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On the Frequency of Parasha Doublings

The number of Shabbatot in a Hebrew year can be 50 or 51 in a regular year or 55 in a leap year, and every year one or more ḥaggim also fall on Shabbat. Since the Torah is divided into 54 parashot for the weekly reading, almost every year there are some Shabbatot where two parashot are combined into a single reading. The procedures for which parashot are combined and when seem to be similar in almost all Jewish communities today (I believe there are exceptions, but have not yet been able to collect information on them). I do not know when these procedures were established or by whom (Saadia Gaon in his Siddur and Maimonides in the Mishne Tora refer to them, but do not state every detail of the practice as we know it today), but part of the reason behind the procedures is to maintain certain constraints on when specific parashot are to be read:

  • The tokhaḥa in Parashat Beḥukkotai to be read two or three weeks before Shabuʿot
  • The tokhaḥa in Parashat Ki Tabo to be read two weeks before Rosh Hashana
  • Parashat Debarim to be read the Shabbat before Tishʿa BeʾAv
  • And of course, though this may be stating the obvious, to begin with Parashat Bereshit the Shabbat after Simḥat Torah and reach Ha’azinu the Shabbat before the next Sukkot so as to finish with Vezot Haberakha on Simḥat Torah.

The procedures also vary between Israel and the Diaspora, for the obvious reason that the second days of festivals observed in the Diaspora add more instances when a festival falls on Shabbat and its reading replaces the weekly Parasha. Let us examine the occurences of each pairing and their frequencies.

The first example is the last two parashot in Exodus. These are combined in every non-leap year, except when Rosh Hashana is on Thursday in a "full" year when Marḥeshvan has 30 days. This happens on average about 3 times in 5 years (59.82%)
Aḥarei Mot–Kedoshim
The three pairs of parashot in Leviticus are all combined every non-leap year and separated every leap year, so they are each combined in 12 years out of every 19 (63.16%). There is one exception: in a non-leap year in Israel when the first day of Pesaḥ is on Shabbat, Behar and Beḥukkotai are read separately. This means that they are paired in Israel only about 9 times in 20 years (45.11%).
Ḥukkat and Balak are only paired in the Diaspora, and only when the second day of Shabuʿot is on Shabbat. This happens on average twice in seven years (28.57%)
Mattot and Masʿei are paired in every year, except in leap years where Rosh Hashana is on a Thursday, and in Israel also except in leap years when the first day of PesaḤ is on a Shabbat. In the Diaspora this happens almost 9 times in 10 years (89.91%), in Israel almost 8 times in 10 years (79.49%).
Niṣabim and Vayyelekh are read together when either of Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur in the upcoming year is on Shabbat. On average this happens about 3 times in 5 years (60.46%).
Note: precisians will tell you that I should have put this differently — Parashat Niṣabim is split into two separate readings when neither Rosh Hashana nor Yom Kippur is on Shabbat, and therefore there is an extra Shabbat before Sukkot; also I should have begun by saying that there are 53 parashot in the Torah, not 54 — but this is a rabbit hole we will not be going down in the current discussion.

So how often does it happen that no parasha is paired with another throughout the whole year? In the Diaspora this is a rare event: it only happens in leap years in which Rosh Hashana is on Thursday and the first day of Pesaḥ not on Tuesday (which would make the following Yom Kippur on Shabbat) — a combination which only occurs about once in 26 years (3.87%). This occurred twice at the beginning of this century, in 5765 (2004–5) and 5768 (2007–8), but the next time will not be until 5812 (2051–2). In Israel it also happens in leap years where the first day of Pesaḥ is a Shabbat, altogether nearly once every seven years (13.86%). The last time was last year, 5782 (2021–2) and the next will be 5803 (2042–3).


Comparing translations

After completing a cycle of Torah with Targum Onkelos, this year I am going to try to complete a cycle with Peshitta and Septuagint as well, or ? and ?, as BHS refers to them. Here is something I noticed in Genesis chapter 1:

In  verse 11 God commands the creation of trees:

וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים תַּדְשֵׁא הָאָרֶץ דֶּשֶׁא עֵשֶׂב מַזְרִיעַ זֶרַע עֵץ פְּרִי עֹשֶׂה פְּרִי לְמִינוֹ אֲשֶׁר זַרְעוֹ־בוֹ עַל-הָאָרֶץ וַיְהִי־כֵן

And in verse 12 the command is fulfilled:

וַתּוֹצֵא הָאָרֶץ דֶּשֶׁא עֵשֶׂב מַזְרִיעַ זֶרַע לְמִינֵהוּ וְעֵץ עֹשֶׂה־פְּרִי אֲשֶׁר זַרְעוֹ־בוֹ לְמִינֵהוּ וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים כִּי-טוֹב

Here are the two verses in English (old JPS translation):

And God said: ‘Let the earth put forth grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit-tree bearing fruit after its kind, wherein is the seed thereof, upon the earth.’ And it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, herb yielding seed after its kind, and tree bearing fruit, wherein is the seed thereof, after its kind; and God saw that it was good.

Note the difference between the two verses that I have highlighted. This is picked up by the Midrash (Bereshit Rabba 5:9) as no mere verbal variation but as an incomplete fulfillment of God’s command by the earth, an original sin even earlier than Adam and Eve’s (explaining why the earth is also cursed in 3:17): God intended the trees to be literally “fruit trees” where even the tree itself was edible, but they only became fruit-bearing.

In the Septuagint the phrase is the same in both verses:

καὶ εἶπεν ὁ Θεός· βλαστησάτω ἡ γῆ … ξύλον κάρπιμον ποιοῦν καρπόν … καὶ ἐξήνεγκεν ἡ γῆ … ξύλον κάρπιμον ποιοῦν καρπόν

Rather to my surprise, neither BHK nor BHS mentions this as a variant reading. It could be just a harmonization by the translator, but it could also be a genuine variant text.

I checked The Biblical Qumran Scrolls: Transcriptions and Textual Variants, ed. Eugene Ulrich; (Brill, Leiden, 2010), and there is no corresponding variant listed there, but he does mention in the apparatus that it also appears in the old Latin version, Targum Neofiti and the Targum attributed to Jonathan.

UNESCO and Jerusalem

“What are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what ‘the stars foretell,’ avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable ‘verdict of history’–what are the facts, and to how many decimal places?” — Robert Heinlein, “Time Enough for Love”

The reactions to the UNESCO resolution have gone down a slippery slope through inaccuracy, blurring, and distortion to downright bullshit.

“The document only refers to the Haram ash-Sharif by its Arabic name, not the Temple Mount” — this is a fact.

“The document fails to acknowledge the Jewish connection to Jerusalem” — this is already interpretation. It’s kind of true, through there is a half-hearted phrase near the beginning about “affirming the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions.” Honestly, Jerusalem is a bit more than “important”.

The next step is very small, but it makes a huge difference:

“The document denies the Jewish connection to Jerusalem”. Note that we have gone from passive “failing to acknowledge” to active “denial”. This is again interpretation, and legitimate interpretation in the context of the original, but it doesn’t stay in the context of the original. It becomes the executive summary of the document, and people reading it on its own don’t know that the writer meant “by failing to acknowledge the Jewish connection the document is denying it”. So we get to the next step:

“UNESCO passes resolution saying that Jews have no connection to Temple Mount”. By now we have left the facts completely behind. This is simply bullshit. People hearing this and not Reading The Full Article or the actual resolution believe that UNESCO made an explicit statement to this affect, or even that this was the whole topic of the resolution.

This is a terrible missed opportunity. Why isn’t Israel working on criticising the document for what it says, which is ludicrously one-sided, instead of for what it doesn’t say and what it doesn’t doesn’t say, if you see what I mean? We should be getting the document amended to include some deploring of the waqf’s destructive and unsupervised construction projects on the Temple Mount — and certainly not breaking ties with UNESCO, Mr. Bennett!! That is about the dumbest response possible.

And we should also be taking a good hard look at the rest of the resolution and working on what we can and should be doing with our responsibilities to respect the integrity, authenticity and cultural heritage of Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif/Har Habayit, as reflected in the historic status quo, as a Jewish/Christian/Muslim holy site of worship and as an integral part of a world cultural heritage site. Because yes, we are the occupying power, and yes, we do have responsibilities.

Samuel Montagu in “HaMaggid”

My sister Rachel and I were trying to find out some information about our great-great-grandfather, Samuel Montagu (more about the specific issue in a later post), and I was doing various searches online. One of the places I searched was the archive of Hebrew newspapers at the National Library and Tel Aviv University, and I really struck gold! It turns out that HaMaggid and other Hebrew newspapers around the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries had regular articles about the Jewish community in England, and Samuel Montagu seems to be mentioned in almost every issue.

Here’s an article written to celebrate his 70th birthday, in the 31st December 1902 issue of HaMaggid

סיר שמואל מונטגיו

ביום א׳,ְ 19 דיצ., חנג אחינו זה את שנת הלדתו השבעים. חתן־יובל זה הוא אהד היהודים האדוקים באמונתם, המעטים בקהלת ישראל באנגליה. עד היותו לחבר בית הנאמנים היה הוגה ימים רבים בלמוד התלמוד; מוריו היו מר היימאן והמנוח הדין ספייערם. הוא היה נזהר תמיד להתנהג ע״פ ה”שלחן ערוך”‬ בנוגע להלכות אכילה, וזהו, לפי דבריו, סוד בריאותו. פעם אחת בבקרו את ראש מפלגתו המדינית, את גלדסטון, שהיה חולה אז, הגיד לו, כי מימיו לא הלה אף יום אחר, וכאשר שאלהו גלדסטון, אם יוכל לתת טעם לזה, ענהו שזהירותו בחקי ה”שלחן ערוך” עמדה לו. אז קרא גלדםטון: “מה נפלאים המה הדוקים האלה!‬” לרגל מסעיו בארצות רחוקות לא יכול לפעמים להשיג מאכלות כשרות ויסתפק בלחם ובצל, ולא הביא אל פיו דבר, האסור ע״פ דת ישראל, מבנה גוו איתן וחסון הוא באלון, והוא נותן עוד טעם לחזק גופו, והוא—מנוחת יום השבת. בשעה, שיתר הסוחרים מעבידים את מוחותיהם גם ביום השבת, נותן הוא מנוח לנפשו ביום זה. בימות השבוע היה עובד בשקידה כל היום בבית מסחרו וגם בעניני צבור. בעסקי הקהלה הוא עסקן גדול. בימי הפרעות בשנות השמונים הלך בפקודת הועד למשען הנודרים לברורי ולבוב להושיע לבני עמו. שנים רבות היה חכר פועל לחברת הצדקה “בארד־אוו־גארדיענס” וזה שנים רבות הוא ראש וער השחיטה. כל ימי חייו הוא משתדל להרבות בתי כנסת בשכונת היהודים, ובקיץ שעבר יסד אגודה, שתפזר את אחינו, היושבים צפופים בהגיטו, למקומות יותר נוחים, לדור בהם בלונדון, ולערי השדה, כמו שכבר הודענו. בעולם המסחר הוא נודע לתהלה כאיש ישר, העושה כסף לא ע”י ספיקולציות, כי אם ע”י חריצותו, וגם כמומחה למקצעות שונים בעניני כספים. בענינים כאלה ישימו לב ביותר לדבריו נם כבית הנאמנים. הוא כתב הרבה מאמרים בירחונים בשאלות הכלכלה, ובההוצאה האחרונה של ה”אינציקלופדיה בריטאניקה” נדפס מטנו מאמיר נכבד בדבר המשקל והמדה. בשנת‭ 1885 ‬נבחר לחבר בית הנאמנים ובשנת 1888 נבחר לחבר הועד שעל יד בית הנאמנים לעיין בשאלות הנודדים ובשנת 1894 העלהו רוזבירי למעלת “בארונט”. בשנת 1900 מסר את זכותו לעמוד על הבחירה ב”ווייטשעפעל” לנכרו (נעפֿפֿע) סטיוארט םעמיול והוא בעצמו הפקד ממפלגתו לעמוד על הבחירה בלידס נגד המיניסטר לעניני אירלאנדיה גראלד בלפֿור. מראש ידע שלא יצליח במלחמתו נגד בלפור, וגם מפלגת הליברלים ידעה כזאת אבל חפצה להמעיט למצער את מספר מחזיקי בלפֿור ויבחרו במאנטאגיו לתכלית זאת, כי גדול כבודו בעיני מכיריו. בנוגע ליחוסו לציוניות, דרכו לאמר, שהוא ציוני ביבלי, כלומר הוא אינו מודה בציוניות מדינית,כי אם מאמין בציון שבכתבי הקדש, וכאשר ישובו היהודים לארצם, יעזוב גם הוא את ארמונו ועלה ירושלימה.

Sir Samuel Montagu

On Sunday 19th [sic, recte 21st] December this brother of ours celebrated his 70th birthday. The celebrator of the anniversary is one of the few Jews in the English community who observe their religion faithfully. Before he was a Member of Parliament he studied Talmud for a long period. His teachers were Mr. Hyman and the late Dayan Spiers. He was always carefully to follow the Shulhan Aruch with regard to the dietary laws, which he claims is the secret of his good health. Once he visited his party leader, Gladstone, when he was ill, and told him that he had never had a day’s illness in his life. When Gladstone asked if he could give a reason for this he replied that his care in observing the laws of the Shulhan Aruch had preserved him, and Gladstone exclaimed, “What marvellous laws those are!”. On his trips abroad he was sometimes unable to obtain kosher food and would make do with bread and onion, rather than eat anything forbidden to Jews. His physique is powerful and he is as strong as an oak, and he attributes his physical strength also to Shabbat rest: while other brokers were exerting their minds seven days a week he was able to rest every Saturday. During the week he worked in his business and was also very active in communal affairs. During the pogroms in the eighties he travelled to Brody and Lvov on behalf of the [Mansion House] committee for assistance to refugees to act for his people. For many years he was a member of the charitable association “Board of Guardians” and has for some time been president of the Shechita Board. Throughout his life he has worked to increase the number of synagogues in Jewish areas and last summer he founded a committee for the dispersion of our brothers living in crowded conditions in the ghetto to pleasanter areas of London and country towns, as we reported earlier.

In the commercial world he is known as an upright man who makes money not by speculation but by hard work, and also as an expert in various fields related to finance. In these matters his statements in the House of Commons are followed with attention. He has written many articles in journals on economic questions and in the latest edition of the “Encyclopædia Britannica” there was a weighty article by him on weights and measures. In 1885 he was elected to the House of Commmons and in 1888 appointed to the Select Committee of Parliament to deal with the refugee question. In 1894 he was created a baronet by Rosebery. In 1900 he transferred his candidacy in Whitechapel to his nephew Stuart Samuel and was selected by his party to stand for election in Leeds against Gerald Balfour, the Minister for Ireland. He knew in advance that he would not succeed against Balfour, and so did the party, but they wished to reduce Balfour’s majority and chose Montagu for this purpose since he was highly respected by all who knew him.

As for his attitude to Zionism, he is in the habit of saying that he is a “Biblical Zionist”, in other words he does not accept political Zionism, but he believes in the Zion of the Bible, and when the Jews return to their country he will leave his mansion and go up to Jerusalem.

Vertical Text, part 2

"Hello, World!" displayed vertically in a browser window

A few steps forward: the tab titles, menus, etc. are no longer vertical, though the address bar still is, and the glyphs are centered on a vertical “base” line. For Japanese that doesn’t make much difference, but Latin script as in this example looks much better than in the previous version, where the glyphs were all left-aligned.

I need to find out a lot more about typographical conventions in vertical text. What happens about underlining, for example?

Vertical Text part 1

A browser window showing vertical Japanese text

This is my first lash-up prototype of a browser displaying data:text/html,油こほりともし火細き寝覚哉 as vertical text. Click on the thumbnail or here to see the full-size image.

When I say lash-up, I mean lash-up: you will notice that everything is vertical, including the tab titles and the address bar, where you can see the first couple of letters of the content before it disappears into the abyss.

Dogfooding Fennec

First impressions of a nightly build of Fennec on a Samsung Galaxy S II:

  • Things that work:
  • Things that don’t work (some of these may be issues with the sites, some are certainly bugs in the program):
    • RTL messages in gmail are aligned left (but not in the “standard HTML” view)
    • Ynet is unusable because of insufficient zooming
    • הארץ is unusable because of over-zooming


  • RTL UI nits and warts: (need to open bugs!)
    • Since the same area of the screen is used for URI and title, forced LTR as in desktop browser is not appropriate
    • Right aligned input fields seem to get clipped

מעיד על עצמו

This is the title page of the Pentateuch in the British Foreign and Bible Society edition of the Hebrew bible:

חמישה חומשי תורה מדויקיס על צד היותר טוב על פי המסורה

Tikkun Leil Hoshaʿana Rabba

I led a session at the Tikkun Leil Hoshaʿana Rabba at Ellul on Thursday night, which also included readings from the Writers’ Beit Midrash on Shemitta (the sabbatical year) two years ago.

For my session I developed an idea that I had already presented rather briefly in the Beit Midrash. While learning the topic Shemitta, I wanted to be more aware of the cycle of sabbatical years as part of life, rather than having the sabbatical year suddenly appear and go away more or less out of the blue. (I would also like to be more conscious of the agricultural element by actually cultivating something during the six years, and not cultivating during the sabbatical year, but that’s another topic).

As a way to make the concept of cycles of seven circulating within one another more vivid, I used Garage Band to make a musical composition based on cycles of seven beats, and put together various texts relating to the same theme.

חטאנו לפניך

מעכבר העיר של השבוע: חָטַאנוּ לְפָנֶיך רָחֶם עַלֵינוְ. אני סופר 4 שגיאות. ואתם?

In the image above, from last week’s Achbar Ha`ir there are 11 Hebrew diacritics. I count 4 mistakes. Does anybody spot others?

The Oxford Hebrew Bible

Via Ralph the Sacred River and Tyler Williams at Codex, I came across this article from Biblica by Professor Hugh Williamson on the Oxford Hebrew Bible Project.

There seem to be problems downloading the samples from the project site, so I haven’t been able to form much of an informed opinion, but I did want to mention two things that struck me in the short sample from Deuteronomy.

Like the earlier Biblia Hebraica editions which claim to conform as closely as possible to the Leningrad Codex, this edition makes no attempt to reproduce the distinctive layout of Deuteronomy 32 in Masoretic manuscripts.

Professor Williamson mentions a number of anomalies created by the editorial policy of reproducing the MS text with vowels and accents, but letting emendations to the text appear unvocalized. An additional effect of this policy appears in verse 5 in the sample: שִׁחֵ֥ת ל֛וֹ לֹ֖א בָּנָ֣יו דּ֥וֹר עִקֵּ֖שׁ וּפְתַלְתֹּֽל׃. The editor has chosen to emend the text by omitting the word מוּמָם, but the other words of the verse are left with their original accents. The result is nonsense, because the accent system of the Hebrew Bible operates with longer units than single words. I’m not sure myself that the emended text improves the reading*, but that is beside the point. In terms of the accent system, omitting one word implies an emendation to the surrounding words as well. In this case “בָּנָיו” has become the last word of the clause, but the editor has left it with a conjunctive accent. This may seem like a quibble to people unaccustomed to reading the Bible with the accents, but I personally was unable even to parse the result until I had worked out what was intended by reading the critical notes.

* I suppose that I belong to the group of whom Professor Williamson says “some may be wedded to a conservative textual approach for religious or similar reasons, and they would be likely either to use another edition or to pick out the unemended text of their choice without full understanding of the issues anyway.”

They call it Gloria Mundi, but Tuesday’s just as bad

Jim Davila wonders how one would say Sic transit gloria mundi in Aramaic, a challenge that I can’t resist.

A literal translation would be something like כדין יעבר שבהורא דעלמא, but what might be a more idiomatic rendering? In modern Hebrew, אֵיךְ נָפְלוּ גִבּוֹרִים is used in almost exactly the same way as sic transit gloria mundi, so I looked up the Targum for that verse: איכדין איתקטלו גיבריא.

However, I’m not quite sure that that works: I think that the ambiguity of נפלו in the Hebrew is what allows the expression to be used in wider contexts, but by translating it as איתקטלו, “were killed”, the Aramaic limits its possible applications. The same is not true of the Peshitta, so if we were looking for a Syriac translation I would suggest ܐܝܟܢܐ ܢܦܠܘ ܓܢܒܪܐ

Going back to Aramaic, perhaps one could borrow a phrase from the Zohar (I 4a): כל עמודי נהורין דעלמא תיכול ותידוק.

Happy Canada Day!

If I wasn’t an expatriate Brit readapting to life in Israel after two years in California, I would love to be Canadian. I’ve never yet been to Canada, but that’s soon going to change: at the end of this month I’ll be in Whistler, BC.

The Rabbis and Environmentalism

Jim Davila was wondering whether the following quotation from Anglican minister Martin Palmer was really Talmudic:

“The Talmud says that the angels went to God and said, ‘You just created this wonderful world and now you’ve created these human beings who will only go and mess it up. Are you start staring mad?’ And God says, ‘I know what I’m doing. I know what I’m doing.’ And then the earth spoke, and the earth was afraid. And the earth said, ‘These creatures, they will only rebel against me and harm me.’ And God answers, ‘I promise you that they will never be allowed to destroy you.'”

I think that Iyov is right that this is derived at some distance from Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 38b or its parallels:

אמר רב יהודה א”ר בשעה שבקש הקב”ה לבראות את האדם ברא כת אחת של מלאכי השרת אמר להם רצונכם נעשה אדם בצלמנו אמרו לפניו רבש”ע מה מעשיו אמר להן כך וכך מעשיו אמרו לפניו רבש”ע (תהילים ח) מה אנוש כי תזכרנו ובן אדם כי תפקדנו הושיט אצבעו קטנה ביניהן ושרפם וכן כת שניה כת שלישית אמרו לפניו רבש”ע ראשונים שאמרו לפניך מה הועילו כל העולם כולו שלך הוא כל מה שאתה רוצה לעשות בעולמך עשה כיון שהגיע לאנשי דור המבול ואנשי דור הפלגה שמעשיהן מקולקלין אמרו לפניו רבש”ע לא יפה אמרו ראשונים לפניך אמר להן (ישעיהו מו) ועד זקנה אני הוא ועד שיבה אני אסבול וגו’

Rab Judah said in Rab’s name: When the Holy One, blessed be He, wished to create man, He [first] created a company of ministering angels and said to them: "Is it your desire that we make a man in our image?"

They answered: "Sovereign of the Universe, what will be his deeds?"

"Such and such will be his deeds," He replied.

Thereupon they exclaimed: "Sovereign of the Universe, What is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou thinkest of him?" [Psalm 8:5]

Thereupon He stretched out His little finger among them and consumed them with fire. The same thing happened with a second company.

The third company said to Him: "Sovereign of the Universe, what did it avail the former [angels] that they spoke to Thee [as they did]? The whole world is Thine, and whatsoever that Thou wishest to do therein, do it."

When He came to the men of the Age of the flood and of the division [of tongues] whose deeds were corrupt, they said to Him: "Lord of the Universe, did not the first [company of angels] speak aright?"

"Even to old age I am the same, and even to hoar hairs will I carry," [Isa. 46:4] He retorted.

However, the classic Rabbinic source for environmentalism is Ecclesiastes Rabbah on 7:13:

בשעה שברא הקב”ה את אדם הראשון נטלו והחזירו על כל אילני גן עדן ואמר לו ראה מעשי כמה נאים ומשובחין הן וכל מה שבראתי בשבילך בראתי, תן דעתך שלא תקלקל ותחריב את עולמי, שאם קלקלת אין מי שיתקן אחריך

When the Holy One, Blessed be He, made the first human, he led him past every tree in the Garden of Eden, saying, “Look at what I have made! See how beautiful and excellent they are! Everything that I created I created for you; take care not to damage or destroy my world, because if you damage it there is nobody else who can repair it after you.”

Great Moment

My youngest daughter has been a vegetarian for some months now, and her brother and sisters have not always been, let’s say, as supportive as they might be.

My son is sure that she will never make it through the annual Independence Day barbecue at my sister-in-law’s without cracking and eating meat, so they made a bet: if she eats any meat she will have to eat some of every kind of meat there (and if that sounds like not such a big deal, you don’t know my sister-in-law); and if she doesn’t eat any meat, he will be vegetarian for a week.

So I said, “That sounds like a good bet.”

Drum roll…

Wait for it…

“Do you want me to hold the steaks?”

It depends which way you look at it

Via Jim Davila, a fascinating account of two readings of the name on a seal discovered in the Temple Mount excavations in Jerusalem. There’s a large image of the seal here.

Eilat Mazar’s original reading תמח was based on reading the name from the seal itself:


The revised reading שלמת takes into account that one should read the name from the seal impression. Let’s try to simulate that by flipping the image:


See also here.

As before, to see the text below the images correctly, you will need a font that supports “Phoenician” and a browser that supports Unicode 5.0.

Lost in Translation

I really didn’t think that Yehuda Halevi was within my range as a translator, but this came out quite well:

יְפֵה נוֹף מְשׂוֹשׂ תֵּבֵל קִרְיָה לְמֶלֶךְ רָב.
לָךְ נִכְסְפָה נַפְשִׁי מִפַּאֲתֵי מַעְרָב!
הֲמוֹן רַחֲמַי נִכְמָר כִּי אֶזְכְּרָה קֶדֶם,
כְּבוֹדֵךְ אֲשֶׁר גָּלָה וְנָוֵךְ אֲשֶׁר חָרָב.
וּמִי יִתְּנֵנִי עַל כַּנְפֵי נְשָׁרִים, עַד
אֲרַוֶּה בְדִמְעָתִי עֲפָרֵך וְיִתְעָרָב!
דְּרַשְׁתִּיךְ, וְאִם מַלְכֵּךְ אֵין בָּךְ וְאִם בִּמְקוֹם
צֳרִי גִּלְעֲדֵך – נָחָשׁ שָׂרָף וְגַם עַקְרָב.
הֲלֹא אֶת-אֲבָנַיִךְ אֲחוֹנֵן וְאֶשָּׁקֵם
וְטַעַם רְגָבַיִךְ לְפִי מִדְּבַשׁ יֶעְרָב!

Fair hill-top, world’s rejoicing, city of the Mighty King,
I long for you with all my soul from distant Western lands!
It grieves me to remember how you were in days of old:
Your glory, now in exile, and your temple which is ruined.
Let me fly on wings of eagles till I come to you and water
Your dry dust, and mix it with my tears!
How I searched for you! Even though you have no king,
And scorpions and snakes instead of balm of Gilead,
I will stroke your stones and kiss them, and your earth
Will be sweeter than the taste of honey in my mouth!

Hhanukka meme

From Talmida (and I’m sorry if it looks as if I cribbed a lot of the entries from her. There are reasons why we’re friends, you know):

8 interests in my life

  • Indonesian music
  • Biblical interpretation
  • Languages and scripts
  • Cryptic crosswords
  • Spirituality
  • Mountains
  • Theatre
  • Food and drink

8 things to do before I die

  • Visit the Far East
  • Get a part in a movie
  • Give up smoking
  • Take a skin-diving course
  • Learn sofrut
  • Read (at least some of) the Mahābhārata in the original
  • See the Canadian Rockies
  • Learn blues piano

8 books I read recently

This one is going to be a bit dull, because I have this habit of taking an author and working through him or her, especially when I’m unwell. Comfort reading.

  • G K Chesterton The Innocence of Father Brown
  • G K Chesterton The Wisdom of Father Brown
  • G K Chesterton The Incredulity of Father Brown
  • G K Chesterton The Secret of Father Brown
  • G K Chesterton The Scandal of Father Brown
  • G K Chesterton The Club of Queer Trades
  • James Kugel How to Read the Bible (working my way gradually through this one)
  • Joan Peters From Time Immemorial

8 films that mean something to me

  • Princess Bride
  • Chariots of Fire
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Brother Sun, Sister Moon
  • The Parent Trap (1998 version)
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • Wings of Desire
  • Dead Poets Society

8 songs that mean something to me

  • Mr Fox — The Gypsy
  • Pete Atkin — Beware of the Beautiful Stranger
  • Bob Dylan — Simple Twist of Fate (and many others)
  • Noa (אחינעם ניני) — Wildflower, also Path To Follow and לאט כהולם הלב
  • Tejedor — Texendo Suaños
  • Ehud Banai (אהוד בנאי)‎ — שעה של מיסטורין
  • John Lennon — Woman
  • Leonard Cohen — Stranger Song
  • Ahem

    This blog's reading level: Genius
    …though frankly I think a more accurate rating would have been “Sad Geek”.

    מה כמה?‏

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