Man and Temple In Ancient Jewish Myth and Ritual by Raphael Patai
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In the center of Jewish theology is the Beit Hamikdash, or the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. There were actually two of them. The first one built by King Solomon which was destroyed by the Babylonians. The second built after the Babylonian exile would later be destroyed by the Romans. It is said that when the Messiah comes the third Beit Hamikdash will be restored.
The Jews were not the only people to center their mythology around a temple. Many other ancient Middle Eastern cultures did much the same thing. Ancient man first used religion to control or influence nature. This would be done by making offerings to the gods in exchange for sufficient rain and abundant crops.
The first ritual described is "drawing of Water" this is what most people know as the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot. The ritual involves going around the alter or bimah and hitting it with palm fronds. Later comes the water and wine libations. This was meant to secure water. Hitting with palm fronds also meant to ensure fertility. These motifs are present in the then surrounding cultures of the Jews at the time.
Included in this ritual was the , ritual combat. Many cultures at the time had mock combat that thT could get quite serious. In Jerusalem this was played out by priests running to do the honors and sometimes they fought each other. There was also pelting people with etrogs.
Water has deep symbology here. In the Torah there were two waters, the upper and the lower. The upper waters were male and the lower waters were female. The stone in the Dime of the Rock keeps the lower waters in their place. Another thing that keeps the waters in place was a shard with Gods name written on it. During the Sukkot time the water mates through rain and temporary upcoming of the inner waters. Sin brought about floods but God promised no more of those.
The temple also had some mobility that related to the human body and astrological bodies. The concept of representing the heaven or "as above so below" is the two angels at the top of the Ark of the Civenant. When facing together it meant that God was happy if they faced away from each other that meant that God was upset.
The concept of sin played an important part. If the people or the king sinned through idolatry, fornication or shedding blood there would be famine in the land. The temple through its sacrifices offered atonement. Once it was destroyed people had to find other wAys to repent. The king evolved from the priest kings of Sumerian.
The book is written by Raphael Patai, renound scholar of Judaism. It is short but very informative. Throughout the book are references to other cultures that give parallels and proper perspective. The book is easily understood so both scholar and layman can benefit.
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