23 April 2014

Madison Square Park, April 2012

My current cover photo/header photo on the social networking sites.

📌 Madison Square Park after the Persian Parade, East 26 Street between Fifth and Madison avenues, Gramercy/Flatiron District, 15 April 2012. (Photograph by Elyaqim Mosheh Adam, under a Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial 4.0 International license.)

📷 DSCN1619.JPG, taken with Nikon Coolpix S220.

08 April 2014

Passover mythology

How does Eliyyahu (a.k.a Elijah/Elias) manage to get to absolutely every Passover seder? Why it must be with his chariot of fire drawn by horses of fire (rekeb ēsh wə‐sûsê ēsh רכב אש וסוסי אש)! The Greeks identified Elias with the sun god Helios due to a superficial similarity in their names and in their conveyances (although their names are etymologically unrelated, אליהו Ēliyyāhû being Afro‐Asiatic and Ήλιος Hēlios Indo‐European), and Eliyyahu is frequently portrayed in a fire chariot not unlike Helios’ sun chariot.

This is a detail of a fresco in Rila Monastery, Bulgaria, portraying Eliyyahu (Saint Elias) and his chariot of fire (from a larger picture on Wikimedia, in the public domain).


[I]t is easily seen how, by a scarcely perceptible change of sound, the great god Helios could be transmuted into Elias. Helios drove round the world in his fiery chariot, drawn by horses. Elias went up to heaven in a similar conveyance. Helios produced rain and storm, and so did Elias by the fervor of his prayer on Mount Carmel. Elias brought down fire from heaven and so did the great sun‐god. Hence the parallel between the two was too tempting to be passed over.

—J. Theodore Bent, “Paganism in England,” The Gentleman’s Magazine 262, Jan. 1887, 36.

04 April 2014

The song playing at Foodtown was “Overcome,” by Jon Egan, as presumably performed by Jeremy Camp. (“Savior, worthy of honor and glory …/Jesus, awesome in power forever/Awesome and great is Your name….”) In Original American Chicken the following day, they were playing “I Get a Kick Out of You,” by Cole Porter as sung by Ella Fitzgerald. Guess where I felt more comfortable.

03 April 2014

An openly gay Buddhist monk was our returning guest speaker Sunday at the Ethical Humanist Society of Queens speaking on meditation, a beneficial practice wherein Humanists should feel appropriate participating. He gave a good presentation but said a few things so abstract I couldn’t quite grasp them and a few other things with which I disagreed, one of which was his apparent belief the mind is not just a result of brain activity and saying Buddhists believe the mind is in the heart rather than the brain. He also repeatedly used the phrase food store instead of market or grocery.

01 April 2014

Happy New Year! Today is the first day of the month of Nisan (and thus New Year’s Day) on two different calendars.

In many cultures, including many Near Eastern cultures, the year begins in springtime (March–April in the Northern Hemisphere) rather than wintertime (January–February).

Levantine, Mesopotamian and Anatolian peoples (specifically the Assyrian, Jordanian, Iraqi, Kurdish, Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian and Turkish peoples) replaced the names of the Gregorian months with names from the Babylonian calendar, and so April is called Nisan (نيسان، ܒܢܝܣܢ) and Assyrians celebrate 1 Nisan (called Ḥad bi‐Nisan ܚܕ ܒܢܝܣܢ) as the first day of the year.

The Hebrew calendar (or at least the predominant one used by Jews from the Rabbinic tradition if not the Karaites and Samaritans with whose calendars I’m less familiar) also uses month names from the Babylonian calendar, and 1 Nisan (א׳ בניסן) is one of the four Jewish New Year’s Days (as the Jews have one in each of the four seasons). Although the autumnal New Year’s Day (Roʼsh hash‐Shana ראש השנה) has eclipsed the others, the springtime one was the principal one in antiquity and is still the principal one among the Karaites today.

So today is 1 Nisan on both calendars, which usually don’t coincide so precisely.