Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sofers in Tights

What is the oldest Sefer Torah in the world? A recent article in the Jewish Forwards says that the oldest Torah scroll was recently discovered in a library in Bologna, Italy, where it had been mislabeled as wrtitten in the 17th century. Recent analysis redated it to the 12th century.

Is this the oldest Torah scroll? From a library in Bologna, claimed to be written in the 12th century.
If you've been to the ancient synagogues in Sefad you may recall being shown Torah scrolls that are even older (at least so I recall.) Recently we spent Shavuot in the Old City of Jerusalem. After the holiday I was exploring and stumbled on the Karaite Synagogue in the Old City, which lays claim to being the oldest synagogue in that oldest of cities. Inside I was shown an even older Torah scroll that the guide, the Karaite Rabbi of the synagogue, said was written in the 7th century, making it 500 years older than the one in the Bologna library.

Is this the oldest Torah scroll in the world? Claimed as written in the 7th century and found in the Karaite Synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is written on deer skin parchment.
I took the photo above of this Karaite Torah scroll. It was opened to the parsha of the Ten Commandments, read on the just ended holiday of Shavuot. The rabbi told me that this Torah was only taken out for dancing on Simchat Torah once a year and that it was written on deer skin. Indeed it had the soft look of very fine, worn deer skin gloves, not the stiff look of cow hide that most Torah parchment is made from.

But where would deer skin have come from in 7th century Jerusalem? Deer are not native to the Middle East. At least I don't think they are. Did some sofer in tights travel to Sherwood Forest, where joining Good King Axelrad the Vth and his band of Merry Men, capture a live deer, shecht it, and bring its hide back to Jerusalem to be used in making ritual scrolls? A mystery, no?

And why are there so few ancient Torah scrolls? The Torah dates back 3300 years. It is written on durable animal skin with special black ink. They are treasured as the word of G-d and kept in arks. Why would one ever perish, except in the ravages of anti-semitic mayhem over the millenia? But still, many more should have survived than perished. What became of them?

Another mystery, no?

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Paragliding over Machtesh Ramon

This is not something I would do myself, but I love to watch the beauty of the paragliders as they run full tilt toward the edge of the crater and then glide smoothly into the sky as they jump off the edge. Paragliding is just one of many activities you can enjoy in Mitzpe Ramon.

Paragliders over Machtesh Ramon Crater

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Bedouin Goat Crossing

On the way home to Mitzpe Ramon we sometimes encounter Bedouin shepherds and shepherdesses herding their flocks across Route 40. This is a pair of shepherdesses completely covered head to toe in the gloaming of a hot day.

A pair of Bedouin shepherdesses lead their flock across Route 40 on a hot day.
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And...We're Back!

Hard to believe it's been almost two years since our last post. You may think our absence had something to do with Spot The Dog's death, but no so. It's just hard to write something intelligent, funny, and insightful every day. So, instead, we'll let the photos speak for themselves. After all, this says it's a "PHOTOBLOG"! :) So, on with the show. Today we share with you our photo of a Bedouin donkey seen in downtown Mitzpe Ramon yesterday. Enjoy, and come back for more.

Bedouin donkey, downtown Mitzpe Ramon

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