Rabbi Mordechai Becher, originally from Australia, is a Senior Lecturer for the Gateways Organization. He was a Senior Lecturer at Ohr Somayach, Neve Yerushalayim and Darchei Binah in Jerusalem for 15 years, was a chaplain in the Israel Defence Forces and taught in a number of Rabbinic training programs. Rabbi Becher is the co-author of After the Return, and has answered thousands of questions on the Ask-the-Rabbi website. His latest book, Gateway to Judaism, was recently published by Shaar Press. Rabbi Becher received his ordination from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. He has lectured for the UJA, Jewish Federations, the Zionist Organization of America, Hillel and is on the speakers bureau of the Israeli Consulate in New York. He has taught in Canada, the United States, England, Israel, South Africa, Australia and Russia. He resides with his wife and 6 children in Passaic, NJ.
I am fascinated by history, and in browsing your website's Western Wall Tunnel Tour (http://www.aish.com/sem/wtt/). I was surprised by the dates of various events in Jewish history. According to your timeline, King Solomon built the First Temple in 825 BCE. Was it not completed in 957 BCE? The Babylonian exile is stated as beginning in 422 BCE. But didn't Nebuchadnezzar II destroy the First Temple in 586 BCE, the same year the Jews were deported to Babylonia?
Could you please explain this discrepancy in the dates? Thank you.
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
The source of this discrepancy is in the accounting of the Persian period. Greek historians (such as Herodotus, Ctesias, Xenophon, and others who lived after the events and collected oral histories) speak of 10 Persian kings who ruled for 208 years. By contrast, the biblical Jewish account speaks of four kings ruling 52 years.
The confusion stems from the fact that one person may have several names. For example U.S. President, Commander-in-Chief, and White House Occupant may all be names for the same person. So too, Arta-Khsharta is a title used by all Persian kings and means literally "Fit for the Kingdom" – yet Artaxerxes is listed separately as three kings in the Greek lists.
Another point of contention focuses on the war between Darius and Alexander. These are commonly thought to be an earlier Darius and Alexander, due to the "interposing" Artaxerxes kings. That makes Alexander the Great into Alexander II, and Darius who permitted the rebuilding of the Second Temple into a later Darius. Yet many Jewish scholars feel that both Alexanders are the same person; so too with Darius.
Today in Jewish History
In 468 CE, Rabbi Amemar, Rabbi Mesharsheya and Rabbi Huna, the heads of Babylonian Jewry, were arrested and executed 11 days later. The Jewish community of Babylon had existed for 900 years, ever since Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Israel, destroyed the Holy Temple, and exiled the Jews to Babylon. Seventy years later, when the Jews were permitted to return to Israel, a large percentage remained in Babylon -- and this eventually became the center of Jewish rabbinic authority. Things began to worsen in the 5th century, when the Persian priests, fighting against encroaching Christian missionaries, unleashed anti-Christian persecutions which caught the Jews of Babylonia in its wake. Eventually the situation improved, and Babylon remained as the center of Jewish life for another 500 years.
Today in Growing Each Day
Which is the proper path that one should choose for oneself? That which is honorable to the one who adopts it and also merits the admiration of others (Ethics of the Fathers 2:1).
At first glance, this statement is bothersome. Right and wrong are, we know, absolute and not subject to public opinion. "The admiration of others" should have no place in determining morality.
The statement is not referring here to what is right versus what is wrong. Rather, it is discussing the mode of conduct within the realm of what is right.
The Midrash relates that Rabbi Shimon ben Shatach bought a mule from an Arab, and when his students discovered a precious gem in the saddlepack, they congratulated him on his good fortune. Rabbi Shimon responded, "I bought a mule, not a precious gem." He sought out the Arab and he returned the gem to him. The Arab said, "Blessed be the God of Rabbi Shimon ben Shatach."
Ethical behavior elicits admiration and serves as an example for others.
Today I shall...
try to behave in a manner that goes beyond right and wrong, and make my "right" into a "true right."
With stories and insights,
Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...