Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Riddle of the Missing Year

I share a story I heard this Shabbos.

Three years ago, my friend (who created a calendar program for Jewish family purity) was in Pennsylvania the night before a special event was to take place in front of "770" in Brooklyn, NY. Once every 28 years, Jews gather there on the boulevard in the thousands to make the "Blessing on the Sun" en masse.

He was bothered by a question; Why, if the sun returns to the very position it first started orbiting in the world, from that very first Wednesday when God created it, why then was the year in which it was now about to be blessed, 5769, not a perfect multiple of 28; Why did the division of 5769 by 28 leave a remainder?

Everyone he asked that night in Pennsylvania could not answer his question. He drove to NY very early the next morning. The very first person he asked in Brooklyn gave him the answer.

The answer is in Rashi, in the Torah portion of Noah (8:14). The punishment meted out to Noah's generation, the Great Flood, occupied a full solar year! During this entire time, astronomic movement had ceased; All orbits remained frozen in time. Which is why, after the flood, God promises that the cycle of "... day and night will never again be breached." (8:22)

There you have it; One year did not count! 5769 - 1 = 5768, a number which does get factored evenly by 28.

From the day of its inception, back to its position where it was first created, was about to occur that morning my friend made it in time to Brooklyn, for exactly the 206th time.

But this story, however, raises a question, a new riddle:

The story of Joshua stopping the celestial orbits countered what God said to Noach (Gen. 8:22, cited above), that He will no more breach the cycle of day and night, as he had done during the Great Flood. How then (or when) were the hours that held back the normal cycle, for the sake of Joshua at Givon, compensated for with an acceleration of time, to return the cycle to its normal periodicity? Anyone?
--------------------------------------------------------
UPDATE: In the war with Amalek, in the year 2448, Moses stopped the sun (Rashi - Ex. 17:12). Joshua, in the war against the 5 Emorite armies, circa 2488, stopped the sun (Joshua 10:12) too. So where do we see where the sun was accelerated (to compensate for the loss of travel time in the above two instances)? This we see happened when the sun accelerated to set for Jacob when he went to pray at Mount Sinai (Gen. 28:11). Rashi says, "the sun suddenly set for Jacob, to persuade him to sleep at the spot", and as the Ba'al Haturim there also says, "The sun set before its normal time." (Second riddle resolved!)

I now simply have trouble understanding exactly what God means by "... day and night will never again be breached".

3 comments:

  1. Fascinating question... Could it be, perhaps, that G-d promised not to breach the cycle *as a punishment for the sins of mankind*, but the possibility was not totally excluded if it could be favorable to Israel?
    Just my 2 agorot...
    R.Halevy - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil

    ReplyDelete
  2. R' Halevy, thanks for your 2 agorot.

    The question becomes more complicated because Moshe Rabbeinu too stopped the sun (See Rashi at Ex. 17:12).

    Many "acharonim", I've since been told, dealt with this question extensively.

    ReplyDelete
  3. UPDATE: In the war with Amalek, in the year 2448, Moses stopped the sun (Rashi - Ex. 17:12). Joshua, in the war against the 5 Emorite armies, circa 2488, stopped the sun (Joshua 10:12) too. So where do we see where the sun was accelerated (to compensate for the loss of travel time in the above two instances)? This we see happened when the sun accelerated to set for Jacob when he went to pray at Mount Sinai (Gen. 28:11). Rashi says, "the sun suddenly set for Jacob, to persuade him to sleep at the spot", and as the Ba'al Haturim there also says, "The sun set before its normal time." (Second riddle resolved!)

    ReplyDelete

ShareThis