Thursday, July 21, 2011

Benyamim Tsedaka Explains the Role of Astrology in the Samaritan Calculation of Holy Days

I happen to have an old and dear friend who is one of the last surviving members of the Samaritan people. I often ask him details about the manner in which his religious tradition differs from that of the Jews. Just today, I wanted to clarify how the Samaritans interpret the commandment about the giving of the half-shekel (which I think is very important for understanding the gospel narrative). Tsedaka notes that:

As for the half a shekel, it is still valid and every Israelite male over twenty years old gives the High Priest the half-shekel twice a year. It is given sixty days before Passover and the Festival of Booths. It is valued 5 nis (which is the ancient half-shekel).

These are two days in the year, sixty days before Passover and the Festival of Booths where the moon covers the sun in the calculation of the calendar. The moon and the sun are symbolized each time by the event happened in Sinai desert - sixty day before Pessach it happened that Moses (= the sun] met his brother Aaron (= the moon) and sixty days before the Festival of Booths Moses (= the sun) removed the high priesthood from Aaron before he died in first day of the Fifth Month to his son Elazar (= the moon).

To each these two events there are two special Sabbaths memorials and in the weekdays before these special Sabbaths the High Priest collecting the half-shekel.

This is very different from the Jewish understanding and is completely foreign to what forms the basis of the gospel narrative (which I have argued assumes the collection of the half-shekel took place up to the final days of the twelfth month). Very interesting though.

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