Breaking News of Israel – A biblical story retold – Breaking Bible News – Genesis Apocryphon

Breaking News of Israel - A biblical story retold - Breaking Bible News - Genesis Apocryphon

A biblical story retold

The relic, which is currently on display, is part of the Genesis Apocryphon, which contains a description, in Aramaic, of the lives of Noah, Abraham, Enoch and Lamech.

In case you hadn’t noticed – perhaps you are a recent arrival to these shores, or are simply a little naive – whether you like it or not, everything, yes everything, in this country has a political tint to it.

That is definitely the case when it comes to anything of a religious nature. That counts doubly when the subject matter in question happens to be a 2,000-year-old piece of leather that forms part of the world-renowned Dead Sea Scrolls housed at the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book.

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The relic, which is currently on display, is part of the Genesis Apocryphon, which contains a description, in Aramaic, of the lives of Noah, Abraham, Enoch and Lamech. Intriguingly, the text is written in the first person, as though the aforementioned folk from Genesis had jotted down their own memoirs, which were left in a jar, in a cave near Qumran, to be eventually discovered by a couple of Beduin shepherds in 1947.

The worse-for-the-weather fragment in the current “Genesis Retold – An Exceptional Dead Sea Scroll” exhibition, which will be on display only until June 15, before returning to the museum vaults, relates some of the events that took place after Noah’s ark settled on a peak of Mount Ararat, in modern-day Turkey. It tells how Noah offered up sacrifices and, in so doing, “atoned for all the earth in its entirety.”

EXHIBITION CO-CURATOR Dr. Adolfo Roitman – he shares the role with Hagit Maoz – believes the diminutive exhibit’s importance far exceeds its size.

Roitman, who is an ordained Conservative rabbi and has authored several tomes about the Dead Sea Scrolls, feels we should take a more empathetic and inclusive line on Judaism and, as a consequence, on Israeli society in general.

“My contribution as a curator, either through research work, exhibitions or teaching, is to expose the material, and cultural and religious diversity, and the range of options that the Jewish people created through the generations,” he posits. “That can help us, today in contemporary Israel, to appreciate that our reality is just another glorious chapter of this variegated history.”

I suggest that there is nothing new in that multichannel ethos. After all, the Talmud itself is just one debate after another, with all manner of learned rabbis proffering different takes on the Torah.

“That’s true but, even if there are arguments between scholars, that’s still something that takes place within a certain [religious] paradigm,” Roitman observes.

“But I am saying that, beyond that, there are other debates which, in practice, contradict the rabbis but are still within the wider domain of the Jewish world. That’s why I say that this little exhibition offers a different approach to the story of Noah as we have seen it thus far.”

Then again, the curator says there is nothing new in taking a parallel view of biblical events. “This is a tradition with which we are familiar from the Sages [of the Mishna and Talmud].”

The exhibit provides corporeal evidence of the time-honored custom. “If you take column 10 of the scroll and compare it with the corresponding text [in the Bible], which is Chapter 8 of Genesis, you see that not only are there details which have changed, he [the author of the scroll] adds details which don’t feature in the original.”

Roitman cites a poignant example. “According to the order of events in the Torah, after the ark landed on one of the hills of Ararat, God commanded Noah to leave the ark. He goes out, builds an altar and offers up sacrifices from the clean animals and fowl.

But according to the order of events in the extract I am showing at the museum, Noah offers up the sacrifices before he leaves the ark. In the scroll, he makes the sacrifices in column 10, but he only leaves the ark in column 11.”

There’s more to the alternative take. “The significance of the sacrifices [Noah makes] is that they are sacrifices of thanks, to God, that Noah and his family have been saved,” Roitman continues. “In the scroll – it is written in the first person, not in the third person like in the Torah – Noah says, in fact, that the sacrifice is an atonement. He says to himself, I’ve atoned for the whole world. That is completely different from a sacrifice of gratitude.”

The scroll plot thickens. Roitman also notes the added information about the sacrificial process, in the Dead Sea parchment, which does not appear in the Genesis storyline.

“There is a long list [in the scroll], around four or five lines, with details about the sacrifices, which are not at all connected with what we see in Genesis, but they are connected to the tradition of sacrifices with which we are familiar from the Book of Leviticus. For example, he [Noah] adds salt to the sacrifices. We know that happens. That is an instruction in the Torah. But there is no mention of that in Genesis.”

SO, IS the scroll writer leaning heavily on the fanciful side? Is this more a work of fiction? As jazz musicians, for instance, are wont to do, did the author just use the better-known biblical passage as a base on which to extemporize? Roitman likens the scroll rendition to something along the lines of the work of a playwright rendering historical events in an entertaining and theatrical format. “He takes a particular view of the character of Noah. He sees him as a kohen [priest]. And, as a kohen, he can offer up an atonement sacrifice, he can make blessings and can make sacrifices in the manner in which they are portrayed in Leviticus.”

That still sounds an awful lot like a playwright’s creative line of storytelling, I reiterate. Roitman comes back at me with a surprising observation.

“The whole of the story of Noah is imaginary,” he states.

“I am not setting the historical figure opposite the fictional one.” The biblical account of the Flood, which is said to have encompassed the whole of terra firma, is not necessarily meant to be taken literally, Roitman says.

“The flood is connected to various traditions which date back to ancient times. Noah is basically just an Israelite version of a traditional story which we know about from Mesopotamian cultures.”

Roitman cites, for example, the tale of Ziusudra, the last king of Sumer from the 17th century BCE, who, like Noah, was forewarned by a deity to construct a large boat as a deluge is on its way.

“Our Noah is just a later version of characters we know about from earlier times,” the curator continues. “So we should really be asking whether all the stories about a flood have their roots in a real catastrophic event. That almost definitely didn’t happen in Israel, because we hardly have any water here, but in Mesopotamia. The answer is that there probably was a flood, although not a deluge which destroyed the whole world. But, in the collective memory of those days, that was portrayed as something close to a cosmic event.”

At the end of the day, myth or actual history, Roitman feels we have much to learn from the scrap of leather from the desert cave. “You can extract from it very important information for the study of literature and Jewish society of 2,000 years ago.”

By the way, if you are planning to get yourself over to the Shrine of the Book to get an eyeful of the tattered scroll, you should be ready to grab the chance while it lasts, and not just because the exhibit will vanish from the public eye two months from now, with no date set for a possible reappearance.

In the interest of protecting the delicate scroll fragment from the elements, it is preserved in the tailor-made “smart glass” show cabinet. When you press a button, the opaque white glass becomes transparent for 30 seconds, offering a brief view of the treasure, before the glass clouds over again.

Naturally, Roitman believes the museum patrons will be suitably impressed with the exhibition, as long as they relate more to the content of the scroll rather than to its basic aesthetics.

“It is not exactly a painting by Caravaggio,” he chuckles, referencing the feted Italian Baroque artist. “The parameters are different here.”


Jerusalem Bible Prophecy – Will Shabbat Massacre Usher in Final War for Third Temple?

Will Shabbat Massacre Usher in Final War for Third Temple

“And say to him, “Thus said God of Hosts: Behold, a man called the Branch shall branch out from the place where he is, and he shall build the Temple of Hashem.” Zechariah 6:12 (The Israel Bible™)

The horrific murder of three family members on Friday night signaled a painful upsurge in the battle for the Temple Mount indicated that the recent struggle is part of the archetypal end-of-days battle between good and evil that could bring the Third Temple.

In a bloody and brutal attack, a Palestinian terrorist entered the house of a family as they sat down to their Sabbath meal on Friday and murdered a grandfather and two of his children. The motive the terrorist cited on the Facebook post announcing his intentions was to avenge the placing of metal detectors on the Temple Mount.

The attack was, indeed, connected to the Temple Mount, said Rabbi Shlomo Katz, a Torah educator and musician, but not the way the Muslims think. Rather, he believes that Jewish teachings show the attack was integrally connected to the coming of the Third Temple.

“With the murder this Shabbat, we see that everything is coming down to the Temple Mount,” Rabbi Katz told Breaking Israel News. “In these final days before Moshiach (Messiah), we need to have clarity about this.”

Rabbi Katz sees this tumultuous time as an opportunity for Israel to move forward towards the Third Temple.

“The Temple Mount was in our hands and we gave it away. We have another chance now to say to the world that this is God’s house,” the rabbi said. “That is what the struggle is about, and has always been about.”

The rabbi stated that the real struggle for the Third Temple “begins in our hearts.”

“The Temple service can only be done in joy, and there is no joy like dispelling doubt,” he said. “We are arguing about things, like the murder of a family, like the Temple Mount, things that there really should be no doubt at all in anyone’s minds, especially ours. Only when we have no doubt will we be ready for the Temple.”

This heinous act comes at the end of the three-week period of austerity leading up to the fast day on the Ninth day of Av, a holiday commemorating the destruction of the two Temples. In two days, all of Israel will be mourning the Temple as the memory of the Salomon family rests heavily on the hearts of the Jewish people.

But there is a powerfully Phoenix-like aspect to the holiday. Though the sad day is a reminder of great loss, the Talmud (Brachot 2:4) teaches that the Messiah will be born on the Ninth day of Av. This renewal of the Temple coming from its own destruction is referred to explicitly by the Prophet Zechariah.

Thus said God of Hosts: The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth month (Av), the fast of the seventh month, and the fast of the tenth month shall become occasions for joy and gladness, happy festivals for the House of Yehuda; but you must love honesty and integrity. Zechariah 8:19

According to Jewish tradition, the arrival of the Messiah will be necessarily be preceded by pains, similar to the pangs of a woman giving birth, as referred to by the prophet Isaiah.

Like a woman with child Approaching childbirth, Writhing and screaming in her pangs, So are we become because of You, Hashem. Isaiah 27:16

The Yalkut Shimoni, a compilation of rabbinic commentary on the Bible believed to have been composed in the 13th century, said these pains would be caused by conflict between nations.

The year in which Melech Hamashiach will be revealed, all the nations of the world will be provoking each other…The king of Persia (Iran) will provoke the King of Arabia. The King of Arabia, will go to Edom (the leader of the Christian nations) to take counsel and the King of Persia (Ahmadinejad) will threaten to destroy the entire world. The nations of the world will be outraged and panic. They will fall on their faces and will experience pains like birth pangs. Israel too, will be outraged and in a state of panic ask, “Where do we go?” Yalkut Shimoni

Moshe Feiglin, a right-wing political figure and former member of Knesset, warned that this current conflict could evolve into a final battle for Israel’s very existence.

“They killed two policemen and then they killed a family,” Moshe Feiglin said. “This is all because for fifty years we have said the Temple Mount is theirs and not ours. If the beating heart of the Holy Land belongs to them, then it all belongs to them.

“If we give in now, we will bring down the final, most destructive war.”


Breaking Israel NEWS – PARASHAT DVARIM: Compromise and justice

Jerusalem View of the Old City Jerusalem Breaking News IPRAYPRAYER.COM2
Justice and compromise are the ways a person makes room for others in his heart. Insisting on the letter of the law, even if it is just, can be a sign of egoism. Jerusalem . (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM) 

This week we begin reading the last of the five books of the Torah – Deuteronomy.

This book is mostly composed of speeches Moses gave to the nation during the days before his death on the border of the Land of Israel. These speeches summarize the nation’s history during its 40 years in the desert on the way from Egypt to the Land of Israel. Likewise, Moses presented them with guidance and instructions on how to preserve the Jewish nation’s uniqueness after settling the Land of Israel – with a view toward the spiritual and cultural challenges they would be facing from the adjacent nations.

One of the events Moses reviewed in his first speech was the appointment of judges. After explaining the need to create a widespread legal system, he described the instructions he gave the judges prior to their appointment: “And I commanded your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear [disputes] between your brothers and judge justly between a man and his brother, and between his litigant’” (Deuteronomy 1:16).

The words “judge justly” are ambiguous.

The simple meaning is to make sure the judgment is just, fair and honest.

But the world “justly” was interpreted by one of our medieval sages, Rabeinu Behayei ben Asher (Spain, 1255-1340), to mean “by compromise.”

This means the judge is not meant to strive to reach a decision based on absolute justice, but should soften the argument and instruct both sides to give in a little, to compromise.

This ambition to reach a compromise is not coincidental. In the prophecy read as the Haftara this week after the Torah portion, Isaiah prophecies about the good future in store for Jerusalem: “Zion shall be redeemed through justice and her penitent through righteousness” (Isaiah 1:27).

Justice and compromise are the ways a person makes room for others in his heart. Insisting on the letter of the law, even if it is just, can be a sign of egoism.

Even if a person harmed you, even if he owes you something, you should not live in the emotional state of the plaintiff. On the contrary, the understanding that others have faults, just as we have faults, is a basic concept that changes a person’s position when facing society.

Indeed, in the Talmud’s description of the factors leading to Jerusalem’s destruction, we find the following: “Jerusalem was destroyed because people there insisted on their rights based on the full letter of the law, and were not willing to be lenient” (Talmud Bavli, Tractate Baba Metzia, daf 30).

At first glance, this seems paradoxical.

The term “lenient” seems to insinuate that this is something that cannot be demanded of someone, so how could this be punishable? There is an important message concealed here: A person should rise above the basic position demanding what he thinks he deserves. Our position should be softer, more inclusive, less demanding.

This is not a recommendation, but rather an obligation. This is the correct way to live. 

The writer is the rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites.

Jerusalem Bible News – ‘Immense’ 2,700-Year-Old Water System Discovered in Rosh HaAyin

Jerusalem Bible News - ‘Immense’ 2,700-Year-Old Water System Discovered in Rosh HaAyin

“I constructed pools of water, enough to irrigate a forest shooting up with trees.” Ecclesiastes 2:6 (The Israel Bible™)

A 2,700-year-old water system has been unearthed during works for a new residential neighborhood in Rosh Ha’ayin, about 30 kilometers east of Tel Aviv, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said Thursday. Officials said the underground storage facility features wall engravings including human figures, crossesand a vegetal motif that were likely carved by passersby in a later period.

“It is difficult not to be impressed by the sight of the immense underground reservoir quarried out so many years ago,” said Gilad Itach, director of excavations for the IAA. “In antiquity, rainwater collection and storage was a fundamental necessity. With an annual rainfall of 500 millimeters, the region’s winter rains would easily have filled the huge reservoir.”

In a release, Itach said the water system exposed is nearly 20 meters long and reaches a depth of over four meters. The excavations show a reservoir built beneath a large structure with walls that are all nearly 50 meters long. Some of the shards found on the floors of the rooms probably belonged to vessels used to draw water from the reservoir.

The IAA said the structure was likely built at the end of the Iron Age (late eighth or early seventh century BCE), but probably abandoned during the Persian period, and that the reservoir was still in use until modern times.

The find joins a list of discoveries in the Rosh Ha’ayin area in recent years dating to the First Temple period, particularly farmhouses that were built in the area, possibly at the time of the Assyrian Empire, by people looking to settle near the western border of the Empire.

“The structure exposed in this excavation is different from most of the previously discovered farmsteads. Its orderly plan, vast area, strong walls, and the impressive water reservoir hewn beneath it suggest that the site was administrative in nature and it may well have controlled the surrounding farmsteads.”

High-school students majoring in the Education Ministry’s Land of Israel and Archaeology track also contributed to the discovery.

Ministry of Construction and Housing, Rosh Ha’ayin Municipality officials and the Israel Antiquities Authority all said the site will remain an open area accessible to the public, adjacent to the new residential neighborhood.