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May 23, 2010May 23, 2010  0 comments  History

This chronicle of Solomon's Temple was created by Sir Isaac Newton and originally published within "The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended" by Sir Isaac Newton (1728).


The Temple of Solomon

September 12, 2009September 12, 2009  0 comments  Biblical Archaeology

An ancient synagogue dating from the Second Temple period (50 BCE-100 CE) housing the first ever menorah decoration ever found from that period was exposed in archaeological excavations at Migdal, known as Migdala, on the Sea of Galilee just north of Tiberias. The Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting excavations at the site, which is slated for development of a Christian-oriented resort hotel and multi-media center dedicated to dialogue and understanding.



Within the discovered the synagague there is a stone that is engraved with a seven-branched menorah (candelabrum), in the middle. It is the first time this type of discovery has ever been made. Up until now there had never been a seven branch menorah engraving discovered within a Jewish context. Archaeologists Dina Avshalom-Gorni and Arfan Najar of the Israel Antiquities Authority are conducting the excavations.  The main hall of synagogue is c. 120 square meters in area and its stone benches, which served as seats for the worshippers, were built up against the walls of the hall. Its floor was made of mosaic and its walls were treated with colored plaster (frescos). A square stone, the top and four sides of which are adorned with reliefs, was discovered in the hall. The stone is engraved with a seven-branched menorah set atop a pedestal with a triangular base, which is flanked on either side by an amphora (jars). The engraving that appears on the stone that was uncovered joins only six other synagagues in the word that are known to date to the Second Temple period", said Dina Avshalom-Gorni, the director of the Isrsael Antiquities Authority.



The site is owned by Ark New Gate, which intends to build a unique hotel property and multi-media center that is envisioned as a center of dialogue and respect between cultures and religions. Migdal has long been a very important site to Christians and the nearby historical site is managed by the Franscicans. Christian history recognizes Migdal as mentioned as the birthplace of Mary Magdalene. the city was strategically important during the Greate Revolt as well and the base of operation of Yosef Ben Matityahu (Josephus Flavius). AFter the revolt, Migdal became the administrative center of the Galilee lasting until 19CE, when nearby Tiberias was founded and became an important city.

July 8, 2009July 8, 2009  1 comments  Jewish Holidays

Author : Rabbi David Ebstein


17th of Tammuz


July 9th, 2009 marks the Hebrew date, the 17th of Tammuz, the date on which the Romans breached the walls surrounding Jerusalem (Mishnah Ta'anit 4:6). Three weeks later on the 9th of Av, they destroyed the 2nd Temple.


In the book of the prophet Jeremiah, 39:2 we learn that "in the eleventh year of (King) Zedekiah, on the ninth day of the fourth month, the [walls of the] city were breached." This means that before the destruction of the 1st temple built by King Solomon, the walls were breached on the 9th of Tammuz, and not the 17th. Despite this minor discrepancy, both events are commemorated on the same date, as are the destructions of the first and second temple which both took place on the 9th of Av-Tisha B'av.


The mishnah (edited by Rabbi Judah the  Prince, 210 AD) teaches us that there are other calamities connected to the 17th of Tammuz: the burning of the Torah and the erection of an idol in the Temple by Apostomos during the period preceding the Maccabean revolt; the cessation of the daily sacrifices (korban tamid) during the Roman siege of Jerusalem; and the breaking of the tablets by Moses. The rabbis connected the Torah reading for the 17th of Tammuz to the breaking of the tablets, by having us read verses from Exodus, 34:4-10 that remind us that Moses carved the tablets of stone for a second time. This special reading provides us with an element of comfort as we remember the destruction of the first set of tablets.


If you are in Jerusalem on the 17th of Tammuz you may not notice any change in the life of the city and its inhabitants. The fast of the 17th in Tammuz does not preclude work or travel, although it is observed by a fast from sunup to sundown. The day is punctuated by regular morning and afternoon services that contain special references to the fast day both in the liturgy and biblical readings.


Rabbi Isaac Klein (may his memory be for a blessing) reminds us that "the days between the seventeenth of Tammuz and the 9th of Av are considered days of mourning, for they witnessed the collapse of besieged Jerusalem, beginning with the breaching of the walls on the seventeenth of Tammuz, and culminating with the burning of the Temple on the ninth of Av. Since exactly three weeks passed between these two events, the period is known as the "three weeks." In rabbinic literature is is known as bein hametzarim, between the straits, derived from a verse in Lamentations 1:3, which was interpreted as referring to the days between the seventeenth of Tammuz and the ninth of Av.


During this 3 week period, observant Jews refrain from joyous celebrations like weddings, and on the Sabbath, read special prophetic portions that emphasize the somber mood. The mood as reflected in various customs becomes even more somber from the 1st of Av (the month following Tammuz) to the 9th of Av. Many Jews do not eat meat or wine, refrain from swimming, and do not have their haircut. All of this leads up to the 9th of Av which is a full fast day, beginning at sundown and ending at sundown the next day.


•1)      As a rabbi and a tour guide, I find myself teaching about this holiday, the ninth of Av, quite often, especially as I lead groups through the southern and western excavations. I frequently teach them the following Talmudic passage:


Our rabbis have taught: When the First Temple was about to be destroyed, bands upon bands of young priests with the keys of the Temple in their hands assembled and mounted the roof of the Temple and exclaimed, "master of the Universe, as we did not have the merit to be faithful treasurers, these keys are handed back into Your keeping." They threw the keys up towards heaven. And there emerged something that looked like the palm of a hand, and received the keys from them. Whereupon they jumped and fell into the fire. Babylonian Talmud Taanit 29a


I am fascinated with this legend found in the Talmud, and it makes me wonder who today contains the keys to the temple, to the future of the Jewish people and to the state of Israel. There are many keys and keeping Israel strong in the 21st century requires that all of us need to be "faithful treasurers" so that we can insure that Israel is a home where all visitors and residents of all faiths remain free to practice their religion.








July 28, 2009July 28, 2009  0 comments  Jewish Holidays

For those of you who will in Israel on the 9th of Av, (beginning on the evening of July 29th and continuing for 24 hours), you might want to know how this unique holiday will be observed in the land of Israel. Perhaps the most prominent observance of the holiday can be noticed in Jerusalem where countless congregations begin their evening prayers at the Haas promenade in southern Jerusalem. From this unique location, you can see the old city, the Ottoman walls built in the mid 16th century, and a faint outline of the city of David created by King David and his son, King Solomon close to three thousand years ago. From this location, you will also be able to see remnants of the second temple built by Herod approximately two thousand years ago. The view, especially at night is breathtaking, dramatic and full of hope.


On the 9th of Av Jews observe the anniversaries of the destruction of the first and second temple, both of which resulted in exile, destruction and massive loss of life. It is one of the saddest days on the Jewish calendar. It is not surprising then, that congregations like to go to the Haas promenade to look at the ancient city of Jerusalem and contemplate these terrible moments of destruction. As we gaze upon the flickering lights of the old city and the new city of Jerusalem, we read from the book of Lamentations the following: "Alas! Lonely sits the city once great with people! She that was great among nations is become like a widow...bitterly she weeps in the night, her cheek wet with tears. There is nobody to comfort her..."  (Lamentations, Chapter 1:1-2)


As we listen to the lament of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in the year 586 BCE, I am always struck by the contrast between what was and what is. Almost 2600 years ago, Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jewish people were exiled to Babylonia ("By the rivers of  Babylon, there we sat, sat and wept, as we remembered Zion..."Psalm 137:1). Almost 2000 years ago the Romans brutally took advantage of Jewish disunity and destroyed one of the wonders of the world, the temple that was built by Herod. And today, as we look at the old city of Jerusalem, remembering those moments of destruction, I am filled with joy.


Why? When I read Lamentations, the first word is "Alas." I can't quite understand that word and therefore I prefer the Hebrew, which in some texts says ‘oy' and in others says ‘woe.' Nobody ever sat around after the destruction and said ‘alas!' The language was much stronger. And today, as we are in Israel during the 61st year of the 3rd Jewish commonwealth, while I do think about the destruction, the ‘oy', my oy has turned to joy.


In the 21st century, Israel is a sovereign nation, in control of its destiny, with its capital here in the holy city of Jerusalem. I mourn for what was lost, but I also am filled with joy at what we have achieved. The ninth of Av for me is a mixed bag. I am compelled to remember the past and what was lost, but my focus must be on what we have achieved and how we can continue to redeem Jerusalem from her modern day woes.


On a more prosaic note, many observant Israeli Jews observe the holiday by fasting for the entire day, beginning from the night before. In the evening and the morning of the 9th of Av, the book of Lamenations is read in its entirety, and afterwards, Kinot, or additional lamentations are recited.


Written by: Rabbi David Ebstein

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