The first record of a bagel is in Krakow, Poland in 1610. A document issued by the Jewish elders of Krakow, with instructions on various aspects of Jewish life, included the recommendation to give “beygls” to women after childbirth. It was part of a section on how to properly celebrate the birth of a boy.
Two farmers each claimed to own a certain cow. While one pulled on its heads and the other pulled on its tail, the cow was milked by a lawyer.
The seven-day week has no correspondence to astronomy – unlike the presence of the sun giving us days, or phases of the moon giving us months. Historians generally think the seven-day week was “invented” by Mesopotamians and/or Jews. Both thought the number seven had mystic significance. Sumer had a (mostly) seven-day week system since at least the 21st century BCE. The Jewish weeks may have developed independently or been influenced by their Fertile Crescent neighbors.
From the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa the seven-day week spread around the Old World. The Greeks and Persians adopted the Babylonian system, and fro Persia it spread to India and China in various forms. In Japan, for instance, seven-day weeks were mainly used by specialist astrologers until the 1800s. In Europe, it was officially adopted by the Roman Empire in the 300s CE, but it was already in common use throughout the empire.
During World War II, partisan groups arose in the forests of eastern Europe. Often small bands, they were desperate people who hoped that by retreating to the forests and keeping their numbers small, they could survive Nazi occupation and potentially use guerrilla warfare to help weaken the Nazis in their area. Most were not Jewish. Most were locals who wanted to resist the occupation of their homelands.
Some number of the groups were Jewish, however. There were many reasons separate Jewish partisan groups arose, but one notable reason was antisemitism. Jews in non-Jewish partisan groups often hid their religion for fear of their countrymen turning on them.
Norman Salsitz, for example, used seven non-Jewish identities while fighting the Nazis in two partisan groups. At the second and larger one, the AK Polish Underground, a command was given to seek out and kill Jews being hidden on a farm. The AK Polish Underground took time from fighting Nazis to kill Jews hiding from the Nazis. Let that sink in. Norman Salsitz volunteered for the mission, killing the Poles who had been sent with him and rescuing the Jews in hiding. He then returned to his first partisan group, which was smaller and less effective, but which did not ask him to murder Jews.
Chariot racing goes back thousands of years – they were huge in ancient Rome and its successor the Byzantine Empire. Of course, with racing comes betting, and chariots were big money. So of course people tried to fix races. We have plenty of evidence of ancient Romans and Greeks attempting to help this team win, or make that team lose, but for the first time, we have evidence that ancient Jews got in on it, too.
The first-ever evidence of Jewish cursing in sports was found in a rolled-up metal tablet that had been located in ancient Antioch by Princeton University researchers in the 1930s – and had been left rolled up until now. The tablet, about 9 x 6 centimeters in size, dated to about the 400s or 500s CE. It was not written in Greek, as one would expect for Antioch at the time, but Aramaic. That is the first hint that it was written by someone who was Jewish. The early Christians of Antioch would also have spoken Aramaic. But the dialect used in the curse and the form of writing were typical of the Jewish community, not the Christians; a second hint about its authorship.
The scroll itself is interesting. It was written on a lead tablet, which was often used for curses in the ancient world, because it is a lowly metal. After the scroll was rolled, it was stuck with a nail, just to make sure the curse worked. Like sticking a modern voodoo doll with pins. Then the hexer would inter the nailed curse beneath the hippodrome race track. The idea is that the horses would activate the curse while running over it.
Then God said, Let there be light! And the light came. And God saw the light, and it pleased him, and he gave it the name of Day. And when the day was gone, and the dark came back to stay for a while, he gave the dark spell the name of Night. And God did these things on the first day.
The term “golem” appears in the Hebrew Bible with the meaning “formlessness.” The Talmud, Jewish commentaries on the Bible and Jewish law, uses “golem” to mean an “uneducated person.”
From this combination comes the modern sense of the word: a clumsy, ugly, human-made monster who has no life until it is given to him by his creators, usually by scratching a Hebrew word into his forehead.
I am here with my children, and my children had children of their own, and they are here, too. Can you see?
Ancient inscriptions testify to widespread literacy in Judah by 600 BCE:
Ceramic shards found within the remains of the remote ancient fortress of Arad tell the story. Studying 16 ink inscriptions, researchers found at least six different authors.
That suggests high degree of literacy in ancient Hebrew writing among officials of the military and administrative apparatus – in other words, not just professional scribes – in the kingdom of Judah before the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE.
EMERGING from a small sect of Judaism in the 1st century CE, early Christianity absorbed many of the shared religious, cultural, and intellectual traditions of the Greco-Roman world. In traditional histories of Western culture, the emergence of Christianity in the Roman Empire is known as “the triumph of Christianity.” This refers to the victory of Christian beliefs over the allegedly false beliefs and practices of paganism. However, it is important to recognize that Christianity did not arise in a vacuum.
Jews claimed an ancient tradition with law codes for daily life (the Laws of Moses) and revelations from their god through Prophets. While recognizing various powers in the universe, Jews nevertheless differed from their neighbors by only offering worship (sacrifices) to their one god, Yahweh. After suffering several national defeats by the Assyrians in 722 BCE and the Babylonians in 587 BCE, their prophets claimed that God would eventually restore Israel to its former independence. In those ‘final days’ (eschaton in Greek), God would designate a descendant of David, an ‘anointed one’ (Messiah in Hebrew, or Christos in Greek), who would lead the righteous against the enemies of Israel. God would then establish a new Eden, which came to be known as ‘the kingdom of God.’