Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Harmonizing Interpretation, Lawrence H. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia 1994

Harmonization, especially in the Temple Scroll, can apply even to entire biblical commands, where one is understood in light of another. An excellent example concerns the New Year Festival, discussed in a section of the scroll known as the Festival Calendar because it lists all the Festivals and their sacrifices. In general, the section includes, by various techniques of harmonization and biblical interpretation, a number of Festivals not mentioned in the Bible. There we find a springtime New Year not mentioned in the Torah’s Festival sequence:
And on the first of the [first] month [(there shall be) the beginning of the months. It shall be for you the first of the months) of the year. [You may not do] any laborious w[ork. And you shall prepare a he-goat as an expiation offering.] By itself, it should be offered to aton[e for you. Then you shall offer a burnt offering: one young bull,] one ram, [seven] male lambs [a year o]ld [which are perfect …] [be]si[des the bu]r[nt offering of the new month]. (TEMPLE SCROLL 14:9–13)
Through interpretation, the scroll has created a pseudobiblical text. Although the Bible tells us that the first day of the first month (Nisan 1) is the “beginning of the months … the first of the months of the year” (Exodus 12:1), it nowhere specifies any ritual for this “new year.” So the author of the scroll (or a predecessor, because a similar holiday is also found in Jubilees) interpreted this text as analogous to the description of the autumnal New Year (Rosh Hashanah), the ritual for which appears in detail in the Torah (Numbers 29:1–6). Our author then harmonized these two biblical passages, appropriating from the autumnal New Year all of its sacrificial procedures as well as the requirement that “You may not do any laborious work” (Numbers 29:1). In that way, the author harmonized the autumnal New Year Festival of Numbers with the springtime New Year that the author understood to be described in Exodus. Over and over in the various compositions of the Qumran corpus dealing with Jewish law, we find examples of this technique, similar to the method of analogy used later in rabbinic exegesis and by the medieval sect of the Karaites. (p 219)

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