By Nora Amrani
The story of Passover (Pesach) is being retold and relived each year. This is the celebration in which the story of the Exodus, when the Hebrews cried out for freedom from Egypt (Mitzrayim, the Hebrew root of the word is Metzar, which means confinement or distress), and God answered, leading them to their promised land. The Hebrews crossed Yam Suf (the Sea or Lake of Reeds), also known as Bulla Lake, and made their way to Ha-Shem El-Tarif (Mount Sinai) where they received the Ten Commandments. The Egyptians did whatever they could to thwart freedom, yet whatever the Egyptians did to the Hebrews was instead done to the Egyptians (you can call it karma). The Hebrews were victorious and prospered. This commencement of the Jewish religion and service to God, is retold. It is a bittersweet holiday that is capped off by rejoicing and praise for God.
One section of the Exodus story has always intrigued me - that of the destruction of the religions of the many ancient gods and goddesses, to the shift of believing in One god. Not that this was new, it was done briefly during Akhenaten's reign in the Egyptian 18th Dynasty. It didn't work for Akhenaten because he enforced it. Judaism, on the other hand, was developed through an individual's free will. During and after the Exodus when the understanding of God came through a national revelation, it stuck. How was this change significant to the Hebrews and for the evolution of consciousness of those times?
The people of the time related to, and communicated with, what they believed the Source was through idols. Because their consciousness was not as developed as people are today, their ability to see and comprehend things was very limited. They could not see the wide array of colors or objects that we see today. They had to see something in a solid form in order to believe it was real. If they couldn't see it, it didn't exist. Few had the ability to imagine. If they had no words to describe what they saw, it didn't exist for them. They thought gods and goddesses were separate forces outside of themselves, controlling every move they made. If they didn't please these deities, they would have bad luck.
People felt that the Source had these actual physical features as a jackyl, or cow, or falcon, or cat, or crocodile. These animals had a great affect upon their lives. It makes some sense because this was an acknowledgement that all of nature is of the divine (pagan beliefs, animism). Those of us in metaphysical communities know that some of this idea of seeing the gods with many different faces and skins was a spill-over from ancient extraterrestrial contact, those ETs who desired to be seen as gods.
The golden calf primarily represented the goddess cultures, those of the mother, the nurturer, seen in Inanna, Hathor, Sekhmet, Isis, those whose heads were adorned with horns - light, knowledge, wisdom, and also depicted El, a Canaanite god represented as a bull. But, the golden also calf stood for all of the icons/archetypes of the more ancient cultures, those of oppression, those who gave their power to anything BUT the real God.
Who can forget the fear and resistance in giving up these gods and goddesses as told in the Old Testament, or shown in the movie "The Ten Commandments?" It was a real challenge and struggle for many. People were scared to change, and change took a long time. It also took courage. Ideas had to be presented that could be more easily understood by the mentality of the day. Rules were in place to offer new guidelines to a people scattered about, insecure and a little aimless in their return to freedom after slavery. In order that generations of old beliefs would die out prior to returning to the Land of Israel the Hebrews wandered in the desert for forty years. This was a passage of purification, a trial and assurance that the people fully embraced their One God and its laws.
It is interesting to note that after descending from the mountain Moses was depicted as having the energetic, divine horns of light coming out of his crown chakra after his personal encounter with the Divine. His face shone. This love, wisdom and radiance could be achieved by any human being who symbolically goes up the mountain and meets god for themselves, has a personal relationship with the Source - not something that happens to just a god or goddess of old! The Ark of the Covenant also had two sets of horns on its altar. The meaning of these horns of light were later manipulated by some who are ignorant, or are Jew-haters, to ridiculously imply actual physical horns related to evil, Satan, or the Devil.
After the annihilation of the golden calf during the Exodus, we think God became more identified as being a male, BUT (and this may disappoint those of you who feel the female was totally disregarded after this point), we have the "the revelation of the Shechinah," the femaleness, feminine qualities of God (although God doesn't really have a gender). Yosef Ben Shlomo HaKohen of the Root & Branch Association reminds us, in his commetary, "The Revelation of the Shechinah (Divine Presence) Part One," that "HaShem brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great awesome power, and with signs and with wonders." [Devarim/Deuteronomy 26:8]. "With awesome power" -- this alludes to the revelation of the Shechinah." [Passover Haggadah and the Sifri to Deut.26:8] This power is that of a nurturing, loving mother who will do anything to defend her children, as was seen at the parting of the Red Sea. The Shechinah is the presence of God's holiness and is celebrated each Shabbat morning with the phrase, "Blessed are You, HaShem, Who causes Zion to rejoice with her children." We acknowledge that God is not merely male or female, but both, and All/One.
The receiving of the Ten Commandments and erradication of the idols were a way of saying to the Hebrews, "Check it out - these are not the REAL God/Goddess. (Remember your real Source and get back to it.) Here's what happens when you forget who you really are. When you believe in those gods and goddesses you give away your power and reject the power of the One infinite intelligence that created it ALL." The Hebrews (who were called "the strangers" or "outsiders" in Egypt) were then called the Chosen People because THEY chose to leave bondage in Egypt to freedom, to abandon the old beliefs of many gods and goddesses to the one God, to keep the Torah and be a light unto all nations, keeping their promise to God. And in return, God would keep It's promise to the Jewish people. There was the new responsibility given the Jews - to have compassion, "You shall not oppress a stranger," because Jews knew what it was like to be a stranger in a strange land (Egypt), [Exodus 23], and to leave slavery for freedom. Every year this theme is celebrated in the Passover holiday.
Probably the most important things to come out of the Exodus, aside from the Ten Commandments, was the belief in God through faith and trust - without a statue. Knowing that God is all things and One. All became integrated, and this is why the plural word "Elohim" is used as one of God's names, instead of the singular, feminine word "Eloha." God was a power inside as well as outside; no more separation. We then received the words in the Shema, the basis of Jewish belief, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is ONE." The Ten Commandments state: "You shall have no other gods BEFORE ME," meaning that it is forbidden to set up a mediator between God and man.
Consciousness changed forever right then and there. It expanded to new and previously unknown realms. People as a nation witnessed the real power, power that was different, power that was way beyond the abilities of their former deities - in other words, the real magic. The Ten Commandments will be automatic when one lives with higher consciousness. People have an earthly and spiritual responsibility. People now had to be responsible for their own souls instead of thinking that some god or goddess was solely in charge of it. The Ten Commandments (and subsequent laws) are guidelines for taking self-responsibility with respect for, and care of, family and community. The laws were laid out in a way that the people could relate to back then, and they are still quite effective (for those who abide by them), and relevent today. Christians may believe that Jesus was the only one who gave heart to the world, but if they understood the message of the Ten Commandments, they'd see it is love and light.
Since the laws were given, Judaism continues to flourish (in spite of numerous genocidal attempts against the Jews). There are three main branches of Judaism: Orthodox (with an Ultra-Orthodox sect), Conservative, and Reform (and there are off-shoots of these, as well). Judaism, even with its laws, is open to personal interpretation of these laws. The Jewish people remember their roots, and celebrate their continuous consistency as a religion.
JUDAISM VERSUS CHRISTIANITY
What changed from this belief in One God and created rifts between religions after the development of Christianity, and why don't Jews believe in Jesus? We already mentioned national revelation (as opposed to that of only one person) as being one of the answers to this question. Another response is that the Biblical verses "referring" to Jesus are mistranslations, and there are many contradictions in the New Testament. Jews don't feel there was a need to improve upon what was already given by God in the Old Testament. The Ten Commandments were written by the finger of God through Moses.
Christianity contradicts Jewish theology. Christianity became a fall-back to idol worship (praying to Jesus, Mary, statues, etc.), and a fragmentation of the One God. Christianity has a triadic God: The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19). Christianity also believes that God came down into one human form in the man Jesus. It is said that Jesus said he was the son of God, however, every Jew says the very same thing about himself, because Jewish people all feel they are children of God. To make more of this (as if Jesus was an exception, rather than the rule) is a manipulation of facts.
Contrast Christian belief to Judaism: Maimonides devotes most of the "Guide for the Perplexed" to the fundamental idea that God is incorporeal, meaning that God assumes no physical form. God is eternal, above time. It is infinite, beyond space, cannot be born, and cannot die. Saying that God assumes human form makes God small, diminishing both Its unity and divinity. As the Torah says: "God is not a mortal" (Numbers 23:19).
In Christianity, one man died for everyone's sins. The focus is on sin, guilt, punishment for being human and thinking one could never equal Jesus Christ, because he was special, the only Son of God. Yet, Chrisians feel that believing in this same man will save them (which means Jesus is acting as a mediator, and it becomes idol worship for the person praying) - therefore little or no real need for self-responsibility or personal relationship with the One God. In many churches there is usually a mediator between people and God; confessions, and so forth, that require someone else to come between us and God, or to speak and interpret for people, and finally to judge and penalize. In Judaism, the rabbi is not a mediator; he is a learned individual, a teacher and leader.
Many Christians are so confused they don't know if Jesus is God, or the Son of God, or what he is supposed to be. But, if one believes in Jesus, then wouldn't it make sense that one should act like Jesus acted, and BE the way? How can a Christian claim to follow the Ten Commandments when they specifically state in them that God is One (not 3), and that there "shall be no other gods before me?" Jesus never taught Christianity. Jesus was a Jew, and while he was alive, he lived life as a Jew. And we're not sure how educated he was in Jewish law, but he did teach the Torah. Christianity was created long after Jesus died. Jesus never prayed to a statue, as his so-called believers/followers do today. Remember? He DESTROYED the false idols. (By the way, the story of Jesus is a direct take-off of the story of Krishna.) Jews do not pray to a person, or statues, as do Christians. Jews may pray to the GOD of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joseph, Sarah, Miriam, Rebecca, Devorah, Esther, etc., but never to those people. Jews will never intentionally encourage or force conversion to Judaism upon another, as conversion must be completely voluntary and serious, not a frivolous or manipulated decision.
Lastly, Jesus is not considered to be a Messiah because, as history shows us, he did not fulfill the prophecy.
The Hebrew Bible says that the Messiah will:
Judaism says that the Messiah will be born of human parents, with normal physical attributes just like other people. He will not be a demi-god, and will not possess supernatural qualities. In fact, an individual is alive in every generation with the capacity to step into the role of the Messiah. (see Maimonides - Laws of Kings 11:3).
What surprises me is that Christianity (as Islam) grew out of Judaism, and yet 99% of the time fails to recognize and respect this. Muslims even try to debunk their connection with Judaism. But wall paintings, hieroglyphics, archaeological and geological evidence all prove the history of the Jews across the Middle East and into Greece. Christians rarely learn to read Hebrew and the Old Testament in the language it was written so they understand their own roots. If they would, they could (as some Christian groups have) come to see their religion from a new perspective, i.e., without the hype or mistranslations, and learn what both religions share in common. Create more understanding with less myth, fear, and prejudice. *(I recommend reading The Gnostic Gospels and The Gospel of Mary Magdalene for a more accurate account of spiritual Christianity.)
In our last one hundred years or so we have all undergone a new evolution in consciousness. We are at another turning point wherein we are all much more open to new realms, to a greater understanding of who we are, what God is (or isn't), to exploring our own spirituality much deeper, and for some in new ways. We are more open to exploring life in our universe apart from planet Earth, in other dimensions, and learning about our intergalactic heritage. We are open to more than the ancients ever were, and with that will come much more change. Most of us know and accept that we do create our own reality, and even old predictions have been altered, and can be altered depending upon our desires to manifest a thing one way or the other. We are seeing a return to the idea of Oneness and personal connection with the Source from within ourselves. The world is filled with people who feel nothing from the Old or New Testament needs to be changed, to those who no longer feel the old books are quite enough.
Personally, I'm more partial to Judaism, but I don't believe in any one organized religion other than my connection with Source Consciousness. I do enjoy learning about all religions, as some of them contain bits of the truth and contain good values. Unfortunately, religion has been the downfall of most of civilization throughout history - so misued and misunderstood, and manipulated. I feel the sacred feminine and mother (giver of life) needs to be respected and reincorporated in order for there to be a balance in our civilization. For too long as she been badmouthed, abused, and banned. Women are still not allowed to be priests in most religions. I see people are finding their own mixture and niche in spirituality and religion, doing what they came here to study or be - and I feel it's all perfect.
Whatever you personally celebrate, wishing you a happy holiday.
Addendum - December 28, 2006:
The main road from Eilat into Sinai goes right past Saint Catherine (Gebel Musa), where the monastery is built in honor of the belief that it was Mount Sinai. I checked it out both ways (coming and going) and looked at it from afar, too. I grew up with the general consensus being that St. Catherine is on Moses' Mount. Sinai. When I was there looking at that mountain, I felt nothing related to the Exodus. I remember thinking, "but this is where the ten commandments are supposed to have been received," and really gave it my best shot at believing this was the real place. But nothing I felt made me feel it was. It MIGHT be where Moses eventually died, but I'm still feeling that one out. I don't believe he died at El-Tarif. I rely very strongly upon my intuition, instinct, and then logic. My intuition never steers me in a wrong direction. I knew, in my heart, that I would know the real mountain. When I saw pictures of El-Tarif, BINGO. It was exactly what I had "remembered" and the energy was very powerful. I felt electricity. When I saw the film this past year (and in fact, I just received the dvd) "Decoding the Exodus" on the History Channel, I was very impressed with their research - made me convinced of it. The Egyptians know it, too, and that's why there's so much secrecy about the place, and limited access to it. I recommend anyone interested in the Exodus to watch this film. The bible, geology, and archaeology all agree to prove the Exodus did happen, and the film brilliantly and beautifully shows it to you. I also believe that this is in the same region as an ancient Anunnaki landing port.
Maybe some of you have done what many of us have done: gone over the Exodus and tried to determine which was the route the Hebrews took through the Sinai into Israel. The southern route, while it appears it could be logical, doesn't completely fit the path - the Sea of Reeds, the descriptions, etc. The route described in the film, "Decoding the Exodus", is what I and a couple of close friends had discussed ten years ago and felt it made more sense, had the landmarks in other words. So, that's how I came to my own conclusions about what is the real Mount Sinai.
Here is a site full of information about Mount Sinai and Bible Origins written by Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed. He has included information about me and this article on this page of his site. **See an excerpt below.
*THE GNOSTIC GOSPELS
THE GOSPEL OF MARY MAGDALENE
© Copyright 2001, Nora Amrani, updated information 2006.
** By Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.
"26 August & 28 December 2006 Updates:
Simcha Jacobovici's documentary The Exodus Decoded, which aired on TV in 2006 has proposed Mount Sinai is Hashem el Tarif (Arabic: Jebel Seira or Jabal ash-Sha'ira/esh-Sha'ira) about 140 kilometers (roughly 84 miles) south of Ain Qusayma (Quseima). He suggests Israel's daily rate of travel to be roughly 15 kilometers (9 miles). Deuteronomy 1:2 states that Mount Horeb (Mount Sinai?) is eleven days journey via the "way to Seir" to Kadesh. Eleven days x 15 kms. = 165 kms or 99 miles.
My tags added to the below map note the general locations of sites associated with Kadesh-Barnea such as Ain el-Qadeis and Ain el-Qudeirat near Ain el-Qusaima. A camel caravan can average 15-23 miles a day, so via this mode of transport Kadesh would be reached from Hashem el Tarif (Jabal ash-Sha'ira) in 4 or 5 days.
"Of interest is that Jacobovici (who is Jewish) is NOT the "first" to identify Gebel Hashem el Tarif (Ha-Shem El-Tarif) with Mount Sinai (Mount Horeb), that honor apparently (?) goes to Estelle Nora Harwit Amrani (who is also Jewish) in her on-line article dated April 2001" titled From the Golden Calf to Ten Commandments and Beyond (please click here for her article).
"For my part, I find myself "wondering" if Amrani and Jacobovici in seeking a location for Mount Sinai (Horeb) settled upon Hashem el Tarif because of its name? Both individuals are Jewish, and would be aware that the Jewish custom is not to utter God's holy name. Out of Jewish respect and tradition God is frequently alluded to by Jews as Ha-Shem (ha= "the", shem= "name", thus: "The Name"). Is it possible that Amrani and Jacobovici with a modern "Israeli produced" map before them saw Hashem el Tarif, which on non-Israeli maps is rendered after the Arabic rendering Gebal esh-Sha'ira, and accordingly concluded: "Aha! God's name, "Ha-Shem," is associated with a mountain of the Sinai peninusula, _ergo_ this is probably Mount Sinai?
"Jacobovici understands that the Hyksos Expulsion which he dates ca. 1500 B.C. (other scholars prefer 1560-1530 B.C.for the Hyksos Expulsion), is recalling from an Egyptian point of view Israel's Exodus in the Bible. Please click here for my article on the Hyksos Expulsion being possibly Israel's Exodus. Of interest here regarding Jacobivici's 1500 B.C. Exodus date is that the Roman Catholic Bible indicates an Exodus circa 1512 B.C. _contra_ the Protestant Bible's 1446 B.C. Exodus date."