Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Cloudy With A Chance Of

Today, with the proliferation of personal electronics, most people check the weather forecast without giving it a second thought. But long before the development of scientific meteorology, knowing the weather, or predicting the future weather, was a fascination of every society.

The Talmud quotes Rabbi Yochanan saying that porehot (a thin cloud under a thick cloud) is a sign of rain. “Rab Judah said: Should fine rain come down before the heavy rain then the rain will continue for some time; should it follow a heavy downpour of rain then the rain will soon cease” (Taanit 9b).

On the very same page, however, it is written: “Ulla chanced to be in Babylon and observing light clouds [porehot ] he exclaimed, ‘Remove the vessels for rain is now coming’. No rain however fell and he exclaimed, As the Babylonians are false, so too is their rain” (ibid).

Meteorologists are somewhat more specific today than they were two thousand years ago, but they benefit from the highly complex technology that allows them to observe the climate from both below and above (using satellites).

It might be easy to look back and scoff at the rudimentary meteorological knowledge of the ancients, but, in truth, the sages had tremendous insights into the natural world, which came both from the Torah and their own observations. For instance:

“It has been taught: Rabbi Eleazar said: The whole world draws its water supply from the waters of the ocean, as it is said (Genesis 2:6) , ‘But there went up a mist from the earth and watered the whole of the ground’*” (Taanit 9b).

Today’s Treat is brought to you in honor of National Weatherman's Day.

*The Talmud also cites other opinions about the source of rain.

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