Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rambam- Interchange Between the Four Elements- Yisodei Hatorah perek 4 halacha 5

The Rambam continues to discuss how the four elements in the world interact with each other. He says,

ארבעה יסודות האלו משתנים זה לזה תמיד בכל יום ובכל שעה מקצתן לא כל גופן. כיצד מקצת הארץ הקרובה מן המים משתנית ומתפוררת ונעשית מים. וכן מקצת המים הסמוכים לרוח משתנין ומתמסמסין והווין רוח. וכן הרוח מקצתו הסמוך לאש משתנה ומתחולל ונעשה אש. וכן האש מקצתה הסמוך לרוח מתחולל משתנה ומתכנס ונעשה רוח. וכן הרוח מקצתו הסמוך למים משתנה ומתכנס ונעשה מים. וכן המים מקצתו הסמוך לארץ משתנה ומתכנס ונעשה ארץ. ושינוי זה מעט מעט ולפי אורך הימים. ואין כל היסוד משתנה עד שיעשה כל המים רוח או כל הרוח אש שאי אפשר שיבטל אחד מן היסודות הארבעה. אלא מקצת ישתנה מאש לרוח ומקצת ישתנה מרוח לאש וכן בין כל אחד וחבירו ימצא השינוי בין ארבעתן וחוזרות חלילה לעולם: 


"The four elements continuously change into each other every day and hour, some do not completely change. How does this work? Some of the element of land that are close to the element of water change and crumble into the element of water. So too, some of the element of water that is close to the element of wind changes and shifts into the element of air. Also, some of the element of air that is close to the element of fire changes into the element of fire. Also, some of the element of fire that is close to the element of air changes into the element of air. Some of the element of air that is close to the element of water changes into water. Finally, some of the element of water that is close to the element of land turns into the element of land. These changes occur gradually and over many days. However, the elements will never change to the extent that every element of water will turn into air or every element of air will turn into fire since this is impossible that one of the four elements will cease to exist. Rather, some of the elements of fire will turn into air and some of air will turn into fire. And so between every element there will always be a continuous changing rotation between all the four elements."

This idea is very congruent with how some elements exist. On the surface of water there is always a certain amount of H2O elements that are in the solid state of water and there are a certain amount of H2O elements that are in the vapor state. This is how chemistry would describe them. It is fascinating that the Rambam might have understood science in this way.

I think an underlying theme to this halacha might have to do with humbleness. The point is that the highest of all the elements is fire. However, even the highest of all the elements changes back into air. THis air ten can eventually turn into water. Finally, the water then turns into land. Thus, after a long period, the element of fire can turn into the element of land, this element goes from the highest level to the lowest level. That can teach us a great lesson, never be too comfortable in your status because even the elements of the world, which are stable, eventually change. Also, it teaches us that even those people in the lowest levels can rise up and overcome whatever is standing in their way.

6 comments:

Baruch said...

Trust me on this one:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consolation_of_Philosophy

E-Man said...

Just exactly what am I looking for here?

Baruch said...

I thought the Wiki article may get you interested, but the book is a must-read.

Baruch said...

ps you're back? If so, I'll see you Shabbos morning.

E-Man said...

I will see you this shabbos. Also, the book does look interesting. THanks for the idea. I thought that it was related to the Rambam somehow.

Baruch said...

Etan,
Sorry, I thought the relevance to the Rambam would be apparent from the Wiki article.

The idea you're presenting of status change is extremely similar to the Wheel of Fortune as presented by Boethius.