How the Jews of Cappadocia Contributed to the Modern Shabbat Candle

Nov. 24 2021

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

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism