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The Power of Word
Topic: The Power of Word (Read 157216 times)
Re: viriliter agite
Reply #750 on:
July 29, 2014, 08:47:05 AM »
Quote from: bigdog on July 29, 2014, 06:23:11 AM
"Benjamin Franklin, Teddy Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill ...all were proficient in Latin." And it was my Dad's 'foreign language'.
Another I like, post hoc ergo propter hoc, describing the logic fallacy, after this, therefore because of this. Also means, that logical fallacy is as old as the Latin language.
(I see it comes up in the comments along with other good ones.)
A river went out from Eden to Water the Garden
Reply #751 on:
September 09, 2014, 09:58:40 PM »
A river went out from Eden to water the garden.
There is Eden, and there is the garden.
Eden is a place of delight, far beyond the garden, beyond all created things. Yet its river nurtures all that grows in that garden.
The garden is wisdom, understanding, knowing—where all of creation begins.
Adam is placed in the garden, to work with his mind, and to discover the transcendent Eden flowing within.
So too, that is the objective of all man’s toil in this world: To reach beyond his own mind. Not to a place where the mind is ignored, but rather, to its essence, to the inner sense of beauty and wonder that guides it. To Eden.
Happy Rosh Hashanah!
Reply #752 on:
September 24, 2014, 05:44:41 PM »
Happy Rosh Hashanah! Have a Sweet and Happy New Year!
Ha’azinu (5774) – The Leader’s Call to Responsibility
When words take wing, they modulate into song. That is what they do here in Haazinu as Moses, with the angel of death already in sight, prepares to take leave of this life. Never before had he spoken with such passion. His language is vivid, even violent. He wants his final words never to be forgotten. In a sense he has been articulating this truth for forty years but never before with such emotion. This is what he says:
Give ear, O heavens, that I may speak,
Earth, hear the sayings of my mouth ...
The Rock, His acts are perfect,
For all his ways are just.
A faithful God without wrong,
Right and straight is He.
He is not corrupt; the defect is in his children,
A warped and twisted generation.
Is this the way you repay God,
Ungrateful, unwise people?
Is he not your father, your Master.
He made you and established you. (Deut. 32: 1-6)
Don’t blame God when things go wrong. That is what Moses feels so passionately. Don’t believe, he says, that God is there to serve us. We are here to serve Him and through Him be a blessing to the world. God is straight; it is we who are complex and self-deceiving. God is not there to relieve us of responsibility. It is God who is calling us to responsibility.
With these words Moses brings to closure the drama that began in the beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When they sinned, Adam blamed the woman, the woman blamed the serpent. So it was in the beginning and so it still is in the twenty-first century secular time.
The story of humanity has been for the most part a flight from responsibility. The culprits change. Only the sense of victimhood remains. It wasn’t us. It was the politicians. Or the media. Or the bankers. Or our genes. Or our parents. Or the system, be it capitalism, communism or anything between. Most of all, it is the fault of the others, the ones not like us, infidels, sons of Satan, children of darkness, the unredeemed. The perpetrators of the greatest crime against humanity in all of history were convinced it wasn’t them. They were “only obeying orders.” When all else fails, blame God. And if you don’t believe in God, blame the people who do. To be human is to seek to escape from responsibility.
That is what makes Judaism different. It is what made some people admire Jews and others hate them. For Judaism is God’s call to human responsibility. From this call you can’t hide, as Adam and Eve discovered when they tried, and you can’t escape, as Jonah learnt in the belly of a fish.
What Moses was saying in his great farewell song can be paraphrased thus: “Beloved people, I have led you for forty years, and my time is coming to an end. For the last month, since I began these speeches, these Devarim, I have tried to tell you the most important things about your past and future. I beg you not to forget them.”
“Your parents were slaves. God brought them and you to freedom. But that was negative freedom, chofesh. It meant that there was no-one to order you about. That kind of freedom is not inconsequential, for its absence tastes like unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Eat them once a year so you never forget where you came from and who brought you out.”
“But don’t think that chofesh alone can sustain a free society. When everyone is free to do what they like, the result is anarchy, not freedom. A free society requires cherut, the positive freedom that only comes when people internalise the habits of self-restraint so that my freedom is not bought at the expense of yours, or yours at the cost of mine.”
“That is why I have taught you all these laws, judgments and statutes. None of them is arbitrary. None of them exists because God likes giving laws. God gave laws to the very structures of matter – laws that generated a vast, wondrous, almost unfathomable universe. If God were only interested in giving laws, He would have confined himself to the things that obey those laws, namely matter without mind and life-forms that know not liberty.”
“The laws God gave me and I gave you exist not for God’s sake but for ours. God gave us freedom – the most rare, precious, unfathomable thing of all other than life itself. But with freedom comes responsibility. That means that we must take the risk of action. God gave us the land but we must conquer it. God gave us the fields but we must plough, sow and reap them. God gave us bodies but we must tend and heal them. God is our father; He made us and established us. But parents cannot live their children’s lives. They can only show them by instruction and love how to live.”
“So when things go wrong, don’t blame God. He is not corrupt; we are. He is straight; it is we who are sometimes warped and twisted.” That is the Torah’s ethic of responsibility. No higher estimate has ever been given of the human condition. No higher vocation was ever entrusted to mortal creatures of flesh and blood.
Judaism does not see human beings, as some religions do, as irretrievably corrupt, stained by original sin, incapable of good without God’s grace. That is a form of faith but it is not ours. Nor do we see religion as a matter of blind submission to God’s will. That too is a form of faith but not ours.
We do not see human beings, as the pagans did, as the playthings of capricious gods. Nor do we see them, as some scientists do, as mere matter, a gene’s way of producing another gene, a collection of chemicals driven by electrical impulses in the brain, without any special dignity or sanctity, temporary residents in a universe devoid of meaning that came into existence for no reason and will one day, equally for no reason, cease to be.
We believe that we are God’s image, free as He is free, creative as He is creative, on an infinitely smaller and more limited scale to be sure, but still we are the one point in all the echoing expanse of space where the universe becomes conscious of itself, the one life form capable of shaping its own destiny: choosing, therefore free, therefore responsible. Judaism is God’s call to responsibility.
Which means: thou shalt not see thyself as a victim. Do not believe as the Greeks did that fate is blind and inexorable, that our fate once disclosed by the Delphic oracle, has already been sealed before we were born, that like Laius and Oedipus we are fated, however hard we try to escape the bonds of fate. That is a tragic view of the human condition. To some extent it was shared in different ways by Spinoza, Marx and Freud, the great triumvirate of Jews-by-descent who rejected Judaism and all its works.
Instead like Viktor Frankl, survivor of Auschwitz, and Aaron T. Beck, co-founder of cognitive behavioural therapy, we believe we are not defined by what happens to us but rather by how we respond to what happens to us. That itself is determined by how we interpret what happens to us. If we change the way we think – which we can, because of the plasticity of the brain – then we can change the way we feel and the way we act. Fate is never final. There may be such a thing as an evil decree, but penitence, prayer and charity can avert it. And what we cannot do alone we can do together, for we believe “it is not good for man to be alone.”
So Jews developed a morality of guilt in place of what the Greeks had, a morality of shame. A morality of guilt makes a sharp distinction between the person and the act, between the sinner and the sin. Because we are not wholly defined by what we do, there is a core within us that remains intact – “My God, the soul you gave me is pure” – so that whatever wrong we may have done, we can repent and be forgiven. That creates a language of hope, the only force strong enough to defeat a culture of despair.
It is that power of hope, born whenever God’s love and forgiveness gives rise to human freedom and responsibility, that has made Judaism the moral force it has always been to those who minds and hearts are open. But that hope, says Moses with a passion that still sears us whenever we tread it afresh, does not just happen. It has to be worked for and won. The only way it is achieved is by not blaming God. He is not corrupt. The defect is in us, His children. If we seek a better world, we must make it. God teaches us, inspires us, forgives us when we fail and lifts us when we fall, but we must make it. It is not what God does for us that transforms us; it is what we do for God.
The first humans lost paradise when they sought to hide from responsibility. We will only ever regain it if we accept responsibility and become a nation of leaders, each respecting and making space for those not like us. People do not like people who remind them of their responsibility. That is one of the reasons (not the only one, to be sure) for Judeophobia through the ages. But we are not defined by those who do not like us. To be a Jew is to be defined by the One who loves us.
The deepest mystery of all is not our faith in God but God’s faith in us. May that faith sustain us as we heed the call to responsibility and take the risk of healing some of the needless wounds of an injured but still wondrous world.
Last Edit: September 26, 2014, 09:54:19 AM by Crafty_Dog
Re: The Power of Word
Reply #753 on:
September 25, 2014, 09:31:57 AM »
Brilliant and timeless wisdom.
Happy New Year to you too Rachel.
I've never met you could walk by you on the street, yet feel connected to you through your posts.
Re: The Power of Word
Reply #754 on:
September 26, 2014, 10:45:11 AM »
A fine one Rachel. Happy New Year!
Reply #755 on:
October 14, 2014, 12:44:05 AM »
Moses is America's prophet
By Bruce Feiler, Special to CNN
March 29, 2010 1:28 p.m. EDT
Bruce Feiler calls this week, from Passover to Easter, Moses week in America.
Feiler says U.S. and its leaders have referred to narrative of Moses for over 400 years
Pilgrims, Jefferson, Statue of Liberty, spirituals, Superman refer to Moses, he says
Moses represents courage, balance of freedom and law, ideal of justice, he says
Editor's note: Bruce Feiler is the author of "Walking the Bible," "Abraham" and "America's Prophet: Moses and the American Story." His new book, "The Council of Dads," will be published in April.
(CNN) -- This Saturday, millions of Americans will watch the annual spectacle of Charlton Heston acting the part of a Cold War hero in Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments." The TV air date is no accident.
This week, beginning with Passover and ending with Easter, is "Moses week" in America. It's the one time of year when the biblical hero steps to the forefront of religious ritual, renewing the special bond that has existed between the great prophet and the United States for over 400 years.
Moses was an American icon long before there was an America. When the Pilgrims left England in 1620, they described themselves as the chosen people fleeing their pharaoh, King James. On the Atlantic, they proclaimed their journey to be as vital as "Moses and the Israelites when they went out of Egypt." And when they got to Cape Cod, they thanked God for letting them pass through their fiery Red Sea.
By the time of the Revolution, Moses had become the go-to narrative of American freedom. In 1751, the Pennsylvania Assembly chose a quote from the Five Books of Moses for its State House bell, "Proclaim Liberty thro' all the Land to all the Inhabitants Thereof -- Levit. XXV 10."
The future Liberty Bell was hanging above the room where the Continental Congress passed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Congress' last order of business that day was to form a committee of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams to design a seal for the new United States. The committee submitted its recommendation that August: Moses, leading the Israelites across the Red Sea. In their eyes, Moses was America's true Founding Father.
Two-thirds of the eulogies at George Washington's death compared him to Moses.
But escaping bondage proved to be only half the story. After the Israelites arrived in the desert, they faced a period of lawlessness, which prompted the Ten Commandments. The message: Freedom depends on law.
Americans faced a similar moment of chaos after the Revolution. Just as a reluctant Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and then handed down the Ten Commandments, a reluctant George Washington led the colonists to victory and then presided over the drafting of the Constitution. The parallel was not lost. Two-thirds of the eulogies at Washington's death compared him to Moses.
Although Moses was a unifying presence during the founding era, a generation later, he got dragged into the issue that most divided the country. The Israelites' escape from slavery was the dominant motif of slave spirituals, including "Turn Back Pharaoh's Army," "I Am Bound for the Promised Land" and the most famous, "Go Down, Moses," which was called the national anthem of slaves.
Yet as abolitionists used the exodus to attack slavery, Southerners used it to defend the institution. The War Between the States became the War Between the Moseses. It took America's most Bible-quoting president to reunite the country. Abraham Lincoln talked about the exodus at Gettysburg, and, when he died, he too was compared to Moses.
"There is no historic figure more noble than that of the Jewish lawgiver," Henry Ward Beecher eulogized. "There is scarcely another event in history more touching than his death." Until now. "Again a great leader of the people has passed through toil, sorrow, battle and war, and come near to the promised land of peace, into which he might not pass over."
The country's greatest icon, the Statue of Liberty ... even Superman [were] modeled partly on Moses.
Political figures weren't the only ones compared to Moses; national icons were, as well, including Uncle Sam and Old Glory. The country's greatest icon, the Statue of Liberty, was designed with spikes of light around her head and a tablet in her arms to mimic Moses' pose when he climbed down Sinai with shafts of light around his head and tablets of law in his hands.
Even Superman was modeled partly on Moses. The comic-book hero's creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, modeled their superhero on the superhero of the Torah. Just as baby Moses is floated down the Nile in a basket to escape annihilation, baby Superman is launched into space in a rocket ship to avoid extinction. Both Moses and Superman were picked up by aliens and raised in strange environments before being summoned to aid humanity. Superman's birth name was Kal-el, which is Hebrew for "swift god."
But it was Cecil B. DeMille who turned Moses into a symbol of American power in the Cold War. The 1956 epic "The Ten Commandments," the fifth highest-grossing movie of all time, opened with DeMille appearing onscreen.
"The theme of this picture is whether men ought to be ruled by God's law or whether they are to be ruled by the whims of a dictator," he said. "The same battle continues throughout the world today."
To drive home his point, DeMille cast mostly Americans as Israelites and Europeans as Egyptians. And in the film's final shot, Charlton Heston quotes the Liberty Bell (even though it comes from three books earlier in the Bible) and recreates the pose of the Statue of Liberty, forever securing America's place as the new Promised Land.
Today, 40 years after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. compared himself to Moses on the night before his assassination, the Hebrew prophet is as resonant as ever.
George W. Bush said in an Oval Office interview that he was inspired to run for the presidency by a sermon in Texas in which his preacher said Moses was not a man of words but still led his people to freedom. Barack Obama said in 2007 that the civil rights pioneers were the "Moses generation," and he was part of the "Joshua generation" that would "find our way across the river." And this week, Obama holds the second White House seder.
What explains this ongoing appeal?
First, Moses embodies the courage to escape hardship and seek a better world. He keeps alive the ministry of hope. "Not America," as W.E.B. DuBois put it, "but what America will be." Moses is the figurehead of "America will be."
Second, Moses encapsulates the American juggling act between freedom and law. "Since the exodus," German poet Heinrich Heine said, "freedom has always spoken with a Hebrew accent."
Finally, Moses is a reminder that a moral society is one that embraces the outsider and uplifts the downtrodden. "You shall not oppress a stranger," God says in Exodus 23, "for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt." Moses represents the ideals of American justice.
Yet he reminds us that we often fall short of our dreams. As King said, "I've been to the mountaintop. And I've looked over. I've seen the promised land. And I may not get there with you, but I want you to know that we as a people will get to the promised land."
These words capture what may be the most enduring lesson of Moses: The true destination of a journey of hope is not this year at all but next.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bruce Feiler.
Prager: You can kill, but not murder
Reply #756 on:
December 02, 2014, 08:11:47 AM »
You Can Kill, But Not Murder
Posted By Dennis Prager On December 2, 2014
That is the King James translation of the sixth commandment. It is a magnificent translation. But this one has led to much moral confusion.
Yesterday, PragerUniversity.com, which has had more than 20 million views this year, released 11 courses (each five-minutes long) — the Ten Commandments and an introduction.
The reason we made these video courses is that I believe that everything we need to make a good world and rid ourselves of evil is contained in the Ten Commandments.
For the next few weeks, my column will be selected transcripts of the courses, all of which I present.
Whatever your faith, or if you have no faith, I invite you to watch the videos at
— from the introduction through the tenth, or any of the Ten. They are cleverly animated with text and graphics.
Here is the text of commandment six — explaining why the King James translation is wrong:
You would think that of all the Ten Commandments the one that needs the least explaining is the sixth, because it seems so clear. It is the one that the King James Bible, the most widely used English translation of the Bible, translates as, “Thou shall not kill.”
Yet, the truth is the quite the opposite. This is probably the least well understood of the Ten Commandments. The reason is that the Hebrew original does not say, “Do not kill.” It says, “Do not murder.” Both Hebrew and English have two words for taking a life — one is “kill” (harag, in Hebrew) and the other is “murder” (ratzach in Hebrew).
The difference between the two is enormous. Kill means:
1) Taking any life — whether of a human being or an animal.
2) Taking a human life deliberately or by accident.
3) Taking a human life legally or illegally, morally or immorally.
On the other hand, murder can only mean one thing: The illegal or immoral taking of a human life. That’s why we say, “I killed a mosquito,” not, “I murdered a mosquito.” And that’s why we would say that “the worker was accidentally killed,” not that “the worker was accidentally murdered.”
So why did the King James translation of the Bible use the word “kill” rather than “murder”? Because 400 years ago, when the translation was made, “kill” was synonymous with “murder.” As a result, some people don’t realize that English has changed since 1610 and therefore think that the Ten Commandments prohibits all killing.
But, of course, it doesn’t. If the Ten Commandments forbade killing, we would all have to be vegetarians, as killing animals would be prohibited. And we would all have to be pacifists — since we could not kill even in self-defense.
However, you don’t have to know how the English language has evolved to understand that the Ten Commandments could not have prohibited all killing.
The very same part of the Bible that contains the Ten Commandments — the Five Books of Moses, the Torah as it is known by Jews — commands the death penalty for murder, allows killing in war, prescribes animal sacrifice and allows eating meat.
A correct understanding of the commandment against murder is crucial because, while virtually every modern translation correctly translates the commandment as “Do not murder,” many people cite the King James translation to justify two positions that have no biblical basis: opposition to capital punishment and pacifism.
Regarding capital punishment and the Bible, as I note in my Prager University course on capital punishment, the only law that appears in each one of the Five Books of Moses is that murderers be put to death. Opponents of the death penalty are free to hold the view that all murderers should be allowed to live. But they are not free to cite the Bible to support their view.
Yet, many do. And they always cite the Commandment, “Do not kill.” But that, as should now be abundantly clear, is not what the commandment says, and it is therefore an invalid argument.
As regards pacifism, the belief that it is always wrong to kill a human being, again, anyone is free to hold this position, as immoral as it may be. And what other word than “immoral” can one use to describe forbidding the killing of someone who is in the process of murdering innocent men, women and children, in, let’s say, a movie theater or a school?
But it is dishonest to cite the commandment against murder to justify pacifism.
There is moral killing — most obviously when done in self-defense against an aggressor — and there is immoral killing. And the word for that is “murder.”
The Ten Commandments are portrayed on two tablets. The five commandments on the second tablet all concern our treatment of fellow human beings.
The first one on that list is “Do not murder.” Why? Because murder is the worst act a person can commit. The other four commandments — prohibiting stealing, adultery, giving false testimony and coveting, are all serious offenses.
But murder leads the list because deliberately taking the life of an innocent person is the most terrible thing we can do. That is why it is so important to understand that the commandment prohibits murder, not all killing. When people liken killing in self-defense to murder — such as when they equate killing the terrorist who is murdering people with the murders that the terrorist is committing — all they are doing is reducing the evil that murder is. And when they use the Ten Commandments to justify that position, all they are doing is making the Ten Commandments, the moral foundation of Western Civilization, morally irrelevant.
The next time you hear someone cite, “Do not kill” when quoting the sixth commandment, gently but firmly explain that it actually says, “Do not murder.”
Dennis Prager on the Ten Commandments
Reply #757 on:
December 03, 2014, 12:45:33 AM »
Well worth the time of watching the whole thing!
An interesting discussion of marriage and its criteria in Judaism
Reply #758 on:
December 09, 2014, 11:46:24 AM »
WSJ: Moses parts the Red Sea
Reply #759 on:
December 10, 2014, 10:57:41 PM »
How Did Moses Part the Red Sea?
The science of tides may have saved the Israelites from the Egyptians
Moses had lived nearby and knew where caravans crossed the Red Sea at low tide. Pictured, a scene from ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’
By Bruce Parker
Dec. 5, 2014 9:37 a.m. ET
Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” which opens in movie theaters across the country Dec. 12, will include, of course, the most famous of all biblical miracles: the parting of the Red Sea. But its depiction will look quite different from the one in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 classic “The Ten Commandments.” In the earlier movie, Charlton Heston as Moses parted the sea into two huge walls of water, between which the children of Israel crossed on a temporarily dry seabed to the opposite shore. Pharaoh’s army of chariots chased after them only to be drowned when Moses signaled for the waters to return.
Mr. Scott has said that his new version of the story will have a more realistic and natural explanation of what happened and won’t rely on Moses to bring forth God’s miraculous intervention. He has decided to have the waters “part” as the result of a tsunami caused by an earthquake. Before a tsunami strikes, coastal waters often recede, leaving the seabed dry before the giant wave arrives.
But there are problems with this version of the story, too. The period during which coastal waters draw back before a tsunami usually lasts only 10 or 20 minutes, too little time to get all the children of Israel across the temporarily dry seabed. Also, there would have been no way for Moses to know that the earthquake and tsunami were going to happen, unless God told him. That’s fine, but then the story would retain some element of the miraculous.
There is a much better natural explanation for how a temporary path across the Red Sea could have been revealed. It involves the tide, a natural phenomenon that would have fit nicely into a well-thought-out plan by Moses, because Moses would have been able to predict when it would happen.
In certain places in the world, the tide can leave the sea bottom dry for hours and then come roaring back. In fact, in 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte and a small group of soldiers on horseback were crossing the Gulf of Suez, the northern end of the Red Sea, roughly where Moses and the Israelites are said to have crossed. On a mile-long expanse of dry sea bottom exposed at low water, the tide suddenly rushed in, almost drowning them.
In the biblical account, the children of Israel were camped on the western shore of the Gulf of Suez when the dust clouds raised by Pharaoh’s chariots were seen in the distance. The Israelites were now trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea. The dust clouds, however, were probably an important sign for Moses; they would have let him calculate how soon Pharaoh’s army would arrive at the coast.
Moses had lived in the nearby wilderness in his early years, and he knew where caravans crossed the Red Sea at low tide. He knew the night sky and the ancient methods of predicting the tide, based on where the moon was overhead and how full it was. Pharaoh and his advisers, by contrast, lived along the Nile River, which is connected to the almost tideless Mediterranean Sea. They probably had little knowledge of the tides of the Red Sea and how dangerous they could be.
Knowing when low tide would occur, how long the sea bottom would remain dry and when the waters would rush back in, Moses could plan the Israelites’ escape. Choosing a full moon for their flight would have given them a larger tidal range—that is, the low tide would have been much lower and the sea bottom would have stayed dry longer, giving the Israelites more time to cross. The high tide also would have been higher and thus better for submerging Pharaoh’s pursuing army.
In ‘The Ten Commandments,’ Charlton Heston as Moses parted the sea into two huge walls of water, between which the children of Israel crossed on a temporarily dry seabed to the opposite shore. ENLARGE
In ‘The Ten Commandments,’ Charlton Heston as Moses parted the sea into two huge walls of water, between which the children of Israel crossed on a temporarily dry seabed to the opposite shore. Everett Collection
Timing would have been crucial. The last of the Israelites had to cross the dry sea bottom just before the tide returned, enticing Pharaoh’s army of chariots onto the exposed sea bottom, where they would drown as the returning tidal waters overwhelmed them. If the chariots were expected to arrive before the tide came back in, Moses might have planned some type of delaying tactic. If the chariots were expected to arrive after the tide came back in, he could have gotten the Israelites across and then, at the next low tide, sent a few of his best people back onto the temporarily dry sea bed to entice Pharaoh’s chariots to chase them.
The Bible mentions a strong east wind that blew all night and pushed back the waters. Ocean physics tells us that wind blowing over a shallow waterway pushes back more water than a wind blowing over a deep waterway. If a wind did by chance fortuitously blow before the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, it would have had more effect at low tide than at any other time, uncovering even more sea bottom.
Such a wind would surely have been assigned to divine intervention, and over the centuries, as the story of the Exodus was retold, that aspect would have overshadowed Moses’ careful planning to take advantage of the low tide. But Moses couldn’t have predicted the suddenly beneficial wind, so he couldn’t have based his plan on it. His timing had to be based on a tide prediction.
When Napoleon and his forces almost drowned in 1798 at the northern end of the Gulf of Suez, the water typically rose 5 or 6 feet at high tide (and up to 9 or 10 feet with the wind blowing in the right direction). But there is evidence that the sea level was higher in Moses’ time. As a result, the Gulf of Suez would have extended farther north and had a larger tidal range. If that was indeed the case, the real story of the Israelites’ crossing wouldn’t have needed much exaggeration to include walls of water crashing down on the pursuing Egyptians.
One more piece of evidence is worth citing. As it turns out, my suggestion that Moses could have planned to cross the Red Sea at low tide isn’t entirely new. The ancient author Eusebius of Caesarea (263–339 A.D.) cites two versions of the story of the crossing of the Red Sea as related by the Hellenistic historian Artapanus (80–40 B.C.). One version, told by the people of Heliopolis, is similar to the account in the Bible. But in the second version, told by the people of Memphis, “Moses, being acquainted with the country, waited for the ebb and took the people across the sea when dry.”
If the tide was indeed involved in Moses’ “parting” of the Red Sea, it has to qualify as the most dramatic and consequential tide prediction in history.
—Dr. Parker is the former chief scientist of NOAA’s National Ocean Service and is currently a visiting professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology. He is the author of “The Power of the Sea: Tsunamis, Storm Surges, Rogue Waves, and Our Quest to Predict Disasters.”
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