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The Judaism of the Dead Sea Scrolls

March 8 2017

From roughly 100 BCE to 68 CE, there was a Jewish settlement at Qumran, near the Dead Sea, that seems to have been populated by members of a particular sect. Most experts believe that the Dead Sea Scrolls—all found close by—include documents pertaining to the beliefs and practices of the Qumran sectarians. Jutta Jokiranta explains:

Part of the Qumran collection consists of sectarian documents that reveal a distinct socio-religious movement with unique features within this larger matrix of diversity. The members of this “Qumran movement” formed an association that kept property in common and had regulations concerning meals and consumption of food, marriages and sexual practices, purity practices, Temple rituals, Sabbath observance, the festival calendar, and education. Determinism and expectations of the end-time characterized the belief system of the movement.

We do not presently know if the archaeological site at Qumran, close to the caves where the scrolls were found, served the whole movement or only this particular community. It is very likely that the movement was not restricted to this desert location. Most probably the movement was the same as or similar to the one later known as the Essenes.

Some of this movement’s regulations opposed what we know of other Jewish teachings and practices from the period. For example, . . . according to the Qumran community’s regulations on the Sabbath, it was forbidden to help anyone out of a well with the aid of an instrument, whereas the rabbis allowed saving a human life. Such Qumran rules may represent the common norms and ideals of their time, whereas the rabbinic rules may reflect an evolution toward leniency.

But the Qumran collection testifies to other groups and authors who are not so easy to identify. Some of the texts may represent widespread Jewish customs or Temple practices (such as daily prayers); others may have their origins in groups similar to the Qumran movement interested in legal interpretations, the study of the Torah, the teaching of wisdom, and in revealing the course of history and divine plan for the elect.

Read more at Bible Odyssey

More about: ancient Judaism, Archaeology, Dead Sea Scrolls, Essenes, History & Ideas, Judaism

Mahmoud Abbas Comes to the UN to Walk away from the Negotiating Table

Feb. 22 2018

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, addressed the United Nations Security Council during one of its regular discussions of the “Palestine question.” He used the opportunity to elaborate on the Palestinians’ “5,000-year history” in the land of Israel, after which he moved on to demand—among other things—that the U.S. reverse its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The editors of the Weekly Standard comment:

It’s convenient for Abbas to suggest a condition to which he knows the United States won’t accede. It allows him to do what he does best—walk away from the table. Which is what he did on Tuesday, literally. After his speech, Abbas and his coterie of bureaucrats walked out of the council chamber, snubbing the next two speakers, the Israeli ambassador Danny Danon and the U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley, . . . [in order to have his] photograph taken with the Belgian foreign minister.

Abbas has neither the power nor the will to make peace. It’s the perennial problem afflicting Palestinian leadership. If he compromises on the alleged “right of return”—the chimerical idea that Palestinians can re-occupy the lands from which they [or their ancestors] fled, in effect obliterating the Israeli state—he will be deposed by political adversaries. Thus his contradictory strategy: to prolong his pageantry in international forums such as the UN, and to fashion himself a “moderate” even as he finances and incites terror. He seems to believe time is on his side. But it’s not. He’s eighty-two. While he continues his performative intransigence, he further immiserates the people he claims to represent.

In a sense, it was entirely appropriate that Abbas walked out. In that sullen act, he [exemplified] his own approach to peacemaking: when difficulties arise, vacate the premises and seek out photographers.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Mahmoud Abbas, Nikki Haley, Politics & Current Affairs, United Nations