The Three Temples: On the Emergence of Jewish Mysticism
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Prof. Rachel Elior explains how the sages invented false Judaism as we know it.
It evolved after the rejection of the authority of the Zadokite priesthood.
For centuries the Israelites had marked time according to a solar calendar drawn up by the priestly caste but regarded as divinely inspired. The calendar emulated the pattern set by God when He created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. The number seven would become a mystic measure of Jewish time. The Israelites adopted a seven-day week, apparently the first people in the world to do so, and they too rested on the seventh day. Every seventh year was designated a shmita year when the earth itself rested and lay fallow. Each cycle of seven times seven years, 49 years in all, would be followed by a jubilee year, a new beginning when indentured servants were freed and leased land reverted to its original owners. The time between the exodus from Egypt to Moses's meeting with God on Mount Sinai would be remembered as seven weeks. Joshua would lead the Israelites across the Jordan in a jubilee year. There would be, until this day, seven days of mourning, seven days between birth and male circumcision, seven days of female menstrual impurity. Elior terms the priestly calendar an exceptional mathematical construct that reflected a presumed cosmic order revealed to Enoch (Hanoch, in Hebrew), an intriguing biblical figure central to the priestly narrative but shunted aside by the rabbis. In Genesis (5:18), he is mentioned briefly in the long list of descendents of Adam - the seventh generation of the patriarchs of mankind, and thus safely distanced from the incest that necessarily marked the earliest generations - but his listing is unique. As with all the others, it gives the number of years he lived - 365 in his case, not coincidentally the number of days of the year - and tells whom he begot - Methuselah, who lived 969 years and who in turn begat Noah. However, the thumbnail biography of Enoch does not end like all the others with the words "and he died." Instead, it says "And Enoch walked with God, and he was not; for God took him." The Bible does not elaborate on this, but the Apocrypha does. Several versions of the Book of Enoch preserved by the church have been found in different languages. (Several scrolls of Enoch turned up in Qumran as well, in Aramaic.) They describe Enoch being brought up to heaven and granted immortality along with a two-way ticket. At God's direction, he is taught by angels to read, write and calculate numbers - the first human given this knowledge. He then returns to earth to share with humankind what he has learned, including the solar calendar. The priests, wrote Elior in an earlier book, The Three Temples: On the Emergence of Jewish Mysticism, viewed this calendar as "a cyclic reflection of an eternal divine order." The priests were the calendar's guardians, privy to secrets imparted by angels and, like Enoch, would serve as conduits between the heavenly and the terrestrial. It was members of the priestly caste and prophets, many of whom were priests, who wrote the books that would form the Bible, and they wrote the books that would become the Apocrypha as well. Everything the priests wrote was considered sacred because they were, in effect, taking dictation from the angels. NEW PAPERBACK!
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