Kefitzat Haderech

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Kefitzat Haderech (Hebrew: קְפִיצַת הַדֶּרֶךְ, Modern: Qəfiẓat haDéreḫ or Kfitzat haDérech, Tiberian: Qəp̄îṣáṯ hadDéreḵ, lit. "contraction of the road") is a Hebrew term, used in Jewish sources, referring to miraculous travel between two distant places in a brief time.

Etymology[edit]

In modern Hebrew the root kafatz means to jump, suggesting that the traveller has "jumped" to a distant location. However, in the original Talmudic context, the root means "to clench" or "to contract": that is, the route itself is shortened.[1]

In Jewish sources[edit]

The Talmud lists three biblical stories in which, it claims, kefitzat haderech occurs.[2]

The Jerusalem Talmud tells the story of a farmer who, chasing his runaway ox, managed to travel from Israel to Babylonia in a single day. It is implied that the farmer accidentally followed a hard-to-find physical shortcut (of a kind not possible according to modern science).[3]

When Natronai Gaon was rumored to have used kefitzat haderech to travel from Babylonia to France and back, Hai Gaon rejected the possibility, and suggested instead that an impersonator may have claimed to be Natronai.[4]

In early stories of the Chasidic movement, wonder-working rabbis are ascribed the ability to reach destinations with unnatural speed.[5]

In Agnon's work[edit]

Shmuel Yosef Agnon, an Israeli writer who won the 1966 Nobel Prize for literature, incorporates this phenomenon into some of his plots. In an Agnon story based on one of the above-mentioned Hasidic folktales, a righteous rabbi is given the gift of kfitzat haderech and uses it to "jump" into the treasuries of the Habsburg Empire, take sacks full of newly minted gold coins, and jump back to his shtetl, unnoticed by anybody. He uses the money to help poor or persecuted Jews, and the story implies that the power would be taken away should he take any of the gold for himself.

Later, when the Emperor plans to make decrees harmful to the Jews, the Rabbi uses his power of kfitzat haderech in order to jump into the audience chamber and beat the Emperor with his stick—being visible (and tangible) to the Emperor himself, but invisible to his councilors and guards.

Frank Herbert's Dune[edit]

Science fiction novelist Frank Herbert's concept for a messiah, the Kwisatz Haderach, resembles and is strongly associated with Kefitzat Haderech, the "leap forward".[6] Emanuel Lotem's 1989 translation of Dune to Hebrew uses the concepts interchangeably.[citation needed]

Philip Reeve's Railhead[edit]

In his Railhead-trilogy science-fiction author Philip Reeve introduced a galactic interstellar railway system, the K-Bahn which is based on a network of K-gates, portal-like gateways utilizing an extradimensional non-space to achieve instant arrival after departure, thus "shortening the way". As explained in the novel Railhead itself, the "K" in this terminology stands for "Kefitzat Haderech", referred to as an expression in "one of the language of the Old Earth".

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Even-Shoshan Dictionary, קפיצת הדרך
  2. ^ BT Sanhedrin 95a
  3. ^ Yerushalmi, Ma'aser Sheni 5:2
  4. ^ אנציקלופדיה יהודית דעת - האי גאון
  5. ^ Nigal. Chassidic Stories
  6. ^ Weingrad, Michael (March 29, 2015). "Jews of Dune". Jewish Review of Books.