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(Saw it today at the Kolel in Mikraot Gedolot, sorry can't find it online, please help).

At the beginning of Divrei Hayamim, Pirush HaGr"a explains various nations coming out of Noah's sons and how they divided the Earth and writes that Yefet got the North lands and the North pole and Cham got Africa [at] the South pole (קוטב הדרומי).

As Gr"A was well educated, how should we understand this statement, as a continuation of the Flat Earth movement in Judaism or as another tradition?

  • I assure you gra does not think earth is flat. – Dr. Shmuel Mar 31 at 18:43
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    Consider photographing the bit – Dr. Shmuel Mar 31 at 18:44
  • Does the Gra say that Africa is at the South Pole, or that the place referred to by Chazal as אפריקי is at the South Pole? There are many different interpretations of אפריקי, the most commonly cited ones (in my experience) being Carthage and what is modern-day Turkey, but perhaps the Gra felt that this was a different place. Would give new meaning to Tamid 32a, that Alexander the Great had to travel through a mountainous region that is always dark in order to reach אפריקי. – DonielF Mar 31 at 19:54
  • @DonielF I'll photo it tomorrow B"H, but he said that Yefet got the North pole and Cham the South pole ig Africa. – Al Berko Mar 31 at 20:38
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    Found the quote in my Mikraos Gedolos: שם נטל חלק שליש במזרחי והוא אפריקי. וחם ויפת חלקו המערבי לשנים: חם נטל חלק הדרומי והוא אזיע, ויפת הצפוני והוא איראפיא. וכל השמות שנכתבו כאן הוא שם מדינות: גומר נטל קרוב לקוטב הצפוני, ומגוג אחריו, וכן כולם. וכוש קרוב לקוטב הדרומי, ומצרים אחריו... Nowhere does he say that Africa is the South Pole, nor does he say that Europe is the North Pole. What I see is that parts of their regions are close to the poles, which is geographically accurate: Kush apparently had South Africa, and Gomer apparently had Scandinavia. – DonielF Mar 31 at 20:46
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In my Mikraos Gedolos, I see the following quote (it's in his commentary to I:1:4):

שם נטל חלק שליש במזרחי והוא אפריקי. וחם ויפת חלקו המערבי לשנים: חם נטל חלק הדרומי והוא אזיע, ויפת הצפוני והוא איראפיא. וכל השמות שנכתבו כאן הוא שם מדינות: גומר נטל קרוב לקוטב הצפוני, ומגוג אחריו, וכן כולם. וכוש קרוב לקוטב הדרומי, ומצרים אחריו...

Nowhere does he say that Africa is the South Pole, nor does he say that Europe is the North Pole. He does say that Kush is close to the South Pole, perhaps South Africa (apparently learning that Africa was basically split between Kush in the south and Mitzraim in the north, with Kena'an beWhat I see is that parts of their regions are close to the poles, which is geographically accurate: Kush apparently had South Africa, and Gomer apparently had Scandinavia.

  • Apparently I've been particularly active today; I just got a captcha to post this. – DonielF Mar 31 at 20:55
  • So how do you understand "קרוב לקוטב הדרומי"? For me, it looks like Earth ends after Egypt or at most at the Equator. – Al Berko Mar 31 at 21:01
  • I understand that some part of Africa is close to the South Pole, which is true. Mitzraim wasn't necessarily just Egypt, nor was Kush necessarily just Ethiopia; with this Gra in hand, it's possible to take part of the teaching cited in Pesachim 94a less metaphorically, that Egypt was 400x400 parsa, and Kush was significantly larger. – DonielF Mar 31 at 21:03
  • But I still don't think he meant it to bend to another hemisphere. In his perception, the South pole is the place of maximum heat as opposed to the NP so it aligns with the Equator. – Al Berko Mar 31 at 21:05
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    What's the literal meaning of קוטב? The only things I can think of offhand are קטב מרירי in Haazinu and אין עושין זיתים בבד ובקוטב in Sheviis 8:6, neither of which seems obviously relevant. – Heshy Mar 31 at 21:28

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