The Real Good Samaritans
Israeli Israelites without Jerusalem nor the Prophets
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All familiar with story of Good Samaritan
A headline on a local news feed this week:
Good Samaritans Help Rescue 14 From Sinking Ship In Newport Beach
The 41-foot boat began to sink, just outside Newport Harbor, officials say. As the harbor patrol arrived, helpers were already at the scene.
Besides a name for a hospital, few know what it refers to:
Jesus answered, "A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he travelled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine…(took him to an inn, paid the expenses) Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?"He said, "He who showed mercy on him."Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."— Luke 10:30–37, World English Bible
Open to multiple interpretations-explanation of “Neighbor”. But Samaritan, for Jesus, was not a pagan or foreigner-he was a cousin to the Jews, as distinct from the pagan Canaanites ( swine before pearls, bread to dogs)..
II.When I was a student, in Israel, I set out to find out who were these people-related to Jews, yet not Jews.
I had relatives in Holon, who I would visit from time to time. One Shabbat, I decided to walk across Holon to the Samaritan community. One half had lived there among Jews, had been absorbed as citizens of Israel, and were, essentially, Israelis.
This account from BBC http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20180828-the-last-of-the-good-samaritans#:~:text=By%201919%2C%20there%20were%20only,most%20ancient%20in%20the%20world( 2018)
Benyamim (Benny) Tsedaka, a scholar, historian and ambassador-at-large for the Israelite Samaritans. He explained that “There were two ancient kingdoms: Judea (Jews) from the south, and we were the tribes from the north. We eventually separated, but our origins are identical.” . . . They’re one of the world’s oldest and smallest religious groups and their songs are among the most ancient in the world.
The Samaritan center is in Samaria-Shomron- Hence- Shomronim-in Greek-Latin- Samaria-Samaritan. Shamerim-the watchers, in their own terminology.
How did they get to my relative’s town?
The Samaritans and Holon
On the turn of the 20th century, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi,( later, President) a Jewish immigrant from the Ukraine, rented a room in a Samaritan owned house in Jaffa. Developing a strong friendship with the landlord, he studied the Samaritan culture and history, and eventually became an expert in the field. Later, as the second president of state of Israel, he used his influence to allocate a plot in Holon for Samaritans who wished to live in Israel.( from https://dannythedigger.com/samaritan-holon-community/)
Entrance to the synagogue in Holon.
At another time, I went on a tour of the West Bank ( Judea/Samaria-Yehudah v Shomron) just a few years after the Six-Day war. We came to Nablus- which is derived from the Roman name : Neapolis( Naples, but without the pizza !). But it is the region of the capital city of ancient northern kingdom of Israel, Shechem. The Samaritan settlement there is called “Kiryat Luza”.
That is very significant. It is hinted at in many places in the Bible, and seems to be corroborated by archaeological remains, that Shechem was the first city settled by the ancient Israelites—before the Exodus. Story of the rape of Dinah and the revenge of Simon and Levi. It is also the site of two significant mountains- Har Eval and Har Gerizim- The mount of curses and the mount of blessings. There are archaeological remains of an ancient altar on the hillside.
Link to image of altar
It here that the ancient center of the Samaritans lies.
Our group came to them on the holiest day of the year: Yom Kippur. But this was one month after our Yom Kippur- quite clearly, the Samaritans had their own calendar.
Everyone was fasting- including the little children- again, an indication that their halakha is not ours.
Also, I was intrigued to see how may of them looked very similar.
If Jews are cousins , Samaritans are kissing cousins. A very close knit community with a very small gene pool.
Video on Samaritans
The Holon and Nablus communities were separated in 1948, the Holon Samaritans becoming “ Israeli”, the Nablus Samaritans “ Palestinians”, but I believe that since 1967, the Nablus community has more closely identified with Israel proper.
A few year later, when I lived in Israel, I went to visit the home of an active leader in the Holon community, probably the same Tzedakah who was mentioned in the above article. At the entrance to his house, there was an embroidered Shma ( rather than on parchment). In discussing the status of the woman in the house, he talked about the laws of “niddah”, ritual separation after menstruation. They follow the Biblical restriction of 7 days; Jewish practice is an additional 7 days. On the other hand, the separation is much more severe. The woman must live in separate quarters and can not touch anything , such as the kitchen dishes, as they become impure for the man. On the one hand, it sounds severe, but in practice, it is marked as a holiday for the woman—the man needs to cook and take care of the kids, while the women go off by themselves to picnic!
In 722, BCE, the northern kingdom, Israel, was finally destroyed by the Assyrians. The population was exiled ,and, in Assyrian style, scattered throughout the empire, which extended as far as todays’ Afghanistan and the borders of India. The Assyrian method was divide and scatter, preventing the conquered peoples from ever becoming a 5th column in their midst. Ever since, we have been waiting for the “ Lost Tribes” to return. Lost for good by assimilation. The Assyrians repopulated the territory with people from other conquered territories, who later Jews would call” Kuti”( foreigners from Mesopotamia). Thus in Jewish records.
Many from the northern kingdom escaped to Judea, which lasted as an entity for another 150 years and they were absorbed into the Judean population; they brought with them much of the teachings of the north. Much of the Torah reflects language and style of the north. It is to be assumed, that a sizeable segment were not exiled, but remained. Biblical accounts claim that the new settlers were attacked by wild beasts, and out of fear, adopted the Israelite belief in God to protect them. That is the Jewish account.
The Samaritans claim that they are not descendants of the foreign invaders, but rather of the tribes of Ephraim, Menasseh, and Levi. It also appears that one of the priest of Jerusalem left and settled in the north to become the Cohen to the Samaritans at the Temple they now built
In 586 BCE, the people of Judea were conquered and exiled. Babylonian policy, to our benefit, was to resettle conquered peoples as a block, keep them intact, and thereby, become more productive for the Empire. The exiled Judeans apparently did very well. 50 years later, the Persian King Cyrus, declared that all exiled peoples could return to their lands, a move that proved very beneficial for all sides and kept the conquered nations loyal.
It is here that the split begins. Tensions arise between the Samaritans and the newly returned Judeans ( just as there had been tension before the destruction of the two communities. By the time of the major return and reconstruction under Ezra and Nehemiah, around 480-440 BCE, there are full blown conflicts and the split between the two communities widens. They go their separate ways both under the Seleucid Syrians and the Romans. While Jerusalem and the Temple had always been central to Judea, the Samaritans insist, till today, on the sanctity of Har Gerizim as the site of the original altar.
At one point, they were very numerous, as much as a million by the Byzantine period. However, persecution by the Byzantine emperors decimated the population and destroyed their Temple by the 6th century. While Jews were also heavily persecuted, they had already established themselves heavily through out the Roman and Persian worlds, and thus fared better in the long run. While Jews still numbered in the few millions over the centuries, the Samaritans dwindled to about 100 people at the start of the 20th century. Even today , they number only about a total of 700!
IV.What do we know about their origins?
Modern DNA research tells us that we are amazing closer to each other than either is to the Palestinians ( who are a close 3rd to us) :
“ The mitochondrial DNA results, which show maternal history (i.e. your mother’s mother’s mother, etc.), reveal no major difference between the Samaritans, Jews, or Palestinians in the Levant who were also sampled. These three groups have relatively similar maternal genetic histories. However, the story of the Y-chromosome, which shows paternal history (i.e. your father’s father’s father) is quite different. Indeed, not only are the Y-chromosomes of the Jews and Samaritans more similar to each other than either is to the Palestinians’, the Y-chromosomes of the Samaritans show striking similarities to a very specific Y-chromosome most often associated with Jewish men. Although the Samaritan type is slightly different from the Jewish type, it is clear that the two share a common ancestor, probably within the last few thousand years.
As a result, Shen and colleagues argue that the traditional hypothesis, that the Samaritans were transported into the Levant by the Assyrians and have no Jewish heritage, is largely incorrect. Rather, these Samaritan lineages are remnants of those few Jews who did not go into exile when the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 721 BC. Those who remained in the Levant may have take non-Jewish wives, which would account for the genetic admixture on the female side. But according to the authors the Y-chromosome clearly shows that the Samaritans and the Jews share common ancestry dating to at least 2,500 years ago. https://blog.23andme.com/ancestry-reports/more-than-just-a-parable-the-genetic-history-of-the-samaritans/
V. Distinguishing features of Samaritan Religion:
Their Bible- The 5 Books of Moses only. They have a version of Joshua, but it is not considered a Holy text in the same sense. None of our prophets, nor Psalms, or Proverbs or the rest of the Bible.
Their text is very similar (mostly small scribal changes) except in regards to references to Gerizim:
Samaritan Pentateuch contains this text at Exodus 20:17:an amendment to the 10 Commandments:
And when it so happens that LORD God brings you to the land of Canaan, which you are coming to possess, . . . you write on the stones all words of this law. And it becomes for you that across the Jordan you shall raise these stones, which I command you today, in mountain Gerizim. And you build there the altar to the LORD God of you. .. . The mountain this is across the Jordan behind the way of the rising of the sun, in the land of Canaan who is dwelling in the desert before the Galgal(Gilgal), beside Alvin-Mara,( Alon-Moreh?) before Sechem (Shechem).
There is a similar reference to Har Gerizim in their copy of Devarim.The current assumption is that much of the text may reflect a variant of the Torah as formulated in the north. If so, then we have a precedent for a common text before the destruction of Jerusalem and before the destruction of the northern kingdom.
Retention of the Biblical Hebrew script:
The Samaritan alphabet is close to the script that appears on many Ancient Hebrew coins and inscriptions. By contrast, all other varieties of Hebrew, as written by Jews, employ the later 'square' Hebrew alphabet, which is in fact a variation of the Aramaic alphabet that Jews began using in the Babylonian captivity following the exile of the Kingdom of Judah in the 6th century BCE. During the 3rd century BCE, Jews began to use this stylized "square" form of the script used by the Achaemenid Empire for Imperial Aramaic, its chancellery script while the Samaritans continued to use the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet, which evolved into the Samaritan alphabet.( Wikipedia)
Shma as a mezuzah on the door- in stone:
Shma Yisrael as chanted by them:
The principal beliefs of Samaritanism are as follows:
· There is one God, Yahweh, the same God recognized by the Hebrew prophets. Faith is in the unity of the Creator which is absolute unity. It is the cause of the causes, and it fills the entire world. His nature can not be understood by human beings, but according to his actions and according to his revelation to his people and the kindness he showed them.
· The Torah is the only true holy book, and was given by God to Moses. The Torah was created before the creation of the world and whoever believes in it is assured a part in the World to Come. The status of the Torah in Samaritanism as the only holy book causes Samaritans to reject the Oral Torah, Talmud, and all prophets and scriptures except for Joshua, whose book in the Samaritan community is significantly different from the Book of Joshua in the Tanakh/Old Testament. Essentially, the authority of all post-Torah sections of the Tanakh, and classical Jewish Rabbinical works (the Talmud, comprising the Mishnah and the Gemara) is rejected. Moses is considered to be the last of the line of prophets.
· Mount Gerizim, not Jerusalem, is the one true sanctuary chosen by Israel's God. The Samaritans do not recognize the sanctity of Jerusalem and do not recognize Mount Moriah.
· The apocalypse, called "the day of vengeance". At the end of days, in which a figure called the Taheb (essentially the Samaritan equivalent of the Jewish Messiah) from the tribe of Joseph, be it Ephraim or Manessah, who will be a prophet like Moses (though some say he will be Moses) for forty years, and bring about the return of all the Israelites, following which the dead will be resurrected. The Taheb will then discover the tent of Moses' Tabernacle on Mount Gerizim, and will be buried next to Joseph when he dies.
· Also ( Jewish Encyclopedia) The resurrection, which will take place after the death of the Taheb, and will be accompanied by the final judgment, , when the righteous will go into the garden of Eden, and the wicked be burned with fire.
Festivals and observances
The Samaritans preserve the proto-Hebraic script, conserve the institution of a High Priesthood, and the practice of slaughtering and eating lambs on Passover eve. They celebrate Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot but use a different mode from that employed in Judaism in order to determine the dates annually. Yom Teru'ah (the Biblical name for "Rosh Hashanah"), at the beginning of Tishrei, is not considered a New Year as it is in Rabbinic Judaism.
Passover is particularly important in the Samaritan community, climaxing with the sacrifice of up to 40 sheep. The Counting of the Omer remains largely unchanged; however, the week before Shavuot is a unique festival celebrating the continued commitment Samaritanism has maintained since the time of Moses. Shavuot is characterized by nearly day-long services of continuous prayer, especially over the stones on Gerizim traditionally attributed to Joshua.
During Sukkot, the sukkah is built inside houses, as opposed to outdoor settings that are traditional among Jews. Samaritan historian Benyamim Tsedaka traces the indoor-sukkah tradition to persecution of Samaritans during the Byzantine Empire. The roof of the Samaritan sukkah is decorated with citrus fruits and the branches of palm, myrtle, and willow trees, according to the Samaritan interpretation of the four species designated in the Torah for the holiday.
The restrictions of Yom Kippur are more universal in Samaritanism, with even breastfeeding and the feeding of children being disallowed.
In the Samaritan tradition, the tallit is a gown worn over their clothes during most holy days, and the tzitzit are considered the 22 "buttons" on the right lapel of the gown, and the corresponding loops on its left lapel. The tzitziyot are always in the same color as the gown, which is usually white.
The seder at Gerizim
VI. From a Jewish viewpoint, are they Jews- or not: There is an entire Treatise( Minor) of the Talmud_Masechut Kutim-Tractate of the Kutim( Samaritans).
The Samaritans in some of their ways resemble the Gentiles and in some resemble Israel, but in the majority they resemble Israel.
It then gives a list of things which one may or may not do, in terms of their status as pagans or Israel:
Why are Samaritans forbidden to enter the Jewish community? Because they have become mixed up with the priests of the high places. R. Ishmael said: They were originally genuine proselytes. Why, then, are they forbidden? Because of the illegitimate females13[Since they are a mixed people, they include females who may not have been born to Israelite mothers and in turn their offspring are non-Israelite since their status in this respect depends upon that of the mother.] and because they do not perform the levirate duty to a married woman.14But perform ḥaliẓah instead. Cf. I, 11
When may they be received into the Jewish community? When they have renounced Mount Gerizim and acknowledged Jerusalem and the resurrection of the dead.15[That the Samaritans denied the doctrine of resurrection is recorded in Sanh. 90b (Sonc. ed., p. 606, n. 1).] From then onwards one who robs a Samaritan is like one who robs an Israelite. [62a]
Music-sample of Samaritan worship ( similar in rhythmic pattern to Yemenite Jewish chant)
and for a beautiful fusion of Samaritan and Middle Eastern music:
Popular singer Sofi Tsedakah-introduction
source for more information
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