On the Boundaries of Talmudic Prayer
In this work, Yehuda Septimus investigates a boundary phenomenon of talmudic prayer: ritual speech with addressees other than God. These addressees included socially conventional addressees, like judges or celebrants at a religious rite as well as unconventional addressees, like angels and dead people. But whether the addressees were the types one might expect an individual to address in a non-ritual context, they were definitely not the types we would expect a rabbinic Jew to address in a prayer context. And yet talmudic passages treated ritual speech addressed to beings other than God as they treated other forms of conventional prayer. Such treatment forces us to question the way prayer was conceived by the rabbis.
Septimus argues that the rabbis conceived and practiced something similar to but broader than what is conventionally called prayer. He accomplishes this through close analyses of a number of specific ritual recitations with these atypical addressees as they appear embedded in talmudic literature.
The English term "prayer" is usually understood as communication with God or the gods. Scholars of Jewish ritual until now have accepted this characterization and applied it to Jewish tefillah . But does rabbinic prayer indeed necessarily entail second-person address to God, as many scholars of rabbinic prayer to this point have presumed? Often God is the target of communication, even when ritual speech does not address God in the second person. But what if that speech is specifically addressed to beings other than God? What does this phenomenon teach us about the beliefs, ritual tendencies, and prayer culture of the formulators of such ritual speech?
Septimus' book qualifies the assumption that rabbinic ritual communication is directed to God alone. The liturgical relationship between ritual prayer and other ritual recitations is complex; the historical relationship between classical Jewish prayer and a broader range of ritual addresses even more complex. Septimus offers a fresh look at the possible range of performances undertaken by talmudic ritual prayer. Moreover, he places that range of performances into the historical context of the rapid emergence of prayer as the centerpiece of Jewish worship in the first half of the first millennium CE.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Septimus, On the Boundaries of Talmudic Prayer
NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: