How Jewish Is the Book of Ben Sira?

The book of Ben Sira, thought to have been written around 200 BCE, consists mostly of proverbs and aphorisms. While it appears (under the title Ecclesiasticus) in Catholic editions of the Bible, it never entered the Jewish canon and is largely unknown to Jews today. Yet, notes Michael Satlow, Jews continued to read and study it long after it was definitely excluded from Scripture.

Unlike other originally Jewish books now found in the [Christian] Apocrypha, . . . Ben Sira did not exactly fade away. The book continued to circulate and to be read among Palestinian Jews, even though some 2nd- and 3rd-century rabbis explicitly put it in the category of non-holy, even heretical, books. Yet in practice, Palestinian rabbinic literature shows no discomfort with reading and citing the book.

The Palestinian Talmud mentions the book once, in a story in which Shimon ben Shetaḥ quotes from it in order to justify his actions to King Yanai. While the Palestinian Talmud never cites verses from Ben Sira using the traditional terms used to introduce biblical prooftexts, in several places it introduces verses from Ben Sira with a formula like, “Ben Sira said,” as if he himself was a [talmudic] sage like any other. . . .

Indeed, the fact that Ben Sira continued to play an important role in the lives of Palestinian Jews can be attested by the very survival of the Hebrew text in the Cairo Geniza. Portions of five manuscripts were found, all carefully written. We do not know how this community (which had close ties to the Jewish community in the land of Israel) used these books; since they were not written on parchment, it likely did not use them liturgically.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at theTorah.com

More about: Apocrypha, Ben Sira, Bible, Cairo Geniza, Religion & Holidays, Talmud

 

To Israel’s Leading Strategist, Strength, Not Concessions, Has Brought a Measure of Calm

Aug. 14 2018

Following a long and distinguished career in the IDF, Yaakov Amidror served as Israel’s national-security adviser from 2011 to 2013. He speaks with Armin Rosen about the threats from Gaza, Hizballah, and Iran:

For Israel’s entire existence, would-be peacemakers have argued that the key to regional harmony is the reduction of the Jewish state’s hard power through territorial withdrawals and/or the legitimization of the country’s non-state enemies. In Amidror’s view, reality has thoroughly debunked this line of reasoning.

Amidror believes peace—or calm, at least—came as a result of Israeli muscle. Israel proved to its former enemies in the Sunni Arab world that it’s powerful enough to fill the vacuum left by America’s exit from the region and to stand up to Iran on the rest of the Middle East’s behalf. “The stronger Israel is, the more the ability of Arab countries to cooperate [with it] grows,” Amidror explained. On the whole, Amidror said he’s “very optimistic. I remember the threat that we faced when we were young. We fought the Six-Day War and I remember the Yom Kippur War, and I see what we are facing today. We have only one-and-a-half problems. One problem is Iran, and the half-problem is Hizballah.” . . .

In all likelihood the next Israeli-Iranian confrontation will be a clash with Amidror’s half-threat: the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hizballah, Iran’s most effective proxy in the Middle East and perhaps the best armed non-state military force on earth. . . . “We should neutralize the military capability of Hizballah,” [in the event of war], he said. “We should not destroy the organization as a political tool. If the Shiites want these people to represent them, it’s their problem.” . . .

“It will be a very nasty war,” Amidror said. “A very, very nasty war.” Hizballah will fire “thousands and thousands” of long-range missiles of improved precision, speed, and range at Israeli population centers, a bombardment larger than Israel’s various layers of missile defense will be able to neutralize in full. . . . This will, [however], be a blow Israel can withstand. “Israelis will be killed, no question,” Amidror said. “But it’s not going to be catastrophic.”

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Lebanon