Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Power of the Torah to command us to love the Stranger And Happy Purim in Jerusalem WITH ALL THE EVENTS LISTED to enjoy for today Purim 2020 AND So you think you have the COVID-19 virus? Here’s what to do next

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Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money,  and spiritual engagement. Now also a Blogger on the Times of Israel. Look for my column

Love Yehuda Lave

A fellow bought a lottery ticket and gave it to his wife to hold for him. The man was frail and could not handle a lot of excitement.

You know, the ticket was called and is now worth $50K. But, his wife and his daughter were afraid to tell him that he was a winner. So, they turned to their local preacher, who agreed to handle the situation.

The preacher came to visit, to see how the fellow was feeling. To keep the conversation going, the Preacher asked a rhetorical question. Let's say, you won $50,000.00 What would you do with it? The man was stunned, though about it for a few minutes, and then said: Preacher, if I were to win $50,000, I would give half to you! And, the Preacher dropped dead.

So you think you have the COVID-19 virus? Here's what to do next

Don't go to the emergency room, the Health Ministry says; below is all you need to know about home quarantines and public gatherings

How can you tell if its COVID-19, or just a cold? Should you call the doctor or check into a hospital? How can you protect your family members during a home quarantine? Will your AliExpress order infect you? And do those facemasks even work?

Amid widespread misinformation about the COVID-19 virus in Israel and with Health Ministry directives updated daily, it can be confusing to know what symptoms you should be looking out for — and how to proceed if you believe you're carrying the coronavirus.

For those in Israel, here's what you need to know.

What are the symptoms?

The Health Ministry says that if you've recently returned from abroad, or been around someone who has (within six feet, for 15 minutes at a time), take note if you develop the following symptoms: Fever of at least 38C (100F), coughing, difficulty breathing, or any other respiratory symptoms.

I recently returned from abroad and now I'm coughing and feverish. Should I go straight to the emergency room?

No! To prevent the spread of the infectious disease, the ministry urges those who suspect they may be sick with the virus to call 101 (the Magen David Adom emergency service). If there is reason to believe you are carrying the coronavirus, medics will come to your home to administer lab tests. Do not go to a local health clinic or emergency room, the ministry warns.

For further questions, you can contact the ministry hotline at *5400. Israelis can also consult with their personal physicians and HMOs by telephone.

I came to Israel on a connecting flight through one of the flagged countries but didn't leave the airport. Must I enter home quarantine for 14 days?

Travelers who took connecting flights through mainland China, South Korea, and Italy must enter home quarantine for 14 days, even without leaving the airport.

For the remaining countries that require quarantine upon return to Israel — ​Hong Kong, San Marino, Macau, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, ​France, Andorra, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Austria — the order applies only to those who entered the countries, but does not extend to connecting flights.

I attended an international conference. But it wasn't in a country listed by the Health Ministry. Must I enter home quarantine for 14 days?

Yes, if you returned after March 4.

My friend was in contact with a person who has contracted the virus. And I was in close contact with my friend. Do I need to enter quarantine?


I'm in home quarantine after returning from abroad, but my family members are not. What are the restrictions on my movement within my home? 

According to the Health Ministry instructions, those confined to their homes should remain in a separate, well-ventilated room, and use a bathroom not accessed by other family members, if it is a possibility.

If you must leave the room do so "for very short periods only" and "cover your mouth and nose with a facemask," the ministry says.

It also recommends frequent washing of hands to avoid infecting others.

I need to assist the quarantined person. Can I enter their room? What precautions must I take?

Says the Health Ministry: "There should be only one person who enters and exits the room of the isolated person, this person should be a healthy person with no other diseases which might further increase their risk."

The person entering the room should be wearing a facemask and gloves and wash their hands thoroughly afterwards. The quarantined person's laundry should be stored and washed separately. Discarded tissues and the like should be placed in a tightly sealed bag before being thrown in the trash, it says. Contact with bodily fluids of the quarantined person should be avoided entirely.

The ministry also recommends disinfecting bedside tables and other surfaces in the quarantined room on a daily basis.

Do I need a doctor's note for my employer in order to be compensated for the time I wasn't working while in quarantine?

No. The Health Ministry has published a general form for those placed in quarantine, which can be accessed and filled out here.

Should I be concerned about packages ordered from China or other infected areas?

According to the Health Ministry, there is currently no reason to believe the virus could be transmitted through mail orders.

Should I wear a facemask?

Not unless you're carrying the virus.

The Health Ministry says: "The effectiveness of a facemask in protecting from a coronavirus infection is limited. With extended use, it wears out and gets moist. There is no recommendation to routinely use a facemask for protection from respiratory illnesses, including the infection caused by the novel coronavirus, unless a healthcare professional recommends it. People who are showing symptoms or people suspected of a coronavirus infection or confirmed patients should wear a facemask (in order to avoid spreading the infection to others), as well as people who have contact or are taking care of suspected or confirmed patients (in order to protect themselves)."

I arrived in Israel from abroad (not from the quarantine-listed countries) and have a wedding coming up. Should I attend?

Sorry. The Health Ministry says all international travelers in the past 14 days must avoid gatherings of 100 people or more.

Can my dog keep me company in quarantine?

According to the ministry, it's unlikely that an infected person could transmit the virus to a pet. But it's still recommended that you keep a safe distance if you may be carrying the disease.

"However, since other members of the corona family may infect animals, it is recommended that you take extreme caution and avoid interaction with pets if you have symptoms related to the coronavirus infection; if you cannot avoid contact with animals while you are sick, wear a facemask and wash your hands," the ministry says.

Is home quarantine a requirement? Or merely a strong suggestion?

The Health Ministry orders are legally binding. Violators of the quarantine instructions could face jail time or fines.

Purim 2020 in Jerusalem

The Story of Purim

In Jerusalem there are plenty of festivals and parties, some for families and children, some for those who want to go all out with their drinking, dressing up and dancing until they can no longer tell the difference between Haman (the bad guy in the story) and Mordechai (the good guy).

The story of Purim told in the Book of Esther, which is traditionally read twice on Purim – once on the eve of Purim and once on the day of Purim – tells of King Ahasuerus, who was convinced by his assistant Haman to destroy all the Jewish people in his kingdom. His new queen, Esther, and her cousin and/or husband Mordechai, collaborated to turn the fate of the Jewish people around, succeeding without one mention of God in the entire 10-chapter book.

On Purim, to celebrate the complete turn-around of the Jews' lot (in Hebrew pur – hence the name Purim) and of the hidden face of God in the story, we dress up in costumes and drink alcohol which both help us see the world from a different point of view.

When is Purim in Jerusalem?

This year Purim takes place on March 10-13. The Hebrew date of Purim is the 14th of the month of Adar, starting the evening before. But! In Jerusalem and other "walled" cities, the Holiday is celebrated one day after everyone else.

Family-friendly things to do on Purim in Jerusalem Shushan Purim at Safra Square

Like every year, the main Purim event is the traditional celebration at Safra Square, taking place at Shushan Purim. During the event, the children will enjoy performances of their beloved stars, costume competition, a show with clowns, huge puppets, and street artists' parade.

What more to expect this year?

11 AM – 2 PM – a huge Purim carnival that will move from Safra Square to Zion Square and Ben Yehuda Street. It'll include performances from Uncle Haim, Kofiko (beloved monkey characters, a longtime friend of the Israeli children), and the queen of kids – Rinat Gabay.

When? Wednesday, March 11th, 11 AM – 5 PM

Where? Safra Square, Jerusalem


Special activities for Purim at the Israel Museum

Photo by Danil Esterkin

The Israel Museum offers a rich program of activities for the whole family:

  • A dance party for both children and parents.

A great party for all ages with DJ Freddy and a special video screening created, especially for this great ball. Video editing: Yaara Nirael12:30 PM – 3:30 PM

  • Following the masks around the museum
    Special tours dedicated to masks will take the kids and their parents to faraway lands and different cultures around the museum galleries.
    10:30 AM, 11:00 AM, 11:30 AM, 12:30 PM, 2 PM, 2:30 PM
  • Costume-making workshops
    Make your costume with the help of teachers-artists from the museum staff.
    10:15 AM, 11 AM, 11:45 AM
  • Puppet Theater Shows
    11:00 AM, 1:30 PM.
  • Storytime for toddlers
    11:30 AM, 2:30 PM
  • Recycling workshop for making masks
    11:30 AM, 12:30 PM, 2 PM.
  • The Time Tunnel
    An animated film about the lost scrolls screened at the Book Hall Auditorium.
    Tuesday, March 10th | Every 39 minutes from 10:30 AM – 7:30 PM
    Wednesday, March 11th | Every 39 minutes from 10:30 AM – 3:30 PM

When? Tuesday-Wednesday, March 10-11th
Where? Israel Museum, Derech Ruppin 11, Jerusalem
Cost: 54 ILS per Adult, 34 ILS per child, 28 ILS – a child with membership



Purim Celebration at the Jerusalem Cinematheque


At the Jerusalem Cinematheque, you can celebrate Purim with the premiere screening of "A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon" and many activities for children and adults during the day:

  • Festive Purim celebration
  • A glimpse behind the scenes of the movies industry with the Aftereffects Master Tali Goldring
  • Make-up and photography stand
  • Popcorn for only 10 ILS

Additionally, the grown-ups can enjoy a screening of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

When? Tuesday, March 10th, starting at 10:30 AM
Where? Jerusalem Cinematheque, Hebron Rd 11, Jerusalem
Cost: Shaun the Sheep Movie – Ticket price including the happening – 10 ILS, Cinematheque membership owners – free.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show – 50 ILS per ticket, Cinematheque membership owners – free.


Hide and seek costumes in the Tower of David Museum

Photo: David Tower

On this Purim, the parents and the children come to the Tower of David Museum! Join a fun and joyful activity – meet the clowns of the kingdom who'll wander around and share their mastery. Additionally, you can take the Clown Training Course in many stations and workshops: Clown workshop, making Juggling balls workshop, mask-creating workshop, make-up station, and other surprises. And if you wish to become real clowns, you'll even watch a little show of Commedia dell 'arte performed by the Scapino duo, the masters of this craft.

The best clowns will also be honored with the impressive title Of Jester, by the king himself.

The activity is created for children aged 5-10.

When? Tuesday and Wednesday, March 10-11th, 10 AM – 4 PM
Where? The Tower of David Museum, Jerusalem.
Cost: 35 ILS (or a family ticket for 150 ILS – for up to 5 participants).

Purchase tickets

  • +972-723290715



Get ready for Purim celebration at the most beautiful viewpoint in the city – The windmill complex

  • What's in store?
    Fun and entertainment for the children at the booths: making masks, special festive make-up, braiding, and more.
  • Small tours around the windmill and explanations about the operation of the mills.
  • Escape park for the whole family in the open air.
  • For the grown-ups – limitless wine for the Ad d'Lo Yada!

When? Tuesday, March 10th, from 10 AM to 3 PM. Masks workshop will take place from 11 AM to 1 PM.
Where? Windmill at Mishkenot Sha'ananim, Bloomfield Boulevard, Jerusalem.
Cost: Workshops: 25 ILS, Small Tours: 20 ILS, Escape park: 65 ILS, Wine without limit: 30 ILS per person.

  • 072-3384989


Playing dress-up at the Gazelle Valley


Photo: Gazelle Valley

As every year, at Purim 2020, the Gazelle Valley is awaiting the kids for special camouflage activities for the Holiday!

Join the celebration in the valley, paint your face, and go hide in the outdoors of the valley. In the specified hours, the staff of the valley will go to look for you… and might find you, or not! The best-disguised players will receive prices.


  • The Gazelle Valley is accessible for all kinds of disabilities.
  • The make-up, sign-up for the competition, and organization will take place at 10 AM – 12:45 PM, the search for the disguised children – 1-2 PM.
  • Participation requires every child to be accompanied by an adult over 18 years old.

When? Tuesday, March 10th, 10 AM – 2 PM
Where? Gazelle Valley, Pat HaRav Herzog Junction, Jerusalem ("Gazelle Valley Parking Lot" in Waze).
Cost: FREE

  • 072-3932794


Reading the Book of Esther at the Begin Heritage Center

This year the Menachem Begin Heritage Center will hold the annual event of reading the Book of Esther, and you're welcome to join, receive the book to take home, and Mishlochei Manot for the children!

When? Tuesday, March 10th, 6:30 PM.

Where? Sh.A. Nakhon St 6, Jerusalem.

Cost? FREE

  • +972-72-3290724



Purim at the Bible Lands Museum


Photo: Bible Lands Museum

The Bible Lands Museum invites you to Purim carnival with many free and independent activities for kids, including challenging trivia games, booths of costumes and photography, special puzzles and tasks in the spirit of Purim, virtual reality application that will bring back to life the ancient biblical lands and many other surprises!

Additionally, there will be a series of tours and creativity shops in the holiday spirit for creating masks (for a cost and registering ahead).

This year, the first "akhashdarpans college" will open up and will teach you to be the representatives of Ahasuerus in the kingdom. You'll learn how people used to dress back then in all the ancient Persian kingdom – from India to Kush. All this information will be delivered as part of an exciting tour. In the end, you'll participate in a creative workshop, making a special mask inspired by the museums' exhibits.

These special tours will take off at 11:00 AM and 12:30 PM.

The tours and workshops are suitable for children ages 5-10.

When? Monday-Friday, March 9-10th, 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM.
Where? Shmuel Stephan Weiz St 21, Jerusalem,
Cost? Entrance fee to the museum, and the activities: Child: free | Accompanying adult – 22 ILS, subscription holders – free.
Participation in the tour and the workshop: Child – 32 ILS | Adult – 22 ILS | subscription holders – free.

  • +972-72-3281846


The Old Yishuv Court Museum is inviting the children and the kids to the annual Purim party. What to expect?

  • Unique ratchets exhibition: "What's all the noise is about?"
  • Games and costumes
  • Ratchets-making workshop
  • And plenty of other surprises!

When? Tuesday, March 10, 10 AM – 1 PM

Where? Or HaHayim St 6, Jerusalem

Cost? Ticket for the whole family – only 40 ILS! Workshop: Additional 10 ILS per children

  • +972-72-3290748


A costume contest at Avraham Hostel


Photo: Abraham Hostel

Like every year, Abraham Hostel organizes a special and crazy Purim party at the Bar of the Hostel, and this time you'll enjoy a costume party, make-up artist, and specials at the hostel's bar.

When? March 10th, 10:30 PM.
Where? Ha'neviim 67, Jerusalem.
Cost: pre-order – 85 ILS
At the day of the event – 100 ILS

  • +972-(0)72-3932793


Live the Bible will make your Purim


Photo: Live the Bible

The team of Live The Bible launches a new activity, upgrading every event with numerous costumes in the spirit of the Old Testament. Would you like an authentic group or family photo? Wishing to experience history first-hand? Contact us now.

Special offer for the holidays: 10% off for website visitors + free photo on a magnet in Ahasuerus and Esther costumes with a palace background.

  • + 972-72-3290723


Fun tour during Shushan Purim with Yad Ben Zvi

Photo: Mark Naiman, GPO

Yad Ben Zvi invites you to join a special festive tour for Shushan Purim, led by the guide Bracha Tzabari. The tour will take you on a path of exploration, colorful costumes, reading the Esther Book, and more. This is the best way to get to know the customs of the Holiday and see how Purim is celebrated in Jerusalem.

More details and tickets >>

When? Wednesday, March 11th, at 10 AM.
Cost? 90 ILS

  • 072-3290745

Purim party at Nocturne

Nocturno Live hosts a party that will rock toy till the sunrise!

On the stage:

  • DJ Kvint
  • DJ SKY
  • DJ's Yeshiva Mizrahit

When? Tuesday, March 10th, 10:30 PM
Where? Bezalel 7, Jerusalem
Cost? 40 ILS for the first round of pre-sale for one week only,
60 ILS for the second round
70 ILS for last round and the day of the event at the box offices
Special price for students – 50 ILS! Upon showing a student card

  • 072-3290744


Segway tours by Smart Tours

Photo: Smart Tour

Looking for an interesting and unique way to connect to the celebrations around the city? Segway Tours brought to you by Smart Tours will take you to a variety of tours where you can check out magnificent views of Old and New Jerusalem accompanied by professional guides who will share real stories of Jerusalem in a unique way. Smart Tour's Segway is among the most modern and safest on the market, and the Jerusalem landscape, along with the hovering on the Segway, creates a recipe for an unforgettable experience during the Holiday.

Click here for details about Smart Tour and all Segway tours in Jerusalem!

  • 072-3290771

Ideas, that help explain how the world works

Base-Rate Neglect: Assuming the success rate of everyone who's done what you're about to try doesn't apply to you, caused by overestimating the extent to which you do things differently than everyone else.

The Power of the Torah to command us to love the Stranger

There are commands that leap off the page of the Bible by their sheer moral power. So it is in the case of the social legislation in Torah section Parsha Mishpatim.

Do not ill-treat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in Egypt

To not oppress a stranger; you yourselves know how it feels to be a stranger (literally, "you know the soul of a stranger"), because you were strangers in Egypt

The Bible section read last week in the Synagogue, called Parsha Mishpatim contains many laws The repetition throughout the bible is remarkable of social justice – against taking advantage of a widow or orphan, for example, or charging interest on a loan to a fellow member of the community, against bribery and injustice, and so on. The first and last of these laws, however, is the repeated command against harming a Ger, a "stranger." Clearly something fundamental is at stake in the Torah's vision of a just and gracious social order.

The Sages noted the repeated emphasis on the stranger in biblical law. According to Rabbi Eliezer, the Torah "warns against the wronging of a Ger in thirty-six places"

"You shall have the same law for the stranger as for the native-born. Not only must the stranger not be wronged; he or she must be included in the positive welfare provisions of the Israelite society. But the law goes beyond this; the stranger must be loved:

When a stranger lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The stranger living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were strangers in Egypt. I am the L‑rd your G‑d.

This provision appears in the same chapter as the command, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Later, in the book of Deuteronomy, Moses makes it clear that this is the attribute of G‑d Himself:

"For the L‑rd your G‑d is G‑d of G‑ds and Lord of Lords, the great G‑d, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are strangers, for you yourselves were strangers in Egypt.

What is the logic of the command? The most profound commentary is that given by the Ramban (one of our greatest commentators):

The correct interpretation appears to me to be that He is saying: do not wrong a stranger or oppress him, thinking as you might that none can deliver him out of your hand; for you know that you were strangers in the land of Egypt and I saw the oppression with which the Egyptian oppressed you, and I avenged your cause on them, because I behold the tears of such who are oppressed and have no comforter…Likewise, you shall not afflict the widow and the orphan for I will hear their cry, for all these people do not rely upon themselves but trust in Me.

And in another verse He added this reason:

…for you know what it feels like to be a stranger because you were strangers in the land of Egypt. That is to say, you know that every stranger feels depressed, and is always sighing and crying, and his eyes are always directed towards G‑d, therefore He will have mercy upon him even as He showed mercy to you (and likewise He has mercy on all who are oppressed).

According to the Ramban, the command has two dimensions. The first is the relative powerlessness of the stranger. He or she is not surrounded by family, friends, neighbors, a community of those ready to come to their defense. Therefore the Torah warns against wronging them because G‑d has made Himself protector of those who has no one else to protect them. This is the First dimension of the command.

The second reason, is the psychological vulnerability of the stranger (we recall Moses' own words at the birth of his first son, while he was living among the Midianites: "I am a stranger in a strange land. The stranger is one who lives outside the normal securities of home and belonging. He or she is, or feels, alone – and, throughout the Torah, G‑d is especially sensitive to the sigh of the oppressed, the feelings of the rejected, the cry of the unheard. That is the emotional dimension of the command.

Dislike of the unlike is as old as mankind. This fact lies at the very heart of the Jewish experience.

Undoubtedly, though, the most serious cruelty – was the use of power against the powerless: the widow, the orphan and, above all, the stranger.

To be a Jew is to be a stranger. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this was why Abraham was commanded to leave his land, home and father's house; why, long before Joseph was born, Abraham was already told that his descendants would be strangers in a land not their own; why Moses had to suffer personal exile before assuming leadership of the people; why the Israelite's underwent persecution before inheriting their own land; and why the Torah is so insistent that this experience – the retelling of the story on Passover, along with the never-forgotten taste of the bread of affliction and the bitter herbs of slavery – should become a permanent part of our collective memory.

It is terrifying in retrospect to grasp how seriously the Torah took the phenomenon of xenophobia,( hatred of the stranger). The Torah is saying with the utmost clarity: the reason is insufficient. Sympathy is inadequate. Only the force of history and memory is strong enough to form a counterweight to hate.

The Torah asks, why should you not hate the stranger? Because you once stood where he stands now. You know the heart of the stranger because you were once a stranger in the land of Egypt. If you are human, so is he. If he is less than human, so are you. You must fight the hatred in your heart as I once fought the greatest ruler and the strongest empire in the ancient world on your behalf.

I made you into the world's archetypal strangers so that you would fight for the rights of strangers – for your own and those of others, wherever they are, whoever they are, whatever the color of their skin or the nature of their culture, because though they are not in your image, says G‑d, they are nonetheless in Mine. There is only one reply strong enough to answer the question: Why should I not hate the stranger? Because the stranger is me. And as we know Jews are always at the forefront of every civil rights fight. Even against our own interest, Bernie Sanders is fighting for the supposed underdog.

To quote Henry Fonda in the famous movie the Grapes of Wrath:

"Wherever there's a fight, so hungry people can eat, I'll be there." I'll be all around in the dark. I'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look—wherever there's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there.

Lost 1,000-year-old Hebrew Bible found on dusty Cairo synagogue shelf

While attempting to document Egyptian synagogues, an Israeli historian stumbles upon a massive, well-preserved 616-page codex that was written in 1028 By Amanda Borschel-Dan

In July 2017, Israeli historian Yoram Meital stumbled upon a handwritten 1028 CE biblical codex that was lying abandoned on a dusty shelf in a Cairo synagogue. Wrapped in a simple white paper of the sort one finds on tables in cheap eateries, at 616 pages, the Zechariah Ben 'Anan Manuscript is one of the era's most complete and preserved examples of the "Writings," the third and concluding section of the Hebrew Bible. It had been lost to scholars for almost 40 years.

Discovered by Meital in the Karaite Moussa Der'i Synagogue, the Zechariah Ben 'Anan Manuscript (ZBAM) was previously documented in various publications by modern biblical scholars, from a 1905 Jewish Quarterly Review article by leading expert Richard Gottheil through to microfilms of the manuscript done by a team of Israelis from the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts in June 1981.

The scholars left notes within the texts, and even published their findings. Then, as the Jewish community increasingly lost its members, the priceless manuscript, too, disappeared.


After decades of trips to Egypt for his academic publications as a professor at Ben-Gurion University, in July 2017 Meital was in Cairo as a private scholar taking part in a Jewish community project headed by the Drop of Milk organization to document the city's many synagogues — and seeking fodder for an upcoming book.

Ben-Gurion University history Prof. Yoram Meital (Etty Lassman)

His trip to the 1933 Moussa Der'i Synagogue, a monumental structure built at the height of the community's wealth and power, was meant to record its impressive architecture — built in the shape of a four-horned altar — and its many stained-glass windows and other ornamentation.

The ongoing documentation project reflects a window of opportunity to record Egypt's Jewish heritage that has opened since the rise of President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in 2014 and the 2013 election of current Cairo Jewish community head Magda Haroun, who also heads Drop of Milk. The Cairo Jewish community now numbers only a handful of Jews, but according to Egyptian law has control over community assets and artifacts, said Meital.

In recent years, efforts have increased to document, preserve, and eventually showcase Egypt's Jewish heritage, as illustrated by the emotional February 14 re-inauguration of the renovated Alexandria synagogue, as well as important work in crumbling Jewish cemeteries.

"In Egypt, nothing can take place without a very bold green light coming from the top of the pyramid and we highly commend the government support," said Meital.

Inside ZBAM Moussa (Moshe) Der'i Synagogue, Cairo, 2019. (Yoram Meital)

As Meital recounted in the recently published Jewish Quarterly Review article, "A Thousand-Year-Old Biblical Manuscript Rediscovered in Cairo: The Future of the Egyptian Jewish Past," the discovery left the historian "overwhelmed."

"It would be difficult to remain indifferent to the beauty of this manuscript," wrote Meital.

In a stroke of scholarly luck, the colophon, or book's imprint, includes the name of the scribe, Zechariah Ben 'Anan, and the person who commissioned it, as well as its date of completion. These are rare and important details, emphasized historian Meital, and show the provenance of the work, as well as the wealth and philanthropy of the family who presumably donated the text to the local synagogue for communal study.

This detailed illustration lists the name of the scribe, Zechariah Ben 'Anan, as well as the owners of the Codex that was rediscovered in 2017 by Israeli scholar Prof. Yoram Meital in a Cairo synagogue. (Yoram Meital)

Based on notes left by Ben 'Anan, we know it was completed in the Jewish year 4788, which corresponds to the Gregorian year 1028. (Interestingly, when the manuscript was examined almost 900 years later, a scholar, writing in pencil, made the calculation of how old it was based on his Jewish year back in 1927.) According to Ben 'Anan's notes, we also see his computations of how many verses he wrote, and that it was once part of a complete Hebrew Bible — the other two sections of which are gone without a trace.

The manuscript Meital found not only holds the complete Writings, but also another 12 pages of Mesorah, or commentary on the biblical text, including notes on the trope, or tune in which it is to be read, and nikud, or a vowel and consonantal vocalization of the words. This system of little dots and lines overlaid on the biblical text indicates how the ancient Hebrew words should sound (Hebrew is written without vowels). The system was established by a group of Jewish scholars living in Tiberias near the Sea of Galilee circa 750-950 CE.

"Everything that has to do with grammar and punctuation of ancient Hebrew is based on this school," said Meital. "When they developed a system of writing and created a school for how to correctly read the Bible, it was a dramatic shift because since then, our Bible was born and developed."

The Cairo manuscript, written just after the writing system's codification, is one of the earliest known examples of the Tiberias school, which trained famous scribes in the 9-11th centuries, including Ben 'Anan.

Psalm 1 from the Zechariah Ben 'Anan Codex, rediscovered in 2017 by Israeli scholar Prof. Yoram Meital in a Cairo synagogue. (Yoram Meital)

The biblical text itself is written in block letters in reddish-brown ink, whereas the Mesorah was inked in black. At some point in its history, most likely circa 1930, it was bound in red paper. Each 36-centimeter x 30 centimeter (14-inch x 12 inches) page includes the vocalized biblical text, trope, and Mesorah, which are mostly arranged in three columns of 18 rows. In the Psalms and other poetry, the arrangement shifts to two columns. Here and there are corrections to the text, which are done by another scribe, either through scraping off the original lines from the parchment and redoing them, or through parchment patches with the correct wording.

There is some divergence in the ZBAM Writings from what is standard in Hebrew Bibles today. The Book of Chronicles appears as one continuous book, rather than two sections, and the book leads the Writings instead of concluding them. Likewise, the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah are joined as one account.

Towards future conservation of the Jewish past

The ZBAM was venerated by the once flourishing Karaite community for hundreds of years. The Karaite reject the Oral Torah's layers of interpretation, which they believe removes the worshiper from the biblical text.

Despite historically wretched storage conditions, only a few dozen pages are damaged. Prior to its dusty shelf in the Moussa Der'i Synagogue the ZBAM was housed with other (now missing) precious manuscripts and Torah scrolls at the Dar Simcha Synagogue until 1967. In both synagogues, it was considered holy and used as an amulet of sorts by the congregations.


The congregations, said Meital, "crowned this text with beliefs that made this text kind of holy. They used to use it for study as well as asking blessings."

Scholar Gottheil, outraged, described the storage conditions that he witnessed in 1905: "In the worst possible state are the manuscripts kept in the Ark and in the two side-cupboards of the Karaite Synagogue at Cairo. The only one that is preserved with a little care is the Codex of Moses ben Asher. A wooden box with a glass cover has been provided; into this, the pages of the MS. have been stuffed: the word is no exaggeration; the box is not large enough, and the pages must be fitted to its size!"

Illustrative: The president of the Egyptian Jewish Community, Magda Shehata Haroun, talks during an interview with AFP at the Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue in Cairo, also known as Temple Ismailia or Adly Synagogue in downtown Cairo on October 3, 2016. (Khaled Desouki/AFP)

Since its discovery, the manuscript has been stored at an undisclosed "safe location." The next step, said Meital, is to turn a two-story building at Cairo's central Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue compound into a library for Jewish heritage. He hopes that the Drop of Milk organization will be able to find enough funding to complete a necessary renovation and climate control modernization of the building to open the library by summer 2020.

"We intend to take this space, to renovate it, and to open a library that will have two collections — one is something like 10,000-12,000 volumes that we already collected in Cairo and the second floor will be devoted to rare documents and manuscripts," said Meital.

"The jewel in the crown is the Ben 'Anan manuscript," he said.

Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please. Mark Twain  

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. Mark Twain  

Don't let schooling interfere with your education. Mark Twain  

When your friends begin to flatter you on how young you look, it's a sure sign you're getting old. Mark Twain

  It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog. Mark Twain

  Name the greatest of all inventors. Accident. Mark Twain

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society. Mark Twain  

Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul. Mark Twain  

Mark Twain said: "The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.  


See you tomorrow bli neder Happy and Safe Purim today

Love Yehuda Lave

Rabbi Yehuda Lave

PO Box 7335, Rehavia Jerusalem 9107202


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