Curious Mysteries of the Torah


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An examination of several curious practices or references in the Torah, by looking at the Torah in context of the wider world around it, such as practices of the Canaanites and Egyptians. Much use is made of photos and paintings to illustrate the ideas, some of them controversial.

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Curious Mysteries of the Torah

  1. 1. Curious Mysteries of the Torah Dave Shafer Congregation for Humanistic Judaism
  2. 2. The Torah has a history much older than the Wailing Wall shown here and it has been continuously the focus of Jewish life.
  3. 3. In the Torah we read that Joseph’s brothers sold him as a slave to a passing caravan for 20 pieces of silver. But nowhere on earth were there any silver coins before 700 B.C., many hundreds of years after the events of Joseph story. Clearly we can best understand the Torah by being aware of the surrounding ancient world, and not see it as a closed universe. This money reference seems, at first glance, to be a late addition to the Torah - some Torah scribe projecting backwards in time an anachronistic detail.
  4. 4. Egyptian metal ring money 2000 year old Israeli silver shekel But although silver coins only go back to 700 B.C.E., money is far older. The Egyptians used ring money, which could be strung on a string or worn on fingers. The shekel was an ancient unit of weight, not of money, but eventually became a standard of money, as in 20 silver shekels. In the Joseph story, 20 pieces of silver is not anachronistic, nor is 20 shekels of silver, but 20 silver coins definitely would be, while 20 silver shekels might be. This shows how a single word or two can change our understanding of a Torah passage. If we don’t read Hebrew then this puts us at the mercy of the many differing translations. In Leviticus 27:3-7 we read about “shekels of silver” while in Genesis 42:25-28 we read about “money”, both from the same translation. This makes it very hard to know if some detail could be a late addition to the Torah, or not. Later we will see Gold ring money all the problems that arise over the differing interpretations of a single Hebrew word, that led to the widespread gentile belief that Jews have horns. When experts in ancient Hebrew differ over the meaning of a word, what are we laypeople to do?
  5. 5. There was much trade and cultural and religious contacts among the ancient civilizations of Greece, Crete, Egypt, and Israel, as well as much older contacts with Turkey and Syria. The Hebrews and the pagan Canaanites were living right next to each other, and the Torah constantly condemns their influence .
  6. 6. Cyrus Gordon was the world’s leading expert on Ugaritic, the language of the Canaanites, a close relative of ancient Hebrew and Phoenician. He became convinced, based on their literatures, that the Greek and Israeli cultures had a common ancient Semitic root, probably centered at Crete.
  7. 7. Topics <ul><li>Shofar, bull worship, Baal </li></ul><ul><li>Priest’s “designer jeans”, Moses’ horns, veil </li></ul><ul><li>Bestiality, incest, Canaanites </li></ul><ul><li>Ark of the Covenant </li></ul><ul><li>Slingers, David and Goliath </li></ul><ul><li>Esau’s heel, Cinderella </li></ul><ul><li>Almond branch, snake worship, Thoth </li></ul><ul><li>Finger of God, Tefillin </li></ul><ul><li>Origin of Levites </li></ul><ul><li>Adam and Eve </li></ul>
  8. 8. Topics <ul><li>Shofar, bull worship, Baal </li></ul><ul><li>Priest’s “designer jeans”, Moses’ horns, veil </li></ul><ul><li>Bestiality, incest, Canaanites </li></ul><ul><li>Ark of the Covenant </li></ul><ul><li>Slingers, David and Goliath </li></ul><ul><li>Esau’s heel, Cinderella </li></ul><ul><li>Almond branch, snake worship, Thoth </li></ul><ul><li>Finger of God, Tefillin </li></ul><ul><li>Origin of Levites </li></ul><ul><li>Adam and Eve </li></ul>
  9. 9. Ram’s horn Cow’s horn Antelope horn The Torah tells us to use ram’s horns for shofars. Why is it that they are never made from cow’s horns, which would be easy to obtain? The Torah is silent on this. So let us look outside the Torah, to the surrounding world, and see the Torah in a larger context.
  10. 10. Worship of the bull god is extremely old. The top row left and middle shows religious idols from 8,000 years ago in Turkey in one of the world’s first cities.Top right is a sacred bull tomb from Egypt, 5000 years ago. Bottom row is bull god idols from Summer, Crete, Elam, and Egypt, all about 5000 years ago. The last image, bottom right, is of Canaanite Moloch, as a bull, and their god of child sacrifice by fire.
  11. 11. Topics <ul><li>Shofar, bull worship, Baal </li></ul><ul><li>Priest’s “designer jeans”, Moses’ horns, veil </li></ul><ul><li>Bestiality, incest, Canaanites </li></ul><ul><li>Ark of the Covenant </li></ul><ul><li>Slingers, David and Goliath </li></ul><ul><li>Esau’s heel, Cinderella </li></ul><ul><li>Almond branch, snake worship, Thoth </li></ul><ul><li>Finger of God, Tefillin </li></ul><ul><li>Origin of Levites </li></ul><ul><li>Adam and Eve </li></ul>
  12. 12. So we can see why the Torah would not want to even consider the religiously tainted cow horn for shofars. Now let us look at a key story in the Torah and see what a wider context can bring to it. When Moses came down Mt. Sinai with the 10 commandments (divinely inscribed into stone) he became furious over the Golden Calf (symbol of Baal) idol that had been made and the orgy in progress. He broke the stone tablets. For this impetuous act he was forced by God to spend all night chiseling new tablets and then writing them into the stone by his own – Moses’ - hand, to make a 2nd set (Exodus 34, verses 1,2, and 27). As momentous as the giving of these divine commandments was, there were also some much lesser divine orders that are usually considered beneath notice. Consider the garments that the Egyptians wore in their very hot climate. They were short kilts and of thin linen. The Hebrews wore this during the Exodus.
  13. 13. When Hebrew priests climbed up a stepped altar, people who gathered around the base could look up their short kilts. Men did not have underwear. So Moses is commanded as follows: Exodus 20:23 –”Do not ascend my altar by steps, that your nakedness not be exposed upon it”. In Exodus 28:42 Moses is given instructions for the first “designer jeans” for priests - “You shall also make for them (Aaron and his sons) linen breeches to cover their nakedness; they shall extend from the hips to the thighs” They are then told to wear them on all religious occasions, on pain of death. A stepped altar There is no possible way to truly understand this passage except by considering Egyptian clothing and stepped altars – going outside the Torah itself.
  14. 14. Here is Michelangelo’s famous sculpture showing Moses with horns and also a medieval depiction of a Jew with horns. The standard explanation for this widely held belief is based on Exodus 34:29,30 where Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai and the divine presence and either he has grown horns or his face is radiant, depending on how one key word is understood. Some early Christian translators went with horns. In Psalm 69:31 the context shows that horns is correct there but in Exodus both “horns” or “radiant” (literally “sending forth beams”) are possible. However , the radiant or rays of light meaning only appears in post-biblical writing!
  15. 15. There is a very interesting other possibility. Maybe Moses did not grow horns but simply wore them, for whatever reason, as this American Indian is doing here. Exodus 29:12 gives a sacrifice ritual involving taking “bull’s blood and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger…” Horned altars are also mentioned in Exodus 30:2 and 38:2. What is going on here, with the horns? In 1975 a large horned altar for animal sacrifice was discovered in Israel, from about 800 B.C. It also had a snake symbol as part of it. What this all means is clear – the ancient Hebrews never had a religion that was 100% separate from that of their pagan neighbors. They kept sliding into some Canaanite practices and then had periodic purges of these idols and rituals. The shofar was never made from a cow’s horn but other Baal type of horn symbols kept creeping in. Also Canaanite serpent idols, beginning with one made by Moses himself (Numbers 21:9)
  16. 16. This serpent cult became such a problem that there was eventually a purge of it, around 700 B.C. E. by Hezekiah. It is interesting that the making by Moses of this copper serpent clearly violates the 2 nd commandment, against making idols. Serpent worship was common throughout the region, including Egypt – where they had just been. Serpents were thought to be able to cure illness. But back to Moses and his horns. The alternate translation of the key word is not “horns” but “radiant”, as in sending out rays. Modern translations just say “radiant” and give Moses a radiant face, but older versions have led to images of Moses, in art, of actually having beams of light radiating from his head. This may be more accurate, and early versions say “head” and not “face”
  17. 17. It is possible that Moses is being given here, by later authors, some of the properties of Shamash, the Babylonian sun god, who is often shown with rays coming out of his head. The Jews would have been familiar with Shamash from their long stay in the Babylonian Captivity. Note that the leftmost figure in the bottom left image has both head rays and horns. The image from Chaldea - Ur (Abraham’s home town) shows figures with horned headdresses. Our Statue of Liberty is just a recent example of this very ancient imagery.
  18. 18. It looks like some fudging went on with the translations and interpretations to try to make sense of this short Torah passage, with its puzzling meaning. Old versions went with horns or beams of light coming out of his head. Modern versions go with a radiant face, which may be an unwarranted and linguistically unjustifiable attempt to avoid an unpleasant and difficult choice. The beams of light, or metaphorically radiant, interpretation of the use of that word first occurs in post-biblical writings. There are over 90 uses of that key word “k-r-n” in the Tenakh and it always means horns. So my vote is for “horns” and a horn headdress.
  19. 19. Exodus then goes on to say that Moses’ new appearance frightened people, so he put on a veil when talking to them, but took it off when talking to God. Some Christians make much of this passage and say that God’s message to the people, through Moses, was muffled (veiled) and only Jesus could rip it away. Veiled Arab man What would otherwise simply be a very minor puzzling obscure item in the Torah has been seized on by some Christians as having very weighty significance. Oy veh!
  20. 20. For those who love more speculative ideas, it is a fact that there is much scholarly dispute over who was Pharaoh in Egypt during the Exodus, the date of which is very much up in the air. This is by no means a settled issue. That allows for much speculation by people from Freud onwards. Some think that Akhenaten was that pharaoh. He basically invented monotheism in the form of worship of the sun god Aten. Moses would have been exposed to this and that might explain the light rays imagery from Moses’ head in that Exodus passage. The more far-out idea, favored by some, is that Moses and pharaoh Akhenaten were the same person. Yes, you read that right.
  21. 21. Topics <ul><li>Shofar, bull worship, Baal </li></ul><ul><li>Priest’s “designer jeans”, Moses’ horns, veil </li></ul><ul><li>Bestiality, incest, Canaanites </li></ul><ul><li>Ark of the Covenant </li></ul><ul><li>Slingers, David and Goliath </li></ul><ul><li>Esau’s heel, Cinderella </li></ul><ul><li>Almond branch, snake worship, Thoth </li></ul><ul><li>Finger of God, Tefillin </li></ul><ul><li>Origin of Levites </li></ul><ul><li>Adam and Eve </li></ul>
  22. 22. Moses received much further instruction, including a prohibition in Leviticus 18:23 and 20:15,16 against bestiality. Two points: 1) you don’t bother to prohibit something unless people are already doing it, and 2) it is not so much sin as it is religious sin that the Torah constantly condemns (whoring after false gods, etc.). World myth has many examples of bestiality, such as Zeus in the form of a swan raping Leda, who then gives birth to Venus. Or Pasiphae, who climbed into a model cow so as to copulate with a bull, and then gave birth to the Minotaur monster. Herodotus, in his “Histories”, tells of Egyptian women who had sex with goats in public squares, for money. Those randy Canaanites were known for ritual temple prostitutes (men and women), homosexuality, bestiality, and general licentiousness. It is possible that the railing against that, in the Torah, was mostly based on purely religious objections – like against pagan sexual fertility rites (Baal was a god of fertility). Canaanite priests of Baal engaged in ritual sex with heifers as part of fertility rites to head off dreaded droughts and famine. Herodotus
  23. 23. This custom, of copulation by the king or his priests with heifers or a mare, is extremely ancient and widespread. It was the climax, with a mare, of the Indo-Aryan horse sacrifice ritual from thousands of years ago. Temple prostitution, both hetero and homo, was also widespread in the region. These are all very much religious rituals. When the Torah condemned “whoring after false gods” that is probably what they most minded – not the promiscuous or perverse sex (the whoring part), but rather its close ties to pagan religions. That and a concern over Jewish population growth. “Increase and multiply” pretty much requires conventional sex and a stable family. Leviticus 18:3 orders “You shalt not copy the practices of the land of Egypt where you dwelt, or of the land of Canaan to which I am taking you”.
  24. 24. Most curious is the omission from the list of prohibited incest in Leviticus 18 and 20 of that between a father and his daughters (like Lot here, Genesis 19:31-38). Marriage between an uncle and niece is also left out, and is approved of in the Talmud. Father/daughter incest occurs worldwide and is a frequent subtext in, for example, Grimm’s fairy and folk tales. It was practiced in Egypt, which the Hebrews had just left, as well as brother/sister incest. This odd omission has baffled most commentators, who assume that it is a simple mistake. Just as likely, though, this may indicate the suppression of something from the text that was there earlier, which would make sense of this. Part of the early codification of the Torah was the elimination of some quite uncomfortable parts.
  25. 25. Topics <ul><li>Shofar, bull worship, Baal </li></ul><ul><li>Priest’s “designer jeans”, Moses’ horns, veil </li></ul><ul><li>Bestiality, incest, Canaanites </li></ul><ul><li>Ark of the Covenant </li></ul><ul><li>Slingers, David and Goliath </li></ul><ul><li>Esau’s heel, Cinderella </li></ul><ul><li>Almond branch, snake worship, Thoth </li></ul><ul><li>Finger of God, Tefillin </li></ul><ul><li>Origin of Levites </li></ul><ul><li>Adam and Eve </li></ul>
  26. 26. In Mecca is the sacred Ka’ba, which contains a small black meteorite. Muslim pilgrims come and kiss the stone, which was said to have been sent by God to Abraham. The veneration of this stone and others like it is much older than Islam and was common in the Near East. It is interesting to compare this to the Tabernacle tent and the Ark of the Covenant, the dimensions and materials of which are very explicitly laid out in Exodus 25. Ceremonial stones were venerated in Canaan and this practice was adopted by the early Hebrews there, in the form of their “high places”.
  27. 27. It is well-known that the Ark of the Covenant, in the Holy of Holies part of the Tabernacle contained the two stone tablets with the 10 commandments. It is a fact, however, that the Torah in Exodus does not explicitly say that. It is implied but not directly stated. God says to put into it the Pact or Testimony that he will give to Moses, which is not identical to saying the two stone tablets. A later tradition in Deuteronomy solidifies around the two tablets reading. Some think that it was a meteorite that was put in the Ark or that the two tablets were carved from a meteorite.
  28. 28. Topics <ul><li>Shofar, bull worship, Baal </li></ul><ul><li>Priest’s “designer jeans”, Moses’ horns, veil </li></ul><ul><li>Bestiality, incest, Canaanites </li></ul><ul><li>Ark of the Covenant </li></ul><ul><li>Slingers, David and Goliath </li></ul><ul><li>Esau’s heel, Cinderella </li></ul><ul><li>Almond branch, snake worship, Thoth </li></ul><ul><li>Finger of God, Tefillin </li></ul><ul><li>Origin of Levites </li></ul><ul><li>Adam and Eve </li></ul>
  29. 29. While speaking of stones, let us consider the story of David and Goliath, although it is not in the Torah. We probably all have images in our mind of something like these artist’s conceptions. Slingers were an important part of ancient warfare, including the Torah account of the conquering of Canaan when the Hebrews reached the Promised Land. But these pictures here are all wrong. Slingers could sling stones for amazing distances and with great accuracy. In warfare the slingers were behind the archers, because they had greater range. David could have been a very long way away from Goliath.
  30. 30. Slingers usually used specially prepared stones that were rounded off to be pretty spherical. That shape makes the trajectory more dependable. The balls were slightly over 2 inches in diameter. The range was over 300 yards! Only a single windup was used and an underhand release. Prepared balls were made about the same size so the range would be about the same for each. 60 m.p.h. speeds were common, as modern tests for range and speed show. Bronze age sling stones from Jerusalem Babylonian slingers
  31. 31. Topics <ul><li>Shofar, bull worship, Baal </li></ul><ul><li>Priest’s “designer jeans”, Moses’ horns, veil </li></ul><ul><li>Bestiality, incest, Canaanites </li></ul><ul><li>Ark of the Covenant </li></ul><ul><li>Slingers, David and Goliath </li></ul><ul><li>Esau’s heel, Cinderella </li></ul><ul><li>Almond branch, snake worship, Thoth </li></ul><ul><li>Finger of God, Tefillin </li></ul><ul><li>Origin of Levites </li></ul><ul><li>Adam and Eve </li></ul>
  32. 32. We all know the story of Jacob and Esau and the selling of the birthright for a pot of porridge. Genesis 25 tells how Rebekah had twins in her womb, who struggled with each other. At birth Esau emerged first, followed by Jacob holding on to Esau’s heel. The usual midrash remarks are how this shows that Jacob was trying to hold Esau back so that he himself could emerge as the firstborn, with all the rights that confers. But there is a completely different theme being described here, that has escaped the commentators. There are world wide myths that feature the heel as the one vulnerable spot of a hero. Achilles body was immortal except for the heel that his mother held him by when she dipped him into the river Styx. He later died by a poisoned arrow in his heel. The Vishnu avatar Krishna died while meditating, when a hunter’s arrow landed in his heel. Oedipus’ ankles were pierced at his birth and he was exposed on a mountain side to die. Stone images of the pharaoh Akhenaten show him having peculiarly swollen lower legs. There are many other examples, often involving being lame. St. Jerome said that Jesus was lame and we all know where, at the end, he eventually got a nail.
  33. 33. The vulnerable heel theme is a subset of a broader world-wide myth of the Cinderella story – the key feature of which is someone with only one shoe or sandal, causing them to walk funny. Now back to Esau – the ancient Book of Jubilees, not part of the established Jewish canon, describes the death of Esau, which the Torah does not, as being during a battle between Jacob and Esau – with Jacob killing Esau with an arrow. This sounds familiar (Achilles, Krishna, etc.) and may preserve an ancient legend that was suppressed from the Torah, which instead has them reconciled at the end.
  34. 34. Topics <ul><li>Shofar, bull worship, Baal </li></ul><ul><li>Priest’s “designer jeans”, Moses’ horns, veil </li></ul><ul><li>Bestiality, incest, Canaanites </li></ul><ul><li>Ark of the Covenant </li></ul><ul><li>Slingers, David and Goliath </li></ul><ul><li>Esau’s heel, Cinderella </li></ul><ul><li>Almond branch, snake worship, Thoth </li></ul><ul><li>Finger of God, Tefillin </li></ul><ul><li>Origin of Levites </li></ul><ul><li>Adam and Eve </li></ul>
  35. 35. There are interesting aspects of the almond tree in the Torah. Aaron casts down his rod before the Pharaoh and it turns into a snake, which then swallows up the snakes the Egyptian priests’ rods have become. Later it is used to start the plagues of Egypt and is clearly a very powerful object. Moses used it to part the Red Sea. This same rod of Aaron is later identified as an almond branch, when Aaron’s rod miraculously sprouts flowers and bears almond nuts overnight (Numbers 17:23). Later Jewish tradition says that the staff of the Messiah will be an almond branch. The Menorah is described in Exodus 25:31-40 as being based on almond branches and petals. In Jermemiah 1:11, he is shown by God an almond branch to test his prophetic vision. Are these all coincidences or is something hidden going on here? What does the almond signify in myth? I’m glad you asked. Almonds and snakes were closely associated with the god Hermes, or Thoth to the Egyptians. There was a Jerusalem cult of Thoth and the almond tree would have been central to it, just as oak was to the Druids.
  36. 36. Thoth was a moon god (notice how the Jewish calendar is a lunar one). Thoth is often shown in Egyptian art with a crescent moon on his head, which could be mistaken for horns or a horn headdress. This cult was gradually absorbed into the religion of the early Jews and only remnant symbols were left, like Aaron’s almond rod and the menorah with its almond shapes. It is a certainty that Moses, while in Egypt, would have been very familiar with the cult of Thoth and its symbols, like almonds and snakes. Ancient Judaism was in a constant struggle to distinguish itself from its pagan neighbors and their religious practices and symbols. Remnants of these have lasted to this very day, although the original meanings have usually been long lost.
  37. 37. Topics <ul><li>Shofar, bull worship, Baal </li></ul><ul><li>Priest’s “designer jeans”, Moses’ horns, veil </li></ul><ul><li>Bestiality, incest, Canaanites </li></ul><ul><li>Ark of the Covenant </li></ul><ul><li>Slingers, David and Goliath </li></ul><ul><li>Esau’s heel, Cinderella </li></ul><ul><li>Almond branch, snake worship, Thoth </li></ul><ul><li>Finger of God, Tefillin </li></ul><ul><li>Origin of Levites </li></ul><ul><li>Adam and Eve </li></ul>
  38. 38. For the plague of the gnats (Exodus 8:12-15) Aaron strikes the dust with that same almond rod just discussed and raises a cloud of gnats that overtakes Egypt. Pharaoh’s magicians cannot duplicate this and say “It is the finger of God!” The word for finger is an Egyptian word, one of over 300 in the Torah, and the “finger of God” expression is an Egyptian one from that time. Later that same phrase is used when God writes the commandments (the 1 st set) in stone with his own finger (Exodus 31:18). Michelangelo’s famous painting shows the “finger of God” reaching out to touch Adam, a good example of how this Egyptian concept has worked its way down through the ages.
  39. 39. Remember from before that Thoth was closely associated with the almond rod and serpents. Moses made the serpent idol, mounted on a staff (almond?) as a healing charm. Thoth was also the god of healing, hence the medical symbol of the serpents and the staff, associated with Thoth/Hermes. In Exodus 15:26 God says to Moses that if they will obey his laws and commandments then he will not bring on them any of the diseases (plagues) he brought on the Egyptians for “I am the Lord your healer ”. The Egyptians wore amulets and talisman to ward off disease or evil. A medical patient would wear a headband with the name written on it of the god being invoked. Does this suggest anything to you? The word “tefillin” is not in the Torah. The word used there is “totafot” and has a puzzling linguistic origin. Some experts think it is an Egyptian loan word. What is clear is that early Judaism was strongly influenced by their stay in Egypt and then later by their neighbors the Canaanites.
  40. 40. Topics <ul><li>Shofar, bull worship, Baal </li></ul><ul><li>Priest’s “designer jeans”, Moses’ horns, veil </li></ul><ul><li>Bestiality, incest, Canaanites </li></ul><ul><li>Ark of the Covenant </li></ul><ul><li>Slingers, David and Goliath </li></ul><ul><li>Esau’s heel, Cinderella </li></ul><ul><li>Almond branch, snake worship, Thoth </li></ul><ul><li>Finger of God, Tefillin </li></ul><ul><li>Origin of Levites </li></ul><ul><li>Adam and Eve </li></ul>
  41. 41. And the 12 tribes of Israel Descendents of Levi Moses is a Levite
  42. 42. The Levite tribe has a lot of Egyptian names. No other tribe has any, that are mentioned in the Torah. The name Moses is usually given a Hebrew derivation but there is an equally valid Egyptian language one. He was, after all, raised in the Pharaoh’s household. Maybe only the Levites were ever in Egypt, and not the other tribes. But there is a more likely possibility.
  43. 43. All the Levites were priests. Perhaps some were originally Egyptian priests who followed Moses out of Egypt in the Exodus, hence those Egyptian names among the Levites . The 10 Plagues must have impressed them quite a bit.
  44. 44. The tribe of Levi has a name that could be the same Hebrew word as the Levi athon – the giant sea serpent that God created in the early days of the Creation (Genesis 1:20-23). Later God killed the giant serpent Rahab in an epic battle, Isaiah 27:1. Two possible “Levi” name derivations are from one root meaning “joined” or another meaning “coiled”. There may be some good reasons to link the Levites and snakes, aside from this linguistic connection. Moses and Aaron were Levites and the Rod of God (Moses’ almond branch staff) was turned into a snake twice in the Torah.
  45. 45. God turns the Levite Moses’ rod into a snake (Exodus 4:2-4) and Levite Aaron does the same. Pharaoh’s magicians respond with their own snakes (Exodus 7:9-12). Remember, from earlier, that snakes and almonds were sacred to the Egyptian God Thoth. Maybe these same magicians left Egypt with Moses, as co-priests with the Levites, hence the Egyptian names among the Levites..
  46. 46. “ Levi” / “Leviathon” = Joined or coiled 1 st American political cartoon Serpent joined at mouth and tail Minoan snake handler Maybe the Levites were snake handlers and became head of the snake cult that Hezikiah purged in 2 nd Kings 18:4, destroying the brass snake idol that Moses made.
  47. 47. Topics <ul><li>Shofar, bull worship, Baal </li></ul><ul><li>Priest’s “designer jeans”, Moses’ horns, veil </li></ul><ul><li>Bestiality, incest, Canaanites </li></ul><ul><li>Ark of the Covenant </li></ul><ul><li>Slingers, David and Goliath </li></ul><ul><li>Esau’s heel, Cinderella </li></ul><ul><li>Almond branch, snake worship, Thoth </li></ul><ul><li>Finger of God, Tefillin </li></ul><ul><li>Origin of Levites </li></ul><ul><li>Adam and Eve </li></ul>
  48. 48. We end here, fittingly, back at the very beginning with the Adam and Eve story. The image on the right is more accurate, as Genesis implies that the snake does not become a creature that crawls on its belly until after it has corrupted Eve. The Torah does not say “apple”, just “fruit, and it has been thought to be a fig, grape, or citron, but not an apple. God tells Adam not to eat the fruit for “as soon as you eat of it, you shall die” Genesis 2:17
  49. 49. This creepy painting by Von Stuck inadvertently hits on a key idea. Eating what kind of fruit would make you die “as soon as you eat of it” – (Genesis 2:17)? The obvious answer = poison fruit! Some modern scholars think it was a deadly halucinogenic mushroom. In any case, it was widely thought in the ancient world that snakes could and did transfer their venom to plants and fruits, especially mushrooms. Von Stuck, 100 years ago, showed this idea here very clearly. It was also widely believed that certain mushrooms could bring the dead back to life = make you immortal. When When God curses the snake, he says that the snake will strike at the heel of man. We have discussed this earlier. This ends our journey through some Torah mysteries.
  50. 50. In summary, our understanding of the Torah is greatly enriched by seeing it in context. Scribes and text codifiers living many hundreds of years after the events they were writing about may have themselves interpreted these events in terms of their own contemporary experiences (like the 20 pieces of silver anachronism possibility given earlier). We today can understand much more about the Torah when aware of the practices of the Canaanites and the Egyptians, both very strong influences on biblical events, as well as the much later world in which the Torah scribes and codifiers lived. Exploring these curious mysteries of the Torah can be fun whether or not you believe that these people ever existed or the events ever happened. We would not think to get the most out of Shakespeare or Homer without some background context about the customs of the world their characters moved within as well as the world of the authors.
  51. 51. <ul><li>The Jewish people have moved far beyond these ancient experiences and legends. </li></ul><ul><li>But exploring these ancient texts and legends is ideally suited to the Jewish mind-set. </li></ul><ul><li>The “People of the Book” have become people of books, and both secular and religious scholarship. </li></ul><ul><li>Further work will throw more light on the topics raised here. </li></ul>