September 13, 2013 Leave a comment
Today, our Jewish friends celebrate the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, which is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people.
May 29, 2013 1 Comment
It was virtually ignored for centuries, but what may be the world’s oldest Torah, the holy book of the Jewish faith, has now been discovered at the world’s oldest university.
The priceless scroll was found in the archives of Bologna University, which was founded in 1088 and predates both Oxford and Cambridge.
The scroll, written in Hebrew, is 118ft long and 25 inches wide and consists of the first five books of the Jewish Bible, from Bereshit (the equivalent of Genesis) to Devarim (Deuteronomy).
It had been wrongly dated to the 17th century by a librarian who studied it in 1889, but it now transpires that it is more than 800 years old.
The discovery was made by Mauro Perani, the university’s professor of Hebrew.
He recently re-examined the scroll and noticed that the script was from a Babylonian tradition that suggested it was much older than previously thought.
The Torah, inscribed on soft lamb skin, also bore “letters and symbols” that were forbidden in later copies under rules laid down by Jewish scholars, Prof Perani said.
“At that point I sent photos of the scroll to some of the world’s leading experts. They all agreed that it dated to the 12th or 13th centuries. One scholar believed it could even date back to the 11th century.” The scroll was then subjected to carbon dating tests by the University of Salento in Italy and a laboratory at the University of Illinois in the United States.
The tests confirmed the scholars’ opinions, dating the text to between 1155 and 1225.
“That makes it the oldest complete Torah scroll in the world,” said Prof Perani.
Torah scrolls are extremely rare because most were eventually destroyed after being used in Jewish liturgies.
“When the manuscripts became worn out, it was considered that they lost their holiness. They could no longer be used for religious ceremonies and they were buried,” Prof Perani said.
Until now, the oldest Torah script in existence dated from the 14th century.
How the scroll ended up in Bologna remains a mystery, according to Biancastella Antonino, the head of the library.
It will be put on display next month at Bologna University. It will also be photographed and uploaded in digital format onto the library’s website.
January 27, 2013 Leave a comment
A post over at Cranmer which simply must be reproduced in full:
Those who have visited Auschwitz are likely to find their thoughts straying back there on this day of Holocaust remembrance.
A visit both underwhelms with the very ordinariness of the buildings, yet at the same time the significance overwhelms, as Auschwitz reaffirms its special place in the pit of human history.
A visit needs to be approached like a pilgrimage, with preparation, otherwise there will be a numbing of the experience, a confusion of conflicting emotions which may encompass anger, indignation, bewilderment and the deepest sadness. The reactions of others around you may mirror your own, yet they may not, and that too can be a challenge. Some seem visibly shocked, some deeply affected, some struggle, whilst others present as merely curious and that response can be a challenge as it may offends one’s own interpretation.
The Holocaust was possible because the humanity of the rejected was stripped away from them as it was, is, and always will be from the unwanted, yesterday, today, and tomorrow, wherever we are in the world.
Holocaust Memorial Day needs its universal dimension.
There, all humanity was killed in a systematic, planned way; not in anger, but simply because that is what the state said needed to be done, and someone had to do it.
It has to be universal, but it also has to be rooted in places like Auschwitz, which shows how genocide moves beyond the personal killing of Abel by Cain. Here it is shown in all its bureaucratic, banal evil. Hair is cropped and piled here, children’s shoes collected and dumped over there.
When I visited, I realised that I would need to take a Bible and that I should find a suitable quiet place to read it. I decided on Psalm 88 and Psalm 10. I invite you to read them. You will find there the anguish of those who wore the prayer shawls captured in verse after verse.
Psalm 88 O LORD God of my salvation, have cried day and night before thee: let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry; for my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave. I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength: free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves.
Psalm 10 Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? Why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble? The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined. For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the LORD abhorreth. The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts. His ways are always grievous; thy judgments are far above out of his sight: as for all his enemies, he puffeth at them. He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved: for I shall never be in adversity.
These Psalms surely must have been prayed under those shawls.
Psalm 88 is particularly striking because of its steadfast refusal to find any cause for optimism. “Life is grim,” says the Psalmist. “I know it is grim, God – you know it is grim.”
‘Let’s not kid each other’ is the subtext.
It concludes with no verse of praise, no expectation of redemption, no hope. This is why I think Psalm 88 must have been the Psalm for Auschwitz. The evil was so evil that it takes mortal man beyond hope.
Yet surprisingly Psalm 10 begins to recover from the blow. It ends:
O LORD thou wilt hear the desire of the meek thou wilt strengthen their heart thou wilt incline thine ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
I chose to read these psalms before I went, and I found the place to contemplate their meaning as I stood before those prayer shawls displayed as if on a gibbet in a cabinet. Surely these psalms expressed the prayers of those who suffered and prayed under them.
Many who are separated from the scriptures by the modern world may be shocked by their candour, directness, and anger. God is no stranger to the outrage of those who suffer. Two things are striking: Psalm 88 is in the same spirit as those who urged Job to ‘Curse God and die’. Psalm 10, which retains hope, pre-figures the ‘Song of Mary’ – The Magnificat.
Let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire
He has scattered the Proud in the imagination of their hearts.
And so God did.
So He did.
The underlying sin of Auschwitz and the genocidal killer is that of Adam himself - Pride. The proud have supplanted the judgment of God with the judgment of themselves. They take to themselves the right to judge and the power of life and death itself, and when Man does that, it leads to places like Auschwitz.
It does not last. If the world hates His people, it hated Him first and God is not mocked for long.
Auschwitz also teaches that early in its story the Atheist Nazi State consigned to the camp the leaders of Polish Church lest it speak its truths, hold its peoples to hope, and challenge the inhumanity of what was to come, and the pride that underpinned it.
As God sent His son, so it sent His Church.
Amongst those was Maximillian Kolbe, ‘The Saint of Auschwitz, who lit a feint light in the darkness by laying down his life in place of another man. His story is worth reading today: it is one of sacrifice and the triumph of faith and hope.
Yet there is another lesson and paradox to be found at Auschwitz today. It is full of living Jews. Young Jews, confident Jews, handsome young men and beautiful young girls, tanned and healthy carrying their flag. They, too, are on pilgrimage and have prepared themselves for it.
They represent the refusal to allow the triumph of those who hated them then and who hate them today. Their presence demonstrates the power of hope in all places of despair, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
God will not have it any other way. As the Jewish singer-poet Leonard Cohen has written: ‘There is a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in.’
It is true about our fractured humanity, our brittle pride, and our broken hearts.
Before the Prayer Shawls of Auschwitz, it is possible to doubt and to cry out, “How can this happen? How can this be redeemed?”
With His living Church and His Chosen People, the answer comes back on this and every other day: ‘Because with God – all things are possible’.
(Posted by Brother Ivo)
January 7, 2013 41 Comments
What’s with the perpetual anti-Semitic leanings of this Society?!
The head of a controversial Catholic sect says that Jews are “enemies of the Church,” but the sect has denied any anti-Semitic intentions.
Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, declared Jews “enemies of the Church” during a talk that aired on a Canadian radio station, the Catholic News Agency recently reported. Fellay’s remarks took place on Dec. 28 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Chapel in New Hamburg, Ontario.
Fellay, discussing negotiations with the Vatican in 2012 concerning the Society’s future, said the following during the address: “Who, during that time, was the most opposed that the Church would recognize the Society? The enemies of the Church. The Jews, the Masons, the Modernists.”
Fellay said Jewish leaders’ support of the Second Vatican Council “shows that Vatican II is their thing, not the Church’s,” according to the Catholic Register.
The Second Vatican Council modernized the Catholic Church in the 1960s and is the reason the Society of St. Pius X split from the main body and was founded in 1970 as part of the Traditionalist Catholic movement. Some traditionalists blame Jews for the reforms that took place during the Vatican II council meetings, notes the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The Society of St. Pius X posted a press release in response to Fellay’s “enemies of the Church” comment, denying any anti-Semitic connotations. The release reads that “enemies” refers to “any group or religious sect which opposes the mission of the Catholic Church and her efforts to fulfill it: the salvation of souls.”
The release continued thus:
By referring to the Jews, Bishop Fellay’s comment was aimed at the leaders of Jewish organizations, and not the Jewish people, as is being implied by journalists. Accordingly the Society of St. Pius X denounces the repeated false accusations of anti-Semitism or hate speech made in an attempt to silence its message.
This is not the first time one of the sect’s members has spoken out against Jews.
In 1985, one of the Society’s founders, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre also identified enemies of the sect as “Jews, Communists and Freemasons,” according to JTA. In addition, traditionalist Bishop Richard Williamson has denied that the Nazis used gas chambers to kill Jews in the Holocaust and that no more than 200,000 to 300,000 died during WWII.
Jesuit Priest Rev. James Martin expressed his disapproval of Fellay’s comment and of the Society in general. “I cannot imagine how any further talks can continue with the group,” Martin told The Huffington Post. “Theologians have been silenced for dissenting in lesser ways from official church teaching.
Meanwhile, via the Washington Post:
The Vatican reaffirmed its commitment to dialogue with Jews on Monday (Jan. 7) after the head of a traditionalist breakaway group called them “enemies of the Church.”
The Vatican chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said that it was “meaningless” and “unacceptable” to label Jews as “enemies” of the Catholic Church.
“Both Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor John Paul II personally engaged in dialogue with Jews,” he said. As a sign of their commitment, Lombardi noted the two popes’ visits to Jerusalem’s Western Wall, Judaism’s most sacred site, and to synagogues in Rome and elsewhere.
The Vatican reassurance came after Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), said on Dec. 28 that “the enemies of the Church: the Jews, the Masons, the modernists” were opposing the group’s reconciliation with the church.
Fellay assessed the status of relations between the SSPX and the Vatican in a long speech at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy in New Hamburg, Ontario. The audio of the speech was posted on YouTube on Dec. 30.
At Benedict’s prompting, the Vatican in 2009 opened talks to repair the decades-long breach with the SSPX, focusing on the group’s rejection of the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), which revolutionized the church’s relations with Judaism.
Anti-Semitic strains within the SSPX have been a major headache for the Vatican; shortly after Benedict lifted the 1988 excommunications of four SSPX bishops, it emerged that one of the bishops, Richard Williamson, was a vocal denier of the Holocaust…
On Monday, Lombardi stressed that he was not directly responding to Fellay’s words but merely restating the church’s official position on relations with Jews, which dates to the Second Vatican Council. He declined to comment on the potential impact of Fellay’s words on the dialogue between the Vatican and the SSPX.
Jews are “enemies of the Church,” the head of a radical Catholic sect said in Canada.
Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, made the remark during a Dec. 28 address at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy in New Hamburg, Ontario, about 90 minutes’ drive west of Toronto. He was reviewing the situation of the society, which opposes Catholic Church reforms decided by the Second Vatican Council and is not recognized by the Church.
According to an audio recording posted on YouTube two days later, Fellay spoke about the society’s three years of discussions with the Vatican over the society’s future and explained how he interpreted behind-the-scenes communications.
Apparently speaking without a text, Fellay asked, “Who during that time was the most opposed that the Church would recognize the society? The enemies of the Church: the Jews, the Masons, the Modernists.”
According to the Catholic News Service, Fellay added that Jewish leaders’ support of reforming Second Vatican Council “shows that Vatican II is their thing, not the Church’s.”
As of Friday, there was no response from the society’s Swiss headquarters to a Catholic News Service email request for comment, the agency reported.
The Society of St. Pius X, , was founded in 1970 as a reaction against the Vatican’s efforts to modernize. In 2009, Pope Benedict launched talks with the society and lifted excommunications imposed on its four bishops.
One of the bishops was Richard Williamson, who has denied that the Nazis used gas chambers and asserted that no more than 200,000 to 300,000 Jews died during World War II…
December 19, 2012 Leave a comment
And he is South African born.
Britain’s chief rabbi-designate is to be Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis of Finchley Synagogue, the United Synagogue has announced.
He will be Anglo-Jewry’s 11th chief rabbi. And, like most of his predecessors, Rabbi Mirvis is not British-born.
But the 56-year-old South African-born rabbi, the son and grandson of religious leaders, has spent a large part of his career serving Anglo-Saxon communities.
This, of course, is not his first chief rabbinate. He was Chief Rabbi of Ireland from 1985 to 1992, and for three years before that was minister of Dublin’s Adelaide Road Synagogue.
Rabbi Mirvis comes from a family of rabbis and teachers. His grandfather, Rev Lazar Mirvis, was a minister in Johannesburg, while his father, Rabbi Dr Lionel Mirvis, led the Claremont Synagogue and also the Wynberg Hebrew Congregation in Cape Town.
His mother, Freida, was principal of the Athlone Teachers Training College, which, during the apartheid years, was the only college for black teachers of pre-school instruction in South Africa.
After leaving Cape Town for Israel, where he attended a number of yeshivot and obtained his semicha (rabbinical qualification), Rabbi Mirvis married Zimbabwe-born Valerie Kaplan, a former senior social worker with Jewish Care, who now works for a local authority in the same capacity. The couple have four sons.
Along the way Rabbi Mirvis qualified as a shochet, mohel and chazan. Between 1992 and 1996 he was the rabbi of Marble Arch Synagogue. Since 1996 he has become synonymous with the ever-growing Finchley Synagogue, one of the biggest congregations in London.
A member of his congregation said on Monday night: “The congregation is torn. They know he is the best candidate to be chief rabbi. But they will miss him desperately. They think he is irreplaceable.”
It is more than two years since Lord Sacks’ retirement date was announced.
His departure was announced at a United Synagogue council meeting on December 13, 2010.
Then US President Simon Hochhauser made clear that there would be a successor and said focus groups would be used during the recruitment process.
Rabbi Mirvis was the long-time frontrunner for the role, but the US selection procedure nonetheless took months longer than expected. It was first intended to name the new chief by Rosh Hashanah 2012.
October 24, 2012 9 Comments
Via First Thoughts:
Yes, says the head of the Hebrew Studies Department at Tanta University in Egypt, Muhammad Galaa Idris. In an interview on Egypt’s Al-Rahma TV, he informs us that Pope Benedict XVI is either Jewish or has been “Judaized”:
The Egyptian academic said this in an interview in January 2012 with Al-Rahma TV, according to footage recorded and translated by MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute. “The current pope Benedict IV or VII or whatever is even more Zionist then Herzl,” said Idris, adding “I follow his statements, and I’ve already said, that if that man is not a Jew then he has been Judaized. . . . He is more Zionist than the Zionists themselves.”
Some falsehoods flatter, and all I have to say in response to this one is viva la papa!
September 30, 2012 Leave a comment
The Jewish Feast of the Tabernacle, Sukkot, begins at sundown on Sept. 30, 2012, and ends at nightfall on Oct. 7. The Festival of Booths, as Sukkot is also known, is observed from the 15th to the 21st of the Tishrei in the Jewish year of 5773.
For the eight days and seven nights of Sukkot, Jews traditionally eat and sleep in a sukkah, a temporary dwelling with a thatched roof, from which the holiday gets its name. Two other components of the holiday are inviting guests, or ushpizin, and waving the four species, known as the lulav and etrog.
Sukkot is one of three biblically mandated holidays for which the ancient tribes made a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. The holiday is based on the verse: “Every resident among the Israelites shall live in booths, in order that your [ensuing] generations should know that I had the children of Israel live in booths when I took them out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 23:42-43). The sukkah is a physical remembrance of the “clouds of glory” that surrounded and protected the Israelites as they wandered the desert after escaping from Egypt.
The commandment regarding the “four species” — the lulav (palm, willow and myrtle) and etrog (citron) — also comes from chapter 23 of Leviticus: “And you shall take for yourselves on the first day [of Sukkot], the fruit of the hadar tree [myrtle], date palm fronds, a branch of a braided tree, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for a seven day period” (23:40). The lulav and etrog are held together and, after reciting a blessing, waved in six directions — forward, backward, left, right, up and down — in acknowledgment of God’s dominion over all creation.
Another important aspect of Sukkot is welcoming of guests (ushpizin in Aramaic) into the sukkah. While people actually invite friends, family and strangers into their hand-built temporary homes, on each night of Sukkot a different ancestral guest, leading the entire group of “holy shepherds,” is said to enter the sukkah, and Jewish teachings are invoked in their names. The ushpizin — Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David — embody seven different spiritual paths that, together, bring humanity and all of creation to a more perfected state: Abraham is lovingkindness, Isaac is strength, Jacob represents harmony, Moses is eternality through Torah, Aaron is divine splendor, Joseph is spiritual foundation and David embodies sovereignty.
September 26, 2012 2 Comments
Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the year for Jews.
Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jewish people traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services. Yom Kippur completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora’im (“Days of Awe”).
Yom Kippur is the tenth day of the month of Tishrei. According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into a book, the Book of Life, on Rosh Hashanah, and waits until Yom Kippur to “seal” the verdict. During the Days of Awe, a Jew tries to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God (bein adam leMakom) and against other human beings (bein adam lechavero). The evening and day of Yom Kippur are set aside for public and private petitions and confessions of guilt (Vidui). At the end of Yom Kippur, one hopes that they have been forgiven by God.
The Yom Kippur prayer service includes several unique aspects. One is the actual number of prayer services. Unlike a regular day, which has three prayer services (Ma’ariv, the evening prayer; Shacharit, the morning prayer; and Mincha, the afternoon prayer), or a Shabbat or Yom Tov, which have four prayer services (Ma’ariv; Shacharit; Mussaf, the additional prayer; and Mincha), Yom Kippur has five prayer services (Ma’ariv; Shacharit; Musaf; Mincha; and Ne’ilah, the closing prayer). The prayer services also include private and public confessions of sins (Vidui) and a unique prayer dedicated to the special Yom Kippur avodah (service) of the Kohen Gadol in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem…
Haaretz reports from Israel:
Israel came to a virtual standstill at sundown Tuesday as Jews began observing the start of the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, the 25 hours of fasting and contemplation known as Yom Kippur.
Israel’s security establishment and emergency services have been put on high alert Tuesday ahead of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
The IDF and Israel Police beefed up patrols in cities, and around synagogues, and officers were also stationed at the entrances to towns. A comprehensive closure of West Bank border crossings went into effect on Monday night, and will continue until midnight on Wednesday. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said that individuals will be allowed to cross in cases of extreme medical or humanitarian emergency, subject to the approval of the Civil Administration. Magen David Adom has reinforced its stations throughout the country with extra personnel on Yom Kippur in order to provide rapid medical care for cyclists and those fasting, should the need arise. The fast began in Tel Aviv at 5:11 P.M., and will end at 6:09 P.M. on Wednesday. In Jerusalem, the fast began at 4:56 P.M., and will end at 6:07 P.M. on Wednesday. In Be’er Sheva, fasting began at 5:14 P.M., and will end at 6:09 P.M. In Haifa, the fast began at 5:02 P.M, and will end at 6:08 P.M. As the fast began, synagogues throughout Israel opened their doors for “Kol Nidrei” prayers.