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Celebrating Shavuot with the Samaritans

On Sunday, Israel’s Samaritans—members of a Jewish sect that broke away around the 5th century BCE—gathered to celebrate what on their calendar was the first day of the holiday of Shavuot. The Samaritans recognize the authority of the Pentateuch but not that of the other biblical books or of the rabbinic tradition. Alongside a series of photographs of the holiday rituals, the Times of Israel writes:

[W]hereas Jews celebrated Shavuot last Wednesday, the Samaritans marked the festival, as always, on Sunday. The discrepancy comes from the verse which says that, “You shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, . . . seven complete weeks; until the day after the seventh Sabbath you shall count fifty days [until Shavuot]” (Leviticus 23:15-16).

Rabbinic Judaism interprets “the day after the Sabbath” as referring to the day after the first day of the Passover festival [on which Sabbath-like restrictions are observed]. However, the Samaritans understand it literally to mean Shabbat, so they begin counting their seven weeks from the Saturday during Passover. . . . [F]or the Samaritans, Shavuot is a seven-day festival, and as one of the three [annual] pilgrimage festivals, the faithful all gather on Mount Gerizim, near the West Bank city of Nablus, which they believe is God’s chosen site rather than Jerusalem.

From the nearly 1,000,000 strong Samaritan kingdom that existed in the Roman period, only 750 Samaritans populate the earth today. Half live in the Samaritan village on Mount Gerizim and the other half live in the Israeli city of Holon.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Religion & Holidays, Samaritans, Shavuot

Hannah Arendt, Adolf Eichmann, and the Jews

Feb. 23 2018

In 1963—a year after Adolf Eichmann’s sentencing by an Israeli court—reports on the trial by the German-born Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt appeared in the New Yorker and were soon published as a book. This “report on the banality of evil,” as the book was subtitled, outraged many Jews, including many of her erstwhile friends and admirers, on account of her manifest contempt for the entire preceding, her disgust for the state of Israel, her accusation that a wide array of European Jewish leaders (if not the majority of the victims) were complicit in their own murder, and her bizarre insistence that Eichmann was “not a monster,” or even an anti-Semite, but a mindless, faceless bureaucrat. While extensive evidence has been brought to light that Arendt was wrong both in her claims of Jewish passivity and her evaluation of Eichmann as the head of the SS’s Jewish section, her book remains widely read and admired. Ruth Wisse comments on its enduring legacy:

When Arendt volunteered to report on the Eichmann trial, it was presumed that she was doing so in her role as a Jew. . . . But Arendt actually traveled to Jerusalem for a deeper purpose—to reclaim Eichmann for German philosophy. She did not exonerate Nazism and in fact excoriated the postwar Adenauer government for not doing enough to punish known Nazi killers, but she rehabilitated the German mind and demonstrated how that could be done by going—not beyond, but around, good and evil. She came to erase Judaism philosophically, to complicate its search for moral clarity, and to unseat a conviction [that, in Saul Bellow’s words], “everybody . . . knows what murder is.”

Arendt was to remain the heroine of postmodernists, deconstructionists, feminists, relativists, and internationalist ideologues who deny the stability of Truth. Not coincidentally, many of them have also disputed the rights of the sovereign Jewish people to its national homeland. Indeed, as anti-Zionism cemented the coalition of leftists, Arabs, and dissident minorities, Arendt herself was conscripted, sometimes unfairly and in ways she might have protested, as an ally in their destabilizing cause. They were enchanted by her “perversity” and were undeterred in their enthusiasm by subsequent revelations, like those of the historian Bernard Wasserstein, who documented Arendt’s scholarly reliance on anti-Semitic sources in her study of totalitarianism, or of revelations about her resumed friendship with Martin Heidegger despite his Nazi associations.

At the same time, however, the Arendt report on the Eichmann trial became one of the catalysts for something no one could have predicted—an intellectual movement that came to be known as neoconservatism. A cohort of writers and thinkers, many of them Jews from immigrant families who had turned to leftism as naturally as calves to their mother’s teats, but who had slowly moved away from the Marxism of their youth during the Stalin years and World War II, now spotted corruption and dishonesty and something antithetical to them in some of their very models of the intellectual life.

They and their Gentile colleagues had constituted the only European-style intelligentsia to flourish in America. Most of them were only one generation removed from Europe, after all, so what could be more natural than for them to serve as the conduit of European intelligence to America? Arendt’s ingenious twist of the Eichmann trial showed them how Jewish and American they actually were—and how morally clear they aspired to be.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Neoconservatism, New York Intellectuals