Monthly archives "June 2017"

Choosing Your Protein in a Land of Plenty

by Rabbi Corinne Copnick

Before I travelled to Brazil, it never occurred to me how much hard work it takes to get less than a handful of nuts from the nut tree (nuts do grow on trees). They look a lot different in their natural state than they do included in a delectable chocolate bar. First someone agile has to climb the tree; then he (usually) has to chop down the large husk, which falls to the ground. Next the thick, hairy, husk is smashed open (it takes considerable effort – and precision – by a man or woman, a lot more than, say, opening a jar with elderly hands when you can’t remember where you put the jar opener). Inside that inner shell is the core of the husk, and inside that core lies its heart – perhaps four Brazil nuts. That’s why they are so expensive when you buy them in a North American supermarket. They’d be a lot more expensive if agricultural labor in Brazil were not so poorly rewarded.

Producing the chocolate (made from cocoa or cocoa beans, which also grow on trees) for the bars is also a lengthy process. The beans, which are the basis of chocolate, have a leathery rind, and they beans inside have to be extracted from the rind, fully fermented, and dried. Because the seed has fat, cocoa butter also can be extracted.

I visited one rural village where the chocolate beans were broken down in the old-fashioned way by a donkey hitched to a small mill. The donkey provided the power as he went round and round as directed. Round and round over and over. Using more modern methods, the industrialized production of chocolate from cocoa beans is big business today.

I have now visited nut plantations, cocoa plantations, coffee plantations. Some of the processes involve roasting in an open flame oven as well. The number of different products that can be made from these agricultural materials is amazing. But my personal affection is reserved for the coconut. One caveat: if you sit under a coconut tree when the nuts are ripening (that is, no longer green), it may be your last day on earth should a coconut fall on your head, something that is quite possible. So while you can sit under an apple tree romantically in North America, beware the coconut tree in South America for shading yourself, a seductive option in the tropical heat, to say the least.

As with the Brazil nuts, it’s also quite a job to climb a tree and hack down and then open a coconut. However, it’s worth the effort because every single part of the coconut can be used. Think of all the ways in which a coconut and its foliage contribute to society.

Actually, it was not in Brazil but rather in one of the Fiji islands in the South Pacific (there are some 330 of them, only about 110 of them inhabited, plus 500 islets) that my love affair with the coconut began. Many of the islanders have very frizzy hair, and some of them still let it grow out wild and bushy. My own hair, which is pleasantly curly in dry Southern California but grows to frizzy proportions in a humid tropical climate, can actually look quite presentable, even pretty, with daily applications of coconut butter, a product I found commercially from a Fijian company that ships its products all over the world. I slather the coconut butter (really intended as a skin cream) all over my face too. Some of the creams intended to protect your skin in from climactic wear cost a lot of money. A word of advice: try coconut.

The people of the Republic of Fiji (for a long time, from 1879 -1970, they were a Crown Colony of Britain) are warriors by nature. Even on their main island, Viti Levu, their small dwellings huddle defensively close together in their villages, despite the fact that there is lots of surrounding land. They maintain a large standing army, of which they are proud – native Fijians have served in major wars and continue to partner with their allies in democratic countries. As small memorials attest, they are proud of their patriotic service.

For many years, Western countries trod lightly when dealing with Fiji – that is, explorers and missionaries avoided going there because of Fiji’s history of aggressive cannibalism. In fact, an early missionary’s leather shoes that refused to soften in the boiling vat are still on display in the Fiji museum, along with the impressive sea-going vessels that the Fijians crafted to sell (despite the fact that they were not sailors).

Eating their human enemies ritually gave them their enemies’ power, they believed. They had special long forks by which they fed their priests in symbolic rituals. This human food did not actually touch the priests’ lips – it just slid down their throats. I’m ashamed to say that I bought a tourist version of the ritual fork for my grandson. Better a chocolate bar with Brazil nuts. Or aromatic Brazilian coffee. Or coconut butter face cream from Fiji for his hair (it’s curly too).

No one eats another human in Fiji today — and given the multiple benefits derived from the coconut and the from the surrounding sea, they really didn’t (and don’t) need this kind of protein. As a matter of fact, Fiji has one of the most developed economies in the Pacific, with extensive forest, mineral, and fish resources. I must admit, though, that as a first time visitor, I felt a little queasy when I considered that the cannibalistic history of these vigorous islanders was less than a couple of hundred years behind them. As history reminds us from time to time, even in 2017, civilization can be a thin veneer, indeed.

The Meeting of the Waters

by Rabbi Corinne Copnick

The Amazon River in Brazil boasts 2,500 varieties of fish. I wouldn’t recommend putting a hand in its opaque, café au lait colored waters, however. They’re not the crystal clear waters of the Bahamas where you can see right down to the white sand.  While these waters of the Amazon derive their color from the sandy banks and dense plant life that surround them, they are treacherous. Forget swimming if you are not a native. In fact, the Amazon River abounds with flesh-eating predators. There are, for example, fearsome black caimans with large heads and avaricious appetites (often 20 feet long, they have been called “alligators on steroids”); they’ll tackle anything as food, a leg here and an arm there, they’re not specific). Numerous other dangerous water species abound — ever-hungry fish or reptiles that would be be happy to take a chunk out of visitors to their territory (Source: Matthew Wells, “10 terrifying Creatures of the Amazon”).

Among them are the green Anaconda, reputed to be the largest snake in the world (29 feet long), who prefer the shallow waters where they can constrict and suffocate their victims; the Arapaima, with scary armored scales – and whose tongue also has teeth; Giant Otters, often referred to as “river wolves”; Bull Sharks whose powerful jaws make them one of the most feared attackers; Electric Eels who really kill their prey (hopefully not you!) with jolts of electricity; and Piranhas, primarily scavengers known for their feeding frenzies when they are really hungry. The most insidious fish, however, are the Candiros. These are small, parasitic, freshwater catfish. Do not, however secretly, urinate in the opaque waters of the Amazon, or these little demons will swim right into your urethra and lodge in the urinary tract. Since they have spines on their backs, it takes surgery to get them out.  

Of course, not all of the fish in the Amazon River are predators. Lots of them are prey (a subject I described in an earlier post). Amazingly, despite all the water creatures eager for human food, from time to time, locals can be seen fishing from the shore. If you gotta eat, you gotta eat, I guess. Or maybe they are familiar with the times when the carnivores will most likely be hungry. Sometimes the long arms of a favorite pet of the region, the furry sloth, will be hanging from the necks of these indigenous people. A human, it seems, is just as good as a tree for hanging out.

In any case, there are lots of fish in the Amazon river, and most of them are not flesh-eating. Lots of them prefer seafood to people. Actually, the many diverse species come from the merging of two or more rivers. This merging –when two bodies of water meet (sometimes one of them is a tributary) and then join to become one river — is called a confluence.  In the case of the Amazon River in Brazil, the meeting of the waters provides an amazing visual display – it is truly spectacular –as the two streams resist mixing their colors. As they approach one another, the contrast is striking: the dark-hued Rio Negro and the coffee-tone of the Amazon. They seem to like their own colors and don’t want a mixed marriage.

The Rio Negro is not really a black river, as its Spanish name would proclaim, but it is a dark color, classed among the blackwaters of the world. It is also a large body of water, in fact the largest tributary of the Amazon. As it enters the Amazon from the left, the Rio Negro insists on keeping its own dark color. So does the pale sandy Rio Solimoes, which continues to flow from the upper part of the Amazon River. They are so stubborn, these rivers. I watched in amazement as the two rivers continued to flow in their own streams, at their own levels (the Solimoes flows beside and below the Rio Negro), in their own preferred colors, without mixing. They maintain different temperatures, different speeds, different water density. The Rio Negro flows at near 2 kilometers per hour at a temperature of 28 degrees, while the Rio Solimoes flows between 4-6 miles per hour at a temperature of 22 degrees. They are different in the movement of air masses

Not only do the waters continue to be separatists in the same Amazon river for about six kilometers (3.7 miles), but they also contain different fish – different species — in each of the two streams. They do not mix either; they maintain their own levels in an “us” and “other” situation. If I were a joker, I would say “fishuation” that is very Talmudic since each “side” has a different point of view. The Talmud is full of rabbis disagreeing and maintaining their own position. Usually they find a middle ground.

But if they can’t, the Talmud also teaches that when two forces maintain an oppositional view and refuse to compromise, a third force is needed to “lift them up” from their folly. Two oppositional ideas can generate a third choice that they haven’t previously considered. That’s what happens in the Amazon River. A huge natural blockage, some six kilometers past their first meeting place near the Brazilian city of Manaus, impedes the river’s flow and crunches the two streams together like an oversize mix-master. After that, there are no more distinctive plumes traveling at their own levels, temperatures, and populations. The unfazed Amazon continues its journey – it’s one of the longest rivers in the world, rivaling the Nile — as a churning, united muddy brown. In its own way, it’s a beautiful, flowing middle ground.

Ask the Rabbi: “A Great Nation”

Q: Hello Rabbi!

What is the definition of a Great Nation according to the Torah? We see in Deut 4:7-8 the following: What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today? Would it be correct to conclude from the following two verses that a great nation (at least one that God has specifically mentioned that he will make into a great nation) by definition of the Torah, means a nation that directly receives a revelation and a divine body of Law from GOD Almighty ? Please advise. Thank you!  


A: Dear Majid,

Thank you for your thoughtful question. Perhaps it is THE question for the time in which we live: What is a Great Nation? What makes a nation great? Your question also comes at an important time in the sequence of Jewish religious festivals. Starting from the second night of Passover (15th of Nisan), after the ancient Hebrews have been released from Egyptian bondage, they are taught to understand what freedom demands of them. Becoming a great nation does not come without a price. What freedom requires, as they will learn, is the responsibility to conduct their lives according to the Ten Commandments that, yes, will be divinely decreed, through the human agency of Moses, on Mount Sinai.  That is what the Torah portrays.

But first the ancient Hebrews must prepare themselves spiritually to receive these instructions. They must open themselves meditatively and tune in to their deepest feelings in order to receive the divine channel!  So for the next 49 days, as they undertake the trip towards this Mountain’s summit, they “Count the Omer” (sheaves of barley used as a memory aid); that is, they reflect each day on one of the attributes of the Divine (see) which they must emulate as an ideal. On the 50th day (the 6th of Sivan on the Hebrew calendar), they reach Mount Sinai, where, as a people and as individuals, they pledge to serve God by following the commandments – a moral code that has endured through the centuries — in their daily lives. This 50th day is the Jewish festival of Shavuot (7 weeks), which Jews everywhere still observe. This is the day when each individual is enjoined to imagine that he/she is actually standing on Mount Sinai NOW, receiving the commandments personally.

So every person has received – and symbolically continues to receive — instruction (Torah means “instruction”) as to what they should do. Later, in Leviticus, the Torah tells the ancient Hebrews how they should do it with complex rules for daily moral living and for cleanliness, both as individuals and as a society. “You shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and I have set you apart from other peoples to be Mine” (Leviticus 20: 26). This is how they will make God’s name great – by living a holy life, as defined by the Torah — and this is how they will be an example of good living to the pagan nations around them, how they will become a light to the nations. This is how the giving of the Ten Commandments and the subsequent rules to flesh them out are portrayed in the Torah. Following these instructions, and looking after all members of society – the widow, the orphan, the stranger, one’s parents – are what will make their nation great. Then the nation’s people will grow to be numberless as the stars.

It should be remembered (and often is not) that earlier in the Torah, when Hagar and Ishmael are sent away to keep peace in Abraham’s family, the Torah portrays God as promising to make a second great nation as well from Ishmael. “I will make a great nation of him too, for he is your seed” (Genesis 21:13), a divine promise still in the process of development.

Early Islam incorporated many Jewish thoughts and values. And of course, Christianity has been  instrumental in spreading Jewish values through the world. There is a reason why we call all three religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – the Abrahamic faiths. We are all descended from one physical progenitor, Abraham, and, for those who believe in divinity, from the same God.

To answer your question specifically, Majid, a great nation is one whose people live by enduring moral precepts, by both justice and compassion, and who have regard for helping the weakest members of their society as a component of their greatness.

Yes, the Torah depicts laws handed down by revelation directly received by Moses and conveyed to the ancient Hebrews. In our present society, not everyone believes in the divine, at least not as portrayed in the same form. There are many doubters, but unlike other religions, Judaism does not demand faith, at least not at the outset. What it does demand is to follow the commandments, the Mitzvot. It is an action religion; we are enjoined to DO. (And, of course, to do good things and to stand up against injustice.) We are also asked to study so that we will find out WHY we follow these commandments. Then hopefully, in the course of that study and those actions, we will find what societies through the ages have called God by many different names.

Can a nation or society be great without believing in divine revelation? That is another subject too large for this email. Of course, science and technology can become substitute gods too. So can power and money. Or fame. Sometimes we believe at certain times in our lives, but at other times we lose our faith. In my lifetime, both Communism and Nazi ideology shut out the divine, with disastrous consequences. Can you communicate a moral code without the concept of divinity? Yes, I think so. But it is hard to pass down what one personally believes through the generations. Ideas about what is good may change. Many of the great empires depicted in the Torah have not endured, but the moral code of the ancient Hebrews, which became integral to the Jewish faith, is still a staple of our society.

“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8)

Personally, I don’t know what God IS, Majid, but I do feel a strong connection to the universe and all its components – and to its created beings — and, for me, that is divine. As a rabbi, I try to open my mind and tune in whenever I can. And to keep learning.

Wishing you all of life’s blessings,

Rabbi Corinne Copnick








The Peacock’s Tale

by Rabbi Corinne Copnick


For years I had a busy writing and editing service. Among the books, articles, speeches, and what-have-you that I edited, there were usually two or three master’s or doctoral theses every year. And I learned a great deal from them. One thesis that I found particularly spiritually attractive concerned equine therapy, something that has since proven very successful, especially with teenagers, but at that time it was still regarded with considerable skepticism, particularly by this graduate student’s professor. The student ended up dedicating her remarkable thesis to her horse and to me. The prof didn’t get a mention.

One of the interesting things I learned from her thesis was that in animal life there are two categories: predators and prey. Apparently, predators have eyes placed to look straight in front of them, so that they can spot prey quickly. Prey, on the other hand have eyes placed on the side of their heads so that they can see the predators coming more easily and run away. Prey always have a nervous quality, a marked sensitivity to their surroundings.


And so now I come to the peacock’s tail. I’ve been thinking about that spunky peacock and his protective tail feathers ever since, after serving as Guest Staff Rabbi on a cruise ship, I returned from Central America (which, to my surprise, is actually in North America) to sunny California, safe and sound. Once our ship completed its nine-hour trip through the historic Panama Canal, moving into open waters, we had been under the protection of the U.S. coastguard (manning mounted guns), with a sister cruise ship closely following. I thought briefly about pirates, terrorists, then banished these fears. Together we were a BIG SHAPE – spread out like a preening peacock’s tail feathers — as we traveled, and I, for one, was glad to proceed in this close, sea-borne caravan until we reached Columbia (which is in South America).

Over the years I have seen peacocks in various places, zoos mostly, or animal parks that let them roam to a degree. But never one like this peacock. I spotted him in the National Aviary Park in Cartagena among all the other beautiful birds of many colors. I have since learned that the peacock was originally an East Indian bird, but I cannot imagine a bird’s colors being more vibrant, his tail feathers so long anywhere else but in Cartagena. As they shone in the sun, the sight was enough to make you “get religion,” to stir your wonder of the Cosmos and its creator.

This peacock roamed around freely within the area covered by the Columbian Aviary’s high, gauzy ceiling, looking humans in the eyes curiously, without fear, having learned already that at least in this protected setting, the people making contact with him were not a danger to him. Even though peacocks can bite quite fiercely if they sense they will be harmed, even though this peacock’s eyes were on the side of the head, he knew he was not at risk here. It was a safe space. My green eyes and his black eyes continued a silent conversation for quite a while, as he cocked his head from side to side, assessing me. Is this a good human being?

Then the next day the ship transporting me along with 2,000 other passengers and 1,000 crew, stopped in Costa Rica. We had returned to North America! Here those of us who chose to explore a mangrove swamp – similar swamps may be found where a river meets the sea — boarded a small boat. We travelled slowly through the narrow, brownish, swampy waters. On the shores on either side of the mangrove swamp, we could spot – often with difficulty because they were so well camouflaged — some of the bird species that we had seen in the Columbian aviary. But here in Costa Rica, they were in their natural setting. So were very scary crocodiles, predators who waited, in the swamp, just their eyes and nostrils peering above the water, for foolish prey to come too close. (Actually, crocs can run pretty fast on land – not a good idea to encounter them there either!)

And then I spotted the peacock on the shore. Not the same peacock that I had seen in Columbia, of course, but equally beautiful, strutting around with his tail feathers glowing with irridescent colors, shining in the sun. Like the peacock I saw in Costa Rica, he evoked a sense of wonder in me, a connection to Creation. How could a living creature on the shore of a swamp be so beautiful? Meanwhile his six peacock wives, dowdy brown and white hens, without long tail feathers gifted by an artistic God, fed on the plant life. One might say charitably that they were dressed modestly.

Once the gorgeous peacock spotted the crocodile, he went into defense mode. How? He didn’t run; he didn’t freeze. He stood his ground. He approached the shore as closely as he dared, turned around, and raised his tail feathers. Generally speaking, when a peacock spreads his tail feathers, a casual observer may think that he is preening. But when a peacock turns around and spreads his tail feathers in defense, his backside is a dowdy brown and white, just like the hens that he is protecting – and, come to think of it, close to the color of that low-lying crocodile. Not only are these dull feathers a camouflage, but spread out like that as the peacock presents his behind to the enemy, they make a REALLY BIG SHAPE. Enough to keep that predator croc in the water. The croc doesn’t want to mess with that scary shape, even though, when you take a second look, it’s balanced on spindly, prey-like, peacock legs.

* * *

What’s really scary, it seems to me, whether it’s a croc in a mangrove swamp or a human being in our more usual habitats, is that so often it’s hard to tell the predator from the prey. After all, human beings have eyes on the front of their faces, not the sides.

Can prey become predators? Or vice versa. Can human predators be disguised by the direction of their eyes? What if they hide their intentions with sunglasses? Does concern for others – loving-kindness, connectedness – infuse their vision, change that direction? Or does too much concern have the propensity to turn us, defenseless, into unwitting prey? In 2017, how do we find a balance between predator and prey, both at home and in distant lands?

A Green Shoot Grows


by Rabbi Corinne Copnick


“But a shoot shall grow out of the stump of Jesse,

A twig shall sprout from his stock” (Isaiah 11:1-2).

A few months before I was ordained as a rabbi, I initiated a pluralistic Jewish study group called Beit Kulam (House of Togetherness), now entering its third year. Held in our living room and organized by my daughter, Janet, it takes the form of a cozy, Sunday morning breakfast club (bagels with cream cheese, delicious home-baked goods, really good coffee, and ample schmoozing time before the sessions start  — and even after, as people get to know one another). Some people attend via Skype or Facetime from places like Vancouver, B.C., or even Venezuela. Usually some 15-20 people attend each study session in person, plus the virtual attendees, which is a really good size for vigorous and informed discussion on continuing themes.

Some Beit Kulam members are very knowledgeable, well versed in Judaism; others are just beginning to learn what it means to be a Jew. Some of the people who attend are not Jewish but are attracted by the topics, which my daughter publishes on the web, and by the inclusive, homey atmosphere. Sometimes they just come or drop in from time to time as their schedules allow because they are curious or want to make new friends. Some people attend via Skype or Facetime from places like Vancouver, B.C., or even Venezuela. Everyone is welcome.

Why Sunday and not Saturday? Some of the people who enjoy coming to Beit Kulam are synagogue members elsewhere, so our study group sessions on Sundays don’t affect their attendance there. Why do they come to Beit Kulam? Because we discuss things they want to know or that they feel too shy to ask in a more formal setting – complex ethical or sensitive issues many synagogues just don’t have the time or inclination to examine in depth. After my presentation on a particular topic, usually part of a theme extending over several sessions, our Beit Kulam attendees engage in vigorous discussion.

* * * *

One of the themes my study group tackled this year involved exploring what really may have happened to the Ten “Lost” Jewish Tribes. We examined, and looked beyond, some of the theories that have been proposed at different times but since discarded. It was, and is, a fascinating study, which took us through many cultures.

Among the people and places we read and talked about were the ancient Maya, who made their home for centuries in Central America. How could such astonishing mathematical and astrological erudition, as well as architectural abilities, exist in their polytheistic, savage culture?  One of the once popular but currently discarded theories is that they were actually the descendants of the ancient Israelites, remnants of a Lost Tribe.

The Tower of Babel? You’re kidding!

However, according to mystical Jewish literature (See Seder Hadorot, Sefer Hayashar, Book of Jubilees, the Zohar, and the Book of Enoch), it is entirely possible that there are connections between the biblical Israelites and the Mayans, but they occurred much earlier than the period when the Assyrians conquered and dispersed the Ten Tribes of ancient Northern Israel. In fact, the possible dispersion to Mesoamerica may go back to the time of the disgraced builders of the Tower of Babel, as is recounted in the Torah (Genesis 11:1-9). God was furious, not because the builders were trying to reach the heavens, but because they were trying to usurp God’s power. And so the Torah portrays God as dispersing the people all over the world and confounding their language, so that they now spoke many languages and could no longer understand one another. This scattering of the people likely happened around 1765 BCE. The Mayan civilization is believed to have its origins around 2,000 BCE or earlier, so its is quite possible that at least some of the Tower of Babel people may have been the biblical forbears of the Mayans.

Our Genius Ancestor, Enoch…

Here is where the biblical Enoch and his many descendants come into the picture. Who was Enoch? In terms of his ancestry, he was the great great grandson of the biblical Seth, a son of Adam. The timeline and intricate genealogy of the Enoch story coincide with the beginnings of Mayan civilization – and of the birth of the Mayan calendar.

In terms of his abilities, Enoch was celebrated for his astounding astronomical and mathematical knowledge and teachings. He understood the course of the planetary bodies. He was skilled in the building of cities. The mystical Zohar claimed that Enoch possessed a book containing the inner secrets of wisdom that originated from the Garden of Eden! The Greeks credited him with the invention of writing!

It is entirely possible that one of Enoch’s descendants, who lived during the time of the Tower of Babel, many have settled in the area now called the Yucatan (perhaps in honor of his ancestor, Yoktan). Presumably, Enoch’s knowledge was passed to his descendants and through them to the Mayans, who integrated this knowledge into their own cyclical calendar.

Little did I know as our Beit Kulam group talked about the Maya that I would soon find myself in Guatemala, the birthplace of the Mayan calendar. Yes, I had agreed to be Guest Staff Cruise Rabbi on yet another trip to far away lands, this time to Central America.

* * **

These are the things I pondered as our cruise ship approached the boundaries of the next port of call, Guatemala.  As misty clouds floated just below the summits of the 23 volcanos ringing the country, they created an other-worldly quality. Mystical, like the ancient literature that connected the biblical Enoch with this part of Central America.

Most of these volcanos are still active or dormant. When fiery lava at times flows down their sides, when the volcanos erupt, killing everything in their wake, is the spiritual legend of the ancient Maya who once fed them human bodies still predatory in nature? Has it been redeemed by time – and dispersion?

The atmosphere is surreal. This still troubled country was – and is — the home of the Mayan culture, the birthplace of its creation story and its two calendars (one lunar, one solar, which they intercalated), of remarkable astronomical calculations, of the complex cycle of its culture, of a written language whose mysterious code has been cracked, if not fully understood, in modern times. It is also the inspiration of powerful artistic representations based on the natural world, on the animals around them, like the jaguar, whose speed and cunning strength they venerated. Or the Maize God, the supergod that gave them food.

Here in this place thinly covered with limestone and volcanic ash where food was – and is — so hard to grow, the Maya knew they were, above all and without warning, the prey of the predatory mountains, and so, for centuries, they tried to propitiate the gods of the volcanos by feeding them human sacrifices. Many of these sacrificed humans were captives taken from other tribes with whom the Mayans were warring. Today recovered Mayan artwork in museums reveals the armed predator with his foot on the neck of his human prey. Depending on circumstances, it seems, prey and predator were interchangeable. Can people capable of impressive abstract thought literally remove the heart from a live person – in order to ingest that person’s power – on a sacrificial altar and still remain spiritual human beings? Or do they then become indistinguishable from the wild animal life that inhabits their landscape? Do they become a human landscape informed by the fury of the volcanos.

Eventually, though, it was not the volcanic eruptions that drove the Maya from the land they held to be spiritual. Like similar periods that have been captured in the Hebrew Bible, long years of drought with resulting famine caused them to leave. There was nothing to eat. Slowly, the wild animals, both prey and predator, disappeared, and eventually the Maya left for other places. Most assimilated into Mexico.

There were dire predictions that the world would come to an end when the revered Mayan calendar ended its 5,000 year cycle.[1] In fact, the Maya had two calendars, the first a sacred calendar called “the Calendar Round,” which was lunar, and the second referred to as “the Long Count Calendar” (these dates were usually found on inscriptions), which was solar based. The Maya reconciled the two calendars. They also created the concept of the zero.

The Calendar Round (52 years):

 In Breaking the Maya Code, 3rd ed. (Kindle), author Michael Coe, a long recognized authority on Maya culture, explains the 260 days of the sacred Calendar Round as evoking the nine-month period of gestation. This, he says, results from “the never-ending permutation of 13 numbers with a rigid sequence of 20 named days [13 x 20 = 260].” In addition, a system of bars and dots are accurately used to represent the numbers (e.g., a dot stands for one, and a bar for five, so that the number six would be a bar and a dot). Apparently, this count “has not slipped one day in over twenty-five centuries. Now, run this count against the 365 days of the solar year, and one will get the 52-year Calendar Round, the Mesoamerican equivalent of our century.”

            That’s the first Mayan calendar. What about the second one, the Long Count Calendar?

The Long Count Calendar:

This second Mayan calendar appeared near the end of the Mayan Pre-Classic period (the last century B.C.). To quote Michael Coe once again in Breaking the Maya Code, 3rd ed. (Kindle): “Unlike dates in the Calendar Round, which are fixed only within a never ending cycle of 52 years and thus recur once every 52 years, Long Count dates are given in a day-to-day count, which began in the year 3114 BC.” Many people believed that the world would end in 2012 AD, when the calendar concluded.

Nevertheless, the physical world of those long ago Maya – and the rest of the planet with it — did not end in December 2012, as so many misguided people thought it would. No, the globe did not erupt in chaos because, in Mayan culture, when you come to the end of a cycle, it simply starts all over again. The new cycle simply represents an era of regeneration and hope for the future. That, too, is the story recounted throughout the Hebrew Bible. Even if the tree is felled, a green shoot will eventually grow from the stump. Even if it takes 5,000 years.

[1]Interestingly, in 2017, the ancient Hebrew calendar is in the year 5,777 CE.