Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Kahana Code

This blog is intended for two purposes; one, to introduce my family to my third great grandfather whom they have not had the opportunity to know since he died in 1867 and secondly to demonstrate to those that have been following the Kahana Chronicles just how the stories are preserved and passed through the generation even though the direct line of communication can at times be broken.
Cryptic paintings, Latin verse, hidden societies, anagrams, and a concealed hereditary bloodline; No, I'm not writing about the Da Vinci Code. Call it the Kahana Code perhaps, but unlike Dan Brown's novel, I'm not writing fiction, or speculation for that matter. The stories revolve around events that actually occurred and what better way to demonstrate that the legends have a basis in historical fact than to cite ancestors that have in their own way tried to preserve the stories through a code. If you think about the Da Vinci Code, and I presume most people have either read the book or seen the movie, then you will recall that the goal was to preserve a hereditary line by ensuring there were enough clues sprinkled through paintings and books to lead a trail to the heir. Well, we have the good fortune of having a pictorial and written record in the family for that purpose as well. The picture below is the coverplates of the Clavis Talmudica and its here that I will begin my tale of mystery and suspense and where you can help in resolving some of the vacuoles that still persist in my attempts to decipher my ancestor's message. Because somewhere, in this world are other families that would have been involved in the transmission of these hidden messages and their ancestors like mine would have been aware of his purpose and intent. It would be very narrow minded of me to think that he had done so only with the sole purpose of hoping one of his descendants would find the riddle, although considering his own personal history it is a possibility. Jakob Goldenthal had to be writing to a known audience, members of a society for which he was preserving the secrets. Just whom those members of his brotherhood may have been is yet to be discovered.

As the story goes, our third-great grandfather Jakob Goldenthal discovered a set of books and papers that had been hidden in his home which subsequently turned his world 180 degrees and set him upon an amazing journey. Why his father or grandfather never bothered to destroy those papers is still unknown but the possibility that they were hidden away by Shalom Shakna Kahana in a place that no one bothered to look into until Jakob two hundred years later is not unreasonable. In all likelihood, Jakob was living in the same home in Brody in whihc his ancestors had lived. In that paperwork he uncovered a story concerning the involvement our ancestor Yakov (Kova) in the 16th century who was involved in resolving the mystery behind the Golem of Prague as described in Shadows of Trinity. He would have learned of his ancestor Yakov's (notice that they bore the same name and the giving of names starting with J or A is very repetative in the family) ability to decipher signs and riddles, a trait that he too possessed. And most of all, he learned of his Karaite heritage and the plea from an ancestor long gone not to abandon that heritage.

Of course detractors would say that it's only a story and that there's no way of proving these events one hundred and forty years after Jakob Goldenthal's death. Well you can probably guess that I wouldn't be writing this article unless I believed there was a way to prove it. Not unlike the Da Vinci Code, there always has been a trail of bread crumbs. And that is where the GLEEM theory( becomes involved or Genetically Linked Enzyme Enhanced Memories. Whether you're willing to admit it or not, ancestors and descendants tend to think alike. As much as you may refuse to beleive it you often start acting very much like your father or mother. We are imprinted with behaviours and that's a fact. Having recognized that, members in the family would create puzzles with the knowledge that others that think in similar patterns would ultimately be able to decipher and resolve the challenge years or generations later. Not unlike the Kabbalah Wheel in Shadows of Trinity where Yakov has to understand how to translate the various languages and symbols, Jacob would have a similar ability. The ability to see signs and images where no one else can see them. Jakob Goldentha would have known that he could find ways to tranfer the stories he had uncovered to the future through the use of hidden clues. The same way that Yakov (Kova) was comfortable in speaking German, Hebrew, understanding Latin, and a smattering of other languages, he knew this knack would be transmitted down the genetic lines. And it was Jakob over two hundred years later also being fluent in a number of languages; German, Hebrew, Arabic, Latin, Italian, Romanian, Russian, and a smattering of French and English that provided me with the first clue. Because like them, I also am familiar with the same languages and that is too much of a coincidence. It was the first indication that something more was at work.

The coverplate in the figure above is Jakob Goldenthal's. He was an avid researcher a writer and scientist, traits which I obviously inherited as well. Working outside the religious sphere from which he was practically excommunicated and finding safety in the more secular university environment, Jacob would combine languagues into a single book making a smooth transition back and forth. Since most people wouldn't be able to make the transition as easily as he could, it provided him a vehicle in which to conceal his clues.

The Latin side of the coverpage appears to be quite straight forward. The title Clavis Talmudica translates as "Key (as in Index) to the Talmud" by author Rabbi Nissim Ben Jacob Cairovanensi a name that was pretty safe and would not raise any alarm bells. His page announces Rabbi Nissim was both the author and writer. But that is not the message that is recorded on the left side of the cover page written in Hebrew. I don't expect you all to be fluent in either Latin or Hebrew and I'm certainly not so bear with me as I translate for you.

It is important to recognise that Jakob toys with us, inserting and deleting words as he pleases. The Latin side with its title of The Talmud Key indicating an index is different from that of the Hebrew words. There it translates as The Book Of the Key to My Lock on the Talmud. The insertion of MANULI for those reading the Hebrew is interesting for two reasons. One that it doesn't appear in the Latin Verse and secondly because it is possessive and therefore claims it as being His Lock. Since it was supposed to be Rabbi Nissim's book, how or why would Jakob suggest that the interpretations belonged to him? The answer is quite simple. It was obvious that Jakob was intending to include information that was his own creation.

So from the onset Jakob has you questioning whether this is a commentary on Rabbi Nissim's commentary of the Talmud or is this actually going to be a commentary straight from Jakob Goldenthal? The Hebrew coverplate uses a reference to "our colleagues" in the context of a brotherhood when he uses the word SHEHAVARU when alluding to who's Talmud it actually was. A strange use of the word and even more bizarre when he follows with the words MORANU and RAVENU. When used in this context they imply Our Teacher and Our Master. Definitely not the terms one would use prior to Nissim's name who's influence on the Talmud as I mentioned was only as an indexer and therefore hardly worthy of such titles of honour. And honour it was as Jakob purposely uses the word KAVOD saying Nissim was the Son of Honour. This is followed again by the words Our Teacher and Our Master Jacob Zets'l. Now Zets'l is a purposely contracted word and unfortunately I am unable to unlock the contraction as yet but I'm working on it. But most definitely it has nothing to do with Nissim's father who was referred to as Jacob the Gaon. And because my ancestor purposely used the noun for honour he was not implying that he was the son of the honourable Jacob Zets'l it is clear that he's talking about something completely unrealted to these two rabbis. So if not a reference to father and son, then who was Jakob Goldenthal referring to. The reference to Moranu and Ravenu are almost always used when referring to Moses. As the Lawgiver, he had earned these supreme titles. And as Karaites strictly adhering to the laws as handed down by Moses and implemented through his brother Aaron's decendants as high priests, then it is no coincidence that the two men adorning Jakob's coverplate are none other than Moes and Aaron. In this context it is no suprise that the Hebrew words for intercessor and recorder are used whereas on the Latin coverplate Jakob uses author and writer. Had he actually been writing about Rabbi Nissim he would have used the word MEHABAR to identify him as author not the word for intecessor. For as we know, Moses did not author the Old Testament he merely acted as intecessor as God described what to write to him and the council of 70 elders wrote it down under the direction of Aaron.

By why use Rabbi Nissim as the pretext for writing a commentary? The reasoning was actually quite shrewd on Jakob's part. Rabbi Nissim Ben Jacob lived between the years 990-1062, but the fact that he was from Kairouan (in Tunisia) North Africa was normally not part of his title. He was usually referred to as Gaon indicating that he was the head of the religious schools there. To exclude that from his title could be considered a minor insult but Jakob does not appear to have any concern for the absence of his proper title. Nissim is best known today for his Talmudic commentary HaMafteach, which Jakob Goldenthal uses as the main title on the Hebrew coverplate. The book is actually an index to obscure references and to the secondary compilation of oral traditions known as the Tosefta. Not a book that would be at the top of the best seller's list. In fact obscurity was the best way to descibe it and Jakob's decision to highlight it as a book he wanted to comment on makes no sense at all. Being an index, it was hardly the type of book that one would expect someone else to write another index on how to actually use it. That would be similar to someone writing a major univerity paper on how to use an index at the back of a book. Let's give Jakob a little more credit than that! So that in itself is the first clue that Jakob was using this particular Rabbi to point out something completely different. Perhaps it was that Rabbi Nissim also wrote other works, one of which was a polemic in which he made a stinging attack in disputing Karaism which he viewed as controverting religion, philosophy, politics, and scientific matters. Who better than an enemy of the Karaites to use as the delivery boy for your own message. Jakob would have no regrets in using an enemy of his brethren for such a purpose. Nissim also had written a collection of tales, entitled Sefer Ma'asiyyot ha-Hakhamim which contained about sixty tales, based upon the oral traditions. Again, using this medieval story teller as the vehicle to tell your own story has some ironic humour that I can see appealing to my ancestor. So, it is possible that referring to the author as the Kairouan rather than alluding to his title of Gaon as supreme teacher intentional.

One has to remember that it was up to Jakob Goldenthal to decide exactly what wording would be used on these cover plates. The same way he would have instructed the artist as to what to draw and include in the artwork. The same principles as I am involved with today with my publishers for my novels. I have final say on the style and artwork for my books and therefore in that regard, ultimate control. So if I was Jakob and placed on my Latin coverplate standard references to the Vienna library as would be expected of me as a Professor of the University of Vienna, then it would be assumed that I would make similar references on the Hebrew coverplate. But as the one making the ultimate decisions as to what to write, and if I think I've been clever enough to conceal my intentions well enough to pass the light scrutiny my book would receive by those fluent in Latin but perhaps not so well skilled in Hebrew then I might see an opportunity to play out my hand. It was a gamble, and Jakob wrote something totally unexpected which to date has escaped the critics. Instead of the library reference he wrote VEHOSAFTI ELION HAGHOIT KARATIM BESAM BE-AR YAKOV. Roughly translated this reads And The Additional Leaflet on The Holy days of the Karaites There at the Well of Jacob. Rabbi Nissim wrote no such tractate. The mere mention of Karaites on the same front page as mentioning the Talmud would be considered bizarre since they are diametrically opposed. And to further layer this unusual statement by a reference to the well of Jacob is only more mystifying. It is said that Jacob dug the well (Gen 48:12) near Shechem roughly at the base of Mount Gerzim. It is an area with an abundance of springs so the need for a well at all has always been bewildering. But the use of water in the Middle East has always been governed by very strict laws and the digging of a well there may have been one of the conditions Jacob had to meet in order to purchase the land. As there was always a danger of strife between rival herdsmen, the patriarch would have achieved a peace by digging this well and also established his independance from the other chieftains by having his own water supply. Is Jacob Goldenthal alluding to himself that somehow he would attain peace between the rival factions of Karaiate and Rabbinical Jew. By then Karaites were diminished to a point of insignificance. Was he thinking a revival of the sect? Did he have some plans in motion? It's possible because following the reference on the well he writes in Hebrew, ANI JAKOB GOLDENTHAL or I am Jakob Goldenthal as if he and the well were somehow the same. Contrast this to the Latin Coverplate where he refers to himself as the Editor and provider of the introduction then lists all his educational degrees following his name. He does no such thing on the Hebrew coverplate.

So how aware would Jakob have been regarding the events in Shadows of Trinity? Considering the letters from his ancestor Yakov Kahana would have contained some details of the events then he would have known most of the story. As I mentioned, he had full editorial powers over the artwork that would be included in his book. As Shadows of Trinity and Blood Royale were both stories that contained strong references to clandestine events in France, the role of the Kahana family pivotal in both these stories and the fact that the members of the family were far more than academics but warriors that fought to the death for the survival of their people, then it would be hard to believe that Jakob would not find an opportunity to communicate his knowledge of these events. The Kahana as I frequently remind people is from the line of descendants from Aaron via the House of Phiabi. Yakov knew this, Jakob knew this and I know this. On that basis it was obvious that I should look at the portrait of Aaron in the coverplate picture to find any hidden clues if they existed. As I had suspected, my ancestor did not leave me looking too long as there are several.

1. The most obvious indication is the design in the platform beneath Aaron's feet. It would have been normal to include something in reference to Aaron's role as high priest. A menorah, shewbread table, the ark or something from the Temple. If you look closely at the design there are two items. An Arabic styled scimitar or sword and an urn turned on its side. The sword which would be out of context with Aaron but not the Kahana is patently obvious, but the urn I still have to think about. I don't have an answer for that yet.

2. The crescent moon of the mitre on Aaron's head for those not familiar with the high priest's headdress is completely atypical of the conical mitre in white and blue that has been traditionally associated with the biblical description. If you want to see what the actual high priest clothing looked like then I suggest you go to my website at and take a look at my son's ascent pictures where he is wearing the priestly garments. For Jakob to approve a diagram so obviously erroneous meant it had to be right for a completely different reason. A reference to the family's origins around the Black Sea possibly where the Muslim crescent would have been the dominant symbol.

3. But then altering the priests wardrobe was something Jakob was blatant about. The biblical description refers to stripes on the ephod that were gold, red and purple. Again see the pictures on my website. Jakob would have known this. If one looks closely at the diagram they will see that he had the robe covered in Fleur de Lis. The French references are pretty obvious. The only time the Fleur de Lis were used as Jewish symbols were by the Hasmonean family. So now we have a double reference. Not only to the French history I alluded to earlier but also the combined entity of Priest-Kings which not only the Hasmoneans were but also the Kahana.

4. But there is another item on the ephod that is a mystery. Just to the right of the incence burner is what appears to be a patch in the shape of a heraldic shield. It is covered with tiny squares. There is no reference to anything like this in the bible. The only pockets on the ephod were underneath the breastplate to hold the ummim and thummim. What is it and what does it mean? Right now your guess is as good as mine. I might suggest that it is Jakob Goldenthal's personal stance. The fact that he had adopted Oswald von Goldenthal's heraldic emblem and that as Kahana he saw himself wearing the garments in a time period almost two thousand years earlier he combined the two. Mere speculation but my best guess at this time.

So in conclusion I will say this. Though my third great grandfather has been gone and buried for almost one hundred and fifty years, it think if we listen and look long enough we can still hear his voice.

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