web analytics
November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

The Undivided Past

Friday, October 4th, 2013

There are several words used in the Bible to describe the Jewish people. At one stage we were simply tribal. Then we became an “Am”, a people, a “Goy”, a nation, a “Mamlacha”, a kingdom. Post-Biblically, if the gentiles called us Jews, Judeans, Israelites, Hebrews, Yids, or whatever, we used “Yisrael” as the name of choice, in the main, which meant a people, a culture, a religion, a relationship with God and a land, all of that in varying and amorphous degrees. We knew what it meant, even if others were confused or bemused. It takes one to know one.

Under pagan empires religion was not a factor, just loyalty to an overarching regime or royal family. If you were a serf it was loyalty to your lord and village. Neither the Persian, nor the Greek, nor the Roman Empires cared how you worshipped or behaved, so long as you professed loyalty to the empire. Then Christianity emerged as the religion of the Roman Empire and other religions were marginalized. Ironically the bloodiest battles were within Christianity, between one theological variation and another. The same thing happened under Islam. Ideals soon got perverted by politics and as today, Muslims of different sects killed more Muslims than all their enemies put together and doubled. Freud memorably described this internal divisiveness as “the narcissism of minor differences”.

In the West, most Jews that non-Jews encounter are not particularly committed to being Jewish. For Jews like a Soros or a Zuckerberg, it’s an accident of birth, a minor casual affiliation, like belonging to the Church of England. And this explains why most of those in the West who think about the matter reckon that the Jews are not really too concerned about having a land of their own and that it was only the accidental intervention of imperialist powers that explains the Jewish presence in the Middle East. It was a misjudged adventure. And really the Jews ought to pick up and leave and stop being nasty to the indigenous population.

It takes an objective observer to notice that for millennia Jews have shared a powerful core identity, even if in almost every situation except when they were given a choice, most Jews actually abandoned the community of Jews. But it took a determined minority within a minority to fight hard, relentlessly, and ultimately victoriously for its Jewish identity.

In his book The Undivided Past: Humanity Beyond Our Differences, David Cannadine writes:

“Egypt under the Pharaohs may have resembled a nation…but there was no accompanying sense of public culture or collective identity. As for the ancient Greeks, their limited pan Hellenic aspirations embodied in their shared language, Homeric epics and Olympic games foundered on the disputatious reality of their fiercely independent city-states. Similar objections have been made to claims that the Sumerians, the Persians, the Phoenicians, the Arameans, the Philistines, the Hittites and the Elamites were ancient nations, or that the Sinhalese, the Japanese or the Koreans might be so described during the first millennium of the common era. Only in the case of Israel does it seem plausible to discern a recognizable ancient nation with its precise though disputed territoriality, its ancient myths, its shared historical memories of the Exodus, the Conquest and wars with the Philistines, its strong sense of exceptionalism and providential destiny and its self-definition against a hostile “other” and its common laws and cultures. These were and are the essential themes in the unfinished history of the Jews this example has also furnished ever since a developed model of what it means to be a nation.” (p. 58)

Throughout exile we somehow did preserve a sense of belonging to a people, to a tradition, to a land, a sense of community, Klal Yisrael. This is why the problem of Israel in the Middle East, the Jewish problem, is so intractable. The overwhelming majority of Jews now living in Israel or the West Bank are committed to the notion of a Jewish people. It is not to be compared as ignorant opponents of Israel try, to a few British or white imperialists imposing themselves on a vast majority “other”. Some may try to delegitimize us by overturning a decision of the United Nations, but they cannot delegitimize or wish away the Jewish people.

Did Your Shul Pocket $660,000 from Maftir Yona?

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

“Auctioning” off the honor of being called to the Torah and for the privilege of reading the “Haftorah,” or “Maftir” section of the Prophets, is common in the Diaspora and also in many urban and more affluent communities in Israel, but it takes a lot to top an unidentified Moscow millionaire, or perhaps billionaire, who paid $660,000 for the honor to read the Book of Yona (Jonah).

Hadrei Haredim reported that the money was pledged at Moscow’s central syangogue for Jewish institutions and a yeshiva.

Several Israeli Hassidic synagogues did not do as well but can’t complain. Tzvi Frank of the United States paid $17,000 to read ‘Maftir Yona” during afternoon prayers on Yom Kipper at the Navdorna yeshiva synagogue, according to Kikkar Shabbat. Navdorna is a town that was in Poland between the two world wars and now is Ukraine.

At the Erlau Hassidic synagogue, the same honor was “sold” for $28,000 but Bnei Brak’s Luvlin yeshiva settled for “only” $6,200. However, one person paid nearly twice that sum for opening the Holy Ark continuing Torah scrolls.

Proof of ‘Solomon’s Copper Mines’ Found in Israel

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Tel Aviv University archaeologists claim that recent excavations prove that copper mines in Israel thought to have been built by the ancient Egyptians in the 13th century BCE actually originated three centuries later, during the reign of the legendary King Solomon.

The description of “King Solomon’s copper mines” is based on a novel that placed them in the Israeli kingdom, but archaeologists, until now, have dated them to ancient Egypt.

“The mines are definitely from the period of King Solomon,” says Dr. Ben-Yosef. “They may help us understand the local society, which would have been invisible to us otherwise.”

Based on the radiocarbon dating of material unearthed at a new site in Timna Valley in Israel’s Arava Desert, the findings overturn the archaeological consensus of the last several decades. Scholarly work and materials found in the area suggest the mines were operated by the Edomites, a semi-nomadic tribal confederation that according to the Bible warred constantly with Israel.

Now a national park, Timna Valley was an ancient copper production district with thousands of mines and dozens of smelting sites.

Last February, Ben-Yosef and a team of researchers and students excavated a previously untouched site in the valley, known as the Slaves’ Hill. The area is a massive smelting camp containing the remains of hundreds of furnaces and layers of copper slag, the waste created during the smelting process.

In addition to the furnaces, the researchers unearthed an impressive collection of clothing, fabrics, and ropes made using advanced weaving technology; foods, like dates, grapes, and pistachios; ceramics; and various types of metallurgical installations.

The world-renowned Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at the University of Oxford in England dated 11 of the items to the 10th century BCE, when according to the Bible King Solomon ruled the Kingdom of Israel.

The archaeological record shows the mines in Timna Valley were built and operated by a local society, likely the early Edomites, who are known to have occupied the land and formed a kingdom that rivaled Judah. The unearthed materials and the lack of architectural remains at the Slaves’ Hill support the idea that the locals were a semi-nomadic people who lived in tents.

The findings from the Slaves’ Hill confirm those of a 2009 dig Ben-Yosef helped to conduct at “Site 30,” another of the largest ancient smelting camps in Timna Valley. Then a graduate student of Prof. Thomas E. Levy at the University of California, San Diego, he helped demonstrate that the copper mines in the valley dated from the 11th to 9th centuries BCE — the era of Kings David and Solomon — and were probably Edomite in origin.

The findings were reported in the journal The American Schools of Oriental Research in 2012, but the publication did little to shake the notion that the mines were Egyptian, based primarily on the discovery of an Egyptian Temple in the center of the valley in 1969.

The Slaves’ Hill dig also demonstrates that the society in Timna Valley was surprisingly complex, and the smelting technology and the layout of the camp reflects indicate that thousands of people were needed to operate the mines in the middle of the desert.

“In Timna Valley, we unearthed a society with undoubtedly significant development, organization, and power,” says Ben-Yosef. “And yet because the people were living in tents, they would have been transparent to us as archaeologists if they had been engaged in an industry other than mining and smelting, which is very visible archaeologically.”

Archaeologists would probably never have found evidence of its existence if it were not for the mining operation even though the society likely possessed a degree of political and military power.

Ben-Yosef says this calls into question archaeology’s traditional assumption that advanced societies usually leave behind architectural ruins. He also says that the findings at the Slaves’ Hill undermine criticisms of the Bible’s historicity based on a lack of archaeological evidence.

It’s entirely possible that Kings David and Solomon exerted some control over the mines in the Timna Valley at times, he says.

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/congressman-aims-at-jews-crusade-against-army-religious-coercion/2013/06/25/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: