Sunday, April 21, 2013

Rashi had ruach hakodesh

The Artscroll Gemara, unlike Steinsaltz and other English or Hebrew translations/commentaries, have set themselves the task of always following Rashi's explanation, even if it is not the simplest. You may have noticed this when the magid shiur in daf yomi tries to give Tosefot's explanation of a sugya which is easier than Rashi's, and everyone with an Artscroll Gemara argues that he is saying it wrong.

There is a sugya in Rosh Hashana 24a regarding the position of the moon in relation to the sun, and the difference between winter and summer.

Artscrolls team of Rabbis (18 names are listed in the beginning of the book) struggled to understand Rashi here. Eventually they were forced to write the following:

The facts of this explanation simply to not comforn to the basic astronomical data as we know it. According to simple ovservation, the new moon does not set at one place year round. On the contrary, its setting place is very close to that of the sun; namely, south of due west in the winter and north of due west in the summer. Furthermore, its north-south postion in relation to the sun does not depend on the season of the year but rather on other considerations (see Rambam, Hil. Kiddush HaChodesh 16:7 ff.). Unfortunately, the holy words of our master Rashi here are beyond our feeble understanding and they await elucidation.
Rashi's explanatino aside, the Gemara can be explained quite simply...
 In other words, the translators and editors of the Artscroll Gemara were unable to understand how Rashi's explanation of the Gemara fit with reality. Since that reality can be ascertained by "simple observation" it is inconceivable that Rashi didn't know it. It is not a question of modern science or even geography. Furthermore, Rashi left aside the simple understanding of the Gemara to write his difficult explanation that cannot be understood.

There are only two possible ways of understanding Rashi. Either he didn't know basic astronomy. Or he wrote his commentary with such deep Ruach HaKodesh that it can not be understood by modern talmidei chachamim.

Since the first option is inconceivable, it is clear that Rashi must have been writing with Ruach HaKodesh.

1 comment:

  1. Rashi is a pashtan, so what we see isn't Rashi's astronomy, but Rashi's conception of Chazal's astronomy. Note how he quotes gemaros to make astronomical points.

    BTW, there is a similar problem with Rashi on Bereishis 1. Yes, he explains the pesuqim quite literally. But his job is to give peshat in the pasuq. Just as in 1:1 and 2:4, where he indicates a peshat in which the week of creation isn't a week as we know it today, despite his other comments. Anyway, if the pasuq is allegorical, or a partial explanation of something people inherently can't understand, Rashi's goal would be to explain the mashal, not the nimshal.

    You'll also find Rashi using Persian astronomy here (sun going behind a dome at night), but Ptolmeic astronomy when Chazal do.

    In any case, the whole thing is difficult no matter whose opinion we believe Rashi is describing. Ignorance of things like sun- and moonrise were pretty rare in the pre-industrial, pre-urban era. It's hard to believe either anyone from Chazal or that Rashi wouldn't know something that is common knowledge in agrarian societies.

    Sidenote: It doesn't mean north and south of due west. Because when living north of the tropics, the sun and moon are always south of the west - east line. This is why north is "tzafon" (hidden). Here the terms must be relative, north or south of average.