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We have lost an important instrument for the building of the Temple.

Modern Physics and the Shamir

Modern Physics and the Shamir

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Modern Physics and the Shamir
We have lost an important instrument for the building of the Temple.

It is the dream of all Jews to assist in building the Third (and final) Temple. To do so, the stones must be carved. But would we be doing this in the same way as King Solomon did, or would we just be building an edifice? An essential element in Solomon's construction of the Temple was the miraculous shamir stonecutter. In instructing us how to make the permanent altar to G‑d, the Torah says, "do not build it out of cut stone" (Ex. 20:22). Rashi comments on this verse that iron, the material of deadly weapons, should not be used to shape the stones of the Temple, the essence of which is peace.

The shamir disappeared after the destruction of the Temple.

The Nature of the Shamir

The shamir (from shamira in Aramaic, meaning "like a flint stone") was a supernatural organism. The word "shamir" in biblical Hebrew was used in two senses: a) a penpoint made out of a hard substance (Jeremiah 17:1); or b) sharp thorns (Isaiah 5:6).

Each usage relates to the ability of the shamir to pierce hard surfaces. The "glance" of the supernatural shamir could carve great stones. The Talmud and later great rabbis described how the passage of the shamir along the surface of a stone would cause it to split perfectly into two pieces.

Was the shamir mineral, plant, or animal? In an Abyssinian legend the shamir is supposed to have been a kind of wood or herb. Maimonides, however, and Rashi, considered it to be a living animal. The Talmud says that the "glance" of a living creature caused wood and stone to split. A pseudepigraphic work, the Testament of Solomon,however, regards the shamir as a green stone perhaps similar to the pitda set in the High Priest's breastplate representing the tribe of Shimon.

Small as a barleycorn (less than one centimeter), the shamir did not have an inspiring physical appearance. Its supernatural essence came from having been created at the twilight of the first Sabbath Eve during the Six Days of Creation. According to R' Bachiya in the Talmud, the shamir was first used at the time of the construction of the Tabernacle to engrave the names of the tribes on the precious jewels of the High Priest's breastplate.

For safekeeping, the shamir could not be put directly into any kind of metal vessel, including iron, which would be split apart. It was kept wrapped in wool, placed in a lead basket filled with barley bran (Talmud, Sota 48b.) The choice of these materials was specific, since no other materials were able to resist its penetrative powers. Even King Solomon had no idea where to find the shamir

The rulers of the Canaanites and other nations realized the value of the shamir, but they were never able to locate it. The Midrash recounts that even King Solomon had no idea where to find the shamir, although he knew that he needed it to build the Temple. Solomon went to great lengths to obtain the shamir, even to the point of contacting demons. Also created at the twilight of the Sabbath Eve of the Six Days of Creation, these beings had some relationship with the shamir and the other supernatural phenomena created at this exceptional twilight. The Midrash relates that Solomon consulted the king of the demons, who did not have it but knew that the angel of the sea had given the shamir to the hoopoe bird (dukhifat, Lev. 11:19), a type of fowl who needed it to survive. In the end, King Solomon captured the shamir from the hoopoe.

The shamir was used by man only in the construction of the Tabernacle and the Temple. Supernatural beings created by G‑d for specific functions do not exist forever. The Mishna (Sota 9:12) states that the shamir existed until the destruction of the Second Temple. Tosafot (Gittin 68a) says that the shamir existed into the Common Era. According to the Tosefta, the shamir disappeared after the destruction of the Temple, since it was no longer needed. Correspondingly, the tachash, which had been created so its skin could be used for the Tabernacle, disappeared after the Tabernacle was completed. Considered a kosher animal, the tachash was similar to a unicorn with a single horn on its head (Shabbat 28b).

Another creature, the caper-spurge, shared characteristics with the shamir and was therefore mistaken for the shamir. But because the caper-surge existed into the Middle Ages (1000 CE), the rabbis argue that the two were not identical. The "glance" of the shamir could split wood and stone

What Caused the Penetrating "Glance"?

By definition, a supernatural creature made by G‑d to perform specific miracles cannot be explained rationally. However, theories abound in science which correlate natural phenomena with the supernatural. In this spirit, the "glance" of the shamir that could split wood and stone might be explained by: 1) the production of high or low frequency waves that could resonate the molecular structure of materials and disrupt them, 2) the production of confluent light rays as a "laser beam", or 3) radioactivity.

The essence of the "glance" remains speculative, but the late Immanuel Velikovsky 1, an expert on the times of Solomon, and Frederic Jueneman 2,a noted scholar, have suggested that the shamir was a radioactive substance. They reason that a leaden box would be the most logical means to sagely contain such a highly energetic radionucleotide. Thus, the "glance" of the shamir may have been alpha radiation. Alpha radiation is a high energy particle, which could destroy or discolor whatever is exposed to it. The reported weakening of the powers of the shamir in the course of time to the point of inactivity possibly indicates radioactive decay and half-life of its former radioactive potency.

If the shamir was a mineral, it could have been any one of a number of native green stones. It may have come from the copper sites in Armenia or Cyprus — or from King Solomon's own mines in the Sinai, where malachite or verdigris also would have been found in the parent ore body. In fact, Jueneman cites ancient writings by Zosimos the Panopolitan (also called the Theban) state that malachite is an "enemy of Topaz, clouding its color and spoiling its lustre." A highly prized material for ornamental objects, malachite, however, also was known to produce sores in the bowels and inflame the eyes — two symptoms known today as characteristic effects of radiation exposure. The malachite of today (or chrysocolla as it was known by the ancients) is not radioactive, but exceptions could have existed when combined with other minerals. Chalcolite (or torbenite), for example, a green copper uranyl phosphate, exhibits radioactivity.

The reported weakening of the powers of the shamir possibly indicates radioactive decay

Carving the Stones

The Talmud says that the precision required to engrave the names of the tribes onto the precious jewels of the high priest's breastplate without losing any material was not humanly possible. Using a radioactive compound (following the line of thought of F. Jueneman), this would not be difficult to accomplish. The tufts of wool and barley bran cradling the shamir would be transparent to its radiation, while the lead container would be impenetrable. If the ink used to write on the stones contained lead, a graduated discoloration would be highlighted on the gems after exposure to the shamir. The subsequent removal of the ink would leave such calligraphy contrasted with the background, also giving the appearance of depth to the writing. Most precious minerals, such as diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, or topaz, are discolored by radioactivity. Other gems, such as opals, are silicates containing water of crystallization. Exposure to alpha radiation disintegrates these crystals by releasing the chemically bound water, which volatizes without residue. That means, not even a splinter would be lost, leaving a cloudy or granular texture.

The creation, existence, and function of the shamir and the organisms that guarded it were all miraculous

The "True" Essence of the Shamir

The Mishna (Avot 5:6) relates that the shamir was created on the Sixth Day of Creation, at the twilight of Sabbath Eve. The Maharal elaborates on the significance of this point: The entire physical world created during the Six Days is governed by the laws of nature. Not having been created exactly within this time frame, the shamir is therefore supernatural.

The other exceptional phenomena created during the first Sabbath Eve twilight relate, in some way, to the shamir. They include the demons, the ram which Abraham sacrificed in place of Isaac, the first pair of tongs, which were then used to make other instruments, Moses' staff, Adam and Eve's clothes, fire, the mouth of Balaam's donkey, the Pillar of Fire and Pillar of Clouds that led the Children of Israel through the desert, and the vessel in which the manna was preserved in the Holy of Holies in the Temple.

The creation, existence, and function of the shamir and the organisms that guarded it were all miraculous. The Midrash relates the concept that a softer substance may have the ability to pierce a harder one. For example, the stone that David flung at Goliath pierced the giant's helmet and killed him (Samuel I 17:49). The shamir, too, had no physical limitations. It could effortlessly penetrate the hardest materials, and yet it was preserved in a basket of lead (a soft metal), attesting to its other than natural origin.

Although by definition miracles do not have to be explained as scientifically observable phenomena, the miraculous shamir which cut the stones for King Solomon's Temple matches the description of alpha radiation.

Adapted from the original article and reprinted with kind permission from B’Or HaTorah vol. X (1997), pp.173-176.

Footnotes
1.
Immanuel Velikovsky, Ramses II and his Time (Garden City, NY: Doubleday,1978).
2.
Frederic Jueneman, "The Stone of the Shamir " in R & D Magazine (September 1990) page 45.
Professor Paul Goldstein, a native of Brooklyn, NY, teaches genetics at the University of Texas at El Paso. He has published over 60 papers in the areas of genetics and reproductive toxicology. He is one of the founders of the Chabad House of El Paso, Texas.
From B’Or HaTorah Journal: Science, Art and Modern Life in the Light of Torah. B’Or HaTorah is an English-language journal for wondering Jews, scientists, artists, teachers and students. It examines personal and intellectual concerns through the microscope and telescope of the scientist; the algorithm of the mathematician; the discourse of the philosopher; the imagery of the artist, poet and photographer; and the tested faith and learning of the Torah-observant Jew.
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Yakov Barbados October 22, 2016

Maybe not lost... How was it utilized if it was alpha radiation? Meaning, the builders could not just hold it, right? Seems like they would have needed to construct a holder of lead or something. Because if you held it directly in order to cut stone, it would go right through your fingers...right?
Check out "Temple" by Robert Cornuke for compelling reasons to suspect that T3 will not be on the Temple Mount, but in the City of David...where he believes T1 and T2 actually stood. This has stunning implications. Reply

Jorge Qro. Mexico July 3, 2016

It is for sure that the Third Temple will be built in the era Moshiach, isn't it? So we have lost the Shamir, how, then, the Third Temple is going to be built? What is going to be used instead of Shamir? I think there is no other alternative than to wait for Moshiach, he surely will solve all these things and the third temple will be built.
Meanwhile, we can work to make this world a better place, in doing so, we will shorten the time of his coming. Reply

Anonymous June 26, 2016

Can I suggest where shamir is? is it proper to put here ideas that may mix everyones mind or shall I mail individual mails to some who will interested? Reply

Joseph Arizona May 7, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

I am interested in your thoughts on the Shamir. Reply

Bill Balano Toronto June 20, 2015

Six-day Creation Period The day begins at sundown or twilight. G-d ended His work on the seventh day after the six-day creation. I don't see any sense why this shamir was alleged to be excluded in this time frame. How about the ministering angels that were created in the second or fifth day? Then these angels were not supernatural. Reply

Frank Paris, France June 17, 2015

Shamir You write the Shamir was only used by Jewish. But if we look at other buildings like Gizeh Pyramids, Eastern Island, Kuzko, Machu Pichu, ... we find that the stones are quite the same as the Kotel. The cut of those stones are so precise that after many thousand years, one cannot find any space between stones, just like in the Kotel.
Those stone cutting are so precise that I wonder if we could think that the Shamir was used to build those building. Is it possible that other civilizations knew about Shamir and use it ? Reply

pinchas goldstein cleveland April 27, 2015

cool very interesting! Reply

Anonymous pa February 6, 2015

Wow Interesting! Reply

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