Prof. Richard S. Sarason
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati

Communal Prayer at Qumran and among the Rabbis: Certainties and Uncertainties

After half a century of scholarly inquiry, the Dead Sea Scrolls remain a uniquely valuable and problematic corpus of literary evidence testifying to the nature and range of Judaic world-views and social systems in the late Hellenistic and Greco-Roman periods. They are unique in comprising, together with the other texts uncovered in the Dead Sea region, our only first-hand, contemporary literary evidence from Greco-Roman Palestine. They are problematic to the extent that they generate new historical questions and require us to reframe and refine older ones, but in many cases do not allow us to pose definitive answers to either. This paper deals with the implications of this observation for the question of the existence and diffusion of regular, communal prayer among Jews in the Land of Israel before and after 70 C.E., and the uses of both the Qumran and early rabbinic evidence, in particular, to address this question. Methodologically speaking, we focus attention on what can be known with certainty from the evidence and what remains speculative, with greater or lesser degrees of probability. In thus framing the issue of the security of our historical knowledge, I do not mean to advocate a thoroughgoing Cartesian skepticism--but given the problematic nature of the evidence, with its multiplicity of often contradictory voices, I merely wish to underscore the extent to which our conclusions must be qualified. Speculation, however warranted, must be clearly labeled as such and not be allowed to "slip" into the realm of the demonstrated.

The Qumran evidence contributes powerfully to our impression of late Second Commonwealth Jewish religious culture as rich, complex, multivocal, and fractious. Under these circumstances, without adequate corroboration we cannot speak innocently about Jewish communal prayer as a generalized, undifferentiated phenomenon, but must always be cognizant of the social, and even geographical, location of our surviving evidence. I will argue later that both the literary and archaeological evidence make this observation equally applicable to the post-70 period.

Ezra Fleischer has argued forcefully, on the basis of the entire corpus of evidence, that regular, obligatory communal prayer did not exist as a generalized phenomenon among Jews in the Land of Israel before 70 C.E. Phrased in this way, his claim is certainly correct. A weaker formulation would ask whether regular communal prayer was, perhaps, customary at synagogue gatherings on the Sabbath. Fleischer would acknowledge the possibility of secondary, ritual elaborations of the primary activities of Torah reading and study that took place on these occasions, but nothing more than this. The courtyards of the Jerusalem Temple during the same period were the locus for regular, individual prayer at the time of the sacrifices, but not for regular communal prayer (though, I would note, occasional communal liturgies such as Hoshanot litanies for Sukkot might have developed there). This same basic reading of the evidence has been put forward by Lee Levine and Stefan Reif, and--despite recent demurrals from Pieter van der Horst and Donald Binder--I believe it is fundamentally sound. While essentially an argument from silence, in this case the silence of the sources is indeed deafening.

At the same time, both Fleischer and Reif remark on the manner in which Josephus and Philo describe communal sunrise prayer among the Essenes and Therapeutae as if it were something unique, ethnographically exotic, and different from common practice. The impression gleaned is that daily group prayer at fixed times determined by the course of the sun is a "sectarian" phenomenon, in the broad sense of that word, the practice of pietist groups. This, obviously, is the context in which to locate the evidence for regular communal prayer and liturgies at Qumran. The purposes and functions of these activities are to be sought in the larger world-view of the group.

I wish to examine now what we know and do not know about communal prayer at Qumran, and what--with due qualifications--we may plausibly surmise. First, addressing the larger picture, it is clear from the sources that communal prayer at Qumran serves a cultic function, as a substitute for sacrifices (1QS ix, 5). Like the sacrifices, it also functions as a vehicle for effecting communal atonement, together with the other communal activities of the group. The Shirot Olat haShabbat liturgy enacts the community's conviction that divine beings dwell with them and that they can participate in, or, minimally, contemplate, the angelic liturgy and offerings in the heavenly Temple at the appropriate time on the Sabbath.

The various periodic liturgies that are to be performed at precise times according to the cosmic calendar as understood by the group--and to which we shall return in more detail presently--ritually enact and maintain the cosmic order, as, in principle, did the sacrifices in the Temple. It is noteworthy in this regard (and not surprising) that the liturgical times in the various Qumran texts correspond to the times of transition on the cosmic clock as envisioned at Qumran rather than the times of the sacrifices in the metaphysically flawed Jerusalem Temple. Finally, the daily penitential liturgy represented in Divre haM'orot, by virtue of its genre, would seem to function as part of the activity of communal atonement. As Rodney Alan Werline has recently suggested, it may also relate to the community's eschatological sensibilities and express their perception of urgent ongoing crisis, to which ongoing communal penitance is deemed the proper response. Just as the communal liturgies are varied, so would be their purposes.

Indeed, the fact of variation among the Qumran periodic liturgies, their discrete differences, and the differences between them and the various descriptions of communal prayer times and activities in other Qumran texts has led to the question of whether this is in fact a unified liturgical corpus at all. Do the different texts and liturgies reflect different moments in the history of the Qumran community, including its pre-history? Were they all used in the same period? Are the texts and liturgies to be harmonized with each other or read discretely? Must we distinguish between the social locations of their use and their origins? And if some of the liturgies should turn out to be pre-Qumranic in their origins, what does that imply about the social location of regular communal prayer before 70? These are all crucial questions, which must be raised, but to which we likely can give no definitive answers. Within this general framework, let me review some of the evidence and modestly attempt to advance our discussions:

(1) The periodic liturgies at Qumran are intimately bound to, and dramatically enact, that community's calendar. The cycles are diurnal, weekly, monthly, and annual-seasonal (including the division of the year into four quarters). The evidence regarding the diurnal cycle is not uniform. On the one hand, 4QDaily Prayers gives us liturgies that are to be recited at sunrise and sunset on each day of a month, and which notably mark the phases of the moon. It is the only Qumran liturgical text to specify its precise time of recitation according to a diurnal clock. On the other hand, the so-called Hymn on Occasions for Prayer appended in the tenth column of 1QSerekh haYahad (lines 1-3), and a close parallel in 1QHodayyot (xx [Sukenik xii, 5] 3-7), list the diurnal times for prayer in a difficult style that has been construed variously as referring to six times in a twenty-four hour period (Talmon) or two (Schiffman, Nitzan). Both Schiffman and Nitzan were influenced by the evidence of 4QDaily Prayers in their interpretation of the Hymns, and effectively harmonized the two. But I think that an innocent reading of the passages in the two hymns favors Talmon's interpretation, and that the word tekufah refers to a separate period between the two extremes of beginning and end. This interpretation would also accord with the division of the night into three parts in 1QSerekh haYahad vi, 6-8, where the "Many" are required to stand watch for a third of every night, studying, expounding, and reciting benedictions. The evidence and vocabulary from Serekh haYahad and the Hodayyot is consistent. These two documents, of course, routinely are used to characterize what is uniquely sectarian in the Qumran corpus. This does not ipso facto mean that 4QDaily Prayers originated outside of Qumran. Daniel Falk presents a plausible--though admittedly tentative--case, on stylistic grounds, for Qumran origin. We may simply be witness to diversity in the development of the community's practices, or there may be no implied conflict at all and 4QDaily Prayers is simply a specialized liturgy for sunrise and sunset. We cannot know.

(2) A number of scholars have seen in 1QS x, 10, a reference to the twice-daily recitation of Deuteronomy 6:4ff. The passage is far too brief and general in its language to allow of a definitive interpretation. It certainly indicates that the hymnist devotes himself day and night to the study of God's laws. It is only the presence at Qumran of tefillin and mezuzot, which derive equally from a hyper-literalist reading of Deuteronomy 6:7-8 and 11:18-20, that allows the hypothesis of a scriptural recitation to be maintained. In this passage, too, it is not clear whether the activity mentioned takes place four times a day or twice a day. I think one could make a good case for literary parallelism here. (Should that case extend as well to the beginning of the Hymn, we would still have diurnal blessings recited four times in a full cycle, not twice.)

(3) We do not know precisely how these liturgies were recited or joined together. Lawrence Schiffman, commenting on 4QDaily Prayers, remarks that "the liturgical materials found here are too short to have constituted the entire liturgy. They appear to have represented a small section of the worship service . . ." There is no way to tell. It is noteworthy that each liturgy bears an integrity of its own, both of content and of calendrical function. Esther Chazon and Carol Newsom have stressed the unitary character of the longer liturgical compositions Divre haM'orot and Shirot Olat haShabbat. In both of these works, an extended narrative or description of a unitary and progressive character is parsed out among the several recitation-times of the liturgical cycle. The same holds true for the brief diurnal liturgy, 4QDaily Prayers (better, "Daily Blessings," for that is what these are). Here the brevity of the recitations emphasizes their formulaic content and function as time-markers for praising the divine Creator. Precisely because these various liturgies were written down and preserved as separate compositions in a way that emphasizes the immanent logic of each as a discrete cycle, we have no way of knowing if, or how, they were conjoined. (By analogy, the rabbinic Qeriat Shema and Tefillah are also separate liturgies, each with its own integrity. An extended rabbinic liturgy only began with their conjunction for reasons of convenience.) In the case of Divre haM'orot, we do not even know when or how many times during the day the liturgy was recited. There is nothing intrinsic to the content which would indicate this. Esther Chazon's suggestion that the title is an ellipsis for "prayers to be recited at the turning of the luminaries" is plausible; whether this indicates once or twice a day is uncertain. In the case of 4QDaily Prayers and Shirot Olat haShabbat, the liturgical cycles, while integral in their content, do not extend as far as we would expect. In the case of both of these liturgies, the texts are written out for specific dates. 4QDaily Prayers gives us a monthly cycle for a single, specific month (either the first or the seventh on the Qumran solar calendar). What about the remaining months of the year? Is the text intended to be exemplary? Were there other texts for the other monthly patterns? The same issue pertains to Shirot Olat haShabbat, which gives us a Sabbath cycle for the first quarter of the year. Was the cycle supposed to be repeated during each of the three other quarters? Were there separate cycles for the other quarters (there is no evidence to suggest that), or were there no other recitations during those quarters? We do not know.

As to the mode of recitation, some of the texts themselves give us indicators. The brief, formulaic daily prayers are to be recited together by the community (as indicated by the repeated y'varkhu v'anu v'amru). Here, form and function cohere nicely. The more lengthy, baroque descriptions of the celestial worship in Shirot Olat haShabbat are presumably recited by the Maskil, since each song begins with the superscription, "LaMaskil." There is no communal response (such as "Amen") indicated at the end of any of the Songs, presumably because none is called for; these are not prayers or blessings uttered by humans, but descriptions of the angelic liturgy. In the case of the lengthy penitential prayers in Divre haM'orot, on the other hand, no speaker is indicated, but each day's prayer concludes with a benedictory formula, followed by "Amen! Amen!" Chazon plausibly understands this is as a bona fide congregational response, rather than simply a literary-rhetorical formula. One would then assume as well that the prayer was recited or led by an individual.

It is noteworthy that we find at Qumran composed, written liturgies, each with its own literary integrity. This is particularly noticeable with regard to the longer liturgies, Divre haM'orot and Shirot Olat haShabbat. All the liturgies exist in multiple copies; the largest number of copies of any liturgy is nine (the Shabbat Shirot, with a tenth copy found at Masada). In the case of the Festival Prayers, one of the manuscripts (4Q505 + 509) has other texts written later on the verso, including another copy of Divre HaM'orot. We cannot know for certain how the written texts were actually used, but we must hold out the possibility that liturgies were recited from written copies; certainly written copies were consulted. Suffice it to say, the presence at Qumran of written liturgies whose wording is fixed says nothing about the issue of original fixity in the wording of rabbinic liturgies after 70, to which we shall return later.

4) Finally we come to the thorny issue of provenance. The presence of these liturgies at Qumran plausibly suggests that they were used by the community. But were they composed in the community? We cannot know for certain. All of the discussions of this issue are, appropriately, couched in the language of probability. The presence in any text of assured Qumran sectarian terminology and ideology, or the presence of language that is shared with other assured Qumran texts is a reasonable tool for determining Qumran provenance. But in the case of texts that do not display any "sectually explicit" language (in Carol Newsom's felicitous phrase), the determination is more difficult. So much the moreso is this true for liturgical texts, as both Newsom and Eileen Schuller have pointed out, since they tend to use stock language. Daniel Falk has cautiously argued for the Qumran provenance of 4QDaily Prayers on the basis of shared formal traits with assured Qumran texts. Similar criteria were employed by both Carol Newsom and Falk to suggest the Qumran provenance of Shirot Olat haShabbat. Although Newsom subsequently changed her mind, I find Falk's analysis convincing. The presence of a copy of the text at Masada unfortunately is not determinative, since it could have been brought there by refugees from Qumran, as both Yadin and Talmon have argued.

The case of Divre haM'orot is the most difficult. Israel Knohl has argued for the logical inappropriateness of petitionary prayer at Qumran on the basis of the group's doctrine of predestination. Acknowledging that Divre HaM'orot was likely used at Qumran, he admits that "the religious norms here deviated from the strict and rigid theological principles" (Knohl, 30). This would be an instance of what Albert Baumgarten elsewhere calls "infelicitous landings," where people are not rigidly consistent in their behavior. But one might also argue, given the acknowledged function of prayer at Qumran to make atonement on behalf of Israel, that penitential prayer--long associated with atonement--serves precisely this function on a daily basis and is thus not inconsistent with the group's self-understanding.

More crucial are the arguments advanced by Esther Chazon for the pre-Qumran origin of this liturgy. Beyond the absence of explicit Qumran terminology, the early dating, on paleographic grounds, of the manuscript 4Q504 to the mid-second century B.C.E. is the strongest evidence for pre-Qumran origin, though, as Chazon herself notes, it is not absolutely determinative. Falk is certainly right to stress the similarity of this text, on formal and generic grounds, with the Festival Prayers. What we do not know is whether the formulaic use of zakhor adonai ki at the beginning of each supplication and barukh adonai asher . . . amen amen, at its end is more widely typical of the genre of penitential prayer (there is no evidence for this being the case in the penitential prayers preserved elsewhere in Second Commonwealth literature), or whether this represents the specific formalization of a particular group from which both liturgies must be deemed to originate. I am inclined to favor the latter possibility, as does Falk, and my reasoning is analogical. I have elsewhere argued that what identifies rabbinic prayers as rabbinic is not their content, but their specific, distinctive formalizations (i.e., the formulation of prayers as benedictions which begin with the liturgical berakhah formula and conclude with a hatimah). It appears that we have an analogously distinctive formalization in the several penitential liturgies at Qumran which would point to a common social origin for Divre haM'orot and the Festival Prayers. Newsom and Falk have suggested a non-Qumranic origin for this liturgy on the basis of calendrical considerations: the scroll apparently begins with the autumn new year festival, while the Qumran calendar began in the spring. But Falk concedes that this is not certain, because some of the prayers for the festivals in 4Q509 appear to be out of order. The conclusion is that the social origin of these two liturgies is uncertain. There is a strong likelihood of pre-Qumranic origin, but this cannot be proven definitively.

Allowing, however, for the possiblity of pre-Qumranic origin (based on the paleographical dating of 4Q504), we would still have to ask about the probable social location of these prayers. Our responses can only be speculative. Falk suggests that both originated in levitical circles "in a context associated with the Temple" (Falk, 91-92, 215). Knohl and Chazon, on the other hand, favor as a location "the circle in which the book of Jubilees was written" (Knohl, 30). I would agree with Knohl and Chazon, for the following reason: A fixed communal liturgy requires a well-defined group. Penitential prayers are attested in Second Commonwealth literature as having been recited communally or on behalf of the community in times of distress, and as the pious customs of individuals also in times of distress. Daily communal recitation of such prayers would appear to be an act of hyper-piety among people who perceive an ongoing need for penitence and confession in a time of ongoing distress, as Werline has suggested. To me, this seems to fit specifically the situation of "sectarian" groupings (again, in the larger sense of the word) in the period in question. So even if some of the Qumran liturgies turn out to be pre-Qumran in origin, they do not necessarily attest to a common, widely diffused custom of daily communal prayer before 70. Specific social location here must be the determining factor (and about this we can only conjecture).

Social location remains a determining factor when we take up the question of regular communal prayer after 70 C.E. as well. Rabbinic literature attests, first and foremost, to the culture--practices, convictions--of the Rabbis themselves. The Mishnah, like any other prescriptive legal text, describes the contours of an ideal society. It adumbrates the rabbinic understanding of how Israelite society should function under the aegis of God's revealed Torah. Social history can be teased out of these texts only with difficulty and great caution. It is fair to assume that the rabbinic liturgical rubrics and the rules which govern them were observed within the rabbinic movement itself. It is not at all clear to what extent, when, and where these practices were observed outside the rabbinic community. It is fairly clear from the full range of the evidence that the rabbinization of the Jewish community of the Land of Israel proceeded in fits and starts, with more evidence for rabbinic influence in general after 200 C.E. than earlier, and that local differences loomed large in this regard. Locales with a significant rabbinic population would have been more subject to rabbinic influence than those without such a population. The studies of Lee Levine, Stuart Miller, and Shaye Cohen, among others, have argued--I believe, convincingly--for such a picture.

While most of the tannaitic references to the synagogue have to do with the reading of Scripture and various communal functions continuous with the pre-70 period, the sources do assume that the public recitation of Shema and praying of the Tefillah took place there (cf. M. Bikkurim 1:4; T. Berakhot 2:4 = T. Megillah 2:3; T. Sukkah 2:10; T. Sotah 6:3; and cf. Mehkilta Bahodesh 11 [ed. Horovitz-Rabin, p. 243]; Sifre Deuteronomy 306:3 [ed. Finkelstein, p. 342], and M. Berakhot 7:1; in the latter two sources it is not clear whether the Barkhu invitational formula in question is recited before the Torah reading or before Qeriat Shema), although these activities were not confined exclusively to the synagogue nor to public recitation. We do not know whether the Rabbis bore primary responsibility for the diffusion and institutionalization of public prayer in synagogues after 70, or whether this was a process with a dynamic and logic of its own in the aftermath of the destruction of the Temple, or even whether this is a false dichotomy. Certainly if the sources can be trusted that specifically rabbinic liturgical rubrics were recited in synagogues, then the former was the case. Again, it is likely that rabbinic influence in this regard would have been primarily local, varying from place to place and among regions, and that the process would have extended over a period of time; a century and a quarter, after all, elapsed between the destruction of the Temple and the editing of the Mishnah. The critical role of the prayer leader, then, would have been at least two-fold: on the one hand, it would carry foward the well-attested pre-70 role of intercession before God on behalf of the community (as indicated by the term shaliah tsibbur), which the congregation would affirm by a response formula; on the other hand, it would be didactic, modeling proper (rabbinic) prayer for each individual, and fulfilling for both the community and the individual their (rabbinic) obligation to pray (cf. T. Rosh Hashanah 4:18).

We do not know precisely the basis for the rabbinic custom of reciting the Tefillah three times a day. This could rest on their determination that the day is divided into three parts according to the movement of the sun (as the night is divided into three watches). If so, this might correspond to the prayer-times at Qumran according to Talmon's reading of 1QS x, 1-3, and be based on the same logic. Or it might represent a conflation of a diurnal cycle (sunrise-sunset) with the Temple calendar as it stood in the first century, with the evening sacrifice being offered in the late afternoon before sunset. In any case, there is a biblical model for thrice-daily prayer in the pious custom articulated in Daniel 6:10 and Psalm 55:18.

As regards the question of the degree of original formalization of the wording of the prayers, I believe that an innocent reading of the sources points to only partial formalization, unlike the apparent situation at Qumran. Beyond the detailing of liturgical structures, tannaitic sources, as is well known, spell out opening formulae and closing formulae (hatimot). They also enumerate topics, or "talking points" to be included within some of the more thematically complex benedictions, but nothing more. The two crucial texts here, in my opinion, are both in Tosefta Berakhot: 2:6, on the topics that one must include in the benediction "Emet ve-yatsiv," followed by a specification of the hatimah, "Tsur yisra'el ve-go'alo," and 3:25, on how one combines similar topics so as to maintain the total number of eighteen benedictions in the weekday Tefillah. The very articulation of these rules in this fashion presupposes some flexibility in the formulation of berakhot.

But that flexibility is relative, not absolute, because the characteristic language of Hebrew prayer is heavily formulaic and stereotyped, as Joseph Heinemann and others have pointed out. The models of scriptural and Second Commonwealth prayers, and the ongoing use and development of these models in a living prayer tradition (however circumscribed) before 70, would not require a great deal of spontaneous ingenuity on the part of a learned master or his disciples. One would simply manipulate the stock vocabulary and idioms. Indeed, the very formalization of the weekday petitionary sequence as a series of eighteen, relatively short, benedictions, each with its own distinct topic--eighteen "talking points" or "bullets", if you will--and its thrice-daily repetition would facilitate the individual's memorization of the sequence and formulation of those parts which were not fixed. (Contrast this with the lengthy penitential cycle in Divre HaM'orot at Qumran which is spread out over six days of the week and involves much variation.)

Within the rabbinic movement, then, the ideal of partially open-ended prayer would not be unrealistic. At the same time, the psychological, social, and ritual forces pushing toward repetition and routinization are easily understandable. A particularly apt and effective formula (like Akiva's avinu malkenu) would be repeated. Familiarity, we know, can breed comfort as well as contempt, while improvisation, as Rabbi Zeira points out (y. Berakhot 4:4, 8a) can breed confusion and dismay. So, too, to the extent that liturgical prayer is conceived as a ritual activity whose purpose, as ritual, is to enact the divine cosmic order, it will tend intrinsically to become more formalized. So the tension between concentration and routinization in rabbinic prayer exists from the very outset and is, I would maintain, endemic to the very enterprise. In the Babylonian Talmud we already have alternative formulations that must be decided between (e.g., ahavah rabbah vs. ahavat olam to begin the second benediction before the Shema; we favor the biblical pattern [b. Ber. 11b]) or harmonized (e.g., rofe kol basar vs. mafli' la'asot as the hatimah for one of the morning benedictions; we say them both [b. Ber. 60b]). We also have citations of fixed formulations from the bodies of benedictions (e.g., golel 'or mipnei hoshekh v'hoshekh mipnei 'or in the first benediction before the evening Shema recitation; b. Ber. 11b). Fixity is certainly to be found by the amoraic period, but probably not universally, and not the same in all places. It would, no doubt, be easier to spread a routinized liturgy beyond the confines of the rabbinic movement, as Fleischer has maintained, but the true liturgical virtuosi--hab'ki'im bivrakhot--the rabbinic masters themselves, would likely be able to improvise according to all the fine points of rabbinic liturgical etiquette. I would argue, then, that notwithstanding the obvious differences from the pre-70 period, the situation of regular communal prayer after 70 C.E. remains complex and multifaceted.

Finally, I would briefly like to address the issue of whether there is a common, living tradition of prayer that unites the Qumran and rabbinic liturgies. In a word, and with due qualification, I would answer in the affirmative. There was certainly no direct contact or influence between the two communities, and we do not know whether the Pharisees before 70 engaged in communal prayer among themselves (Levine considers this a possibility if the Houses dispute at T. R.H. 2:17, about the number of benedictions to be recited if Rosh HaShanah or a festival falls on the Sabbath, is historical). Many of the linguistic, stylistic, and thematic parallels can be traced to biblical models. Still, not everything can be accounted for on the grounds of shared literary models. The ecstatic hymnic style used to describe the angelic liturgy in Shirot Olat haShabbat and the rabbinic Qedushot, both of which bear some affinities to, but are not identical with, the Hekhalot literature, is not solely derivable from biblical models. The accounts of the angelic liturgy in the Enoch literature and in the Apocryphon of Levi share in this tradition. While Johann Meier's suggestion that the Sabbath Shirot derive from an esoteric priestly tradition connected to the Jerusalem Temple has been criticized as highly speculative, something was clearly "in the air" here, perhaps among the various pietist groups of the period. These liturgies certainly belong to the same genre.

So, too, there surely was a living tradition of penitential prayer (though not widely on a daily basis) during the Second Commonwealth period that fed the penitential liturgies at Qumran and among the Rabbis. (The rabbinic Tefillah only mutedly belongs to this tradition; it is evidenced more fully in the private prayers of the Rabbis and in the later Tahunun liturgies.)

Esther Chazon has called attention to a linguistic usage--lata'at torah b...--that appears in both Divre HaM'orot and rabbinic benedictions but has no biblical basis. Clearly this derives from a common linguistic background. Some of the other parallels she notes--the avoidance of petitionary prayer on the Sabbath and the offering in its stead of hymns to God the creator, and the prayer on the festivals for remembrance before God and ingathering of the exiles--could perhaps be understood as similar interpretations of biblical sabbath and festival prescriptions, but might equally reflect a living tradition of prayer genres for sabbaths and festivals, possibly recited around the scriptural readings in the synagogue (on the analogy of the rabbinic benedictions that follow the haftarah reading today).

It is also possible that some of these similarities are to be attributed to the shared pietist "sectarian" background (in the larger sense) that characterizes both the Qumran group and the Pharisees before 70. Albert Baumgarten, in his suggestive volume on the flourishing of Jewish sects in the Maccabean era, has remarked astutely that the cultural commonalities and shared issues addressed among these groups ultimately are more striking than their differences. The same might apply to their cultivation of prayer and prayer language. But these remarks are purely speculative.

There is much that we wish to know about the origins and development of institutionalized prayer among the Jews of the Land of Israel both before and after 70. We sense a larger common background, but the details elude us. The evidence that we possess is partial and socially located; the medium is never neutral. Still, if we proceed with caution, self-awareness, and refinement, we may be fortunate enough to illuminate, provisionally, small corners of the darkness.



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