Tag Archives | Judaism

The Codex Aleppo Mystery

This New York Times Magazine story by Ronen Bergman reads like a real-life Dan Brown novel (the background parts where our hero laboriously explains the significance of an historical artifact, anyway):

One day this spring, on the condition that I not reveal any details of its location nor the stringent security measures in place to protect its contents, I entered a hidden vault at the Israel Museum and gazed upon the Aleppo Codex — the oldest, most complete, most accurate text of the Hebrew Bible. The story of how it arrived here, in Jerusalem, is a tale of ancient fears and modern prejudices, one that touches on one of the rawest nerves in Israeli society: the clash of cultures between Jews from Arab countries and the European Jews, or Ashkenazim, who controlled the country during its formative years. And the story of how some 200 pages of the codex went missing — and to this day remain the object of searches carried out around the globe by biblical scholars, private investigators, shadowy businessmen and the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency — is one of the great mysteries in Jewish history.

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Thank You God for Killing My Enemies’ Children

Death Firstborn[Site editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the recent Disinformation title 50 Things You’re Not Supposed To Know: Religion, authored by Daniele Bolelli.]

Often, the stories at the origin of many religious holidays sound like sweet fairy tales.

Think of Christmas, for example, with the shooting star, the three wise men bringing gifts, and baby Jesus being born in the midst of all the happy barn animals. It has a “God meets Old-MacDonald-Had-a-Farm” feel to it.

The story at the roots of the Jewish holiday of Passover, on the other hand, doesn’t sound quite like a fairy tale—unless perhaps one created by Stephen King. What exactly is celebrated during Passover? Our tale begins in Egypt over 3,000 years ago—or at least so we are told, since there is less historical evidence for the authenticity of this story than for the existence of the Yeti and the Loch Ness monster.… Read the rest

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The Passover Plot

passover plotThis year Passover begins in the evening of Friday, April 6, 2012, with Easter Sunday falling on April 8, 2012. While many people celebrating the religious holidays this weekend think they know what happened in Golgotha, Israel a couple of thousand years ago, there is in fact tremendous controversy, spurred not least by a best-selling 1965 book by British Biblical scholar Hugh J. Schonfield, The Passover Plot.

Based on scholarly research into the social and religious culture in which Jesus was born, lived and died, into the source documents of the Gospels, and into other literature, Schonfield reached the following conclusions:

  • That Jesus was a deeply religious Jewish man, probably well-versed in the teachings of the local northern sects such as the Nazarenes and Essenes.
  • That growing up in Biblical Galilee he had a skeptical and somewhat rebellious relationship to the hierarchy and teachings mandated by the authorities (the Pharisees) of the Temple in Jerusalem.
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The Occult Obsessions Of Sir Isaac Newton

newton_manuscript416The father of physics was deeply involved with esoteric and Kabbala studies, and was convinced that Jewish scripture and the geometry of temples contained crucial worldly secrets, the Daily Mail reveals:

He laid the foundations of classical physics and is considered to be one of the greatest scientists of all time. But Sir Isaac Newton was also deeply interested in the occult and applied a scientific approach to the study of scripture and Jewish mysticism.

Now Israel’s national library, which contains a vast trove of Newton’s esoteric writings, has digitised his occult collection and posted it online. Among the yellowed texts is Newton’s famous prediction of the apocalypse in 2060.

Newton learned Hebrew and delved into the study of esoteric Jewish philosophy, the mysticism of Kabbala and the Talmud. He based his calculation on the end of days on information gleaned from the Book of Daniel, which projected the apocalypse 1,260 years later.

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Religious Newspaper Removes Hillary Clinton From Situation Room Photo

girls-Allowed-620x686Minor controversy erupted after people noticed that a Brooklyn-based, ultra-Orthadox Jewish newpaper’s version of the iconic “Situation Room” photograph had Hillary Clinton mysteriously vanished.

The story is an interesting and ironic example of a number of things — the literal erasing women’s accomplishments, and religious fundamentalists’ use of technology in postmodern fashion in their efforts to turn back society’s clock. From New York’s Daily News:

A Hasidic newspaper got into the business of revisionist history Friday when it printed a Situation Room photo that was doctored to remove Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The Brooklyn-based publication Der Zeitung published the now iconic photo showing only men present to monitor a daring 40-minute Navy SEALs raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, the world’s most wanted terrorist. National Security team member Audrey Tomason was also scrubbed from the historic image.

As a rule, Der Zeitung does not run images of women that could be considered “sexually suggestive,” Jewish Week writer Rabbi Jason Miller said.

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The Young Nazi Who Grew Up To Become A Jew

Theo Haser & FamilyVia BBC News:
As a child, Theo Haser was a loyal member of the Hitler Youth. But decades later, haunted by the horror of the Holocaust, he converted to Judaism. As a young boy, growing up amid the nationalist frenzy of Nazi Germany, Theo Haser idolised Hitler. When the fuehrer came to his hometown of Munich to visit, Theo and his father were at the front of the crowd reaching out to touch his hand. "I know if I was able to shake his hand I probably wouldn't have washed for a few months," he recalls. Seventy years later, in a bid to come to terms with his Nazi past, Theo has become a Jew. "I wanted to be part of a community, this was something I had never felt in my life," he says. "I wasn't running away from something, I was joining something entirely new."
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Was ‘God’s Wife’ Edited Out Of The Bible?

goddestTIME ponders the suppression of an omnipotent female counterpart to the male God solo-featured in Judeo-Christianity. Was this where the great Middle Eastern religions went wrong?

Some scholars say early versions of the Bible featured Asherah, a powerful fertility goddess who may have been God’s wife.

Research by Francesca Stavrakopoulou, a senior lecturer in the department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter, unearthed clues to her identity, but good luck finding mention of her in the Bible. If Stavrakopoulou is right, heavy-handed male editors of the text all but removed her from the sacred book.

What remains of God’s purported other half are clues in ancient texts, amulets and figurines unearthed primarily in an ancient Canaanite coastal city, now in modern-day Syria. Inscriptions on pottery found in the Sinai desert also show Yahweh and Asherah were worshipped as a pair, and a passage in the Book of Kings mentions the goddess as being housed in the temple of Yahweh.

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Cigarettes May Contain Pigs Blood

Pigs Smoking?The Daily Telegraph reports:
Cigarettes may contain traces of pig's blood, an Australian academic says with a warning that religious groups could find its undisclosed presence "very offensive". University of Sydney Professor Simon Chapman points to recent Dutch research which identified 185 different industrial uses of a pig — including the use of its hemoglobin in cigarette filters. Prof Chapman said the research offered an insight into the otherwise secretive world of cigarette manufacture, and it was likely to raise concerns for devout Muslims and Jews. Religious texts at the core of both of these faiths specifically ban the consumption of pork. "I think that there would be some particularly devout groups who would find the idea that there were pig products in cigarettes to be very offensive," Prof Chapman said.
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Jewish Exorcisms And the Occult

Forward has an article on a centuries-old document which provides evidence concerning a little-known phenomenon — Jewish exorcisms:

The ghostly document details the prayers that were performed on Qamar bat Rahmah to try to rid her of the spirit of her dead husband, Nissim ben Bonia. According to the handwritten but well-preserved Hebrew text, the rabbis asked the ghost to “leave this woman, Qamar bat Rahmah, [and forgo] all authority and control that it has over her.”

The document fittingly comes from the abandoned recesses of the Cairo Geniza, a storeroom attached to a Cairo synagogue in which hundreds of thousands of ancient texts were left because of the Jewish prohibition on destroying religious documents.

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