Monday, July 18, 2011

Hebrew Language Shabbat Stone Found in Lower Galilee

The Jewish sabbath, Shabbat, is one of rest and definitely not work.  There are many things prohibited on the Shabbat including traveling.  Exodus 16:29 states "[L]et no man go out of his place on the seventh day" (Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition).

The ancient Jews were very concerned on making sure they pleased God by not violating His laws, including when it came to traveling.  They knew not to travel too far from home but how far was too far?  Surely one could move around their home.  But could one visit their neighbors? Walk to the other part of the village?  Walk to the next village?  A Jewish website, Ask Moses, gives this as an answer:
B. Negative Mitzvah #321 sets a maximum walking range from one’s city. The rabbis established the limit to be 2,000 cubits (3,049.5 feet, 0.596 miles (960 meters). [However, this measurement starts 70 2/3 cubits (112.24 ft.) from the city limits.] Practically speaking, this means that you may not walk a straight line more than .598 miles (3161.74 ft.) in any direction in the wilds outside your city limits.
The ancient Jews took the rabbi established geographic limits of roaming very serious.  Shabbat stones, showing the limit of freedom of movement during the sabbath, were placed outside towns to ensure one did not fall into sin.

Cross the line and sin! (Photo from the Jerusalem Post)
Previous found stones were marked with the word "Shabbat" in Greek.  The use of the Greek language demonstrated the extent of Hellenization in even faithful Jewish communities.  Now, however, a stone has been found in the lower Galilee region with the word "Shabbat" written in Hebrew.  Shockingly this is the only discovered Shabbat stone in Hebrew.  Since we know Hellenization was limited in the Jewish community one must deduce that erosion, landscape changes, and ethno-political changes over time have wiped most of the Hebrew-text stones from the face of the Earth.

1 comment:

Dan tdaxp said...

Interesting --- the article states this is from Imperial times, to I wonder if these explicit sabbath-lines were an actual Jewish tradition, or were the way that Imperial forces imposed curfews on a day that Jews were likely to be off work, talking with each other, and discussing the Occupation...