Sunday, October 25, 2009

Did the mabul flood Eretz Yisrael?

In my previous post discussing the theories of local and global floods, I made the point that the pasuk states (perek 7):

יט וְהַמַּיִם, גָּבְרוּ מְאֹד מְאֹד--עַל-הָאָרֶץ; וַיְכֻסּוּ, כָּל-הֶהָרִים הַגְּבֹהִים, אֲשֶׁר-תַּחַת, כָּל-הַשָּׁמָיִם.19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven were covered.

This strongly implies to me a global, rather than local, flood. In the comments, an insightful comment:
a - Is there not a midrash that says that eretz yisrael was not flooded? Clearly the problem that bothers you did not bother the author of the midrash.

b - I think one key to solving "the problem" lies in realizing that the Torah does not necessarily mean 100% when it says "kol" (usually translated "all"). I believe there is a large number of instances where this is the case, and it makes it easier to understand many pesukim and halakhot.
Of course, a midrash is a midrash and a pasuk is a pasuk, but surely the midrashist considered all the pesukim!

So let us examine some of these midrashim. In Zevachim 113a, a dispute between Rabbi Yochanan and Resh Lakish:

אמר מר אמר לו רבי יוחנן והלא כל א"י בדוקה היא במאי קמיפלגי מר סבר ירד מבול לא"י ומר סבר לא ירד אר"נ בר יצחק ושניהם מקרא אחד דרשו (יחזקאל כב) בן אדם אמר לה את ארץ לא מטוהרה היא לא גושמה ביום זעם רבי יוחנן סבר אתמוהי מתמה קרא א"י מי לא מטוהרה את כלום ירדו עליך גשמים ביום זעם ור"ל סבר כפשטיה ארץ לא מטוהרה את מי לא ירדו עליך גשמים ביום זעם


To pull the Point by Point summary for convenience:
(a) Question: What do R. Yochanan and Reish Lakish argue about?
(b) Answer: Reish Lakish holds that the flood came (even) to Eretz Yisrael, R. Yochanan holds that it did not.
(c) (Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak): Both expound the same verse - "Eretz Lo Metoharah Hi Lo Gushmah b'Yom Za'am":
1. R. Yochanan reads the beginning of the verse incredulously - is not Eretz Yisrael Tahor, as evidenced by the fact that it was spared from the flood?!
2. Reish Lakish reads the end of the verse incredulously - Eretz Yisrael is not Tahor - was it not flooded? (i.e., surely it was!)
Then, on the next amud:

איתיביה (בראשית ז) מכל אשר בחרבה מתו בשלמא לדידי דאמינא ירד מבול לא"י משום הכי מתו אלא לדידך אמאי מתו משום הבלא כדרב חסדא דאמר רב חסדא ברותחין קלקלו וברותחין נידונו דכתיב הכא (בראשית ח) וישוכו המים וכתיב התם (אסתר ז) וחמת המלך שככה איכא דאמרי איתיביה רבי יוחנן לר"ל מכל אשר בחרבה מתו בשלמא לדידי דאמינא לא ירד מבול לא"י משום הכי הוי חרבה אלא לדידך מאי חרבה חרבה שהיתה מעיקרא ואמאי קרי ליה חרבה כדרב חסדא דאמר רב חסדא בדור המבול לא נגזרה גזרה על דגים שבים שנאמר מכל אשר בחרבה מתו

(l) Version #1 - Question (Reish Lakish): "Mi'Kol Asher be'Charavah Mesu";
1. We understand this if the flood encompassed Eretz Yisrael - but if it did not, why did people in Eretz Yisrael die?
(m) Answer: They died on account of the heat - this is like Rav Chisda.
1. (Rav Chisda): The generation of the flood sinned through Roschim (semen, which is hot, i.e. Arayos), therefore it was punished with Roschim (boiling water);
2. It says here "Va'Yashoku ha'Mayim", like it says "Va'Chamas ha'Melech Shachachah" (which refers to Hash-m's fury).
(n) Version #2 - Question (R. Yochanan against Reish Lakish): "Mi'Kol Asher be'Charavah Mesu";
1. I explain, the flood did not encompass Eretz Yisrael - there, there was Charavah (dry land);
2. According to you, where was there dry land?
(o) Answer: It means, (everything died that lived on) what was initially dry land.
(p) Question: Why does the Torah say this (let it say simply, everything died!)
(q) Answer: This teaches like Rav Chisda.
1. (Rav Chisda): There was no decree for fish to die in the flood - "Mi'Kol Asher be'Charavah Mesu", not fish of the sea.
and it continues; learn it all inside there.

In Bereshit Rabba, they discuss the question of just where the dove found the olive leaf:

מהיכן הביאה אותו?
רבי אבא בר כהנא אמר:
משבשושין שבא"י הביאה אותו.

רבי לוי אמר:
מהר המשחה הביאה אותו, דלא טפת ארעא דישראל במבולא, והוא שהקדוש ברוך הוא אומר ליחזקאל (יחזקאל כב) ארץ לא מטוהרה היא ולא גושמה ביום זעם.

רב ביבי אמר:
נפתחו לה שערי גן עדן, והביאה אותו.

אמר רבי אבהו:
אילו מג"ע הביאה אותו, לא היתה מביאה דבר מעולה, או קנמון, או פלסמן, אלא רמז רמזה לו.
אמרה לו לנח: מוטב מר מזה ולא מתוק מתחת ידיך.

and one or two positions are that it brought it from Eretz Yisrael, since Eretz Yisrael was not flooded.

But, in Bereishit Rabba they also discuss the question based on the pasuk which states that all the mountains in Eretz Yisrael were covered:
והמים גברו מאד מאד על הארץ וגו'
רבי יונתן
סלק למצלי בירושלים. עבר בהדין פלטאניס, וחמתי חד שמריי.
אמר לו: להיכן את אזיל? ש
אמר לו: למיסק למצלי בירושלים.
אמר ליה: לא טב לך למצלי בהדין טורא בריכא, ולא בההוא ביתא קלקלתא.
אמר לו: למה הוא בריך? ש
אמר ליה: דלא טף במוי דמבולא.
נתעלמה מעיני רבי יונתן
ולא השיבו.
לשעה אמר לו חמריה: רבי תרשיני ואני משיבו.
אמר לו: הין.
אמר ליה: אין מן טורייא רמיא הוא, הא כתיב: ויכסו כל ההרים הגבוהים, ואין מן מכייא הוא, לא אשגח ביה קרייא, ולא אחשביה כלום.
מיד ירד לו ר' יונתן מעל החמור והרכיבו שלושה מילין וקרא עליו שלוש מקראות:
(דברים ז) לא היה בך עקר ועקרה ובבהמתך, אפילו בבהמות שבכם.
ש(שיר ז) כפלח הרמון רקתך מבעד לצמתך, הריקין שבכם רצוף תשובות כרימון הה"ד: (ישעיה נד) כלכלי יוצר עליך לא יצלח וכל לשון תקום אתך למשפט תרשיעי זאת נחלת עבדי ה' וגו'.
That is, Rabbi Yochanan -- the very person who claims Eretz Yisrael was not flooded -- met a Samaritan who was going to pray on Har Gerizim, which the Samaritans considered holy. When questioned why, the Samaritan said that it was not covered by the water of the flood, and thus is obviously extremely special and blessed.

Rabbi Yochanan did not have a ready answer, but his Beham, the animal driver, had a ready answer, which he put forth after asking Rabbi Yochanan for permission. And the driver's answer was remarkably clever, when we think about it. The motivation of the Samaritan was that Har Gerizim was special. And so, either show that this exception he made is contradicted by a pasuk, or else if he finds a way out, show that Har Gerizim was too insignificant to be mentioned. Either way, he deflates the Samaritan's position. And so he cited the aforementioned pasuk:

יט וְהַמַּיִם, גָּבְרוּ מְאֹד מְאֹד--עַל-הָאָרֶץ; וַיְכֻסּוּ, כָּל-הֶהָרִים הַגְּבֹהִים, אֲשֶׁר-תַּחַת, כָּל-הַשָּׁמָיִם.19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven were covered.

Obviously, the Samaritan would want Har Gerizim to be a tall and "lofty" mountain. But if you say that it was, then the pasuk states that all the mountains were covered. But if it is one of the low mountains, then not only is it low, it was not even worthy of mention, to be discussed by the plain text of the chumash. Either way, the Pharisees win!

And Rabbi Yochanan liked this pasuk very much. I wonder, if he held that Eretz Yisrael was not flooded at all, how come he did not mention that this was true of all of Israel, and that the Temple Mount was also not flooded. Perhaps because Har HaBayis only reaches 740 m above sea level, while Har Gerizim 881 meters over sea level, about 69.4 meters lower that Har Eival. Har Gerizim and Eval are among the highest mountains in Eretz Yisrael, so they seem to be working with a theory in which these exceptionally tall mountains were not covered, while the Temple Mount was.

And then, the question is how to classify these, as tall or short mountains. But the answer, to which Rabbi Yochanan agrees, is that even tall mountains in Eretz Yisrael were perhaps covered, as the "tall mountains". Or if they were not, it is because they were short mountains and were not covered (perhaps for other reasons).

Ramban grapples with this pasuk which states all mountains were covered, on the one hand, and the midrash that states that Eretz Yisrael was not flooded. In discussing where the dove got the olive leaf:
ש(יא): והנה עלה זית טרף בפיה -
מפשוטו של פסוק זה יראה שלא נעקרו האילנות ולא נמחו במבול, כי לא היה שם נחל שוטף, בעבור כי נתמלא כל העולם מים.
אבל בבראשית רבה (לג ו): אמרו:
מהיכן הביאה אותו,
רבי לוי אמר: מהר המשחה הביאה אותו דלא טפת ארעא דישראל במיא דמבולא, הוא שהקדוש ברוך הוא אמר ליחזקאל בן אדם אמור לה את ארץ לא מטוהרה היא לא גושמה ביום זעם (יחזקאל כב כד).
רבי ביריי אמר: נפתחו לה שערי גן עדן והביאה אותו:
והנה כוונתם שנעקרו האילנות ונמחו במקומות המבול, ואף כי יהיה העלה נבל.

וכן אמרו (ב"ר ל ח): ש
אפילו איצטרובולין של ריחים נמוחו במבול, ודרשו בו אבנים שחקו מים (איוב יד יט):ש
ומאמרם "דלא טפת ארעא דישראל במיא דמבולא", שלא היה עליה גשם המבול, כדכתיב לא גושמה, ולא נפתחו בה מעינות תהום רבה, אבל המים נתפשטו בכל העולם וכסו כל ההרים הגבוהים אשר תחת כל השמים, כמו שכתוב מפורש (לעיל ז יט), ואין סביב ארץ ישראל גדר לעכב המים שלא יבאו בה.

וכך אמרו בפרקי רבי אליעזר (פרק כג): ש
ארץ ישראל לא ירד עליה מי המבול מן השמים אלא נתגלגלו המים מן הארצות ונכנסו לתוכה, שנאמר בן אדם אמור לה. והנה לדעת רבי לוי, מפני שלא ירד בארץ ההיא הגשם השוטף ולא נפתחו עליה ארובות השמים, נשארו בה האילנות, ובכל העולם נשברו ונעקרו במבול ומטרות עזו:
ואני תמה על מאמרם "מגן עדן", אם כן לא ידע נח שקלו המים מעל הארץ, כי שם לא נכנסו מי המבול. ואולי היו שעריו סגורים שלא יכנסו שם המים, וכאשר קלו המים נפתחו.

ומדעתם זו אמרו שם (ב"ר לו ג):
ויטע כרם (להלן ט כ), ומהיכן היה לו, אמר רבי אבא בר כהנא בכניסתו לתיבה הכניס עמו זמורות לנטיעות ייחורים לתאנים גרופיות לזיתים:
Thus, rain did not come down on Eretz Yisrael, and the trees were not destroyed, but since there are no gates blocking Eretz Yisrael from the rest of the world, of course all of Eretz Yisrael was flooded. And he cites this pasuk about the waters covering all the high mountains under all the heavens! Obviously, a midrash cannot contradict an explicit pasuk. And if interpreted simply, one would need to say they contradicted. (And he cites Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer which puts forth a similar theory.) This works out well with the language of the pasuk in Yechezkel, which mentions specifically geshem.

However, Tosafot in Zevachim, d"h lo yarad, gives an answer, in which even rains did not fall. And he cites the same midrashim I cited, except he has the rabbi involved as Rabbi Yishmael beRabbi Yossi, rather than Rabbi Yochanan:
לא ירד מבול לא"י. תימה והכתיב (בראשית ז) ויכסו כל ההרים הגבוהים אשר תחת כל השמים ובבראשית רבה אמרינן דר' ישמעאל ב"ר יוסי ובהמי אחד היו הולכין בדרך פירוש בהמי שומר בהמות אמר להון ההוא כותאה איתו צלויי על טורא גריזים דלא נחית עליה טופנא אמר אותו בהמי לפני ר' ישמעאל בר' יוסי רבי תן לי רשות להשיב לו תשובה א"ל השב א"ל הר גריזים תחת כל השמים הוא א"ל הן ולא כתיב ויכסו כל ההרים הגבוהים אשר תחת כל השמים קרא עליו ולא יהיה בך עקר ועקרה ובבהמתך אפי' הבהמי שבך לא יתעקר מן התשובה ושמא י"ל דויכסו כל ההרים היינו ששלט הבל המבול בכל מקום כדאמרינן לקמן דמתו בהבלא ואותו כותי היה ר"ל שלא היה שם לא הבל ולא שום דבר אי נמי לאותו כותי נתכונו לדחות בקש וקרא (להכא) ל"ק דבמקום שירד מבול התם קאמר שנתכסו ההרים:
That pasuk that it covered all the mountains under all the heaven is problematic indeed! And he answers that it was the hevel of the mabul which covered all the mountains, as we say there (midrashically) that they died from the hevel, while the Samaritan didn't think there was even hevel; alternatively, he pushed that Kuti off with a reed, but what was intended by the pasuk was that all places the Deluge reached, the mountains were covered.

The latter interpretation gives us great license to discuss a local flood.

Perhaps. I am not exceptionally persuaded by either interpretation of the pasuk as a matter of peshat (rather than derash), or that that was necessarily the intent of the author of the midrash. And so it is difficult. Ramban, I think, works out better. All this if the midrash about Eretz Yisrael was intended literally. But then, how could it be intended allegorically when they are discussing matters that pertain to halacha?!

Ibn Ezra enters into the fray, possibly calling names to those who believe Eretz Yisrael was not covered. On the pasuk in perek 7:

כג וַיִּמַח אֶת-כָּל-הַיְקוּם אֲשֶׁר עַל-פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה, מֵאָדָם עַד-בְּהֵמָה עַד-רֶמֶשׂ וְעַד-עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם, וַיִּמָּחוּ, מִן-הָאָרֶץ; וַיִּשָּׁאֶר אַךְ-נֹחַ וַאֲשֶׁר אִתּוֹ, בַּתֵּבָה.23 And He blotted out every living substance which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and creeping thing, and fowl of the heaven; and they were blotted out from the earth; and Noah only was left, and they that were with him in the ark.

He says that "they were blotted out from the earth" means that neither they nor any of their descendants anywhere were left, such that their remembrance was obliterated from the earth. And this is a complete answer to those "chasirei hadaat" of our brethren who say that the mabul was not in the entire land.
ז, כג]ש
וימחו מן הארץ -
נמחה שמם מן הארץ, כי אין להם זרע ונשאר רק נח לבדו ואשר אתו. והנה זאת תשובה גמורה על חסירי הדעת מאחינו, שאומרים שלא היה המבול בכל הארץ.

Thus, Ibn Ezra considers as idiots those who believe in a local flood, and those who believe that the mabul did not flood Eretz Yisrael.

Obviously, such name-calling about something to people who hold what seems to be a quite traditional belief, grounded inmidrashim, is going to spark a reaction. Is he calling contemporaries idiots, or Chazal? Looking at some of Ibn Ezra's supercommentators, we have Rabbi Shmuel Motot.

He explains that Ibn Ezra is upset at those contemporaries who take the midrash in Braishit Rabba and elsewhere absolutely literally, that there was no flood in Eretz Yisrael. There was a special meaning to that midrash, that the forces of heaven were not arrayed against it, but rather, it was as in Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer, that water came from elsewhere and flooded it. And they are basing themselves on the midrash based on the pasuk in Yechezkel. But that was raining on it, but of course everything was destroyed, even in Eretz Yisrael, by the mabul.

Of course, the midrash says that it wasn't טפתה, flooded. That means that there was not the mabul as there was in other lands. And so of course it was flooded, but it wasn't flooded.












I {=Josh} don't know. If Ibn Ezra was actually referring to views based on the midrash, it is somewhat forced to say that "flooded" doesn't mean "as flooded." Though Ramban would have to say this as well.

Mevaser Ezra also notes the harsh language, which he considers to be neged Chazal:
מן הלשונות הקשות נגד הז״ל, בפ׳ נח ז׳ כ״ג ״וזאת תשובה גמורה על תסרי הדעת
מאחינו שאומרים שלא הי׳ המבול בכל הארץ״. עי׳ זבתים קיג ע ״ א . ופ׳ תצא כ״ד ט ״ ז
לא יומתו אבות על בנים ותועי דוה שאלו איך אה״כ לא יומתו אבות ובמק״א אומר
פוקד עון אבות ושאלתם תהו וכו׳ ע״ש עי׳ ברכת ז׳ ע״א. וגם רשב״ם פ׳ תצא שם
פי׳ כראב״ע ועי׳ ראב״ע פ׳ יתרו כ׳ ה׳ שכתב ג״כ כהז״ל להלק בין אותזין מעשה
אבותיהם בידיהם או לא ועי׳ יסוד מורא שער א׳ דף י״א ע״ב שכתב שנלמד מדברי
המקרא מצות רבות כמצות לא תאכלו על הדם מדברי שאול, ולא יומתו אבות
על בנים מדברי אמציה (מ״ב י״ד). ועיי״ש בלוית חן. (ועי׳ פי׳ ספורנו בפ׳ תצא
ורשב״ם שם, ורמב״ן ס״פ בחקותי).ש
Mechokekei Yehuda meanwhile says that this is not going on Chazal, or those relying on the peshat of the derash of Chazal, but rather the text should be חסירי דעת, without the definite article, and it is addressing those Jews who refer to a very tall mountain in Greece (much higher than Ararat) which they claim was not covered by the flood. (See here where I discuss that other Ibn Ezra.) And so says Ohel Yosef; And see what Avi Ezer writes in defense of Ibn Ezra.

At the end of the day, I still think that on the level of peshat, that pasuk is something to contend with; and that when we are learning peshat rather than derash we cannot simply take the midrashist's interpretation as compelling peshat. And even within the midrash, it is not even so clear that they are maintaining that Eretz Yisrael was not flooded (though the pashtan in me wants to read the midrash kepshuto).

Update: I also think it is quite plausible that the midrash was always intended allegorically. See what meaning the Samaritan ascribed to Har Gerizim not being flooded. It has similar theological significance from Bnei Yisrael in terms of all Eretz Yisrael. How we deal with other midrashim which take it as a given (for example, no issue with the reem, is another story...)

8 comments:

E-Man said...

Do you think most of Breishis and Noach can be read on pashut pshat level? First thing I would like to know is whose viewpoint are we hearing this narrative from. Is it G-D's viewpoint? Is it Noach's? Is it Moshe's? I know we are saying that G-D dictated the whole Torah to Moshe, but maybe the viewpoint of these stories are meant to be Moshe or Moshe seeing the stories through the eyes of someone involved in the story. If this is true than pashut pshat is given a whole new meaning.

SO what do you think. Is it G-D's point of view or man's?

joshwaxman said...

i think that man's view is a good possibility (as i noted in the previous post). but ultimately, i don't know. could be; could be not. :)

kt,
josh

Anonymous said...

But alas, you are not considering pshat... Fact: Torah uses the word ארץ as opposed to אדמה. If we look at how the word ארץ is used in every case I can find... it refers to localized locations. Perhaps the effects of the flood were world-wide. But to say the flood waters were world-wide? I am not convinced.

joshwaxman said...

really?
bereishit bara elokim et hashamayim beEt ha_________? adama? did Hashem only create a localized location?

lahashem ha____ umloah, tevel veyoshvei vah? adama? does Hashem only own a specific locale? why is is placed opposite teivel?

כי ה הוא האלהים, בשמים ממעל ועל-ה_____ מתחת: אין, עוד? adama? when placed up against Shamayim, it surely indicates Earth.

העידותי בכם היום את-השמים ואת-הארץ. is this adama?

אשר פצתה הארץ את-פיה. surely this means "ground" rather than a specific land.

i think that haAretz can sometimes be elemental earth, rather than a specific land.

kol tuv,
josh

Jessica said...

What does the word גברוmean? Why does the word appear so many time in the flood story?

joshwaxman said...

an interesting question. i've never sat down and formulated a theory. sometimes words are reused and repeated to develop a theme. גברו comes from gavar, which is a manifestation of might, which fits well with this midat hadin which is manifesting itself.

all the best,
josh

Shmuel Kimche said...

One only need to find a few instances where "eretz" means localised (of which there are plenty) to allow for the reading that the mabul was localised and not global. Such an approach would certainly help regarding many torah-science issues with the mabul.

joshwaxman said...

first, Anonymous said "in every case i can find" so i pointed out some obvious counterexamples.

but second, with the definite article (ha-aretz)? and unmodified by hazot, or asher? i think there will be much fewer. and consider that it is used in opposition to shamayim.

that such an approach would certainly help is precisely what one needs to guard against. we don't want to be seduced into an inaccurate reading because of convenience. first i would want to find it compelling from a text-internal perspective, and then we can consider implications external to the text.

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