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Jewish Customs in the Book of Judith

April 20 2016

Although the book of Judith was never considered part of the Hebrew Bible, it is undoubtedly of Jewish authorship and, as Tal Ilan writes, it provides a window into ancient Jewish religious practices:

The book of Judith was composed sometime after the Hebrew Bible was completed. It came into being, however, considerably earlier than the Mishnah and the Talmud. Thus, Jewish customs recorded in Judith were influenced by the Hebrew Bible and reflect an earlier Judaism than that practiced today. The Jewish customs in Judith relate to fasting, widowhood, kosher food, immersion, conversion, and slavery. . . .

While at the Assyrian camp, Judith prepares and eats her own food, refusing table-fellowship with the Assyrian general Holofernes. This custom is part of the Jewish dietary laws of kashrut. . . . One might [conclude] from this custom that table fellowship with foreigners on their own “turf” was [also] prohibited.

Also while in the Assyrian camp, Judith goes nightly to the nearby spring to immerse herself. Immersion was practiced in Second Temple Judaism to remove impurity. It was also practiced by sectarians such as the Essenes on a daily basis, as a sign of piety. Immersion in Judaism today is practiced only by women after menstruation and certainly not on a daily basis, but Judith’s daily immersion is a sign of her piety.

Read more at Bible Odyssey

More about: ancient Judaism, Apocrypha, Essenes, History & Ideas, Kashrut

 

The Palestinian National Movement Has Reached a Point of Crisis

With Hamas having failed to achieve anything through several weeks of demonstrations and violence, and Mahmoud Abbas reduced to giving rambling anti-Semitic speeches, Palestinian aspirations seem to have hit a brick wall. Elliott Abrams explains:

[Neither] Fatah [nor] Hamas offers Palestinians a practical program for national independence. . . . [The current situation] leaves Palestinians high and dry, with no way forward at all. Whatever the criticism of the “occupation,” Israelis will certainly not abandon the West Bank to chaos or to a possible Hamas takeover. Today the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state is simply too dangerous to Israel and to Jordan to be contemplated. . . . There are only two other options. The first is the “one-state solution,” meaning union with Israel; but that is a nonstarter that Israel will reject no matter who is its prime minister. The other option is some kind of eventual link to Jordan.

In polite diplomatic society, and in Palestinian public discourse, such a link cannot be mentioned. But younger people who visit there, Palestinians have explained to me, can see a society that is half-Palestinian and functions as an independent nation with a working system of law and order. Jordanians travel freely, rarely suffer from terrorism, and [can vote in regular] elections, even if power is ultimately concentrated in the royal palace. The kingdom has close relations with all the Sunni states and the West, and is at peace with Israel.

The fundamental question all this raises is what, in 2018, is the nature and objective of Palestinian nationalism. Is the goal sovereignty at all costs, no matter how long it takes and even if it is increasingly divorced from peace, prosperity, and personal freedom? Is “steadfastness” [in refusing to compromise with Israel] the greatest Palestinian virtue now and forever? These questions cannot be debated in either Gaza or the West Bank. But as Israel celebrates 70 years and the “occupation” is now more than a half-century old, how much longer can they be delayed? . . .

The catastrophic mishandling of Palestinian affairs by generations of leaders from Haj Amin al-Husseini (the pro-Nazi mufti of the British Mandate period) to Yasir Arafat and now to Mahmoud Abbas has been the true Palestinian Nakba.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Jordan, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinians