Saturday, November 8, 2008

Say Whaat?

If anyone ever wondered if Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity could ever be reconciled with each other in any realistic way, here is an excerpt of an article just for you. It explains why, according to Judaism, Abraham is the greater model of righteousness than Noah for followers of God to imitate.

Most significantly, when these individuals [Abraham & Noah] were faced with similar challenges they each reacted very differently. When the Almighty tells Abraham His plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, the first Hebrew argues aggressively, railing against a wholesale destruction: "Will you then destroy the righteous together with the wicked?... Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous together with the wicked!... Will the judge of the entire earth not act justly? (Gen. 18:23-25).

And Abraham goes on to bargain with God as if they were standing in the Mahaneh Yehuda market.

In stark contrast, when God informs Noah that He is about to destroy the world, we hear not a peep of protest.

It seems to me that precisely in this contrast we can understand the entire picture. Noah's greatest virtue is obedience - whatever God wishes to do, Noah is ready to accept. He takes the world as it is, and submits to whatever plan God suggests.

That is not the mission that God wishes to impose on His chosen people. God knows that He has created an imperfect world, and wants His people to perfect it, to challenge and goad even Him to cause His compassion to overcome His anger and even His strict justice. God is not seeking pure obedience; He wants to be challenged.
Despite the fact that Abraham completely failed in his efforts to prevent the devastation of Sodom and Gomorrah, the most glaring omission in the discussion is the notion of faith. For me, it is breathtaking that obedience to God takes a back seat to the idea that those who follow Him are expected to confront Him what He says. Call me simplistic, but as I read the very same Bible as the rabbis, I believe this is a very wrong and even dangerous understanding of the Bible. But don't take my word for it - read the Bible for yourself and see what you think.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Where are the Gas Masks?

Our gas masks were collected for refurbishment last year. In April, it was thought that returning them could take up to 5 years. In June we were told to expect them back in January. Now we are to expect them sometime late next year. In other words, no one knows when or if they will be returned.

At least now we have a bomb shelter in our apartment, so I won't complain.

UPDATE: The rockets have started to hit Ashkelon again. So glad we are no longer there.

Monday, November 3, 2008

New Old Stuff Found in Israel

Possibly the oldest Hebrew inscription was found near Beit Shemesh recently.

An archeologist digging at a hilltop southwest of Jerusalem believes a ceramic shard found in the ruins of an ancient town bears the oldest Hebrew inscription ever discovered.

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 Jewish kingdom existed at the time of King David, says Yossi Garfinkel, the Hebrew University archeologist in charge of the new dig at Hirbet Keiyafa.
Naturally, everyone is arguing about the meaning of the find. Archaeologists are arguing:
The discoveries are already being wielded in a vigorous and ongoing argument over whether the Bible's account of events is meant to be taken literally.
And the Palestinians are now arguing over it, too:
Palestinians, saying biblical claims have been superseded by the long-standing Arab population in Jerusalem, want the eastern part of the city, captured by Israel in a 1967 war, to be the capital of the state they hope to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Amazing how everything here ends up in a fight.

Another find is a newly discovered water shaft in Jerusalem's "city of David" excavations.
A water tunnel dating back to the First Temple era - but that might have been used even earlier, during King David's conquest of Jerusalem - has been uncovered in the ancient City of David, a prominent Israeli archeologist said Wednesday.
This is not to be confused with Hezekiah's tunnel, which incidentally contained the Siloam inscription [pictured left], one of the oldest and longest Hebrew inscriptions using the old alphabet.

A little related side note: thirty years ago the oldest portion from the Hebrew Bible was found on a small silver scroll [on right] in a valley next to the Old City walls in Jerusalem. Inscribed were excerpts from several verses including the Priestly Blessing of Numbers 6:24-26.

Many people are fascinated about the geography of Israel, archaeological sites, and finding new clues to the Biblical past. Not me. I love it when things like old inscriptions and writings are found. That there's what I call cool.