Sunday 26 June 2022

388) The Sword of Moshe: Adjuring “אהיו פסקתיה”



This article, based extensively on the research by Professor Yuval Harari from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, examines the book Charva de Moshe (Sword of Moses), one of two ancient magical works[1] to have survived from antiquity.[2] It is based on the notion that Moshe brought a sword down from heaven and is said to have used its ‘magic’ to accomplish supernatural deeds. This work gives a fascinating insight into how people believed the structure of the heavenly realms operated, and more importantly, how they could be easily manipulated by a skilful practitioner.

Sunday 19 June 2022

387) The Apocalyptists and the rise of a supernatural Messiah

The small dagger known as a sica.


This article is based on the research by Professor Solomon (Shneur Zalman) Zeitlin (1886-1976) considered to have been a leading authority on the Second Temple period.[1] Although a sequel to the previous article, it can be read independently. We trace the origins of the idea of a supernatural Messiah within Judaism. A supernatural Messiah is only mentioned for the first time in the late Apocalyptic literature[2] of the Second Temple period, and in the New Testament (Zeitlin 1979:103). Both these works of literature are far from normative rabbinic Judaism, so how, then, did the idea of a supernatural Messiah become so entrenched within Judaism? To answer this question, we must look to the political and spiritual conditions during and just after the Second Temple period.

Sunday 12 June 2022

386) The difference between Mashiach then and Mashiach now.

A fragment of Ben Sira as found in the Cairo Geniza

This article attempts to understand whether the idea of the Messiah as it originated in early biblical times, differs from its current conception. I have drawn extensively from the research by Professor Solomon (Shneur Zalman) Zeitlin (1886-1976) considered to have been a leading authority on the Second Temple period.[1]

NOTE TO READER: The Mashiach concept is always a very emotive and sensitive issue. If, like me, you were raised in the belief that Mashiach, as we understand the popularist concept today, has always been part of Judaism since time immemorial, you might find this article disquieting. I am fascinated by the robust approach of scholars (which whom I may, or may not, always agree with) to try and understand the fundamentals of our faith, history and hashkafa  - but I know this approach is not for everyone.

Monday 6 June 2022

385) Civil Infrastructure and a Torah State


How should a Jewish state manage the mundane tasks involved with administering daily life?

This article also appeared on the B'chol D'rachecha publication

For any complex modern society, keeping the lights on and the chaos at bay is no simple job. Imagining how the Torah would expect us to handle things is not only an interesting daydream, but a question of immediate and practical concern for many growing communities - especially in Israel.