Well, apropos the high holidays and the recently celebrated Simchat Torah when we begin the annual cycle of weekly readings of the Torah again, I thought it would be appropriate to show a little something from 2000 years ago that was discovered just a couple of weeks ago: an amazing find that reads “Ben HaCohen HaGadol” in Hebrew. That is, “Son of the High Priest.”

Did I say amazing?

Here is Arutz Sheva’s publication of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s press release on this find (their archaeologists came up with it, apparently).

Archaeologists excavating north of Jerusalem have found a piece of a sarcofagus – a stone coffin – belonging to a son of a High Priest. The visible inscription reads, “the son of the High Priest” – but the words before it are broken off. It thus cannot be ascertained which High Priest is referred to, nor the name or age of the deceased.

Many other findings in the excavation are from the late Second Temple period, and archaeologists assume that the High Priest in question lived between 30 and 70 C.E.

Yoli Shwartz, Spokesperson for the Israel Antiquities Authority, notes that the release of the find so close to Yom Kippur, which occurs this Thursday, is notable: Yom Kippur was the only day of the year when the High Priest was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple.

The precise location of the find is not being released, for security reasons.

The sarcophagus cover fragment – 60 centimeters (2 feet) long by 48 centimeters (19 inches) wide – is made of hard limestone, is meticulously fashioned, and bears a carved inscription in Hebrew letters that are both similar to today’s script and typical of the Second Temple period.

A number of High Priests served in the Temple in its final decades – it was destroyed in 70 C.E. – and there is no way of knowing which one is noted in the fragment. Among the known High Priests of the end of the Second Temple period were Caiaphas, Theophilus (Yedidiya) ben Chanan, Shimon ben Baitus, Chanan ben Chanan and others.

The excavations were conducted by the Archaeological Staff Officer of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria, under the direction of Naftali Aizik and Benyamin Har-Even. Underwritten by the Ministry of Defense, the work is being carried out in the framework of the salvage excavations – mandated by law before construction in Israel – along the route of the counter-terrorism fence.

Other discoveries at the site include public and residential buildings, agricultural installations, pools and cisterns.

The area north of Jerusalem, known today and in Biblical times as Binyamin (Benjamin) because it was apportioned to that Tribe, is known as the place where the priests resided during the Second Temple period. The excavated site was an estate of one of the High Priests, though the sarcophagus fragment was not discovered in the estate itself, but was rather recovered from the debris of later remains. It appears that the fragment was plundered from its original location approximately 1,000 years ago and was used in the construction of a later Moslem building erected atop the ruins of the Second Temple period houses

Tell me that doesn’t warm the cockles of your heart!


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  • The font looks so modern and clear. Could it really be hand-hewn (whatever the verb) thousands of years ago?

  • I assume they wouldn’t have published the press release if some experts hadn’t gone over the find first. But who knows?

  • I’d have used “carved”. 馃檪 If you compare the quality and detail of other Ancient findings to those above, they appear quite reasonably authentic.

  • I agree, but if you look at today’s handwriting, it’s sure gone downhill. I’m impressed.

  • Batya, certainly. Handwriting requires developing special motoric skills, and the less people write, the more those skills fade away. I took up calligraphy a couple of years ago to improve my handwriting; it’s good exercise to give the letters better proportions etc.

  • Zionist propaganda – everyone knows that Jerusalem was the capital of Palestine during that era.

  • froylein, today’s Israeli kids aren’t taught how to write the letters. In another generation, sofrei stam will be hard to find, so mezuzot, t’fillin and sifrei Torah will really be expensive. Yes, as if they’re cheap today.

  • What do you mean “today芒鈧劉s Israeli kids aren芒鈧劉t taught how to write the letters”? Then what am I doing every evening at homework with my kids?
    They learn to write both types of letters. from 1st grade and Rashi writing in 4-5th grade.

  • Mia, Baruch Hashem! Thank G-d things have changed, and just in time for my grandchildren. For many years, “structured,” “instructed,” proper writing was ignored. Davka, when my dysgraphic son was in the first grade, lined paper was considered like shrimp, and the poor kid wasn’t able to distinguish between a “yud,” “vov” and “nun sofit.”

    I joyfully stand corrected.

  • Yes. I hear the “system” of teaching changes every few years.
    As I said they are taught to write in both styles from the beginning. Mazal that the Nikud is the same in both styles.
    Actually they practice writing in a Machberet Chahama, which is a notebook where the lines are seperaterated into three sub-lines to learn the taller letters, shorter letters and letters that go below the others There are diagonal colums in white and light blue to learn how to space the letters.
    It takes a very long time to write in that notebook.