thekabalist

1 Nephi Chapter 1

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I just finished reading this thread by Thekabalist, and the 3 pages of replies and comments.

I'll admit before I started reading I expected the forum to be people of the Jewish Faith finding flaws in the Book of Mormon. Now I will admit that I didn't understand everything that was said as thoroughly, or as deeply as others who have commented. But I was pleasantly surprised. Because, for me it is yet another testament to the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon. Brother Ray

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On 11/21/2009 at 12:52 AM, thekabalist said:

Hi forum,

This is something Vanhin had asked me to do a while ago in the last forum. As I am beginning to read the BoM at last, I am also taking notes for myself. I then decided to share with you some Jewish comments on the narrative. Please tell me what you think. :)

1 I, NEPHI, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.

 

Name etymology: Nefi - possible from the Hebrew נפל (Nefil) which means "tall one".

Nephi the scribe: In ancient Israel a scribe was an office of high prestige. Being a scribe meant that one was well instructed in the Torah-Law of Israel. Being a scribe, Nephi was certainly a prestigious member of his society. In the Jerusalem Targum, Moses and Aaron are called the scribes of Israel. Judaism mantains that Moses began a school of prominently faithful israelites who would have the mission of transmitting the teachings of the law. Nephi would have been a member of such ancient scribal school.

Mysteries of G-d: There is a word-play between the word ספר (sofer - scribe) and the ספירות (sefirot) which account in Judaism for the mysterious nature of G-d. Nephi was therefore very knowledgeable in the higher truths of Judaism.

2 Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.

Part of the role of a scribe was also to translate the Torah-law into other languages so that the laymen in exile would understand it. The greatest known literature in Judaism are the Targums in Aramaic and the Samaritan Targum in Arabic. This role of scribe seems to be fulfilled when Nephi writes in the Egyptian language.

3 And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.

In Judaism, hands were used in connection to oaths. See for example. Gen. 24:2 By emphasizing that the writing is of his own hand Nephi is taking an oath concerning its truthfulness.

4 For it came to pass in the commencement of the afirst year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed.

Repent: The word in Hebrew for this is the word שוב (shuv) which quite literally means to return. Nephi's warnings were that the people had strayed from the Torah-Law of G-d. Repenting in Judaism is more than a feeling. It is seeking the original way. Two schools of thought within Judaism defined such repentance: Some say repentance is to seek the state of the Sinai. Others define it as seeking the state of our primary existence as it was in the Garden of Eden.

5 Wherefore it came to pass that my father, Lehi, as he went forth prayed unto the Lord, yea, even with all his heart, in behalf of his people.

 

Name etymology: Lehi (לחי) means "jaw".

Prayed with all his heart: The heart in Jewish culture meant the center of one's spirituality, whether good or bad. The Jewish Midrash in Bereshit Rabbah 67 says:

"The wicked are in the power of their heart, but the righteous have their heart in their power."

The meaning idea of Lehi praying with all his heart meant that no evil was to be found in his heart for he had overcome it.

6 And it came to pass as he prayed unto the Lord, there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him; and he saw and heard much; and because of the things which he saw and heard he did quake and tremble exceedingly.

In ancient Jewish tradition the pillar of fire symbolizes the power of G-d's word to transform. It is said that Onkelos converted many into Judaism by narrating how G-d is the pillar of fire before Israel.

7 And it came to pass that he returned to his own house at Jerusalem; and he cast himself upon his bed, being overcome with the Spirit and the things which he had seen.

8 And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God.

9 And it came to pass that he saw One descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon-day.

From Nephi's description of the angels seen by Lehi we can be sure that Lehi saw cherubim (כרובים) – which in Hebrew means "the near ones".

In the ancient wisdom of Kabalah (Zohar Terumah 2:176a), the cherubim represented the closeness between G-d and Israel. When Israel was in connection with G-d the cherubim turned unto G-d for praise. When Israel strayed away the cherubim would rebuke the Jewish people. It comes as no surprise that it is the cherubim who send the message to Lehi.

10 And he also saw twelve others following him, and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament.

 

Jewish tradition mantains that the stars are governed by the angels of heaven. The 12 cherubim mentioned by Lehi are also cited in the Book of Enoch:

"Its ceiling was like the path of stars and lightning, and between them were 12 fiery

cherubim, and their skies were as waters."

Like what is inferred from Enoch, Lehi's vision shows that such angels ruled above the stars of heaven. This is particularly revelant as Babylonian culture of Lehi's time would see the stars as governing the fate of mankind. In Lehi's vision G-d shows him how he is above and in control of the fate of Jerusalem.

11 And they came down and went forth upon the face of the earth; and the first came and stood before my father, and gave unto him a book, and bade him that he should read.

 

Another possible word-play between ספיר (sapir - brightness) and ספר (sefer - book). In Judaism, it is said that the heavens contain the records of what will become of the world. Therefore this again indicates a revelation of the fate of Jerusalem.

12 And it came to pass that as he read, he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord.

Usually the term in Hebrew for filled in this case is מלא (maleh) which means not only to fill, but also to confirm.

 

There is a fascinating word-play here with מלא (fill) and מלאך (malach - angel). The only difference between the two words is the letter כ in its final form. This is also the first letter of the word cherub as well as the word star (כוכב - cochav). It seems therefore that the spirit-filling of Lehi comes as a second witness to the message of the angels, as demanded by Torah-Law which requires two witnesses to establish truth.

13 And he read, saying: Wo, wo, unto Jerusalem, for I have seen thine abominations! Yea, and many things did my father read concerning Jerusalem—that it should be destroyed, and the inhabitants thereof; many should perish by the sword, and many should be carried away captive into Babylon.

14 And it came to pass that when my father had read and seen many great and marvelous things, he did exclaim many things unto the Lord; such as: Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty! Thy throne is high in the heavens, and thy power, and goodness, and mercy are over all the inhabitants of the earth; and, because thou art merciful, thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish!

 

It may sound odd to the reader that Lehi rejoiced over such news. However in Judaism it's a rather common attitude. Ancient kabalah believes that when something evil befalls Israel it means that it's in fact such a highly elevated goodness that this world cannot comprehend it. This is why the prophets often rejoiced over that which would ultimately save Israel even if it meant suffering for a while.

15 And after this manner was the language of my father in the praising of his God; for his soul did rejoice, and his whole heart was filled, because of the things which he had seen, yea, which the Lord had shown unto him.

16 And now I, Nephi, do not make a full account of the things which my father hath written, for he hath written many things which he saw in visions and in dreams; and he also hath written many things which he prophesied and spake unto his children, of which I shall not make a full account.

 

The Talmud in tractate Avodah Zarah states that dreams are 1/60th of a prophecy. Rambam (Moses Ben Maimon) in Moreh Nevuchim states that in order to achieve the level of the prophets one must at least speak to an angel in a dream. The highest level one can achieve within prophecy without actual involvement in the prophetic events is to rebuke the people in the name of G-d. This shows how Lehi was a prominent prophet in his time.

17 But I shall make an account of my proceedings in my days. Behold, I make an aabridgment of the record of my father, upon plates which I have made with mine own hands; wherefore, after I have abridged the record of my dfather then will I make an account of mine own life.

 

Given that a scroll can wear out, in Judaism plates are considered to be a means in which one would only record the most sacred or precious information. To this very day Jewish prayer books are often covered by engraved plates for that very reason. An important example is the Copper Scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls which contained the location of several treasures from the Temple of Jerusalem.

18 Therefore, I would that ye should know, that after the Lord had shown so many marvelous things unto my father, Lehi, yea, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, behold he went forth among the people, and began to prophesy and to declare unto them concerning the things which he had both seen and heard.

19 And it came to pass that the Jews did mock him because of the things which he testified of them; for he truly testified of their wickedness and their abominations; and he testified that the things which he saw and heard, and also the things which he read in the book, manifested plainly of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world.

There's a clear word-play between גילויה (giluyah - manifestation) and גאולה (geulah - redemption). Thus Nephi seems to indicate that the manifestation of Messiah would mean the redemption of the world.

It may almost go unnoticed to the reader that one of the reasons why the Jewish people of Lehi's time may have become upset is because at the time the idea of a global redemption was not yet unanimous in Judaism. Many thought that only Israel would be redeemd and the other nations would serve them.

20 And when the Jews heard these things they were angry with him; yea, even as with the prophets of old, whom they had cast out, and stoned, and slain; and they also sought his life, that they might take it away. But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.

 

There is an ancient Jewish proverb that is likely to have been known by Nephi which says:

"Pray to God for mercy until the last shovelful of earth is cast upon thy grave."

Nephi's words seem to be an answer to such a proverb by turning it around and stating clearly that he would not take his prayers to his grave.

This is very interesting indeed....


Speaking of the logic of rejoicing over evil events........

Near death experiencer Howard Storm Ph. D.  :

Quote

"I asked how God could let the Holocaust of World War II happen. We were transported to a railway station as a long train of freight cars was being unloaded of its human cargo. The guards were screaming and beating the people into submission. The people were Jewish men, women, and children. Exhausted from hunger and thirst, they were totally disoriented from the ordeal of being rounded up and sent on a long journey to an unknown destination. They believed that they were going to work camps, and that their submission to the brutality of the guards was the only way to survive.

We went to the area where the selection process was taking place and heard the guards talking about "the Angel Maker." We went to the place the guards were referring to as "the Angel Maker," which was a series of ovens. I saw piles of naked corpses being loaded into the ovens, and I began to cry. Jesus said to me, "These are the people God loves." Then he said, "Look up." Rising out of the smoke of the chimneys, I saw hundreds of people being met by thousands of angels taking them up into the sky. There was great joy in the faces of the people, and there appeared to be no trace of a memory of the horrendous suffering they had just endured. How ironic that the guards sarcastically called the ovens "the Angel Maker."

I asked how God could allow this to happen. They told me that this was not God's will. This was an abomination to God. God wants this never to happen again. This was the sacrifice of an innocent people to whom God had given the law to be an example, a light, to the rest of the world. This Holocaust was breaking God's heart. The anguish that Jesus was suffering at the slaughter of his people was too much for me to bear and I begged that we leave this place. I will never forget this: his anguish at this horror and what it represents. This was one of the low points in human history."

I asked, Why does God let things like this happen? They told me that God was very unhappy with the course of human history and was going to intervene to change the world. God had watched us sink to depths of depravity and cruelty at the very time that he was giving us the instruments to make the world a godlier world. God had intervened in the world many times before, but this time God was going to change the course of human events." (Howard Storm, My Descent Into Death, page 42,43)

 

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