Sunday, June 29, 2014

It didn't quite end all wars...

Various posts from Facebook:

Fun fact: Tammuz, the month that starts today, is named for one of the gods in the Mesopotamian pantheon. In fact, all of the "Hebrew" month names are Babylonian in origin, whether religious or secular. "Marcheshvan," for example, is Akkadian for "eighth month." All of this was well-known to Chazal, who even justified it by citing a prophecy of Yirmiyahu. (You are free to offer this fun fact whenever speaking with someone who insists on not using the English names of the months or days of the week because of their pagan origins.)

Tammuz was, in fact, the god of fertility, and was portrayed as a handsome young man, all of which, as you might expect, made him quite popular with the ladies. And not just in Mesopotamia: Yechezkel has a vision of Jewish women "crying for Tammuz" within the precincts of the Beit HaMikdash itself. They were crying over him, incidentally, because he was the god not just of human fertility but agricultural fertility as well. Every year, the coming of the dry season (not coincidentally, in the month named for him) marked his "death," and he would "come back to life" as the rainy season returned with the autumn. (A god who dies in the spring and is later resurrected...that should remind you of something.)

He became so popular and revered, in fact, that his adherents stopped using his actual name and referred to him only as "Adoni." (That should also remind you of something, with a "l'havdil" here.) His fame spread to the Greeks, who (along with others) adopted him. They didn't like vowels at the end of masculine names, though, which is part of how "Moshe" became "Moses" and "Yeshu" became "Jesus," and how "Adoni" became "Adonis."

"Adonis" remains a part of our lexicon to this day. Shakespeare wrote a long narrative poem (this and his other narrative poem, Lucrece, are the only two works he published himself) about the doomed relationship called "Venus and Adonis," in which Adonis is killed by a wild boar, and to this day, "Adonis" is a term for a handsome young man. It's even used on Seinfeld at one point- to refer to Uncle Leo, of all people. 

A thought for the new month, to tide you over for the next twenty-nine days. I got nothing about Av, sorry. 

My beit knesset is located in the Heichal Shlomo building, which also contains a Judaica museum. They usually have an exhibit in the lobby as well, and for the last couple of months it's been some very nice shots of Jerusalem at night, mostly sans people. (The building I work in is included, funnily enough.) The signage at the exhibit explained that it was in honor of the eightieth birthday of the photographer, who had a photo shop in the center of town for many decades and was the go-to guy for gan and school class pictures before he retired and became a curator at the museum itself.

The building has a security guard full time, and while sometimes it's a relatively youngish guy who works for a security agency, sometimes it's an older, bearded man. (They both help us with making a minyan as needed. [They both seem secular, but the former once joined us when he had yahrtzeit.]) Today, I saw the older man was on duty, and was taking down the photos of the exhibit and packing them up during shacharit. Afterward, I walked past him and began a conversation:

Me: "I didn't know this was part of your job!"

He: "Well, I work for the museum, actually. The exhibit is coming to an end."

Me: "Oh, we enjoyed it very much. Lovely pictures."

He: "Actually, I'm the photographer. They threw this little geste together for me for my eightieth birthday."

Me: "Um, oh! Yes, I saw that. Really nice shots! Congratulations! Mazal tov! Shavua tov!"

He, patting me on the back as I walk out: "Thanks! Chodesh tov!"

Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was assassinated (together with his wife) one hundred years ago today, on June 28, 1914, an event which led, directly or indirectly, to most of the horrors of the 20th Century (and beyond).

John Derbyshire sums it up nicely in the first couple of items here:

Cracked sums it up nicely, in their own way, in the first item here:

To give you an idea of how history can sometimes be less remote than we think, my paternal grandparents were born and raised Austro-Hungarian subjects. (My maternal grandparents were born subjects of the Czar.) My father's mother, who I can remember, if dimly, said that Emperor Franz Joseph (uncle of Franz Ferdinand) was so good to the Jews because he'd had a Jewish girlfriend back in the day. Or at least that was the scuttlebutt among the Galician Jews.

Franz Joseph was, indeed, good to the Jews. He personally financed the completion of the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem, a building destroyed by the Jordanians in 1948 and now being rebuilt.

On a related note, on this date a century ago, Sherlock Holmes was soon to wrap up his last case, working to secure Britain's position in the war everyone knew was about to come. The case would be wrapped up on August 2nd- remind me to revisit it then. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As usual, a great post!
Thanks for the info.

Braza Lamm