Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Right of return and the curse of the aberrant covenant

Separation barrier dividing Israel
“...and your descendants shall inherit the gates of their enemies”. The meaning of this verse from Gen. 22:16-18 remained cryptic to me until I stumbled across a shocking explanation that unlocked the mystery. First; this promise was made to Abraham for overcoming his natural instinct to fulfill the will of God and offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Second; prior context is important because the binding of Isaac and offering is introduced by the statement  “...and it was after these events”. What events?

The events refer to the inter-tribal pact Abraham made with Abi Melech (Father King) in Aza (modern Gaza) allowing Abi Melech’s living descendants to stay in the land, importantly  Gaza, Hebron and Shalem (Jerusalem). Immediately after offering Isaac, Sarah died and Abraham returned to Hebron to bury his wife. Notwithstanding Abraham’s  inheritance of the land through his direct descendant Shem or Malchi Tzedek (King of Justice), he upheld the pact. He negotiated with Abi Melech’s relative Ephron, King of the Hittites to buy the grave-cave plot in Hebron known as Machpelah. Later, after Isaac’s water wells were destroyed by Abi Melech’s shepherds, for a renewed promise of peace Isaac extended Abraham's pact to include the living and future descendants of Abi Melech.

Fast forward 400 years to the time Israel returned from Egypt. Then, a tumultuous 300 years followed when Israel was mostly preoccupied settling their land. It is known as the time of Israel’s appointed judges, one of whom was Samson. Most people know the famous story of Samson and his Philistine wife Delilah, in which she convinced him to reveal his hair as the secret source of his strength. When he was sleeping she cut it, which led to imprisonment and death during his redemptive act, the destruction of the idolatrous Philistine temple of Dagon in Gaza.

In one other lesser known story that occurred immediately before Samson met Delilah, he ripped out the heavy doors held between the stone gates of the Philistine city and marched them on his shoulders to the mountain opposite Hebron, a distance of 60 Kilometers. We are not told much more about this episode, so it puzzled me for some time as I paged through various books looking for clues. We can suppose that the mountain opposite Hebron was Kiryat Arba or Alonei Mamre the original dwelling place of Abraham. So, what was Samson trying to demonstrate by his obvious and purposeful actions?     

We know Samson was a nazarite from birth, totally committed to God and the appointed leader of the rear guard tribe Dan. We also know that Dan was the last tribe to settle its allotted land, but that due to Philistine resistance, reinforced by the earlier covenants with Abraham and Isaac they were unable to conquer it. Similar resistance was met in Hebron and Jerusalem, which Israel’s tribes were also unable to conquer. Further, the other tribes, who had previously joined the collective struggle of re-occupation abandoned their effort to support the last tribe Dan. This forced the burgeoning tribe to look for land and in their transient state their leaders restlessly sought solutions ultimately part re-locating in Laish, near today’s Golan Heights.

The recurring theme through the stories of Samson are of strength and resistance almost tangential is his role as highest judge of the tribes. Carrying the gate of Gaza representing the region allotted to tribe Dan, Samson was crying out in desperation that his tribe and his nation confront the effect of the aberrant covenant of Abraham and Isaac by defeating their Philistine enemy. In protest he marched the door of Gaza to the home of Abraham, reminding the nation that they had not yet fulfilled their obligation to settle the entire land, Samson was protesting Israel’s continuing and erroneous regard for the aberrant covenant.    

“...and it was after these events”  Abraham demonstrated his faith by offering Isaac “...and your descendants shall inherit the gates of their enemies”, but not in Samson’s time! Dejected he leaked his secret to Delilah, destroyed the temple of Dagon where he died.  Approximately 300 years later David first ruled as King of Judaea in Hebron before he infiltrated the walled city of Jerusalem and obtained influence over Abi Melech’s descendant, the incumbent Jeubusite King, Araunah. Progressively King David increased his dominance eventually uniting Israels disparate tribes, however he too was distracted, unable to rectify the allotment of tribe Dan by conquering Gaza.  

Almost 3000 years have passed since Israel relinquished the opportunity to fully realize the benefits of their entire land. In 2005 the order by Arik Sharon to dismantle Gush Katif and the towns built around Gaza by Jewish families was the last real opportunity to overcome the curse of the aberrant covenants that continues to prevent Israel from its rightful return to Gaza, Hebron and parts of Jerusalem. Perhaps Israel will once again merit a leader that is capable to finally rectify the past and strong enough to resist foreign diplomatic offers of security for fragile short term peace. Inevitably we must look forward to a generation that will be united in its demand for full restoration of the Israel’s inheritance to restore the rights of all its tribes and bring order to its land. Maybe that will that be Generation 5800?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Come into My garden...

Red finger at the apex of cemetery pointing to Gihon Spring 
Jewish scholars frequently related the 'neck' to the Temple's location in Jerusalem. Verse 4:4 in King Solomon's Song of Songs can be translated from its 22 letter Hebrew origin to: "Your neck is the tower of David, built as an ornament." Rabbi Chaim Vital, a student of 15th century Rabbi, Yitzchak Luria -- known as The Ari, quoted this verse in order to explain the secret meaning of Exodus 12:40 which describes the children of Israel as they left their state of exile, "And the dwelling of the Israelites in Egypt was 430 years."

To elucidate Rabbi Vital attributes five constrictions that distinguish God from His inconceivable state to establish conceivable natural order. Rabbi Vital explains that God uses His name "Elo(h)im" which connotes constriction and is therefore, representative of His natural manifestation. The numerical value of this name equals 86. Rabbi Vital brings this together by multiplying the 5 states of constriction by 86 which equals 430. Moreover, 86, God's constricted state also numerically equates with the Hebrew word - 'hateva' meaning "The Nature."  

A few lines after the quote relating the tower of David to 'the neck', the following line appears; "I have come into My garden, My sister, My bride". Rabbi Menachem Schneerson known as - The Rebbe, drew inspiration from this for his inaugural recital, Basi LeGani, the last work by his father-in-law before his death. The Rebbe presented his recital, upon his acceptance as the seventh and final Rebbe of Lubavitch. Basi LeGani describes the brilliance of release from exile relating its realization to the Temple in which God's name, in His ultimate 'inconceivable' state, is exclusively revealed. For an individual, the physical Temple would simultaneously be the deeply spiritual place in which God, in His ultimate, inclusive state reveals one's truest, most soulful purpose in the physical world. 

The neck is the body's constricted conduit between the head and the heart. At the front it houses, vessels for speech, nourishment, blood and breath (known as Joseph), at the rear the protective spine feeds brain signals to the heart and body (known as Pharaoh). In the time it takes for the brain's signal to pass through the neck Jewish mystics suggest the transfer of thought to physical action is exposed to disruption. For example, synchronizing quickly formed brain signals to form speech/words in larynx and mouth is often problematic. Overcoming this potential shortcoming is a free choice, moreover it is a choice in which one's state-of-mind is critical to the outcome. 

In these verses, the Hebrew word used for the neck's ornament is 'talpiot', which is allegorically expressed by the sages as a contraction of two words that mean, "the heap (that was and will again be) beautiful" or "the mount (which and to which) all mouths (will) pray." The mystical interpretation of the ornament as an adornment to the neck could fill many books, but I wish to focus here only on its related geo-physical implication. 

In Jerusalem's City of David there exists a 'heap' or 'mound,' the subject of much excavation over the past 30 years. Today, this heap is known as the 'tower' and it is built over Jerusalem's only perennial spring known as Gihon. Recent excavations at this location revealed archaeological features so powerful they could literally rock the world. The findings contain bronze-age bedrock structures extensively used for sacrificial worship and, fortified to protect their sanctity. Around these structures Jerusalem grew into the city it is today. 

At this excavation a small, single monument, a sliver of stone, remarkably (since no other like it has survived) remains standing after more than 3500 years. Supported in a frame of 12 stones, it marks the spot where Jacob slept on the night he left Israel, exiled while fleeing his brother and the spot where he returned to accept the name Israel. Whilst this small stone is indeed monumental, its source (according to Midrash) would have been extracted from the adjacent fully intact altar ramp. This altar was used well before Abraham offered his son Isaac, and that makes the site earth-shattering because, according to the scholarly works, yet contrary to all expectations, it would also mark the spot for Jerusalem's third and final Temple

Topographically, the exposed bedrock of this sacred mountain, visible in its entirety in the bronze-age, would have resembled a head and neck when viewed by Abraham on his southern approach. Additionally, the location of the tower or fortress of of David's citadel at the present excavation would approximate the place on which an ornament adorning the neck would lie. King David re-conquered this mountain on which a fortified city had previously been founded. From the City of David, he planned the first Temple, never knowing, realizing or revealing the true location of its altar. David's son, Solomon, eventually built the Temple where his father planned, on the head of the mountain within the approximate boundaries of today's Temple Mount where the second temple was also built. 

If we pay attention to the overwhelming preponderance of evidence from the Bible's exegesis, the location of the tower of David as the neck's ornament marks "the heap (that was and will again be) beautiful" or "the mount (which and to which) all mouths pray", yet this is the site which King David denied us when determining his plans. In reconstructing the evidence, it is likely that, 200 years after King David, King Hezekiah realized this, diverted the water of the Gihon, extended the city walls, and built around the tower of David to mark, protect and hide this holy site for future generations. In doing so, his grief almost killed him. 

The shocking revelations at this location will surely be a significant catalyst to change the status quo and existing states of mind just as The Rebbe to rescue modern Judaism from its post holocaust demise. As such it presents enormous difficulties and challenges especially among religious Jews who are likely to constrict and dismiss this revelation reverting to their customary or orthodox interpretations of the Temple's location. In many ways our realization of the rectified state-of-mind and its expression through speech is the final redemption in which we all accept that knowledge constitutes a completion of our exiled state. If we learn to embrace all inputs as a holistic convergence, a unification of opposites, we get to experience and realize our ultimate and aggregate potential. 

Mystics and scholars of the Hebrew Torah who left a trail of clues did so to promote this rectified state of exile emphasizing the holistic perspective; a world devoid of happenstance where every occurrence has its Divine purpose. Their writings stare in Israel's face, unequivocally declaring its sole and exclusive, indigenous right to their garden, the land of its people. Other than for momentary abandonments through exile, because of aggression against Israel since the time of Joshua, more than 3000 years ago Jerusalem has been held by Jews. Now Israel and its leaders must boldly pursue its inherent, often unexpected wisdom to dismiss with conviction and fortitude international leaders who demand Israel's exiled state continues. Now is the time to finally take its rightful place as the nation by whom other nations are inspired and to complete the glorious mission started by Jacob so many years ago.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Gedaliah who, the determined Jew?

Tzitzit (fringes) cut from clothes of tribe Dan soldiers - The Megiddo Ivory
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob re-claimed Canaanite occupied land which amplified competition among the local tribal kings and regional powers. Ancient Canaanites were never dull, especially on the south coast which was hotly contested by invaders from north, south and east. Egyptians and Libyans controlled the coastal trade route through Gaza to Megiddo. Inland along the flat plains to the northeast competition was against their Hittite family and eventually returning Israelites under Joshua wrested control of most of the land. Then came the Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians advancing from the north to control access into Egypt and north Africa. Alternative access along the Jordan river and Dead Sea, although important, was often far more hostile.

During their 250 year sojourn, Jacob’s small family grew to a slave-community of millions living in Egypts eastern Nile delta. After departing the delta, on their 40 year nomadic journey to the promised land they built a temporary sanctuary and nurtured their wounded national identity. Their exodus vacated Egypt's Nile delta which became exposed to infiltrators. Torah, the Hebrew Bible, became Israel - the new nation’s constitutional and cultural manifesto. By the time Moses died, he had forged Torah’s principles of law and worship into their collective national psyche, but its open framework enabled fiercely competitive intra-tribal identities to express themselves in priority to apparent national interests.

Moses tasked Joshua to conquer the promised land for the 12 tribes of Israel to settle. Joshua accomplished this by leading each tribe through successive victories over 31 regional kings, each a descendant of Canaan son of Egypt’s founder, Mitzrayim the son of Ham. Ham’s brother Shem was granted the land of Canaan by their father Noah. Their brother Yafeth was given land north and east of Canaan in modern Iraq and Iran. The three regions belonging to Ham (Egypt), Shem (dubiously Canaan) and Yafeth (Mesopotamia) constituted the fertile crescent. The division of this valuable land established the basis for significant regional rivalry.

Dan was the last tribe Joshua assisted to settle their land. It was a difficult allocation for the hotly contested (south of modern day Tel Aviv) important Egyptian coastal trade route through Gaza, Ashkelon and Ashdod. The 64,000 eligible members of Dan were made up from only one family known as the Shuchamites, the descendants of Dan’s son Chushim. Dan's initial land grant was small and they may have been expected to expand south into land occupied by the Philistines (descendants of Mitzrayim’s grandson) to accommodate their growth. However, a previous tribal pact entered by Abraham and Isaac provided Philistine immunity in Gaza and their Hittite and Jebusite cousins obtained immunity in Hevron and Jerusalem. After Joshua, toward the end of the period of Israel’s Judges, Samson, a judge from the tribe of Dan married a Philistine woman - Delilah, which changed the course of history at the time.

Garment of captured Shasu 
presented to foreign king
Absent a new ruler or king there was little cohesiveness among the incongruous tribes of Israel. Dissatisfied and left to fend for themselves, the seniors of tribe Dan snaked a path north through Israel's tribal territories in search of easy to conquer land. During the same period Pharaoh Merenptah was pushing north through Israeli tribal land to attack the northern Hittites at the Battle of Kadesh. Tribal Dan, known to the Egyptians as the Shasu, conquered Laish in Israel’s north and settled the area between the Golan Heights and Damascus. Dan's territory was split between the south west (Gaza) and north east (Golan) of Israel. Dan, the disgruntled rear guard of Israel were left exposed to conflict, contact and trade with Israel's foreign invaders and neighbors. Their victories over local kings and dominance over trade routes heightened competition with other nations, tribes and led to regional tensions between Egypt and their burgeoning northern Hittite and Assyrian foes. The Hittites and Assyrians, predecessors of the Babylonians and Greeks, descended from Yafeth and shared a common Cuneiform language.

Around a hundred years later King David consolidated Israel’s disparate tribes briefly establishing a united kingdom and paving the way for his son King Solomon to finally realize the dream of Israel at peace with a permanent temple in Jerusalem. However, peace between the tribes endured only Solomon’s reign. Immediately thereafter the northern tribes under Yerovam split from those in the south under Rechavam and Dan's divided territory and presence straddled the divided nation. Around 300 years later the continued national division led to the prophecies of Yeshayahu (Isaiah) and Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) who predicted the destruction of Jerusalem by the Assyrians and its ultimate destruction by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar.

Under the Assyrians Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah, a righteous Jew to rule as his proxy, but he was murdered at a feast set by Ishmael ben Nethaniah of the tribe of Yehuda and the remaining Jews who had not already been exiled to Babylon were killed or fled to Egypt. Orthodox Jews observe the fast of Gedaliah immediately after Rosh HaShana in the 10 days of repentance preceding Yom Kippur, perhaps to recall some or all of Israel's sordid, competitive, self effacing history. The month from which the temple's destruction commenced was eventually named after Tammuz the Babylonian deity for food and agriculture and became the lowest point of the the Hebrew calendar.

Peace does not come easy, not for a lack of trying, but for lack of the unification King David tried so hard to realize in the middle of Israel's history. Now at the end of that history Jews the world over are having to find new and creative ways to consolidate their disparate views as the world compresses and apparent circumstance forces their hand to accept the essential ingredients that unify, forge and strengthen their national identity.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

One Rock!

A quick lesson in topography for those who are not familiar. The map of two mountains flattens at the summit, one colored green another blue. The concentric lines surrounding each represents the slope from summit to valley below. This image captures the undulating hills, each with a summit, slope and valley, huddled in Jerusalem’s holy basin.

 Ancient Jerusalem's Holy Basin
The mountain subject of this essay is Mount Moriah with summit colored green, valley boundary in red - it is a single rock, a monolith! On the summit stands the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine to Caliph Omar who conquered Jerusalem in 637 CE.
To its south, Al Aqsa Mosque, further south the Ophel followed by City of David and to its east, the perennial Gihon Spring.

According to Jewish tradition Mount Moriah is the foundation stone of the entire world, yet this tradition was reduced through history and to this day, most people believe the foundation stone to be a rock on the summit somewhere under the Dome of the Rock. This location was designated as the place the Holy of Holies once stood during the period of the first and second temples of Jerusalem. The rectangular area around the summit of Mount Moriah are the remains of the Temple Mount constructed by King Herod toward the end of the second temple era.

I have no doubt King David once built an altar on the summit of Mount Moriah (in the green zone) in accordance with Jewish tradition and no doubt the Holy of Holies of the first and second temples were built on that approximate location within the bounds of the Temple Mount. However, I deeply question whether the King did so to conceal the true location until its rightful time. You see according to Jewish law, then and now, the Holy of Holies obtains its location from the holy altar. For the temple to be a permanent fixture the altar must be located on the place Abraham offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice, the place to which his son Jacob returned and made a covenant to build the House of God.

The tradition of this rock can be traced back to many texts, but one in particular, the story of Jacob recalls Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer (chapter 35); ‘Now Jacob, on his journey from the house of his father, re-experiences that awe, a déjà vu of his father’s binding. Forced to lie down, arrested upon his journey by the sudden sunset, he experiences a primal fear, "How awesome is this place!" (v. 17). The vision of the ‘ladder’ is intended to be a palliative for that fear, a vision of the foundation of the temple, Beit Elokim (House of God), in that place. There Jacob sets up a monument of twelve-stones-fused-into-one to mark the spot.

matzevah light touched.jpg
Matzevah or monument of Jacob's covenant
According to Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer, what did God do? He stretched out His right foot [symbolic of eternity] and sank the stone deep into the earth, as one sets a keystone into an arch. Accordingly, the stone is called, even hashtya, the Foundation Stone, and there is the navel of the world and from there the whole Earth was stretched out [in the Act of Creation], and, upon that stone the temple of God stands.’

The unique stone in the image above is more than 3500 years old and was re-discovered in 2008. Somehow it is stable, sunken into the bedrock and surrounded by small boulders facing east on a high (upper) ridge, on the neck of Mount Moriah, west of the Gihon Spring. It has survived like no other artifact in the City of David. In context, as seen in the image below, it sits in one of four stone carved bedrock chambers exclusively dedicated for holy worship. They contain a grain press an oil press, features for processing small animals and an altar.

High Ridge Art (3).jpg
Upper Ridge West of the Gihon Spring
Archaeologist Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority discovered the stone, known as a matzevah. He recorded it was surrounded by soft, tightly packed earth, it and the entire upper ridge had been purposefully buried (based on other artifacts found in the layers above) by one of the last kings of Judah. Ongoing excavations at the site continue to yield first and second temple items, but soon for the first time in more than 2500 years, the area highlighted in green between the bedrock and this worship complex will be excavated and may inform us of its holy purpose.
Mount Moriah is associated with “HaMakom” meaning “The Place”, but where exactly on the mountain is the place? Where did Jacob locate his matzevah and dream of the ladder that extended to heaven on which angels were climbing up and down. According to tradition it is the head or summit, but according to more mystical sources the place is and will always be the neck. In time we will find out more, but for now the search continues to discover the special purpose of this holy place.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Once We Were Kings!

Of the end of days, Daniel 8:22 says - One was broken and four came instead - that means: four kingdoms will arise out of a nation, but without its power. When their kingdoms are at an end, when the measure of transgressions has been fulfilled, then a king will arise, impudent and versed in intrigue. He will have great strength, but not through his own strength. He will be extraordinarily destructive; he will prosper in what he does, and destroy the mighty and the people of holy ones. By his cunning, he will use deceit successfully. He will make great plans, will destroy many, taking them unawares and will rise up against the chief of chiefs, but will be broken, not by human hands.  

What you're about to read is an (edited) explanation provided by Rabbi Eliyahu Bunin on Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman known as the Vilna Gaon, who was commenting on The Zohar of Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai. From the Book Sod (Secrets) Hachashmal- on the end of days prophecy.

It is written there will be 44 kings of Edom. The 45th, the Zohar says will not arise, and 45 is gematria (Hebrew numerology) 'geula' (redemption). The Zohar gives very clear signs about the 44th King of Edom including his three inherent lineages - Eisav (Esau Jacob's son), Yishmael (Ab(v)ram's first son with Pharaoh's daughter Hagar), and Ham (Noah's son). A possible allusion to President Barack Obama?

How do we know that Edom is America and not Rome as per tradition and that these are the end of days? Each nation using the Eagle on their flags or coat of arms descends in some way from (Esau) and is part of the nation of Edom. The USA is the last of the great Edomic nations to have been formed. The Vilna Gaon explains Rabbi Shimon was explaining the secret of the last lines of the book of Daniel 12:12: The signs of Moshiach (Messiah) will be seen in the 1290th year; lucky is the one who lives and sees the year 1335. The difference is 45 and a hint of 'geula'. Rabbi Shimon explains the secret of the year 1290...

When Yishmael died, his soul went to H-Shem (G-d) and demanded that his decedents will live in the Holy Land (Israel) because he claimed that he is the son of Avraham, and H-Shem promised that Avraham's children will live in the land of Israel. As it is written in the Hebrew Bible, it does not say that Avraham blessed his son Yitzchak (Isaac) with Israel (Jacob) - this is written only in other works including Talmud and midrash). H-Shem said, I will grant Yishmael's request in the merit of his bris (circumcision or covenant). However, since your (Yishmael's) bris is without priya (separation of the inner layer of the foreskin from its outer layer) it is incorrect, therefore your descendants will only live in Israel (the Holy Land) for a limited time.

H-Shem told Yishmael that for each of the (age) 13 years, when you do your bris (the age at which Yishmael was circumcised), I will give you 100 years, ie. a total 1300 years. Rabbi Shimon says that 10 years before the end of this period, I (H-Shem) will give a sign in the world that not only is the end of time (in Israel) for Yishmael nearing, but the unlimited time has also arrived for Jews to be in the land. This it is very clearly written in the Zohar in 2 parshiot (verse/section):Vayera (where Sodom and Amora {Gemora} is destroyed), and the end of Balak (the King who wanted to defeat Israel, before they entered the land at the time of Moses). Here it is written that in the end of days, Yishmael will take a fiery sword and will cut down two towers in the capital city of Edom right before Rosh Hashanah. From this time, Yishmael will spill a lot of blood all over the world, and will cause much suffering for Jews and Israel, and when he seemingly wins, he will fall.

So 1290 years from the Islamic conquest of Spain, the westernmost conquest of Europe (considered Edom), which follows the Daniel prophecy is the year 2001 and 10 years later, 2011 was the beginning of the Arabic Spring revolution. In the language of the Zohar, H-Shem's reward for Yishmael was complete. From 2011 their mazal (fortune/constelations) will continue to fall until their complete crash until they leave all the borders of Israel.

The Vilna Gaon continues: It is also written of the end of days in the Pesach haggada. There were 10 plagues. One of them was hail, the midrash concentrates on this plague. The midrash confirms that the hail stones were not only fire inside ice, but it was ''slo'im'' (from 'selah' which means a cliff). When Moshe stopped the hail that fell on Egypt, part stayed in the air in order to fall on the enemies of Israel at the end of days.

A grandson of Israel's first Chief Rabbi, Rav Kook also told me (Eliyahu Bunin) personally of this. Rav Kook united these 2 things, the midrah says SLO'(Y)IM is a hint towards Israels neighbours: Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan (Yarden) and Egypt (Mitzrayim). It will not be hail that falls, but the countries will fall. Rav Kook told me this 7 years before the Arabic Spring.

King David was crowned in the Hebrew year 2884; the mid point of history alluded to in the name of the first born from whom all of modern man descends; Adam - the beginning, David - the mid point , and Moshiach (Messiah) - the end of history. Double the mid-point 2884 made the year 5768 (2008) the end of history. President Barack Obama, the 44th was elected in 2008, so what does it mean the 45th will not arise? Perhaps an allusion to a woman President, maybe a businessman, maybe a President who must accept Israel’s dictate of foreign policy, or some other unforeseeable occurrence? In any event, we are living through remarkable times as the inherent character of man is revealed!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Rebuilding Jerusalem's Temple

East Face of Mount Moriah  time of  Jacob (~1550 BCE)
On the Eastern slope of Mount Moriah on an upper ridge above Jerusalem’s Gihon Spring, archaeology leads to one striking conclusion: This location and its features confirm the recently re-discovered Matzevah as the stone Jacob anointed (Genesis 28:22) as his covenant at Beit El. Therefore, it marks the beacon that will ultimately identify the location of the altar for Israel’s third temple.  

It has already been confirmed that features carved into the side of mount Moriah, immediately below the upper ridge, date back to the early bronze age. Further, that the ‘soft’ burial by one of the last kings of Israel, around 2600 years ago protected the high ridge for thousands of years until its recent discovery. Finally small idolatrous items discovered in the soft layers were remnants that do not disprove the bedrocks sanctity. The city wall built by the Emorites and Jebusites above the upper ridge would have prevented access to the upper ridge in the 210 years Israel was in Egypt.

Jebusite City facing North, fortress over Gihon Spring
and city walls at the time of Joshua (~1300 BCE)
Cut of Mount Moriah at Upper ridge and Gihon pool, outside of City wall

High Ridge Art (3).jpg
Upper ridge as it may have once looked after the time of Jacob (~1550 BCE)
For 37 years the Ark of the Covenant was housed in the City of David, prior to Davids son King Solomon moving it to the temple he constructed a few hundred meters further up the mountain. Some think King David constructed on the upper ridge to temporarily locate the Ark of the Covenant, but that's not supported in the archaeology. In any event, Iron age King David would not have erected a matzevah because that practice ceased with Israel’s forefathers around the Bronze age time of Jacob. Additionally the bedrock was chiseled using stone implements not iron, a sure sign of its Bronze age origin. Finally the matzevah must be naturally formed because it is thin, precisely honed and smoothed, well beyond the technology of that time.

Four rooms on the upper ridge  (click for enlarged version)
The impressive features of the upper ridge including, oil and grain press, vessel holders, small animal pen, liquids channel, animal processing area, matzevah and platform of the original altar are definitive signatures of holy worship. Based on small artifacts retrieved in soft layers, some archaeologists have opined it may have been used for unholy worship, but they misread the overwhelming holy character of the high ridge in context.

Matzevah Avi .jpeg
Jacob's stone (matzevah) anointed by him maintains oil residues
The upper ridge location on the neck of Mount Moriah contradicts mainstream Jewish custom that the correct place for the altar of the future temple will be on the top of the mountain. This issue can be resolved in a number of ways according to the character and stature of Jewish law and custom, but it will take time before it is accepted as its valid location by the authoritative leaders of Israel. Traditionally the neck of a mountain was always the location associated with the altar, but the first and second temple altar followed the location chosen by King David based on events of his life which opposed prevailing Jewish law.

As the excavation on the upper ridge nears completion the public will, for the first time in thousands of years be able to make decisions about this amazing discovery Exposing this phenomenon may just be the beginning of an impressive transformation.  

Monday, June 29, 2015

I Hope Jihad Will Kill Your Apathy Before It Kills You!

A king once summoned a soothsayer to curse Israel. Sensitive to Ethereal opportunity his autospeak, absent of curse was muttered as blessing, a surprise to the king. Still he appealed to the king’s women to afflict Israel’s men via a sordid brand of sexual worship. The recollection ignores Israel’s aging leader whose Ethereal sensitivity had failed, but his most zealous defender arose to defeat the rebellion and kill the soothsayer.
I avoid suggestive images promoting decapitations, gratuitous violence and torture. I don’t need the details, the gruesome facts unjustified by insanity that promotes them. As the years roll on Islamic insurgents invent even more brutal affronts that seemingly meet the intention of their ridiculous ideologies. Still I don’t really want to see, but they just keep creeping directly into media and my social feeds. Now that I have seen so many, am I battle hardened?
Terrorism is such a genteel word considering it describes the acts of murderers, criminals and parasites who rob people of their dignity to further their spiteful cause. Polarizing world views is a well known tactic that progressively makes it ‘ok’ to terrorize for a ‘sympathetic’ cause - can that be correct? Are these images numbing my senses that they and the criminal enterprise behind them become palatable, even acceptable?
Israel’s former Justice Minister was recently asked by BBC of her activist parents - “they were terrorists weren’t they?” “No” she exclaimed they targeted their violence legitimately against the oppressive British Army, not the citizens of Britain or other countries. That BBC would stoop so low illustrates my point such a simple distinction, but the lines are blurred and distinctions already bleeding.
Where are our leaders with Ethereal sensitivity to the righteous cause? The US Supreme Court approved gay marriage declaring the institution that originated as a religious ideal altered forever. Notwithstanding a humans legal right to ‘Marriage’ equality, regardless of sexual preference lawmakers will blend distinction, insensitively eroding the once beautiful ideal of religious cultures and communities that enshrined it in their law.
A gunman shot British tourists in Tunisia. A suicide bomber blew up a mosque in Kuwait. Christians are beheaded in Syria. An angry mob tore down shelves in Tesco’s Birmingham supermarket, another looted stores in France, another burned objects in Sydney’s streets and angry mobs in London clashed with supporters. I’m no longer appalled, just desensitized, awaiting even more terrible moments that will spawn yet more horrific images as “Infidels” in civil societies are pushed aside or to breaking point.
Majorities that subject themselves to the insensitivity of dominant minority ideals and allow their representatives to succumb, signal weakness to even more violent insurgent benefactors. The psychotic condition signals support for those intent on fighting against the views of the majority. Democracies that fail to articulate cultural sensitivities and adopt representative, judicial and enforcement regimes that reflect real community ideals simply beam their collective willingness to concede to the will of opposing zealots. Jihad thrives on apathetic democracies with split personalities and valueless leaders who pursue their agendas at the expense of nationwide sensitivities for the majority. Inevitably the incongruous nature of government, administration and judiciary supports enemies of otherwise libertarian trending societies inviting them to popularize their opposing views to take command.
Your apathy ensures a Jihad will find you and when it does, it will inspire you to fight or lie down and die. Our dynamic world responds to these perceptions and in the end you will be forced to decide which form of zealotry you want for yourself and your future generations. Then, perhaps the world will see Israel’s tentative right shift for what it is and with some luck it will deal fatal blows to criminals whose public incitements prod the majority rule. Until radicals are marginalized and polarized in the civil societies in which they live and minorities respect majority sensitivities, dominance and Islamic terror win!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Deconstructing Prophecy - Hiding the Ark of the Covenant

The recently discovered matzevah or ha-tziyun, is this it?

Every year a story is told about an 8 year old boy, a remnant in the line of King David who was anointed King over dwindling Judea. Inspired to correct the wayward worship of his Jewish people, King Josiah destroyed idolatrous altars and impure objects that had infused into Jewish practices since King Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem. During the turmoil the King hid the Ark of the Covenant[1], which has never been seen since. His successful efforts resulted in the most celebrated Passover feasts in Israel’s history. The nice story[2] is recalled on the second day of Passover exclusively outside of Israel. However, the story was edited to exclude[3] an intriguing, related prophecy some 300 years earlier.

In the 18th year of his reign, King Josiah sent his royal scribe to advise the high priest that all donations must be used exclusively to restore Jerusalem’s aging temple. The high priest showed the scribe a recently rediscovered scroll that Moses himself had written. The King was most upset because the scroll was found open to the section describing Israel’s curses for disobedience including subjugation of the King and exile of the nation[4]. Ignoring Israel’s senior prophet Jeremiah (a doomsayer), the King requested Huldah the prophetess interpret it, her report was ominous.

Motivated to repent, the King marched his hierarchy into The House of Hashem (the temple denoted using the tetragrammaton[5]) where he read them the open section of Moses Torah. He demanded the nation repent, perhaps to counter the ominous sign and the prediction of Hulda and previous prophets about the dire future of the City and its inhabitants. Everyone accepted his covenant and immediately set out on their national cleansing. The high priest was instructed to and removed false altars and all idolatrous objects from the House of Hashem. The King burned the idolatrous articles in the Kidron Valley (below the Temple) and had the ashes carried to Beit-El (House of God denoted without the tetragrammaton). He also dismissed the priests who had permitted these practices, burned the Asherah idol from the temple and ground the ashes to dust, which he scattered on the graves of the common people. He removed the Ark of the Covenant from its usual place and hid it.

At this point the intriguing edit from the Passover passage ignores the gory details of idols that were destroyed and the prophecy: Also, the altar that was in Beit-el (denoted here with a small “e”) from the high place of worship set up by King Jeroboam (King of Samaria - 300 years prior), he destroyed and defiled with human bones. Then, an unlikely continuation the King asked “what is this tombstone I see?” The people of the city answered; it is the grave of the man of God who came from Judea and prophesied about the deeds that you have done upon the altar of Beit-el. The King responded, leave it alone! Let no man move those bones. His bones saved the bones of the prophet who came from Samaria. The story re-joins the Passover recitation when the King commanded the people to perform the Passover offering and continues to describe the celebration.

Precision is the hallmark of Biblical script. Here the word tombstone (above) is written “ha-tziyun”, used once only in the entire 24 books of the Bible, an apparent alternative to the more common word matzevah.

Deconstructing this earlier prophecy; the man of God from Judea usurped King Jeroboam with a prophetic proof that split King Jeroboam’s altar[6] at Beit-el (in Samaria). But, on the way home the man of God prophet from Judea succumbed to the persuasion of a false prophet from Samaria. He disobeyed his instructions and was mauled to death by a Lion that sat peacefully with his Donkey. The false prophet buried the man of God in his grave and requested his sons bury him together in the same grave.

King Josiah’s dueling true (Judea) and false (Samaria) prophets and exclusive reference to ha-tziyun, juxtaposes his Beit-El, Jerusalem (in the territory of Judah) defilements with his defilement of Jeroboam’s altar at Beit-el in Samaria (in the territory of Joseph/Ephraim). This was predicted by the man of God prophet from Judea who apparently did not come from Samaria, neither did the false prophet because he lived in Samaria , so what point was the King making?

This edit and its powerful message must reflect confusion for the reader since the King destabilized aberrant Jewish communities and towns as well as foreign residents who had introduced their idolatrous practices. That confusion was amplified by the split Jewish nation who, at the time could worship Israel's traditional God or idolatry at the other altar’s of the temple and idolatry at Jeroboam's altar. The last-ditch attempt to unify Israel’s disparate tribes is said to be the reason prophet Jeremiah was absent[7] when prophetess Huldah was consulted. The King buried the Ark of the Covenant a contradiction to his purifying, unifying mission.

Although the King held hope, the writers choice of ha-tziyun over matzevah may be the most telling of all. The unique matzevah recently discovered on the high ridge above the Gihon Spring, in Beit El at Jerusalem’s City of David could suggest the retrospective state of national confusion, even to the King. This abandoned matzevah may have inspired the King to recall the prophecy before it was respectfully buried along with the ashes and broken idolatrous artifacts. Beit El and ha-tziyun at this location would mark the northernmost territorial boundary of Judea, which by tradition and Jewish law mark Israel's coalescent. 

On the last day of Passover outside of Israel, Isiah's Messianic prophecy[8] is recalled. In it the jealousy of Judah and Ephraim will be subdued and peace between the warring nation of Israel will finally arrive. Looking at these two days external to Israel, we can imagine a time when the mystery of the true Beit El of Jacob (Jerusalem), a man of God from Judea who came from Samaria will finally be resolved.

[1] Yoma52b
[2] 2Kings 23:1-9, 21-25
[3] 2Kings 23:10-20
[4] Deuteronomy 28:36
[5] 2Kings 23:1
[6]Kings 13:11-32

[8] Isiah 10:32-12:6

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Impressionable Incantations

In deserts, caves, tents, honed structures and modern buildings over 3300 years the same cantillations have been used to express the words of Torah - the book of Jewish ritual and law. Many distinguish the 79,847 words or 304,805 letters of Torah, but four rarely used, unique tunes (tropes) characterize stand out words and phrases. Why these?

Two cantillations known as Yerach ben yomo and Karne Parah appear once each in the entire Torah and once each in the Book of Esther, which was written 1000 years later. Yerach ben Yomo in Numbers 35:5 on the letter “peh” of the word Alpayim (אלפים, two-thousand) is followed by an equally exclusive Karne Parah on the letter “mem” of the word B'amah (באמה, cubit) in the first of four occurrences of this phrase in the verse.

In the Torah’s weekly reading for Masei (Numbers 35:5) these cantillations are made in the verse that instructs how much land must be set aside for the Levites who were not recipients of tribal land, but were gifted residential land near the temple. The Torah instructs Israel to measure off two thousand cubits outside the town to the east, south, west and north side, with the town in the center:- This will be the Levite’s grazing land. The unique use here may emphasize and remind the nation of the essential nature of this righteous practise at least to the Levites who originated the tunes.

Yerach ben yomo means ‘day old moon’ (think about shape) it looks like a cow’s yoke:

פַּ֪ (peh)

Karnei Parah means ‘cow’s horns’ (think about shape) and looks like the eyes:

(mem) מָּ֟

(Please note on some mobile devices intricate details on the fonts may not appear)

The chapter in which these verses appear also covers; the 42 journey’s of Israel on their exile from Egypt to Israel; their momentary disobediences and the character of their resulting long term enemies; the land boundaries of Israel; details of leadership and tribal inheritance; the land to be set aside for Levite priests; the requirement of witnesses for murder; the cities of refuge for the protection of accidental homicides and; the recognition of women's rights of inheritance.

In the Book of Esther 7:9 Yerach ben Yomo followed by Karne Parah simply reads, “Behold the gallows made by Haman for Mordecai, who spoke well for the king, were standing in Haman’s house, fifty cubits high!” And the king said, “Hang him (Haman) on it!” Here perhaps the trope highlights that its not over till its over, or the threat can disguise the opportunity or what goes around, comes around.

Unlike the containment to one verse above, the Shalshelet appears four times in four different verses in 4 chapters of Torah, it means chain (continuity) and looks like the spring:
In Genesis 19:16, on the word "VaYitmah'maH" (and he lingered), when Lot was lingering in Sodom as it was marked for destruction, to show Lot's uncertainty. In Genesis 24:12, on the word "VaYomar" (and he said), when Abraham's servant Eliezer was trying to find a woman (other than his own daughter) to marry Abraham's son Isaac. It indicates the hesitation of the servant to pass over his daughter. In Genesis 39:8, on the word "VaY'maen" (and he refused), during Joseph's attempted seduction by Potiphar's wife, to indicate Joseph's struggle against temptation. In Leviticus 8:23, the Shalshelet is used on the word (VaYishlach (and he slaughtered)  when Moses was slaughtering an animal in preparation for the anointment of his brother and nephews as priests, a position he coveted for himself.

Each incident above reflects a moment of self-struggle and each verb is preceded by  “and” as if to say without it the outcomes would have been different. Each highlights a  victory over temptation that would otherwise have surely changed the course of Israel’s dynasty.

Our final tune of note is the Mercha kefula meaning double comma, which appears five times.

Genesis 27:25 - and he brought (ל֦וֹ) to him wine and he drank, when Jacob deceived his father and obtained blessings he traded from his older brother. Exodus 5:15 - why (תַעֲשֶׂ֦ה) do (you) do with your servants this way, when the Israelites complained to Pharaoh who was inflicting them with hard labor. Leviticus 10:1 - strange fire they had (לֹ֦א) not been commanded to bring, when Nadav and brother Avihu elatedly brought offerings in their stupor. Numbers 14:3 - were it not (ט֦וֹב) better for us to return to Egypt, when early in their exile, the spies returned and made a discouraging report about the challenges ahead causing Israel to stay in exile. Numbers 32:42 - and called (לָ֦ה) to it Nobah after his own name, when the tribe of Menashe settled the land on the opposite side of the Jordan River.
Perhaps the acts of deception, punishment, transgression, regression and secession expressed using the Mercha kefula instruct future generations about redemption.

In summary, heralding priestly rights, resisting temptation and the tribulations that slow  redemption are emphasized week after week, year after year in the reading of Torah to Jewish communities the world over. For one reason or another these tunes survived thousands of years to emphasize these words, sentences and verses.