Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Gospel According to the Pharisees, Part 5, or, The Acts of Ya‘aqov, Man of Kefar Sekhanya’

Jewish date: 26 Tammuz 5771 (Parashath Mas‘e).

Today’s holidays: The Three Weeks (Judaism), Thursday of the Seventeenth Week of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Marty Feldman (Church of the SubGenius).



Upcoming events:
  • The group protesting for Jewish rights on the Temple Mount and against the Waqf’s destruction of everything Jewish up there (myself included, I hope) will be at the Shuq in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) today (28 July 2011), probably around 7:00 PM, in an educational capacity. NOTE: I am still waiting to get final details on this.
  • One of the people at the last protest (this past Thursday) was handing out pamphlets promoting Jews visiting the Temple Mounton Ro’sh Ḥodhesh ’Av (1 August 2011). Visiting hours for Jews are 7:30 AM to 11:00 AM and 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM. One should visit a miqweh, wear non-leather shoes, and bring a one’s identity card. See “The Temple Mount: Bird's Eye Guide to the Temple Mount” and “Ascending the Temple Mount: An Introduction and Brief Guide” and consult a competent Orthodox rav for more information. Remember: The more Jews who show up, the more the police and the politicians know that the Temple Mount matters to Jews and will be less likely to pander to Muslim discrimination.
Greetings.


And now for the final planned installment on Jesus-related material in the Talmudh. (See also “The Gospel According to the Pharisees”, “The Gospel According to the Pharisees, part 2”, “The Gospel According to the Pharisees, Part 3”, and “The Gospel According to the Pharisees, Part 4, or, The Gospel of Ben Seṭadha’”.) This last passage, which occurs in two versions, deals with a disciple of Yeshu the Noṣri.


Talmudh Bavil, ‘Avodhah Zara’ 16b-17a:
Our Masters taught: When Rabbi ’El‘azar was arrested for sectarianism, they brought him up to the scaffold for judgement.

That governor said to him, “An old [man] like you should keep busy in these empty matters?”

[Rabbi ’El‘azar] said to him, “Trustworthy on me is the judge.”

As that governor thinks on him he says, “And he does not speak but concerning his Father that is in Heaven.”

[The governor] said to him, “Since I believed you, [by] Dimos [= Deimos, a Greek god whose name means “dread”], you are exempt.”

When [Rabbi ’El‘azar] came to his house, his students entered near him to comfort him, and he did not accept upon himself their condolences.

Rabbi ‘Aqiva’ said to him, “Rabbi, will you permit me to say one thing from what you taught me?”

[Rabbi ’El‘azar] said to him, “Say [it].”

[Rabbi ‘Aqiva’] said to him, “Rabbi, perhaps sectarianism came to your hand and it pleased you, and because of it you were arrested?”

[Rabbi ’El‘azar] said to him, “‘Aqiva’, you reminded me [that] one time I was walking around in the upper market of Ṣippori [Sepphoris, a city in the Galilee], and I found one human from the students of Yeshu the Noṣri, and Ya‘aqov, man of Kefar Sekhanya’, [was] his name.

“He said to me, ‘It is written in your Torah, ‘You will not bring a prostitute’s fee (etc.) [or the price of a dog [to] the house of YHWH your god for any vow, for an abomination [to] YHWH your god are also these two]’ (Deuteronomy 23:19). What about to make from it a toilet for the Chief Priest?’

“And I said to him nothing.

“He said to me, ‘Thus taught me Yeshu the Noṣri: ‘For from a prostitute’s fee she gathered, and until a prostitute’s they will return’ (Micah 1:7)—from the place of filth they came; to the place of filth they will go.’

“And the thing pleased me, and because of this I was arrested for sectarianism, and I transgressed that which is written in the Torah: ‘Keep far from her your way’—this is sectarianism—‘and do not approach the entrance of her house’ (Proverbs 5:8)—this is the [Roman] government.”

And there are those that say: “Keep far from her your way”—this is sectarianism and the [Roman] government—“and do not approach the entrance of her house”—this is prostitution.

Qoheleth [Ecclesiastes] Rabbah 1:8:

[NOTE: Qoheleth Rabbah is not part of either Talmudh, but rather is a collection of midhrash (exegesis and legends passed down about the Hebrew Bible and which have grown up around it). This passage is included here, because it is clearly a version of the previous passage.]
Another thing: “All words are weary” (Ecclesiastes 1:8)—words of sectarianism weary humanity.

A deed of Rabbi ’El‘azar, who was arrested for sectarianism: They took him [to] the governor and brought him up on the platform to judge him.

[The governor] said to him, “A great human like you should busy himself in these empty matters?”

[Rabbi ’El‘azar] said to him, “Trustworthy on me is the judge.”

And he [the governor] thought that he spoke about him, but he did not speak but concerning Heaven.

[The governor] said to him, “Since you believed me about you, even I am thinking and say: it is possible that these academies err in these empty matters. [By] Dimos, you are exempt.”

After Rabbi ’El‘azar was dismissed from the platform, he was distressed that he was he was arrested on matters of sectarianism. His students entered near him to comfort him, and he did not accept [their condolences].

Rabbi ‘Aqiva’ entered near him. He said to him, “Perhaps one of the sectarians spoke in front of you something, and it was pleasing before you.”

[Rabbi ’El‘azar] said to him, “Behold, the heavens! You have reminded me: one time I was going up into the court in Ṣippori, and came to me one human from the students of Yeshu the Noṣri, and Ya‘aqov, man of Kefar Sekhanya’, [was] his name.

“And he said to me one thing, and it pleased me, and this thing was: ‘It is written in your Torah, ‘You will not bring a prostitute’s fee or the price of a dog [to the house of YHWH your god for any vow, for an abomination to YHWH your god are also these two]’ (Deuteronomy 23:19). What are they?’

“I said to him, ‘Prohibited.’

“He said to him [should be: to me], ‘For a sacrifice, [they are] prohibited; for ruin, it is permitted.’

“I said to him, ‘And if so, what will one do with them?’

“He said to me, ‘Let one make with them bathhouses and toilets.’

“I said to him, ‘Beautifully have you spoken.’

“And hidden from me was the halakhah [how one rules in Jewish law] for a moment.

“Since he saw that I acknowledged his words, he said to me, ‘From excrement they came, and to excrement they will go out, as it is said, ‘For from a prostitute’s fee she gathered, and until a prostitute’s they will return’ (Micah 1:7). Let them make thrones [probably a euphemism for toilets] for the masses.’

“And it pleased me.

“And because of this I was arrested for sectarianism. Moreover I transgressed that which is written in the Torah: ‘Keep far from her your way, and do not approach the entrance of her house” (Proverbs 5:8). ‘Keep far from her your way’—this is sectarianism—‘and do not approach the entrance of her house’—this is prostitution.

“Why? ‘For many slain has she caused to fall, and tremendous are all those killed by her’ (Proverbs 7:26).”

How much [should one remove oneself]? Rav Ḥisda’ said, “Until four cubits.”

From here died Rabbi ’El‘azar ben Dama’, son of the sister of Rabbi Yishma‘e’l, whom a snake bit. And Ya‘aqov, Man of Kefar Sekhanya’ came to heal him, and Rabbi Yishma‘e’l did not let him.

[Rabbi Yishma‘e’l] said, “You are not allowed, Ben Dama’”.

[Rabbi ’El‘azar ben Dama’] said to him, “Allow me, and I will bring you proof from the Torah that it is permitted.” But he did not bring him enough proof before he died.

And Rabbi Yishma‘e’l rejoiced and said, “Happy are you, Ben Dama’, that your soul went out in purity and you did not breach the fence of the Sages [to submit to the ministrations of one such as Ya‘aqov, Man of Kefar Sekhanya’]. For all who breach the fence of the Sages [his] end is that calamities come upon him, as it is written, ‘And one who breaches a fence, a snake will bite him’ (Ecclesiastes 1:8).”

And he was not bitten except that a snake should not bite him in the future to come [in the afterlife as a punishment].

And what was to him [Rabbi ’El‘azar ben Dama’] in it [that he should submit to the ministrations of Ya‘aqov, Man of Kefar Sekhanya’]? “That the human will do them and live by them” (Leviticus 11:5)—and not that he should die by them.

I find the timing of these passages rather difficult. The king of Yehudhah (Judea) at the time of Yeshu the Noṣri was Yanna’y (Alexander Jannaeus), who died in 76 BCE. Rabbi ‘Aqiva’, however, lived at the time of the Bar Kokhba’ revolt in 132 CE. Rabbi ‘Aqiva’ is said to have lived 120 years, but even if we place this incident at the beginning of his teaching career, 40 years before he was executed by the Romans, that still leaves us with a gap of about 168 years between Yeshu the Noṣri in Egypt and this incident with Ya‘aqov, Man of Kefar Sekhanya’. Perhaps Ya‘aqov, Man of Kefar Sekhanya’ was not being literal about having been taught by Yeshu the Noṣri, but rather is claiming to have received traditions which go back to him. Alternatively, there could have been multiple people named “Yeshu the Noṣri”.

There is also the question of what Ya‘aqov, Man of Kefar Sekhanya’ would have done in treating Rabbi ’El‘azar ben Dama’ that would have been in violation of Jewish law. Medical treatment is not prohibited, so it had to be known or at least suspected that Ya‘aqov, Man of Kefar Sekhanya’ was doing something forbidden. Since Yeshu the Noṣri is depicted as a magician, Ya‘aqov, Man of Kefar Sekhanya’ may have followed in his footsteps and used magic for healing. This may be related to many incidents in the Gospels where Jesus is depicted as faith-healing. (What one person views as a legitimate religious practice may be easily viewed by others as magic. The term “magic” comes from magus, the Latin term for a Zoroastrian priest.) Considering that Yeshu the Noṣri committed idolatry, the magic of Ya‘aqov, Man of Kefar Sekhanya’ may have also contained an idolatrous component. If so, Rabbi Yishma‘e’l was completely right in prohibiting it even to save a life; one is obligated to die rather than commit idolatry.


Peace.

’Aharon/Aaron

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