I couldn’t take any pictures, cameras being forbidden at this special exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum. I went to see the scrolls a week ago Wednesday with an old friend of mine, AB. (And as an aside, haven’t posted most of this week because of being under the weather due to side effects of antibiotics that turned out to be unnecessary).
We’ve been friends for over 25 years, since we were young and newly married. She is still married to the same guy, fortunately I am not. We were both c.a. (chartered accountant) students at the same awful firm, which will remain nameless as it was later swallowed up by another big firm, high in one of the Bay Street bank towers. On a very windy day, you could feel the building sway. During tax time, we both worked six days a week and both grumbled about it. I became a c.a., AB never did. But I gave it up over 10 years ago, and she is still an accountant as well as a web designer.
We’ve been friends through 3 kids, 1 of hers and 2 of mine, through a childbirth and 2 adoptions, through the admission of a terrible mistake (mine–my first marriage), a divorce, a remarriage (my wedding was a potluck and she came from the suburbs with one of those big zipped heat retaining bags), book launches, going back to school (her), greying hair, changing eyes, changing waists, a greater sense of who we are and what life is all about. We both have blue eyes. We are both first generation Canadian born. AB is Swiss Chalet and I’m falaffel, but all my life I will appreciate Swiss Chalet loving ladies because of her.
Anyway last week we went to the ROM to see the dead sea scrolls. Most of the exhibit was about life at the time of the scrolls and in the place where they were found, with objects of daily use on display: pottery, combs, bottles, ossuaries (where the bones of the dead were kept), sandals (people’s feet were small in those days). There are various theories about the Qumran community that produced the scrolls or stored them (depending on the theory). Personally I’m with the theory that the clay deposits, large pottery remains, and all the water facilities archaeologists have discovered at Qumran indicate a pottery factory rather than a religious sect.
The display of scrolls came at the very end. There were several types of scrolls: biblical, commentary on the bible, rules of the community, and a contract.
A couple of the scrolls were too dark to read, but there were others that were so clear I could make out the words, even more amazingly read, especially psalm 121. I have to admit that brought tears to my eyes.
The example of community rules (at a certain time of the month, everyone would pass before someone in authority for judgment, with the assurance that nobody would be condemned to death–gee thanks) frankly gave me the creeps.
But my favourite was the lease of land with fruit trees. The lessee promised to sow and reap vegetables and fruit, to pay so much for the right. In return he required, should anyone object, that the lessor would declare his right to plant and sow and pick for the season. Signed and sealed. It was so vibrant with life, the ordinary business of living, that it spoke to me more than anything else of the significance of these scrolls that chance and climate preserved for millenia.
By the way AB and I had lunch in the museum’s cafeteria. The caterer has changed any number of times in the decades that we’ve been friends, but it still looks basically the same. AB had a hamburger, I had a veggie burger. We shared the fries and the chocolate cupcake. You see, if only back in the day, people had realized that there are sufficient ways for an Irish girl and a Jewish girl, or looked at another way a suburbanite and an urban dweller, or another way still, a potatoes and roast person and a vegetarian, to share a lunch and foibles and bragging about kids–then there would be peace today in lands fraught with misery.