Thursday, June 30, 2011

On the Worship of an Ass, II


As is known, the calumny that Jews worship the head of an ass is ancient. The fact that the opponents of Amichai ben Dovid employed the slander against him shows the acrimony of the dispute. It was a charge made by Israel’s most vociferous enemies. One ancient Greek writer claimed that the Jews refrained from eating the flesh of the hare because of its no small resemblance to their god, the ass.

Another writer from long ago claimed that the Jews, while wandering the in desert for forty years with Moses, one day suffered from a terrible, mortal thirst. As they were just about to die, they spied a heard of wild asses, and followed them to a natural spring. The Israelites were so grateful that they abandoned the God of Abraham to worship the ass.

The most famous slander of all was reported just after Pompey conquered Jerusalem and entered the most sacred chamber of the Temple, the Holy of Holies. There he found the image of a golden ass. He had it removed from its tabernacle and paraded through the streets of the City of David, to shame the defeated Jews by revealing to them the face of their hidden god.

But the most sinister slander was written by a Greek named Democritus in a book composed of lies and fabrications called “About the Jews.” There he claimed that not only did the Jews prostrate themselves in front of the head of an ass, but that every seven years they captured a Gentile, murdered him, cut his flesh into pieces, and offered them to their thick lipped, long eared, gleaming idol.

So when the rabbis against Amichai ben Dovid claimed he worshipped an ass, it was a most grievous charge. It shamed them to make such an assertion. But on the other hand, the deeds of Amichai ben Dovid were so outlandish, that his followers support cast the shadow of shame on them as well. And just before these events the times were hard; it seemed as if such fantastic deeds could be seen on the earth.

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