Inspired by this question: New date at sunset: question on Sifse Chachamim

The Torah tells us that the Flood started the 17th of Cheshvan (Bereshit 7:11) and concluded the 27th of Cheshvan (Bereshit 8:14). Rashi (Bereshit 8:14) tells us that is because the flood was a complete solar year. Later (Bereshit 8:22), Rashi tells us that the Heavenly bodies did not function the whole year.

If so, how did the date jump from the 17th to the 27th? This is not a question of the passage of time (that was asked in the question linked to above). I'm asking a practical question. The lunar date is determined by the position of the moon, in other words, where it is in position to the sun. If all the heavenly bodies did not move for the whole year, the day after the flood ended should have been the 18th of the month, not the 27th.

  • 1
    Maybe the moon stayed put and the Earth moved? :)
    – Double AA
    Mar 10 '13 at 4:25
  • If שמש בגבעון דום was on Friday, how did it become Sunday according to the Midrash they skipped Shabbos?
    – JNF
    Mar 10 '13 at 8:40
  • You should ask a better question. If the heavinly bodies were not working, how could they know which month or date it is? You need to declare how many days are in each month.
    – avi
    Dec 19 '13 at 9:52
  • @avi, that sounds like this question: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/10997/…
    – Menachem
    Dec 19 '13 at 13:14

Rashi does not say that there was no day and night, but rather that they were not distinguishable (לא ניכר).

Rashi also does not say the constellations did not move, but rather that they could not be used (שלא שמשו).

The only thing that makes sense here is that everything continued to move, but because of the fury of the storm it was impossible to see the sky, and everything was dark for the entire year.

Rashi add the meaning "luminous gemstone" to צֹהַר for this exact reason: The sky was overcast and dark, so a skylight would not work. http://www.sichosinenglish.org/books/sichos-in-english/33/19.htm

  • The link you posted is based on Likkutey Sichos vol. 10 pg. 19 where the Lubavitcher Rebbe specifically learns that the simple meaning of לא שמשו המזלות in Rashi is that they ceased to perform their jobs. However see there that according to Rashi this might have only been for the actual forty days of flood and not the whole year (which may answer the OP's question).
    – Michoel
    Mar 11 '13 at 10:11
  • @Michoel: I haven't looked up the Sicha, but if according to Rashi "lo shimshu" was only 40 days, why do we push off Birchat HaChamah for a year? See the second paragraph on this page that says that our sages say that we push off birchat hachamah for a year because "lo shimshu" for a whole year: hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=41319&pgnum=13
    – Menachem
    Mar 11 '13 at 14:12
  • @Menachem See here - specifically footnotes 15 and 17. The Yerushalmi and Midrash Rabbah clearly say it was for the full year, but the Sicha suggests that according to Rashi it may have only been for the 40 days (or the first 150 days), and this would explain the point of having a window.
    – Michoel
    Mar 11 '13 at 19:52

The Mizrachi (8:22) says that the sun and moon still orbited, and when Rashi says "Lo Shimshu" it means the sun and moon did not give off light, but they still continued moving. (He is later left trying to understand how Noach knew what day it was, how the Dove was expected to find a place to rest, and why Noach built a window in the Ark, according to the opinion that it was a window).

The Maskil LeDavid explains exactly the opposite. He says that "Lo Shimshu" means they didn't move, but they still gave light. Since the Flood started in the morning, both the sun and moon were visible in the sky, and they stayed that way for the duration of the flood. Noach used the window to see what was going on in the Ark.

According to the Mizrachi we can understand how the flood ended on the 27th, but we're left with several unanswered question. According to the Maskil LeDavid we can answer the Mizrachi's questions, but we're left trying to understand why the Flood didn't end on the 18th.

Perhaps we can answer this by combining the two opinions. When the flood started the sun stood still, but still functioned, and there remained light for the duration of the flood. Because the sun was shining, the moon was not visible at all and during the whole year the moon kept its orbit. However, since the moon was not visible during the whole year, it was as if it wasn't functioning, "Lo Shimshu". There was no visible passage of dates, but Noach had signs to determine night and day (as the Maskil LeDavid says, see here). Thus, when the flood ended and the sun set, that night the moon was in the position of the 27th of Cheshvan, since it had kept moving the whole time.

"Lo Shimshu" means different things for the sun and moon, the sun stopped moving and as a result, the moon stopped shining.

There are a couple problems with this answer:

  1. This answer is like none of the opinions I've seen.

  2. It would mean that all the heavenly bodies stopped, with the moon being the only exception. Why should the moon act differently than the other heavenly bodies?

  • Very interesting idea. However, the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Likkutey Sichos vol. 10 pg. 20) writes that Rashi wrote his commentary on Chumash in a clear style that is intended to be understood properly even by a five year old child, and thus when Rashi states that "לא שמשו" (they did not serve their purpose) the simple meaning is that not only they did not orbit, but that they did not either perform their primary purpose of giving light.
    – Michoel
    Mar 24 '13 at 3:15
  • @Michoel: Does the Rebbe address the date discrepancy?
    – Menachem
    Apr 7 '13 at 19:26
  • Not anywhere that I remember seeing. The Sicha above was discussing the purpose of a window (צהר) if there were sun didn't shine.
    – Michoel
    Apr 9 '13 at 9:30

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