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Friday, April 11, 2008
You're probably all familiar with the maxim that claims that the olives back then were probably much larger than the olives we eat today.

It's important for various halachic measurements, most relevant to us during this upcoming Pesach - how much Matza are we are supposed to eat.

Researcher's at Bar Ilan are claiming that the size of the olives back then, was actually smaller than they are today.

Uh Oh.

But don't Pasken like this just yet. It hasn't yet been rabbinically approved, and this is only these researcher's opinion.

Even the rediscovery of T'chellet still hasn't been accepted in many quarters.


Esser Agaroth said...


This is no hidush. The RI"F says that two olives may fit into the throat of the average man. (He has xtensive descriptions of all the halachic measurements.)

If the Ramba"m (who said the RI"F only made 8 mistakes) concurs then that's 2 of 3 of the poseqim the Beth Yosef [arbitrarily] picks.

The Hazon Ish's opinion is sforah. People hold by it, but no one claims there's any halachic source for this.

Don't tell anyone though, you'll be called an apikourus.

Anonymous said...

nice article, but one big mistake.
A kezayit is a measure of volume NOT weight.

Nachum said...

The whole "used to be bigger thing" is based on comparing olive to thumb ratios.

Of course, it's much more likely that the discrepancy is because people got bigger. R' Willig pointed this out.

Anonymous said...

That raises an interesting question about whether sizes and portions are fixed, or are relative to the person involved.

Esser Agaroth said...

Well, I believe he refers to the "average" man.

It does bring up the question of what that means though in relationship to the time. If the average man was smaller than today, then does that mean the kezayith would be even smaller, or do we hold to the "average" man for to day.

The same issue is brought when the Ramba"m mentions the minimum size of garment requiring tzitzith. It is relative to the size of a child who can go to the shuq by himself.

Unknown said...

When did the rediscovery of techelet occur? The blue version of argaman promoted by (the organisation) P'til Tekhelet is certainly not a "rediscovery", as it's based on conjecture and argument rather than an archaeological discovery.

For what it's worth, I think P'til Tekhelet (P.T.) is wrong.

Firstly, if techelet came from the same source as argaman then it wouldn't have been such a mystery. Make some argaman, but expose the dyed wool to sunlight and you get a blue color. Surely any producer of argaman could have told you that, because blue was considered inferior to the true argaman-purple.

Secondly, we know that there was a test that could distinguish between techelet and "kaleh ilan", which is almost certainly (the plant) indigo. P.T.'s version of techelet is chemically identical to the coloring agent derived from indigo. No test could have worked to distinguish them.

Lastly, I think P.T''s arguments are quite weak. It addresses the traditional descriptions of the chilazon, the source of techelet, in ways that make the descriptions useless. For instance, it says that "looks like the sea" means that the chilazon is covered with sea slime, and therefore looks like the sea bed. Even if we grant that the sea bed and snails upon it are covered with slime, this would necessarily include all other creatures on the sea bed. It says that "briato domeh l'dag" means that it spawns like a fish. Surely this includes nearly all sea creatures. Remember, these traditional descriptions were recorded because they were meaningful, not because they were merely accurate but useless.

I don't suggest that P.T. is in anyway insincere, but I am so wholly unconvinced by their argument that I wouldn't even buy their "techelet" on the off-chance that they might be right. Better to use the money on something else.

Anonymous said...

"nice article, but one big mistake.
A kezayit is a measure of volume NOT weight."

I think that sefardi poskim go by weight, not volume. You are right that Ashkenazim go by volume.

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