May 29, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
May 29, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Brobdingnagian Breakdown

His name was Eddie Carmel (born Oded Ha-Carmeili) and he was known as The Jewish Giant. Standing at nearly nine feet tall (at least as advertised), he towered over his fellow Jews, even over Yeshiva University’s legendary Dave Kufeld, who was selected by the Portland Trailblazers in the 1980 NBA Draft. Carmel was so tall that when he went to shul, he likely banged his head on the Ner Tamid. In addition, his tremendous height likely rendered a shul’s mechitza completely ineffective as to him.

Carmel actually spent some time in the 1950s and 1960s working in carnival sideshows and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, with people actually paying to view a giant Jew. Suffice it to say, gargantuan Jews are not typical but, then again, how many giants are there in the general population? Anyway, one thing is for sure: you cannot learn to become taller but you can learn to become a Torah giant.

Believe it or not, giants are mentioned in the Torah. For instance, in last week’s parsha, Shelach, there is a discussion regarding the giants that the spies observed in the land of Canaan: “And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them: ‘Get you up here into the South, and go up into the mountains; and see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they are strong or weak… So they went up, and spied out the land…, and came unto Hebron; and Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak [the giant], were there.” (see, Bamidbar 13:17-23).

According to most scholars, “Anak” is the name of an ancient people of giants who dwelled near Hebron. It is unclear, however, just how gigantic they really were. On the spectrum of giants, there are many including Goliath, Cyclops, Cronus, Paul Bunyan, Alton Giant/Giant of Illinois, Lurch, Fezzick/Andre the Giant, Hagrid, Shaquille O’Neal and the recently-deceased Mark Eaton, a former professional basketball player with the Utah Jazz whose nickname was “The Man Mountain” and who stood 7”4 and weighed a whopping 275 pounds. Other possible nicknames for extra large people might include “The Human Skyscraper,” “Mr. Everest” or “Ms. Head-in-the-Clouds.”

The Talmud contains a discussion regarding the meaning of the names of the Hebron-based giants mentioned in the Torah: “Ahiman was so called because he was the greatest and most skillful [meyuman] of his brothers. Ahiman is a contraction of brother [aḥ] and right [yamin], which is the skilled hand. Sheshai was so called because he renders the ground like pits [sheḥitot] with his strides. Talmai was so called because he renders the ground filled with furrows [telamim] with his strides… The children of Anak refers to the fact that it appears that the sun is a necklace [shema’anikin] around their necks because of their height.” (see, Yoma 10a). The description of a giant wearing the sun as a necklace is a very powerful way to paint the picture of the giant’s immense size. That said, there are other ways to do it, like saying that certain giants are so big that they use (i) Niagara Falls as a water fountain, (ii) the Grand Canyon as a bottle opener or (iii) the Great Barrier Reef as a fish tank.

Another description of the names of the Hebron-based giants is found elsewhere in the Talmud: “… Sheshai was called by his name because he would turn the land that he treaded upon into ditches [sheḥatot] due to his large dimensions. Talmai was called this because he would turn the land that he treaded upon into furrows upon furrows [telamim] due to his weight.” (see, Sotah 34(b)). In theory, there are other large and powerful things that could turn land into furrows upon furrows, such as (i) a massive menschy stampede of yeshiva boys heading for Ben Yehuda after shabbos, (ii) an ever-expanding hora circle of yeshiva girls passionately celebrating the engagement of one of their own or (iii) a colossal kosher caterer who is his own best client and who, during intense negotiations, really puts his foot down, figuratively and literally.

Some scholars contend that the children of Anak were viewed as giants because they had very long necks. Does that mean that they actually were giraffes? That would be like saying that those with long legs might be flamingos and those with hairy bodies might be bears. Of course, those with tusks probably are elephants.

Final thought: Being a giant has its drawbacks, especially during a highly-competitive, high stakes game of hide-and-go-seek.

By Jon Kranz

 

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles