November 20, 2018

Did Ancient Jews See Themselves as a Religion or as a People?

“[T]he connection between [Jews’] behavioral expressions of Jewish identity and their ancestors [found in Greek writings also] may appear in rabbinic tradition. The mid-2nd-century CE rabbi Yosi ben Ḥalafta appears as the author of the statement in the talmudic tractate of Y’vamot that “a convert is like a newborn child.” This could be understood to mean that the convert is “born again,” this time as a member of the Jewish people.

If so, then one branch of rabbinic tradition disagreed. Tractate Bikkurim forbade converts from reciting the prayer formula “God of our fathers.” This indicates that culture is not sufficient for full membership in the Jewish people. A dissenting view cited in the Jerusalem Talmud permitted converts to recite this formula because they could claim the [the biblical patriarch] Abraham as their father or forefather. A probably later source, Midrash Tanḥuma, stated, “Abraham is the father of converts.” While this may mean only that Abraham was the original convert and hence model for all subsequent proselytes, it also could be taken as literal adoption. . . .

The fact that adopting the culture of a group entailed establishing a new kinship relation shows the tenacity of the idea that ancestry and behavior belong together. Further evidence of this concept in ancient thinking about ethnic identity is how Greeks commonly described the culture of an ethnos as “ancestral” as in “the ancestral customs” or “the ancestral laws.” . . .”

Read more

JJ Best Of The Web

"Military relations in the transatlantic alliance are humming. Yet an intangible but palpable crisis is shaking the foundations of NATO – and it has brought the organization to a moment of reckoning."

"With the midterm election a week-plus behind us — well, mostly behind us, as Democrats continue to try to steal seats in certain locations — it is time to take a look ahead at what we are facing over the next two years."

"Leaving the ultra-Orthodox community is nothing new in Israel. Everyone, secular or religious, knows someone who used to be on, but is now “off the derech.” But the phenomenon hasn’t been well studied."

"Post Malone’s music is dead-eyed and ignorant, astonishingly dull in its materialism, an abandoned lot of creativity with absolutely no evidence of traffic in his cerebral cortex — and there’s also a negative side..."

"Having assessed over 2,000 CEOs and over 18,000 C-suite leaders since 1995, we are struck by how often careers of talented executives stall or even derail because of seemingly trivial issues, many of which are utterly fixable."

"While the revelation of an apparent indictment against Julian Assange sets an ominous precedent for news organizations, it also serves as a reminder of his group’s stark transformation."

"Through classes and workshops, men across the United States are attempting to unlearn "toxic masculinity"—for society and for themselves."

"While many books experience sweeping popularity, Ferrante’s novels are part of a subgroup of pop culture that compels people to travel. Tour groups like Looking for Lila and Ferrante Fever Naples have popped up across Naples..."

"E-cigarettes may help tobacco smokers quit. But the alluring devices can swiftly induce a nicotine habit in teenagers who never smoked. This is the tale of one person’s struggle."

"As thrilled as I am to be hosting (and therefore not to have to deal with one of the busiest travel days of the year), I’ll be honest: I’m a little stressed out. "

"Humanity is on the verge of a weighty achievement. On Friday, representatives of more than 60 nations will convene in Versailles, France, to approve a new definition for the kilogram."

"Be connected, be still, and be satisfied -- my 3 essential principles of Shabbat do more for me than all the halacha I learned to be a rabbi."