“Our Pagan Yom Kippur” from FailedMessiah

Over at the excellent blog FailedMessiah.com, a whistle-blowing blog out to expose far right wing orthodox Judaism as a harmful force in the world (by covering stuff like child molestation and Agriprocessors), there’s a really interesting post about the ancient Mesopotamian holiday of Kapuru, held in the Babylonian month of Tashritu. Sound familiar? It’s a cool post. Here’s an excerpt:

Our ancestors borrowed a great deal from a towering, imperial Mesopotamian culture that for centuries dominated the Fertile Crescent. That we used Babylonian calendar names is widely known. Semitic peoples had used the lunar calendar from time immemorial, but named their months differently. What the (Hebrew-speaking) Canaanites called Aviv, Ziv, Eytanim and Bul, the practical-minded Hebrews first renamed months One, Two, Seven and Eight. The Babylonians called them Nisanu, Ayaru, Tashritu and Archasamnu. In time, our ancestors replaced their numerals with the Babylonian names, many of which are named in honor of Mesopotamian gods.

One of the comments on the post, from Rachel Batya, captures my feelings exactly:

Whether we borrowed from the pagans or they borrowed from us (and probably some of both happened), this kind of information is fascinating to me and enriches my understanding of Judaism. It doesn’t detract from it. It reminds me that Judaism has not always been the hermetically sealed culture that some of our more fanatical members seek to make it, but a living, breathing entity capable of co-existing with other cultures while retaining its deepest insights and values.