Thursday, October 30, 2008

Archaeologists Uncover King Solomon's Copper Mines
by Hana Levi Julian

( An international team of archaeologists may have uncovered the copper mines owned and operated by the biblical King Solomon during a dig at Khirbat en-Nahas, an ancient mining and metallurgy district of more than 450 square miles in southern Jordan.

The study, supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society, is led by Thomas Levy from the University of California at San Diego and Mohammed Najjar of Jordan's Friends of Archaeology. The researchers reported their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Levy is also collaborating with the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature in Jordan and other organizations to declare the area a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Such a move would protect the site from possible mining in the future, as well as preserve "its spectacular desert landscape and rare, ancient character."

According to a report published in the October 28 issue of the prestigious international journal, ScienceDaily ( ), the team excavated through more than 20 feet of slag down to virgin soil at the ancient copper production center.

The findings from the 2006 produced new artifacts, as well as new data that give evidence to the Biblical chapters on the monarchies of King David and his son King Solomon and challenge the timeline of previous data, creating a discrepancy of some 300 years. The area of Khirbat en-Nahas – which means "ruins of copper" in Arabic – is located in what the Bible identified as the Kingdom of Edom, near the southern tip of the Dead Sea. The Edomites were one of the enemies of the People of Israel.

The site, which spans an area of more than 24 acres, is comprised of some 100 ancient buildings, includes a fortress, and it is covered in black slag. Its face, as seen by Google Earth's sensitive satellite photography, is pocked by mines and lined with miners' trails.

The depth of waste at the site, which Levy said equaled more than 20 feet, provided a convenient means by which the team measured social and technological changes in the history of ancient Israel and Edom from 1200 to 500 BCE on the Gregorian calendar.

High-precision radio-carbon dating, carried out by Thomas Higham of the University of Oxford, was used on date seeds, tamarisk sticks and other wood used for charcoal in smelting that was found at the site.

An ancient Egyptian scarab and amulet were also found in a layer of the excavation associated with a disruption in production at the end of the 10th century BCE. The event is thought to have been connected with a military campaign by the Egyptian Pharaoh "Shishak" that took place that followed the death of King Solomon.

Future research is expected to focus on the environmental impact of the ancient smelting, as well obtaining more specific information about the lucrative copper industry in the region.

Ancient Waterway Discovered. Is it just me, or is King David Everywhere in the News Today? Hmmm. What Could That Mean? . . .


Curses! Foiled again!! The Livni/Olmert/Abbas government coalition can’t get a break today. First, the discovery of an ancient shard containing what may be the earliest example of Hebrew in, of all places, Judea; and now, the ancient waterway described in Jeremiah found in East Jerusalem which proves the TRUTH of the ancient texts and the presence of Jews in ALL of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

It seems that the fingerprints of David are all over Israel, and our best earthly king is still defending our rights to Israel!

Not that these discoveries will change, one iota, the plans to destroy Israel by giving her Sacred land to our enemies.

Just a minor inconvenience, I am sure, before well-paid leftist sympathizing archeologists make up some crazy theory about how these artifacts were just planted by right-wing religious Jews to destroy the evacuation of Israel to allow for the unfettered operation of the Fatah terrorists in their fight against Hamas. After all, our ancestral claim to these lands is definitely secondary to the need to prop up a tin-pot terrorist dictator!

I’m sure there are already arrest warrants printed for the archeologists who dare to claim Jewish presence in Israel. They are obviously inciting the population to go against the government’s plans for “peace”!

First Temple-Era Water Tunnel Revealed in Jerusalem
by Hana Levi Julian

( A tunnel built thousands of years ago – and which may even have been used during King David's conquest of Jerusalem – has been uncovered in the ancient City of David, just outside the Old City and across the street from the Dung Gate.

Renowned Israeli archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazer, who is leading the dig, revealed the findings from the discovery Thursday morning at an archaeological symposium at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Mazer, who also uncovered King David's palace, has led the world in ancient Jerusalem findings. Some of her other discoveries have included proof of another Biblical story, in the Book of Jeremiah. A completely intact seal impression, or "bula," bearing the name Gedaliahu ben Pashur was uncovered. The bula is actually a stamped engraving made of mortar. Mazer also found a second such impression not far away, as as well as the remnants of a wall from the prophet Nechemia.

The archaeologist said there is a high probability that the tunnel is the one referred to as the "tsinor" in the Biblical story of King David's conquest of Jerusalem (Samuel II, 5:6-8; Chronicles I, 11:4-6).

"The new discoveries in the excavations in the City of David illuminate the ancient history of Jerusalem and the reality described in the Bible," she noted.

Ancient Engineering, Lasting Technology
The opening to the 3,000-year-old tunnel was found earlier this year during the ongoing excavations at the site. The tunnel itself is located under a mammoth stone building that was previously identified as King David's palace, built some time during the 10th century B.C.E., according to the Gregorian calendar.

Barely wide enough to allow a single person through, the walls of the passage were apparently created partly by carving rough stones, partly by making use of the existing bedrock. Only the first 50 meters are accessible at present, since the tunnel is filled with fallen rocks and debris, said Mazer.

Whole, undamaged oil lamps that were characteristic of the First Temple period were found on the floor of the tunnel during the dig.

The archaeologist added that the tunnel was probably used to channel water to a pool by the palace, and eventually was converted to an escape passage near the end of the First Temple period. Additional walls were built to block the tunnel from the sight of anyone of the nearby hill and to protect it from debris filtering in.

The dig, which is being sponsored by the Shalem Center research institute and the City of David Foundation, was carried out under the academic auspices of the Hebrew University.

Shmuel Ben-Yishai Arrested for Incitement for Distraught Words Against Soldiers After Federman Farm Destruction


Boy, if this is what it takes to be arrested for incitement, they better clear the jails for the leftist members of the Knesset who have railed against the right over and over again, asking for the destruction of Jewish homes, who have even asked that Jewish Citizens of Samaria and Judea be shot or killed. They had better make room for every arab in Israel who has spoken against the government and the people of Israel, and they had better purchase some extra space to jail visiting leftist dignitaries who have said similar things and worse in the United Nations and in the world press.

The only difference between Shmuel Ben-Yishai and those people is that at least Shmuel Ben-Yishai apologized and offered an explanation for where those words came from.

So, who will be arrested next? Perez? Pas-Pines? Abbas? I’m waiting breathlessly for the answer.

Settler who incited against soldiers arrested,7340,L-3615353,00.html

Police arrest Shmuel Ben-Yishai for saying he wished IDF troops 'kidnapped, slaughtered' following evacuation of illegal Hebron outpost

Efrat Weiss
Published: 10.30.08, 12:27 / Israel News

Qiryat Arba settler Shmuel Ben-Yishai was arrested on Thursday for inciting against IDF soldiers following Saturday night's evacuation of an illegal outpost in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Ben-Yishai told Army Radio after security forces cleared and then demolished the home of extreme right-wing activist Noam Federman "we hope they (soldiers) are defeated by their enemies, we hope that they all become (kidnapped soldier) Gilad Shalit, that they are all killed and that they are all slaughtered, because that's what they deserve."

Ben-Yishai was summoned by police for an interrogation on Tuesday and Wednesday, but he failed to appear on both dates. Consequently, police asked the Jerusalem Magistrates' Court to issue a warrant for his arrest.

A few days after making the inflammatory remarks, Ben-Yishai said his outburst was aimed only at security personnel who participated in the evacuation.

In a statement published Monday the settler said, "Upon witnessing the brutality of the police officers during the evacuation, the abuse of the Federman family's women and children while the police offices were gloating, I was overcome with emotions, it was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before.

"I do not have to explain what a person feels when he sees soldiers and police officers snatching babies away from his friend's mother and throwing a family out of its home," the statement read.

Very Inconvenient (For Kadima) 3,000 Year Old Archeological Find in Judean Hills May Provide Earliest Example of Hebrew Language


This article is a perfect example of how archeology is often interpreted in order to please those in power.

How inconvenient, it seems, for the Olmert/Livni/Abbas government of Israel to have proof of a Judean kingdom unearthed at precisely the moment that they are poised to destroy Jewish lives, homes, and families by giving away Israel to terrorist thugs in the name of “protecting Fatah.”

This article doesn’t say the obvious, that those who question David’s story are probably arabs, the same arabs who say that the Temple never stood on the Temple mount, right?

This is why they question that the language found is Hebrew. It is very inconvenient for it to be Hebrew. It would be better to call the language “proto-Canaanite” in order to protect the new fiction that has been perpetrated by Kadima about Israel and it’s borders.

In order to sell us this fiction, Kadima must first discount that our Torah is true. They must present it as a series of mythic events, somewhat like the stories of the Greek or Roman heroes, or the stories of characters like Gilgamesh—and try to convince us that Hashm is just a mythic character, not the Almighty G-d of All Creation.

So, they target those who are religious, those who are nationalist, and those who teach our traditions in order to show that those people are somehow flawed—crazy or fanatical—in order to undermine the truth: Israel was given to us by G-d, there are no ancient arab peoples called “palestinians” in this land (the word "palestinian," by the way, was used to refer to Jews who lived under Roman rule in Israel, or who were later called "Palestinians" under the British Mandate. "Palestinian" was never used to refer to arabs until Arafat used it after 1967 to name his terrorist group).

Jews not only have a right to the land we are currently living in, but much more land in the surrounding area—Greater Israel. This is our ancestral homeland.

Kadima wants us to give away our nation and our heritage, they want us to sell our birthright for a mythic “peace” with those who want to destroy us at any cost and whose only idea of “peace” is the PEACE OF DEATH.

We have a choice with the new elections—both in the US and in Israel. We can chose those who would deny our heritage and sit in rooms with known terrorists to listen to their anti-Jewish poetry and their anti-Jewish, anti-Israel promises, or we can chose those who would stand with Jews and with Israel, who know the Bible is TRUE, and who know we are the right and true heirs of Israel.

'Oldest Hebrew writing found near J'lem'
Oct. 30, 2008
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST

An Israeli archaeologist digging at a hilltop south of Jerusalem believes a ceramic shard found in the ruins of an ancient town bears the oldest Hebrew inscription ever discovered, a find that could provide an important glimpse into the culture and language of the Holy Land at the time of the Bible.

The five lines of faded characters written 3,000 years ago, and the ruins of the fortified settlement where they were found, are indications that a powerful Israelite kingdom existed at the time of King David, says Yossi Garfinkel, the Hebrew University archaeologist in charge of the new dig at Hirbet Qeiyafa.

Other scholars are hesitant to embrace Garfinkel's interpretation of the finds, made public on Thursday. The discoveries are already being wielded in a vigorous and ongoing argument over whether the Bible's account of events and geography is meant to be taken literally.

Hirbet Qeiyafa sits near the city of Beit Shemesh in the Judean foothills, an area that was once the frontier between the hill-dwelling Israelites and their enemies, the coastal Philistines. The site overlooks the Elah Valley, said to be the scene of the slingshot showdown between David and the Philistine giant Goliath, and lies near the ruins of Goliath's hometown in the Philistine metropolis of Gath.

A teenage volunteer found the curved pottery shard, 15 centimeters by 15 centimeters, in July near the stairs and stone washtub of an excavated home. It was later discovered to bear five lines of characters known as proto-Canaanite, a precursor of the Hebrew alphabet.

Carbon-14 analysis of burnt olive pits found in the same layer of the site dated them to between 1,000 and 975 B.C., the same time as the Biblical golden age of David's rule in Jerusalem.

Scholars have identified other, smaller Hebrew fragments from the 10th century B.C., but the script, which Garfinkel suggests might be part of a letter, predates the next significant Hebrew inscription by between 100 and 200 years.

History's best-known Hebrew texts, the Dead Sea scrolls, were penned on parchment beginning 850 years later.

The shard is now kept in a university safe while philologists translate it, a task expected to take months. But several words have already been tentatively identified, including ones meaning "judge," "slave" and "king."

The Israelites were not the only ones using proto-Canaanite characters, and other scholars suggest it is difficult - perhaps impossible - to conclude the text is Hebrew and not a related tongue spoken in the area at the time. Garfinkel bases his identification on a three-letter verb from the inscription meaning "to do," a word he said existed only in Hebrew.

"That leads us to believe that this is Hebrew, and that this is the oldest Hebrew inscription that has been found," he said.

Other prominent Biblical archaeologists warned against jumping to conclusions.

Hebrew University archaeologist Amihai Mazar said the inscription was "very important," as it is the longest proto-Canaanite text ever found. But he suggested that calling the text Hebrew might be going too far.

"It's proto-Canaanite," he said. "The differentiation between the scripts, and between the languages themselves in that period, remains unclear."

Some scholars and archaeologists argue that the Bible's account of David's time inflates his importance and that of his kingdom, and is essentially myth, perhaps rooted in a shred of fact.

But if Garfinkel's claim is borne out, it would bolster the case for the Bible's accuracy by indicating the Israelites could record events as they happened, transmitting the history that was later written down in the Bible several hundred years later.

It also would mean that the settlement - a fortified town with a 30-foot-wide monumental gate, a central fortress and a wall running 700 meters in circumference - was probably inhabited by Israelites.

The finds have not yet established who the residents were, says Aren Maier, a Bar Ilan University archaeologist who is digging at nearby Gath. It will become clearer if, for example, evidence of the local diet is found, he said: Excavations have shown that Philistines ate dogs and pigs, while Israelites did not.

The nature of the ceramic shards found at the site suggest residents might have been neither Israelites nor Philistines but members of a third, forgotten people, he said.

If the inscription is Hebrew, it would indicate a connection to the Israelites and make the text "one of the most important texts, without a doubt, in the corpus of Hebrew inscriptions," Maier said. But it has great importance whatever the language turns out to be, he added.

Saar Ganor, an Israel Antiquities Authority ranger, noticed the unusual scale of the walls while patrolling the area in 2003. Three years later he interested Garfinkel, and after a preliminary dig they began work in earnest this summer. They have excavated only 4 percent of the six-acre settlement so far.

Archeology has turned up only scant finds from David's time in the early 10th century B.C., leading some scholars to suggest his kingdom may have been little more than a small chiefdom or that he might not have existed at all.

Garfinkel believes building fortifications like those at Hirbet Qeiyafa could not have been a local initiative: The walls would have required moving 200,000 tons of stone, a task too big for the 500 or so people who lived there. Instead, it would have required an organized kingdom like the one the Bible says David ruled.

The dig is partially funded by Foundation Stone, a Jewish educational organization, which hopes to bring volunteers to work there.

"When I stand here, I understand that I'm on the front lines of the battle between the Israelites and the Philistines," said Rabbi Barnea Levi Selavan, the group's director. "I open my Bible and read about David and Goliath, and I understand that I'm in the Biblical context."

While the site could be useful to scholars, archaeologist Yisrael Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University urged adhering to the strict boundaries of science.

Finkelstein, who has not visited the dig but attended a presentation of the findings, warned against what he said was a "revival in the belief that what's written in the Bible is accurate like a newspaper." That style of archeology was favored by 19th century European diggers who trolled the Holy Land for physical traces of Biblical stories, their motivation and methods more romantic than scientific.

"This can be seen as part of this phenomenon," Finkelstein said.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Soldiers Were Tricked Into Guarding Kiryat Arba Destruction
by Hillel Fendel

( How did it happen that yeshiva students in the Givati Brigade took part in the military operation to destroy the Federman-Tor farm and homes three nights ago? Very simple: Senior security commanders lied to them and told them they were participating in a mission to help catch a terrorist.

Ro'i Sharon, reporter for the Maariv daily newspaper, revealed that it was feared that the young soldiers would refuse to take part in the mission if they knew it was not military but rather one of destroying Jewish homes.

"This creates mistrust between echelons in the military framework, and is liable to cost human life. In the next security incident, the residents won't believe the security forces, and the soldiers won't believe their commanders."

A member of Hevron's emergency alert team, which generally works closely with the army, was quoted as saying: "This creates mistrust between echelons in the military framework, and is liable to cost human life. In the next security incident, the residents won't believe the security forces, and the soldiers won't believe their commanders."

"It is sad that for the purpose of destroying two Jewish homes, they cause such harm to the delicate security relations here," the man said.

Border Guard officials confirmed that the soldiers had been tricked. "The sensitivity of the incident required us to maintain high secrecy," a Border Guard source told Maariv.

The incident in question was the bulldozing of two Jewish homes in Kiryat Arba in the middle of the night, in which the occupants of the two buildings were given five and zero minutes, respectively, to get dressed and pack some belongings.

The forces arrived in three rings: Special black-uniformed Yassam policemen in the inner ring, doing the actual destruction, including breaking windows, hitting the occupants (at least one woman and some children), throwing and trampling books and clothing, and bulldozing the buildings; policemen to protect them and ensure that Jewish neighbors not come close; and soldiers at street intersections to prevent Jews from entering the area.

The soldiers were some 40 yeshiva hesder soldiers whose job it was to man the entrances to the area. They told residents who wished to enter the area to fight the destruction that a terrorist had been sighted in the area. In some cases, they had to fight with Jews who tried to enter despite the warnings.

Thanks to the soldiers' work, the Federman and Tor homes were practically empty of Jews, and their destruction proceeded without interruption.

One soldier told reporter Sharon afterwards, "I still cannot believe that I had a part in this eviction. I am a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, not a policeman, and there is no reason that they should take me on missions that have nothing to do with protecting Jews. I almost cried when I found out."

Though the Border Guard confirmed the deception, the IDF claimed that a terrorist had in fact been sighted near the Machpelah Cave, some three kilometers away. Hevron's Jews said they received no word of any such incident.

Brief Description of the Violent Eviction and Razing
The destruction, as described by Hevron spokesman David Wilder, happened like this:

"The troops broke the home's windows and climbed in through them. They quickly made their way to the children's bedrooms where they shook awake the kids, dragged them from their beds, beating some of them, and forcefully expelling them from their home, still in pajamas. Some of the kids went via the door; others via the window... Once everyone was out, the bulldozer started plowing down the houses and other structures on the property. It didn't take too much time, as the families were not allowed to remove any of their belongings. Down came the houses, on top of everything that was inside."

Noam Federman, owner of one of the two homes flattened by the police forces, told IsraelNationalNews on Wednesday morning, "The rebuilding is continuing. The army arrived with a small force last night and tried to close off the area with concrete blocks, but they did not succeed... Right now there are dozens of people continuing to work on clearing the spot and rebuilding - if only to have some shelter for the chickens, horses and other animals of our farm. Interesting, I didn't hear anyone from the Animal Rights Society protesting or offering to help..."
"We, too, are fortunate that only 'bricks and stones' were damaged - and with G-d's help we will rebuild them!"

"We are now collecting money for several projects: To rebuild something in which a family can live, to replace the equipment that was wantonly destroyed, and to help us live day-to-day; even the money that we had in our home has not been found as of yet..."

Federman has successfully sued the police on several occasions for their harrassment of him. He said that in this case, there was a legal order for the home's destruction, "but not with all the property in it, and not to purposefully destroy our computer, refrigerator, washing machine, cameras, and the like. I plan to sue the police for that, when the time comes."

"But all in all, we are fortunate that none of us were hurt; we are all healthy and whole. I feel like King David, who was told that he could not construct the Holy Temple - but the reason was not, as many people think, because he had killed in war, but because he had been so successful in war that G-d said that a Holy Temple built by him would be invincible, and that if G-d had to punish Israel, He would have to harm the Jews themselves. Instead, the Holy Temple was built by someone else, and when it came time for punishment, the Temple itself was destroyed, while the Jewish People themselves were left relatively safe. We, too, are fortunate that only 'bricks and stones' were damaged - and with G-d's help we will rebuild them!"

Velvet Underground's Lou Reed to Perform in Israel


Lou Reed has the power of performance. This is an excellent opportunity to see the best of the best, to understand the power of this man in the music scene, to understand the roots of Punk in the Jewish experience, and to connect with the primal punk sound of VU as well as the later hits of Reed's career.

Punk is the most Jewish of all the American rock sounds. It was a direct growth of the post-modern understanding of Jews in America after the horrors of the holocaust, the pain of McCarthy, and the resurgence of identity movements in the 60s-70s.

Here's a link to a Youtube of Reed in performance of "I'm Waiting For My Man" with the VU:

Jewish Grand Dad of Punk to Perform in Israel

( Iconoclastic rock artist Lou Reed is scheduled to give a concert in Israel in November. Reed's band, relatively early in his career, The Velvet Underground (V.U.) is considered by aficionados to be one of the most important bands to influence several of the alternative directions rock took in and after the 60s. V.U. has been inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame.

Although the band did not sell many albums, the Rock Hall of Fame website quotes another music mogul on the V.U. "Brian Eno, cofounder of Roxy Music and producer of U2 and others, put it best when he said that although the Velvet Underground didn’t sell many albums, everyone who bought one went on to form a band."

In "The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGBs: A Secret History of Jewish Punk," author Steven Lee Beeber describe Reed coming to his Passover Seder and all the Jewish music personalities relating to him as the Zeide (Grandfather). CBGBs is the name of a music club that was highly regarded in music circles for decades.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Government Goons Beat Federman's Wife, Children. "They separated me from my baby," Says Elisheva Federman.


This is worse than was reported before, and that was pretty darn bad. Apparently the goons were not satisfied with simply destroying a family's home in the dead of the night. Their hatred for the Federman Family has extended to trying to destroy their possessions--including books, pictures and other personal items--and beating mother and children, separating the mother from her months-old baby, and giving them no time to gather even the barest essentials--like diapers and formula.

This goes way beyond "evacuating a settlement" and into the area of a hate crime. I haven't heard such a disturbing story since I read about the Holocaust. In fact, compare, if you will, this eyewitness account of Kristalnach with that of Elisheva Federman, and you will be shocked at the similarity. First, a historic description of the destruction of a Jewish orphanage by the Nazis:

Facing the back of the building, we were able to watch how everything in the house was being systematically destroyed under the supervision of the men of law and order - the police. At short intervals we could hear the crunching of glass or the hammering against wood as windows and doors were broken. Books, chairs, beds, tables, linen, chests, parts of a piano, a radiogram, and maps were thrown through apertures in the wall, which, a short while ago, had been windows or doors.

And Elisheva Federman's description of the "evacuation" of her home:

"I saw the Yassamnikim breaking cabinets, throwing stuff around, breaking beds, throwing books and clothing and everything else onto the floor. After they finished their destruction, the only thing left was the room we were in. They forcefully took us out, while hitting us and using extreme violence. I heard them giving each other coded instructions, and suddenly I found myself with my hands twisted behind me, and within seconds, my head was turned backward. They hit me and the children systematically."

The terrible truth is that the Israeli government has learned from the experiences of eyewitness accounts of Jews in Europe during the Holocaust about how to terrorize Jews. The children of the Federman family will never forget the terror of that night, and they will never forget that it was their own people who did that destruction--without warning, without provocation, without humanity.

You had better believe that they would never had done this to an arab family. The families of the terrorists who killed young Yeshiva boys, the terrorists who ran rampant through the homes of Jews on Yom Kippur, the terrorists who stab old men in the street are still living in their homes comfortably, but the government choses to destroy the home of its foremost Jewish critic and the media doesn't find this suspicious at least and odious at most?

I guess that Olmert and Livni are taking out their anger at the nationalist camp for refusing to join the coalition by trying to destroy the homes and famililies of those who oppose their Chamberlainian ("Peace in our Time") mantra.

This is political intimidation, nothing less, nothing more.

They are trying to destroy a man and his family and bring hatred to the good people of Hevron at the very same time that elections will be called for. They will find, instead, that they have made the Federman family into martyrs for the cause of the nationalist camp.

Please support Noam and his family, emotionally, physically, spritually, and, most of all, financially. Make sure you listen to his weekly show for more details of what is happening about this incident at his Hebrew website:

Media, Politicians Join Attack on Kiryat Arba Residents
by Hillel Fendel

( Jews who saw the "wanton and cruel destruction" in Kiryat Arba this past midnight cursed perpetrators, while media and government attack the victims.

The events of the night in Kiryat Arba, in brief:
1. Special Yassam anti-riot forces arrive at 1:30 AM to destroy family home in unauthorized Kiryat Arba outpost - breaking windows over sleeping children, punching mother and children, destroying property, throwing books, yelling, and separating baby from mother in the process.
2. Hysterical eyewitnesses are recorded cursing perpetrators of destruction.
3. Radio and internet sites headline reports with news of the eyewitnesses' "incitement."
4. Government convenes, condemns Kiryat Arba residents; Prime Minister Olmert says, "We are sick of this verbal incitement which leads to violence. I expect to hear from the Defense Minister and Justice Minister what is to be done against these people."

Elisheva Federman, who experienced the brunt of the police violence in her home this past night, told Arutz-7's Shimon Cohen what happened:

"As on every Saturday night, we go to sleep late. At 1:25 AM, I received a call from friends who said that they heard that security forces are on their way over to us, and they fear that they intend to destroy our farm. It was strange; there had been no prior warning, so we hesitated to call friends for help. While we were deciding, we hear dogs outside. I look outside and I see a 'black river' [of Yassam forces] streaming towards our house."

"Noam [Elisheva's husband] went out to see what was happening, and within seconds he was arrested."

"I immediately locked the door. The children were sleeping in their beds. I thought that maybe they were just coming to destroy the caravan [mobile home without wheels] behind our house; I didn't think they were on their way to our house itself. A year ago, they also came to destroy and they told me that they had a warrant to destroy the caravan and not the house, so I thought it would be the same this time. But within seconds, or maybe a minute, they broke all the windows [on our house] - even in the children's rooms, with the children sleeping in bed.

"The house was filled with screaming and yelling. The children began to get hysterical, and ran to my room. I asked the Yassamnikim to let me talk to them and calm them down. They didn't let me, and just yelled, 'Get out, get out, get out!'"

At that point, Elisheva asked her 12-year-old son to take his two little brothers, aged 6 and 8, who were very scared, to the closest houses in nearby Kiryat Arba, and to ask the neighbors to have the children's grandmother come and help with the little children. Elisheva wished to leave, but the children insist on remaining, so she decides to remain with them and with her months-old baby.

Elisheva and the children stay in an inner room, leaving the door open just enough for them to watch their house being turned into a pile of ruins.

"I saw the Yassamnikim breaking cabinets, throwing stuff around, breaking beds, throwing books and clothing and everything else onto the floor. After they finished their destruction, the only thing left was the room we were in. They forcefully took us out, while hitting us and using extreme violence. I heard them giving each other coded instructions, and suddenly I found myself with my hands twisted behind me, and within seconds, my head was turned backward. They hit me and the children systematically. I am now totally bruised up, but nothing in my body was broken - and the same with the children. I am not sure if my daughter's hand was not broken."

"I asked them what they were doing. After a few minutes of not answering, they finally took out a piece of paper and waved it at me and said that it was an order saying they had to evict us. Then they said we are under arrest. They separated me from my baby, and put me and my older daughter into one of their vehicles, and the other children in two other cars. I was worried about my baby when they separated her, and said I wanted to see her, but no one cared."

The police car in which Elisheva was riding broke down, and after a 90-minute delay, they finally arrived at a nearby police station. "I had nothing with me - not baby formula, not diapers, not clothes." At 4 AM, she was released and taken back to what had been her home. "I looked through the ruins, and somehow found my car keys; they hadn't destroyed the car." She drove to her sister's home, and later in the morning returned to the ruins: "I tried to rummage through the destruction to find clothes and coats and other things for the children. 18 years of marriage are buried in the ruins..."

The general media reported on the "evacuation of an illegal outpost in Kiryat Arba," omitting the details described above - but highlighted the angry words of two of the Jews who saw the destruction. A man was heard saying that he hopes the perpetrators of the destruction fall or are captured in battle.

The speaker has not been identified, and many people close to the Yesha (Judea and Samaria) settlement enterprise surmised that he might be an agent-provocateur, sent to stir up public opinion against the Jewish pioneers. Alternatively, some have said that he was speaking out of frustration, and that these sentiments are not representative of the populace of Yesha.

Politicians were quick to respond to the media reports and issued sharp condemnations of the residents of Judea and Samaria. Cabinet ministers said that the "inciters" must be put behind bars. Prime Minister Olmert related to the incident at the beginning of the Sunday morning Cabinet meeting, discussing not the apparently illegal destruction, but the angry words expressed afterwards: "This morning in Hevron, there were calls for security forces to be harmed. I have instructed the Ministers of Defense and Public Security to take action against this. We are sick of all this violence, verbal violence that brings to physical violence... I expect to hear from the Defense Minister and Justice Minister what is to be done against these people... Whoever expresses himself that way must be put in jail."

Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann said, "I am disgusted by the incitement expressed by extremist elements in the territories against IDF soldiers and security forces. We will act firmly to uproot this phenomenon. I call on the Attorney General and Israel Police to use all necessary means to deal with this."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, "I want to emphasize the gravity of the words and actions of the extreme right-wing in the territories. I am of the opinion that the punishments in this matter are too soft, and the law enforcment and legal bodies must [rectify this]."

Yesha Council head Danny Dayan and MK Aryeh Eldad also condemned the remarks. Dayan said, "I have many complaints against the security forces and against the Government of Israel for their activity in Hevron over the weekend, but this does not in the least cancel out the gravity of the words that were said afterwards."

Media: Ignoring the Real News
One Kiryat Arba resident said, "Instead of dealing with the destruction of a home, the media concentrates on a couple of crazies... Instead of interviewing Elisheva Federman about how her children were thrown out of their home in the middle of the night and their house destroyed, they look for an extremist speaking against the IDF."

Journalists and cameramen were not permitted to enter the site of the destruction until around 7 AM. MK Uri Ariel had sharp words against this decision: "It is not coincidental that when journalists are not allowed in, complaints of severe police violence, unauthorized evictions, and acts of cruelty by the forces start streaming in." Ariel said that Defense Minister Barak must find out who was responsible for this decision and to ensure that journalists are allowed everywhere unless there are clear security needs otherwise.

What now for the Federmans? "We will return and build it again. This is our land, and we believe with our entire essence that G-d wants us to be there. We will return at any cost, even if we have to live in a tent."

Noam Federman's Home Destroyed by Government Goons


This completely illegal activity will have far-reaching effects upon the political situation in Israel, mark my words. The corrupt government of Olmert/Livni thinks they can get away with destroying Noam Federman’s home because he is not a popular figure, but popular or not, Federman has been shown again and again and again to be right, to be legal, and to be horribly and illegally harassed by the government goons.

Time and again they have arrested him, detained him, fined him, and done whatever they could to destroy him, and time and again he has been freed, compensated and apologized to. He is the perfect example of the lack of justice in Israel, he is the perfect example of a political scapegoat, and he is the perfect example of someone that the people can start to get behind as they move this government back to the right.

Now the government has gone after the man’s home and family. Now, we will see the legal sparks fly—but we will probably see more. I don’t think the people of Hevron will put up these goons showing up at their homes in the middle of the night and carting of their children as they threaten the people with bulldozers. If this can happen to Federman, it can happen to anyone, they will realize. This is something which must be stopped now.

And the first time the Jewish residents are attacked by the terrorist squad calling themselves “PA policemen,” in the name of “peace,” I fear the worst.

I am sure Olmert is already packing his bags for France, where he feels he will be safe from Israeli justice, such that it is. I think he is deluding himself. He can cower in France with his children and his wife, but there is a Justice beyond that of the government, Mr. Olmert, just ask Sharon.

PA Deploys, Israeli Govt Force Destroys Jewish Home in Hevron
by Hana Levi Julian

( IDF captains who supervised the midnight destruction of the Federman family home near the Judean twin cities of Kiryat Arba and Hevron Saturday night will face lawsuits, vowed Orit Struck of the Judea & Samaria Human Rights activist organization.

Struck said Sunday morning that the soldiers and Border Police officers who destroyed the home came in the middle of the night, without orders.

Hundreds of police officers burst into a farm owned by nationalist activist Noam Federman in the middle of the night, hours after the end of the Sabbath, prepared to destroy the home.

The officials, who came equipped with tractors and other equipment, claimed the farm, which is located near the Judean twin cities of Kiryat Arba-Hevron, was built illegally.

The tractors demolished the family's home, while officers arrested Federman, his wife and his children and took them away from the scene. Noam Federman remained in custody following the completion of the destruction of his home.

Destruction Linked to Deployment of PA Special Forces
Struck linked the destruction of the Federman farm to the deployment in Hevron of hundreds of armed Palestinian Authority special forces in the day.

"The cat's out of the bag," she warned. "The deployment of PA troops in Hevron was meant to free up IDF manpower from missions involving fighting terrorism, providing security and saving lives, to missions of expelling Jews from their homes and destroying lives."

"It is terrifying what a corrupt government is capable of doing even in its death throes," Struck said.

Residents of Kiryat Arba and Hevron harshly criticized police for carrying out the destruction "like thieves in the night."

Violent Demonstrators Retaliate Against Destruction
Eyewitnesses said Jewish youths from around the region attacked police and local Arabs after the home was demolished in what they termed was an attempt to exact a price for the destruction of the Federman farm. The youths hurled rocks at the soldiers and Border Police officers who destroyed the home.

None of the government troops were injured by the stones. Five protestors were wounded by officers, however, and two required medical attention.

Several Arab cars were damaged, most with punctured tires. Youths also threw stones at Arab-owned homes. No damage to the houses was reported.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"One need not and must not suppress reason to be a religious person," argued the Rambam . . .

Reflections on Torah Education and Mis-Education
By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

(This article is dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Dr. Walter Wurzburger, a respected colleague and friend. He was a gifted rabbi and philosopher, a compassionate human being deeply committed to truth. I learned much from him; and I miss him.)

Our community is deeply committed to the transmission of Torah from one generation to the next. We devote tremendous resources to ensure that our children and grandchildren become steeped in Torah knowledge and grow into Torah observant Jews. A critical concern must be how we and our schools transmit the words of Hazal to our students. Obviously, the teachings of our sages are of central importance; it is unfortunate, then, when the words Hazal are taught inappropriately. Religious education becomes mis-education.

In his introduction to Perek Helek, Rambam criticized a literalist, fundamentalist approach to the words of Hazal. Since the sages were wise and reasonable, their words obviously were filled with wisdom and rationality. When their statements seem to veer from reason, we must understand them as being symbolic, homiletical or hyperbolic—not literally true. It would be absurd to call for an acceptance of the literal truth of aggadic and midrashic statements which violate reason or which have later been shown to be factually incorrect.

According to Rambam, those who insist on the literal truth of all the statements of Hazal are not only doing a disservice to our sages, but are corrupting our religion. “This group of impoverished understanding—one must pity their foolishness. According to their understanding, they are honoring and elevating our sages; in fact they are lowering them to the end of lowliness. They do not even understand this. By Heaven! This group is dissipating the glory of the Torah and clouding its lights, placing the Torah of God opposite of its intention.” Rambam believed that demanding acceptance of Hazal’s words even when they were patently unreasonable or incorrect, was not a demonstration of loyalty to the rabbis; rather it was a serious demeaning of their intellectual credibility. Reasonable people would come to dismiss the rabbis as serious thinkers, and would lose confidence in their religious authority.

Rabbi Abraham, son of Rambam, noted that one must not accept the truth of a statement simply on the authority of the person who stated it. Rather, we must use our reason to determine its validity. Moreover, it is intellectually unsound to accept blindly the teachings of our sages in matters of medicine and natural science, since these were not their areas of expertise. “We and every intelligent and wise person, are obligated to evaluate each idea and each statement, to find the way in which to understand it; to prove the truth and establish that which is worthy of being established, and to annul that which is worthy of being annulled….We see that our sages themselves said: if it is a halakhah [universally accepted legal tradition] we will accept it; but if it is a ruling [based on individual opinion], there is room for discussion.”[1]

Rambam and his son argued that one need not and must not suppress reason to be a religious person. We should not be expected to surrender reason when we evaluate rabbinical statements. Nor should we teach Torah to our children and students in a manner that demands blind obedience and suspension of reason. Otherwise, they will grow up one day and realize that we have taught them irrational or incorrect things; this will cause them to mistrust everything we have taught them.

These thoughts have come to mind recently due to a number of specific cases:

1. A ten year old boy’s day school class was told by their Torah teacher that dinosaurs never existed. Since rabbinic tradition teaches that the world is less than 6000 years old, it is not possible that scientists can be correct when they state that dinosaurs lived on earth millions of years ago. The boy told his teacher that he recently visited the Museum of Natural History in New York City and saw dinosaur bones with his own eyes! How could the teacher deny that dinosaurs existed? The teacher responded: “you did not see dinosaur bones. What you saw were dog bones that became swollen during Noah’s flood.”

2. A science teacher in a modern Orthodox day school was dissecting a sheep’s larynx as part of a science lesson for her eighth grade class. Some students noticed that the wind pipe was in front and the food pipe was behind it. The students said: this can’t be correct. We learned in Torah class that the food pipe is on the left and the wind pipe is on the right. That is why we recline to the left on Passover eve at the seder, so that the food will go straight down the food pipe. If we leaned to the right, the food would go to the wind pipe and we could choke. The teacher asked the students to look at the sheep’s larynx: they could see for themselves that the pipes were located one behind the other, not side by side. A student suggested that this may be true for sheep, but could not be true for humans. The teacher pointed out that the physiology for humans was the same. After class, the teacher discussed this issue with various Jewish studies teachers and administration members. Most had assumed that the pipes were side by side. Even when presented with the scientific facts, they were reluctant to accept this information. One teacher said: “I would find it difficult to teach something that goes against Hazal.” (But he apparently would not find it difficult to teach something that was demonstrably false!)

3. A junior high school class was studying the laws relating to washing hands in the morning. The teacher explained, following the Shulhan Arukh (O.H. 4:2-3), that the hands are washed in order to eliminate an evil spirit (ruah ra’ah). One is not allowed to touch the eyes or other sensitive parts of the body before washing hands, otherwise there is a danger that the evil spirit will cause harm. One student asked: what is the meaning of evil spirit? Most people in the world don’t wash their hands in the ritually prescribed way first thing in the morning. They touch their eyes and ears—but no harm seems to happen to them! Does the evil spirit only affect religious Jews, and no one else? The teacher told the student he was being impudent, and that it was a principle of faith that we should trust the wisdom of our sages. If the Shulhan Arukh says that there is a dangerous evil spirit on our hands in the morning, then that is absolute fact, not subject to doubt on our part.

4. While studying the Torah portion dealing with the marriage of Yitzhak and Rivka, students were told by their teacher that Rivka was three years old when she provided water to the camels of Abraham’s servant, and when she soon thereafter married Yitzhak. This, of course, is a midrashic teaching. A student asked: how was it possible for a three-year-old girl to water camels? It would have required far too much strength for any child so young. Moreover, if she were only three years old, why did her father ask her if she were willing to leave home to marry Abraham’s son: she would have been far too young to make such a decision. Also, is it reasonable to think that a forty year old man like Yitzhak would actually marry a three-year-old girl? The Torah’s description of Rivka certainly implies that she was much older than three. The rabbi responded: if Hazal says that Rivka was three years old, that’s how old she was! There is no room for further discussion.

5. A kindergarten student brought home a packet with pictures describing the story of Megillat Esther. One of the pictures depicted Vashti with pimples and a green tail. The child’s parent asked the teacher why she had included such an odd picture, when there was nothing in the text of the Megillah that warranted such a bizarre rendition of Vashti. The teacher replied that that is how she had learned the story, and that it was based on a midrashic description of Vashti. The parent asked why the teacher did not tell the students that this was from the midrash, and not in the text of the Megillah. The teacher responded that the teachings of Hazal in the midrash provide the true meaning of the text, and that there is no need to differentiate between the biblical text and rabbinic interpretation.

The above cases, reflective of the educational approach of many religious schools and individuals, are symptomatic of serious problems in the way our community transmits Torah teachings. The fundamentalist, literalist position—so vehemently criticized by Rambam—still holds sway among many Orthodox Jews. It is incumbent upon rabbis, teachers and parents to steer Torah education towards a rational and reasonable understanding of the words of our sages.

Torah and Science:
Since One God created both Torah and science, it is axiomatic that Torah and science can never be in fundamental conflict. Torah and science are manifestations of One God, the Author of truth. If Torah and science appear to be at odds on certain points, then either we have not understood Torah properly or we have not done our science correctly.

Scientific knowledge has progressed tremendously since ancient times. Each generation has contributed to the cumulative knowledge of humanity, and this process continues in our generation; it will continue in future generations as well. With the advent of new tools of research, scientists have been able to expand the horizon of scientific knowledge. If ancient or medieval sages believed that the earth is flat, that the earth is the center of the universe, or that the sun orbits around the earth—this can hardly be surprising, since that is what their level of scientific knowledge was in those times. Nor can they be faulted for not knowing things that were discovered or theorized long after their deaths. Rashi thought that the Atlantic Ocean was “the end of the world”; Rambam believed that the Ptolemaic system of astronomy was correct; Hazal thought that eclipses were signs of Divine wrath rather than predictable natural phenomena. It would be absurd to defend the outdated scientific views of these sages, since we now know that their views have proven to be incorrect. The sages based themselves on the best available scientific information; but later research and discoveries have led to more precise and accurate information. We need to address issues based on the current level of scientific knowledge. Let us turn to the question of the age of the universe, in light of Torah tradition and modern science.

Ancient Jewish sages calculated the age of humanity by adding up the ages of Biblical characters from the time of Adam. There were differences of opinion as to the exact age, since the Biblical account leaves some room for interpretation.[2] The Bible itself does not use the anno mundi (from the creation of the world) dating system, and the dating system that we currently use (5766 at the writing of this article) seems to have become widespread only after Talmudic times. The Tosafot (Gittin 80b, Zo Divrei Rabbi Meir) wonders why it is permissible to date bills of divorce from beriat olam, when in fact early divorces (and other documents) were dated based on the year of the ruling king of the land in which Jews resided.[3]

In fact, though, the current dating system does not date from the creation of the world, but from the creation of Adam. Literalists assume that the age of the world is reached by adding the first five days of creation to Adam’s age. This would mean that the world was created less than six thousand years ago—hence the impossibility of anything existing before that time. But we have unequivocal fossil evidence of beings that existed millions of years ago, and other scientific evidence that the universe came into being billions of years ago. The literalists solve the dilemma by denying the existence of anything prior to 5766 years ago. They dismiss scientific evidence as inaccurate, false, or based on wrong scientific assumptions. They stake their faith on the truth of the world being 5766 years old. Dinosaurs could not have existed millions of years ago; when we see dinosaur bones, we are really seeing “dog bones that were swollen during Noah’s flood”; or bones that God planted just to fool us into thinking the world was older than 5766; or bones which have been dated wrongly due to the ineptitude of scientists.

Yet, does the Torah really require us to deny scientific evidence in order to justify the anno mundi dating system? The Rambam would argue that the opposite is true, namely that we should seek truth and thereby come closer to the Author of truth. If science has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that dinosaurs existed millions of years ago, then we need to reject the literalist view that the universe is 5766 years old.

It has been pointed out that the six days of creation were not 24 hour days. Indeed, the sun was not created until the fourth day, so there could not have been a sunset or sunrise on the first three “days”. The word “days” might better be understood to mean “periods” of indeterminate length. At each period of the creation, there was a development from a simpler stage to a more complex stage. Since these six “days” of creation could have lasted billions of years by human calculation, then dinosaurs had ample time to live and become extinct before Adam and Eve were created on the sixth “day”.

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan has cited classic rabbinic texts asserting that the world is much older than the 5766 years implied by our current dating system. The Sefer ha-Temunah, attributed to the Tanna Rabbi Nehunya ben ha-Kanah, suggests that there were other worlds before Adam was created. The Midrash Rabba on Bereishith 1:5 teaches that there were “orders of time” prior to the first day of creation recorded in the Torah. The Talmud records the view that there were 974 generations before Adam (Hagigah 13b).

Most interesting is the view of Rabbi Yitzhak of Akko, a student and colleague of the Ramban and one of the foremost Kabbalists of his time. In examining one of Rabbi Yitzhak’s important works, Ozar ha-Hayyim, Rabbi Kaplan discovered that Rabbi Yitzhak adduced that the universe is a bit over 15.3 billion years old! This theory by a medieval kabbalist, based on interpretations of Biblical and rabbinic texts, is remarkably close to the calculations of modern science that dates the “Big Bang” at approximately 15 billion years ago.[4] Rabbi Yitzhak felt no need to offer farfetched explanations to keep the universe within the 6000 year range. He, and his many pious colleagues and students, had no problem at all positing a universe that was billions of years old; they did not see this calculation as in any way impinging on the truth of Torah. It is significant, then, that we have legitimate traditions in Torah Judaism that view the universe as being far older than 5766 years.

Our schools should not be teaching our children that dinosaurs did not exist. They should not be telling children that the dinosaur bones are just “dog bones swollen in the flood of Noah’s time”. This is not Torah education, but mis-education. Not only is there no religious necessity to teach such nonsense; it is a religious mandate NOT to teach falsehood. To cloak falsity in the clothing of religion is to undermine true religion.

Likewise, in the matter of the location of the wind pipe and food pipe, it is educationally and morally unsound to teach patently false information in order to “validate” the mistaken notions of sages of earlier generations. The Talmud (Pesahim 108a) states that reclining backward or to the right is not a valid way of reclining, adding the explanation that leaning incorrectly may endanger a person by causing the food go down the wind pipe. Rashi states that this explanation refers to leaning backward. Rashbam, though, takes issue with Rashi and cites his teachers who claimed that the wind pipe was on the right; thus, the Talmud was forbidding reclining to the right due to the danger of choking. Although neither Rambam nor the Shulhan Arukh cite this explanation, it was cited by the Magen Abraham and the Taz—and became a widespread teaching.[5] Yet, it is factually incorrect—and therefore certainly should not be taught as the reason why we recline to the left.

When teaching children to recline to the left at the seder, a suitable explanation is that in antiquity free people ate while sitting on couches. They reclined to the left so that their right hand would be available to hold their food. If someone should ask: don’t we lean to the left because that is where our food pipe is, the answer is: some people mistakenly thought this was the reason, but it is not the correct reason. The food pipe and wind pipe are not side by side.

As a general principle, we need to emphasize to our children and students that Hazal’s statements on science were based on their level of scientific knowledge. Our sages themselves admitted that the wise men of the non-Jews had greater knowledge in some scientific matters (Pesahim 94b). Rabbi Haim David Halevy observed: “If it becomes clear through precise scientific method that a specific idea expressed by our sages is not entirely correct, this does not mar their greatness, Heaven forbid, and their greatness as sages of Torah. Their words relating to Torah were stated with the power of the holiness of Torah with a kind of divine inspiration; but their other words on general topics were stated from the depth of their human wisdom only.”[6]

Ruah Ra’ah:
Many of our sages in earlier generations believed in demons (shedim), malevolent metaphysical forces (e.g. ayin ha-ra), astrology, and other such things. So did many of the wise and learned non-Jews of those times. These beliefs are not only cited in the Talmud but in some cases also have entered into a number of standard halakhic codes. How are we to understand these sources, and how are we to explain them to our children and students? Let us consider one such concept, ruah ra’ah, as an illustration of how to address this issue.

The Shulhan Arukh (O.H. 4:2) rules that one must pour water three times on each hand upon awakening, in order to remove the ruah ra’ah, an evil spirit that clings to the hands. In 4:3, the Shulhan Arukh states that before washing the hands, a person should not touch his mouth, nose, ears or eyes. Since the unwashed fingers have a ruah ra’ah on them, touching these sensitive organs is dangerous.

Various commentators have offered explanations of the nature of this ruah ra’ah. Some say that it clings to the hands because during sleep a person’s hands may touch various parts of the body and become unclean (physically and/or spiritually). Others say that sleeping is akin to death; just as one needs purification when coming into contact with death, so one needs purification when awakening from sleep. The Zohar states: “For when a person is sleeping, his spirit flies away from him, and as his spirit flies off, an impure spirit is ready to settle on his hands, defiling them. So it is forbidden to offer a blessing with them without first washing.”[7]

While the halakha mandates the ritual washing of hands in the morning, is the belief in ruah ra’ah a religious requirement? Can the washing of hands be explained in another way?

Rambam cites the rule of washing in the morning, in the laws of prayer (4:2-3). Washing of the hands (and face and legs as well) is part of the proper preparation for coming before the Almighty in prayer. Rambam does not mention ruah ra’ah at all! He apparently believed that the obligation to wash before prayer was a matter of physical cleanliness and ritual purification, but was not connected to ruah ra’ah. Taking Rambam’s approach, then, we can observe and teach the practice of ritual washing in the morning without conditioning it on a belief in ruah ra’ah.[8]

While Rambam dismissed the notion of ruah ra’ah as the reason for washing hands in the morning, other sages were not as forthright. Though doubting that ruah ra’ah can cause bodily injury, they were reluctant to reject a belief recorded in the Talmud and other rabbinic texts. They resolved the problem by proposing that the ruah ra’ah existed in past times, but has lost its efficacy in modern times. The Maharam ben Habib, for example, pointed out: “in our times, we have never seen nor heard of anyone touching his eyes with unwashed hands in the morning, who then became blind [because of this]; therefore [it must be that] ruah ra’ah of the morning is no longer found among us.”[9] The opinion that ruah ra’ah has lost its efficacy in our times was also expressed by the MaharShaL, Eliyah Rabbah and others.[10]

Rabbi Haim David Halevy, a great posek who was also devoted to the Zohar, noted that there are many topics that transcend our understanding, including the concept of ruah ra’ah. The ruah ra’ah refers to matters in the spiritual world which are beyond our power of reason to comprehend. Yet, when he describes the fulfillment of the hand-washing, Rabbi Halevy provides a meaningful and reasonable explanation: “Since the intention of the heart is the essence of fulfilling commandments, it is fitting that one should think at the time of washing that in this way he prepares himself for the service of the Creator, just as a priest who washed his hands in the Temple.”[11]

Obviously, we must observe and teach the halakha of the ritual washing of hands in the morning. But we are not obliged to believe or inculcate a belief in ruah ra’ah. When teaching the Shulhan Arukh’s text on ruah ra’ah, we can explain that many people believed in this concept in those days; that Rambam did not even mention the term in his codification of the rules of washing in the morning; that it is not religiously required to believe in this concept. It can also be pointed out that various sages suggested that ruah ra’ah has lost its efficacy in our times, i.e. that it is no longer a relevant concept for us. We can explain hand-washing as a ritual purification after sleeping at night; or as a ritual purification in preparation for prayer. It is inappropriate to insist that children believe in ruah ra’ah as a tenet of our religious tradition. It is wrong to teach that touching one’s eyes, nose, mouth or ears with unwashed hands will cause bodily harm. It is pedagogically and intellectually unsound to compel students to accept things that are demonstrably false, and to dress such teachings in the garb of religious truth. This can only lead to the degradation of religion in the eyes of the students as they grow older and more sophisticated in their thinking. They may come to equate religion and superstition—a very dangerous and unfortunate eventuality.

The Nature of Midrashic/Aggadic Statements:
While some rabbinic opinion has favored a literalist interpretation of the words of Hazal, other rabbinic opinion has sharply rejected this approach.[12] Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Chajes, an ardent defender of the wisdom of Hazal, made an obvious point: “There are several subjects in the Gemara whose meaning cannot be taken in a literal sense, because the text expounded literally would depict God as a corporeal being, and would also at times involve an act of blasphemy. We should, and we are, indeed, duty-bound to believe that the transmitters of the true Kabbalah, who are known to us as righteous and saintly men and also as accomplished scholars, would not speak merely in an odd manner. We must therefore believe that their words were uttered with an allegorical or mystical sense and that they point to matters of the most elevated significance, far beyond our mental grasp.”[13] Rabbi Chajes offered examples of rabbinic teachings that were stated rhetorically in order to stir the curiosity of listeners; that expressed profound ideas in figurative style; that employed parables and hyperbole. To take these midrashim literally would be to misunderstand totally the methods and the messages of Hazal.[14]

Rabbi Haim David Halevy pointed out that Hazal often disagreed with each other in their midrashic interpretations. It is impossible that two opposite opinions can both be historically true. For example, the Torah reports that after the death of Yosef a new Pharaoh arose over Egypt. Rav suggested that this referred to an actual new Pharaoh. Shemuel, though, interpreted this to mean that the same Pharaoh made new decrees against the Israelites. These statements cannot both be true.[15] Neither Rav nor Shemuel offered historical evidence or tradition to support his view; rather, their opinions flowed from their own reading of the Biblical text.

Hazal’s interpretations were often made to convey a moral lesson, not to comment on actual historical events. For example, Rav Nahman suggests that Yaacov and family, on their way to Egypt to reunite with Yosef, stopped at Beer Sheva and chopped down trees that had been planted by Abraham. They took this wood with them to Egypt, and kept it throughout the centuries of their captivity. When they left Egypt, they brought this wood with them, and used it in building the Mishkan in the wilderness.[16] This is a beautiful way of tying together the history of the Israelites with their original ancestor, Abraham. Yet, there is no reason to assume that Rav Nahman did historical research that led to this interpretation, and there is no compelling reason to believe that he had an ancient oral tradition on this point; nor did he claim to have one. The significance of his interpretation has nothing to do with its historicity, but everything to do with the lasting influence of Abraham on the children of Israel.

Since Hazal utilized various literary and rhetorical techniques, it is essential to approach their statements with care. It is also essential to recognize that their interpretations reflect their own particular views, rather than a clearly defined, divinely ordained oral tradition.

Hai Gaon taught that the aggadah included statements by rabbis where “each one interpreted whatever came to his heart.” We do not rely on the words of aggadah, but view them as personal opinions.[17] Sherira Gaon taught that aggadah, midrash and homiletical interpretations of the Bible were in the category of umdena, personal opinion and speculation.[18] The Gaon Shemuel ben Hofni stated: “If the words of the ancients contradict reason, we are not obligated to accept them.”[19]

The non-literalist view of Hazal’s statements has a long and distinguished tradition including the Gaonim, Shemuel ha-Naggid, Rambam and his son, Ramban and so many others. In more recent times, the view was well expressed by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, who noted that “aggadic sayings do not have Sinaitic origin….Nor must someone whose opinion differs from that of our sages in a matter of aggadah be deemed a heretic, especially as the sages themselves frequently differ.”[20]

When we teach midrashim/aggadot, we must be sophisticated enough to view these passages in their literary and rhetorical context. We must not force a literalist interpretation, especially when such an interpretation violates reason, or when alternative valid interpretations are also available.

Some sages examined the Biblical stories and calculated that Rivka was three years old when she watered the camels of Abraham’s servant. This calculation, recorded in Seder Olam, assumes that Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for Yitzhak immediately after the Akedah. Yet, the Torah itself does not specify if this occurred immediately after the Akedah or if there was a lapse of some years between stories. The Tosafot (Yebamot 61b, vekhein hu omer) reports a rabbinic calculation which concludes that Rivka was fourteen years old at the time she watered the camels! Thus, even within classic rabbinic literature there is a difference of opinion as to how old Rivka was. The view that she was three years old apparently wishes to underscore the unusual, even miraculous, qualities of Rivka. The view that she was fourteen years old apparently wishes to understand the text in a more realistic light. Rivka obviously was old enough and mature enough to water camels, to decide to leave home to be married, and to marry Yitzhak.

When discussing the age of Rivka, then, it is fine to relate the rabbinic tradition that she was three, as a midrashic way of underscoring the unusual qualities of Rivka, just as a midrash has Abraham discovering God at the age of three. But it should also be noted that a valid rabbinic tradition holds that Rivka was actually fourteen at the time (and Abraham was forty, forty-eight or fifty-two when he discovered God). This view, of course, is more reasonable. No parent or teacher should insist that a child or student must believe that Rivka was three “because Hazal said so”. Hazal also said she was fourteen! Midrashic statements are often made to convey a lesson, not to record historical truth. In presenting midrashim, we need to examine their underlying lessons.

When the midrash is taught as though it is an integral part of the Biblical text, this does violence to the Biblical text—and also to the midrash. Students should always be able to differentiate between what is stated in the text, and what is later rabbinic interpretation. This is especially true when midrashim present supernatural or very odd details; students may come to believe that these midrashic elements are actually part of the Bible. If they later reject these strange midrashim, they may feel they are actually rejecting the Bible itself—and this may lead to much spiritual turmoil.

A well known tendency of midrash is to glorify the righteous characters and to vilify the wicked characters. Biblical heroes become larger than life in their goodness; and Biblical villains are characterized by all sorts of vices and defects. This is part of the story-telling and moralizing method of midrashic literature. This midrashic method should be taught to students, so that they become familiar with the style of Hazal in praising the righteous and condemning the wicked. This method will help us to understand the midrash’s presentation of Vashti.

The text of the Megillah tells us very little about Vashti. We do not know why she refuses to appear at the command of the king. Her refusal could be interpreted very positively: she was modest, and she was courageous in refusing her husband’s inappropriate command. But the midrashic mindset wants to vilify Ahashverosh—and also his wife. It is suggested that Vashti descends from the wicked Nebuchadnezar; that is why she is a “good” match for Ahashverosh. They are both corrupt people. If she is part of Nebuchadnezar’s evil family, she too must be evil. Then why didn’t she appear at Ahashverosh’s command? The reason could not be because she was modest or courageous; that would impute virtues to her. So the midrash suggests, perhaps with outlandish humor, that Vashti was stricken with hideous physical defects—pimples and a tail—so that she was embarrassed to appear before the king and his retinue. That is why she refused to come. This depiction deprives Vashti of moral virtue, and makes her a comical character punished with physical defects symbolic of her wicked soul.

I wonder what the point is of teaching this midrashic interpretation to kindergarten children. It is unlikely that they will understand the midrashic method underlying this description of Vashti. Teachers may like to teach this in order to make the children laugh and have their imaginations aroused. Yet, in the long run this lesson does damage to the children unless the teacher makes it very clear that this is a midrashic vilification of Vashti, not the description found in the Megillah’s text. Hazal never claimed that their midrashim were to be indistinguishable from the Biblical text, nor should we make that claim for them.

The points made in this article should seem fairly clear and obvious to all those interested in proper Torah education. Yet, the fact is that much mis-education is found in our homes, synagogues and schools. A simplistic, literalist approach to the words of Hazal continues to be influential—and very widespread. This is not only intellectually and pedagogically unsound: it is a degradation of Torah and Hazal, as pointed out by the Rambam. We all need to raise our voices for the sake of Torah, truth and the religious wellbeing of our future generations.

[1]See his Ma-amar Odot Derashot Hazal, printed in the introductory section of the Ein Yaacov.

[2] Azariah de Rossi (1511-1578) pointed out the discrepancies in the rabbinic calculations in his Meor Enayim, Vilna, 1865, in the section Yemei Olam. See especially pp. 64f and pp. 223f.

[3] See Isaac S. D. Sassoon, Destination Torah, Ktav Publishing House, Hoboken, 2001, pp. 4-5.

[4] Aryeh Kaplan, Immortality, Resurrection and the Age of the Universe: A Kabbalistic View, Ktav Publishing House, Hoboken, 1993, p. 9. See also Nathan Aviezer, In the Beginning, Ktav Publishing House, Hoboken, 1990.

[5] Rambam, Hilkhot Hamets U-Matsah 7:8; Shulhan Arukh, O.H. 472:3, and the Magen Abraham and Taz on this passage. The Tur, O.H. 472, inverses the opinions of Rashi and Rashbam.

[6] Asei Lekha Rav, Tel Aviv, 5743, 5:49

[7] The Zohar, translation and commentary by Daniel C. Matt, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 2004, vol. 1, p. 70. See also note 524 on p. 69.

[8] See the discussion of the Arukh ha-Shulhan, O.H. 4, where he cites others who view the hand-washing as preparation for prayer.

[9] Cited in note 8 of Yalkut Yosef, by Yitzhak Yosef, Jerusalem, 5745, volume one of Tefillah, pp. 9-10.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Mekor Hayyim, Jerusalem, 5743, vol. 1, 2:5. For a discussion of Rabbi Halevy’s approach to halakha and kabbala, see Marc D. Angel with Hayyim Angel, Rabbi Haim David Halevy: Gentle Scholar and Courageous Thinker, Urim Publications, Jerusalem, 2006.

[12] For a discussion of both traditions in rabbinic literature, see my article “Authority and Dissent: A Discussion of Boundaries,” in Tradition, 25:2, Winter 1990, pp. 22f.

[13] The Student’s Guide to the Talmud, London, 1952, p. 201. See also his discussion on p. 208f.

[14] Ibid., chapters 26-30.

[15] Asei Lekha Rav 5:49.

[16] Midrash Rabbah ha-Mevoar, Jerusalem, 5748, vol.4, Bereishith 94:4

[17] Ozar ha-Geonim, ed. B. M. Lewin, Jerusalem, 5692, vol. 4 (Hagigah), pp. 59-60.

[18] Ibid., p. 60.

[19] Ibid., pp. 4-5,

[20] Joseph Munk, “Two Letters of Samson Raphael Hirsch, a Translation,” L’Eylah, April, 1989, pp. 30-35.

Musician Lends His Creativity and Genius to Revive Levites Lost Musical Tradition


It is important to note that this "lost" tradition really is, except for a few tantalizing scraps of information, "lost." The attempt to recreate it is admirable, but, barring prophetic vision or new and previously undiscovered manuscript evidence, we cannot truly call this the Levite's tradition--but what's wrong with that?

If the tradition is lost, why not establish a new tradition? Is Judaism an artifact for a museum, or a living, breathing, religion of living, breathing people?

I am inspired by his dedication to bringing these traditions to our attention. I am so sick of the crazy people with the extremist views telling us that Jewish tradition is not a tradition with music or art or science in it. They are not correct when they make this assertion, and, more than that, they are setting a stumbling block before the blind. Music is our tradition and our heritage. Art is our tradition and our heritage. Science has always been our passion. There is nothing unJewish about any of it.

I think most of the problem the extremists (on both sides) have with Jews discovering their heritage is that it diminishes their control. They fear the fact that people may actually ENJOY praising Hashm if we were to reintroduce music and art. G-d forbid people don't see praising G-d as some awful obligation and as an actual pleasure. If this were to happen, people might actually come to synagogue and begin LEARNING about what our traditions REALLY are. If that happened, all these black-suited maniacs would lose their power!

Every day I pray for the Temple to rise again. Every day I pray for the day that I give my bread and the best of my food to a Kohan. Every day I pray for the renewal of respect for the Sanhedrin. We need to topple these "preist wannabees" before Judaism is completely ruined by them.

Jewish tradition is one of happiness and strength along with obligation and respect. We are not supposed to run around like Puritans in black and white clothes refusing to look beyond our own little world worrying that Hashm will smite us at every moment.

We are supposed to be an inspiration to the world! We are supposed to love Hashm, our people (ALL of them), and this wonderful world that Hashm has created for us--while living within the wonderful guidelines Hashm set up for our us. We can be Kosher without being cruel, we can be Shomer Shabbat without being exclusionary, we can be Tzniut without being judgmental, and we can be proud Zionists without offering excuses.

So, even though this musician isn't perfect, the guy is on to something here. Let's all make an effort to contribute to the Temple to come. Let us all take an inventory of our talents, of our riches, of our knowledge and, instead of holding it close and keeping it to ourselves, contribute it to the good of our Jewish brothers and sisters in making Am Ysrael Chai!


Jerusalem concert to feature fantasies of the Temple's lost music
Last update - 08:54 16/10/2008
By Tamar Rotem
Tags: Levites, Israel news

At the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, every day had a song of its own, played before morning prayers, says singer and instrumentalist Ilan Green, formerly a member of the group "Nekamat Hatraktor." Green will lead a performance of the Levites' lost musical traditions on Thursday night at Beit Avihai in Jerusalem.

"Music was a central element at the Temple," he says. "Every Shabbat and holiday was accompanied by music, to the point where the scriptures pose the question of whether we may replace a string on Shabbat, to which the unequivocal answer is yes."

"Could there be any stronger statement than that, that for music it is permissible to violate Shabbat?" he says.

Green plays in a number of ensembles, holds workshops on instrument building at his Moshav Sde Hemed home and heads the music department at Jerusalem's Musrara art school.

When Beit Avihai approached him two years ago about a potential musical project, he knew he was interested in investigating the instruments used in the Temple. Green's journey reflects the wider return to sacred texts in the Jewish music world, which includes artists such as Ehud and Meir Banai's renditions of liturgical songs.

Green says he does not consider himself religious, but he is very interested in the Jewish scriptures. He says that he discovered early on that this was barely charted territory.

In combing the Bible, Mishna and other texts, he discovered that aside from the familiar violin, trumpet and lyre, at least 30 musical instruments are mentioned whose sound and appearance are lost to history. Building on the few scraps of information he could find, and adding a heavy dose of guesswork, he reconstructed 16 of them from wood and metal.

Green says the mystery surrounding the instruments gave him a certain artistic license.

"It gave me complete freedom," he says, emphasizing that his project is not historical. "I'm not saying that these are the real instruments. My approach is artistic, and my interpretation is entirely personal."

Many of the instrument references came from Psalms, traditionally attributed to David, the harpist king, such as the enigmatic "For the choir director; on the Gittith" (Psalms 8:1).

"There's something mysterious in building musical instruments that just cannot be described," he says.