Speaking of important Israeli officials: The late Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995. About a month before, a religious man named Avigdor Eskin made the news, when performing an ancient Jewish ritual named ‘Pulsa de-Nura’ (“lash of fire” in old Aramaic) against Mr. Rabin. The ancient curse supposedly worked, in a way that fascinated certain people who wanted to believe. There is never a short supply of people who pursue mysticism. Many of them, however, seemed to forget that Mr. Shimon Peres – the foreign minister at that time – was also a victim of one of Eskin’s curses. Almost a decade later, while this book is being written, Mr. Peres is still very much with us. Even Saddam Hussein successfully survived his own share of Pulsa de-Nura in 1991, and was captured more than a dozen years later.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did not escape the ancient deadly curse. Before implementing the Gaza Disengagement Plan in 2005, a group of religious activists were shown on Israeli TV, cursing him in what seemed to be a scene taken from ‘Charmed’ (you know, these three sister witches that practice magic and powerful spells while your kids are having lunch). Certain Kabbalah experts explained that either Mr. Sharon or the people involved in the act should have died within a month. In practice, the only thing that died within a month was the media’s treatment of this story. Major General Amir Drori, former head of the Israel Antiquities Authority, also enjoyed similar curses in his past. Certain Orthodox religious Jews hate archaeology, so it seems. Major General Drori died many years later (in the beginning of 2005) of old age. With or without ancient curses, we all die eventually!
And now for something completely different…
One of Monty Python’s most amusing scenes ever is the stoning scene from ‘Life of Brian’, where the old man is jumping up and down, waiting to be stoned, shouting “Jehova Jehova Jehova!” and then one of the stoners says “He said it again! He said Jehova!” and gets stoned himself.
And it’s all based on the traditional text of the third commandment (many consider it as the second commandment): “Thou shalt not take the name of the lord thy God in vain” (Exodus, chapter 20, verse 7). Modern study of the Bible talks about several different origins of its ancient text. Two of them are given the names ‘J’ and ‘E’ by the researchers, for using the names ‘Jehova’ and ‘Elohim’ appropriately as the name of ‘God’.
Historically, the old names are derived from even older names. ‘El’ used to be the chief god of the ancient Canaanite pantheon. The archaeological findings of Ugarit from around the 13th century BC contain lots of interesting data about El and his sons. Interestingly enough, some of these texts somehow found their way later into the book of Psalms. Elohim and Allah are considered to evolve from El. The name of the local god, Yahweh, has been archaeologically revealed in conjunction with the goddess Asherah, and the ancient Hebrews also adopted his name. It appears in the Bible, courtesy of the old ‘J’ source, spelled as Yehova.
Reading the last three paragraphs out loud would typically send an Orthodox religious Jew on a collision course with his or her friends and neighbors. We’re not talking about the era covered by ‘Life of Brian’. We’re talking about today, you know – flying rockets to the Moon and all that.
The various names of God are not only problematic to speak and write, but also to erase. In case you missed, there was a recent debate about the usage of God’s names in electronic documents. Rest assured, they’re okay to erase because the electronic text is made of pixels. Things that make you go hmmm.