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Is God Riding on Clouds, through the Wilderness, or on Willows?

Aug. 28 2017

Psalm 68:5 describes God as rokheyv ba’aravot, or “riding upon aravot.” While the second word means “willows” in modern Hebrew and derives from a common Hebrew root with multiple meanings, its interpretation has puzzled exegetes since ancient times. Mitchell First discusses some of the possibilities:

Of all [the word’s usual meanings], the only one that might reasonably fit is “desolate, wilderness area.” Thus, one widespread translation [of the phrase is] “rides through the deserts.” . . . But God as a rider in a desolate area is still an unusual image. More importantly, rokheyv usually means mounting an [animal or vehicle] and not “riding through” something.

In a statement of [the talmudic sage] Reysh Lakish, the aravot were understood to be one of the seven heavens. . . . But aravot does not otherwise mean “heaven” in the Tanakh. . . .

[Another interpretation draws on] Ugaritic, an ancient Semitic language closely related to Hebrew. Ugaritic texts cover many centuries and predate the biblical texts. The discovery of Ugaritic has led to many new understandings of difficult terms in the Bible. Relevant to our context is that the phrase rokeyhv arafot with the meaning “charioteer of the clouds” appears fourteen times in various Ugaritic mythological texts as an epithet for [the] god, Baal. . . . And there are other examples of Ugaritic “p/f” becoming “b/v” in Hebrew. . . . Nowhere else in the Tanakh, however, does aravot have the meaning of “clouds.”

Read more at Jewish Link of New Jersey

More about: Hebrew, Hebrew Bible, Religion & Holidays

The Movement to Return Jewish Worship to the Temple Mount Has Gone Mainstream

Sept. 25 2017

During the eruption of violence against Israelis in Jerusalem this summer, and the subsequent struggle over metal detectors, the Islamic authorities briefly boycotted the Temple Mount. As a result, Jewish visitors, normally prohibited from praying there, immediately began to do so. Meir Soloveichik puts the episode in context and describes its meaning:

The Temple Mount is fast becoming a pilgrimage site for religious Jews. In the past, most abstained from visiting out of concern that they might enter a sacred area in a state of ritual impurity, but many now believe that, with a knowledge of the layout, history, and religious laws pertaining to the location, it is permissible to visit certain parts of the Temple Mount plaza. They thus visit the site under religious guidance—immersing first in a ritual bath, or mikveh—and tread only in specific areas. What was once a trickle of pilgrims has become a stream, and this year they numbered in the many thousands. . . .

[Indeed, a] sea change has taken place in the past fifteen years: . . . the segment of Jews visiting the Temple Mount is becoming more and more mainstream, supported by rabbis noted for their liberalism in social or religious affairs. . . .

Visiting Jews were, for a brief and brilliant moment [this summer], able to utter several words of prayer without interference. The Israeli media published photos of a diverse group of Jews standing on the Temple Mount reciting the kaddish, so close to where their ancestors, on Yom Kippur, had once stood listening to the high priest pronounce the Name of God. Soon after this kaddish, the [status quo ante] returned; Jews again were no longer free to pray at the site toward which all Jewish prayer has been directed for thousands of years. But images of that one unimpeded kaddish remain; to study them is to look back on the miraculous and heartbreaking past half-century in Jerusalem, to celebrate what has been achieved, and to mourn what might have been.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Judaism, Palestinian terror, Religion & Holidays, Temple Mount