Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

First-Temple stone weight text not engraved left-to-right

A tiny stone weight used in the First Temple has been found in Jerusalem. How exciting. Spectacular is also that it’s engraved — with paleo-Hebrew lettering, of course. The text reads “baykah,” a measure of weight found already in Genesis 24:22: בֶּ֖קַע Beit-Koof-‘A-yeen.

An extra curiosity is that the word is written mirrorwise. And that’s where speculation and mistakes begin. (No, this is not so dramatic. But I didn’t sign that all my blog posts must deal with issues of life and death.)

A fine report still suggests that it’s therefore written “left to right” with “[f]or example” the letter Beit “facing the opposite direction.” (Other reports (several of them) at rival sites suggest that the directional mistake was pronounced by the archeologist, not the reporters.)

First of all, in paleo-Hebrew, the letters Koof and ‘Ayeen are left-right more-or-less symmetrical, so only the Beit here could be a letter that has a mirror-reflected image that is different from its non-virtual likeness.

When we look in a mirror and raise our right hand, the hand on the right in the mirror goes up – not on the left. But it seems that the person “in the mirror” raises his/her left hand, but that is because we are used to seeing the left hand from people we meet on our right. In fact, the person in the mirror raises their right hand but because the person is mirrored it seems their left hand – which appears to us on the right.


Confused? The confusion is compounded by the pictures of this stone showing the text upside-down. If you turn around the image, you see from right-to-left the letters Beit (in mirror image), Koof and ‘Ayeen.

In fact, this picture shows the stone lying on a piece of glass – kudos to photographer Eliyahu Yanai! In the glass, one can see its reflection! If one turns around the picture (for those who read this on a PC, I supply the turned-around pic here below), one can read the text on the stone, now right-to-left, and its mirror image – still right-to-left: בקע.

This one was written in stone. But right-to-left – as it should!

A political angle to this news one may find here.

Talking of which. Hebrew letters hang from a line, while Latin letters stand on a line. So when non-Jewish printers need to insert Hebrew illustrations, they often end up putting them upside-down in the text. Also, aligned right then seems (like in English) left, not helping them.

About the Author
The author is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (DES - Diethylstilbestrol), born in 1953 to two Dutch Holocaust survivors in The Netherlands (Westerbork), and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a vegan for 8 years now. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo and Rav Zev Leff. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science, Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism), Oppression and Liberation (of young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners, and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. * He likes doing age-appropriate and age-inappropriate things and looks forward to getting to know his timeless mature out-of-the-box soul mate. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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