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September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

Can One Be a Shomer Torah u’Mitzvos and Accept Bible Criticism?

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Another voice has entered the online discussion about Bible Criticism and orthodox Judaism. Professor Jacob L. Wright is an orthodox Jew who has studied, taught, and written extensively on Bible Criticism.

He made waves Pesach time when he published a provocative article on the Huffington Post where he talked about “The Myth of Moses.” In his article he explained that his view of the Bible is that it is a composite work with each layer added for a specific reason. In the Moses story, there was a need to justify the existence of an Egyptian prince named Moses who saved the Israelites and establish him as a bona fide Israelite. So the Bible tells the story of a boy who was cast off by his mother into the Nile. This story has very obscure references as the names of the major players in the story are not mentioned. Later, the story was viewed as salacious so new details were added as a prologue to the story.

If it weren’t the Bible and I weren’t orthodox, this would be a great theory to explain anomalies in the text. But it is the Bible and I am orthodox so it hardly sits well with me when the Bible is explained away as myth.

Professor Wright was interview by Professor Alan Brill on his Kavvanah website. The interview is worth your time and consideration if you don’t mind reading what is widely considered to be absolute kefira.

The first important thing in the interview is the introduction where Brill outlines the current status of Biblical Criticism. It’s required reading so I copy it in full here:

As background, the problems of the Bible go back to the tenth and eleventh century Islamic critiques of the Bible by Ibn Hazm and others. Second, modern figures such as Spinoza and Jean Astruc sought to understand the Bible as a human book using the same tools that we use to understand Greek and Roman books. And in the 19th century, Wellhausen popularized a theory that the Pentateuch had four authors. But the important part of his theory was that the ritual and priestly material was a priestly Pharisaic digression from the original pure faith of the prophets necessitating Christianity for a restoration. Hence, Solomon Schechter called it higher anti-Semitism, David Zvi Hoffman showed that Leviticus is not in contradiction to the rest of the story, Kaufman showed that the prophets assumed the priestly material, and Cassuto showed based on Sumerian and Akkadian sources that the divisions fail.

Well, Wellhausen was writing a century ago, with the aforementioned defenses all formulated in a post WWI climate. For at least forty years the field was already given to authors such as Gunkel who assumes the Bible is legend, the way Gilgamesh is legend. And Martin Noth who assumed most of the narrative was formulated originally as oral traditions- read here. Questions of redaction were not tied to Wellhausen, or even literary documents, but to oral traditions.

What do historians currently think about the context of the Bible? They assume that it was written between 720 BCE and 587 BCE, between the destruction of the Northern Kingdom and the destruction of Jerusalem, with some editing until the end of Ezra’s life circa 440 BCE. (Minimalists make it more recent and Evangelicals defend the chronological dates.) They work from parallels to Assyrian texts, the nature of script, linguistics, and reconstructed context of author. Little of this has anything to do with literary doublets. If you want to reject historical criticism, then start learning ancient linguistics and texts contemporary to the Bible. No harmonization of passages changes this dating nor does anything from Cassutto or Hoffman affect it. (However, Prof. Josh Berman is seeking to shift the discussion from Assyrians to the Hittites in 1300 BCE, an effort that may be accepted by the Orthodox but does not promise to have much of an impact on the experts. But it is better than refuting Kugel, who is not a historian of ancient Israel or source critic so the critique does not help.)

This past May there was a major conference at Hebrew University on“Convergence and Divergence in Pentateuchal Theory;” if you are interested in these topics, then that was the place to be. The conference opened up with a clear statement that there are three approaches: a Documentary approach (not based on Wellhausen but on Noth and others) where there are separate documents; a Supplementary approach,where a single document get more and more complex; and a Fragmentary approach, where we cannot separate out authors or layers anymore.

Deny Israel’s Existence and You Can Win $100 (Video)

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

The Palestinian Authority’s official television authority is broadcasting entertainment programs that offer the “Arab on the street” $100 for correctly identifying Israeli landmarks and borders as being “Palestinian,” another step in educating people that Israel does not exist.

The program, of course is broadcast in Arabic, so U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry does not watch it. He also probably does not read the Jewish Press or the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) website, which translated and published the program’s dialogue.

Unlike the chosen people who know that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is talking out of both sides of his month when he backs “two states side by side,” the Obama administration remains ignorant of the program, which shows that Yafo (Jaffa), Tzfat (Safed), the port of Ashdod and metropolitan Tel Aviv all are really cities in “Palestine.”

“On the beach of which Palestinian village did the whale spew out the prophet Jonah? Naturally, it’s a coastal city,” the “reporter on the street” asked an Arab, who immediately answered, “Ashdod.”

Give that man $100 for the “correct” answer.

Here is another question that won a lucky respondent $100: “Which city did [Palestinian writer] Mustafa Dabbagh call ‘The city that fell from Heaven?’”

The man asked if the city is “in Palestine or outside of Palestine?” When he got the big clue that, of course, it is inside Palestine, he came up with the “right” answer as “Maybe Jaffa?”

The reporter gleefully told him, “Correct answer. Jaffa. You win $100 from [the sponsor] Wataniya Mobile.”

Here is more of the transcript provided by PMW.

PA TV reporter: “A lake in Northern Palestine drained by the Israeli occupation. What is the name of the lake?”

Man: “The Sea of Galilee? Kinneret].”

PA TV reporter: “Think.”

Man: “The Hula [Lake].”

PA TV reporter: “You’ve earned $100 from the [sponsor] Bank of Palestine.”

The reporter also asked, “Name the Palestinian village in Northern Safed whose name means ‘beetle’ in the Syriac language, and whose residents are mostly Druze.”

PA TV reporter: “The correct answer is Hurfeish, the Palestinian village in Northern Safed whose name means ‘beetle’. Congratulations. You win $100.” The answer would be a big surprise to the residents of Hurfeish, who are Druze.

PA TV reporter: “What is the highest mountain in Palestine?”

Man: “Mt. Meron.” (Mt. Meron is in Northern Israel.) The reporter also asked respondents to identify which “country has the longest border with Palestine?”

The answer “Jordan” won a person $100 for identifying the country and eliminating the existence of Israel in one swipe.

The program is not the first time Palestinian Authority television has educated its viewers that Israel does not exist, but to do so at the same that the Obama administration is pushing Israel into direct talks to establish the Palestinian Authority as an independent country raises the validity of Abbas’ position that the talks should be based on the 1967 borders.

The program shows that he favors that the borders remain as they are, from the Golan Heights and the Lebanese border to the Egyptian border and from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

One small change he wants is to change the word “Israel” to “Palestine.”

Ancient Text May Have Been Written in Hebrew

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

In July, JewishPress.com reported on archaeologists finding a 3000 year old, jar fragment written in a seemingly unknown script, it has been called the Ophel Inscription. The Ophel is the archaeology park next to the Temple Mount where the jar segment was uncovered.

Near Eastern history and Biblical studies expert Douglas Petrovich told Fox News that he believes that the writing is in an ancient Hebrew script.

If Petrovich’s analysis is right, then this is the earliest example of written Hebrew found to date, and scientific proof that the Israelites were able to compose the Tanach in real-time.

For more information, read about the background of the find.

Congressman Aims at Jew’s Crusade against Army Religious Coercion

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Mikey Weinstein couldn’t be happier to have an amendment in his honor approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, even if it is one aimed at keeping  his Military Religious Freedom Foundation as far away from the Pentagon as possible. He couldn’t be happier because Weinstein is the kind of guy who revels in the dislike of his adversaries.

“How terrified are these little pu***es in Congress that they have to pass an amendment about me?” he shouted in a phone interview from the foundation’s headquarters in Albuquerque, N.M.

Weinstein wants troops free from coercive evangelizing by their superiors, but a number of conservative lawmakers and activists see Weinstein as the threat to religious freedom.

Inspired by a report that Weinstein had met with Pentagon brass, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) introduced the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act in a statement that called Weinstein a “notorious anti-Christian zealot.”

In his House speech the same day, Huelskamp complained, “It seems that secretive meetings continue with individuals actually opposed to religious liberties.”

Weinstein welcomed the amendment, which requires the Pentagon to notify Congress of any meeting it holds with civilians to discuss military policy with respect to religious liberty. The language of the amendment, he notes, also would cover meetings between the Pentagon and Christian conservatives.

The amendment reflects growing concern in certain quarters that Weinstein is an anti-Christian crusader in disguise of a fighter for freedom from religion coercion in the military.

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) in May asked the Pentagon for further information about a meeting between its officials and “anti-Christian extremist Mikey Weinstein,” and Rep. Michele Bachmann said the meeting was with “left-wing, anti-Christian activists.”

The core of Weinstein’s threat, as depicted by his conservative opponents, is that he is at the vanguard of a bid to squelch religious expression in the military but Weinstein does not target Christian expression as long as there is no evidence of coercion. His problem is with commanders who intimidate subordinates by permitting proselytizing — or engaging in it themselves.

“The military is indescribably tribal, adversarial, communal, ritualistic,” Weinstein said. “If you are being even gently evangelized by your military superior, ‘Get the f*** out of my face, sir’ is not an option.”

Weinstein has been lobbing bombs at the religious establishment since the mid-2000s, when two of his sons told him of coercive efforts by their superiors at his alma mater, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He established his foundation in late 2005.

His younger son Curtis ,said he was exposed to anti-Semitic language and was asked “how it felt to kill Jesus.” His older son Casey, a 2004 Academy graduate, alleged that “senior cadets would sit down and say, ‘How do you feel about the fact that your family is going to burn in hell?’”

“I’m under no illusions that what happened to my Jewish sons and my Christian daughter-in-law could not have happened to the son of a patriotic American Muslim or Buddhist or agnostic or atheist,” Weinstein has written.

 

Weinstein says he does not target any particular faith, to the point that one of his recent victories involved getting a commander to remove atheist bumper stickers from his car.

Weinstein has attacked what he calls “Dominionist” Christians seeking to advance the United States toward theocracy. And he has referred to fundamentalist Christians as “monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation’s armed forces.”

The Anti-Defamation League, the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center and Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), all of whom publicly supported Weinstein in the past, will say little about him now.

The RAC and Israel both declined multiple requests for comment, while the ADL’s civil rights director, Deborah Lauter, would only say, “We don’t like the lack of civility on either side. ADL’s approach has always been if we see a problem, find a constructive way to fix it.”

Former Jewish community associates of Weinstein would not speak on the record but delivered tortured accounts of their relationships with him, which essentially boil down to this: Weinstein is wacky and impolitic — and right.

“It’s not that he’s not correct’ it’s that he’s not political” is how one put it.

Fundamentalist Exhibit of Noah’s Ark Awash in Red Ink

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

A Kentucky museum’s attempt to build a  replica of Noah’s Ark, along with the Tower of Babel, Abraham and the 10 Plagues, is going to need a modern miracle to come to life as money runs out.

Fundamentalist Christians are trying to teach the Bible to the world in the Kentucky city of Hebron, without the Cave of the Patriarchs, which would have been a much more logical project but not Christian enough.

The park’s design director Patrick Marsh told Reuters, “We’re basically presenting what the Bible has to say and showing how plausible it was.”

The Creation Museum in nearby Petersburg was opened six years ago  and was supposed to be the source of funds for the Noah’s Ark project, but it got hit by the recession. Since then, visitors have been staying away in droves, denying the proposed new park the funds that wren supposed to finance the project that will cost nearly $150 million. If the Noah’s Ark project is not completed by next May, it will forfeit tax incentives and leave a further gaping financial hole.

The backers are a part of the same Bible thumping ministry that built the Creation Museum, which sticks to a literal view of the Creation.  It is headed by Ken Ham, who is at war with Darwin and scientists who claim the world is older than almost 6,000 years.

Building Noah’s Ark has raised some interesting questions, such as what is the “gopher wood” that is mentioned in the Biblical description of the building of the ark.

If the 160-acre project ever is completed, it will include a full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark, the Tower of Babel, and a first-century village, along with a theme ride that will take visitors through the 10 plagues of Egypt, according to the Christian Post.

The ride is not a thrill ride, it’s a seven to 11 minute ride through the nation of Israel, where visitors will see the plagues portrayed,” “Mike Zovath, senior vice president and co-founder of the Ark Encounter, told the publication.

God, of course, is part of the project, and the newspaper wrote that Zovath “feels like God is part of their plan and their effort to teach the biblical position.”

But God has not come up with the money.

The Noah’s Ark project has come up with a way to raise funds by encouraging people to buy a plank or a beam.

Why didn’t Noah think of that?

In Hebrew: ‘To Complain’

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

לְהִתְלוֹנֵן, לְקַטֵּר

Visit Ktzat Ivrit.

Rachel’s Tomb: A Jewish Holy Site Since Ancient Times

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Rachel’s Tomb, located in the northern outskirts of Bethlehem, about 400 yards south of Jerusalem, is the third holiest site in Judaism after the Temple Mount and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. For the past 1,700 years, the site has been identified as the burial place of the Jewish matriarch, Rachel, and Jews were known to pray at the site for over the past 3,000 years. Rachel, the beloved wife of the patriarch Ya’akov, died during childbirth as the family was traveling to Hebron.

Rachel’s Tomb in the Hebrew Bible

According to Genesis 35:16-21,

They set out from Bayt-El; but when they were still some distance from Efrat; Rachel went into childbirth, and she had hard labor. When her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Have no fear, for it’s another boy for you.” But as she breathed her last –as she was dying– she named him Ben-Oni, but his father called him Benyamin. So Rachel died. She was buried on the road to Efrat — now Bethlehem. Over her grave Ya’acov set up a pillar, it is the pillar at Rachel’s grave to this day.

Photo by Rachel Avraham.

Whenever the Jewish people faced sorrows, throughout the generations, they would traditionally pray for Rachel to cry for them at Rachel’s Tomb, believing that her tears to God have special powers. Since she herself was childless for many years, many Jewish women visit her grave in order to pray to have children, although other members of the Jewish community who face troubles also visit her grave. Thus, as the third holiest shrine in Judaism, Jews across the Diaspora maintained a spiritual connection to Rachel’s Tomb over the centuries and paid for the holy sites upkeep.

According to Jewish tradition, the matriarch Rachel has always cried for her people whenever the Jews needed her. Ya’akov reportedly buried Rachel in Bethlehem, instead of in the Tomb of Patriarchs in Hebron, because he foresaw that his descendants would need her prayers en route to exile in Babylonia. Additionally, Yosef, Rachel’s eldest son, was the first Jew to pray by her grave. According to a Midrash, Yosef broke away from his captors temporarily en route to bondage in Egypt and cried out at her grave,

“Mother, my mother who gave birth to me, wake up, arise and see my suffering.” Rachel replied, “Do not fear. Go with them, and God will be with you.”

As Jeremiah 31:15-17 states,

Rachel, weeping for her children, she refuses to be comforted for her children who are gone. Thus said Hashem: “Restrain your voice from weeping, your eyes from shedding tears; for there is reward for your labor” declares Hashem. “They shall return from the enemy’s land and there is hope for the future” declares Hashem: “Your children shall return to their own country.”

Islamic Attitude

Photo by Rachel Avraham.

Historically, the Muslim world considered Rachel’s Tomb a site holy to Jews. According to a report written by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, the sixteenth century Arab historian Mujir Al Din wrote that Rachel’s Tomb was a Jewish holy place. He recorded that Rachel’s Tomb was built with “eleven stones and covered with a cupola which rests on four pillars, and every Jew passing writes his name on the monument.” The same JCPA report states that in 1830, the Ottoman Turkish authorities decreed that Rachel’s Tomb was a Jewish holy site, proclaiming,

The tomb of esteemed Rachel, the mother of our Lord Joseph…they (the Jews) are accustomed to visit it from ancient days; and no one is permitted to prevent them or oppose them (from doing) this.

Another Ottoman decree, dated 1831, orders that all obstacles be removed that were in place that interfered with members of the Jewish community that sought to visit Rachel’s Tomb.

In 1615, Mohammad, Pasha of Jerusalem, had rebuilt Rachel’s Tomb on behalf of the Jewish people. In 1841, Jewish caretakers were given exclusive ownership of the place. And in 1845, the entire Rachel’s Tomb compound was redone with the permission of the Turkish authorities by Moses Montefiore.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/united-with-israel/rachels-tomb-a-jewish-holy-site-since-ancient-times/2013/05/22/

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