This study surveys the archaeological evidence of Jewish ritual baths (miqwa'ot) built adjacent to tombs, dating variously from the late Second Temple period through the 3rd-4th centuries C.E., and analyses this evidence in light of the halakhic sources. At first glance, this archaeological phenomenon would seem to stand at odds with normative halakhah, which mandates miqweh ablutions for corpse-impurity only at the end of a seven-day purification process. A careful reading of the scriptural and rabbinic sources, however, reveals that while a seven-day purification process is required for one who has contracted impurity directly from a corpse or a grave, impurity conveyed through an intermediary source (i.e. physical contact with one who has contracted direct corpse-impurity) may be purged through ablutions on the same day that the impurity was incurred. This study suggests that miqwa'ot adjacent to tombs were utilized at the conclusion of burial ceremonies by funeral participants who had contracted such “second-degree” impurity.
The present study presents and discusses the tefillin (phylactery) remains found in Cave 34 at Naḥal Ṣeʾelim within the framework of Yohanan Aharoni’s first 1960 expedition to the Judean Desert. Presented here are a leather tefillin case, never before reported upon, and two inscribed tefillin slips (34ṢePhyl A and 34ṢePhyl B) which have until now received only preliminary treatment. Very few close parallels to the Naḥal Ṣeʾelim tefillin slips are known from elsewhere in the Judean Desert. Both the tefillin slips and the case appear quite compatible with rabbinic descriptions and prescriptions, although there is little reason to label these ritual objects as in some way or another “rabbinic”. The paleographic analysis of the tefillin slips suggests that the texts were penned sometime in the second half of the first century ce. While a Bar Kokhba period date for the deposit of the tefillin remains in Cave 34 does not appear at all unlikely, an earlier dating—possibly First Revolt period—must not be precluded.
Scholars have argued that 11QTa and CD view stone vessels as susceptible to impurity. Chalk vessel finds at Kh. Qumran have presented a challenge to this idea, and solutions to date have been unsatisfying. The recent publication of final reports on these finds invites us to reconsider both the archaeological and textual evidence relating to the ritual status of stone vessels at Qumran. The typological profile of the Kh. Qumran assemblage parallels that found at Jewish sites elsewhere. It will be argued that both 11QTa and CD viewed stone vessels as unsusceptible to most kinds of ritual impurity—apart from corpse impurity. The pentateuchal basis for this understanding will be elucidated, and it will be argued that the position of 11QTa and CD on the matter was common among contemporary Jews. The foregoing will allow an investigation into the origins of the chalk vessel industry in the late 1st century BCE.