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Traces of Ancient Holidays in the BoM


volgadon

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A frequent criticism of the Book of Mormon is that it doesn't contain any mention of Jewish holidays. Granted, there is a conspicious lack of references to the way holidays were celebrated after the return from exile (and later traditions associated with them), but that is hardly surprising given when Lehi and co. left Jerusalem.

There are however traces of a biblical holiday in the book of Mosiah, and I'm not talking about the Feast of Tabernacles.

The very last portion of m. Taanit in the Mishnah is a quote by Rabbi Shimeon ben Gamaliel, who was the son of the same Gamaliel mentioned in Acts, and the father of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi (the Patriarch), the great codifier of rabbinic Judaism and compiler of the Mishnah.

Israel never had days as good as the fifteenth of Ab and the Day of Atonements, for on those days the sons of Jerusalem go forth in borrowed white, so as not to embarrass those who had none... And the daughters of Jerusalem go out and camp in the orchards (vinyards). And thus they say: lift up your eyes, young man, and see what you pick; don't consider my beauty, but consider [starting] a family.

R. Shimeon related it to Canticles 3:11.

So here are two holidays in which unmarried girls would throw parties outdoors and when most courtships began.

Before someone points out the obvious, that the Mishnah postdates the Old Testament, the 15th of Ab can be traced back to the Bible.

In the Palestinian Talmud, m. Taanit 36a (and Babylonian t. Taanit 30b and Baba Bathra 121a) the sages discuss r. Shimeon's quote and what the 1th of Ab commemorated. Included in the list is that this was the day in which the Benjamites took wives, after nearly being exterminated in a bloody civil war.

In Judges 21 the confederation of tribes realises that Benjamin is nearly destroyed and that in order for them to survive, they need wives, but the problem is that the other tribes had taken a vow not to give any of their daughters in marriage to Benjamin. Slaying the men of Jabesh-Gilead and taking their virgins does not provide enough wives, so they tell Benjamin that at a certain time of the year, a holiday, to go and capture the girls of Shiloh who are having parties in the vinyards. Verse 19 says that on that day is a feast of the Lord.

Instead of Mosiah 20 being a plagiarism of Judges 21, a closer look at all the sources reveals it to be another example of the cultural links between the Book of Mormon and ancient Israel.

Nothing will satisfy the anti-Mormons, but at least they can't honestly claim that there is no mention in the Book of Mormon of Jewish holidays.

Here is how I personally would reconstruct the events of Mosiah 20:1-5.

The wicked priests venture out from their hiding place in the wilderness to steal food from the orchards and fields of Shemlon. They happen to do so during a holiday when the daughters of the Lamanites are making merry in the orchards. Knowing the scriptures superbly, and undoubtedly unwilling to view themselves as wicked, they rather cast themselves in the role of Benjamin and consider this a fortuitous ocassion, for why should they perish? Here, before their very eyes, is the same solution to the same problem that faced Benjamin.

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A Jewish comment on 1 Nefi 2 12-15

The sacrifice in the altar and Lehi dwelling in a tent suggests that he could have been celebrating the feast of tabernacles. This feast is also associated with bearing fruit - see Lv. 23:34-40. The main theme of this feast is that we give up our comfort and rely upon G-d for our sustenance. This matches the theme of the Hebrew in this chapter.

It is also important to notice that this feast happens in a period of time when it's fall in Jerusalem and is about the time when it starts to rain heavily.

Also consider the fact that this was a feast in which there were pilgrims coming to Jerusalem. Nobody would normally flee Jerusalem at this time. By leaving Jerusalem at this time Lehi was making a very bold statement that the Shehinah-Presence of G-d was no longer dwelling in the holy city.

This shows the boldness of Lehi: Fleeing Jerusalem right before the great feast and taking his odds in a journey during the pouring of heavy rains. This explains why those who had not been touched by the Spirit of G-d would have thought him to be out of his mind

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Hmm, not really, as tabernacles are quite distinct from tents. OTOH, it probably was during the winter season, as that would explain the rivers.

The rains usually aren't very heavy nor are they frequent in September/October.

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1-I had no idea there was a holy day to commemorate the kidnapping and forced marriage of the girls of Shiloh. I'm not clear on the date of the holy day. Was it the 1st or the 15th of Ab? Where can I find the list of things commemorated on that date? Sounds interesting.

2-Not sure how these wicked men could have seen themselves as justified. They were forbidden to practice polygamy. The text says they had wives and children at home. If they knew their scriptures so well they would have known that. Adultery was also forbidden and there were laws governing rape.

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1-I had no idea there was a holy day to commemorate the kidnapping and forced marriage of the girls of Shiloh. I'm not clear on the date of the holy day. Was it the 1st or the 15th of Ab? Where can I find the list of things commemorated on that date? Sounds interesting.

Except that it was not seen in a negative light, but as a tribe of Israel being saved from extinction. The holiday was the 15th of Ab. That falls in the summertime, around the grape harvest and wine-making, which is what the original festival was probably centered around. The talmud references I gave list the events. If you can't find them online, I'll post the list.

2-Not sure how these wicked men could have seen themselves as justified. They were forbidden to practice polygamy. The text says they had wives and children at home. If they knew their scriptures so well they would have known that. Adultery was also forbidden and there were laws governing rape.

Rarely are the wicked willing to see themselves as being in the wrong. Mosiah 12:25-37 should explain a little more about these priests. They knew the law but wilfully perverted it.

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A frequent criticism of the Book of Mormon is that it doesn't contain any mention of Jewish holidays. Granted, there is a conspicious lack of references to the way holidays were celebrated after the return from exile (and later traditions associated with them), but that is hardly surprising given when Lehi and co. left Jerusalem.

There are however traces of a biblical holiday in the book of Mosiah, and I'm not talking about the Feast of Tabernacles.

The very last portion of m. Taanit in the Mishnah is a quote by Rabbi Shimeon ben Gamaliel, who was the son of the same Gamaliel mentioned in Acts, and the father of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi (the Patriarch), the great codifier of rabbinic Judaism and compiler of the Mishnah.

R. Shimeon related it to Canticles 3:11.

So here are two holidays in which unmarried girls would throw parties outdoors and when most courtships began.

Before someone points out the obvious, that the Mishnah postdates the Old Testament, the 15th of Ab can be traced back to the Bible.

In the Palestinian Talmud, m. Taanit 36a (and Babylonian t. Taanit 30b and Baba Bathra 121a) the sages discuss r. Shimeon's quote and what the 1th of Ab commemorated. Included in the list is that this was the day in which the Benjamites took wives, after nearly being exterminated in a bloody civil war.

In Judges 21 the confederation of tribes realises that Benjamin is nearly destroyed and that in order for them to survive, they need wives, but the problem is that the other tribes had taken a vow not to give any of their daughters in marriage to Benjamin. Slaying the men of Jabesh-Gilead and taking their virgins does not provide enough wives, so they tell Benjamin that at a certain time of the year, a holiday, to go and capture the girls of Shiloh who are having parties in the vinyards. Verse 19 says that on that day is a feast of the Lord.

Instead of Mosiah 20 being a plagiarism of Judges 21, a closer look at all the sources reveals it to be another example of the cultural links between the Book of Mormon and ancient Israel.

Nothing will satisfy the anti-Mormons, but at least they can't honestly claim that there is no mention in the Book of Mormon of Jewish holidays.

Here is how I personally would reconstruct the events of Mosiah 20:1-5.

The wicked priests venture out from their hiding place in the wilderness to steal food from the orchards and fields of Shemlon. They happen to do so during a holiday when the daughters of the Lamanites are making merry in the orchards. Knowing the scriptures superbly, and undoubtedly unwilling to view themselves as wicked, they rather cast themselves in the role of Benjamin and consider this a fortuitous ocassion, for why should they perish? Here, before their very eyes, is the same solution to the same problem that faced Benjamin.

I like it. You are not along in your assesment.

Dancing Maidens and the Fifteenth of Av

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Pedro, thanks for pointing that article out, I've never come across it before.

When I was growing up was when the holiday was resurrected in Israel, so it got discussed a lot on all the media, in fact, not too far from my home is where they have a music festival on that day.

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I've had a closer look at the article, there is a glaring inaccuracy- Lag Baomer has never had any matrimonial significance. In fact, it wasn't until the 16th century that it began to be celberated as a joyous occasion at all.

I'm also not sure how willing the daughters of the Lamanites were, I get the impression of stockholm syndrome, but that is pure speculation on my part.

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volgadon,

Not to personally insult you or anything but to critique your OP --

1. You essentially poofed a holiday into the Book of Mormon by finding a roving gang of hoodlums in Mosiah who happened upon a group of girls ('cause girls only get together during _holidays_ ?) and asserting that they were therefore celebrating some vague barbaric steal-a-girl-day and call it a Jewish Holiday? Nothing indicated that the merriment of the ladies had anything to do with a holiday. Nothing indicated that these wicked priests identified themselves with the depleted tribe of Benjamin. The only thing at work there was a base instinct to mix males + females --> there's no need to impose a holiday upon them, when secular kidnapping, rape of and forcing the victims into servitude to barbaric forces will suffice.

2. I personally find the supposed holiday from Judges of the civil-war-ravaged tribe of Benjamin offensive -- it's basically an excuse to treat women as nothing more than objects/containers that have no say in the decision other than possibly at macahuitl-point. So much for "free agency".

There's probably a lot more reasons to dismiss the ideas in the OP as pure speculation, using ad hoc logic, driven by a need to find those critical links to prove the Book of Mormon is about real people. Call it a mulligan and don't give up.

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Regardless of whether it offends you or not, there was a holiday in ancient Israel which commemorated the story in Judges 21. I would like to see you critique my post with something more substantial than offended present-day sensibilities.

As for the wicked priests seeing themselves as Benjamin, I stated right up front that it is speculation on my part. They might not have seen themselves as Benjamin yet it still wouldn't affect my point.

Please provide some sort of evidence that a large number of girls gathering together in the outdoors for merriment was done on occasions other than holidays in what was a rural society.

I never said that the priests thought to themselves, its the holiday, lets celebrate by kidnapping girls, but that the reason the girls were where they were in the first place is because of some holiday.

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I'm also not sure how willing the daughters of the Lamanites were, I get the impression of stockholm syndrome, but that is pure speculation on my part.

Compare this to the 1954 movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. All six girls answered "Mine!" when their fathers asked whose baby it was they heard crying. (Stupid premise, as they had only been kidnapped four months at most earlier.)

Just a movie. Fiction, to be sure. But there must have been some truth to it, or it would never have been believable enough to make a buck, not to mention many of them.

In the case of the Lamanite maidens, we could assume that they had all had children by the time they were discovered, and that there is a powerful bond between a woman and the father of her offspring, if he sticks around and helps raise their child.

Lehi

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Volgadon, google turned up nothing for me. If you'd be so kind as to post a link or the list that would be awesome. Thanks.

I really don't see how we can extrapolate a holiday/holy day from the text.

1 Now there was a place in Shemlon where the daughters of the Lamanites did gather themselves together to sing, and to dance, and to make themselves merry.

2 And it came to pass that there was one day a small number of them gathered together to sing and to dance.

Sounds like a regular occurance and like this happened on any ol' day.

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Just a thought...

It is pretty obvious that these people were not living by the same laws as the people in the OT.

These men were adulterers. This was punishable by death in the OT. I guess nobody really cared much about the first wives and children....or the fact that these girls were being abused.

If they were practicing an OT holy day why weren't they also practicing the punishments in the OT?

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The Lamanites are reported as such in Mosiah 10:

11 Now, the Lamanites knew nothing concerning the Lord, nor the strength of the Lord, therefore they depended upon their own strength. Yet they were a strong people, as to the astrength of men.

12 They were a wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, believing in the tradition of their fathers, which is this

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Just a thought...

It is pretty obvious that these people were not living by the same laws as the people in the OT.

These men were adulterers. This was punishable by death in the OT. I guess nobody really cared much about the first wives and children....or the fact that these girls were being abused.

If they were practicing an OT holy day why weren't they also practicing the punishments in the OT?

I wonder if an agnostic has ever celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas and/or Easter.

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Pedro, thanks for pointing that article out, I've never come across it before.

When I was growing up was when the holiday was resurrected in Israel, so it got discussed a lot on all the media, in fact, not too far from my home is where they have a music festival on that day.

J-e-a-l-o-u-s

That is so cool.

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