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.”

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: ancient Judaism, Shabbat, Talmud, Turkey

Strengthening the Abraham Accords at Sea

In an age of jet planes, high-speed trains, electric cars, and instant communication, it’s easy to forget that maritime trade is, according to Yuval Eylon, more important than ever. As a result, maritime security is also more important than ever. Eylon examines the threats, and opportunities, these realities present to Israel:

Freedom of navigation in the Middle East is challenged by Iran and its proxies, which operate in the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Persian Gulf, and recently in the Mediterranean Sea as well. . . . A bill submitted to the U.S. Congress calls for the formulation of a naval strategy that includes an alliance to combat naval terrorism in the Middle East. This proposal suggests the formation of a regional alliance in the Middle East in which the member states will support the realization of U.S. interests—even while the United States focuses its attention on other regions of the world, mainly the Far East.

Israel could play a significant role in the execution of this strategy. The Abraham Accords, along with the transition of U.S.-Israeli military cooperation from the European Command (EUCOM) to Central Command (CENTCOM), position Israel to be a key player in the establishment of a naval alliance, led by the U.S. Fifth Fleet, headquartered in Bahrain.

Collaborative maritime diplomacy and coalition building will convey a message of unity among the members of the alliance, while strengthening state commitments. The advantage of naval operations is that they enable collaboration without actually threatening the territory of any sovereign state, but rather using international waters, enhancing trust among all members.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Abraham Accords, Iran, Israeli Security, Naval strategy, U.S. Foreign policy