lethargic_man: (Berlin)
It's hard, as a kosher-keeping British ex-pat, continuing to eat the things I like here. I used to have fruit cake as part of my tea most weekdays. Here none of the kosher shops have fruit cake (I mean proper fruit cake; cake with fruit in it doesn't count!). So I decided to make my own (something I've already done with fruit flapjack). But fruit cake isn't worth making if you don't have glacé cherries; they're the best part! And in all the supermarkets here,* the glacé cherries are coloured with carmine, which, being made from crushed beetles,† is as non-kosher as you get. And the biggest kosher shop here, Daily Markt, didn't have any. Which means I'm going to have to make my own... only none of the supermarkets are stocking cherries at this time of year. So no fruitcake for me. *sniff* (But I'll hold onto the ingredients I've already got just in case...)

* REWE, Edeka and Kaufland; Netto didn't have. I've yet to try Kaisers.

† It's labelled "Echte Carmin", thus ruling out any possibility it might be synthetic.


Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016 09:31 pm
lethargic_man: (Berlin)

I have realised I never explicitly said here that I have emigrated from London to Berlin (though I mentioned it was coming up soon). Here's a picture of me on the balcony of my new flat. I blend in perfectly, don't you think? They'll never guess I'm not German, what what.

View piccy )

I tried out my new cycle route to work for the first time today. The old one involved going past a blue plaque that said Paul Robeson had lived there, and a building called the Pirate Castle; the new one involves going past Paul-Robeson-Straße and a building labelled "Pirates Berlin".

lethargic_man: "Happy the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding."—Prov. 3:13. Icon by Tamara Rigg (limmud)

The Book of Jubilees concludes with the commandment of the Sabbath, which was given to Moses at this point. The Sabbath has been previously mentioned in Jubilees, in the account of Creation. Because there was a lot of information to convey at that point, I deferred that information to here; so here is it is:

Chapter 2 offers a rare glimpse into what constituted Sabbath observance in the pre-Talmudic period (i.e. a glimpse of how much of the Oral Law of the Talmudic period went back to (or further back than) the third century BCE):

Read more... )

I strongly suspect that the rationale that is found in the Mishna, that because the commandment to keep the Sabbath is found in the Torah next to that to construct the Tabernacle, the principal activities forbidden on the day of rest are those which went into the construction of the Tabernacle, had not yet arisen at this point (i.e. the rationale is post-facto). Chapter 50 gives a similar list of forbidden activities:

Read more... )

What stands out in this list is the prohibition of sex. Today sex between man and wife is regarded as an activity recommended for the Sabbath day. I have no idea whether this attitude towards it here represents a shift in views between then and the second century CE, or rather differences between the Pharisaic הַשְׁגָפָה and that of the sect (Saducees? Essenes?) which wrote the Book of Jubilees.

A word about the death penalty declared here for breaking the Sabbath. This is in line with the Torah, but the members of the Sanhedrin and later rabbis of the Talmud, as R. Jeremy Gordon puts it, though passionately in favour of the death penalty in theory, were passionately against its ever being carried out. They legislated impediments against it—the need for two witnesses and forewarning the perpetrator that what they are about to do carries a capital penalty—and ultimately legislated it out of existence, decreeing that only a Sanhedrin located on the Temple Mount had the authority to proclaim a death sentence, and then moving the Sanhedrin off the Temple Mount. Even beforehand, the Talmud says that any Sanhedrin which carried out the death penalty once in seven years, R. Eliezer b. Azariah says once in seventy was called a destructive Sanhedrin.

Unlike the Torah, Jubilees spells out that an exception to the Sabbath prohibitions is needed for the Temple worship to continue on the Sabbath:

Read more... )

The book concludes with another list of proscribed activities on the Sabbath:

Read more... )

Two interesting things stand out from this list: the prohibition on fasting: the two major fasts of Judaism today can both fall on Sabbath, but perhaps with the solar calendar used by the author of Jubilees that wasn't the case; presumably the book is rather talking about voluntary fasts.

The other interesting prohibition is that on making war. It would not be long after this book was written that the Hasmonean revolt broke out and put the Jews in the situation where if they refused to fight on the Sabbath, they would—and did—get slaughtered in battle, leading ultimately to the emergence of the principle of פִּקוּחַ נֶפֶשׁ, that the saving of human life overrides all commandments except for the prohibitions on idolatry, adultery and murder. But at the time that Jubilees was written, the Jews had been part of large empires for centuries, and had not needed to fight themselves.

Well, that's the end of my comments on the Book of Jubilees; I hope you found them interesting, Judith and [livejournal.com profile] ewx... is anyone else still reading this?

[Dead Sea Scroll of Jubilees] Jubilees posts                     Jewish learning notes index

lethargic_man: (Default)

I made a graph of how long I've lived in all the places I've lived in in my life, on the eve of my move to Berlin. (It shows cumulative time, and I've counted all the places I was at for long enough for it to feel like living there rather than just visiting: even for my three and a half weeks in Jerusalem, I was paying rent on a flatshare and cooking my dinners at home like normal.)

Note the graph has a log scale: the bars all extend infinitely to the left, so the significance is in the position of their right hand ends, not their areas.


FWIW, Hasolelim, Ashkelon and Ugmar 80 (an Israeli army base) were all on my year off; Jerusalem, however, was in the summer of 2007 when I was studying at the Conservative Yeshiva.

lethargic_man: "Happy the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding."—Prov. 3:13. Icon by Tamara Rigg (limmud)

Chapter 48

(Yes, we're going backwards; Jubilees does not tell the story in precisely the same order as the Torah here.)

The Hebrew Bible often has an implicit narrative of what you might call karmic retribution. Jacob deceives his father, for example, and is paid back by being deceived later on by Laban. Such examples are never pointed out; rather, they're for the reader to notice. Jubilees points out one example I've not noticed before myself, at the splitting of the Red Sea Sea of Reeds:

Read more... )
Now the Egyptians have done their worst and, as per the Divine plan, been defeated, Mastema gets locked up to allow the Israelites to get as far as the Red Sea Sea of Reeds: Read more... )

Chapter 50

I told thee of the Sabbaths of the land on Mount Sinai, and I told thee of the jubilee years in the sabbaths of years: but the year thereof have I not told thee till ye enter the land which ye are to possess.

Presumably from Moses' perspective the Jubilee years are dated from the entry to the land, and since the Israelites have not entered the land, they are not to know when they start counting towards a jubilee year. (From the perspective of the Angel of the Presence, the jubilee years are dated from Creation, and the Israelites will presumably not be permitted to enter the land until the right point...?) Though that said, the angel then goes on to give Moses enough information to work it out:

Read more... )

This is surprising, because it gives Moses access to knowledge of the future (i.e. that forty years will pass, not two, until the people enters the Land of Israel).

[Dead Sea Scroll of Jubilees] Jubilees posts                     Jewish learning notes index

lethargic_man: "Happy the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding."—Prov. 3:13. Icon by Tamara Rigg (limmud)

Chapter 49

The Tenth Plague, the slaying of the firstborn, being destructive of life, is attributed here to Mastema, not God:
For on this night—the beginning of the festival and the beginning of the joy—ye were eating the passover in Egypt, when all the powers of Mastema had been let loose to slay all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh to the first-born of the captive maid-servant in the mill, and to the cattle.

Mastema had been helping the Egyptians in the previous chapter; the implication, presumably, is that Mastema is not against the Israelites but against humanity wherever he is allowed by God to be. Though actually in the previous chapter the Tenth Plague is attributed, along with the others, to God; this is either a continuity error, or an implication that God does not want to sully God's own hands, or those of the Angel of the Presence, with the dirty work, and outsources it to Mastema.

Like the author of Deuteronomy, that of Jubilees can't withstand the temptation to back-project the doctrine of the centrality of worship (in the author's own time at Jerusalem) into an earlier age:

When the children of Israel come into the land which they are to possess, into the land of Canaan, and set up the tabernacle of the Lord in the midst of the land in one of their tribes until the sanctuary of the Lord has been built in the land, let them come and celebrate the passover in the midst of the tabernacle of the Lord.

[Dead Sea Scroll of Jubilees] Jubilees posts                     Jewish learning notes index

lethargic_man: "Happy the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding."—Prov. 3:13. Icon by Tamara Rigg (limmud)

A short entry this week: The Angel of the Presence doesn't spend much time telling Moses the events of what for him are just the last month, unless there's a halachic or theological point to make. (It's curious then that later on, the attack of Amalek and the commandment to blot out the memory of Amalek is missing; presumably this is because by the time Jubilees was written, this commandment was as theoretical as it is today.)

Last week we saw the blame shifted from God to Prince Mastema (Satan) for the attempt to kill Moses on his way back into Egypt. Here Mastema similarly gets the blame for helping the Egyptian sorcerers replicate the Ten Plagues, because who else could have the power to oppose God, I suppose?

The prince Mastema stood up against you, and sought to cast you into the hands of Pharaoh, and he helped the Egyptian sorcerers, and they stood up and wrought before you the evils indeed we permitted them to work, but the remedies we did not allow to be wrought by their hands. The Lord smote them with malignant ulcers, and they were not able to stand, for we destroyed them so that they could not perform a single sign. Notwithstanding all (these) signs and wonders the prince Mastema was not put to shame because he took courage and cried to the Egyptians to pursue after you with all the powers of the Egyptians, with their chariots, and with their horses, and with all the hosts of the peoples of Egypt.

Note the "the evils we permitted them to work": God's side is in charge here!

[Dead Sea Scroll of Jubilees] Jubilees posts                     Jewish learning notes index

lethargic_man: "Happy the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding."—Prov. 3:13. Icon by Tamara Rigg (limmud)

Chapter 47

Read more... )

Pharaoh's daughter, as I have remarked before, is not named in the Bible. The Midrash names her Batyā, but Josephus, writing several centuries before the Midrash was written, gives her the name Thermutis. Jubilees, written two and a half to three centuries before Josephus, concurs, naming her Tharmuth. (The story in Josephus of Moses leading the war against the Nubians is missing here, though.)

After Pharaoh's daughter discovers the baby, the Bible describes how Miriam manages to get Moses' own mother to act as paid wet-nurse for him. Jubilees adds to that Amram teaching him to read and write. (I'd love to know whether the author expected that to be in the Hebrew alphabet or hieroglyphics and demotic, but sadly the author does not tell us that.)

In the Bible, Moses flees into exile after killing an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew, "from his brethren"; in Jubilees the Hebrew man is specifically referred to as Moses' friend; maybe the author didn't feel ties of ethnicity were enough to motivate him to act?

Chapter 48

There's a strange incident in Exodus 4:24-26 which reads:
It came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met [Moses], and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, "Surely a bridegroom of blood are you to me." So he let him go: then she said, "A bridegroom of blood you are," because of the circumcision. וַיְהִי בַדֶּרֶךְ בַּמָּלוֹן וַיִּפְגְּשֵׁהוּ ה׳ וַיְבַקֵּשׁ הֲמִיתוֹ׃ וַתִּקַּח צִפֹּרָה צֹר וַתִּכְרֹת אֶת־עָרְלַת בְּנָהּ וַתַּגַּע לְרַגְלָיו וַתֹּאמֶר כִּי חֲתַן־דָּמִים אַתָּה לִי׃ וַיִּרֶף מִמֶּנּוּ אָז אָמְרָה חֲתַן דָּמִים לַמּוּלֹת׃
Jubilees, uncomfortable with the implication that God tried to kill Moses, changes this to Prince Mastema (Satan):
You yourself [Moses] know what He spoke to you on Mount Sinai, and what prince Mastema desired to do with you when you were returning to Egypt. Did he not with all his power seek to slay you and deliver the Egyptians out of your hand when he saw that you were sent to execute judgment and vengeance on the Egyptians? I [the Angel of the Presence] delivered you out of his hand.

[Dead Sea Scroll of Jubilees] Jubilees posts                     Jewish learning notes index


Thursday, December 24th, 2015 06:33 pm
lethargic_man: (linguistics geekery)
I can't believe how long it took me to realise where you encounter -i- in the middle of Hebrew names, frequently angel names, it's mostly not a possessive, it's a remnant, fossilised in a context (names) which does not update along with the language, of the old Semitic genitive ending, which otherwise disappeared from Hebrew in the pre-Biblical period: גַבְרִיאֵל Gavri'él (Gabriel) does not mean "God is my Mighty One" but "mighty one of God"; אוּרִיאֵל (Uri'él) not "God is my Light" but "Light of God", אַרִיאֵל (Ari'él) not "God is my Lion" but "lion of God", etc.

There are exceptions: דָנִיאֵל (Dāni'él) clearly means "God is my Judge", not "judge of God", but without this explanation, names like עַבְדִּיאֵל `Avdi'él (Abdiel), "Servant of God" make no sense: no Israelite (in the Bible Abdiel is a man's name, not an angel's) would ever give their child a name meaning "God is my servant"!

This will, naturally, be of interest to [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel.

Good on you, BVG

Thursday, December 24th, 2015 04:56 pm
lethargic_man: (Berlin)
Just noticed a new option on the BVG (Berlin public transport company) website, under "BVG Route Network": "Network for refugees (معلومات عن وسائل النقل العام في مدينة برلين)".

Wir* schaffen das.

* Well, not me quite yet, but very soon.
lethargic_man: (reflect)
Adina WinoDW/LJ asked me last night who I was saying kaddish for at the end of the service. I'd explained at a previous service at the R. Wittenberg's, but since Adina was obviously not there, here's an explanation for a wider audience.

Back in 2002, my father, who, as head of the CST in Newcastle, has contacts with the police, got a 'phone call from them one night: An old man had just died in Middlesbrough. The hospital knew he was Jewish, but did not have contact details for any next-of-kin; as far as they knew, he had no family. So they contacted my father as their liaison in the nearest Jewish community.

My father contacted the Newcastle Chevra Kaddisha, who were able to give him a Jewish burial, and even got together ten (living) men so kaddish could be recited at the burial.

It turned out the deceased had actually once been a famous person—he'd been a comedian on television in the sixties and early seventies, under the name of Ray Martine—but he died in complete obscurity.

I was moved by this story of the Newcastle community doing the right thing for a complete stranger. (That, BTW, is the kind of thing your burial society fees go towards before you die yourself.) Until that time, I rather liked it when there was no one to say kaddish at the end of a service; it meant no one present had recently been bereaved (or had yohrzeit), which seemed like a good thing. It was around that time, though, that [personal profile] liv told me of the Reform custom of the whole community saying kaddish for those Jews who had died with no one to say kaddish for them, and I resolved that after I had, many years later or so I hoped, first been bereaved (as one who has not been bereaved shouldn't say kaddish), I would take up this custom myself when there was no one in a service to say mourner's kaddish, at (and only at) the kaddish at the end of the service after עָלֵינוּ.

Here's a photo of Ray Martine's gravestone in Newcastle, which I took when I was paying my respects at my mother's grave before the last High Holydays. As this obituary makes clear, a single living relative, his nephew, was eventually found for him (who presumably provided the gravestone), but not until four months after he died, and I don't think this invalidates my point.


lethargic_man: "Happy the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding."—Prov. 3:13. Icon by Tamara Rigg (limmud)

Chapter 45

Death of Jacob )

I've been using this online text of Jubilees as my source for quotations the whole way, but it's taken me this far to get around to reading the preface, which says that one of the rationales behind Jubilees is fighting against the viewpoint of the Hellenised Jews, who claim that the Levitical laws were no longer applicable, by giving them heavenly origin and pushing their observance back long before Moses.

Chapter 46

The Bible presents Jacob's sons freaking out after the death of their father, fearing that now Jacob is dead Joseph will take his revenge upon them for selling him into slavery. Not so in the Book of Jubilees:
Read more... )
When Jacob dies, his children take his body back to Cana`an to bury him, but when Joseph dies, he merely makes the Israelites swear to rebury him in Cana`an when God will at some future point pay attention to the Israelites and bring them up out of Egypt. This reason isn't good enough for Jubilees, which comes up with a midrash to explain it:
He knew that the Egyptians would not again bring forth and bury him in the land of Canaan, for Makamaron, king of Canaan, while dwelling in the land of Assyria, fought in the valley with the king of Egypt and slew him there, and pursued after the Egyptians to the gates of Hermon. But he was not able to enter, for another, a new king, had become king of Egypt, and he was stronger than him. So he returned to the land of Canaan, and the gates of Egypt were closed: none went out and none came into Egypt.
It goes on to say:
The children of Israel brought forth all the bones of the children of Jacob save the bones of Joseph, and they buried them in the field in the double cave in the mountain. And the most (of them) returned to Egypt, but a few of them remained in the mountains of Hebron, and Amram your father remained with them. Then the king of Canaan was victorious over the king of Egypt, and he closed the gates of Egypt.

Now this is interesting; what's going on here? My guess is that a continuous Israelite presence in the land of Cana`an is necessary for the Israelites to know, when they emerged from Egypt after 210 years, where their holy sites were in the land of Cana`an. Alternatively, ch. 37 decribed how the sons of Jacob imposed servitude upon the Edomites "until this day"; there would need to remain Israelites in Cana`an for that too.

But what is the narrator's point in having Amram specifically locked out of Egypt? I have no idea; what about you? Jubilees states in the following chapter that Amram returned to Egypt after an exile of what if you add up the dates (expressed in pounds, shillings and pence jubilees, weeks and years) comes out as somewhere between forty and sixty-one years.

To dip into next week's sedra briefly (because it ties in thematically here), the Bible gives the fear that the ever-multiplying Israelites will side with an enemy of Egypt in a war as a reason that the Egyptians enslaved them; Jubilees ties this in with the war referred to above explicitly says "their hearts and faces are towards the land of Canaan".

[Dead Sea Scroll of Jubilees] Jubilees posts                     Jewish learning notes index

lethargic_man: (computer geekery)
Does anyone have any recommendations for email and web hosting providers?

At present I use my ISP for email and for my website. My website doesn't have much on it, and I suspect most of what's there never gets looked at, but there are a few things I find it useful for hosting, such as my Jewish learning notes index, the Wandering Jews Friday night siddur and photos which I share online. Sometimes I post the latter to Facebook, but I don't like partial loss of control over my images which uploading photos to Facebook or Flickr involves, so more often I don't. (Also my Hebrew and Arabic entry forms, and the web version of my CV, and, for a few weeks each year, the register of people coming for a meal in my succah.)

All this is going to change, however, shortly, when I terminate my contract with my ISP when I move. [livejournal.com profile] aviva_m doesn't appear to have a similar deal with her ISP, so I need to find replacements. GMail is an obvious contender for hosting my email, and I believe I can continue downloading my email with POP3, Internet-child of the 1990s as I am. [personal profile] liv, remind me why you won't use GMail, and what you recommend instead...?

One possibility for web provisioning would be to switch to using the company that provides my domain; this would save me £10 a year redirecting emails and URLs, but cost me £30 a year for the hosting. This seems a bit steep to me, for my needs (simple hosting (no CGI required), low capacity (currently 105Mb), low traffic), but maybe that's par for the course; I'm not used to paying for a website separately. Does anyone else have any recommendations?
lethargic_man: "Happy the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding."—Prov. 3:13. Icon by Tamara Rigg (limmud)

Chapter 43

After Joseph's divining cup is found in Benjamin's money bag, and Joseph demands that Benjamin is left behind as slave for him, Judah exclaims:
Read more... )
In Jubilees, Judah does engage in the outright lie that Joseph is dead, but still (not surprisingly) weasels out of speaking the truth:
Read more... )

Chapter 44

In Genesis, as soon as Jacob learns Joseph is still alive, he sets off for Egypt, and gets as far as Be'er Sheva` before God appears to him and tells him not to fear going to Egypt. In Jubilees, he's a bit more circumspect:
Read more... )

When giving the genealogy of the sons of the Israelites as they went into Egypt, the Bible says "the sons [plural] of Dan" but lists only Ḥushim (in another place his name is metathesised to Shuḥam); Jubilees adds Samon, Asudi, 'Ijaka, and Salomon (I have no idea where it gets these names from), but then says "they died the year in which they entered into Egypt, and there was left to Dan Hushim alone."

Similarly, to Naftali's sons is added 'Iv, of whom it says "'Iv, who was born after the years of famine, died in Egypt." The narrative concludes, strangely:

Read more... )

[Dead Sea Scroll of Jubilees] Jubilees posts                     Jewish learning notes index

lethargic_man: "Happy the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding."—Prov. 3:13. Icon by Tamara Rigg (limmud)
These are the kings that reigned in Edom before there reigned any king over the children of Israel in the land of Edom. Balaq, the son of Beor, reigned in Edom, and the name of his city was Danaba.
This king is called Bela` in the Bible (Gen. 36, end of פ׳ וַיִּשְׁלַח). I'm not sure why the name's been changed, but it's confusing, because there's a story involving Balaq king of Moab and Bile`am son of Be`or in Numbers!

Chapter 40

When Pharaoh appoints Joseph as (to use an anachronism) grand vizier, a herald goes before him proclaiming "El El wa Abirer". In the Bible the people cry before him (Gen. 41:43) "Avrech!". Does this represent an independent tradition as to what they cry? And what does it mean? The traditional commentators have tried to interpret "Avrech" as Hebrew (the KJV renders it "bend the knee"), but it's not a well-formed Hebrew word. More likely it's a mangling into Hebrew of something Egyptian (as is the name Pharaoh gives Joseph, Zaphenath-Pa`aneaḥ); does this apply to "El El wa Abirer" too?

(As an aside, I find "Avrech" amusing for a completely different reason, which is an in-joke that will require a little explanation. When I worked for the BBC, there was a voice-recognition system on the internal 'phone network, which, as was the case for voice recognition in the noughties, left somewhat to be desired. Thus it would say "What name do you require?" and you would reply, say, "Paul Harding", whereupon frequently it would say "Calling Chris Thompson unless you say 'cancel'." Thus attempts to make internal 'phone calls were often punctuated with cries of "Cancel!" Now, Greek and Classical Latin both lacked letters to represent the sound "v", hence "avrech" is traditionally transcribed "abrech!", and abrech (albeit pronounced slightly differently) is the German word for "cancel!", so I have this vision in my head of the Egyptians all going "Cancel! cancel!" on their 'phones as Joseph comes along. Yes, I have a strange imagination.)

[Dead Sea Scroll of Jubilees] Jubilees posts                     Jewish learning notes index

lethargic_man: "Happy the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding."—Prov. 3:13. Icon by Tamara Rigg (limmud)
In Sunday's episode, we saw Esau promising Isaac and Rebecca that he will maintain good relations with Jacob after their deaths, and respect the transfer of birthright to Jacob. So far, so good, but you kind of expect the story's not going to have a good outcome, and indeed it doesn't:

Chapter 37

On the day that Isaac the father of Jacob and Esau died, the sons of Esau heard that Isaac had given the portion of the elder to his younger son Jacob and they were very angry. They strove with their father, saying 'Why has your father given Jacob the portion of the elder and passed over you, though you are the elder and Jacob the younger?'
When Esau tells them why, and of the oath he swore to keep the peace with Jacob, they reply:
"We won't listen to you to make peace with him! Our strength is greater than his strength, and we are more powerful than him; we will go against him and slay him, and destroy him and his sons. And if you won't go along with us, we shall do hurt to you too!"

They come up with a plan of hiring Aramean, Philistine, Moabite and Ammonite mercenaries; when Esau tells them not to lest they be slain, they say "Well, this is just typical of you!" (as the modern translation puts it).

Showdown at Abraham's tower )

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Lethargic Man (anag.)

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