The discovery of the New World was itself disputed by obscurantists, who argued that
since the American continent was not mentioned by the prophets and Talmudic sages, it did not, and could not, exist. Aaron Halle Wolfsohn, a central figure in the Berlin Haskalah, relates that he encountered a Polish rabbi who refused to believe in the existence of America.When Wolfsohn presented testimonies and evidence, the rabbi accused him of being a heretic and exclaimed: "Can you find a single reference to America anywhere in the Bible?"
Mikveh yisra'el also included information on the populated lands in the southern hemisphere, a matter which was rejected with equal fervor. Not only were there no Scriptural references to Brazil or Peru, but the existence of such lands contradicted traditional Jewish Bible exegesis. Maimonides and other sages had interpreted the verse "for He has founded it [the earth] upon the seas" (Psalms 24:2), as meaning that the earth's lower half was immersed in
water, with its upper half floating above the surface. In this case, common sense seemed to concur with tradition. How could people live "opposite the bottoms of our feet"?12
R. Hayim Avraham Katz, an enlightened preacher and author in Mogilev, reported:
I have seen wise and God-fearing people in our land who are full of mockery upon hearing of the discovery of America and the populated lands opposite the bottoms of our feet. They say, "how is it possible to believe something of this kind, which contradicts the axioms of reason?" And despite all of our strenuous efforts, we are unable to open their closed hearts, remove from it their idea on this matter, and explain to them that it is actually nothing but a figment of their imagination.13
И кстати, нельзя не признать, что аргументы от географии куда убедительнее любого дарвинизма. Поскольку что там было за миллиард лет до конца света, никто не видел. А Америка - вот она, оттуда табак и картошку привезли. И первые еврейские просветители это, похоже, хорошо понимали. И с невинным лицом публиковали многочисленные книги с описаниями географических открытий, вроде упомянутой "Микве Исраэль" Менассе бен-Израиля, где подробно рассказывалось об Америке и Карибских островах.
Впрочем, судя по тому, что об этом "конфликте" сегодня никто не помнит, новые географические сведения религиозное еврейство усвоило достаточно быстро и безболезненно. Так что даже интересно, оставил ли этот "кризис" след в серьезной литературе, или же все решилось на бытовом уровне.
Ну и чтобы два раза не вставать - отрывок из еще одной книге о еврейском просвещение, For Whom Do I Toil?: Judah Leib Gordon and the Crisis of Russian Jewry Станиславского:
On Saturday night, June 25, 1866, two bandits approached an inn on the outskirts of the town of Tel'shi. Convinced that the innkeeper and his wife were hoarding gold—that was obvious for, like almost all innkeepers in rural Lithuania, they were Jewish and therefore rich—the thieves broke into the hostel and mortally wounded its inhabitants, father, mother, son, and daughter. In their frenzy, they missed a four-year-old child hiding in its bed. To their chagrin, they found that the mountain of lucre they had expected totaled, in fact, forty-two kopecks. Apprehended by the local police, the murderers at first denied their crime, but soon succumbed to the incontestable evidence of the authorities and confessed their guilt. They were, in fact, inveterate degenerates: in custody, one of them admitted that several years earlier he had killed his own father.
Three days after the event, Judah Leib Gordon reported this tale in all its gory detail to the Vilna Hebrew newspaper Ha-Karmel. Barely seventy-hours later, he dashed off a second, more detailed follow-up report: in the wake of this sad and senseless loss of human life, a different kind of sadness has gripped the reporter, a spiritual sorrow over the foolishness that rules the hearts and minds of the Jews of Tel'shi and exposes them to ridicule and scorn among their neighbors. After the murdered innkeeper and his family were buried, a Jewish baker in town lit his oven as he did every day, but heard strange noises emerging from the fire, sounds akin to the moans and groans of a suffering human being. Fearful that within his oven there had lodged some reincarnated souls, he sought the advice of his spiritual mentors. The local rabbi laughed off the baker's fears as silly superstition, but the local religious teacher disagreed with his senior colleague and corroborated the baker's worst fears: indeed, it stood to reason that the souls of the recently, and so cruelly, departed innkeeper and his family had transmigrated into the kindling wood in the baker's oven. The branches, ruled the teacher, may therefore not be used to bake any bread and their ashes must be transported to the Jewish cemetery and be given a decent burial.
In the event, however, the baker heeded the teacher. He took care to burn the wood without letting it contaminate any bread and scrupulously collected the ashes and deposited them in the graves of the victims. The news of this affair spread like wildfire to the rest of the town, and many non-Jews laughed in delight at the ignorance and backwardness of the Jews in their midst. To make matters worse, the teacher and his ruling were staunchly defended by a growing number of ignorant followers.