Conservative Judaism/Ancient Writings

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Question
Hi Rabbi.

I have read that whole libraries of as many as 30 thousand clay tablets from very old civilizations have been found and have been and are being translated providing us with a lot of information previously unknown or which verify some of what is known.

This to me is very interesting and informative.

I was wondering why libraries of Israels ancient writings on clay tablets have never been found?

Thank You
Murel

Answer
Dear Murel,

Thanks for writing.

The answer(s) are very long articles.

Consider this URL:

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0021_0_21120.html


In the newer Encyclopedia Judaica 2007 you will find the remainder of this article:

SCRIPTS AND MATERIALS
General Survey

From the end of the third millennium B.C.E., the art of writing was practiced in the ancient Near East (see *Alphabet ). Here, the pictographic, cuneiform, and hieroglyphic scripts were invented and developed. In particular Canaan, situated on the cultural crossroads between Egypt and Mesopotamia and beneficiary of their scribal traditions, produced new indigenous writing systems. Some, like the Byblian pseudo-hieroglyphs, the enigmatic Balua stele, or the inscribed bricks from Deir ʿ Allā, ancient Succoth, were limited to specific centers. These short-lived systems indicate a high degree of scribal experimentation and originality. It is no wonder then that the Canaanites invented the alphabet. They discovered that their language contained some 30 phonemes and that each one could be represented by an individual sign. The social effects of this revolutionary discovery were not to be felt for several generations.

Between the 17th and 12th centuries B.C.E., the primitive, pictograph-like alphabet was employed in Shechem, Gezer, Tell al-Ḥāsī, Tell al-ʿAjūl, Beth-Shemesh, Megiddo, Tell Rehov, Tell Beit Mirsim, and Lachish. These inscriptions are generally called Proto-Canaanite. Another, larger group, the so-called Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions (1500 B.C.E.) were probably written by a colony of northwest Semitic slaves who worked the mines in Wadi Ma'ara, near Sarābīṭ al-Khādim. It seems that this script generally served a religious function and may have been developed by a Canaanite priesthood. Certainly, all official government documents were written in cuneiform (e.g., el-Amarna letters) which obscured the alphabetic script.

It was during this period that a novel attempt to employ the alphabet was initiated at *Ugarit (13701200 B.C.E.). Perhaps as a result of the desire to express the local literature in its own medium, a cuneiform alphabet, influenced by the

Rabbi Dov

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Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner

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Write to me with questions about Jewish customs and law, history, philosophy and tradition for answers from a Conservative perspective or conversion. I am a graduate of The Jewish Theological Seminary and a member of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly. Having served in congregational pulpits since 1970, I now am President of the Foundation For Family Education, Inc. a non-profit educational endeavor. I established it to create new formats of hands-on programs and provide free educational downloads at www.jewishfreeware.org. In addition to general informational questions I welcome your questions about programs for social action, outreach to dual-faith families, inter-faith clergy projects, healing services, education for conversion, adult education for the congregation and the community. If you have questions about Informal and Formal Education I am ready to share my extensive experience with Youth Activities, Camping and Religious School/Hebrew High School on a congregational, community and national/international level.

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I have served on the National Youth Commission for more than 25 years and serve on the Boards of the Conservative Zionist movement MERCAZ and the World Council of Synagogues. I have always dual-families and taught candidates for conversion with a great sense of fulfillment. I am very proud of 25 years on the Jewish camping staff of Camps Ramah. My greatest source of pride is my family! Ask me about them, please!:-)

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