Why Does the Bible Have No Word for “Ritual”?

Although the Hebrew Bible is very much concerned with rituals, the word itself (along with ceremony and rite), rarely occur in the standard English translations. Moreover, there is no word in biblical Hebrew that is the precise equivalent of any of these terms. Peter Leithart speculates about the reason:

A great deal of the Pentateuch, after all, is concerned with what theologians call “ceremonial law,” what we would instinctively identify as “ritual” matters. . . . [T]he lack of a specific biblical vocabulary of “ritual” raises the suspicion that the Bible does not isolate ritual as a distinct sort of activity in the way that we do. In anthropological theories of ritual, it is often assumed that ritual activities are symbolic and expressive forms of action, distinct from the functional and pragmatic activities of daily life. Almost by definition, “ritual” has come to mean “merely symbolic” or “non-functional.” The fact that the Bible does not employ a distinct vocabulary of ritual suggests that it assumes continuities between ritual and other types of activity that moderns find hard to grasp.

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Read more at First Things

More about: Biblical Hebrew, Hebrew Bible, Jewish ritual, Religion & Holidays, Torah

 

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf