Exodus in the Bible and the Egyptian Plague

Exodus in the Bible and the Egyptian Plagues

Can we make sense of the Biblical plagues?

Read Ziony Zevit’s article “Three Ways to Look at the Ten Plagues” as it originally appeared in Bible Review, June 1990. The article was first republished in Bible History Daily in July 2011.—Ed.

Exodus in the Bible and the Egyptian Plagues

The Book of Exodus in the Bible describes ten Egyptian plagues that bring suffering to the land of pharaoh. Are these Biblical plagues plausible on any level? In the following article, “Three Ways to Look at the Ten Plagues,” Ziony Zevit looks at these Biblical plagues from various vantage points. There’s something unique about these Egyptian plagues as presented in Exodus in the Bible. They’re different from the curses to Israelites as mentioned in Leviticus. Some have connected the Egyptian plagues to natural phenomena that were possible in ancient Egypt. Torrential rains in Ethiopia could have sent red clay (“blood”) into the Nile, which could have caused a migration of frogs, further causing lice and flies, which caused the death of cattle and human boils. A second set of meteorological disasters, hailstorms (the seventh of the Biblical plagues) and locusts, may have been followed by a Libyan dust storm—causing darkness.Many of the Egyptian plagues could also be interpreted as “attacks against the Egyptian pantheon,” Zevit notes. Many of the Egyptian plagues mentioned in Exodus in the Bible have some correlation to an Egyptian god or goddess. For example, Heket was represented as a frog and Hathor as a cow. An ancient Egyptian “Coffin Text” refers to the slaying of first-born gods.

A third way to look at the Biblical plagues is by asking, “why ten?” Ultimately the plagues served to increase the faith of the surviving Israelites. On this count ten could be connected to the ten divine utterances of the creation account of Genesis 1. In relating the ten Egyptian plagues, the Exodus in the Bible could represent a parallel account of liberation, affecting all aspects of the created world.

In the free eBook Ancient Israel in Egypt and the Exodus, top scholars discuss the historical Israelites in Egypt and archaeological evidence for and against the historicity of the Exodus.

Three Ways to Look at the Ten Plagues
Were they natural disasters, a demonstration of the impotence of the Egyptian gods or an undoing of Creation?by Ziony Zevit

When the enslaved Israelites sought to leave Egypt, Pharaoh said no. The Lord then visited ten plagues upon the Egyptians until finally Pharaoh permanently relented—the last of the plagues being the slaying of the first-born males of Egypt. Some of the plagues are the type of disasters that recur often in human history—hailstorms and locusts—and therefore appear possible and realistic. Others, less realistic, border on the comic—frogs and lice. Still others are almost surrealistic—blood and darkness—and appear highly improbable.

Many questions have been raised about the plagues on different levels. Some questions are naturalistic and historical: Did the plagues actually occur in the order and manner described in Exodus? Are there any ancient documents or other types of evidence corroborating that they took place or that something like them took place? Can the less realistic and surrealistic plagues be explained as natural phenomena? Other questions are literary and theological: Is the plague narrative a hodgepodge of sources pasted together by ancient editors (redactors)? What is the origin of the traditions in the extant plague narrative? What is the meaning of the narrative in its biblical context? Beyond the obvious story, did the plague narrative have any theological implications for ancient Israel?

My research has not provided answers to all these questions, but it will, I believe, provide some new insights.

For centuries exegetes have been struggling with the order, the number and the meaning of the plagues. As early as the medieval period, Jewish commentators noticed certain patterns in the narrative that reflected a highly organized literary structure. In the 12th century, a rabbi known as the Rashbam (Rabbi Samuel ben Meir),1 who lived in northern France, recognized that only certain plagues were introduced by warnings to Pharaoh, while others were not. To appreciate the pattern, divide the first nine plagues into three groups each; in the first two of each group, Pharaoh is warned that if he does not let the Israelites go, the plague will be visited on the Egyptians; in the third plague of each group, the plague strikes without warning.

In the 13th century Bahya ben Asher2 and in the 15th century Don Isaac Abravanel3 noted a certain repetitive pattern in who brought on the plagues. The first three plagues are brought on by Moses’ brother Aaron, who holds out his staff as the effective instrument (Exodus 7:19; 8:1; 8:12).a In the next group of three, the first two are brought on by God and the third by Moses (Exodus 8:20: 9:6; 9:10). In the last group of three the plagues are brought on by Moses’ holding out his arm with his staff (Exodus 9:22–23; 10:12–13; 10:21 [the last without mention of his staff]).

These patterns indicate that the plague narrative is a conscientiously articulated and tightly wrought composition.

Taking the plagues as a whole, however, it is clear that they differ considerably from the curses with which the Israelites are threatened in the so-called curse-lists of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. In the curse-lists, the Lord tells the Israelites what will happen to them if they do not obey the Lord’s laws and commandments, if they breach the covenant. They will suffer, according to Leviticus, terror, consumption, fever, crop failure, defeat at the hands of their enemies, unnecessary fear; wild beasts will consume their children and cattle; they will die by the sword; they will be so hungry that they will eat the flesh of their children and, in the end, go into exile (Leviticus 26:14–26). Similarly in the augmented list of curses in Deuteronomy 28:15–60, they will suffer confusion, consumption, inflammation, madness, blindness, social chaos, military defeat, etc.

The maledictions in the curse-lists of Leviticus and Deuteronomy have been shown to be part of a stock of traditional curses employed during the biblical period in the geographical area extending from Israel to ancient Mesopotamia. Not only are they attested in the Torah (the Five Books of Moses), but also in the prophets; they also appear in the “curse” sections of contemporaneous ancient Near Eastern treaties.4These “curses” reflect the kinds of things that could, and probably did, happen in this geographical area as a result of natural or humanly-impose calamities. True there is some overlap between these curses and the plagues. Dever (pestilence) occurs both in the Egyptian plagues and in the curse lists of Leviticus. 26:25 and Deuteronomy 28:21. “Boils” occurs in the curse list of Deuteronomy 28:35 while a locust-like plague is mentioned in. Deuteronomy 28:42. Nevertheless, in the Pentateuchal curse lists, the Israelites—on their way to the Promised land—are threatened with disasters they might expect in the ecological system of the land to which they were headed, not those of the land of Egypt from which they were fleeing.

The plagues visited on the Egyptians are quite different.5 To understand their significance we should focus on Egypt in particular rather than the ancient Near East as a whole.

Exodus in the Bible and the Egyptian Plagues

The most sophisticated attempt to relate the Egyptian plagues to natural phenomena does so in terms of Egypt’s ecosystem. According to this interpretation, the first six plagues can even be explained in their sequential order: The naturalistic account is connected initially with the violent rain storms that occur in the mountains of Ethiopia. The first plague, blood, is the red clay swept down into the Nile from the Ethiopian highlands. The mud then choked the fish in the area inhabited by the Israelites. The fish clogged the swamps where the frogs lived; the fish, soon infected with anthrax, caused the frogs (the second plague) to leave the Nile for cool areas, taking refuge in people’s houses. But, since the frogs were already infected with the disease, they died in their new habitats. As a consequence, lice, the third plague, and flies, the fourth plague, began to multiply, feeding off the dead frogs. This gave rise to a pestilence that attacked animals, the fifth plague, because the cattle were feeding on grass which by then had also become infected. In man, the symptom of the same disease was boils, the sixth plague.

A second sequence of plagues, according to this explanation, is related to atmospheric and climatic conditions in Egypt. Hailstorms, the seventh plague, came out of nowhere. Although not common, hailstorms do occur rarely in Upper Egypt and occasionally in Lower Egypt during late spring and early fall. In this reconstruction, the hailstorm was followed by the eighth plague, locusts, a more common occurrence. The ninth plague, darkness, was a Libyan dust storm.6

The final plague, the death of the first-born, although not strictly commensurate with the other plagues, can be explained in ecological terms. It may be a reflection of the infant mortality rate in ancient Egypt.7 There is a problem with this explanation, however. According to the biblical narrative, the tenth plague struck all first-born males of whatever age, not just new-born infants.

This ecological explanation of the plagues does not prove that the biblical account is true, but only that it may have some basis in reality. As indicated, it also has weaknesses: The ecological chain is broken after the sixth plague, there being no causality between the plague of boils (the sixth plague) and the hail. The chain is again broken between the ninth and tenth plagues. In addition, there is no real link between the plagues in the seventh-eighth-ninth sequence (hail-locusts-darkness). Nevertheless, this explanation does firmly anchor the first six plagues in the Egyptian ecosystem, just as the curse-lists in the Torah reflect real conditions in the Land of Israel.

Exodus in the Bible and the Egyptian Plagues

Moreover, two ancient Egyptian texts provide additional support. One is relevant to the first plague, blood. In “The Admonitions of Ipu-Wer,” dated at the latest to 2050 B.C.E., the author describes a chaotic period in Egypt: “Why really, the River [Nile] is blood. If one drinks of it, one rejects (it) as human and thirsts for water.”8

The second text, known as “The Prophecy of Nefer-Rohu” dates towards the beginning of the Middle Kingdom, about 2040–1650 B.C.E.; it relates to the ninth plague, darkness: “The sun disc is covered over. It will not shine (so that) people may see … No one knows when midday falls, for his shadow cannot be distinguished.”9

The ten plagues may also be interpreted as a series of attacks against the Egyptian pantheon. This suggestion finds support in Numbers 33:4 where we are told that the Egyptians buried those who had died by the tenth plague, by which plague “the Lord executed judgments againsttheir gods.”

Watch full-length lectures from the Out of Egypt: Israel’s Exodus Between Text and Memory, History and Imagination conference, which addressed some of the most challenging issues in Exodus scholarship. The international conference was hosted by Calit2’s Qualcomm Institute at UC San Diego in San Diego, CA.

According to this suggestion, the plague of blood (No. 1) was directed against the god Khnum, creator of water and life; or against Hapi, the Nile god; or against Osiris, whose bloodstream was the Nile. Frogs (No.2) was directed against Heket, a goddess of childbirth who was represented as a frog. The pestilence against cattle (No. 5) might have been directed against Hathor, the mother and sky goddess, represented in the form of a cow; or against Apis, symbol of fertility represented as a bull. Hail (No. 7) and locusts (No. 8 ) were, according to this explanation, directed against Seth, who manifests himself in wind and storms; and/or against Isis, goddess of life, who grinds, spins flax and weaves cloth; or against Min, who was worshiped as a god of fertility and vegetation and as a protector of crops. Min is an especially likely candidate for these two plagues because the notations in Exodus 9:31 indicate that the first plague came as the flax and barley were about to be harvested, but before the wheat and spelt had matured. A widely celebrated “Coming out of Min” was celebrated in Egypt at the beginning of the harvest.10 These plagues, in effect, devastated Min’s coming-out party.Darkness (No. 9), pursuing this line of interpretation, could have been directed against various deities associated with the sun—Amon-Re, Aten, Atum or Horus.

Finally, the death of the firstborn (No. 10) was directed against the patron deity of Pharaoh, and the judge of the dead, Osiris.

Additional data from Egyptian religious texts clarifies the terrifying tenth plague. The famous “Cannibal Hymn,” carved in the Old Kingdom pyramid of Unas at Saqqara, about 2300 B.C.E., states: “It is the king who will be judged with Him-whose-name-is-hidden on that day of slaying the first born.” Variations of this verse appear in a few Coffin Texts, magic texts derived from royal pyramid inscriptions of the Old Kingdom and written on the coffins of nobility of the Middle Kingdom, about 2000 B.C.E. For example, “I am he who will be judged with Him-whose-name-is-hidden on that night of slaying the first born.”11Although the first-born referred to in the Coffin Text and probably also in the “Cannibal Hymn” are the first-born of gods, these texts indicate that an ancient tradition in Egypt recalled the slaying of all or some of the first-born of gods on a particular night.12

Assuming that some form of this pre-Israelite Egyptian tradition was known during the period of the enslavement, it may have motivated the story of the final plague. However, in the biblical story, he who revealed his hidden name to Moses at the burning bramble bush revealed himself as the Him-whose-name-is-hidden of the Egyptian myth, and alone slew the first-born males of Egypt. In this final plague, then, there was no conflict between the Lord and an Egyptian deity; rather through this plague the triumphant god of Israel fulfilled the role of an anonymous destroyer in a nightmarish prophecy from the Egyptian past.

One weakness in interpreting the plagues solely as a religious polemic against Egyptian gods, however, is that some of the plagues are unaccounted for; and not all of the plagues can be conveniently matched up with Egyptian gods or texts. Specifically, divine candidates are lacking for the third, fourth and sixth plagues—lice, flies and boils. Even if scratching through Egyptian sources might produce some minor candidates that could fill these lacunae, there is another difficulty with the religious polemic interpretation. The Egyptian material on which this interpretation rests comes from different times and different places. The extant data do not enable us to claim that the perception of the pantheon presented above was historically probable in the Western Delta during the 14th–12th centuries B.C.E. when and where Israelites became familiar with it. Nevertheless, despite these difficulties, the Egyptian material describing links between Egyptian deities and natural phenomena does provide us with some insights into the way the plagues were intended to be understood.

Another line of interpretation, however, results from Posing the questions: Why ten plagues? Why these ten plagues?

According to Exodus 7:4–5, the function of the plagues is didactic: “I will lay my hands upon Egypt and deliver hosts, my people, the Israelites, from the land of Egypt with great acts of judgment. And the Egyptians shall know that I am God when I stretch out my hand against Egypt.” Despite the reference to the Egyptians learning a lesson—namely, the Lord’s power—it seems clear that the real beneficiaries of the plagues were not intended to be Egyptians. If the education of the Egyptians was the reason for the plagues, the lesson was certainly lost on the intended beneficiaries. The true beneficiaries of the lesson that God said he would teach were the Israelites. As we read in Exodus 14:31: “When Israel saw the mighty act [literally ‘hand/arm’] which the Lord had done in Egypt, the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.”

What ignited the faith of the Israelites was not their physical redemption from Egypt, but rather “the mighty act which the Lord had done in Egypt”—that is, the plagues.

What was there about the plagues that triggered Israel’s response in faith? Through the plagues the Lord demonstrated that he was the God of creation. As we examine the narrative closely, we will see how this notion is conveyed.

The first plague, blood, is described in Exodus 7:19. There we are told that Aaron is to take his staff and hold it over all of Egypt’s bodies (or gatherings) of water and they will become blood. The Hebrew word for “bodies” or “gatherings” of water is mikveh. This is the same word that appears in the opening chapters of Genesis when God creates the seas: “God called the dry land Earth, and the gatherings (mikveh) of waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:10). The use of the word mikveh in Exodus 7:19 in connection with the plague of blood cannot fail to evoke an association with the creation of the seas in Genesis 1:10 and indicates the cosmic import of the plague. Similarly, the expression in Exodus 7:19 “Let them become blood” echoes the use of “Let there be(come)” in the creation story in Genesis.

However, in contrast to the creation, where the primeval waters are not altered by a creative act, the first plague demonstrates that God is able to change the very nature of things.

Plagues two, three and four—frogs, lice and flies—form an interesting triad. The frogs are associated withwater, the lice with earth, and the flies with air. Frogs, we are told, came out of the “rivers, the canals, and the ponds of Egypt” (Exodus 8:1). In Exodus, the Nile swarmed with frogs which then covered all the land (Exodus 7:28–29), while in Genesis God says, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures” (Genesis 1:20). Understood against the background of Genesis, the frog plague in Egypt was a new creation of life, although not a beneficent one.

Similarly, with lice (the third plague) that came forth from the dust of the earth (Exodus 8:12–13). The lice correspond to the crawling creatures (remes) that come forth from the earth in Genesis 1:24.

Flies (the fourth plague) correspond to the flying creatures; in Genesis God orders that “flying creatures multiply in the land” (Genesis 1:22). In Egypt, the flies not only multiplied in the land, they filled the land. After the fly plague the situation in Egypt was a complete reversal of the one anticipated by the divine blessing to mankind in Genesis 1:28, where God tells man to “Rule the fish of the sea, the winged creatures of the heavens, and all living creatures which creep on the earth.” In Egypt, these creatures were totally out of control.

Was Moses more than an Exodus hero? Discover the Biblical Moses in “The Man Moses” by Peter Machinist, originally published in Bible Review and now available for free in Bible History Daily.

The fifth plague (pestilence) affected only animals, not men; and only the field animals of the Egyptians, not those of the Israelites (Exodus 9:3–7). In Genesis 2:18–20 the animals are created specifically for man. In the plague of pestilence, the domestic animals that were under man’s dominion were taken away from the Egyptians. That which was first created for man was first removed from the Egyptians by the firstplague directed specifically against created things.The sixth plague, boils, is the only one that does not fit easily into the pattern I have been describing. Perhaps it should be understood against the background of the Torah’s laws of purity: A person afflicted with boils is ritually unclean (Leviticus 13:18–23). This is complemented by the stringent demands of Egyptian religion during the New Kingdom, about 1550–1080 B.C.E., concerning the ritual and physical purity requited of priests before entering a sanctuary.13 Egyptians considered themselves superior to other peoples. Pharaoh himself was a god and his officers were priests. Perhaps the image of these superior, “holier than thou” individuals suffering from boils, a painful and unaesthetic affliction, was humorous to the Israelites and was considered a barb against Egyptian religion.

The next two plagues, hail and locusts involve the destruction of another part of creation, primarily vegetation. What was not destroyed by the hail was consumed by the locusts. When these two plagues had run their course, Egypt could be contrasted to the way the world appeared after the third day of creation: “The land brought forth vegetation: seed bearing fruit with seed in it” (Genesis 1:12). By contrast, in Exodus 10:15 we are told that “nothing green was left of tree or grass of the field in all the land of Egypt.”

Perhaps the most misunderstood of all the plagues is darkness, the ninth plague. In Exodus 10:21–23 we read that a thick darkness descended upon all the land of Egypt for three days. “People could not see one another, and for three days no one could get up from where he was; but all the Israelites enjoyed light in their dwellings” (Exodus 10:23). What is described here is not simply the absence of light. The darkness is something physical, “a darkness that can be touched” (Exodus 10:21b). The alternation of light and darkness, of day and night, has ceased. Yet darkness and light exist side by side in geographically distinct places. The Israelites did have light. In short, in Egypt, God had reverted the relationship between darkness and light to what had been prior to the end of the first day of creation—that is, to the state that existed briefly between Genesis 1:4 and Genesis 1:5.

The final plague, the death of the first-born, is only a forerunner to the complete destruction of all the Egyptians at the Red Sea, or Reed Sea.b Here we hear a twisted, obverse echo of the optimism expressed in Genesis 1:26, where God said, “I will make man in my image and after my likeness.” Instead of creating, he is destroying—first, the first-born, and then, at the sea, all of Egypt.

Exodus in the Bible and the Egyptian Plagues

At the end of the narrative in Exodus, Israel looks back over the stilled water of the sea at a land with no people, no animals and no vegetation, a land in which creation had been undone. Israel is convinced that her redeemer is the Lord of all creation. It is this implicit theological principle that motivated the explicit creation of the literary pattern. He who had just reduced order to chaos was the same as he who had previously ordered the chaos.

One question still remains. What is the significance of the number ten in the Exodus tradition? Why ten plagues? The answer, I believe, is clear. The number of plagues in Exodus was meant to correspond to the ten divine utterances by which the world was created and ordered (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, 28, 29).14 The destruction of Egypt was part of the redemption of Israel, so the Exodus narrator tied his story of redemption to the story of creation through subtle echoes and word plays.15

Interestingly enough, there are two other accounts of the plagues in the Bible, one in Psalm 78:44–51 and the other in Psalm 105:28–36. These psalms differ somewhat between themselves; they also differ with the narrative in Exodus—regarding what constitutes a plague and the order in which they occurred.16 These differences can be taken to indicate that the specific number and order of the plagues was less important to Israel than the fact of the plagues and what was revealed to Israel through them.

For the psalmists, authors of liturgical texts, there were only seven plagues, a number clearly evoking the seven days of creation. In Egypt, however, the cycle did not end in a Sabbath; it culminated in a silent devastation. At the end of the seventh day (plague), creation in Egypt had been undone.

This tangle of threads—creation, on the one hand, and deliverance from slavery, on the other—is gathered together and neatly knotted in the Sabbath commandment of the Ten Commandments. In the Ten Commandments as set forth in Exodus, the motivation for observing the sabbath (the fifth commandment) is to commemorate creation: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God: You shall not do any work … for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them, and he rested on the seventh day” (Exodus 20:9–11). In the Ten Commandments as set forth in Deuteronomy, however, the reason Israel is commanded to observe the sabbath is different—not creation, but the delivery from Egyptian slavery. After being told to refrain from work on the sabbath—in the same language as in Exodus—the reason is given: “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God freed you from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm [a reference to the plagues]; therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:15).

As we have already noted, Psalms 78 and 105 preserve a tradition of seven plagues. In the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, Israel is told to remember the seventh-day sabbath to commemorate the six-day creation; in Deuteronomy 5, Israel is to observe the seventh-day sabbath to commemorate the deliverance from Egyptian slavery by God’s outstretched arm involving, according to the tradition in the Psalms, seven plagues.

This explanation of the plagues and their number also answers some historical questions concerning the biblical tradition of the ten plagues:

1. The plague tradition includes calamitous events that do not derive from experiences in the Land of Israel; this establishes a prima facie case that the tradition has roots in an ecological system unknown to the Israelites living in their own land.

2. An Egyptian milieu not only provides a basis for explaining the plagues in terms of natural phenomena, it also allows us plausibly to link at least some of the sequences of plagues.

These two points lead me to conclude that a historical kernel must underlie the Egyptian plague traditions preserved in the Bible.

3. We can speculate a bit further: perhaps a series of natural disasters occurred in Egypt in a relatively short period of time. Egyptian religion would have had to explain it. A link between these disasters and various Egyptian deities (expressing their displeasure) formed.17 No matter how Egyptians interpreted these disasters, Israelites could have accepted the notion that they were divinely caused but would have viewed them as contests between their patron and the gods of Egypt, the result of which were judgments against the gods of Egypt and their earthly representatives.18 Trace of this stage in the development of the tradition can be found in the Biblical narrative. During this, the interpretative stage, the plagues were theologized, providing cosmic meaning to the natural phenomena even as they were removed from the realm of what we would call “nature.”

4. The Plague traditions, which were maintained orally by the Israelites until some time after the establishment of the monarchy, continued to be reworked in the land of Israel. There, far from the ecological context of Egypt, some phenomena natural in Egypt would have appeared incomprehensible to them and even fantastic, inviting imaginative embellishment.

The Israelite traditors, those who passed on the tradition, were no longer familiar with the Egyptian cultural milieu in which the disasters had been theoligized and made meaningful by their ancestors. Thesetraditors, therefore, made them meaningful within their own world view by connection the plagues, which initiated the emergence of Israel as a covenant community, with the creation of the world.

Segun tomado de, http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/exodus/exodus-in-the-bible-and-the-egyptian-plagues/?mqsc=E3795714&utm_source=WhatCountsEmail&utm_medium=BHD+Daily%20Newsletter&utm_campaign=E5T430  el jueves, 30 de abril de 2015.


Surprising Facts about the Jews of Mexico.

Surprising Facts about the Jews of Mexico

Surprising Facts about the Jews of Mexico

Mexico boasts a thriving Jewish community with roots that go back 500 years.


Some of the most vibrant Jewish neighborhoods in North America exist “South of the Border” in Mexico, where over 40,000 Jews have created a close-knit, distinct community.

Here are some surprising facts about North America’s least-known Jewish centers.

Early Jewish Haven

When Hernan Cortés first conquered Mexico for Spain in 1521, he did so with a number of secret Jews amongst his men. Judaism was banned at the time in Spain, and soon many secret Spanish Jews departed for “Nueve Espana in the New World to try and live a more Jewish life. In fact, Spain’s first Viceroy in Mexico, Antonio de Mendoza, possessed a Jewish surname, and historians suggest he was possibly one of the secret Jews who moved to the new territory.

King Phillip II of Spain soon established the Kingdom of Nuevo Leon in Mexico (and parts of what is today Texas), and appointed Don Luis de Carvajal – a well-known Portuguese-Spanish nobleman who was born to Jewish converses, or forced converts – as Governor of the new territory. Carvajal welcomed both Jews and Catholics into his land. His nephew, Louis Rodriguez Carvajal, embraced his Jewish identity in the new kingdom, and encouraged other secret Jews to do the same.

Inquisition in Mexico

The Spanish Inquisition, which forbade any Jewish practice, spread to Mexico in 1571. Many of the new territory’s Jews fled to neighboring Peru: Jews who chose to remain faced torture and execution if it was ever found that they continued to practice their faith.

Some of the earliest victims of the Mexican Inquisition were the family of the Governor Louis de Carvajal. His sister Francisca was arrested on charges of being a Jew, tortured, and burned at the stake, along with four of her children – Isabel, Catalina, Leonor, and Luis – in 1596; another of her sons, Luis, committed suicide in prison rather than face more torture. In 1601, another of Francisca Carvajal’s daughters, Mariana, was burned at the stake for the crime of being Jewish as well. Governor de Carvajal himself was arrested on charges of practicing Judaism, and died in prison 1595.

Jews were soon pursued throughout Mexico. “Suspicious” activities that could brand someone a Jew included bathing on a Friday and afterwards putting on clean clothes; draining and disposing of blood after slaughtering a bird to eat; fasting on Yom Kippur; eating tortillas (which are unleavened) during Passover; and circumcising sons. Anyone guilty of these “crimes” faced drastic punishments including torture, imprisonment, forced wearing of a sanbenito, a knee-length yellow gown, or a dunce-cap, and execution. (Visitors to the Zocalo, the main plaza in the center of Mexico City today, might be unaware that this was the main location where generations of Jews were publicly burned at the stake for the “crime” of being Jewish.)

By the time the Inquisition was abolished in Mexico in 1821, approximately 100 Jews had been killed, and many more imprisoned.

Cinco de Mayo, the Struggle for Mexican Independence, and Mexico’s Jews

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Battle of Puebla, when a small Mexican force led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin defeated a much larger French army, on May 5, 1862. (The area of Puebla might have been home to a thriving secret Jewish community of its own; see the section on Jewish-Mexican food, below.)

Despite this victory, French forces went on to conquer Mexico, and set up the short-lived Second Mexican Empire. In 1864, Emperor Maximilian I declared himself ruler and though he never consolidated his reign over all of Mexico, the short-lived monarch did make one remarkable change in Mexico: he issued an edict of religious tolerance, and invited German Jews to settle in Mexico. When Maximilian was deposed and executed in 1867, his successor, Mexican nationalist President Benito Juarez, continued to enforce a separation of Church and State, ensuring that Mexico remained a haven for Jewish immigrants.

Jewish refugees began to pour into Mexico. Ashkenazi Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe came in the 1880s, establishing Mexico’s first synagogue, in Mexico City, 1885. Sephardi Jews soon followed, fleeing persecution in the crumbling Ottoman Empire, and finding a new home in Mexico. (Sephardi Jews had an added incentive to immigrate to the new nation; they spoke Ladino, a Spanish-derived Jewish dialect that helped them feel at home in Spanish-speaking Mexico.)

Lithuania, Damascus and Aleppo in Mexico City

Mexico’s oldest standing synagogue is the Sephardi Synagogue, built in 1923 in the heart of Mexico City, at 83 Justo Sierra Street. Although the Jewish community has long since moved to the suburbs, Jews who work downtown still frequent the congregation during the working week. Down the street is Mexico’s first Ashkenazi synagogue, Justo Sierra, built in 1941 as a replica of a magnificent Lithuanian synagogue; builders worked from a photograph, copying the ornate details faithfully. Now a cultural center, it is the only Mexican synagogue that is open to the public. Fear of crime and terrorism haunt Mexico’s Jews, making them highly security-conscious and wary of maintain the safety and security of their synagogues and other communal buildings.

Today’s Mexican Jewish community is tightly-knit, and contains several distinct strands: two separate Syrian communities thrive, each with their own traditions, from Aleppo and Damascus. Ashkenazi Jews maintain the traditions they brought with them from Eastern Europe. Another group of Mexican Sephardi Jews hails from the Balkans, and keeps those memories alive through family recipes and customs. Finally, a fifth group has made its mark on Mexico’s Jewish community in recent years: immigrants from the United States, who call Mexico home now and have brought their own distinct traditions from North of the Border to Mexico.

Jew-Mex: Jewish-Mexican Cuisine

A few of Mexico’s best-known dishes turn out to have surprising Jewish origins. Bunuelos, the quintessential Mexican winter holiday dish of golden, deep-fried balls of cheese-infused dough, originated as a Sephardi Hanukkah dish: the oil used the fry these savory snacks was originally meant to invoke the oil used to miraculously light the Menorah in the Temple during the first Hanukkah.

Some theorize that the springtime Mexican dish Capirotada – a rich bread pudding infused with sweet cheese and drenched in syrup – also originated with Mexican Jews, as a way of disguising their consumption of unleavened bread during Passover.

Pan de Semita, the iconic sesame-seed-studded roll of Mexico’s Puebla region (the area where the Battle of Puebla, celebrated in Cinco de Mayo celebrations), has been linked to secret Jews who possibly ate it as an unleavened alternative to regular bread during Passover. Another iconic Mexican regional dish – roast suckling goat, enjoyed in and around the Mexican city of Monterrey (which also contains an established Jewish presence) – was likely Jewish in origin: a way for secret Jews to avoid eating the roast suckling pig so popular in much of Mexico.

Culinary influences have gone both ways: Mexican Jewish cooks have adapted the bright flavors and fresh fruits of Mexico to traditional Jewish dishes, adding chilies to gefilte fish and tropical spices to chicken soup. In Mexico City today, kosher consumers can enjoy Mexican staples embraced by the Jewish community such as quesadillas (corn tortillas that are filled, folded and fried), flautas (tortillas that are rolled and fried), sopes (fried circles of cornmeal dough), chalupas (cups of fried cornmeal) – all filled with Mexican delicacies such as queso (cheese), nopales (cactuse), frijoles (refried beans), salsa, and guacamole. Even street food has been available at kosher stands in Mexico City, ensuring that Mexico’s Jews don’t miss out on their country’s delicious snacks.

Tight-Knit Community, Bright Future

Centered today in Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara, Mexico’s Jewish community is tightly-knit, with enviable levels of Jewish engagement. Jewish organizations reach every corner of the community’s life, providing independent ambulance services, welfare organizations, social groups – even a dedicated anti-kidnapping response group.

Intermarriage rates are among the lowest in the world: 94% of Mexican Jews marry other Jews. Approximately 95% of Mexican Jews are affiliated with the Jewish community, and about 95% of children attend one of the community’s sixteen different Jewish schools.

Rates of anti-Semitism remain low. In June 2003, then-President Vicente Fox passed a law that forbids discrimination, including anti-Semitism, adding a greater level of security for Mexico’s 40,000+ Jews. Jewish community leader Renee Dayan-Shabot was in the Mexican Senate the day the law was passed. “It came time for any arguments against the law,” she recalls, “and there was complete silence.” Then, as now, Mexico embraced its small but vibrant Jewish population.

Segun tomado de, http://www.aish.com/jw/s/Surprising-Facts-about-the-Jews-of-Mexico.html el domingo, 26 de abril de 2015.

New carpets at Dome of Rock spark religious row

New carpets at Dome of Rock spark religious row, rekindle Holy Ark mystery Archaeologists fume as new rugs laid at Jerusalem shrine, covering geometric patterns that some claim point to sacred.

The Dome of the Rock, opposite the al-Aqsa Mosque, during a recent visit (photo credit: Mitch Ginsburg/ Times of Israel)

The Dome of the Rock, opposite the al-Aqsa Mosque, during a recent visit (photo credit: Mitch Ginsburg/ Times of Israel)

In this Sunday, April 19, 2015 photo, workers place carpets over ancient floor designs in the cave under the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock enshrines the large rock slab where Muslim tradition says Mohammed ascended to heaven. Jews believe the rock may be where the holiest part of the two ancient temples stood about 2,000 years ago.

In this Sunday, April 19, 2015 photo, a worker places new carpets at the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem. (photo credit: AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

In this Sunday, April 19, 2015 photo, a cleric walks on the new carpets at the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem. (photo credit: AP/Mahmoud Illean)

But there is no such thing as routine remodeling when it comes to the most contested piece of real estate in Jerusalem, where the presence of a mere screwdriver can threaten to ignite religious tensions. The carpet has sparked a verbal holy war over the hilltop compound, which is revered by Jews and Muslims whose competing claims often spill over into violence. Israeli archaeological authorities say the repairs were carried out behind their backs, and an Israeli government minister urged an immediate halt to the work, claiming it might cause irreparable damage. Frustrated Israeli researchers say previously undocumented ancient floor designs were discovered when the old carpets were peeled off, but they didn’t get a chance to document the designs before workmen covered them up with the new carpet.

And some researchers claim the Bible’s deepest secrets may lie beneath some of the newly exposed floor designs.

“Something is there. I don’t know what. But something is hidden there,” said Israeli archaeologist Zachi Dvira, who studies the site.

In this Sunday, April 19, 2015 photo, a worker carries new carpets at the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock enshrines the large rock slab where Muslim tradition says Mohammed ascended to heaven. Jews believe the rock may be where the holiest part of the two ancient temples stood about 2,000 years ago. (photo credit: AP/Mahmoud Illean)
In this Sunday, April 19, 2015 photo, a worker carries new carpets at the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock enshrines the large rock slab where Muslim tradition says Mohammed ascended to heaven. Jews believe the rock may be where the holiest part of the two ancient temples stood about 2,000 years ago. (photo credit: AP/Mahmoud Illean)

Officials with the Waqf, the Muslim authority that administers the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, which includes the Dome of the Rock, reject the Israeli accusations.

Sheikh Azzam Tamimi, the head of the Waqf, said the work is long overdue and has defiantly proclaimed that he was forbidding any Israeli involvement.

“Our work in Al Aqsa is transparent,” he told The Associated Press. “We are only putting down carpet and felt. Nothing more, nothing less.”

The work quietly began more than a month ago, and Israel facilitated the renovation project, said Jamal Al Quda, a member of a group of Jordanian carpet layers who received Israeli visas for the job.


A packing list dated March 11 from an Egyptian carpet company to the Jordanian Embassy in Tel Aviv lists 80 bales of carpeting for the Marwani prayer area located at the compound, and the prayer area encircling the rock slab inside the dome.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II financed the project, according to Waqf. Israel captured Jerusalem’s Old City from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war, but under a longstanding agreement, Jordan remains the custodian of the area’s Muslim holy sites.

On a recent afternoon in a small cave underneath the shrine’s rock, Al Quda dribbled Israeli all-purpose glue from a large tin onto an intricate stone tile decoration on the cave’s marble floor. He said it was necessary to affix the base layer of thin dark felt before rolling out the carpet above it.

Some Israeli archaeologists are alarmed about the glue used but Al Quda said the glue wouldn’t damage the floor.

“It comes off my hand,” he said, rubbing his fingers.

The cryptic geometric designs have sparked the imagination of some researchers about what secrets may lay beneath.

Ancient Jewish traditions say the gold-cased Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Ten Commandments, may have been hidden away in a chamber when the First Jewish Temple was destroyed some 2,500 years ago. It’s an Indiana Jones-type mystery that touches upon a holy grail for biblical enthusiasts.

While Jerusalem may be the most excavated city in the world, the Dome of the Rock and its hilltop plaza are an archaeological gold mine that has never been properly dug because of the political sensitivities surrounding the site, which is considered Judaism’s holiest spot and Islam’s third holiest.

In this Sunday, April 19, 2015 photo, a cleric walks on the new carpets at the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem. (photo credit: AP/Mahmoud Illean)
In this Sunday, April 19, 2015 photo, a cleric walks on the new carpets at the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem. (photo credit: AP/Mahmoud Illean)

The Dome of the Rock enshrines the large rock slab — or Foundation Stone — where Muslim tradition says the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. Jews believe the rock may be where the holiest part of the two ancient Temples stood as early as about 3,000 years ago — the site of the Holy of Holies — and where religious Jews pray a third Temple will one day be built. According to Jewish tradition, the stone is also the site where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac.

The Foundation Stone in the floor of the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem. The round hole at upper left penetrates to a small cave, known as the Well of Souls, below. The cage-like structure just beyond the hole covers the stairway entrance to the cave. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Foundation Stone in the floor of the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem. The round hole at upper left penetrates to a small cave, known as the Well of Souls, below. The cage-like structure just beyond the hole covers the stairway entrance to the cave. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The adjacent Western Wall, believed to be one of the last remnants of the Temple complex, is the holiest site where Jews can pray. Palestinian officials reject Jewish historical ties to the site.

The competing claims have spilled over into violence.

In 1999, the Muslim authorities who administer the site dug an enormous hole 12 meters (40 feet) deep as part of construction for an underground prayer area, dumping 10,000 tons of earth in a nearby valley and an east Jerusalem dump.

The director of the Israeli Antiquities Authority at the time called it an “archaeological crime.” For years, Dvira and veteran Israeli archaeologist Gabriel Barkay have been leading a team of archaeologists and volunteers in combing through the dirt for historical finds.

The initiative, called the Temple Mount Sifting Project, is conducted under the auspices of the Elad Foundation, a group that also purchases Arab homes in contested parts of East Jerusalem and helps move Jews in. Critics say this nationalist agenda should not mix with archaeology.

Moses and Joshua bowing before the Ark, painting by James Jacques Joseph Tissot, c. 1900 (photo credit: Wikipedia/Jewish Museum)

Moses and Joshua bowing before the Ark, painting by James Jacques Joseph Tissot, c. 1900 (photo credit: Wikipedia/Jewish Museum)

Israel’s state comptroller wrote a scathing report in 2010 about the Muslim authorities’ illicit work projects at the compound and Israel’s failure at enforcing supervision there. Israeli officials kept the report classified out of concern that its publication could harm the sensitive relationship with Jordan.

Tens of thousands of worshippers attend weekly Friday prayers, and the carpets have been replaced before — most recently 12 years ago, at a time of heightened violence when Israeli antiquities officials were granted limited access to the site.

Past renovation projects were done quietly behind the scenes. Leaked photos posted on social media sites — combined with the political influence of Israeli nationalists monitoring the site — drew extra attention and fueled the latest controversy.

Last week, Israel’s housing minister, Uri Ariel of the nationalist Jewish Home party, sent an alarmed letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the carpeting project.

“There is no need to elaborate on how important this site is, where every modification, every excavation with heavy equipment can cause irreparable harm to the foundations of the Temple,” Ariel wrote.

Photos that were leaked to Facebook from the off-limits restoration site showed a number of geometric floor patterns never before documented by archaeologists, said Frankie Snyder, a researcher with the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

Some apparently date to when the Crusaders controlled the complex in the 12th century, she said.

“I’m worried about damage of the original floors,” said Barkay, the archaeologist. “The patterns were never properly documented.”

Israel Hasson, the director of the Israeli Antiquities Authority, said once the government body learned about the renovation, it made arrangements with the Waqf to send an archaeologist to document some of the floor patterns, but others already had been covered by the maroon and beige carpeting.

“We got to part of them. We didn’t get to it all. I won’t ask anyone to pull up the carpets to document it,” Hasson said. “We will wait for the next opportunity. We’re sure to be here over the next 2,000 years.”

In this Sunday, April 19, 2015 photo, workers place carpets over ancient floor designs in the cave under the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock enshrines the large rock slab where Muslim tradition says Mohammed ascended to heaven. Jews believe the rock may be where the holiest part of the two ancient temples stood about 2,000 years ago. (photo credit: AP/Mahmoud Illean)

Segun tomado de, http://www.timesofisrael.com/replacing-carpet-at-jerusalem-shrine-reveals-religious-rift/ el miercoles, 22 de abril de 2015.

The medieval rabbi who put Aristotle before God

The medieval rabbi who put Aristotle before God

Aristotle in a painting by Raphael (1483-1520). Photo by Madava 1947 / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1344, the medieval Talmudist, philosopher, mathematician and astronomer Rabbi Levi ben Gerson died. Alternately known by the acronym of his Hebrew name, Ralbag, and as Gersonides, among other monikers, Levi was a bold and brilliant scientist and thinker who straddled several different intellectual worlds and was not afraid to put forward unpopular theses — for example, that God could not have created the universe out of nothingness.

Levi ben Gerson was born in 1288 in Bagnols-sur-Ceze, in southern France. He came from a family of rabbinical scholars; there is speculation, for example, that a great-grandfather on his father’s side was Nachmanides, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman. Few details are known about his personal life, but it is believed that Levi spent it in Avignon and in Orange, both in Provence.

Part of Levi’s lifetime overlapped with the period when the papacy was based in Avignon, and Rabbi Levi is believed to have had good relations with the popes, even dedicating one of his books to Pope Clement VI. It is also believed that he supported himself by working as a physician, rather than as a rabbi.

The 13th century is the period when Europe was rediscovering the philosophical works of Aristotle, mainly through the Arabic translations by the Spanish-Muslim philosopher Averroes (Ibn Rushd). Levi’s commentaries on Aristotle are in fact commentaries on commentaries that were written by Averroes.

Horrifying his peers

Like Maimonides before him, Gersonides attempted to reconcile the philosophy of Aristotle with traditional Jewish thought, but when he couldn’t, he tended to give preference to the logical conclusions of the Greek thinker. In the preface to his greatest work, “Sefer Milhamot Hashem” (“The Book of the Wars of God”), Levi wrote, “The Law cannot prevent us from considering to be true that which our reason urges us to believe.”

“The Book of the Wars of God” (which some of Levi’s opponents called “The Book of the Wars on God”) was divided into six parts, each dealing with one of the following big questions: the immortality of the soul, prophecy, the omniscience of God, divine providence, the nature of the heavenly bodies, and the eternity of matter.

In looking at these questions, Levi, relying on both empirical and inductive reasoning, took positions that were bound to provoke those Jewish (or Christian, for that matter) thinkers who held that God was omniscient and omnipotent.

So he argued that God did not create the universe ex nihilo, but rather out of preexisting, if inchoate, matter. He also said that it derived from the conviction that humans had free will, that God could not know in advance what a person’s fate was going to be; God could only know the alternatives from which humans could make their choices in life.

As a Jewish scholar, Rabbi Levi wrote commentaries on the books of the Torah, and on several of the prophets and other books of the Bible.

As a mathematician, Gersonides examined each of the different operations of arithmetic and algebra, and used inductive reasoning to prove mathematical theorems.

Levi ben Gerson is also remembered as one of the great astronomers of the era, and was in certain ways ahead of his time. On the one hand, he accepted the conventional astrological belief that the positions of the constellations contained information on people’s futures. On the other, he openly challenged the Ptolemaic system for calculating the movement of celestial bodies.

True, Levi never got to the point of concluding that the planets revolve around the sun, but he did improve on the existing model. He also devised a device and method for calculating the distances between objects in the sky that was far closer than anything that had previously existed.

Scientifically, Levi got as much wrong as he did right. But he helped strengthen the primacy of observation and experimentation in establishing theories of, for example, the movement of the moon, rather than the norm at the time of accepting simple belief unsubstantiated by empirical evidence.

Según tomado de, http://www.haaretz.com/news/features/this-day-in-jewish-history/.premium-1.652537  el lunes, 20 de abril de 2015.

Rosh Jodesh

Rosh Jodesh
Por Eliezer Shemtov
Sistema Lunar

La primera Mitzvá que el pueblo judío recibió de D-os, estando todavía en Egipto, fue la de fijar el mes de la salida de Egipto como el primer mes del año y marcar el tiempo según el ciclo lunar (Exodo, 12:1-2). Con el “nacimiento de la luna nueva” comienza el nuevo mes en el calendario judío.

En la época en que existía el Templo se traía sacrificios especiales en honor al día.

Hoy en día se conmemora principalmente por medio de liturgias especiales (Véase Kitzur Shuljan Aruj Cap. 97 por más detalles).

¿Por qué es tan importante qué punto de referencia se usa para contar el pasar del tiempo como para que sea el primer precepto que D-os le haya ordenado al pueblo judío?

Nuestros sabios explican que en realidad en este primer mandato está la “Declaración de Principios” del pueblo judío. El pueblo judío no habrá de ser un pueblo más, sino un pueblo diferente. Mientras los demás pueblos cuentan el tiempo según el ciclo solar, el pueblo judío contará el tiempo según el ciclo lunar, ya que el sol y la luna representan sus respectivos roles y razones de ser.

Una de las diferencias entre el sol y la luna es que el sol irradia luz propia, mientras que la luna ilumina por medio de una luz reflejada. Los demás pueblos cuentan el tiempo según el sol ya que aspiran a mostrar su grandeza, mientras que el pueblo judío cuenta el tiempo según la luna representando el hecho que su razón de ser es vivir una vida que refleje la voluntad y grandeza de D-os. Los demás pueblos aspiran a vivir de acuerdo a su verdad, mientras que el pueblo judío aspira a vivir de acuerdo a Su verdad.

“Nacimiento” de la Luna

En la literatura talmúdica y halájica, el momento exacto de la reaparición mensual de la luna – en Jerusalem – se llama el Molad, o “nacimiento” de la luna.

Cabe preguntarse por qué denominarlo “nacimiento” si la luna no muere ni nace. De hecho, la luna es igual durante todo el mes, hasta que su luz es igual durante todo el mes; es nada más que en relación a su posicionamiento vis-a-vis nosotros que vemos más o menos de su luz. ¿Por qué hablar de “nacimiento” de la luna?

La respuesta:

El sol y la luna fueron creados ambos con el propósito de iluminar la tierra (Gén., 1:15). Esa es su razón de ser. Si no cumplen con su función es como si no estuvieran.

He aquí una enseñanza muy importante.

Nuestra razón de ser como pueblo y como integrantes del pueblo judío es iluminar al mundo con la luz de la Torá. Si no lo hacemos, por más que físicamente estemos, es como si no estuviéramos. Realmente no estamos si no cumplimos con nuestra función primaria.

Un Pueblo Lunar

Una noche durante la segunda semana de cada mes salimos a la calle a bendecir la luna nueva. En una de las plegarias mencionamos la similitud que hay entre el pueblo judío y la luna: tal como la luna mengua y crece, del mismo modo, el pueblo judío, aunque esté abatido, volverá a crecer y a recuperar su luminosidad.

Históricamente, la 15ª generación desde nuestro patriarca Abraham, la generación del Rey Salomón – correspondiendo al 15ª día del ciclo lunar – fue una época en la cual “la luna estaba en su plenitud”. Fue en ese entonces que se construyó el primer Templo de Jerusalem y el pueblo judío gozó de un período de tranquilidad, seguridad e influencia sin par. Será igualada nuevamente cuando la “luna se llene de vuelta” con la llegada del Mashíaj.

El Calendario

El intervalo entre un “nacimiento” de la luna y el siguiente dura exactamente 29 días 12 horas 44 minutos y 31/3 segundos. Dado que no se puede tener un mes con días fraccionados, alternamos entre meses de veintinueve días y de treinta días.

Antiguamente, cuando existía el Beit Hamikdash y el Sanhedrín funcionaba, el nuevo mes se establecía por medio de dos testigos oculares que vinieron a Jerusalem a prestar testimonio ante la suprema corte quien, consecuentemente, determinaba si anunciar o no el nuevo mes. No es que no sabían cuándo ocurría el nacimiento de la luna; es que se necesitaba la consagración del mes por medio del testimonio de dos testigos “constituyentes”. Si no aparecían dos testigos el día 30, automáticamente, se trasladaba el comienzo del nuevo mes al día 31.

Hoy en día, al carecer de una Sanhedrín facultada para determinar los meses, usamos el calendario consagrado en Jerusalem por medio de Hillel II (Siglo IV E.C.).

Año Embolismal

Dado que el año lunar tiene un promedio de 355 días (que causalmente es el valor numérico de la palabra Shaná o año) y el año solar tiene 365 días, resulta que las fechas, fijadas por la luna, se van corriendo unos diez días por año con relación a las estaciones, fijadas por el sol.

Siendo que la Torá nos encomienda que observemos siempre la festividad de Pésaj en la primavera boreal (Deut., 16:1), agregamos un mes cada dos o tres años para compensar la diferencia. Ese año está denominado Shaná Meuberet (año “preñado”) o año embolismal.

La enseñanza para la vida:

Todas las Mitzvot que hacemos para iluminar al mundo se dividen en dos tipos: aquellos que, como el sol, son constantes, y aquellos que, como la luna, son cambiantes.

Cada uno de los dos tipos tiene una ventaja y una desventaja. Las constantes, si bien no motivan tanto como las esporádicas, están profundamente arraigadas. Las esporádicas motivan mucho, aunque nos están tan profundamente arraigadas.

La enseñanza del año embolismal es que debemos buscar la manera de fusionarlos, o sea introducir la cualidad de cada uno en el otro. Debemos buscar novedad y frescura en los preceptos constantes y debemos buscar constancia en la innovación.

Un ejemplo de cómo introducir la ventaja “lunar” en un acto “solar”:

Colocamos los Tefilín diariamente sobre el brazo y la cabeza para subyugar nuestros sentimientos y pensamientos al servicio de D-os. La manera de introducir frescura en ese acto diario es pensar cada día en alguna idea o sentimiento personal específico que necesita ser sublimado… La tarea de subyugar es constante (sol); lo que subyugar es cambiante (lunar).

Un ejemplo de introducir la cualidad “solar” en las actividades “lunares” sería buscar constantemente propuestas novedosas para transmitir el mensaje del judaísmo.

Este artículo es un ejemplo.

Segun tomado de, http://www.es.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2114304/jewish/Rosh-Jodesh.htm el domingo, 19 de abril de 2015.

The meaning of the Jewish flag

Tribal identity: the meaning of the Jewish flag

Controversial flag? Learn more about the unusual and surprising history of the modern flag of Israel

April 8, 2015, 7:04 pm
Judaica Webstore

Israel celebrates 67 (photo: Courtesy)

Today, while a flag is merely a piece of cloth used to identify and distinguish  countries and nations, the unique choice of colors, design and symbols actually make it a work of art embedded with deep cultural significance.

In fact, the Jewish people had multiple flags for thousands of years. The Torah (Num. 2:2) describes how the Israelites encamped in the wilderness, “each man by his banner, according to the insignia of his ancestor’s house….” (Numbers 2:2).

According to the Midrash Rabbah (Numbers 2:7), this meant that each tribe had a flag adorned with its tribe’s unique color and symbol.  Some referred to historical occurrences (Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Joseph) while others reflected Jacob’s blessings (Judah, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher and Benjamin). Each one, however, represented that tribe’s particular journey, the specific energy which he was to manifest in this world. In fact, our Sages teach that the Red sea split into twelve paths, providing a separate path for each of the twelve tribes, a reality which was manifest until about 70 CE and the exile from the Land.

Many years later, with the rise of modern Zionism, a new flag was necessary, one symbolic of the re-building and re-unification of the Jewish people in their Land. On November 29, 1947, when the Jews of Israel poured into the streets to celebrate the United Nations partition resolution, the blue hexagram (Star of David) on a white background, between two blue horizontal stripes was held as this unifying symbol, becoming the official state flag the following year. Why?


White: Peace, purity and innocence

Blue: Vigilance, perseverance, justice, prosperity and freedom


Star of David

The choice of the Star of David stems from the late 18th century, when it began to emerge as a widespread symbol of Jewish identity. However, long before then, the various interpretations of two interlocked triangles made it the perfect choice, including the cycles of nature, harmonization of the spiritual and physical, and the symbiotic relationship between G-d and man, while its 12 sides represent the 12 tribes of Israel, whose ingathering into their ancestral homeland allows the ultimate expression of all the rest.

Blue Stripes

Meanwhile, the stripes on the Zionist flag were inspired by those on the traditional prayer shawl, while the blue color is a reference to the techelet of the fringes, the sky-blue dye extracted from the sea dwelling chilazon. Techelet is considered to have great spiritual power, as Rabbi Meir said: “Whoever observes the mitzvah of tzitzit is considered as if he greeted the Divine Presence, for techelet resembles the sea, and the sea resembles the sky, and the sky resembles God’s holy throne.”

Today, with its blue stripes, reflecting Jewish spirituality and independence in the Land of Israel, together with the Star of David, the symbol of re-birth, harmony, relationship and unity, the flag of Israel represents the continuation of the unique journey and destiny of the Jewish people in their Land, the splitting of the sea into one path (as seen on the flag), to be a true light unto the nations.

Segun tomado de, http://www.timesofisrael.com/spotlight/tribal-identity-the-meaning-of-the-jewish-flag/ el sábado, 18 de abril de 2015.

The Kosher Kitchen: Meat, Dairy and Pareve

The Kosher Kitchen

Kosher foods are divided into three categories: meat, dairy and pareve. One of the basic principles of kashrut(the laws of kosher) is the total separation of meat and dairy products. Meat and dairy may not be cooked or eaten together. To ensure this, the kosher kitchen contains separate sets of dishes, utensils and cookware, and separate preparation areas for meat and dairy. A third category, pareve, is comprised of foods which are neither meat nor dairy and may therefore be eaten with either. It is useful to have some separate pareve utensils as well.


The category of meat includes meat, fowl, and their byproducts, such as bones, soup or gravy. Any food made with these foods is considered “meaty,” or fleishig (Yiddish). Even a small amount of meat in a food can cause it to be fleishig. All these products must come from a kosher animal, properly slaughtered and prepared according to the dietary laws.


All foods derived from or containing milk are considered dairy, or milchig. This includes milk, butter, yogurt and all cheese—hard, soft and cream. Even a small amount of dairy in a food can cause the food to be considered dairy.

Note: Some “non-dairy” creamers, candy, cereal and margarine do contain milk derivatives, as do some low-calorie sweeteners.


Foods that are neither meat nor dairy are called pareve. This means that they contain no meat or dairy derivatives, and have not been cooked or mixed with any meat or dairy foods.

Eggs, fish, fruit, vegetables, grains and juices are common pareve foods. Other pareve foods include pasta, soft drinks, coffee and tea, and many types of candy and snacks.

All products—meat, dairy or pareve—that have been processed in any way should be bought only if they bear reliable kosher certification.

Segun tomado de, http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/607567/jewish/Meat-Dairy-and-Pareve.htm el viernes, 17 de abril de 2015.