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January 31, 2003 - Image 34

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-01-31

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OTHER, VIEWS

Hebrew Free Loan Bonds Jews

vraham Avinu ("our father
Abraham," as traditional Jews
refer to him) has become the
subject of a major newsweek-
ly's cover story and two books. Time
magazine's spin on the first forefather
of the Jewish people, in its Sept. 30
issue, was that he "is beloved by Jews,
Christians and Muslims."
"Can this bond," the article's sub-
head asks, "stop them from hating one
another?"
Personally unsure of the factual basis
for each religion's claim to Abraham as
a spiritual heir, I'm unable to answer
such a weighty question. Of this, how-
ever, I am sure: The bond that we Jews
share as his spiritual heirs can certainly
do wonders for instilling a sense of

A

Rabbi E.B. "Bunny" Freedman is direc-

tor of Southfield-based Jewish Hospice er
Chaplaincy Network and serves on the
board of Hebrew Free Loan.

companionship and responsibility
among Jews of all denominations.
As the founding patriarch of our
nation, Abraham left us with a rich
spiritual legacy, none more widely
practiced among his descendants as his
legendary kindness. The Torah is
replete with examples of his munifi-
cent acts of lovingkindness toward his
fellow man and the Talmud assures us
that one who follows in his footsteps
in this impo- rtant matter (among oth-
ers) is surely an heir to his heritage.
Abraham's acts of kindness were
unique, not only in their quantity but
in their quality, too. Never did he act
out of self-gratification. Never did he
seek reward or honor for his generosity.
He simply viewed it as a natural out-
flow of his immense love for his fellow
human beings. He saw it as an oppor-
tunity to express his love toward them.
Since time immemorial, every
Jewish community bas featured a full

complement of charitable and
in order to do a kind deed?
free-loan organizations for the
The answer lies in the fact
needy. These institutions were
that it is "My people." One
the pride of the community as
simply does not charge a
they served to draw the com-
brother or. sister for a kindness
munity together and bridge
performed on their behalf.
the societal gaps that inevita-
The sense of responsibility
bly existed in communities
and obligation felt toward
large and small. The message
RABBI E.B.
them obviates that possibility.
was constant and clear: "It
FREEDMAN
Our community is in the
matters not whether we agree,
Community
midst of a yearlong celebra-
know or like each other. We
tion of the 100th anniversary
Views
have a responsibility to help
of the creation of Hebrew Free
one another!"
Loan. By our community's support of
Loans were always dispensed interest-
Hebrew Free Loan, we are doing more
free to fellow Jews in keeping with the
than acts of charity and lovingkind-
dictum of the Torah "When you lend
ness. We are reconfirming our com-
money to My people ... do not impose
mitment to the concept of Am Echad
interest on him" (Exodus 22:24). The
(one nation). Although we come in
message behind this seemingly strange
many shapes and sizes and different
interdiction is quite simple.
theological bearings, our Detroit
Logically speaking, there is no rea-
Jewish community is indeed one com-
son not to charge interest to a debtor.
munity of brethren responsible to one
Why should the creditor suffer a loss
another. ❑

Treasures Of The Temple

Jerusalem

iv

hen the Second Temple
was destroyed (in the
year 70 C.E.), its treas-
ures — the various ves-
sels used in the Temple services —
were taken by the Romans.
The rabbis counted 93 important
objects that were taken; many more
smaller vessels were possibly taken by
"freelance" Roman soldiers and offi-
cers.
We know that the most important
vessels were exhibited as part of
Titus's celebration of his victory over
the Jews. Replicas of them can be
seen even today on the Arch of Titus
in Rome.
After the celebration, the vessels
were stored away in the imperial
treasury. We know this because the
Talmud relates that some of the sages
saw them in the imperial treasury
about 100 years later.
It is now almost 2,000 years since
the demise of imperial Rome, but
what happened to the Temple treas-
ures? Perhaps some of them were
melted down, but what happened to
the vast majority of them?

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz is an author, his-

torian and social critic who translated the
Talmud into five modern languages. His
e-mail address is steinsaltz@milita.co.il

1/31
2003

34

There have been rumors, over the
years, that there were treasures from
the Temple hidden somewhere in the
Vatican. Even on the face, these sto-
ries seem false. First, it is unlikely
that such items would have made
their way from the imperial treasury
to the Church, which had neither the
power nor the authority to get them
at that time. Second, no one with
firsthand knowledge ever claimed to
have seen them there. If they were
there, surely — by chance or by
intention — such a fact would have
been revealed.
In fact, the Vatican does have a
great number of Jewish manuscripts.
Many of these priceless pieces were
confiscated by the Church authori-
ties.
Others may have been given to the
Vatican Library by high-level thieves:
kings and knights who took them
from their Jewish subjects. Most of
them are now on display and can be
copied. But neither these nor some of
the other archeological relics in the
Vatican's possession are part of the
Temple treasures.
A more likely theory about the fate
of the Temple treasures involves the
Vandals, a German tribe that
besieged and conquered Rome in 455
C.E. When the Vandals took over
Rome, they ransacked the city and

took many of the treasures of
the Temple to North Africa,
their base of operations. What
they did not want, they
destroyed (thus, the meaning
of the term vandal).

our most precious treasures
are not made of cloth or
metal or pottery. The real
treasures, the real "Temple,"
is the Jewish people. The loss
of so many of these human
treasures, destroyed in all
manner of catastrophic
Burial Theory
events,
is truly tragic.
RABBI ADIN
We have also some notion of STEINSALTZ
Some are buried and can
what happened to these treas-
never be recovered. Others
Special
ures: When a king died, he
Commentary are still barely visible, but
was usually buried with
they won't be for long. Those
objects of great value, but spe-
that we can, we must retrieve
cial precautions had to be
— wherever they are dis-
made to ensure that the grave would
persed, however difficult it is to dis-
not be looted.
lodge them. Our highest priority
The king's subjects would dig a
must be to find them, cleanse them,
trench near a river to make the river
mend them and return them to their
change its path, and then bury the
place in the Jewish community.
king in the (now-dry) section of the
We could spend our time digging
riverbed.
in the dirt in North Africa for
The trench through which the river
ancient objects of gold and silver,
had been diverted would then be
but our energies are better spent
filled in with earth, and the river was
elsewhere. On the one hand, we
returned to its original course, com-
must mine villages and towns, cov-
pletely covering the secret burial site
ered with dust and shrouded in neg-
under water.
lect, and reclaim as many of the
So, it appears that the Temple
almost-lost treasures as we can. On
treasures are probably buried under
the other, we must ensure that our
some river in North Africa, never to
precious children — our foremost
be seen again. This is, indeed, a loss
treasure — are neither lost nor
— both for historical and sentimen-
pushed aside. They are the key to a
tal reasons.
Jewish future rich with what matters
We must remember, however, that
most. ❑

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