The Earliest Texts of the Birkat Haminim

Uri Ehrlich, Ruth Langer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The birkat haminim petitions God to doom groups of people deemed harmful to the Jewish community, both Jews and gentiles. The blessing's text consequently was often adapted to reflect new realities. Throughout its history, it has attracted attention from those, especially Christians, concerned about Jewish attitudes to them. This concern led to extensive censorship of the text. However, modern scholars pondering the early history of the blessing had only limited evidence for its actual formulations. This article presents a panoramic study of the text of the birkat haminim from the earliest preserved manuscripts (from the Cairo geniza) until official Catholic censorship began in the sixteenth century. The six centuries plus of texts presented here allows us to document the medieval development of the blessing. Across the regional variants, we find an extremely stable structure together with significant openness to addition, deletion, or rearrangement of the parts. This data and its analysis provide a firm basis for understanding the prayer's subsequent developments and a firmer basis than previously available for reconstructing its earlier history. This evidence will serve, we hope, as a resource for scholarly discussion about the place of the birkat haminim in the complex array of relationships between Jews and gentiles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-112
Number of pages50
JournalHebrew Union College Annual
Volume76
Issue number76
StatePublished - 2005

Keywords

  • Blessings
  • Theology
  • Jewish history
  • Liturgy
  • Censorship
  • Seminary
  • Christianity
  • Academic libraries
  • Prayer
  • Verbs
  • Judaism -- Prayers and devotions -- History and criticism
  • Cairo Genizah
  • Manuscripts
  • Hebrew
  • Prayer -- Judaism -- History
  • Birkat ha-minim

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