Monday, June 01, 2015

The Ketef Hinnom amulets and this weeks parashah

RABBI MYCHAL COPELAND: Priestly Blessing taps our faith in magic of words (
This week’s parashah brings us a bit of that magic. Aaron and his sons, the Temple priests, are instructed to bless the people of Israel with the “Priestly Blessing,” our most ancient piece of liturgy. “May God bless you and protect you! May God deal kindly and graciously with you! May God’s face lift up towards you and grant you peace!” (Numbers 6:24-26)

In the 1970s at a burial cave in Jerusalem, archaeologists found two rolled silver scrolls with these words. It is the oldest biblical text fragment, dating back to the seventh century BCE, 400 years before the Dead Sea Scrolls. The discovery proves, at the very least, that some of the Torah writings existed during the period of the First Temple in Jerusalem.

What makes this finding even more intriguing is that each scroll was rolled within an amulet — a piece of jewelry or an ornament thought to bring the wearer protection. The Priestly Blessing, in this earliest known form, was worn, or in this case buried, with a person in the hopes that the individual would be granted protection. The word “protect” in the blessing is found in other such incantations of this period, suggesting its magical power to turn away evil forces, called an apotropaic power.
More on the Ketef Hinnom silver amulets is here and links.