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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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10 Things We Know About The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2
Hulu
Hulu

Though Hulu has been producing original content for more than five years now, 2017 turned out to be a banner year for the streaming network with the debut of The Handmaid’s Tale on April 26, 2017. The dystopian drama, based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book, imagines a future in which a theocratic regime known as Gilead has taken over the United States and enslaved fertile women so that the group’s most powerful couples can procreate.

If it all sounds rather bleak, that’s because it is—but it’s also one of the most impressive new series to arrive in years (as evidenced by the slew of awards it has won, including eight Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards). Fortunately, fans left wanting more don’t have that much longer to wait, as season two will premiere on Hulu in April. In the meantime, here’s everything we know about The Handmaid’s Tale’s second season.

1. IT WILL PREMIERE WITH TWO EPISODES.

When The Handmaid’s Tale returns on April 25, 2018, Hulu will release the first two of its 13 new episodes on premiere night, then drop another new episode every Wednesday.

2. MARGARET ATWOOD WILL CONTINUE TO HELP SHAPE THE NARRATIVE.

Fans of Atwood’s novel who didn’t like that season one went beyond the original source material are in for some more disappointment in season two, as the narrative will again go beyond the scope of what Atwood covered. But creator/showrunner Bruce Miller doesn’t necessarily agree with the criticism they received in season one.

“People talk about how we're beyond the book, but we're not really," Miller told Newsweek. "The book starts, then jumps 200 years with an academic discussion at the end of it, about what's happened in those intervening 200 years. We're not going beyond the novel. We're just covering territory [Atwood] covered quickly, a bit more slowly.”

Even more importantly, Miller's got Atwood on his side. The author serves as a consulting producer on the show, and the title isn’t an honorary one. For Miller, Atwood’s input is essential to shaping the show, particularly as it veers off into new territories. And they were already thinking about season two while shooting season one. “Margaret and I had started to talk about the shape of season two halfway through the first [season],” he told Entertainment Weekly.

In fact, Miller said that when he first began working on the show, he sketched out a full 10 seasons worth of storylines. “That’s what you have to do when you’re taking on a project like this,” he said.

3. MOTHERHOOD WILL BE A CENTRAL THEME.

As with season one, motherhood is a key theme in the series. And June/Offred’s pregnancy will be one of the main plotlines. “So much of [Season 2] is about motherhood,” Elisabeth Moss said during the Television Critics Association press tour. “Bruce and I always talked about the impending birth of this child that’s growing inside her as a bit of a ticking time bomb, and the complications of that are really wonderful to explore. It’s a wonderful thing to have a baby, but she’s having it potentially in this world that she may not want to bring it into. And then, you know, if she does have the baby, the baby gets taken away from her and she can’t be its mother. So, obviously, it’s very complicated and makes for good drama. But, it’s a very big part of this season, and it gets bigger and bigger as the show goes on.”

4. THE RESISTANCE IS COMING.

Just because June is pregnant, don’t expect her to sit on the sidelines as the resistance to Gilead continues. “There is more than one way to resist," Moss said. “There is resistance within [June], and that is a big part of this season.”

5. WE’LL GET TO SEE THE COLONIES.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

Miller, understandably, isn’t eager to share too many details about the new season. “I’m not being cagey!” he swore to Entertainment Weekly. “I just want the viewers to experience it for themselves!” What he did confirm is that the new season will bring us to the colonies—reportedly in episode two—and show what life is like for those who have been sent there.

It will also delve further into what life is like for the refugees who managed to escape Gilead, like Luke and Moira.

6. MARISA TOMEI WILL APPEAR IN AN EPISODE.

Though she won’t be a regular cast member, Miller recently announced that Oscar winner Marisa Tomei will make a guest appearance in the new season’s second episode. Yes, the one that will show us the Colonies. In fact, that’s where we’ll meet her; Tomei is playing the wife of a Commander.

7. WE’LL LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF GILEAD.

As a group shrouded in secrecy, we still don’t know much about how and where Gilead began. That will change a bit in season two. When discussing some of the questions viewers will have answered, executive producer Warren Littlefield promised that, "How did Gilead come about? How did this happen?” would be two of them. “We get to follow the historical creation of this world,” he said.

8. THERE WILL BE AT LEAST ONE HANDMAID FUNERAL.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

While Miller wouldn’t talk about who the handmaids are mourning in a teaser shot from season two that shows a handmaid’s funeral, he was excited to talk about creating the look for the scene. “Everything from the design of their costumes to the way they look is so chilling,” Miller told Entertainment Weekly. “These scenes that are so beautiful, while set in such a terrible place, provide the kind of contrast that makes me happy.”

9. ELISABETH MOSS SAYS THE TONE WILL BE DARKER.

Like season one, Miller says that The Handmaid’s Tale's second season will again balance its darker, dystopian themes with glimpses of hopefulness. “I think the first season had very difficult things, and very hopeful things, and I think this season is exactly the same way,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “There come some surprising moments of real hope and victory, and strength, that come from surprising places.”

Moss, however, has a different opinion. “It's a dark season,” she told reporters at TCA. “I would say arguably it's darker than Season 1—if that's possible.”

10. IT WILL ALSO BE BLOODIER.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

When pressed about how the teaser images for the new season seemed to feature a lot of blood, Miller conceded: “Oh gosh, yeah. There may be a little more blood this season.”

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NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
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Researchers in Singapore Deploy Robot Swans to Test Water Quality
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

There's something peculiar about the new swans floating around reservoirs in Singapore. They drift across the water like normal birds, but upon closer inspection, onlookers will find they're not birds at all: They're cleverly disguised robots designed to test the quality of the city's water.

As Dezeen reports, the high-tech waterfowl, dubbed NUSwan (New Smart Water Assessment Network), are the work of researchers at the National University of Singapore [PDF]. The team invented the devices as a way to tackle the challenges of maintaining an urban water source. "Water bodies are exposed to varying sources of pollutants from urban run-offs and industries," they write in a statement. "Several methods and protocols in monitoring pollutants are already in place. However, the boundaries of extensive assessment for the water bodies are limited by labor intensive and resource exhaustive methods."

By building water assessment technology into a plastic swan, they're able to analyze the quality of the reservoirs cheaply and discreetly. Sensors on the robots' undersides measure factors like dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll levels. The swans wirelessly transmit whatever data they collect to the command center on land, and based on what they send, human pilots can remotely tweak the robots' performance in real time. The hope is that the simple, adaptable technology will allow researchers to take smarter samples and better understand the impact of the reservoir's micro-ecosystem on water quality.

Man placing robotic swan in water.
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

This isn't the first time humans have used robots disguised as animals as tools for studying nature. Check out this clip from the BBC series Spy in the Wild for an idea of just how realistic these robots can get.

[h/t Dezeen]

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