Forward Thinking

My Search for the Perfect Biblical Blue

By Jeffrey K. Salkin

A few of the author’s many blue inks on paper. / Jeffrey K. Salkin

It’s time for me to confess my hobby. I collect and use fountain pens. I have no memory of how I first got into this particular way of writing. No, it has nothing to do with the fabled “Today I am a fountain pen” bar mitzvah speech (though, having gone to many vintage pen shows, I can attest to the fact that many a bar mitzvah gift has wound up on the sales tables).

As a fountain pen user, I use bottled ink and/or ink cartridges. I use a lot of blue inks. Probably too many. It’s because I’ve been searching for the perfect blue ink — the precisely right shade. I am not alone; this is a common theme among pen lovers.

People actually argue about this stuff. Part of those arguments include kaddishes for some beloved blue inks that are no longer available — except to Ebay prowlers, perhaps. Parker Penman, for example, is a cult favorite. It is in ink heaven somewhere — hopefully being used by the Holy One Blessed Be He to write the names of the righteous in the Book of Life.

What’s the deal with this incessant — one might even say obsessive — search for that perfect shade of blue? (It’s not limited to ink enthusiasts, either; have you ever seen people go crazy over the different versions of blue in the Benjamin Morris paint chart?) Recently it’s occurred to me that my search for the “perfect” blue is just a modern, secular version of Judaism’s frustrated and frustrating search for the “real” and historically accurate shade of the biblical tekhelet, mentioned in this week’s Torah portion, Terumah.

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Hunt for Brother of Jesus Christ

By Renee Ghert-Zand

It’s written in stone, but still not everyone believes it. There are still those who maintain that the Aramaic inscription on a First Century limestone ossuary that says, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” is a forgery. Nonetheless, the Israeli courts determined that the inscription could very well be authentic, and that the bone box should be returned to its owner, collector Oded Golan.

The artifact was seized from Golan in 2003 by the Israel Antiquities Authority, which accused him of adding “brother of Jesus” to the inscription and trying to dishonestly pass the ossuary off as the first and only known artifact pointing to the actual existence of Jesus of Nazareth. Golan was arrested and tried, and after a protracted legal battle, was exonerated in 2012. The bone box was recently returned to Golan by the Israel Antiquities Authority, which had kept it out of the public’s view for a decade.

Matthew Kalman, a Jerusalem-based journalist who has been covering this case for a decade, told Forward Thinking that the 20-inch long by one-foot wide box should have been released to Golan quite some time ago. “The judge ordered its release, and the appeal process was exhausted three months ago,” he said.

According to Kalman, Golan intends to show the ossuary to the public, but that he has no specific plans as of yet. The last time the ancient artifact was on public view was in 2002 at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. It’s appearance sparked major interest, including the making of a Discovery Channel documentary by “Naked Archeologist” Simcha Jacobovici.

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When 'Little Rivka' Marries Yitzchak

By Eliyahu Federman

courtesy of hachai publishing

I refuse to teach my 2-year-old daughter the story, in Genesis chapter 24-25, where the commentary Rashi describes 3-year-old Rivka marrying 40-year-old Yitzchak. The book “Kind Little Rivka,” which also chronicles the story of this underage marriage, is no longer on her bookshelf.

I recently purchased the book on Amazon after a quick review of the book’s title and description. It seemed harmless, as the “story highlights Rivka’s acts of kindness to others, including ten very thirsty camels. The glowing illustrations and lilting prose tell this famous tale on a level that the young child can appreciate.”

It turns out this book was glorifying an underage marriage — and I was shocked by its content and images.

The book begins innocuously enough. “One day, when Rivka was three years old, she decided to go down to the well ….”

Next, it takes a creepy turn:

“That very same day … a man named Eliezer began walking with ten camels … The camels were loaded with bags full of presents; shiny golden bracelets … and just about anything a little girl could want … Eliezer was looking for a kind and special girl to be a wife for Yitzchak … ‘When I find the right girl, she will get all of these wonderful presents,’ thought Eliezer.”

courtesy of hachai publishing

When Eliezer gets to the well there is a disturbing illustration of a grown man stroking his beard glaring at several small children at the well.

He wonders, according to the dialogue, “which one will be the right wife for Yitzchak?”

If my daughter sees a grown man with “shiny golden bracelets” staring at her by a well, she should run and scream. This is a scenario we teach our children to avoid, not one we highlight as acceptable.

The story then discusses how little Rivka was generous and kind to the stranger, but eerily concludes with their marriage.

“Eliezer gave Rivka two shiny golden bracelets, a beautiful ring, and many other presents. Best of all, kind little Rivka married Yitzchak.”

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Tale of Two Davids

By Daniel Goodman

jan massys/wikimedia commons
David and David: King David acted far more reprehensibly than Gen. David Petraeus. Yet the ancient Jews, to their credit, forgave their storied leader, while we cannot.

Gen. David Petraeus is not the first famous David in history to be ensnared in the web of infidelity.

King David was an adulterer and a fellow military hero as well. However, the similarities end there. While the biblical David was
 able to retain his kingship because he repented and was forgiven, the 
contemporary David knew he would likely not be forgiven and,
 consequently, felt he had to resign.


Our apparent inability to forgive, combined with modern media’s 
insatiable lust for sex scandal stories, is a troubling dilemma that will continue to plague our polity if it is not ameliorated. In a culture where privacy is nearly
 nonexistent, an inability to forgive creates a toxic brew that results
 in qualified leaders resigning from office for private indiscretions; 
it may also discourage such individuals from entering public service
 altogether.

In Petraeus, we lost one of our most accomplished, capable, and
 qualified military leaders because of a sexual indiscretion. While the general’s private actions were immoral, they had no bearing on his
 public duties. If his adultery had no bearing on his public duties, and if he sincerely repents, we should have no qualms about re-embracing him as our CIA director.

King David’s adultery was much more morally egregious than David Petraeus’s infidelity.

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