By April 14, 2008 Read More →

Festival Prayers, Lawrence H. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia 1994.

The Dead Sea Scrolls
Prayers for Festivals are preserved in three manuscripts from cave 4—Prayers for Festivals A, B, and C—and another fragment from cave 1. The cave 4 manuscripts have been dated to the beginning of the first century C.E. (Prayers for Festivals A and B) and the end of the Hasmonaean period, about 70–60 B.C.E. (Prayers for Festivals C). The preserved portion of the text specifically mentions the Day of Atonement and the Day of First Fruits (Shavuot). A plausible reconstruction of the text organizes it according to the entire Jewish ritual calendar, beginning with the New Year on the first of Tishre, followed by the Day of Atonement, Tabernacles, Offering of the Omer or Barley Harvest, perhaps the Second Passover, and Shavuot. The New Moon is also mentioned. A reference to Passover has not been identified in the surviving fragments of the text.

It is impossible to reconstruct exactly the ritual calendar described in this text and the prayers for each occasion because the manuscript is not preserved well enough to allow it. In addition, we cannot determine whether this ritual calendar is similar either to that known from rabbinic Judaism or to the expanded calendar of the Temple Scroll.

One line particularly stands out in this text for its parallel to the rabbinic liturgy-

And may You assemble our banished at the time of … and our dispersed [ones] may You soon gather (cf. Isaiah 11-12). (PRAYERS FOR FESTIVALS C 3 I 3–4)

This passage strongly resembles the words of the Festival Musaf (additional service) of later rabbinic tradition, “Gather our scattered ones from among the nations, and our dispersed ones bring together from the corners of the earth.” This parallel suggests that the prayer for restoring the Diaspora to the Land of Israel, recited on Festivals, may go back as early as the first century B.C.E.
These supplicatory texts clarify an interesting issue- What was the attitude of the Jews of the Second Temple period to the Destruction of the First Temple? After all, the Jerusalem Temple had been reestablished and was functioning in their own day. Did Second Temple Jews still mourn the First Temple? Did they pray for the restoration of an independent Jewish state? It is clear from these texts that they did indeed long for and pray for a return to the ancient glories of the united monarchy of David and Solomon and that they continued to pray for the ingathering of the exiles.

It is not possible to determine the exact function of the Festival Prayers. They do not refer to the sacrificial system nor do they suggest that they were intended as a substitute for it. Nor is there any indication that they were to be recited along with sacrificial rites. Because happiness and rejoicing are explicitly mentioned, it is probable that these prayers were meant to be recited as part of the celebration of the Festivals at Qumran or elsewhere.

The texts examined here contain prayers for each day of the month to be recited morning and evening, daily supplicatory prayers, and specific prayers for each Festival. These together constituted a cycle of prayer texts that suggest that already before the Destruction of the Second Temple, a fairly developed liturgy was practiced by some if not many Jews. Although we cannot be sure that all these were recited by the same people, it does seem likely that the sect practiced a regular order of prayer.

Pages 297-299

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