Archive for 'Jewish History'

What Inspired the Rabbis to say, “Thank God for not making me a woman!”? (Part 2)

A Greek Should be Thankful for Three Things . . .

At this point one could ask: What sort of teachings might have inspired Rabbi Judah to formulate these three blessings? There may be two possible sources: Greek or early Christian writings. Of the two choices, I believe the Greek influence is more dominant. However, as we shall soon see, the liturgical texts found in the Cairo Geniza  suggest that the early medieval liturgical scholars may have had Christianity in mind, ...

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Can a Golem be counted as part of a minyan?

Childhood Memories

As a child, I used to love reading the golem stories attributed to Rabbi Judah Lowe, a.k.a., the famous “Maharal of Prague” (1525-1609).  Since my father came from Czechoslovakia, I grew up hearing many family tales about the golem. These stories were especially delightful since my father was a naturally talented storyteller.  The golem was something like a medieval super-hero who protected the Jewish community from pogroms in its time.  It is interesting to note, that despite the numerous ...

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A Short History of the Sabbatical Year in Late Antiquity

Sometimes even the most obvious biblical passages can be perplexing. One interesting verse is a case in point:

“Therefore, do not say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we do not then sow or reap our crop?’ I will bestow such blessings on you in the sixth year that there will then be crop enough for three years. When you sow in the eighth year, you will continue to eat from the old crop; and even into ...

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How Many Israelites Actually Left Egypt (Part 2)

As we mentioned earlier, exegetic scholars–both Jewish and Christian–have long recognized the problems with the numbers mentioned in the Bible. Judging by the numbers listed in the beginning of Numbers, the Israelite nation must have consisted of about two and a half million people. This must have been a rigorous job for the two midwives in charge of their birth (Exod 1:15 )! There were precisely 22,273 firstborn males (Num. 3:43); given 600,000+ males, this would mean an average of ...

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How Many Israelites Actually Left Egypt? (Part 1)

According to Numbers 1:46, the Israelite army stood at “six hundred three thousand five hundred fifty.”

On the basis of the census taken, one must assume there was an excess of 2,000,000 Israelites in the wilderness, of which  603,550 were soldiers.  The sheer numbers raises many questions: How could the wilderness provide for such a large number of people over a forty year period? By the same token, how could the livestock and other flock animals subsist on a relatively sparse ...

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