Friday, September 03, 2010

More on Minha Gedola and Tzel

Josh commented with tongue-in-cheek 2 posts ago that he predicts that "in the coming year, people will kvetch sources and err in their calculations so as to predict with absolute certainty that THIS is the year".

Not to disappoint, I will be the first to kvetch a source - even before the year begins!  Just for the record, I say nothing with absolute certainty, and it's very possible I might err too.

The commenters on my last post on the subject convinced me that Minha Gedola of the sixth millennium will occur in Av of 5771 - not 5770 as originally thought.
If you recall in that last post, we used the verse ימי כצל נטוי ואני כעשב איבש and showed how the shadow starts to lengthen at Minha Gedola.

I found an interesting Zohar that seems to have relevance.  The Zohar in Va'et'hanan (p. 270) says:
ומדשארי צל למעבד בשירותא דיומא אחרא, כמה בזמנא
דאתחריב מקדשא הוה, ונטה צל למיעל, הה"ד, אוי לנו כי פנה היום כי
ינטו צללי ערב. יום וצל, הוא סוף גלותא. ושיעורא דהאי צל, שית קמצין
ופלגא. ובגודל דמשחא דבר נש, גבר בין גוברין. ודוכרנא דהאי רזא דבין
חברייא, דכתיב כי תמול אנחנו ולא נדע כי צל ימינו עלי ארץ. כי תמול
אנחנו בגלותא, ולא הוינא ידעי כי צל ימינו עלי ארץ, לאשראה לון קב״ה
עלי ארץ.
Although it says בשירותא - which seems to mean the beginning of the millennium - it possibly could mean the beginning of the evening shadow, which is at Minha Gedola.  The reason to say this is because the Zohar compares it to the destruction of the second Beit Hamikdash, in the year 3828 - only about 50-60 years after Minha Gedola of the 4th millennium.  It also uses the verse in Yirmiyah 6:4.  Here is the full verse:

קַדְּשׁוּ עָלֶיהָ מִלְחָמָה, קוּמוּ וְנַעֲלֶה בַצָּהֳרָיִם; אוֹי לָנוּ כִּי-פָנָה הַיּוֹם, כִּי יִנָּטוּ צִלְלֵי-עָרֶב
'Prepare ye war against her; arise, and let us go up at noon!' 'Woe unto us! for the day declineth, for the shadows of the evening are stretched out!'
Here again, we have the words נטה and צל.  We can again use Rashi in Shabbat 9b to show that Minha Gedola is when the sun is נוטה toward the west.  And from this verse, it seems to be a time not far after צהרים - noon.  What this Zohar might be saying is: Just like the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash is sometime after Minha Gedola, similarly the end of Galut will be at the beginning בשירותא of the time after Minha Gedola where the shadow starts to lengthen.  The word בשירותא modifies the whole phrase "דיומא אחרא, כמה בזמנא דאתחריב מקדשא הוה, ונטה צל למיעל".

This Zohar then says the Galut will last יום וצל - a day and a shadow.  "Day" refers to the 5th millennium.  "Shadow" refers to a portion of the 6th millennium.  It mentions the measurement of this shadow being 6.5 Kamtzin.  What is a Kamtza?  The Sulam seems to say it's the measurement of man.  I saw another explanation that says that it's a Tefah.  לולי דמסתפינא, could a Kamtza be a daylight hour?  That means 6.5 daylight hours, which is exactly Minha Gedola.  And knowing that an hour is 41.666666 years, Minha Gedola will be Av, 5771.  That would make sense as the measurement of צל since that is when the shadow starts to lengthen.

And it only starts to lengthen then when you have ובגודל דמשחא דבר נש, גבר בין גוברין - an average man's height.  A shorter man's shadow may not be recognizable until later.

OK, it's a kvetch, but I like it.

May we merit to see Mashiah come even today.

Update: I am very excited to find a Sefer (the Bechorei Yaakov, quoting the Mikdash Melech) who agrees with me in saying that קמצין means "hours". He seems to say it in regard to Mashiah coming in 5541 since 1000 / 12 * 6.5 = 541.67. If we use a 24 hour day instead of a 12 hour day, however, we will get to 5771 since 5501 + (500 / 12 * 6.5) = 5771. ברוך שכוונתי. Maybe it's not such a Kvetch after all...


At Fri Sep 03, 07:59:00 AM 2010, Blogger משה רפאל said...

Yishar Koach. The event אוי לנו כי פנה היום כי
ינטו צללי ערב, regarding Bayit Sheni, seems to be the death of Hillel in 3771.

At Fri Sep 03, 09:46:00 AM 2010, Blogger joshwaxman said...

shkoyach. :)

i understand why kemeitzim would be (loose) tefachim, since it is used in this way elsewhere in rabbinic literature. i'm not sure where the Sulam gets that it equals being the measurement of a man, etymologically speaking. the next statement in Zohar is ובגודל דמשחא דבר נש, which literally means "and in the length of the measure of a human being." so he would be interpreting, i suppose, that this measure of 6 1/2 kemeitzim = the height of man.

the alternative could be that the measure of these tefachim are those of a normal human, rather than, say, that of Og melech haBashan.

it is hard to see how this could be a measure of time, given lack of supporting etymology and the context in the zohar. but if tzel is a measure of time, we can look to Tehillim 144:4:
אָדָם, לַהֶבֶל דָּמָה; יָמָיו, כְּצֵל עוֹבֵר

Then, depending on how you understand Adam, it means different things. If Adam haRishon, his days were 930, which would take us to 5930. If a typical person, then 70, 80, or 120. But then it would have already passed, at 5120. But if we kvetch and say that each kometz is 120, then 120 X 6.5 = 780. So 5780. You can use this in 9 years from now, if you want.


At Fri Sep 03, 10:57:00 AM 2010, Blogger joshwaxman said...

(btw, a better calculation would be as follows:
take a normal human height. figure out what length a shadow he casts at different hours of the day. when the ratio becomes human height : 6.5 handbreadths, that is the portion of the day. thus, a day + that timespan.


At Fri Sep 03, 11:09:00 AM 2010, Blogger joshwaxman said...

to calculate this, we need three pieces of data:
(1) how tall people were in late 13th century Spain (or if you like, in the time of Chazal).
(2) a calculation of what altitude in the sky the sun must be to have the ratio mentioned in the previous comment.
(3) a calculation of just what time of day (in late 13th century Spain) the sun would be at that altitude.

once we have that, we can compute what fraction a day and a shadow is.

here are two useful websites for this:
a shadow length calculator:

and an altitude calculator for Barcelona, Spain:


At Fri Sep 03, 11:17:00 AM 2010, Blogger yaak said...

That was what the Zohar Matok Midvash seemed to say. (I saw it at my local shul last night.) He said that a normal human is 18 tefahim (3 Amot) so when his tzel is about 1/3 of that (6.5 Tefahim), that's the tzel.

I admit that my Pshat is radical but might just work. The etymology issue notwithstanding.

And BTW, why would I care about height in Spain? ;-)

At Fri Sep 03, 11:55:00 AM 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yasher koach haverim.

It is arguable that the height of a man in Barcelona, where the Ramak lived--due to the Goths and their phenotypes--was greater than in Al Andalus. But this raises new points for consideration: Should the height of a non-Israel, if at all different, be a factor? Would this be non-kosher measurement, if we used it? Indeed, perhaps it would be best to consider such height in the vicinity of RASHBI instead. Ah ye of little faith in Zohar.


At Fri Sep 03, 12:08:00 PM 2010, Blogger joshwaxman said...

i wasn't intending Ramak really, but figured that one place in Spain is as good as any other, so chose it instead of León, in northwest Spain.

and to yaak and HaSepharadi, :)

btw, to go from 3 cubits to 1 cubit (assuming that 6.5 tefachim = 1 cubit, which it doesn't; more like either 5 or 6 to the amah), we would need an apparent altitude of 71.5 degrees.


At Fri Sep 03, 12:43:00 PM 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good point.

I didn't notice my error until now--I meant R'Moshe DeLeon. I was trying to finish the week with a flourish of tongue-in-cheek (Machloket not, did I seek).

Shabbat Shalom

At Sun Sep 05, 02:02:00 AM 2010, Blogger yaak said...

A MUST READ update has been posted for those who are interested.

At Sun Sep 05, 09:16:00 AM 2010, Blogger משה רפאל said...


At Sun Sep 05, 04:26:00 PM 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Zohar in Va’etchanan 270a is referring to Sof Galuta, which I understand to mean the final ingathering of all the exiles, at Yom veTzel.
I believe there is a simpler way of working out the time scale for the Tzel:
First calculate the angle that the sun’s rays subtend with the normal when the shadow is 6.5 Tefachim long for a man who is 18 Tefachim tall. This is Tan-1 6.5/18 x 180/Pi which equals 20.687 Degrees.
Now 90 Degrees represents 6Hrs, or 250 Years.
Therefore it would appear that the period of a Tzel is 20.687/90 x 250 which equals 57.465 Years.
Adding this period to 5750 (Chatzot) would yield the date for Yom veTzel, as the year 5808, corresponding to Sof Galuta.


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