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

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy