After Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492, while travelling west in search of a shortcut to India, many individuals became motivated to set out on similar voyages of discovery. More and more of these travellers came to the conclusion that the Earth was indeed round, in opposition the firmly held opinion of the masses.
Slowly but surely, though, increasing numbers of people began to understand that the Earth is indeed round. Today, every schoolboy knows the truth, and has seen photographs from space of the spherical globe upon which we all live. Nowadays, the flat Earth theory, complete with supporting whales or elephants, evokes in us only a smile. But we must remember that the only relevant evidence available to the ancient civilizations was what they saw in their immediate surroundings - the fields, the valleys, the endless ocean stretching out before them. They had no good reason to take the leap of the imagination required to think that the Earth was round. In addition, before Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) discovered the laws of gravity, there was no logical reason to suggest that the world populated by humans, animals and myriad objects was round. How could creatures standing on the opposite side of the world, head down, not fall off the planet?!
Once again, the Zohar,' written over 2,000 years ago has something to tell us on this subject. In this instance, it quotes a book written even earlier, by Rabbi Hamnuna Saba in Second Temple times:
wondrous are Your works and my soul knows it well' (Psalms 139:14).
This short, incisive segment in the Zohar contains some very important pieces of information. Its author knew that:
- The world is shaped like a ball, and is not flat, as was then understood by humankind.
- The Earth is not fixed permanently in one place, but spins and turns on its own axis.
- Human beings live on both sides of the planet, top and bottom.
- Humans live on one side of the globe, with their feet on the ground, in exactly the same way as they do on the other side. This points to an understanding of the force of gravity (even though gravity was discovered by Newton a mere 300 years ago).
- When it is daytime in one half of the earth, it is night in the other and vice versa.
- There is a place where it is almost constantly light, and night-time is very short (such as the arctic regions, due to the angle of the Earth to the Sun).
Rashi similarly writes: "Blimah means without any foundation, because they stand in the air" (referring in this context to empty space). How must the words of the Torah have sounded to people thousands of years ago, and how do they sound to us today?
What did the Torah say at the time? In Jewish tradition, the following verse is considered to have been made with prophetic inspiration (as is true for all the other verses in the Bible):
"He suspends the Earth on nothingness." (Job 26:7) This means exactly what it says - there were no supports. Rabbis David and Yechie1 Altshuler, father and son authors of the 18th century Scriptural commentary, Metzudat Zion, explain that the Hebrew word for nothingness - blimah - is comprised of two syllables - bli and mah, which in this form mean, "without anything."
This was another example of how the people who did not open the "Handbook of the Universe" were so uninformed; while those who have and study Torah have and live by the Absolute Truth (love that expression).