The prophet Isaiah famously said “ki mitzion tatzei Torah,” For Torah shall go forth from Zion. Since I'm in Zion. The post For Torah Shall Go Forth From Zion (National Park) appeared first on The Neshamah Center.
‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ 

Your email updates, powered by FeedBlitz

Here are the FeedBlitz email updates for you. Click here to start your FREE subscription

For Torah Shall Go Forth From Zion (National Park) and more...

For Torah Shall Go Forth From Zion (National Park)

The prophet Isaiah famously said “ki mitzion tatzei Torah,” For Torah shall go forth from Zion. Since I’m in Zion I felt I needed to share some Torah. The Zion in Israel isn’t the only one with Torah.

Norhtern Arizona and Southern Utah have some of the most spectacular scenery you’ll see anywhere. I’m on a 3-week journey to see and hike as much of it as I can.

Back in the mid-19th century, one of the early Orthodox rabbis, Samson Rafael Hirsch, went on a vacation to Switzerland. Someone from his community chastised the rabbi, saying (some paraphrasing here), “What are you doing going off on vacation, gallivanting around the Alps? Isn’t that bitul Torah (neglecting Torah studies)?” Hirsch replied, “I need to know what to say when I pass away and my Creator says, ‘nu, Sammy, did you see my Alps?'”

Not only do we need to be able to express our gratitude for God’s magnificent creations, for most people spending time in awe-inspiring nature is a path toward God. Herschel taught that the path to God is through awe, not through intellectual contemplation (sorry, Rambam). If we open our hearts to that awe, we can draw close to God, as a way to express appreciation for the wonders we are seeing.

God put a lot of effort into this part of the world. I feel blessed to be able to see it, and even more blessed that one of my kids is here with me, and we’re staying in my RV with all the comforts of home inside the national parks. Well, almost all the comforts of home. Our toilet crapped out so to speak. A bit backed up. “Stuff happens,” and it has not detracted from appreciation in the least.

May you find beauty in nature wherever you are.

The post For Torah Shall Go Forth From Zion (National Park) appeared first on The Neshamah Center.


Tisha b’Av in Dangerous Times

The Talmud teaches that the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE because of baseless hatred. In the Talmud Tractate Gittin the rabbis say Jerusalem was destroyed because of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza.

If you read the story carefully, it’s clear Jerusalem and the Temple were not destroyed because of hatred between Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, but rather because of religious zealotry.

To start with, Kamtza has virtually nothing to do with the story. It’s about an unnamed person who was throwing a party, and he wanted to invite his buddy Kamtza. His servant accidentally brought his enemy, Bar Kamtza, and the situation escalated out of control. All the bigwigs in Jerusalem were there, and having already shown up Bar Kamtza felt he would be disgraced if he got kicked out. He offered to pay for the whole party if the host would only let him stay, but the host refuses.

Since the sages were there and didn’t protest, Bar Kamtza felt this showed they approved of the host’s behavior. He decides to show them a lesson by telling the king that the Jews had revolted against him. He told the king to send a calf as a sacrifice and see if they offer it in the Temple. The king agrees, but Bar Kamtza made a minor blemish on the calf, like a little cut, that the rabbis would notice but gentiles would not.

When they saw the calf, the rabbis vacillated. They were inclined to go ahead and offer the calf as a sacrifice because of the importance of keeping peace with the Roman authorities. One of the rabbis, Zekharya ben Avkolas, said, “but the people will say we offer blemished animals on the altar!” So the rabbis considered killing Bar Kamtza to stop him from telling the emperor, and Zekharya said, “then the people will say offering a blemished animal will get you killed!” So they did nothing, the king saw the rabbis refused to offer his sacrifice and were therefore rebelling against his authority, and the battle was on and Jerusalem ended up destroyed.

But why say Jerusalem was destroyed because of the hatred? There will always be people who have enemies. We don’t even know why the host hated Bar Kamtza. Maybe it wasn’t baseless, maybe he had a good reason to hold a grudge. But we do know the religious zealotry of Zekharya ben Avkolas, and the sages refusal to stand up to him, is indeed what led the king to believe they were rebelling. So it wasn’t hatred, it was religious zealotry that destroyed the Temple.

Which brings us to the present day, and why this Tisha b’Av feels way scarier to me than any Tisha b’Av in the past.

For several years now, I’ve struggled with reading Lamentations on Tisha b’Av. How can I read this book about Jerusalem sitting alone, destroyed, desolate, when Jerusalem is a vibrant lively city with 700,000 people?

But this year is different. This year I read Lamentations not just as mournful history, but as a warning. The religious zealots are in control. They are working to remove the guardrails that are intended to make sure Israel is both Jewish AND democratic. They are working to bend the nation to the will of the most radical right, the ones who see kicking Arabs out as a messianic mission, and the ultra-Orthodox who want to tell the rest of us how to live and how to practice Judaism.

Earlier this week – what timing! – the Knesset passed a law doing away with the “reasonableness clause.” The reasonableness clause allows the Supreme Court to overrule the Knesset if they are doing something that is objectively “unreasonable.”

Now the reasonableness clause is kind of a crazy thing. The court should not have that power. But in a normal democracy, there are a lot of other checks and balances on the power of the government, so you don’t need the reasonableness clause. But Israel has no constitution. Checks and balances are limited and fragile. As proof of the problem, and what the secular majority is worried about, the very first law proposed after doing away with the reasonableness clause is one that would treat studying in a yeshiva as the equivalent of serving in the army for receiving various social benefits and preferences. That would clearly fail the “reasonableness” clause, but what’s to stop the government now?

Me and millions of my fellow Israeli citizens fear for the future of our country. Treating yeshiva students like veterans is just the first of a long list on the agenda of the far-right government. Civil rights for anyone who is not an Orthodox Jewish man are in jeopardy. The charedi will become even more parasitic, demanding more money from the secular public to pay for their yeshivas, enshrining an exemption from serving in the army into law, removing any attempts to force their schools to teach secular subjects such as math and science. The messianic settlers will be given free rein to build where they want, confiscating private Palestinian land in the process. LGBTQ rights will be rolled back, women could literally be sent to the back of the bus, and on and on.

An astounding 28% of Israelis have said they are thinking about leaving the country. And the ones who are thinking of leaving are the educated secular people who have been the backbone of Israeli society, the ones driving the “Startup Nation,” the ones serving in the elite IDF units, the ones paying the taxes.

If the messianic right has its way, the Temple will be rebuilt, never mind what a billion Muslims think of the idea. And that truly could lead to the destruction of Jerusalem. Yes, crazies could always threaten that they would defend Israel with nukes…but Pakistan also has nukes.

I know it’s not actually that bad – yet. There will be new elections, God willing sooner rather than later. The next government will almost certainly be more reasonable. Current polls show Likud plunging and Gantz soaring, and today’s opposition would be tomorrow’s government.

This roller coaster is not a good thing. Israel needs not just judicial reform, it needs a real constitution, one that would prevent small minorities from hijacking the government. A majority of Israelis seem to want a center-right government. While I’m more a center-left person myself, I could live with that.

The previous government showed that there is actually more we agree on than we disagree on. I was very surprised that Naftali Bennett, someone actually to the right of Netanyahu, was a decent prime minister. Yair Lapid really impressed me with his ability to put his ego in check and somehow cobble together a coalition that lasted longer than most thought it would. We need to let the sane people run the country.

May all of this spur real change in Israel, so that we can live up to our mission to be a light to the nations.

The post Tisha b’Av in Dangerous Times appeared first on The Neshamah Center.


Dr. Leff’s Guide to Living a Longer and Healthier Life

*Disclaimer: I’m NOT that kind of doctor. My PhD in business does not qualify me as a medical expert. I’m just a healthy guy in his older 60s who still runs half marathons, climbs mountains, skis, and does a lot of other active stuff who loves life and wants to keep enjoying it as long as possible.

I’m writing this because I’ve been following research on longevity for a while now – ever since I turned 65, really – and I hope that the research I’ve done may help some of my friends and family, or even other people, to live longer healthier lives. The people who know me I imagine trust me to have done my homework, with reliance on real science from real scientists as well as my personal experiences. I’m including links to research for those interested in seeing why I’m doing what I’m doing.


Now that most baby boomers are eligible for Medicare, and many tech pioneers who made boatloads of money are part of that generation, there has been an explosion of interest in how to slow down or even reverse aging. Until recently, medicine has been exclusively focused on treating particular diseases as they come up. Serious research on aging overall, and how to slow it down, is relatively new.

While there are billions of dollars going into discovering new drugs for longevity – a venture capital driven search for the fountain of youth – there are many products already available as either supplements or prescription medications that have proven longevity benefits. Many don’t have the “gold standard” large clinical studies supporting them; since they are already available, and mostly inexpensive, no one has the incentive to fund such studies. But evidence is there.


There are a lot of “snake oil salesmen” in the longevity business; I suppose there always have been. Just because something has interesting effects in mice, doesn’t mean it helps humans. For the most part, I’m following the regimen that Dr. David Sinclair, Professor in the Department of Genetics and co-Director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research at Harvard Medical School follows. I also look at what other respected longevity researchers are putting into their bodies. I look for scientific studies in peer reviewed journals where possible.

Several of the things on this list are items I am just now adding to my routine. I’m cautious about what I put in my body. I don’t want to be a guinea pig for something completely unknown. I’m only taking stuff where there is good evidence supporting it, and negative side effects are limited or rare.

Summary – What I’m Taking for Longevity (detailed information will follow)

  • NMN – 600 mg/day
  • TMG – 750 mg/day
  • Pterostilbene – 250mg/day
  • Metformin – 425 mg/day (prescription required)
  • Vitamin K2 – 200 mcg/day
  • Vitamin D3 – 5000 IU/day
  • Fisetin – 200mg/day
  • Spermidine – 2.5 mg/day
  • Exercise almost every day
  • Things to keep my brain engaged

I also take B12, Magnesium, Potassium, Collagen, and AREDS-2, although those are not specifically for longevity related purposes, and a couple of prescription meds for my specific health issues.

Detailed Information


NMN, nicotinamide mononucleotide, is an NAD+ precursor that boosts NAD+ levels. NAD+ is essential for cellular functioning, and its levels decrease significantly with age. NAD+ has many anti-aging properties, as described in this article, The Science Behind NMN–A Stable, Reliable NAD+Activator and Anti-Aging Moleculethat appeared in “Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal.”

NR is another NAD+ precursor – I have been taking NR for a while, but Dr. Sinclair takes NMN, and NMN is reported to be better absorbed by the body than NR, so I’m switching to NMN. To get to the 1 gram/day dose Dr. Sinclair takes is expensive in capsule form, so I’m buying bulk powder from ProHealth. I’m taking a lower dose than Sinclair takes because I saw a study that found 600 mg to be an optimum dose, and it’s expensive stuff.


NMN uses up methyl groups as it is processed, so many recommend adding methyl donors, such as TMG if you are taking NMN.


You may remember there was talk some years ago about the health benefits of red wine because it contains the anti-oxidant resveratrol. You would have to drink an unhealthy amount of wine, however, to get the real health benefits. A lot of studies now show many benefits from resveratrol – as an anti-inflammatory, for example, as reported in this study reported in Complementary Therapies in Medicine. It is also reported to have an effect on preventing cancer, heart disease, and dementia. Also see this in Medical News Today.

I’m taking pterostilibene, and analog of resveratrol instead of the resveratrol Dr. Sinclair is taking because it is reported to be more easily absorbed by the body; see Resveratrol vs Pterostilbene in the Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science.

I’m getting capsules from ProHealth.


Metformin is one of the world’s most commonly prescribed drugs: 150 million people take it for treatment of diabetes. It has been around for 60 years, so it is long off patent protection, which means no one has a financial incentive to do expensive clinical trials on how it performs as an anti-ageing drug. But many studies show it seems to have powerful benefits in preventing cancer, heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s – in other words aging related diseases. A recent study published in The Lancet finds genetic validation for its anti-ageing properties. See this article “Benefits of Metformin in Attenuating the Hallmarks of Aging” published in Cell Metabolism for a discussion of the topic.

Some people have cited a study, “Comparison of long-term effects of metformin on longevity between people with type 2 diabetes and matched non-diabetic controls” in which metformin didn’t help patients with type 2 diabetes live longer, but those concerns likely don’t apply to people who do not have type 2 diabetes.

Other longevity scientists, including Dr Nir Barzilai at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine who is conducting a clinical trial of the drug and longevity, continue to believe in the benefits and are taking Metformin.

There is some evidence that metformin can interfere with the benefits of exercise, so I’m going to follow the advice of another longevity scientist, Peter Attia – take metformin at night, use a lower dose, and don’t take it on the days when I exercise hard. I also may drop it completely when I’m in peak training period for a half marathon. I’ll experiment and see what feels good.

Since it’s such a well-known and well tolerated drug, my primary care physician had no issue with prescribing it off label for longevity. It’s also very inexpensive. A 90-day supply for someone on Medicare costs $3.76.

Vitamin K2

See “Vitamin K2—a neglected player in cardiovascular health: a narrative review” in openheart. K2 also helps with calcification of bones, see “Vitamin K2: Everything You Need to Know.”

Vitamin D3

The benefits of D3 are well known, my doctor checked my D3 levels and recommended supplementation years ago. I’m taking 5000 IU a day. Desired level in your blood is above 30, you should have it checked when you have annual blood work done.


Fisetin is a senolytic – a substance that can selectively remove senescent cells, which are cells that are no longer replicating properly. Fisetin is a natural substance, an anti-oxidant found in many foods, especially strawberries. It’s related to resveratrol (the stuff in red wine that is supposed to be good for you), but seems more readily used by the body, This 2018 study published in The Lancet brings evidence it can extend health and lifespan.


Spermidine is another naturally occurring substance, this one commonly found in wheat germ. It is a caloric restriction mimetic – it provides some of the same benefits you get from calorie restriction, without the diet. It’s an autophage-inducing substance, a process by which cells repair themselves. A paper reported in the journal Aging brings evidence it provides health benefits for humans.

Know What You Need

Everyone is different. Since I have a mostly plant-based diet, I generally don’t get enough B12, so I supplement. I’ve had electrolyte issues, so I take magnesium and potassium. You need to understand your individual health issues and make the appropriate adjustments.

Use it or Lose it

Anything designed to move – cars, motorcycles, airplanes, people – suffers if it sits unused too long.

If the health benefits of exercise could be bottled, it would be hailed as a “wonder drug.” Exercise can prevent all kinds of diseases from heart disease to diabetes, helps control weight, helps you sleep better and can provide mood benefits as well. If I’m feeling down or grumpy a run will usually get me out of the dumps.

No doubt your doctor has been telling you this for years. See this article “Real-Life Benefits of Exercise and Physical Activity” from the National Institute on Aging for more.

The important thing is to find something you actually enjoy doing. I’m blessed in that I actually enjoy working out, so it’s not a chore I have to push myself to do. Well, if it’s cold and raining, I do have to push myself to get out the door on a run, but on a normal day, no problem.

It’s important to include cardio, strength training, and flexibility stuff in your routine – all have different benefits. My current routine includes running (I typically run in two half marathons a year), biking, mountain biking, strength training, yoga, walking, and swimming. In the winter I also ski.

Use it or lose it also applies to the brain....


What do you do?

“What do you do?”

Often the first thing we ask when we meet someone new. For the last 50+ years, I’ve generally had a simple answer (and a very long list of different answers from busboy to soldier to entrepreneur to flight instructor/charter pilot to rabbi, etc.). But now I’m “going out on pension,” but the idea of describing myself as “retired” is somehow daunting. The word “retired” seems to conjure up images of someone who does nothing but play golf and go on cruises, and I don’t even really know how to golf. Although I am going on a cruise over Hanukkah, however I’ll be “working” as the on-board rabbi.

It is kind of strange though, that “what do you do?” is always answered by what you do to make your living, even if that is far from the most important thing you do. Why not answer “I’m raising kids” if that’s your most important thing at the moment? Or why not answer with the hobby that you love?

I’m still going to be a doing few different kinds of work. I’ll be doing some flight instructing, and maybe some fill-in rabbi work, and I’ll still do some writing for clients. I’ve got a memoir in draft form, and a friend and I just agreed to start working on a book. And I’ve got a lot of volunteer stuff, serving on the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards and a couple of nonprofit boards.

But, thank God, I’ll be collecting social security and some pension funds, and won’t have to work my ass off to cover my bills. I’m going to do a lot of travel – have a three-week trip in my RV coming up at the end of this month for starters – and will split my time between my three homes: New Mexico, Israel, and my RV, and some travel elsewhere to boot.

So I think when someone asks me “what do you do?” I’ll say, “Whatever the hell I feel like doing!” 

The post What do you do? appeared first on The Neshamah Center.


Behaalotcha 5783 – The Search for the Lost Ark

The Ark of the Covenant was surely one of the most important objects ever in the Jewish tradition. It contained both sets of the Ten Commandments (one in pieces) and a sample of the manna that our ancestors lived on during the forty years of wandering in the desert.

And yet somehow it just disappeared. It features prominently in Scripture, both in the Torah and in other books of the Bible, up until around the first time the Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE. And then it just disappears and is not mentioned again. What happened to it?

I, your humble rabbi, have played a small – well, very small – part in the search for the Lost Ark of the Covenant. Although to be honest, I was more part of a dramatization of the search for the Ark for entertainment purposes, than a real explorer. You can see me in a TV show on the Science Channel, “Unlock the Secrets of the Lost Ark” with a hard hat and light, prowling through Zecharia’s Cave in Jerusalem, in the rubble under the Temple Mount, searching for the lost ark. A real Indiana Jones moment for me. You can also catch me on Montreal native William Shatner’s UnXplained, Season 3 Episode 3, “The Search for the Ark of the Covenant” explaining to viewers the significance of the ark and discussing what might have happened to it.

Today I will share with you some background on the ark and my theory on what happened to it.

A verse in this week’s Torah reading, Behaalotcha, hints at why the Ark was so important. It’s a familiar verse: we recite it every time we take the Torah out of the ark.

Vayihi binsoa haaron, vayomer Moshe: kuma, Adonai, v’yafutzu oyvecha, viyanusu mipanecha m’sanecha

And it was when the ark traveled, Moses said, “Arise, Adonai, and may your enemies be scattered, may those who hate you flee from your presence!”

This is a somewhat perplexing passage. What does the ark traveling have to do with enemies being scattered?

The commentators are all over the map in trying to understand what these verses are about. The Midrash, Sifrei, asks who could be enemies of God? The answer—enemies of Israel! The Slonimer rebbe suggests we should understand these verses metaphorically and consider talmidei chochamim, Torah scholars, the ark—after all, it is within people that the Torah really resides. Although that interpretation doesn’t necessarily make any sense either – do you see enemies fleeing from Torah scholars?

However, it may be that a less interpretive reading, and a more literal reading is closer to the original intent. The tradition claims that the ark WAS imbued with mystical powers that allowed the Israelites to prevail over their enemies. If so, the ark’s ability to help us conquer our enemies could explain why this is so important as to merit being set apart from the rest of the Torah.

The power of the ark is mentioned in several places in the Torah. Consider the caution given after Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu are killed for offering strange fire to the Lord: “The Lord said to Moses, Speak to Aaron your brother, that he should not come at all times into the holy place within the veil before the throne of mercy, which is upon the Ark, so that he does not die: for I will appear in the cloud upon the throne of mercy.”

The throne of mercy was the slab of pure gold which served as the cover for the ark, on which rested the two cherubim. God’s presence was said to rest on the Ark, and approaching at the wrong time could lead to sudden death!

If you’ve ever seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, you might have thought that all that fantastical stuff about the powers of the Ark, how it could level mountains, lay waste regions, and protect any Army carrying it was all made up. Not so! The writers of Raiders of the Lost Ark relied directly on material in the Jewish tradition—in the Bible and in the Midrash.

The Bible and Midrash are full of legends which attest to the powers of the Ark. Most of the legends about the ark are in the later books of the Tanakh, not in the Torah itself.

There’s a midrash that claims the Ark was the ancient Hebrews’ navigational device. The Ark led the way in the desert. As the people would break camp, Moses would tell them to do what the Shechinah (Divine presence) within the Ark commands. But the people wouldn’t believe Moses that the Shechinah dwelt among them unless he spoke the words in this week’s parsha: “Arise, Lord, and let your enemies be scattered, let them that hate you flee before you.” At which point the Ark would move, the people would believe, and the Ark would soar up high and swiftly move before the camp a distance of three days march, settling in a suitable camping spot. Wouldn’t that be useful for those summer vacations when all the good camp sites seem to be taken!

The Midrash also tells us that the Ark provided protection in the desert, with sparks or fiery jets issuing forth from the cherubim that killed off the serpents and scorpions in the path of the Israelites, and burned away all the thorns on the path that might injure the hikers. As if that’s not sweet enough, the smoke from the zapped thorns rose straight in a column, and perfumed the whole world!

Everyone knows about the parting of the waters at the Red Sea. Not everyone knows about a second parting of the waters—of the Jordan River. In the book of Joshua we learn that when the Israelites were entering the Promised Land, as the priests who were carrying the Ark set foot into the Jordan River, the waters piled up behind, and allowed them to walk across on dry land. The midrash expands on this story, and says that the waters rose to a height of 300 miles!!! The midrash says the Ark remained in the middle of the riverbed while all the people crossed, and once all the people were across, the Ark set forward all on its own, dragging the priests entrusted with its care after it, until it overtook the people!

Once they got the Ark to Israel, the first stop was to conquer Jericho. Most people have heard the story of how the Jews walked around the city, blew on the trumpets, and the walls came tumbling down. But an important part of the story is that the important factor in the walls coming down was not the blowing of the trumpets, but rather the presence of the Ark, which was carried around the city.

Having the Ark in your possession was NOT a guarantee of victory in battle, as evidenced by the story told in the book of Samuel, when the Philistines captured the Ark. The Philistines quickly realized they had a hot potato—where ever the Ark was, statues of the Philistine god Dagon were knocked down, people died, and those who didn’t die were afflicted with a horrible case of hemorrhoids. The Philistines loaded the Ark on a wagon and it sent it back to the Jews. With an “offering” of five golden hemorrhoids for good measure.

There are several stories told of people escorting the Ark dying mysterious deaths.

The Ark had a few other remarkable powers. According to the Midrash, when they were bringing the Ark to Geba, the priests who tried to take hold of it were raised up in the air and thrown violently to the ground. Another story told of the Ark is that when the Queen of Sheba came to visit Solomon, Solomon used the Ark to distinguish between men who were circumcised and men who were not!

Given all of these magical powers, and the fact that the Ark held the testimony to the covenant between Man and God, the tablets of the Ten Commandments, the Ark and its contents were clearly the most important object in Jewish history. There is nothing that is even a close second. Which makes it all the more mysterious that the Ark could disappear without a trace. The very last reference we have to the Ark anywhere in the Bible is in 2 Chronicles, where it says King Josiah told the Levites to put the Ark in the Temple, the implication being that it had been moved from there earlier by King Menashe. This was late in the First Temple period, 7th century BCE, probably 30 or 40 years before the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. And that is the very last mention of the Ark in the Bible—yet there is a lot of history which comes after.

Nowhere in the Bible does it mention the Ark either being carried off in the destruction of the First Temple, or it being returned after the Persians allowed the Jews to rebuild the Temple. There are no further references to the Ark whatsoever. Not only has the Ark physically disappeared, but even the scriptural history of the Ark stops totally abruptly.

The book of 2 Maccabees, part of the Apocrypha not included in the Hebrew Bible, but part of the Catholic Bible, claims that the prophet Jeremiah spirited the ark out of Jerusalem and hid it in a cave in the Judean desert.

The Talmud gives a few different theories. One says Josiah hid the Ark before the invading army of Nebuchadnezzar came and destroyed the Temple the first time. Another says that one time a priest noticed something hidden under the wood house by the Temple, but he was struck dead before he could reveal the secret to others, intimating it’s under the Temple Mount.

There are those who believe that this story in the Talmud is what actually happened, and that the Ark remains hidden away under the Temple mount somewhere, waiting to be unearthed. That’s my favorite theory.

But there is another tale told. The Christians of Ethiopia claim that the Ark, the most sacred object in Judaism, the Ark which could kill 50,000 who just looked at it (sounds like a nuclear explosion, no?) is in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopians claim that when the Queen of Sheba visited Solomon, she took a little souvenir home: the Ark of the Covenant! The path the Ark supposedly took in getting from Jerusalem to Axum is a very long and complicated story. Interestingly, every Ethiopian Christian church has a tabot, which is a...


You Might Like