10 Jewish Messiah Moments

Messiah comes from the Hebrew word for "anointed." (It's pronounced ma-shee-ach in that ancient tongue.) In biblical times, it was a fairly workaday concept, referring to anyone chosen by God. David became mashiach (God's anointed king) over Israel after the prophet Samuel poured oil on David's head (depicted above).

In those days there was only a fuzzy picture of the afterlife and no concept of aftertimes. But then the Hebrew prophets began speaking of a future that would be better than the rather shabby present the Israelites were living. Isaiah prophesied that the future rule of Israel would be based on justice. Later, Ezekiel had his vision of the valley of dry bones, a portent that the Jews, exiled to Babylonia, would experience a national rebirth in the land of Israel.

By the 1st century, Roman occupation led to a flourishing belief in the messiah among the Jews of Israel. He would be a descendent of King David, defeat Israel's persecutors "“ that would be Rome -- and restore Jewish independence in the land. A savior.

For Christians, the issue was settled between Christmas and Easter. But for Jews, the question remained open and, for the next 2,000 years, particularly in periods of harsh persecution, slaughter or expulsion, Jews experienced repeated messiah moments. At best, they didn't end well. Here are 10:

1st century

Messiahs flourish in the land of Israel before the first Jewish revolt against Rome breaks out in the year 70. Jesus announces, "The Kingdom of God is at hand." The Romans execute him.

132

Rabbi Akiva, one of the most revered sages in Jewish history, declares Shimon bar Kokhba, charismatic military leader of the third Jewish revolt against Rome, to be the messiah. Three years later, bar Kokhba is killed as the Romans defeat the Judean forces. The Romans execute Rabbi Akiva by flaying him alive.

448

moses.jpg
Moses appears in Crete and announces he will part the Mediterranean Sea. His followers jump in the water, where many drown.

700s

False messiahs appear in Persia and Syria. In Persia, Abu Isa is succeeded by his disciple Yudghan, who is succeeded by his disciple Mushka. Otherwise, enjoy little success. Meanwhile, in Syria, Serenus promises to expel the Muslim rulers of Israel and garners followers from as far as Spain. When captured by the caliph, Serenus tells him he was just kidding. The caliph, who enjoyed a good laugh as much as anyone, turns Serenus over to the Jews "“ whose religious practices he derided "“ for punishment.

1100s

Preeminent scholar Maimonides (also known as Rambam) includes the belief in the messiah in his 13 articles of faith, still upheld by traditional Jews. A rationalist, he also condemns messianic speculation as futile and irrational.

1100s

At least nine messianic movements shake Jewish communities from Spain to Babylonia. In Kurdistan, David Alroy is proclaimed the messiah and leads a revolt. He is killed, probably by his father-in-law.

1532

David Reuveni presents himself as the emissary and brother of the ruler of a Jewish kingdom in Arabia. With his disciple Shlomo Molcho "“ leader of a movement that believes Reuveni is the messiah "“ Reuveni attempts to convince the Holy Roman emperor to liberate Israel from the Turks. Both men eventually are imprisoned, tried by the Inquisition, and executed.

1654

In Salonika, Shabtai Tzvi declares his messiahship in a "marriage with the sacred law." Jews pack their bags for Israel. In 1666, under threat of death from the Turkish sultan, Shabtai Tzvi embraces Islam.

1756

Jacob Frank declares himself the successor of Shabtai Tzvi and conducts orgies to bring redemption through impurity. Many of his followers convert to Catholicism and become members of the Polish nobility.

1993

rebbe.jpg
Believing their ailing leader will shortly reveal himself as the messiah, members of the Chabad-Lubavitch chasidic movement scour Israel for a white donkey that the 90-year-old Brooklynite can ride to announce his arrival. The Lubavitcher rebbe dies in New York on June 12, 1994, without revealing anything.

Some of the rebbe's followers still say he was the messiah. No word if they ever found the donkey.

David Holzel is a writer living outside Washington, D.C. He serves as editor of The Jewish Angle.

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These Sparrows Have Been Singing the Same Songs for 1500 Years
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Swamp sparrows are creatures of habit—so much so that they’ve been chirping out the same few tunes for more than 1500 years, Science magazine reports.

These findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, resulted from an analysis of the songs of 615 adult male swamp sparrows found in six different areas of the northeastern U.S. Researchers learned that young swamp sparrows pick up these songs from the adults around them and are able to mimic the notes with astounding accuracy.

Here’s what one of their songs sounds like:

“We were able to show that swamp sparrows very rarely make mistakes when they learn their songs, and they don't just learn songs at random; they pick up commoner songs rather than rarer songs,” Robert Lachlan, a biologist at London’s Queen Mary University and the study’s lead author, tells National Geographic.

Put differently, the birds don’t mimic every song their elders crank out. Instead, they memorize the ones they hear most often, and scientists say this form of “conformist bias” was previously thought to be a uniquely human behavior.

Using acoustic analysis software, researchers broke down each individual note of the sparrows’ songs—160 different syllables in total—and discovered that only 2 percent of sparrows deviated from the norm. They then used a statistical method to determine how the songs would have evolved over time. With recordings from 2009 and the 1970s, they were able to estimate that the oldest swamp sparrow songs date back 1537 years on average.

The swamp sparrow’s dedication to accuracy sets the species apart from other songbirds, according to researchers. “Among songbirds, it is clear that some species of birds learn precisely, such as swamp sparrows, while others rarely learn all parts of a demonstrator’s song precisely,” they write.

According to the Audubon Guide to North American Birds, swamp sparrows are similar to other sparrows, like the Lincoln’s sparrow, song sparrow, and chipping sparrow. They’re frequently found in marshes throughout the Northeast and Midwest, as well as much of Canada. They’re known for their piercing call notes and may respond to birders who make loud squeaking sounds in their habitat.

[h/t Science magazine]

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18 Smart Products To Help You Kick Off Summer
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Whether you’re trying to spiff up your backyard barbeque or cultivate your green thumb, these summertime gadgets will help you celebrate the season from solstice to the dog days.

1. ROSÉ WINE GLASSES; $60

Rosé Wine Glass
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Wine not? When the temperature rises and beer isn’t your thing, reach for the rosé. Riedel’s machine-blown SST (see, smell, taste) wine glasses will give the sparkly stuff ample room to breathe, making every refreshing sip worthwhile.

Find It: Amazon

2. NERF N-STRIKE ELITE SURGEFIRE; $25

Nerf SurgeFire
Hasbro

Why It’s Cool: The N-Strike Elite SurgeFire (say that five-times-fast) sports a pump-action rotating drum for maximum foam-based firepower and holds up to 15 Nerf darts in its arsenal.

Find It: Hasbro Toy Shop

3. BUSHEL & BERRY PLANTS; $34

plant
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: You don’t need to have a green thumb to create a brag-worthy garden this summer. Besides producing snackable mid-season berries, these open-growing bushes can be planted immediately for easy set-up to make you look like a botanical pro.

Find It: Amazon

4. INFLATABLE DONUT; $17

Doughnut float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When the only dunking you’re doing is taking a dip in the pool, a 48-inch inflatable donut is the perfect way to stay afloat.

Find It: Amazon

5. STAR SPANGLED SPATULA; $21

American flag spatula
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: O say can you see by your grill’s charcoal light / Meats so proudly we cooked ... with a star spangled spatula. Depending on the specific model, these all-American grilling tools (designed in New Jersey and made in Chicago) are made of a combination of walnut and stainless steel or nylon. As an added bonus: 5 percent of the proceeds go to the Penn Abramson Cancer Center.

Find It: Amazon

6. MLB HOT DOG BRANDERS; $8 AND UP

MLB San Diego Padres Hot Dog BBQ Brander
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Take your hot dogs, sausages, brats, and more out to the ballgame without ever leaving your grill. These branders from Pangea Brands are dishwasher-safe and made of ceramic-coated cast iron.

Find It: Amazon

7. UNA GRILL; $139

grill
MoMA Shop

Why It’s Cool: This portable charcoal-heated grill is as efficient as it is stylish. The compact size lets you cook at the park, after hitting up MoMA, or anywhere in between.

Find It: MoMa Shop

8. HAMBURGER GRILLING BASKET; $21


Why It’s Cool: Made of steel and finished with a non-stick coating, this grilling tool flips four burgers at once and maintains perfect burger proportions to guarantee nobody stays hungry for long.

Find It: Amazon

9. COPPER FIRE PIT; $121

metal fire pit
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: The grill isn’t the only place for a roaring fire this summer. This 100 percent solid copper fire pit makes for the perfect gathering spot at your next BBQ, or just to warm up after a cool summer evening.

Find It: Amazon

10. BENDY STRAW POOL NOODLE FLOAT; $10

Bendy Straw Inflatable Pool Float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Inflatable pool floats shouldn’t be boring, and this bendy straw float definitely does not suck. This unique spin on traditional pool noodles is sure to make for some cheesy jokes, but at least you’ll be comfortable floating in the pool or at the beach.

Find It: Amazon

11. GRIDDLER DELUXE; $111

Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: If you’re looking for some serious panini power, this griddler offers up a versatile lineup of six cooking options in one. And with dual-zone functions you can sling burgers while searing filets and sautéeing vegetables all at the same time.

Find It: Amazon

12. VINTAGE SNOW CONE MAKER; $30

Vintage Snow Cone Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: With its old-timey design, dual cone shelf, and endless flavor options, this snow cone maker is guaranteed create a cool treat.

Find It: Amazon

13. DACHSHUND CORN ON THE COB HOLDERS; $7

Dog Corn Holders
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: While meat-lovers will inevitably scarf down a lot of hot dogs this summer, vegetarians who happen to love another kind of dog will be smitten with these stainless steel, Dachshund-shaped corn on the cob prongs. They’re a fun spin on a summer grilling favorite.

Find It: Amazon

14. ICE CREAM SANDWICH MAKER; $16

Ice Cream Sandwich Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Four sandwiches are better than one, especially when they're of the ice cream variety. Make four ice cream sandwiches at once with this homemade spin on a classic cold treat.

Find It: Amazon

15. UE WONDERBOOM; $68

Bluetooth speaker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Besides delicious food and great company, some memorable tunes are required for the quintessential barbeque. This portable bluetooth speaker offers up some booming sound in a small package, and with a battery power of 10 hours on a single charge you can keep the party going all night.

Find It: Amazon

16. ROLLORS GAME; $38

Rollors Backyard Game
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When you’re sick of bocce, hate horseshoes, and you’re over cornhole, you might want to take up “rollors,” a family-friendly game that combines your favorite traditional backyard festivities into one game for people of all ages.

Find It: Amazon

17. HAMMOCK; $174

hammock
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Rest easy knowing that this 100 percent hand-woven and hand-dyed cotton hammock contributes to artisan job-creation in Thailand.

Find It: Amazon

18. VSSL SURVIVAL ESSENTIALS; $59

Emergency Survival Tent Outdoors
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Compact, convenient, and durable, the VSSL Shelter can come in handy when things don’t go quite as planned. The device—which features a lightweight emergency shelter all within the handle of a compact, weather-resistant aluminum LED flashlight—is designed to keep you safe under the worst conditions.

Find It: Amazon

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