Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rambam- Shapes of the Spheres- Yisodei Hatorah perek 3 halacha 4

The Rambam describes the Spheres' shape in this halacha. Again, the Rambam is basing what he knows on Aristotilian knowledge and any other available science sources he had at the time. These descriptions do not detract from his genius, nor do they hint at a lack of halachic knowledge on the Rambam's part. All these ideas show is that the Rambam believed that scientific knowledge should be used to enhance our understanding and love for G-D. He says,

כל הגלגלים האלו המקיפין את העולם הן עגולין ככדור והארץ תלויה באמצע. ויש למקצת מן הכוכבים גלגלים קטנים שהן קבועים בהן ואין אותם הגלגלים מקיפין את הארץ אלא גלגל קטן שאינו מקיף קבוע בגלגל הגדול המקיף:

"All of these Spheres that surround the Universe are circular like a circle and the Earth hangs in the middle. There are some celestial bodies that have small spheres that are set around them. However, these spheres are not the spheres that go around the Earth, but rather they are spheres that are not set [in a permanent place] inside of the larger sphere [they are in]."

The Rambam makes some very impressive observations for his time period. He talks about different celestial bodies having orbits around them. For instance, his observations could be referring to Jupiter and its moons or Saturn and its moons. This is what is meant in the Rambam when he says there are spheres that do not rotate around the Earth, but rather around something else. He is telling us that everything rotates around the Earth, but within those greater orbits are the micro-orbits of the planets' moons and other similar bodies.

As we understand in science today, it is the Sun that is at the center of our galaxy and not the Earth. Although we may think the Rambam to be wrong in what he thought was scientific fact, it is amazing how accurate he was in astronomy. There are many planets that have moons and other types of orbits that exist around them, like the rings around Uranus and Saturn. Still, these bigger bodies still orbit around the Sun with these smaller orbits around them. The Rambam realized this, even though he was wrong about what body was at the center of the Universe.

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