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October 2, 2014 / 8 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘temple’

“Pure for God” Seal Found in Temple Mount Excavation

Monday, December 26th, 2011

A rare seal certifying the ritual purity of an item to be used in the Second Temple in Jerusalem was discovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority as part of excavations under the Robinson’s Arch right next to the Temple Mount.

The find of the Aramaic inscription, “Pure for God”, occurred during an extensive sifting of soil removed from layers which were once part of a paved Herodian street serving as a main Jerusalem thoroughfare.  The soil dates to the first century CE (late Second Temple period), just prior to – or maybe even during – the Maccabean rebellion celebrated during the holiday of Hanukkah.

The item is stamped with an Aramaic inscription consisting of two lines – in the upper line “דכא” (pure) and below it “ליה” (to God) – and is probably the kind of seal referred to in the Mishnah as a “seal (Tractate Shekalim 5:1-5), according to excavation directors and archaeologists Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that such an object or anything similar to it was discovered in an archaeological excavation and it constitutes direct archaeological evidence of the activity on the Temple Mount and the workings of the Temple during the Second Temple period”, Shukron and Reich said.

Jerusalem District Archaeologist Dr. Yuval Baruch drew a connection between the find and Hanukkah. “It is written in the Gemara (Talmud Bavli, Tractate Shabbat 2:21) that the only cruse of oil that was discovered in the Temple after the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks, “lay with the seal of the High Priest” – that is, the seal indicated that the oil is pure and can be used in the Temple. Remember, this cruse of oil was the basis for the miracle of Hanukkah that managed to keep the menorah lit for eight days”, Baruch noted.

Other items discovered in the excavation included oil lamps, ceramic cooking pots and Hasmonean coins dating to kings Alexander Jannaeus and John Hyrcanus.

The findings were presented Sunday at a press conference attended by Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar at Ir David (the City of David).

Crass Materialism And The Lack Of True Jewish Values

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

How embarrassing.
 
Last Sunday the Los Angeles Times ran an article about extravagant Jewish Iranian weddings in California that portrayed our community as a bunch of shallow, boastful materialists who think the purpose of a marriage ceremony is to tell our friends how much money we have.
 
Some of the particulars detailed in the article, confirmed to me by people who actually attended, included a bride placed in a glass coffin to be opened by her half-masked “Phantom of the Opera” bridegroom. The coffin did not open for an hour and the wedding was nearly ruined by a shaken and tearful bride gasping for breath. But the coffin, on that occasion, was a telling symbol of the utter death of Jewish values that such ridiculous extravagances represent.
 
The article further cited the regularity of film crews at these weddings consisting of five or more cameramen with “a 25-foot crane over the dance floor.” In television this is called a jib, and to give you an idea of how expensive it is, through the first season of my show “Shalom in the Home,” we couldn’t afford one – despite a multi-million dollar budget.
 
Strangely enough, the article quoted a rabbi of a temple in Los Angeles with many Iranian Jewish members who “makes a point of not judging – and even sees virtue in the enormous family gatherings.”
 
Give me a break. Is there really a point to rabbinic leadership if it does not come with value judgments? There can be no question that keeping up with the Schwartzes has become a cancer that threatens to kill off the flickering Jewish soul. How ironic that a people who have for centuries survived forced baptisms are now drowning in an ocean of profligacy.
 
American Jews often exhibit the worst tendencies of immigrant communities, endeavoring to show how they have not just landed but “arrived.” Security is defined not in terms of spiritual virtue and nobility of purpose but stocks and bonds and money in the bank. And what’s the point of having it if your friends are ignorant of your success?
 
The whole reason you made the money in the first place was to show off. So go ahead. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. And what better opportunity than at the public celebrations of a bar or bat mitzvah or wedding, where you can utterly vulgarize the spirituality of the occasion by transforming it into a showcase of material consumption and excess.
 
I remember growing up in Miami Beach and the over-the-top, utterly ridiculous bar mitzvahs that were de rigueur there. One in the late 1970s featured Darth Vader and R2D2 greetings guests as they arrived at the reception. To be sure, it was memorable seeing C3PO in a tails and Chewbacca’s beard complemented by a chassidic hat, but one wondered what, apart from its celestial setting, “Star Wars” had to do with the spirituality of the moment. On another occasion I arrived to see a full ice sculpture of the bar mitzvah boy, which perfectly suited the frigid religious atmosphere.
 
A wealthy Jewish businessman shared a story with me of how he instills values in his children. His twelve-year-old son had come to him and said, “Dad, I want a famous sports star at my bar mitzvah.” So the father replied, “Son, you have to have manners. You don’t tell your father to get a famous sports star. You ask him politely.” Apparently it never dawned on the dad that his son had aped his own shallow materialism and had, already at 12, become an insecure braggart.
 
A remedy is needed. Rabbis should be thundering from the pulpit that extravagant weddings are not only an indicator of a sense of personal inadequacy but an abrogation of Jewish values. You’re so rich? Then impress your friends by giving the money to charity. Rather than focus on the twenty-piece orchestra for your son’s bar mitzvah, take him to twenty classes where he can learn about Abraham and Moses and David and the glory of Solomon’s Temple. Give him an inner identity, based on values and character, rather than a shallow external identity based on money and objects.
 
So why aren’t rabbis giving sermons about gross materialism? Because they are about as likely to criticize their own congregants as Romeo is to renounce Juliet. But what’s the point of being the head of a congregation if you’re not also the leader of a community?
 
The story goes that in Israel a few decades ago, the Gerer Rebbe, seeking to stop a destructive game of material one-upmanship, issued an edict that none of his followers could make a wedding with more than 200 guests (still large by some measures). One of his wealthiest followers and supporters approached him and said, “Rebbe, surely this does not apply to me. I’m a very rich man.” To which the rebbe responded, “Very well, then. If you’re so rich, go buy yourself a new rebbe.”
 

Yes, some things in life can be put on a credit card. But rabbis who preach values and can’t be bought? Priceless.

 

 

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach hosts “The Shmuley Show” on 77 WABC in New York. He is the founder of This World: The Values Network, and is the author, most recently, of “Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life.”

The Peace Snake

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

The cult of the talking snake began in the town of Abonoteichus around the year 150 CE, shortly after the Bar Kochba revolt. Located on the Mediterranean coast of what is now Turkey, the town was in fact a Greek settlement under Roman rule that practiced paganism.
 
One day workers in the local temple discovered some strange bronze tablets there proclaiming the imminent arrival of a divine healer named Asclepius, supposedly the son of Apollo. Locals quickly erected a new temple to honor the guest from heaven. And just as the temple was being completed, a strange egg was discovered in its earthworks. When cracked open, a baby snake emerged. A man named Alexander then proclaimed that this snake was the expected “god” and that he himself was its oracle.
 
Within days, the baby snake transformed itself miraculously into a giant one, much larger than a python. It revealed secrets and prophesies to its oracle, Alexander, spoken conveniently in the local Greek dialect. People from all over the Roman empire – including dignitaries from Rome – came to hear the prophecies.
 
Many brought the oracle Alexander valuable gifts. A single prediction of the future or message of advice from the snake would cost the supplicant the equivalent of a day’s wages, and the snake could provide a hundred of these on any working day.  Husbands, hearing the snake’s advice to turn their wives over to Alexander as concubines, did so.
 
As it turned out, the entire snake cult was nothing more than a pagan predecessor to the movie classic “The Wizard of Oz.” The snake had been created out of paper mach?, with a speaking tube inside its head constructed from wind pipes of large birds, connecting to a room behind the wall. The snake had levers that could make its head move and stick out its tongue. Alexander would operate it all from the next room, much like the humbug wizard pulling the levers behind the curtain to fool Dorothy and her friends.
 
The original bronze tablets with the prophecy had been placed there by Alexander, who had also hidden the baby snake inside an ostrich egg glued back together.
 
Alexander ran his scam for many years, until he died at the age of 70 and his tricks were uncovered. The cult of the snake was strongly denounced by Greek Epicureans and by some early Christian writers in the Roman Empire.
 
But whatever became of the pagan snake itself, the collection of moving paper mach? parts that led astray tens of thousands of people? After exhaustive research, we have discovered the answer.
 
Many centuries after the death of Alexander of Abonoteichus, his snake reappeared, but under a new name. In the late twentieth century the talking snake with the levers and the speaking tubes made a new grand appearance. “My name is Peace,” it proclaimed. “All who desire peace must come and hear my pronouncements, then follow my commands and obey my oracles.”
 
With its tongue flicking in and out, the sounds emerging from its speaking tubes were no longer Greek, but modern Hebrew. The Peace Snake from the New Middle East first emerged as a baby from an ostrich egg discovered in a Norwegian fjord by left-wing Israeli academics, meeting in Oslo with representatives of the PLO.
 
Smuggled back to Israel, the miraculous baby snake was displayed to Shimon Peres by Peres’s loyal apostle, Yossi Beilin. Then, right before their eyes, the snake underwent a metamorphosis, turning into a giant python, several times larger than any seen before.
 
“The Peace Messiah has arrived in the form of a giant talking snake,” Peres happily announced to then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. “All we need to do is follow its instructions.”
 
“And what might those be?” asked a skeptical Rabin.
 
“Just obey it. One must not argue with such a divine creature,” insisted Peres.  “First, it wants Israel to announce that it accepts the existence of a ‘Palestinian people,’ recognizes their right to their own state, and agrees to recognize the PLO as its national leadership. Next, Israel must allow Palestinian terrorists from all over the world to enter the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, arm themselves, set up militias in the suburbs of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and impose their sovereignty upon the Arabs there. Then Israel must evict all Jews living in the Gaza Strip and promise to do the same with the Jews living in Judea and Samaria. Finally, Israel must bankroll the PLO terrorists and provide them with weapons.”
 
“The public will never accept this,” objected Rabin.
 
“Ah but you are wrong,” replied Peres. “We will simply show them the talking snake head, proclaiming in Hebrew the emergence of a peaceful New Middle East.  The snake head is charming and comforting. The people will believe in its pagan magic.”
 
Rabin was finally sold on the idea.
 
“Behold the magic snake,” proclaimed Peres to the nation. The snake urged listeners to accept Peres as its prophet and obey its divinations, as whispered into Peres’s ear. No one seemed to notice that whenever the snake would speak Hebrew, it was in Peres’s Polish accent. Strangely, the snake head spoke no Arabic at all.
 
After Rabin was assassinated by a non-believer in the snake, it became all but impossible to denounce the serpent as a sham. Snake doubters were rounded up and indicted for incitement. The media fell into line and broadcast and published the snake’s epistles. Virtually no time or space was allowed for rebuttals from anti-snake dissidents.
 
The demands of the snake kept escalating. Its message was essentially the same: “The highest form of courage is cowardice,” it hissed. “Capitulation is the highest for of victory. Weakness is the highest form of strength. National self-debasement is the highest form of patriotism. Terrorism must be rewarded. The best way to end war is to pretend it does not exist.”
 
Since then, Peres has been replaced as the snake’s chief oracle by Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak. Audiences stand before it with mouths agape as it hisses through its speaking tubes: “There is no military solution to the problems of terrorism. Erecting a Palestinian state is the best assurance for the achievement of Zionist goals. Talk with Hamas. Negotiate with Hizbullah.”
 
And all the while, the Israeli humbugs of defeat pull the levers that make the serpent writhe and speak, while the media proclaim the miracle of the talking snake’s peace.
 

Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-peace-snake/2008/07/30/

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