The Mystical Quest That Animated the Dead Sea Scrolls

The collection of ancient manuscripts known as the Dead Sea Scrolls includes copies of various books of the Hebrew Bible as well as of several postbiblical apocryphal works. Besides these, they include a number of sacred texts that appear to be unique to a Jewish sect located at Qumran, from whose library all the scrolls come. In his book The Secret of Time, Arjen Bakker attempts to make sense of what these latter works have in common. Sarit Kattan Gribetz in her review explains that the Qumran community “aimed to transcend human boundaries in order to attain divine knowledge.”

The book examines the pursuit of divine wisdom in the Dead Sea Scrolls by focusing on the centrality of the raz nihyeh, which Bakker translates as “the secret of time,” an important unifying concept in the Dead Sea Scrolls: who sought to discover it, by what means, when, and how, and finally the insights that define “the secret of time” itself.

The secret of time revolves around understanding the alternation between light and dark (literal and metaphorical); attaining such secrets entails mimicking the angels, who are associated with the nighttime, stars, and nocturnal study. They are beings that resemble humans without being bound by earthly limitations. The sage and the student thus study continually, including at night, and join the angels in prayer, coordinating heavenly and earthly time in order to uncover the very secrets of time that underpin the logic of the cosmos and divine wisdom itself.

These texts were powerful—and remain powerful—in part because they promised their communities of students access to hidden wisdom, heavenly knowledge, and secrets of time.

Read more at Marginalia

More about: ancient Judaism, Dead Sea Scrolls, Mysticism, Qumran

Ordinary Gazans Are Turning against Hamas—and Its Western Sympathizers

In the past few days, difficult-to-confirm reports have emerged of unrest in the Gaza Strip, and of civilians throwing stones at Hamas operatives. A recent video from Al Jazeera showed a Gazan declaring that “God will bring Qatar and Turkey to account” for the suffering of Palestinians in the current war. Being an agent of the Qatari government, the journalist turned away, and then pushed the interviewee with his hand to prevent him from getting near the microphone. Yet this brief exchange contributes much to the ongoing debate about Palestinian support for Hamas, and belies the frequent assertion by experts that the Israeli campaign is only “further radicalizing” the population.

For some time, Joseph Braude has worked with a number of journalists and researchers to interview ordinary Gazans under circumstances where they don’t fear reprisals. He notes that the sorts of opinions they share are rarely heard in Western media, let alone on Al Jazeera or Iran-sponsored outlets:

[A] resident of Khan Younis describes how locals in a bakery spontaneously attacked a Hamas member who had come to buy bread. The incident, hardly imaginable before the present war, reflects a widespread feeling of “disgust,” he says, after Gazan aspirations for “a dignified life and to live in peace” were set back by the Hamas atrocities of October 7.

Fears have grown that this misery will needlessly be prolonged by Westerners who strive, in effect, to perpetuate Hamas rule, according to one Gazan woman. Addressing protesters who have taken to the streets to demand a ceasefire on behalf of Palestinians, she calls on them to make a choice: “Either support the Palestinian people or the Hamas regime that oppresses them.” If protesters harbor a humanitarian motive, she asks, “Why don’t we see them demonstrating against Hamas?”

“Hamas is the destruction of the Palestinian people. We’ve had enough. They need to be wiped out—because if they remain, the people will be wiped out.”

You can watch videos of some of the interviews by clicking the link below.

Read more at Free Press

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion