorically.


E-Man said...

I agree. I think the Rambam would wholeheartedly disagree. There is no reason to assume otherwise.


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