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make out the dark patches – called mare or “seas” by the first observers who thought that the dim smooth areas were water. With binoculars or a small telescope, the craters can be seen. They are named for great scientists and mathematicians whose work helped our knowledge of astronomy progress. Bright Tycho and the impact rays emanating from it is the most pronounced, and nearby is Copernicus, whose light rays stand out against the mare which surround it. Down in the shadowy crater field towards the bottom of the moon, at latitude 34.7S, longitude 23.6E, one can find a crater approximately 81 km in diameter named “Rabbi Levi.” How did a nice Jewish boy end up in a place like that? The namesake of that crater is Rabbi Levi Ben Gerson (1288–1344), known by his acronym RaLBaG, by his full name, Meister Leo de Bagnols, or by the Latin, Gersonides. He is best remembered today for his commentary on the Bible, which is printed in the margin of the popular Mikraot Gedolot series on the books of the Prophets. His magnum opus was the philosophical work called Wars of the Lord, in which he boldly put forth his theories on fundamental theological issues such as the doctrine of choice (free will) and providence, God’s knowledge, and creation. Whereas his predecessor, Maimonides, had been particularly ambiguous about such matters, Ralbag makes his (often controversial) opinion clear and unequivocal, to the point where many later Jewish philosophers were harshly critical of his views. (Ibn Shem Tov pejoratively terms Ralbag’s book Wars against the Lord!) In addition to his accomplishments in the Jewish arena, as a philosopher, Talmudist, and Biblical exegete, Rabbi Levi was also an expert logician, mathematician, physician, and astronomer. He wrote commentaries on many of the philosophical works of Aristotle and Averroes. He composed three major books on mathematics (in addition to his commentary on some of Euclid’s books, and sine tables accurate to the fifth decimal); the first on general mathematics both theoretical and practical, the second on harmonics, and the third book (which he dedicated to Pope Clement VI) on trigonometry. Some claim that he was the first to use the important method of mathematical induction (e.g., if some property is true for 1 and the truth of that property for n implies its truth for n+1, then that property will be true for every natural number), which he called hadragah or rising step by step. In terms of astronomy, he presented a novel planetary model and compiled precise astronomical tables. Ralbag demonstrated that Ptolmey’s geocentric model predicted results which did not accord with observation, thus setting the foundations for the revolution that would eventually lead to Copernicus’ heliocentric model. While the regnant opinion was to put the stars at a distance of a few tens of thousands of kilometers, Levi put them ten billion times farther – about 10-100 light years in modern parlance – close to our current notions, but remarkably unique in terms of medieval thinking. In an age where dogma ruled, Ralbag was the consummate empiricist; he mistrusted all previous data and relied only on his own observations. Levi writes: No argument can nullify the reality that is perceived by the senses, for true opinion must follow reality, but reality need not conform to opinion. But Levi’s greatest contribution to the field of astronomy was his invention of an instrument for precise determination of the angular separation between two stars. He called it the Megalleh Amuqot, (Revealer of Profundities), but the popular name was baculus Jacobi, Jacob’s Staff. The design put forth in the fifth section of Levi’s Wars describes a rod which slides along a length of track which is positioned directly in front of the observer’s eye. By adjusting the distance of the cross rod from the eye, one can line up the rod precisely such that edges of the rod just block the two stars being
and Kepler used the instrument extensively. Levi realized that the plane of vision was not actually the front of the eye. The difference would have to be taken into account if the measured distance of the cross rod to the center of vision was to be accurate. where the particular argument shifts from time to time against a backdrop of constant bickering. He then etched diagonals from the side of one unit measuring line to the opposite side of a subsequent line so that the intersection of the diagonal with the transverse rows designated a finer scale for more accurate measurement. and he devised a precise method of determining what was later called “the eccentricity of the eye”. Levi drew lines lengthwise as well. Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz compared the relationship between the two to a rocky marriage. In addition to the equidistant lines across the width of the track. Tycho. Levi invented a unique method of marking the distance along the track. and at the same time he was sure that God given reason could never be in conflict with God given Torah. At a recent lecture on Torah and Science. The German cartographer and navigator. It is then a matter of simple trigonometry to determine the angular separation of the two stars (or a star and the horizon. the frontispiece of Kepler’s Ruldophine Tables has a drawing of the temple of Urania. If this is a more or less accurate impression of the current situation. I find three aspects of the instrument to be particularly noteworthy. but there is another dimension to Levi’s invention that sheds light on his fundamental worldview. for Ralbag the relationship was closer to a newlywed couple dreaming of building a harmonious and loving life together.measured. which dramatically improved the precision of his measurements. Martinus de Bohemia brought the Jacob’s staff to Portugal and it was used both by Columbus and Magellan as a navigational tool. or even two terrestrial objects) from the width of the cross rod and its distance from the eye. Furthermore. This is shown in the accompanying diagram (based on Bernard Goldstein’s translation of Wars). It is of supreme significance that Ralbag chose to present his most important astronomical treatise as a section in his most important religious work. The picture on the right shows the German astronomer Peter Apian (in 1531) using a Jacob’s Staff to determine that the tail of a comet (his . Indeed. First. Ralbag’s invention enjoyed a long and illustrious history and its use was ubiquitous for the next 300 years. These features are of a scientific and engineering nature. but somewhere behind that. Copernicus. Towards the top of the pillar representing Copernicus. In addition to its elegant simplicity. known as a transversal scale. a Jacob’s staff hangs prominently. the muse of Astronomy which depicts the progress of astronomy through history. Levi believed that the ultimate function of astronomy was to understand God.
For further reading: 1. illuminating the paths of the stars in heaven and guiding the course of men as they sailed across the earth. and a staff shall rise out of Israel.stanford.il/Chairs/Wolfson/bibliographia. Ralbag’s staff of Jacob rose from Israel and shined brightly for hundreds of years.ac. The Astronomy of Levi Ben Gerson 1288-1344: A Critical Edition of Chapters 1-20. Bernard R. Goldstein. the Hebrew word for staff or scepter (shevet) is related to the term for comet (shavit).haifa.” (Numbers 24. New York: Springer Verlag.particular comet was later found to be Halley’s) always points away from the sun.17) proclaims Balaam the prophet.edu/entries/gersonides/ 2. 1985 .htm 3. http://plato. (Coincidentally. A complete Bibliographia Gersonideana can be found at: http://hcc.) “A star shall come out of Jacob.
Rabbi Levi (crater) General characteristics Latitude Longitude Diameter 34.6° E 81 km .7° S 23.
a bowl-shaped formation just to the northwest of the mid-point.3° S 34.1° E 20.1° E 25.2° E 23.7° E 23.9° S 36.6° S Longitude 22.4° S 35. and Lindenau crater to the northeast next to Zagut.5° S 33. and along the outer northeast side by Rothmann crater. and D.3° S 35.6° S 34.0° E 23.2° E Diameter 12 km 13 km 20 km 10 km 35 km 12 km 12 km 8 km 7 km 13 km 11 km 8 km 7 km 15 km 6 km 12 km .5° S 34.0° E 20.7° E 25.2° E 22.Depth Colongitude Eponym References 3.7° S 36.8° E 22. The largest of these craters is 'Rabbi Levi L'.5 km 336° at sunrise Levi Ben Gershon See listing Rabbi Levi is a lunar impact crater that is located among the rugged highlands in the southeastern part of the Moon's near side.7° S 33. The remainder of the floor is relatively level and nearly featureless. including Zagut crater just to the north-northwest.4° S 37. This unnamed formation has been almost completely obliterated. L. as well as lesser craterlets trailing away to the south-southeast.4° S 36. Several notable craters are located nearby.2° S 36.0° S 36. Rabbi Levi A B C D E F G H J L M N O P Q R Latitude 34. producing a straightened section of rim along that face.7° S 34. Clusters of craters also lay across the eastern and southwestern sections of the rim. Attached to the northeast is the remnant of an old formation that intrudes into the Rabbi Levi crater.7° S 35.8° E 25.8° E 27. This is a heavily worn and eroded crater formation.5° E 22. and is overlaid in the northwest by Lindenau. with several smaller craters lying along the incised rim and across the interior floor. the heavily impacted Riccius crater to the southeast.0° E 22. consisting of the satellite craters A. A group of these craters form a cluster in the western part of the floor. M.7° E 24. Satellite craters By convention these features are identified on Lunar maps by placing the letter on the side of the crater mid-point that is closest to Rabbi Levi crater.8° E 28.
5° E 22.2° S 36.S T U 34.2° S 35.4° E 21.6° S 27.9° E 14 km 10 km 14 km Categories: Craters on the Moon .
and it depicts the progress of the discipline of astronomy through history. the quadrant and the sextant that perfected observations. in his ermine robe. Tycho. Mindful of the fact that the Tables were originally Brahe's project. The title of the book. carrying a Jacob's staff and the parallalactic ruler which induced some careless errors in Copernicus' observations. proudly points out his cosmological model (the earth in the centre of the universe with the sun orbiting around earth. On the column rest also the observations of Regiomontanus and Walther which aided Copernicus' work. possibly an allusion to Tycho's wish that the tables be based on his system. Tycho is leaning on an elegant Corinthian column. At Tycho's elbow is his book on planetary theories. Kepler makes the figure of Tycho Brahe take centre stage. which proudly displays his instruments. The starry heaven is depicted on the floor of the base because it is the foundation on which the observations (columns) are built. the muse of astronomy. and in order to appease his heirs. hangs down proudly from that cosmological model. wearing the medal of an elephant (the highest award from the Danish crown).The picture is of the temple of Urania. but all the other planets orbiting around the sun) to the seated Copernicus. complete with an achanthus-leaf capital. Rudolphine Tables. Copernicus' column is of a much simpler form. The columns that support the temple symbolize by their form and condition the state of astronomical observation through history. the Progymnasmata. .
with a miniature of the temple and a list of his books. On top of roof of the Temple are six goddesses. Ptolemy and Meton. It shows the nineteen-year cycle after which the lunar phases will recur on the same date. At the back. 'stathmica' namely the laws of the lever and balance (the sun at the fulcrum of the balance shows that this is describes Kepler's area law). At the foot of the column is the diagram of a deferent whose centre was removed from the earth. they are optics (the shining head of the goddess is creating a shadow of a globe). Hipparchus. To its left is a portrait of Kepler. with stumps. Part of the Greek title of his book. From left to right. and magnetics (holding a lodestone and compass). showering a few gold coins down to the astronomers. At the summit of the temple is the imperial eagle with his sceptre.6931472). there are two columns made of tree trunks. is visible. Aratus (4th c. drawing a diagram. logarithms (holding in her hands rods of the ratio of one to two. In front of these columns stands a Chaldaean astronomer. his column sports an armillary sphere. showing the Metonic cycle indispensable for calculating the date of Easter. Meton's column shows a dial. They do not quite reach the heavenly roof. but less elegant columns made of bricks with plenty of cracks flank Brahe and Copernicus and signify the achievements (from left to right) of Aratus. geometry (with a compass. To the right is a portrait of the printer . square-ruler and a diagram of an ellipse). Tycho's island of Hven is depicted in the centre panel of the base. so Kepler has inserted some wedges. signifying the important elements of Kepler's astronomy.The firm. Ptolemy is depicted with an astrolabe. trying to gauge the angular distance of planets using his fingers. Hipparchus improved on Aratus with a sphere of fixed stars and a catalogue of them. BC) wrote a poem entitled the Phaenomena which explained the configuration of the heavens and their movements. the telescope. implying the absence of instruments to render them into more elegant shapes. and the number around her head showing the natural logarithm of 2: 0. the Almagest.
הליכות מסלולו ומקלו יגיד לו. בכל כוכבי שחק ומרחקו וגדלו. פרק 9( להנחיל לאנוש יש בנעמו יחזה בו ולו הוכן כל כלי לדעת כל סתום יבוננהו סודו יבינהו דרכו מלאכת שמים בעצו ישאל איש 13 23 33 43 .מלחמות ה' חלק חמישי.חננו צור שכלו יבקר בהיכלו. להשכילו בינה בסוד היצור ופעלו. )רלב"ג .
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