Friday, April 24, 2009

Rambam- Zodiac's (constellations) Appearance Explained- Yisodei Hatorah perek 3 halacha 7

For some reason the Rambam finds it crucial to explain astronomy. Therefore, he continues his discussion of the constellations. He says,

גלגל התשיעי עצמו אין בו לא חלוקה ולא צורה מכל הצורות האלו ולא כוכב. אלא בחיבור הכוכבים שבגלגל השמיני הוא שיראה בכוכבים גדולים שבו תבנית הצורות האלו או קרוב מהן. ואלו השנים עשר צורות לא היו מכוונות כנגד אותן החלקים אלא בזמן המבול שאז העלו להן שמות אלו. אבל בזמן הזה כבר סבבו מעט, לפי שכל הכוכבים שבגלגל שמיני כולם סובבים כמו השמש והירח אלא שהן סובבין בכבידות. וחלק שיתהלך השמש והירח כנגדו ביום אחד ילך כנגדו כל כוכב מהן בקירוב משבעים שנה:

"The ninth Sphere itself has nothing in it, no divisions, no forms like these forms [we mentioned] and no stars. However, it does have a connection to the stars that are in the eighth Sphere. It is because of this connection that it appears to have big stars that shape these forms [of the Zodiac] or the forms close to them. These twelve forms [of the Zodiac] (in the eighth Sphere) have not been in correlation to the twelve divisions (that are in the ninth Sphere) since the days of the Great Flood since that is when they were given their names. Nowadays, the (eighth) Sphere has turned a little (and is therefore out of sync with the ninth Sphere and its original designations). The reason for this is because the stars that are in the eighth Sphere are all rotating around like the Sun or the Moon, only they rotate slower. (To compare the two) the amount of the sky that the Sun covers in one day, these other stars it takes 70 years."

The Peirush (unknown commentary) explains that the reason the Rambam feels the need to tell us that the ninth and eighth Spheres are out of sync is because the original astronomers thought that even the eighth Sphere does not rotate. However, by the time of the Rambam all astronomers had found out that really the stars do rotate and have shifted their position in the sky from the previous years, albeit slowly.

The eighth and ninth Spheres are things that are so far away and difficult to understand. The reason that the Rambam devotes so much time to figuring out the constellations and telling us all the science that he knows is clear. The Rambam is telling us that science must be understood in order to connect to G-D. One can not truly appreciate the creator of something if they do not understand the intricacies and difficulties involved with those objects. A man who knows how to make a watch can appreciate the difficulties involved with making that watch. Also, a fellow doctor can understand how hard medical school is, whereas a lay person might not appreciate the difficulty and self sacrifice that is involved.

This is why I think the Rambam takes such great care to delve into these seemingly meaningless ideas. I mean, why should we care how the outer most Spheres work? Will we ever come in contact with them? Will they ever effect us? It must be that we are on a mission to understand everything in this world in order that we can have a greater appreciation for G-D.

Just as a side point, I think this teaches us a very valuable lesson about appreciating anyone, especially our parents. A person never really appreciates all that their parents do for them until they themselves become parents. Only once a person is put into the shoes of their parents do they realize the difficulties that parenting involves. This, of course, is true by most things.

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