Volcano Eruption. A large volcano erupting hot lava and gases into the atmosphere. Illustration.

Did you know that the ground beneath you is floating around like a boat?  You probably don’t feel it as it is going pretty slow, about 3 inches a year, but the continent you live on is sailing over a fiery sea of melted rock we call magma.  Magma forms deep beneath the earth’s surface where rock melts due to the high temperatures and pressure down there.  While we can’t see magma, we know that it is there as it occasionally comes bursting out of volcanos.

Do continents sailing around the world on a red hot sea sound hard to believe? If you need some convincing, take a look at a world map and you will notice how the continents seem to fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Scientists were aware that the continents seemed to have drifted apart but for a long time they had no idea how they could have moved. In the 1960’s convincing evidence showed the continents were moving and the theory of plate tectonics was proposed that suggests currents of boiling magma beneath the earth’s surface caused the land masses that the continents rest upon to drift apart.

Continental Drift

Are you a bit skeptical about scientific theories? If you are, I commend you as scientists change their minds a lot and make many assumptions that may not be true. However, with regards to the continents sailing apart over a molten sea it seems that they got this one right. The Ibn Ezra teaches us in that originally Hashem made one continent which He then split up into seven. Similarly we learn how the surface of the earth is divided into floating plates in Pirkai d’Rabbi Eliezer that says “The earth is made up of plates covering the depths, as a ship that floats on the sea“. While we can commend the scientists for their discovery, they could have saved a lot of time and money by just asking some Rabbis to help them solve their puzzle.

Once you get the concept that earth’s surface is made up of enormous plate like sections of rock that move in different directions you can understanding other features of our world like earthquakes and volcanos. Earthquakes happen when two plates slide past or collide with one another. The force is so great that the ground between the two plates breaks forming what we call a fault. Tremendous damage results from the ground splitting which can cause roads and bridges to break, buildings to collapse, landslides and tsunamis.


Similarly, the explosive eruptions of volcanos is most often caused by two plates that run into each other. One of the plates gets pushed far underneath the ground where the rock melts into magma. The hot magma then rises to the surface where it flows out of a volcano. While it is really the same stuff, when magma comes up to the surface it is called lava and can cause great damage by melting just about everything in its path. Most active volcanos are found along the edges of the Pacific Ocean where the rock that the ocean rests on runs into neighboring plates. A string of 452 volcanos surrounds the ocean and is referred to as the Ring of Fire.

While the Ring of Fire may be far away from you, its products are probably not. Volcanos are a source for many important resources like building materials, diamonds, gold, silver, copper, aluminum, and microscopic glass shards that are put in some toothpastes to help clean teeth. So the next time you see cinder blocks, gold, silver, or are just brushing your teeth, you can think about volcanos and the marvelous ways Hashem moves mountains and provides us with our needs.

Article taken from "Barchi Nafshi, The Wonders of Creation"

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