Were there Dinosaurs?

This is not a Torah question at all. What is the difference whether there were dinosaurs or not? The halachic question is whether dinosaurs were kosher or not. There is a discussion is the Gemara regarding a mermaid and whether it is kosher. The conclusion is that it is not kosher. The discussion focuses on why it is not kosher and its impact on other types of fish (see Bechorot 8a with Rashi). The Gemara focuses on reasoning. Whether it is existed or not is not the point.

The Torah does not mention dinosaurs. This question is interesting from a scientific perspective but not a Torah perspective. In the book "Netivot Olam" (Netiv Ha-Torah, netiv 14), the Maharal says that the purpose of science is to describe reality, while the Torah describes what reality should be, i.e. what is good and what is bad. What exists is interesting, but it is not Torah, which discusses halachic questions.

When people ask how old is the world, if we came from apes, what happened in the distance past, I generally answer: I don't know. I wasn't born and I didn't see. But in the case of dinosaurs, I saw the skeleton of the largest dinosaur in Europe – 20 meters, so you can't tell me stories. Some say that the Atheists made dinosaurs from plastic in order to challenge us and claim that they were from long ago. This is nonsense. I saw it. There were dinosaurs. If so, why doesn't the Torah write about it? The Torah does not say that there were dinosaurs and it does not say that there were not. Some say that the large creatures mentioned during Creation (Bereshit 1:21) are the dinosaurs.

How old are the dinosaurs? A few million years old. Why then according to the Torah is the world 5769 years old? This has already been asked and answered: Hashem created worlds and destroyed them before creating our current world (Bereshit Rabbah 3:7, 9:2 and Kohelet Rabbah 3:11). The worlds were destroyed but certain remnants remained. This is explained by Maran Rav Kook in one of his letters (vol. 1 #91). The author of "Tiferet Yisrael" (a commentary on the Mishnah by Rabbi Yisrael Lipschitz) also explained this at length in "Derush Or Ha-Chaim," found in Mishnayot Nezikin after Massechet Sanhedrin). He said that the mystics claim that Hashem created four worlds before creating our world. Where are these worlds? Scientists say that this idea is made up. The Tiferet Yisrael says: "This is not correct. Our Sages know what they are talking about. And after they started excavations and found bones, we see that our Sages spoke the truth!" Although we do not need proofs that our Sages spoke the truth, it is still nice to hear it. He wrote: "The pondering spirit of man, who desires to discover all of the worlds, probing, excavating and delving like a weasel into the recesses of the earth, and the highest mountains in the world, in the Pyrenees, the Carpathians, the Cardillan Mountains in America, and the Himalayas, has found them to be formed of mighty layers of rock lying on one another as if thrown chaotically… Probing still further, within the depths of the earth, they found four distinct layers of rock, and between the layers fossilized remains of creatures. Those in the lower layers are much larger in size and structure, while those in the higher layers are progressively smaller in size but more refined in structure and form… And they also found in Siberia in 1807, in the northern most part of the world, under the constant incredible ice which is there, a monstrous type of elephant, some three or four times larger than those found today…the bones of which are now housed in a museum in St. Petersburg… We also know of the remains of an enormous creature found deep in the earth near Baltimore, seventeen feet long and eleven feet high… From all this it is clear that everything that the Kabbalists have told us for hundreds of years, that the world had already once existed and was then destroyed, and then it was reestablished four more times, and that each time the world appeared in a more perfect state than before – now in our time it has all become clear in truth and righteousness."

Nonetheless, there is no difference whether there were dinosaurs or not. Maran Ha-Rav Kook said that our subject is not if man came from an animal, our subject is how not to be an animal. The Torah’s purpose is to teach us how to have a gentle soul, and to be a holy and righteous person.