How the Sh’ma Was Transformed from a Prayer to a Totem

Nov. 16 2021

“Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4), combined with three biblical passages, constitutes one of Judaism’s best-known prayers. An exhibit at the Israel Museum focuses on the way Jews used the words of the sh’ma as a sort of magical inscription. In her review, Jessica Steinberg, like the exhibit itself, begins with at 1,500-year-old silver armband that experts believe served as an amulet:

The silver cuff—wide, durable, and covered with Greek script—was part of a bequest of artifacts that arrived at the Israel Museum several years ago. The museum staffer Nancy Benovitz . . . deciphered the Greek text over the course of two years, and discovered that it consisted of the sh’ma. . . . She eventually concluded that the inscribed cuff was a Jewish take on a Christian amulet, probably owned by a wealthy Jew living in a Greek-speaking community, possibly in Egypt, with access to a now-lost translation of the Bible that his community was using—and he put the words of the sh’ma on his amulet.

From there, the exhibition shows other amulets used and created by early Jews. One is a tiny gold plaque with the sh’ma written on it in small Greek letters. It had been rolled up and folded in a minuscule silver capsule, and was found in the grave of a baby that was discovered in an excavation.

Amulets were used as jewelry in the ancient world, and are in the modern world as well, from Yemen, Iran, and Israel. . . . The exhibit includes birth amulets illustrated with the figure of the mythological Lilith and other demons, along with illustrated manuscripts for the birth bed, including the text of the sh’ma for the birthing mother to recite.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: ancient Judaism, Archaeology, Jewish museums, Magic

Iran’s Responsibility for West Bank Terror

On Friday, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli police officer and was then shot by another officer after trying to grab his rifle. Commenting on the many similar instances of West Bank-based terror during the past several months, Amit Saar, a senior IDF intelligence officer, predicted that the violence will likely grow worse in the coming year. Yoni Ben Menachem explains the Islamic Republic’s role in fueling this wave of terrorism:

The escape of six terrorists from Gilboa prison in September 2021 was the catalyst for the establishment of new terrorist groups in the northern West Bank, according to senior Islamic Jihad officials. The initiative to establish new armed groups was undertaken by Palestinian Islamic Jihad in coordination with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, implementing the strategy of Qassem Suleimani—the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards who was assassinated in Iraq by the U.S.—of using proxies to achieve the goals of expansion of the Iranian regime.

After arming Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, Iran moved in the last year to support the new terrorist groups in the northern West Bank. Iran has been pouring money into the Islamic Jihad organization, which began to establish new armed groups under the name of “Battalions,” which also include terrorists from other organizations such as Fatah, Hamas, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. First, the “Jenin Battalion” was established in the city of Jenin, followed the “Nablus Battalion.”

Despite large-scale arrest operation by the IDF and the Shin Bet in the West Bank, Islamic Jihad continues to form new terrorist groups, including the “Tulkarem Battalion,” the “Tubas Battalion,” and the “Balata Battalion” in the Balata refugee camp.

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Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Palestinian terror, West Bank