The Elusive Ark: Locus of Longing in Exile

In: The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy
Author: Rachel Adelman1
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  • 1 Hebrew CollegeNewton, MA
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This paper compares the Babylonian and Palestinian talmudic traditions on the fate of the ark of the covenant—either lost before or during the Babylonian conquest, or buried in the Temple precincts (b. Yom’a 53b–54a; y. Sheqalim 6:1–2, 49c). In the Babylonian Talmud, the ark and the cherubim are described in highly erotic, feminized terms, blurring traditional gender categories of Israel and God. The feminization of the ark serves as a “survival strategy” to counter the defiling gaze of the gentile conqueror, but also preserves the sacred center as a locus of longing for Jews in diaspora.

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