More Discussions for this daf
1. Understanding the Beraisa 2. Why Moshe didn't daven for Kalev 3. How much did the grapes weigh?
DAF DISCUSSIONS - SOTAH 34

Alex Leibowitz asks:

Rashi in this weeks Parsha brings the Gem. from Sotah that says that you can calculate the weight of the Eshkol from the stones which they set up in Gilgal. Each person lifted up 1 stone from the Yarden unto his shoulder and carried it. The Gem. says that each stone was weighed by the Rabanan to be 40 Seah. And we learned that a person can raise unto his shoulder only a 1/3 of what he can actually carry.

Therefore the Gem. concludes, that since each person is really able to carry 120 Seah; and since 8 people were needed to carry the Eshkol, the grapes weighed 960 Seah.

Is that really true?

The math is correct; but the Gem. did not take into consideration SYNERGY (Definition: Synergy comes from the Greek word synergia, meaning joint work and cooperative action. Synergy is when the result is greater than the sum of the parts. Synergy is created when things work in concert together to create an outcome that is in some way of more value than the total of the individual inputs.)

The Eshkol was carried together by 8 people versus the stones which was carried singly. And the combination equals more than the sum of the parts--when 1+1=3 (or even more!). and one cannot say that 8 x 120 = 960!

Or can we really learn it out from the stones that were set up in Gilgal?!

Have A Gut Shabbos

The Kollel replies:

1. My dictionary definition of "synergy" is: "Combined effect of drugs, organs, etc. that exceeds the sum of their individual effects." This would mean, for example, that a double dose of medicine might have more than double the therapeutic effect. However, this definition does not refer to carrying weights, and, according to my understanding, this does not necessarily mean that two people are capable together of carrying more than double the weight that each one is capable of carrying alone. Please inform me if I am wrong scientifically.

2. In fact, in the Gemara you cited there is a reference to an idea similar to synergy. However, this applies to lifting up weights but not to carrying them once one has already lifted them. The Gemara states, "Gemirei d'Te'una d'Madlei Inshei l'Katfei Tilta d'Te'unei Havi" -- if a person must lift up the weight onto his shoulders himself, he is capable of lifting only one third of the weight he can bear if someone else helps him to load up. That is, synergy applies to loading up a person with weights but not necessarily to carrying them once they have been loaded on.

3. Moreover, according to your argument, one would actually be using the principle of synergy twice in one exercise: first, we use synergy to show that each individual carried grapes weighing 120 Se'ah, because this is three times as much as the stones that each one was capable of lifting up on his own. Second, we employ synergy again to show that eight people were capable of carrying more than eight times 120 Se'ah once they lifted it up. I suggest that the principle of synergy might apply only once in each process, not twice.

4. In conclusion, I will note that Rashi on the Chumash indeed mentions the concept of synergy. The verse (Bereshis 44:13) relates that after the goblet was found in Binyamin's sack, each of the sons of Yakov loaded up his own donkey. Rashi comments that this illustrates to us that they were very strong and did not require any help from each other in loading up the donkey. The implication is that the average person does require help in loading up his donkey. Also, the verse in Vayikra 25:35 commands one to help his falling brother. Rashi explains that one must not allow his poor struggling brother to fall because if he goes down it will be hard to lift him back up. Rashi compares this to the burden on the donkey. While the burden is still on the donkey, one person can hold it up, but if it falls to the ground, even five people are not capable of lifting it up. It should be noted that these two examples in Rashi both refer to loading weights onto the donkey, but they do not imply that several people are capable of carrying more than their relative weight once it has been loaded on, so this supports what I mentioned above in points (1) and (2).

Kol Tuv,

Dovid Bloom

The Kollel adds:

I have to retract (at least partially) from my previous reply, because I saw that the Midrash Rabah (Parshas Shelach 16:14) has a discussion similar to that of the Gemara here in Sotah (34a) but makes a signficant addition.

The Midrash states, as the Gemara here does, that the weight of the stones of Gilgal were 40 Se'ah. However, the Midrash continues:

"If a person lifts a weight on his own, he lifts 1 Se'ah. If his friend lifts it and loads it onto him, he can carry 2 Se'ah. If he lifts 2 Se'ah, he can carry 3 Se'ah with his friend."

The Matnos Kehunah explains that when the Midrash says that if the friend loads it onto him he can carry 2 Se'ah, it refers to where the friend does not help him carry it.

The Matnos Kehunah explains the words of the Midrash, "If he lifts up 2 Se'ah, he can carry 3 Se'ah with his friend," as follows. "If he lifts up 2 Se'ah" means that he carries 2 Se'ah on his own. The Midrash implies that if a person can lift up and carry 1 Se'ah on his own, if someone else helps him both to lift it and to carry it, he can carry 3. The friend also could carry 3 in such a way. Therefore, one learns from the Midrash that if one is by himself, he is capable of carrying only one third of what he could carry with the help of someone else.

So synergy applies both to loading up someone else with a weight and also to carrying the weight with him.

Kol Tuv,

Dovid Bloom

Alex Leibowitz adds:

Dear Rabbi Bloom.

Thank you for considering my question regarding synergy in regards to the weight of the Eshkol.

The concept of synergy is a very exciting and wonderful concept and it might even be learned from Koheles 'Tovim Hash'nayim Min Ha'echad' as mentioned by Rabbi Davis in the Introduction to the Art Scroll Linear Siddur page XVIII. (This is really what prompted my question to you.)

Rabbi Bloom, although I have searched and searched the internet for a scientific proof that the concept of synergy can be applied to lifting and carrying I was unable to find a reliable source for it.

When it comes down to it, I think that one must say, it doesn't increase the physical strength of people working together. Although of course 2 can accomplish more than twice what each can do on their own!

In fact last Shabbos our grandchildren were by us and I decided to see if Synergy applies to carrying. We brought big Shas Gemorahs to the dining room table and started to pile one after another on the outstretched arms of one of the girls. She was unable to hold more than 5. We then did the same to another little girl who was also only able to hold 5. We then asked them to face each out and stretch out their arms together and see how many Gemorahs we were able to pile on. They could not hold more than 10. Although perhaps the scientific method was not strictly followed, I was pretty disappointed, and after a few hours decided that although SYNERGY works to accomplish greater results, it does not apply to lifting or carrying.

The Rashi that says, one is able to carry on his shoulders only 1/3 of the load that he loads himself versus 3 times if helped to load by his friend; means simply that it is hard and awkward to lift a load unto one's own shoulder by himself, but once loaded he can carry 3 times as much as he himself can load unto his own shoulder. This does not necessarily demonstrate that synergy is used to load.

Similar arguments can be made regarding the other examples of loading that you mentioned.

Therefore the Gem. has all the right to learn out how much the Eshkol weighed from Gilgal.!

Synergy is simply not a factor.

(You might find it interesting to see the Zohar brought down by Shaarei Aharon on the Parasha, that actually the Eshkol really was heavier than what the Meraglim were able to carry; and it was only the plea of Kolev to the Eshkol to make itself lighter that enabled the 8 Meraglim to carry it. This of course does not contradict the Gemorah.)

Please comment.

Thank You

Alex Leibowitz adds:

I called Rav Tuviah Basser, who is now the CEO of COR -- the Kashruth Council of Canada, Canada's largest kosher certification agency, and he left me the following message.

"From a point of view of physics, 2 can not lift more than the sum of each ones ability. However from a medical or physiological point of view it could be more, depending on the shape of the object or the positioning of the people, etc, then they could lift more."

Rabbi Basser holds a degree in Engineering and has worked at Canada's largest company Nortel Networks for twenty years, as well as having been the Director of Engineering for Nortel Israel.

He is also the author of Maharal On Pirkei Avos ,a commentary based on selections from Maharal's Derech Chaim, published by ArtScroll. I know him because he was my Chavrusah for a while about 40 yrs ago!

That's it for now, so I am leaning towards the Gem. that synergy doesn't play a factor here because the circumstances are not being enhanced by the 8 people carrying it. But I wait for your comments.

Have a Gut Shabbos

Alex Lebovits