Prayer and Identity in Varying Contexts: The Case of the Words of the Luminaries

in Journal for the Study of Judaism
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This article examines the ways in which a single liturgical text, the Words of the Luminaries, would be read by two diachronically and ideologically different audiences: the implied audience of the pre-Qumranic author and the actual audience of the Yaḥad community at Qumran, which preserved this text. The text’s first person plural rhetorical stance invites the implied audience to identify with its “we, Israel” voice and with the fundamental beliefs, ideas, and values encoded in the “we” discourse. These major ideological themes conjoined with the pan-Israelite rhetorical stance convey messages about identity and ideology that are dissonant with the Yaḥad’s deterministic, dualistic ideology and sectarian identity as the elect “Congregation of God.” Nonetheless, the common past, foundational narratives, and shared values, especially regarding the Torah, would facilitate the Yaḥad’s reception of this originally non-Qumranic text and enable it to be read through the lens of the Yaḥad’s sectarian identity.

  • 14

    Elisha QimronThe Dead Sea Scrolls: The Hebrew Writings Volume Two (Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi2013) 50 [Hebrew] reads כ̇ע̊ל̊ כ̊[נפי “as on w[ings]” rather than פ̊לא̇[י]ם̊ “miracu[lous]ly” as in djd 7:158-59 and dssr 5.242-43. For the variants על-כעל “(as) on” in Exod 19:4 see the lxxTg. Ps.-J. Tg. Onq. and Syr. (bhs 117). Exod 19:6 is quoted towards the end of the Sunday prayer: ממלכת ]כוהנים וגוי קדוש (“a kingdom of ]priests and a holy nation” 4Q504 5:10). Translations of verses in the Hebrew Bible are from jps Hebrew-English Tanakh: The Traditional Hebrew Text and the New jps Translation (2nd ed.; Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society 2000).

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  • 42

    Moshe WeinfeldThe Organizational Pattern and the Penal Code of the Qumran Sect: A Comparison with Guilds and Religious Associations of the Hellenistic—Roman Period (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht1986).

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  • 43

    The first quotation is from Newsom“Religious Experience” 206; the second from Newsom Self 12. For the formation of identity in the Serekh and for the importance of “I” discourses in the formation of Yaḥad identity see Newsom Self 1-2 14-15 91-190 196-204 345-51.

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  • 52

    James C. VanderKam“Sinai Revisited,” in Biblical Interpretation at Qumran (ed. M. Henze; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans2005) 44-60goes so far as to suggest that the self-designation Yaḥad refers to the Israelite’s announcing their commitment “together as one” at Sinai (Exod 19:8). For the proper observance of the Torah as one of the Yaḥad’s central group beliefs and for the importance of the passages discussed below in this regard see Jokiranta Social Identity 92-102.

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  • 58

    MetsoSerekh Texts10-11.

  • 61

    NewsomSelf261-62; see also Newsom “Religious Experience” 211-15; Levison Filled 202-5; and the preceding section on sin and forgiveness.

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