How the Jews of Cappadocia Contributed to the Modern Shabbat Candle

In ancient times, Hanukkah menorahs were oil lamps, on the model of that used in the Temple. Similarly, the Talmud cites the opinion of Rabbi Tarfon that only olive oil should be used for the Sabbath candles. The other rabbis object on the grounds that Jews living in the Diaspora use other substances, as olive oil is not so plentiful in their countries as it is in the Land of Israel. For instance, the Jews of Cappadocia—a region in what is now northeastern Turkey—use naphtha for their candles. The Talmud thus concludes that naphtha and various other fuels are suitable for ritual use—and therefore, the Turkish rabbi Mendy Chitrik observes, Cappadocian Jewry can be credited with paving the way for the paraffin Shabbat candles in wide use today. But that’s not all:

The Jewish community in Cappadocia is mentioned some twenty times in the Talmud. It hosted visiting scholars, such as Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Meir in the 1st century CE, and Rabbi Nathan in the 3rd. Jews of Cappadocia were frequent travelers to Jerusalem. Some of the ancient headstones of the Jaffa cemetery indicate that they belong to Jews who came from Cappadocia.

Touring at Özkonak Underground City, an impressive construction by the original Hittite inhabitants of Cappadocia, . . . one finds it difficult to walk straight though, as the average height of the ancient Cappadocian was about 55 inches.

Ezekiel 27:11 refers to “gamadim in castles.” The word gamadim literally means dwarves, or very short people. The Jonathan Targum—a rabbinic translation of the prophets into Aramaic written around 200 CE—translated the word gamadim as “Cappadocians.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: ancient Judaism, Shabbat, Talmud, Turkey

 

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf