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Notes on Revelation

Twinkling of an Eye/Book of Life

The Jews have a storage area in their synagogues called a genizah where unusable books/manuscripts and ritual objects are kept (these areas were also used to house historical documents and questionable books). Anything containing the name of God cannot be destroyed so they are housed in these special areas until they can be properly buried. Needless to say, many discoveries have been made while looking through the genizah of an older synagogue.

One such treasure trove has been the Cairo Genizah which was found in the attic of the Ezra Synagogue. A version of the Amidah/"Eighteen Benedictions," which is the main element of daily services, was found there. The Amidah ("standing") is also known as "The Prayer" par excellence and is recited many times during the day.

The Amidah is broken up into eighteen benedictions with the 12th being the one we are concerned with in this article. The Birkath-ha-Minim is the "Benediction Concerning Heretics" although in many sources it is referred to as the "curse on the Christians." In the past there was some leeway accorded in the wording of these benedictions and the one found in the Cairo Genizah is worth noting:

"May apostates have no hope and may the kingdom of impertinence be uprooted in our day. May the Nozrim and Minim [i.e., the Christians] disappear in the twinkling of an eye. May they be removed from the book of the living and not be inscribed among the just. Bless you, Lord, you who casts down the proud." ("Eyewitness to Jesus," Carsten Peter Thiede and Matthew D'Ancona)

This, of course, ties in with the New Testament:

1 Corinthians 15:51,52 Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Revelation 20:12,15 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works...And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (For more on the Book of Life)

This benediction was added around the time of the destruction of the Second Temple in response to perceived threats of the Sadducees, Boethusians, Essenes, and the early Christians who the rabbis felt were leading the community of the Jews astray.

For more info on "Eighteen Benedictions":

Encyclopaedia Judaica
The Soncino Talmud
The Complete Artscroll Siddur


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