Thursday, April 07, 2011

Is 613 seeds in a pomegranate a fundamental belief?

Summary: No, even though some think it is.

Post: Back when I was researching pomegranates, their number of seeds, and which meforshim claim that there are precisely 613 (see here, here, and here), I encountered the following amusing story:

This very frummy story is the innovation of a rather liberal Jewish storyteller, whose bio can be read here. So, what lesson are we to draw from such a story? First, that such evidence of God's creation of the universe is present in the universe itself. Also, perhaps, that such a 613 count in a pomegranate is masorah, passed e.g. from Kohen Gadol to Kohen Gadol, and that if it were found to be false, belief in God might fail along with it. Also, that questions and determining for yourself is good, and that such investigation will lead you towards belief in God. (I think this was his intended message.) Finally, that if your own investigations yield a contradiction to such a belief, there is a strong possibility that you made an error. Thus, little Eliahu had missed the three pomegranate seeds in the crown, and thus thought that the 613 count was in error. Really, it was only his own error.

When I wrote some of the pomegranate posts, I indeed had people think that I was challenging a masorah all the way to Chazal. One silly individual pointed to the fake or meaningless "study" which found an average of 613 seeds (or rather 612.529), which I had already discussed and debunked, and made a comment akin to "who is rite waxman or chazal see this study". Others have said that Malbim would not have said such a thing unless he had determined it firsthand. And so on and so forth. But from where I stand, while it is not true, it never was a big deal to begin with.


S. said...

Not to mention that 613 is itself problematic, at least projecting that number back to the Bayit Rishon (or Sheni).

joshwaxman said...

how so? if even Esav, much prior to Bayis Rishon, could understand the reference of "im lavan garti", then certainly Eliahu Cohen Gadol would know of it!



S. said...



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