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The Height Of Prayer

In "Biblically non sequitur" I asked why Moshe sat down when his arms were tired.

The Rosh Yeshiva answered that Moshe [according to Chazal] was 10 amos tall. The only way that Yehoshua and Chur could reach his arms [to hold them up] was if he sat down first!!!


The Rosh Hayeshiva to whom I refer is Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin - the Dean of the Volozhin Yeshiva! Every day after davening he would sit down with the students while still in Tallis and Teffilin and teach a Chumash class. He gathered his thoughts together and published a book known as "Haamek Davar". So you see, they taught "Bible" in Volozhin.

An interesting historical anecdote.

[By the way, his son R' Meyer Berlin/Bar-Ilan wrote a fascinating book called "MiVolozhin LiYerushalayim" where one can get a glimpse of life in Volozhin.]

Good Shabbos my most delicious friends!!

I decided to do some investigation into the relative measurements involved in this explanation:

According to Wikipedia, from the ground to a person's knees is 25% of their height, and from their knees to their waist is another 25% of their height. So when a person sits down (assuming that they sit on a surface so that their knees can bend at a 90 degree angle), their total height is 75% of what it originally was (since their upper-legs are know parallel with the ground.

Additionally, the middle of a person's chest (equal to where there arms are) is 75% of their height. After they are sitting down, this is 67% (2/3) of their height.

If we take chazal's statement of Moshe's height at face value (and not as some sort of allegory), this means that when he was sitting down, his head was now 7.5 amot off of the ground (10 * 75% - approximately, assuming that Moshe's body dimensions are the same as everyone else's), and his arms were approximately 5 amot off the ground (7.5 * 67%).

If we say that an Amah is 48cm (6 tefachim x 8cm per tefach), this means that when sitting,a 10 amah tall Moshe had his arms 2.4 meters (7.9 feet) off the ground. This means that in order for Aharon and Chur (not Yehoshua, who was leading the battle, 17:9-12) would need to reach (with some strength, since they were holding the position for hours) in order to hold up Moshe's hands was nearly 8 feet off the ground. And this is just in order to have Moshe's arms at shoulder level. If they wanted to hold Moshe's arms above shoulder level (as the passuk implies that they did), then they would need to be able to reach even higher.

After some more calculations (a person can reach to approximately 125% of their height if their arms are vertical), this means that Aharon and Chur would have to be (at a minimum, approximately) 1.92m tall (6.3 feet, 4 amot) in order so support Moshe's hands.

So, this explanation of the Netziv is supported by the fact that Aharon and Chur could have been very tall (but within the normal range of human height) and still have been able to support Moshe's arms when a 10 amah tall Moshe was sitting.

(Alternatively, we could take the 10 amot height of Moshe as being allegorical and not literal, since it is physically impossible for the human body as we know it to support a body that is 4.8 meters tall (15 feet), and simply say that Moshe was sitting down because he was tired, and by sitting down, he made it easier for Aharon and Chur to hold his hands up as far above his head as possible.)

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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