Good News Friday

Continuing on from yesterday’s good news, here is today’s bumper crop of Good News Friday in honour of the upcoming Purim.

Recently discovered tefillin scrolls from the Dead Sea Scrolls

In Jerusalem, 9 tiny unopened Dead Sea Scrolls have been discovered – or re-discovered:

An Israeli scholar turned up the previously unexamined parchments, which had escaped the notice of academics and archaeologists as they focused on their other extraordinary finds in the 1950s. Once opened, the minuscule phylactery parchments from Qumran, while unlikely to yield any shattering historic, linguistic or religious breakthroughs, could shed new light on the religious practices of Second Temple Judaism.

The Israel Antiquities Authority has been tasked with unraveling and preserving the new discoveries — an acutely sensitive process and one which the IAA says it will conduct painstakingly, and only after conducting considerable preparatory research.

Phylacteries, known in Judaism by the Hebrew term tefillin, are pairs of leather cases containing biblical passages from the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. One case is bound by leather thongs to the head and one to the arm during morning prayers, as prescribed by rabbinic interpretation of the Bible. The case worn on the head contains four scrolls in individual compartments, while the arm phylactery holds one scroll.


Dr. Yonatan Adler, a lecturer at Ariel University and a post-doctoral researcher on Qumran tefillin at Hebrew University, was searching through the Israel Antiquities Authority’s climate-controlled storerooms in the Har Hotzvim neighborhood of Jerusalem in May 2013. There he found a phylactery case from Qumran among the organic artifacts stored in climate-controlled warehouses. Suspecting the case could contain a heretofore undocumented scroll, he had it scanned by an CT at Shaare Zedek Hospital. The analysis suggested there might indeed be an unseen parchment inside.

While that analysis has yet to be confirmed, Adler was spurred on by the discovery, and in December visited the Dead Sea Scroll labs at the Israel Museum. There he found two tiny scrolls inside the compartments of a tefillin case that had been documented but then put aside some time after 1952. The scrolls were never photographed or examined, and so have remained bound inside the leather box for roughly 2,000 years.

Then, just last month, Adler told The Times of Israel he “found a number of fragments of tefillin cases from Qumran Cave 4, together with seven rolled-up tefillin slips” which had never been opened.


Like many of the finds at Qumran, some of the tefillin slips that have previously been opened have yielded astonishing differences from the standard Rabbinic text known as the Masoretic.

“Some tefillin use a spelling very close to the traditional one, [but] there are several tefillin that use an extreme form of divergent spelling that also occurs in many other scrolls,” such as additional letters in possessive suffixes, Tigchelaar said.

Tefillin cases found at Qumran

Professor Lawrence Schiffman, a vice provost at Yeshiva University and expert on Second Temple Judaism, explained that some of the tefillin texts from Qumran were identical to those used today, but others have the same text with additional passages, extended to include the Ten Commandments. He also pointed out that it would be interesting to see the order in which the scrolls were placed inside the tefillin compartments — a practice debated by rabbis for centuries.

“From my point of view, the most significant thing about all of this is that they actually have tefillin from 2,100 and plus years ago,” Schiffman said of the Dead Sea Scrolls generally. The continuity of phylactery traditions — over the centuries and across the various sects that comprised Second Temple Jewry — was something he found remarkable.

What a fascinating find! Even if nothing new is discovered in these tefillin rolls, the fact that there is living proof of the unbroken chain of Jewish tradition and law through thousands of years is enough to delight the soul. Kol hakavod to Dr. Yonatan Adler and all the extensive team researching and preserving the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Bet Hashalom in Hebron

From the sublime to the equally sublime, the Jewish residents of Hebron have won an important victory:

Nearly a decade ago Morris Abraham, a New York businessman whose great-grandfather had lived in Hebron until the 1929 pogrom, purchased a large four-story building through an intermediary after prolonged negotiations with its Palestinian Arab owner.

On the road connecting Kiryat Arba to Hebron, it was located near the site where twelve Israelis had been murdered in a deadly terrorist attack three years earlier. After extensive renovations, Hebron Jews took possession of their new home in March 2007, naming it “Beit HaShalom,” house of peace. Eight families moved in, and Israeli soldiers promptly claimed the roof as a superb lookout post.

Then began a legal struggle that resembled Jarndyce v. Jarndyce in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. The Supreme Court ordered an investigation of the transaction. Police concluded that it was a legal sale. A local Hebron Arab told a reporter: “We will find the seller and chop him up into tiny pieces.” To protect his own life, the middleman for the seller denied the validity of the sale but the seller had been filmed receiving and counting his million dollar proceeds.

More than a year later the Attorney General initiated legal proceedings to expel the new residents – eight families who had endured a miserably cold winter in their unheated apartments – until a lower court determined the legality of the purchase. The Israeli Municipal Court ruled in favor of the Jewish owners, but Arabs appealed. Dismayed by the endless delays, Morris Abraham despaired of “Israeli democracy.”

Pending a final ruling, the government authorized the evacuation of Beit HaShalom. As protests mounted, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned against “attempts by small groups of radicals to undermine the authority of the state.” That December Israeli security forces stormed Beit HaShalom and, with the aid of stun grenades and tear gas, forcibly evicted its residents. Barak announced: “The building will be under IDF and state control until the court decides to whom it belongs.”

Now, five years later, the Supreme Court has finally decided, rejecting Arab appeals and upholding the legitimacy of the purchase. The responses were predictable. Housing Minister Uri Ariel celebrated the decision that Beit HaShalom “belongs to Jews.” Left-wing Knesset member Nitzan Horowitz, joined by Peace Now, urged that Jews not be allowed to live in the building. But David Wilder, spokesman for the Hebron Jewish community, exulted “Victory at last!”

What can one add but Baruch Hashem! Thank G-d! And a hearty kol hakavod to the Hebron Jewish community and all the activists involved in the purchase and the endless appeals.  May they enjoy many long years of happiness and good health in their new/old home.

And from the more sublime to the even more sublime, here’s a story to give you a chill, yet with a happy ending. A Jewish traveller was saved from disaster on the missing Malaysian plane because his Orthodox travel agent refused to book him a flight on Shabbat:

A Jewish traveler named Andrew was saved from tragedy by a last-minute decision to follow his travel agent’s suggestion not to fly on Shabbat, which is how he narrowly missed boarding the lost Malaysian Air Flight 370, the Boeing 777 that has disappeared from flight maps.

“More than the Jews have kept the Shabbos (Shabbat), the Shabbos has kept the Jews,” wrote blogger DansDeals, who was told the story by the travel agent and on Monday posted a redacted copy of the traveler’s fateful email exchange.


DansDeals, narrating the exchange, wrote, “The travel agent, an Orthodox Jew, proposed the following business class itinerary, slightly altering the Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight from Saturday to Friday.”

Andrew insisted on staying an extra day in Kuala Lumpur, but that would have meant a flight on Saturday.

“The travel agent responded that he would not be able to book travel for him over the Sabbath, but that he was free to book that flight by himself,” DansDeals wrote.

Andrew agreed with that and planned to book the flight by himself. But, then he re-considered.

In an email, Andrew wrote to the travel agent: “Greetings from LAX airport. Will board my Delta flight in 55 minutes. I reconsidered, you are right I should be more observant, I’ll manage without that day in Kuala. Since I’ll have an extra night in PEK, any recommendations for a good Friday night dinner in Beijing?”The travel agent recommended the Chabad of Beijing for a nice kosher meal and booked him on the original itinerary, flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on Friday early instead of Saturday.

Two days later, Andrew wrote to the agent: “Holy God, You sure heard what happened to MH370. I cannot stop thinking about this. This is a true miracle for the books. You are a true life saver… I cannot think anymore! We’ll talk later this week. Don’t know how to thank you enough. Now please change my return. I am not stepping on a Malaysia flight in my life.”

The travel agent responded, “I am so happy for you! Not I am the life saver. God and Shabbat were your life savers. You owe them something.”

What a miracle! Kol hakavod to the travel agent for standing on his principles, even though it would have cost him financially. And kol hakavod too to Andrew who was persuaded to rest on Shabbat, thus saving his life.  It’s not often that we hear of open miracles like this.

Open Wide and Say … Ha! by Lynda Greenberg

And now, from the sublime to … no, not the ridiculous, but to some great fun. My cousin Lynda Greenberg has published her first book (I hope there’ll be more after this one!), appropriately titled “Open Wide and say…. Ha!” about the funny stories and antics she has experienced at her work as the secretary of her husband’s pediatric surgery:

Here’s what the Amazon book review says:

If you believe that laughter is the best medicine, then this unique compilation might be just the thing to provide you with a daily dose of healing. At the busy pediatric office where Lynda Greenberg works as a secretary and office manager, it’s normal for over a hundred and fifty patients a day to pass through the doors. As you might expect, the staff members there have plenty of stories to tell, many of which are unusually hilarious! ….  In this lighthearted volume of tales, you will meet: • A mother worried that her two-month-old infant gets migraines when it rains • A parent requesting medical assistance…to get her teenager out of bed • A toddler with fluorescent, day-glo urine from a most unusual cause …and many other interesting characters from the practice’s belly-busting vault of strange but true stories!

I can vouch personally for Lynda’s fantastic sense of humour. In fact she’s probably one of the funniest people I know.  You can watch a snippet of her in action at her book launch last week:

Lynda says that “Open Wide and say … Ha!” is available on Amazon, but if you order it directly from Lynda’s website, the price is only C$14 for the book, plus the exact cost of postage (C$7.50 to Israel).

Highly recommended as feel-good medicine!

Kol hakavod to Lynda on publishing her book. May it be the first of many. We wish her lots of hatzlacha with her book sales and say: Onwards and upwards to the Pulitzer! Or the Nobel! 🙂

With all these happy thoughts and good news I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

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3 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. Reality says:

    I love your good Friday posts.Each section is wonderful.May all the Good news keep on coming .
    A great victory for the Jews of Hebron.A true venahafochhu(a turnaround to the exact opposite of what was expected.)
    A wonderful re-find of the Tefillin artifacts proving yet again that practicing Jews were here long before Palestinians,Hamas,Al Quaeda &even the UN or EU!!

  2. Reality says:

    Best of luck to our cousin Lynda an amazingly funny lady who has always kept us in stitches with her hilarious stories from her husbands clinic.Now you can read about them for yourself.Definitely a recommended book.
    Shabbat Shalom&Purim Sameach

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