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Parallelisms and Differences:
Rastafarianism and Judaism

Dani Dvorin
20 April 1998

The two religions of Rastafarianism and Judaism embody many of the same characteristics, as well as their ancestry. Although the Rastafarians, at times, inaccurately explain the bible, their belief in the Old Testament is still prevalent. Many of the customs are almost identical, but the rationale behind the traditions and laws contrast greatly.

In 1933, when Leonard P. Howell was arrested for using"seditious and blasphemous language,"to boost the sale of pictures of Haile Selassie, he stated that Selassie was,"King Ras Tafari of Abyssinia, son of king Solomon by the queen of Sheba."1 Howell knew that in later years factual information about Selassie's true origin would be declared. As an Ethiopian constitution of 1955 confirms, Haile Selassie in his position as Emperor,"descends without interruption from the dynasty of Menelik I, son of Ethiopia, the Queen of Sheba, and King Solomon of Jerusalem."2 This constitution, therefore, gives us direct evidence from Ethiopian sources of an existence of a section of the Ethiopian Population practicing the Jewish Religion.

According to the bible, King Solomon, King of Israel and the Jews, was paid by a visit from the Queen of Sheba, an Ethiopian Monarch. The Kebra Negast, the book of the glory of kings, states that by a trick, King Solomon inveigled the queen into sharing his bed with the result of a new born son, Menelik, who in due course became king or negus of Ethiopia.3 The queen was very impressed during her visit to the Holy Land, and adopted the Jewish Religion. But her son Menelik, when he grew up, visited his father, and transferred the Ark of the Covenant from Jerusalem to Axum. It is at this point where a new religion of the Falasha Jews began in Ethiopia.

The Falashas are the black Jews of Ethiopia, descendant from King Solomon and Queen of Sheba."Falasha means emigrant, exile, or stranger to the land and it is not impossible that the Jews of Ethiopia themselves originally adopted this term to indicate that they were exiles from the Holy Land into which, when the Messiah came, they would be gathered."4 The Ethiopian Jews depend entirely on written laws, without support from the Talmud or any Rabbinical interpretations. The Falashas adhere to the teachings of the Torah, the five books of Moses, as well as all the other books of the Old Testament. Although, they reject any scriptures from the New Testament and the Koran, which are used by Christians and Muslims across the world. Orthodox rabbis have questioned the authenticity of their attachment to the Jewish religion because they do not follow the precepts of the Halachah, or Oral Law, which they follow. But the Talmud was not complete until about 500 AD, at a time when the Jews of Ethiopia were already cut off from their co-religionists in the rest of the world.

In the Jewish religion, Judaism is not only obtained through conversion but mainly through our mothers. According to Jewish Law, a baby boy or girl is Jewish because their mothers are, not their fathers. Therefore, it could be claimed that Haile Selassie was not Jewish because the Emperor of Ethiopia, Sheba, was not. On a contrary note, Menelik's mother, Sheba, was indeed Jewish according to genealogical lists from the book of Genesis. In this book, it states that direct descendants of Noah are Ham and Cush (Ethiopia) and Mizraim (Egypt), and the sons of Cush are Raamah, Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, and Sabtecha. The sons of Raamah are Sheba and Dedan, thus making Sheba the grandson of Cush, direct descendant of Noah, all Jewish."The Sheba is represented on both sides of the Red Sea and is associated with Cush, a vague term connoting the entire Nile Valley, south of Egypt, including Nubia and Abyssinia(where Haile Selassie is descendant from)"5

To take these theories and historical data even further,"black people were not merely like the Jews in terms of historical experience, they were the Jews."6 Ethiopian mythology projects the longings of the Africans to a Christian African nation under the"Lion of Judah, King of Kings,"but the Zionist mythical reasoning leads their thoughts to the Holy Land itself. The bible reveals to the Rastafarian people the history of their true identity and assures them that their judgment is not purely subjective.
In the Rastafarian religion they know that they are descendant from the Jewish religion, but they believe that the bible is written by and about black people. When the bible speaks about the Israelites, the Rastas believe that they were writing about black people."The history thus dug from earth in Africa has borne mute but abundant testimony that the bible records us Black people as Israel."7 They go on to believe that the black Africans are the sole Representatives of those chosen people recounted in the bible. From the first chapter of the"Song of Songs,"the Rastas conclude that Solomon was black, and therefore Jesse and David before him."I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar as the curtains of Solomon. Look not upon me because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me."8 When the Rastafarian people read from the holy scriptures they replace the word"Israel"with the phrase"black people, my peculiar treasure."9

The problem with the Rastafarians interpretation of the bible is that they are taking each sentence concerning black people out of context. The Rastas are also reading the English version of the bible, which translates the bible incorrectly. For example, as stated up above, the Rastafarians have read the Song of Solomon's, read the word in English,"I am Black,"and concluded that King Solomon must have been black. This assumption is completely false because in the Hebrew version one can see that Solomon was speaking in a females voice. The Hebrew language is gender specific unlike the English language, therefore, impossible for one Rasta to know that a woman was speaking. In addition, the Song of Solomon was indeed written by King Solomon, but it was a poem and, thus, impossible to be taken literally.

The book Dread: The Rastafarians of Jamaica cites 8 more times in which the Rastafarians have read the bible and concluded that ancient Jews were black. It is important to go through each of these bible references and prove them inaccurate. The first one is Lamentations chapter 4, verse 8,"Their visage is blacker than a coal; they are not known in the street: their skin cleaveth to their bones; it is withered it is become like a stick."In this quote the Rastafarians read that their face was black, the reason it says this is because G-d is mad at the Children of Israel. In a metaphoric sense, G-d is dooming the people and says that if they do something bad their face will darken.

In Lamentations chapter 5 verse 10, the English version of the bible reads,"Our skin was black like an oven, because of the terrible famine."In English the word black is used but in Hebrew, the word is dried out and burned. The comparison the bible is trying to make is like when meat is in the oven too long and it burns. The Dread book also lists: Joel 2:8 and Habukkah 2:10 but there is no evidence of black people in either of these passages.

In the book of Job, chapter 30 verse 30 the bible reads,"My skin is black upon me, and my bones are burned with heat."What has happened up to this point in the bible is that G-d took everything away from Job, including his wife, kids, job and all his estate. Job explains that his skin was ripped apart because G-d took everything from him and he was in mourning. In the end, Job wouldn't leave his Jewish faith, G-d saw this, and returned all Job's valuables to him. The most important part in interpreting this section of the bible is to understand that again poetry and metaphors are used here. We know this is poetry because the language is very melodic and rhythmic. Short sentences using opposites are used like,"I was looking for light and I saw darkness."

In the book of Psalms, chapter 119 verse 83,"For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet I do not forget thy statutes."David is talking to G-d in this passage and he uses it metaphorically to say that even when he was shriveled he did not forget G-d's laws. In Jeremiah chapter 14 verse 2,"Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they are black unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up."In English they translate the Hebrew word of"Kadru"as black but in reality it means darkened and bend to the ground. The reason for this explanation was because it was a prophecy and G-d was telling Jeremiah what was to come, a lot of mourning. The last verse in the Dread book is Revelation chapter 1 verse 14, where the new Testament speaks of Jesus,"His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire."Although the bible said his hair was like wool, like the dreads of an afro, we mustn't forget all the white symbolism.

Many Rastafarians still believe that David was black but there is a direct quote that specifies his true color in Samuel I, chapter 17, verse 42."And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David; he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance."This quote is pretty straight forward in saying that David had red hair and white skin. I have never seen a black man with red hair and less it was dyed. The Rastafarian's have a knack for picking and choosing what they believe is true. They take most of the words out of context without understanding all the other words and phrases in the bible. In an interview with a Jewish scholar, Rivka Weiselfish, owner of"The Judaica Store,"in West Harford, CT, she says,"Haile Sellassie is definitely not descendant from King David because it is nearly impossible to trace someone 225 generations back. The Ethiopians were one of the last people to keep written documentation and therefore couldn't have traced that far back."10 She went on to give me a quote in Yiddish,"Austa Gazud"which translates to"So they said,"meaning just because they say he's a descendant doesn't mean he is.

Many Rastafarians believe that the white man has attempted to conceal from the oppressed blacks reality of the identity with the Israelites. They have concluded that the white people ones commonly called Jews, masquerade as the descendants of the ancient Hebrews. It is clear from the Rastafarian scriptures that all whites are gentiles and that the Jews are of non Hebrew stock. One Rastafarian from an area of Jamaica called Teddy said,"anyone outside the black man is not a Jew, like some of the Jews, you see downtown there, that have the big merchant store."11 This is indeed one of the most racist comments by a Rastafarian. The reason behind most of the Jews running the lending shops, banks, and other money type stores was because in the Diaspora (anywhere outside of Israel, or in Europe) the Jews were not allowed to own their own land and had to do make their income some other way.

According to one Rastafarian,"We are the creation of G-d, Jah I, us the Ethiopians are his chosen people, we were created for his glory."12 The term Jah is the divine name used by most by the Rastafarians. It probably derives from the Hebrew"Yahweh,"in its shortened form, as in"Eli-Jah"or"Hallelu-Jah."This attempts to connect Selassie to Elijah, the messiah. The Rastas describe Haile Selassie in unequivocal terms, as an incomparable power, and the supreme authority on earth. In his role of King of Kings, Lord of Lords, he controls every part of the universe; he"comes to rule the earth, to be a good father of the people who love righteousness. He exercises his might through the channels of church and state, and works thus for the unity of all men, because the earth belongs to him."13 One Rastafarian says,"Jesus was, Ras Tafari is."14 In the Sunday Gleamer there is a powerful quote that explains a young Rastafarian, belonging to Local chapter 15 of the Federation, view's about Selassie."Haile Selassie believes in G-d. He believes that G-d is in his heart. When we say that His Imperial Majesty is G-d we mean that he is head of the G-d body. The church is the body of G-d. Haille Selassie is the head of the body, for every body must have a head. Every person can come to oneness with the divine man, Selassie Jah Ras Tafari is the Almighty one. Each and everyone has to bow to the Almighty G-d. Haile Selassie is the king of creation, but he is not G-d. Most Rastafarians believe that Haile Selassie is G-d, but he's not G-d, he is our king."15
Is Haile Selassie G-d, King, or both? This is a common inconsistency in the Rastafarian religion. Just in the last quote, in the same sentence, the student calls Selassie the Almighty G-d and then say's that he's not G d. One Rastafarian says that,"G-d is every man, for man couldn't go higher than the most high Rastafari."16 The Rastas begin to portray their distinct conception of G-d by the very name that they use for him: Jah, Ras Tafari, Elect of himself, Lion of Tribe of Judah. By such titles the Rastas announce that they have departed from the ways of traditional Christianity, and in reality they have found what so many others have longed for: a new revelation of divinity. They also believe that Selassie is the creator of every man, and every man has Selassie within him.

The fact that many Rastafarians believe in Selassie as G-d and some who don't, has no connection to the views of creation. The Rastafarians and the Jews both believe in the same creation because both Rastas and Jews believe in the Bible (Old Testament). One Rasta states,"Man's dignity is also founded on his creative role within the world. The original creation was an act of G-d at the beginning of time, and divine creative power still at work in the universe. 'In the beginning G-d, which is the word manifest in the flesh, created man in his image and likeness.' He created us in all his gloryŠ the glory of our master, our father, the earth."Both religions believe in G-d's creation of the world, regardless of who G d is.

Another great similarity between the two religions is the coming of a Messiah. The only difference is who that Messiah will be. In the Rastafarian religion, the Rastas believe that Jesus would proclaim himself again for final judgment and he came in the form of Halie Selassie. Rastas conclude that the Messianic Status of Selassie is: first off descendant from King David and also that Selassie is the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah, now dwelling in his Holy Place on Mount Zion, which is in Ethiopia. When Selassie came to Jamaica, which was rare and spectacular, the Rastafarians knew that Ras Tafari was their Messiah and Savior. But most importantly, the fact that Haile Selassie rejected himself as the savior is even more proof to the Rastas that he was the returned Messiah.

At the moment when the Messiah does come the only ones who will be saved are the ones who recognize the Messiah. The final event will be surrounded by confusion and contradiction; a time when the good and evil are sorted out. In the Jewish religion the view of the Messiah is extremely similar,"The Messiah will indeed be a king from the house of David who will gather the scattered of Israel together, but the order of the world will not be radically changed by his coming."17 The Jews also believe there will be a world of peace and justice and all people of Israel will become obedient to the ways of the Torah.

The Rastas consider themselves involuntary pilgrims in a land of captivity, Jamaica/Babylon. There are many biblical references of Babylon for the Jews. The Babylonian Empire destroyed the First Temple of the Jews and then exiled the Jews to Babylon, where they wept, and remembered Zion. The ancient Babylon is now where Iraq stands today. In both Rastafarian and Jewish history the prophets and apocalyptic writers use Babylon to symbolize powerful forces used against G-d and his people. The Babylonian deportation and exile is understandably seen by Rastas as a situation similar to slave treatment which occurred in the Western world. Babylon is in sum, the whole complex of institutions which conspire to keep the black man enslaved in the West. It also attempts to subjugate colored people throughout the world. Against this power the Rastafarians fight continually and trust in the help of the Almighty to destroy this ancient enemy once and for all.

In order to understand all the connections within the beliefs, rituals, and symbols between Rastafarianism and Judaism it is extremely important to understand the origin of Rastafarianism. In November of 1930, there were clear indications of a new cult brewing and by 1933, as stated above, Leonard P. Howell was arrested for using"Seditious and Blasphemous language"to increase the sale of pictures of Haile Selassie. Howell Claimed that the"spirit of our Lord was returned in this Mythical figure."18 During Howell's trial he refused to swear on the bible, and told the court,"We were told that we were Gentiles (but we came) to know that we were the Jews."19 The reason Howell gave for the Rasta's non existence up to this point was that the messiah in the form of Ras Tafari has come back to this world. What bothered the Jamaican colonies so much was the"implicit allegiance to a foreign King."20 Howell also condemned the works of Christian churches and said that the spirit of G-d did not exist in the churches. Hinds, one of Howell's Lieutenants, testified that Haile Selassie was the son of G-d and he had come to govern all of mankind and also that Jesus was black.

During the years between 1927 and 1935 a new activist became prominent in the Rastafarian community, named Marcus Garvey. Marcus Garvey was deported from the U.S. and returned to his native Jamaica where he told people there to"look to Africa, where a black King shall be crowned, for the day of deliverance is near ."21 Also during these years a strong Ethiopianist movement started, which identified New World blacks as Ethiopians, and Ethiopians as descendants of the Israelites. In 1930, Ras Tafari crowned Emperor Haile Selassie I took the titles"King of Kings, Lord of Lords, conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah."22 In 1934, Howell was guilty of sedition for preaching his doctrine regarding Selassie and for distributing pictures of Selassie, claiming they were passports back to Ethiopia. By 1937, under patronage of Haile Selassie, the Ethiopian world Federation was founded in New York City to effect the unity and solidarity of Black people around the world and, also, to defend the sovereignty of Ethiopia. And then, finally in 1938 the movement had reached Jamaica and several local organizations were established.

Knowledge of the religion and all their surroundings is one of the most important concepts of the Rastafarian religion. The Rastas delineate the conception of know more precisely by distinguishing it from"hearing, learning, and reading."All three modes of inducing belief were used by the colonial slave masters to enslave the people's minds and are therefore, not used. The Rastas of our time of liberation demand full knowledge and will be satisfied with nothing else."The Rastas insist that their religion is not one that has been"handed down"to themŠ Rastas assert that such knowledge must be gained and experienced by each and every generation, by each and every individual. It is not enough that one generation established all knowledgeŠ Every man is called to witness G-d's gloryŠ We don't have to read the bible to know that he is G-d. We know that he is G-d through inborn conception!"23

The Jewish religion is quite different when it comes to each generation. There is indeed a quest for each individual to gain access to as much information as possible, but the Jewish religion and teachings are"handed down."Many Rabbis, many generations back established the laws and rules for all the generations to come. Each individual may try to experience G-d's glory but can't always; he may have to rely on the scriptures to see G-d's magnificent power.

Probably one of the most important characteristics of the Rastafarian religion is the stress on Nature. The Rastas insist that every man is in some way possessed of a creative nature which raises him above all the other inhabitants of the earth. When the Rastas reject the Western Civilization they accept nature as a key concept to explain their key doctrines such as repatriation, the use of Ganja, the growing of locks and beards, humanity of G-d, and the nature of the human body.

As stated above both Jews and Rastas believe in the old testament and therefore obey they're laws. As the Rastas pick and choose which laws to obey the Jewish people observe them all. Therefore it is not surprising that when the Rastas follow the laws concerning hair cutting, the Jews do too. In several of the scriptures, the holy man is instructed not to alter his hair. In Leviticus 19:27, Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard."In Leviticus 21:5,"They shall not make any baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in the flesh."And finally Numbers 6:5,"All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he spareth himself unto the Lord, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow."24 On the foundations of these biblical commandments, the Rastas grow their long, unaltered locks as symbols of blackness, dignity, and honor.

In addition to the Biblical groundwork there are quite a few other reasons for the Natty Dreadlocks most Rastafarian's wear. The dreadlocks are a devotion to the holy way of living and, thus, a symbol that the longer the Dreads the more holy the Rasta. As the biblical reasons being the first, the second reason Rastas where Dreads is to show their"Natural"way of living. The Dreads are a vital link in symbolizing man's yearning to return to the unsophisticated ways of"creation-living."One Rasta says,"I could not create a strand of hair, how could I destroy it."25 The second reason is that the Romans first off tried to cut the Rastas hairs, and second off, have short hair themselves. The Romans inhibited and used the scissors and the razor, and also, conspired to corrupt the rest of the world. The third reason is that Christ and the great leaders and prophets of all ancient Israel were all locksman. Selassie also had a beard and locks and the Rastas imagine themselves as closely resembling their emperor as possible. Fourthly, the official symbol of Ethiopia is a standing Lion. And as a known fact, the Lion has long hair on his mane often compared to the locks on a Rastas head. And finally the fifth and last reason is that dreadlocks can be defined as"high tension wires"which transmit divine energy and inspiration from Jah, the creator, to Rasta, the mirror. The Rasta without dreads is a"bald-head;"he cannot be taken seriously because he does not display his commitment to the faith. One Rasta compares a Rasta without Dreads to a New York executive without a cell phone. In sum, once the Rastas begin to develop their"high tension wires,"all realms of life can open and be revealed to the Rasta.

In accordance with the Rastas"Natural"way of being the Rastas prefer to eat only"I-tal food"-all Natural foods that have been unprocessed. Strict Rastas eat no meat, just like vegetarians. Many Rastas make their own oil from coconuts rather than buying refined oil. They also don't eat fish, salt, eggs, sardines, bully beef, ham, bacon, chicken, and cheese. They are not allowed to have any white flour products, such as: bread, buns, cake, dumplings, or gravy. And also, no alcoholic drinks or beverages such as milk, Horlick, ovaltine, milo, cocoa, coffee, or soda.26 There are four reasons for not eating flesh:"1) It is of no benefit and could well be detrimental to a man's health. 2) It is an excessively expensive way to obtain nutrition, beyond the means of most people. 3) It makes man viscous and aggressive, like the animals themselves. 4) It is unsanitary because of handling and storing methods."27 One Rasta says that meat affects a man's emotional or sexual life,"If he don't eat it, he could live with a woman a year and not bother her."28 Another Rasta says that the white meats insanity habits and it's scavenger manner can be associated with the white man.

There are many connections between the Rastafarian and Jewish dietary laws, on the other hand, there are many differences and also different reasons behind these laws. A few of the laws that are the same include the refusal to eat pork because of the biblical instructions and also because we know that they are easily susceptible to disease. Many Jewish people do not keep the"Laws of Kashruth,"such as the Reform or less orthodox Jews. The Rastafarian religion is designed in the same way, in the sense that the avoidance of particular foods is desirable, but not essential. But, when a Rasta, out of hunger, does transgress the norms of the dietary laws he's required to pray for forgiveness. The Rastas feel that G-d knows their needs and will overlook minor failures. One of the most least objectionable foods are fish, because many Rastafarians are fisherman.

There are basically two main reasons for the Jewish Kashruth (Kosher) laws."(a)These laws represent a curbing of animal appetites and (b) that they were ordained as a way of setting the Jews apart in their day to day life, so that they may be conscious of their responsibility as members of a priest-people."29 The reason that is most often heard for not eating milk and meat together is"that you shall not boil a kid in its mothers milk."30 Some of the most notable passages are as follows,"These are the animals which you may eat of all the beasts of the earth. Whatsoever divides the hoof and is wholly cloven-footed, and chews the cud, among the beasts, you may eat. But among those that chew the cud or divide the hoof you shall not eat these. The camel, which chews the cud but does not divide the hoof, is unclean to youŠ The swine, which divides the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean to youŠ These you may eat of all that are in the water: Every thing in the water that has fine scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat. But anything that is in the sea or the rivers that has no fins and scalesŠis an abomination to youŠof their flesh you shall not eat."31 Therefore it is evident that there are many differences between the dietary customs or laws, but most importantly both religions do stress importance on what the man eats.

As there are three prominent areas where"Nature"is thus"ritualized"by Rastas, fist being the Locks, second in the consumption of food, and, finally, the third the smoking of herbs. The Rastafarians believe that smoking the holy herb is the purest and most natural form of attaining communion with G-d. Revelation chapter 22 verse 2, is the Rastafarians poor excuse for smoking dope."In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leave of the tree were for the healing of the nations."32"Šthou shall eat the herb of the field."33"Šeat every herb of the land."34"Better is a dinner of herb where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith"35"He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man."36 I wonder how the Rastafarians translated herb to mean Cannabis sativa. Herb can be any spice that we put on our pasta to the herb we put in our tea. It's quite random to choose Marijuana as the herb that the bible speaks of. But the Ganja has much more than a simple biblical reference for the Rastas, it has become"a reactionary device to the society and an index of an authentic form of freedom from the establishment."37 Ganja is also used as a protest against society. Ganja smoking was the first instrument of protest engaged in by the movement to show it's freedom from the laws of"Babylon."

The Jewish religion also stresses some importance on spices from the land, but not Marijuana. Originally, Spices were used in households throughout the home after meal to dissipate the food's odors. This custom was not done on the Sabbath, the holy day of the week, because of the sacredness of the day. Now we pass around a box which contain spices at the service which concludes the Sabbath to symbolize the end of the holy day. The spices are also supposed to trigger the memory of the Sabbath and make us long for the next Sabbath in the coming week.

The Star of David, or also called the Star of Solomon, is used many times to symbolize the Rastafarian religion. It is used on many reggae CD covers and even flags depicting both Rastas and Jews. The Rastafarians, as stated above believe that Haile Selassie their leader, was descendant from King Solomon and King David, hence they use their symbol, the Star of David. The Jews also use this as their symbol representing the Jews and even Israel on the Israeli flag. The Star of David was originally used as a geometric figure and picture on David's army's Shields."Magen David"in Hebrew literally means:"The shield of David."38 The star has no direct connection with David himself and was also used by"Kabbalists"(Jewish mystics) between the years of 1300-1700. But not until the 17th Century was the symbol used for Jewish identification in Prague. When they originally found the Star in the Temple it had five points and looked much like a swastika, so they changed it to the six pointed figure we now know of today.

Another symbol that ties into the Jewish religion is the symbolism of the Lion. The Lion represents Haile Selassie, the Conquering lion of Judah. The Lion is seen all over, again on Reggae CD covers(Burning Spear), in homes, on flags, on tabernacles, in paintings, in their songs and poetry, and basically any place where there are Rastafarians."The Lion represents not only the king of kings, but the dominant maleness of the movement. The Rastafarians stimulate the spirit of the lion in the way they wear their locks and in the way they walk. To the public the image of the lion suggests strength, dominance and aggressiveness."39

The Jewish religion and the Rastafarian reggae subculture came together in a CD called"Passover Reggae."Passover, the Jewish holiday tells the story of the Jewish voyage from Egypt led by Moses. Many songs and prayers are associated during this holiday, therefore this CD attempts to take these Jewish songs and attach them to a Reggae Beat and style. From the other side, Reggae artists have always chanted the words of the stories of the Israelites. Specifically, Desmond Dekker released an album by Pyramid Records, called"The Israelites."One trio Band was able to incorporate the ancestry in to the name of their band: Israel Vibration. A product of the late 70's, Cecil 'Skeleton' Spence, Albert 'Apple' Craig, and Lascelles 'Wiss' Bulgrin met in a polio sufferers home and went on to"create a unique style of guileless, off-key harmonizing that is one of the most effective in Jamaican music. They perfectly expressed the"Dread"moodŠ"40

Before I began this paper, I had heard through rumors that many of the students in the"Rhetoric of Reggae"class had been so moved by the Rastafarian religion that they mentally converted to the Rastafarian religion. I, therefore had a very open mind about Rastafarianism. I did not know a lot about it, but I was extremely excited to learn what the rave was all about. But to my dismay, I am not very impressed with the religion. First off, the Rastafarians have taken the words from my holy bible and changed their meaning. They took the words out of context and interpreted them incorrectly. The Rastas also pick and choose which laws to follow and which stories they want to believe. I think that one should either take the bible for all it offers or not at all. I also know that I will never have dreadlocks because of the symbolic representation of being oppressed. I was never oppressed in my life, and thus, not going to where hair indicative of persecution. Although, I do find it extremely courageous and witty for Howell, Garvey, and all their followers to start a new religion because of true inspiration.

In comparing my religion to Rastafarianism, I was able to see so many connections, especially because of common belief in the Old testament. We will never know if Haile Selassie is truly a descendant from King David, but in actuality it doesn't really matter. The Rastafarians accept this notion and it is important that they go with their hearts, not the true facts. All in all, the parallelisms between the two histories of the religions is immense, but currently they are very different in rituals, practice, and most importantly belief.

Works Cited

Barret, Leonard E. The Rastafarians (Boston: Beacon Press 1997)

Barrett, Leonard E., The Rastafarians: A study in Messianic Cultism in Jamaica (Puerto Rico, 1968), pp. 69-94.

Barrow, Steve and Dalton, Peter, Reggae: The Rough Guide (London: Rough Guides LTD1997)191

Budge, The Queen of Sheba and her only son Menelik, p.xxvii.

Hertzberg, Arthur, Judaism (New York: Simon and Shuster ) 281
Ibid., March 1934

Kolatch, Alfred J., The Jewish Book of Why (Jonathan David Publisher 1981) 118

Kessler, David. The Falashas (New York: Africana Publishing Company, 1982) 4

Kelly, Ras,"Revelation of Jah Throne,"(Kingston, no date)

King James, Holy Bible, Song of Solomon, (USA, no publishing given) p 620

Kitzinger, Sheila,"Protest and Mysticism: The Rastafari cult in Jamaica,"Journal for Scientific study of religions VIII (1969) p248

Nicholas, Tracy and Sparrow, Bill, Rastafari: a way of life (Chicago: Frontline Distribution International, Inc. 1996)

Owens, Joseph, Dread: The Rastafarians of Jamaica (Kingston, Jamaica: Sangster's Book, 1976)

Post, Ken, The bible as ideology: Ethiopianism in Jamaica, 1930-38, African Perspective (Cambridge: University Press, 1970) 185-222

Sunday Gleamer Magazine, 20 January, 1974

Daily Gleamer, 14 March 1934

Weiselfish, Rivka, personal Interview, 20 April. 1998.


1Budge, The Queen of Sheba and her only son Menelik, p.xxvii.

2 Budge, The Queen of Sheba and her only son Menelik, p.xxvii.

3 Kessler, David. The Falashas (New York: Africana Publishing Company, 1982) 1-33.

4 Kessler, David. The Falashas (New York: Africana Publishing Company, 1982) 4

5 Ethiopia and the bible, p 5.

6 Post, Ken, The bible as ideology: Ethiopianism in Jamaica, 1930-38, African Perspective (Cambridge: University Press, 1970) 185-222

7 Kelly, Ras,"Revelation of Jah Throne,"(Kingston, no date)

8 King James, Holy Bible, Song of Solomon, (USA, no publishing given) p 620

9 Owens, Joseph, Dread: The Rastafarians of Jamaica (Kingston, Jamaica: Sangster's Book, 1976)

10 Weiselfish, Rivka, personal Interview, 20 April. 1998.

11 Owens, Joseph, Dread: The Rastafarians of Jamaica (Kingston, Jamaica: Sangster's Book, 1976)

12 Kelly, Ras,"Revelation of Jah Throne,"(Kingston, no date)

13 Owens, Joseph, Dread: The Rastafarians of Jamaica (Kingston, Jamaica: Sangster's Book, 1976)

14 Owens, Joseph, Dread: The Rastafarians of Jamaica (Kingston, Jamaica: Sangster's Book, 1976)

15 Sunday Gleamer Magazine, 20 January, 1974

16 Owens, Joseph, Dread: The Rastafarians of Jamaica (Kingston, Jamaica: Sangster's Book, 1976)

17 Hertzberg, Arthur, Judaism (New York: Simon and Shuster ) 281

18 Ibid., March 1934

19 Daily Gleamer, 14 March 1934

20 Owens, Joseph, Dread: The Rastafarians of Jamaica (Kingston, Jamaica: Sangster's Book, 1976)

21 Leonard E. Barrett, The Rastafarians: A study in Messianic Cultism in Jamaica (Puerto Rico, 1968), pp. 69-94.

22 Owens, Joseph, Dread: The Rastafarians of Jamaica (Kingston, Jamaica: Sangster's Book, 1976)

23 Kitzinger, Sheila,"Protest and Mysticism: The Rastafari cult in Jamaica,"Journal for Scientific study of religions VIII (1969) p248

24 King James, Holy Bible, Song of Solomon, (USA, no publishing given)

25 Owens, Joseph, Dread: The Rastafarians of Jamaica (Kingston, Jamaica: Sangster's Book, 1976)

26 Nicholas, Tracy and Sparrow, Bill, Rastafari: a way of life (Chicago: Frontline Distribution International, Inc. 1996)

27 Owens, Joseph, Dread: The Rastafarians of Jamaica (Kingston, Jamaica: Sangster's Book, 1976)

28 Owens, Joseph, Dread: The Rastafarians of Jamaica (Kingston, Jamaica: Sangster's Book, 1976)

29 Hertzberg, Arthur, Judaism (New York: Simon and Shuster) 141

30 King James, Holy Bible, Song of Solomon, (USA, no publishing given) Sanhedrin 90b

31 King James, Holy Bible, Song of Solomon, (USA, no publishing given) Berakhot 28b

32 King James, Holy Bible, Song of Solomon, (USA, no publishing given)

33 King James, Holy Bible, Song of Solomon, (USA, no publishing given) Genesis 3:18

34 King James, Holy Bible, Song of Solomon, (USA, no publishing given) Exodus 10:12

35 King James, Holy Bible, Song of Solomon, (USA, no publishing given) Proverbs 15:17

36 King James, Holy Bible, Song of Solomon, (USA, no publishing given) Psalm 104:14

37 Barret, Leonard E. The Rastafarians (Boston: Beacon Press 1997) p129
38 Kolatch, Alfred J., The Jewish Book of Why (Jonathan David Publisher 1981) 118

39 Barret, Leonard E. The Rastafarians (Boston: Beacon Press 1997)
40 Barrow, Steve and Dalton, Peter, Reggae: The Rough Guide (London: Rough Guides LTD1997)191