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.”

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: ancient Judaism, Shabbat, Talmud, Turkey

Israel’s Retaliation against the Houthis Sends a Message to the U.S., and to Its Arab Allies

The drone that struck a Tel Aviv high-rise on Thursday night is believed to have traveled over 2,000 kilometers, flying from Yemen over Egypt and then above the Mediterranean before veering eastward toward the Israeli coast. Since October, the Houthis have launched over 200 drones at Israel. Nor is this the first attempt to strike Tel Aviv, only the first successful one. Noah Rothman observes that the Houthis’ persistent attacks on Israel and on international shipping are largely the result of the U.S.-led coalition’s anemic response:

Had the Biden administration taken a more proactive and vigorous approach to neutralizing the Houthis’ capabilities, Israel would not be obliged to expand to Yemen the theater of operations in the war Hamas inaugurated on October 7. The prospects of a regional war grow larger by the day, not because Israel cannot “take the win,” as President Biden reportedly told Benjamin Netanyahu following a full-scale direct Iranian attack on the Jewish state, but because hostile foreign actors are killing its citizens. Jerusalem is obliged to defend them and the sovereignty of Israel’s borders.

Biden’s hesitancy was fueled by his apprehension over the prospect of a “wider war” in the Middle East. But his hesitancy is what is going to give him the war he so cravenly sought to avoid.

In this context, the nature of the Israeli response is significant: rather than follow the American strategy of striking isolated weapons depots and the like, IDF jets struck the port city of Hodeida—the sort of major target the U.S. has shied away from. The mission was likely the furthest-ever carried out by the Israel Air Force, hitting a site 200 kilometers further from Israel than Tehran. Yoel Guzansky and Ilan Zalayat comment:

The message that Israel sent was intended to reach the moderate Arab countries, the West, and especially the United States. . . . The message to the coalition countries is that “the containment” had failed and the Houthis must be hit harder. The Hodeida port is the lifeline of the Houthi economy and continued damage to it will make it extremely difficult for this economy, which is also facing significant American sanctions.

Read more at National Review

More about: Houthis, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy