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Author: Ari Mermelstein
This study examines the relationship between time and history in Second Temple literature. Numerous sources from that period express a belief that Jewish history began with an act of covenant formation and proceeded in linear fashion until the exile, an unprecedented event which severed the present from the past. The authors of Ben Sira, Jubilees, the Animal Apocalypse, and 4 Ezra responded to this theological challenge by claiming instead that Jewish history began at creation. Between creation and redemption, history unfolds as a series of static, repeating patterns that simultaneously account for the disappointments of the Second Temple period and confirm the eternal nature of the covenant. As iterations of timeless, cyclical patterns, the difficult post-exilic present and the glorious redemption of the future emerge as familiar, unremarkable, and inevitable historical developments.
Author: Ari Mermelstein

Abstract

Employing a “social constructionist” approach, according to which emotions are culturally conditioned expressions of values, this study considers how the sect behind 1QS used the emotions of love and hate to teach its members the proper ways of evaluating the world. Sectarian love and hate were vehicles through which the sect communicated core beliefs about election and revelation. Because his entrance into the sect was made possible by divine love, the initiate was expected to recognize his utter dependence on the divine will by loving those whom God loves and hating those whom he hates, thereby affirming his place in the covenantal community. Since divine love and hate manifested itself in the selective revelation of knowledge, sectarian love and hate required the unselfish disclosure of knowledge to other group members and the concealment of the same knowledge from outsiders. This link between the emotions of love and hate and an ethic of disclosure and concealment left its mark on routine sectarian conduct in the practice of reproof. Reproof of insiders and the conscious withholding of reproof from outsiders was a “socially dictated performance” of either love or hate that demonstrated the sectarian’s commitment to communal beliefs about covenant, knowledge, divine will, and relations with outsiders.

In: Dead Sea Discoveries
Author: Ari Mermelstein

In this article, I explore the role that the purification rites attested in some of the sectarian Dead Sea Scrolls played in identity construction. Ritual ablutions communicated “canonical” messages to initiates about some of the group’s foundational beliefs, including the worthlessness of humanity, the gift of divine election, and the sharp boundary between insiders and outsiders. These messages were channeled through the emotions that the sect associated with ritual ablutions: shame, disgust, and grief with the ritual actor’s former state of impurity, joy and honor upon receiving the undeserved divine gift of purity, love for other pure insiders, and hate for all impure outsiders. By evoking emotions – “embodied thoughts” – that reflect core sectarian values, the embodied ritual became a vehicle through which the sectarian “emotional regime” transformed the ritual actor into the embodiment of the sectarian worldview.


In: Biblical Interpretation
Author: Ari Mermelstein

Anger, courage, and philanthropia—three important elements of Greco-Roman civic life—figure prominently in the book of Joseph and Aseneth and help us uncover the book’s message. One view within Greco-Roman culture valorized manly anger—at least where appropriate—and manly courage, but, according to Joseph and Aseneth, Jews instead privileged the emotion of pity and the related virtue of philanthropia. The author strategically developed his plot around the experiences of a female convert, whose views on anger, courage, and philanthropia highlight both the distinctiveness and subversiveness of the Jewish position. His message served an important polemical goal, one which highlighted the premium that Jews place on philanthropia and challenged contemporary accusations of Jewish misanthropy.

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism
Author: Ari Mermelstein

This paper examines the seminal role that emotions, particularly fear and pride, play in the book of Daniel. Drawing upon the idea of “emotional communities,” I view the book’s final redactor as engaged with the views of one such community during the period of the Antiochan persecutions. The redactor’s emotional community responded to the persecutions with fear, an emotion that he simultaneously validated and challenged. The emotions of pride and fear both reflect beliefs about one’s power relative to others. The prideful kings portrayed in the book and the redactor’s fearful emotional community shared what the redactor claimed were unwarranted beliefs about the relative power of each group. In order to jettison the fear of his community, the redactor first had to address the beliefs that supported that emotion. The book constitutes a sustained effort to construct an alternative emotional norm for members of the redactor’s community by providing them with a new way of evaluating their situation: even if redemption has been delayed, faithful Jews who resist Antiochus to the point of martyrdom are in fact the powerful ones.

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism
Author: Ari Mermelstein

This article explores the role that emotion plays in rabbinic interpretations of the law of the captive woman. Discrete “emotional communities” establish “feeling rules” through which they broadcast their ideal emotional world and the values associated with it. Different midrashim, employing rich metaphors, agree that the feeling rule in the law of the captive seeks to elicit disgust from the captor. That emotion emphasizes the otherness of its object and thereby affects the power relations that obtain between subject and object. Midrashic sources disagree, however, over whether the captor’s disgust response will motivate him to jettison the captive. At issue is the identity of the powerful party confronting the captor: a gentile plot that disgust could help him neutralize or an evil inclination which it could not. If the captor marries his captive, he will experience hate, an emotion that will confirm the otherness that he earlier failed to recognize.

In: Journal of Ancient Judaism
In: Creation, Covenant, and the Beginnings of Judaism