Book Review for Tree of Souls The Mythology of Judaism by Howard Schwartz Book 2 Part 14.15
Name of Book: Tree of Souls
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Year it was published: 2004
"With only one God, heaven would be a barren place, at least in mythic terms. Yet the actual Jewish view of heaven is quite different. There are seven heavens, filled with angels and other divine beings, such as the Messiah [Not jesus!], who is said to have a palace of his own in the highest heaven. The clestial Temple can be found there- the mirror image of the Temple in the earthly Jerusalem- as well as an abundance of heavenly palaces, one for each of the patriarchs and matriarchs and sages, where he or she teaches Torah to the attentive souls of the righteous and the angels..." (xliii)
"Drawing on the full range of Jewish sources, sacred and nonsacred, ten major categories of Jewish mythology can be identified: Myths of God, Myths of Creation...Each of these categories explores a mythic realm, and, in the process, reimagines it. This is the secret to the transformations that characterize Jewish mythology. Building on a strong foundation of biblical myth, each generation has embellished the earlier myths, while, at the same time, reinterpeting them for tis own time." (xlv)
Book Two: Myths of Creation
Part XIV: Mythological Creatures
181. Adne Sadeh
Issue: It is believed that prior to creating Adam, G-d attempted to create other men, and one of those was a creature named Adne Sadeh which had an umbilical cord that was attached to the earth and it sustained himself through fruits. Adne Sadeh's lifespan was very long, and when Flood came over, they died out.
182. The Sea Monster Leviathan
Issue: G-d created the Sea Monster Leviathan along with his mate, but after worrying about destruction they will do once they mate, He decides to kill the woman but castrates the male. Description of Leviathan follows. Leviathan also happens to rule over nine rivers and the sea. When Leviathan is hungry, he causes all waters to boil. When he is thirsty, he swallows so much of River Jordan that it takes it seventy years to recharge. There is belief that either Leviathan will be destroyed by the angel Gabriel, or Leviathan will be served at a banquet.
Issue: Begins with description of Behemoth, it its the size of a thousand mountains and that it needs its own special river to quench its thirst. Like others, Behemoth was created with a mate, but G-d was afraid of what it would do, thus male Behemoth became sterile, while female Behemoth had her sexual desire cooled. It is believed that in the end of times, both Behemoth and Leviathan will die.
184. The Ziz
Issue: Begins with description of the Ziz, that its a bird and is also of gigantic proportions. The Ziz also served as a messenger to King Solomon, outsmarting him even. The Ziz also helped out Shlomo in matters of love. The Ziz's flesh will be served at a messianic banquet.
185. The Re'em
Issue: a Re'em is a horned animal that is the size of Mount Tabor. The story of David and how he found the Re'em as well as escaped from the lion by using gazelle is told.
186. The Phoenix
Issue: Phoenixes live forever because its ancestor refused to eat the fruit of knowledge that Eve offered to all the animals. They are witness to Israel and live forever. Baruch with an angel saw Phoenix and Baruch was told that Phoenix was guardian of the world. For one thousand years, the Phoenix gets smaller and smaller, but then the angels restore the egg from which it emerged thus the cycle begins again. The Phoenix makes its home in the City of Luz where Angel of Death is not allowed to enter.
187. The Lion of the Forest Ilai
Issue: The story begins with Caesar questioning Rabbi Joshua be Haninah about a particular line about the lion. The Rabbi warns the Caesar that this is not something he would want to see, but Caesar is insistent. The lion emerged from Ilai and caused the bridges to be destroyed along with people's teeth fall out. The Caesar then asks the Rabbi to get rid of the lion, to which he did.
188. The Ram Sacrificed at Mount Moriah
Issue: The ram was one of the first ten things to be created on the eve of first Sabbath and the ram knew and understood its destiny. When the day came, the angel brought ram from Paradise and served him as a sacrifice in place of Isaac. Nothing of the ram was wasted and a lot of things would be used for many generations.
To Be Continued...