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“Like the Ministering Angels”: Ritual and Purity in Early Jewish Mysticism and Magic

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 October 2009

Michael D. Swartz
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.
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Students of religion are aware that the same ritual act can have many meanings depending on the cultural context. As Walter Kaelber observes, “Viewed cross-culturally, a given ascetic form may have different, even opposite objectives.” Accordingly, the same detail may have entirely opposite meanings in different ascetic regimens. Thus for the biblical Daniel and his ascetic heirs, beans were an ideal food, probably because they are dry and not susceptible to impurity; but for Pythagoreans and others, they were to be avoided perhaps because in certain Mediterranean populations, they presented an actual medical danger. These factors alert us to the principle that understanding a ritual system in its cultural context is vital. They also encourage us to read rituals and actions as we read texts–coding their creators' statements about what they value in a religious system and what they aspire to be.

Copyright © Association for Jewish Studies 1994

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1. Kaelber, W., “Asceticism, ” Encyclopedia of Religion1:443. This observation can also pertain to ascetic acts within a given culture.Google Scholar

2. See Satran, David, “Daniel: Seer, Philosopher, Holy Man, ” in John, Collins J. and George, Nickelsburg W. E., eds. Ideal Figures in Ancient Judaism(Chico, Calif: Scholars Press, 1980), p. 34, and the sources cited there.Google Scholar

3. See Parker, Robert, Miasma(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), pp. 364365Google Scholar, citing Brumbaugh, Robert S. and Schwartz, Jessica, “Pythagoras and Beans: A Medical Explanation, ” Classical World 73 (1980): 421422CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Satran, “Daniel, ” pp. 3839Google Scholar. AJS Review19/2 (1994): 135167.Google Scholar

4. This study is based on research undertaken for my forthcoming book, Scholastic Magic-Ritual and Revelation in Early Jewish Mysticism.The impetus for studying rituals in the Hekhalot literature in light of the study of asceticism came in part as a result of my participation in the Society of Biblical Literature research group on ascetic behavior, whose comments in the course of discussion on these issues is much appreciated. An earlier version of this paper was first presented before that group in November, 1991. See also Michael D. Swartz, “Hêkālôot Rabbāt297–306: A Ritual for the Cultivation of the Prince of the Torah, ” in Wimbush, Vincent L., ed.. Asceticism in Greco-Roman Antiquity: A Sourcebook(Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1990), pp. 227234. Much of the research for this study was carried out in Jerusalem under the auspices of the Yad Hanadiv/Rothschild Foundation, whose support is much appreciated. My thanks also to Professors Gary Anderson, David Halperin, Tirzah Meacham, Lawrence Schiffman, and the anonymous reviewers of this article for their insights.Google Scholar

5. The best consideration of asceticism in ancient Judaism is Fraade, Steven D., “Ascetical Aspects of Ancient Judaism, ” in Green, Arthur, ed., Jewish Spirituality from the Bible Through the Middle Ages(New York: Crossroad, 1987), pp. 253288Google Scholar. See his bibliography, pp. 287–288. Particularly important for our purposes are Urbach, E. E., “ Asqesis ve-Yissurin be-Torat Ḥazal, ” in Me-'Olamam shel Ḥakhamim: Qoves Mehqarim(Jerusalem: Magnes, 1988), pp. 437458Google Scholar (idem, cf., The Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs[Jerusalem: Magnes, 1975], pp. 443448)Google Scholar; Lowy, S., “The Motivation of Fasting in Talmudic Literature, ” Journal of Jewish Studies 9 (1958): 1938CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Montgomery, James A., “Ascetic Strains in Early Judaism, ” Journal of Biblical Literature 51 (1932): 183213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

6. See Neusner, Jacob, The Idea of Purity in Ancient Judaism(Leiden: Brill, 1973)Google Scholar, and his History of the Mishnaic Law of Purities, 23 vols. (Leiden: Brill, 1974–77); for purity at Qumran, see Schiffman, Lawrence H., The Eschatological Community of the Dead Sea Scrolls(Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989), pp. 3540Google Scholar, 61–64, 68–69. The seminal work on the theoretical implications of biblical purity is Douglas, Mary, Purity and Danger(London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1966)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; recently, the subject has been taken up by Eilberg-Schwartz, Howard, The Savage in Judaism(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990)Google Scholar. Although the historical implications of the status of rabbinic purity laws in early posl-talmudic Judaism are of considerable historical interest, the subject has not been given systematic consideration since Epstein, Y. N., Perush ha-Ge'onim le-Seder Ṭohorot(Jerusalem: Dvir, 1982); see also the individual studies cited in note 89 below.Google Scholar

7. Vincent L. Wimbush, Renunciation Towards Social Engineering (An Apologia for the Study of Asceticism in Greco-Roman Antiquity), Occasional Papers of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity 8 (Claremont, Calif.: Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, n.d.).

8. Thus the phenomenon would not satisfy the criteria set by Fraade (“Ascetical Aspects, ” p. 257) for a valid definition of asceticism: “(1) the exercise of disciplined effort toward the goal of spiritual perfection … which requires (2) abstention … from the satisfaction of otherwise permitted earthly desires.”

9. Scholem, Gershom, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism2nd ed., (New York: Schocken, 1954), pp. 4079Google Scholar; idem, , Jewish Gnosticism, Merkavah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradition2nd ed. (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1965).Google Scholar

10. See Halperin, David J., The Merkavah in Rabbinic Literature(New Haven: American Oriental Society, 1983)Google Scholar and idem, , The Faces of the Chariot: Early Jewish Responses to Ezekiel's Vision(Tübingen: Mohr, 1988)Google Scholar. Schäfer, Cf. Peter, Hidden and Manifest God: Some Major Themes in Early Jewish Mysticism(Albany: Stale University of New York Press, 1992.)Google Scholar

11. On ritual as an indicator of social affiliations and tensions, see especially Douglas, Mary, Natural Symbols: Explorations in Cosmology(New York: Pantheon, 1982).Google Scholar

12. See especially Brown, Peter, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity(New York: Columbia University Press, 1988)Google Scholar; Buckley, Jorunn Jacobsen, “Tools and Tasks: Elchasaite and Manichaean Purification Rituals, ” Journal of Religion 66 (1986), 399411CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Stroumsa, Gedaliahu, “Caro salmis cardo:Shaping the Person in Early Christian Thought, ” History of Religions 30 (1990), 2550CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Boyarin, Daniel, Carnal Israel(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), which was unavailable at the time of this, writing.Google Scholar

13. For a critique of this tendency to see ascetic behavior in terms of its motives, see Fraade, “Ascetical Aspects, ” pp. 254–255.

14. Douglas, Natural Symbols, pp. 1–36.

15. See in particular Gruenwald, Ithamar, Apocalyptic and Merkavah Mysticism(Leiden: Brill, 1980)Google Scholar; Chernus, Ira, Mysticism in Rabbinic Judaism(New York: De Gruyter, 1982)Google Scholar; Dan, Joseph, “The Religious Experience of the Merkavah, ” in Green, Jewish Spirituality, pp. 289307.Google Scholar

16. Gershom Scholem, Major Trends, p. 49. See also the references in note below.

17. See for example Gruenwald, Ithamar, ”Manichaeism and Judaism in Light of the Cologne Mani Codex”in From Apocalyptism to Gnosticism(Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1988Google Scholar; first published in Zeitschrift für Papyrologie imd Epigraphik50 [1983]: 29–45), p. 269 n. 37; on p. 268 n. 33 he describes the effect of the menstruant on the mystic as “distracting.”

18. On this point, see Schäfer, Peter, “The Aim and Purpose of Early Jewish Mysticism, ” in Hekhalot-Studien(Tübingen: Mohr, 1988), pp. 277295Google Scholar; for the situation with regard to prayer, see Swartz, Michael D., Mystical Prayer in Ancient Judaism: An Analysis of Ma'aseh Merkavah(Tübingen: Mohr, 1992).Google Scholar

19. Rituals in Hekhalot literature are surveyed in Gruenwald, Apocalyptic, pp. 99–110, and idem, , “Manichaeism and Judaism.” Cf. also Moshe Idel. Kabbalah: New Perspectives(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), where several details in the literature are considered in light of later Jewish mystical practices.Google Scholar

20. Most of the texts of the Hekhalot literature are published in Schäfer, PeterSynapse zurHekhalot-Literatur(Tübingen: Mohr, 1981) and his Geniza-Fragmente zur Hekhalot-Literatur(Tübingen: Mohr, 1984). Unless otherwise noted, all references to passages from Hekhalot literature in this article will be cited according to paragraph number in the Synopse, or by fragment number (Gl, G2, and so on) in Geniza-Fragmente.Google Scholar

21. See Schäfer, Peter, “Tradition and Redaction in Hekhalot Literature, ” Journal for the Study of Judaism 14 (1983): 172181CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Swartz, , Mystical Prayer, pp. 3037.Google Scholar

22. For such a handbook, see Margaliot, Mordecai, Sefer Ha-Razim: Hu Sefer Keshafim mi-Tequfat ha-Talmud(Jerusalem: American Academy for Jewish Research, 1966)Google Scholar. The best general account of Jewish magic is still Trachtenberg, Joshua, Jewish Magic and Superstition(New York: Behrman, 1939Google Scholar, repr. New York: Atheneum, 1982). For surveys of research on Jewish magic and publications of magical texts, see Alexander, P. S., “Incantations and Books of Magic,” in Emil Schilrer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, rev. and ed. Vermes, Geza, Fergus Millar, and Martin Goodman (Edinburgh: Clark, 1986)Google Scholar, 3.1:342–379; Schäfer, Peter, “Jewish Magic Literature in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, ” Journal of Jewish Studies 41 (1990): 7591CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Schiffman, Lawrence H. and Swartz, Michael D., Hebrew and Aramaic Incantation Texts from the Cairo Genizah: Selected Texts from Taylor-Schechter Box Kl(Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992), pp. 1522.Google Scholar

23. See Schäfer, , “Aim and Purpose”; Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, pp. 75100Google Scholar; and Smith, Morton, “Observations on Hekhalot Rabbati, ” in Altmann, Alexander, ed., Biblical and Other Studies(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963), pp. 142160.Google Scholar

24. Sefer ha-Razimand its literary and thematic affinities to Hekhalot literature are discussed in Gruenwald, Apocalyptic, pp. 224–234; cf. also Schäfer, “Aim and Purpose.” While Naomi Janowitz, Poetics of Ascent: Theories of Language in a Rabbinic Ascent Text(Albany: SUNY Press, 1989), discusses theories of magic and magical language in her study of Ma'aseh Merkavah, she does not deal with Jewish magical literature specifically. However, there has been increasing attention to magical texts and their implications for the Hekhalot literature.

25. See Halperin, David J., “A New Edition of Hekhalot Literature, ” Journal of the American Oriental Society 104 (1984): 550. See also Schäfer, “Aim and Purpose, ” p. 284; and Martha Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven in Jewish and Christian Apocalypses(New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 106–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

26. See, for example, Scholem, Major Trends, p. 49.

27. Loḥesh.Often used of incantations.

28. Lewin, B. M., ed, Osar ha-Ge'onim(Jerusalem: Hebrew University, 1931), vol. 4 (Ḥagigah), p. 14.Google Scholar

29. Halperin, “New Edition, ” p. 550. It is unclear whether Hai is working from purely literary sources (as Halperin assumes), from second-hand oral reports quoting this passage, or a combination of these. His statement there that “this matter is well-known” (mefursam; ve-yedua')would argue against the view that he must have had the actual text of Hekhalot Zuṭartibefore him. However, neither does it mean that his informants were first-hand witnesses to the phenomenon.

30. Le-faresh et ha-shem be-femsho.The term pršrefers to the full pronunciation of the; Divine name, either the Tetragrammaton or one of the more esoteric versions. See W. Bacher, “Shem ha-Meforash, ” Jewish Encyclopedia9:262–264.

31. That is, refrain from marital relations; see Halperin, “New Edition, ” p. 550.

32. Cf. §489 in which the practitioner is to cast his eyes down so as to avoid gazing at the divine presence.

33. Halperin, “New Edition, ” p. 550.

34. On the redaction of Hekhalot Zutarti, see Peter Schäfer, “Aufbau und redactionelle Identitat der Hekhalot Zuṭarti, ” in Hekhalot-Studien, pp. 50–62; on Hekhalot Zutarti, see also Rachel Elior's edition of the text: Hekhalot Zuṭarti, Meḥqere Yerushalayim be-Mahshevet Yisra'el, supplement 1 (1982) and Gruenwald, Apocalyptic, 142–149.

35. See, for example, §377 (–940) in Shi'ur Qomah;§500 (= 712), an independent testimony; and §547 (from Ma'aseh Merkavah).Note too that §424–126 is followed in all of the principal manuscripts in the Synapseexcept for MS Munich 22 by §489–495, which is also an elaborate ritual for reciting a book. On this literary pattern attesting to the origins and power of the text, see Michael D. Swartz, “Book and Tradition in Hekhalot and Magical Literatures, ” Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy(in press).

36. So too, a set of hymns that introduce Hekhalot Kabbati(§83–92) praise the glories (gedullah)available to anyone who knows the text's secrets, including the ability to tell simply by looking at a person how many illegitimate ancestors he has, and the horrid punishments that will befall his enemies. On these hymns, see Wewers, Gerd, “Der Überlegenheit des Mystikers: Zur Aussage der Gedulla-Hymnen in Hekhalot Rabbati1, 2–23, “ Journal for the Study of Judaism 17 (1986): 322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

37. This introduction is parallel to the introduction to Sefer ha-Malbush(printed in Sefer Raziel[Amsterdam, 1701], fol. 2b), and to Sefer ha-Razim2:8–10; cf. 5:34–35. See Margalioth, Sefer ha-Razim, pp. 33–34.

38. The translation of this phrase is uncertain. Cf. §225, in which Rabbi Nehuniah is said to “have mastery of the light of Torah” (moshel ba-'or shel Torah).Another possible meaning is that the person will be able to rule by means of the sun and moon (moshel bam)“as a righteous man rules by means of the fear of God.” That is, by employing solar and lunar divination the magician will be able to achieve the same power that a saint possesses by virtue of his righteousness.

39. Heb., moṣt dam.Cf. Prov. 30:33. It is unclear whether this refers to eating animals in which blood circulates or to carnivores that shed blood, such as the carnivorous birds which would be prohibited in any case according to Lev. 11:13–19; cf. Levine, Leviticus, p. 68.

40. The word bšḥris written above the line and the letters bynhave been crossed out.

41. Cf. Ma'aseh Merkavah§544, on how the prayers for seeing the Merkavah are to be recited: “[there must be] purity and holiness in his heart, and he recites a prayer.”

42. On this point see also Swartz, “Book and Tradition.”

43. The most thorough treatment of the Sar-Torahtexts is in Halperin, The Faces of the Chariot(Tübingen: Mohr, 1988), pp. 376–386, 427–446; see also Swartz, “Hêkālôot Rabbāt297–306.” Halperin places the Sar-Torahat the center of the Hekhalot tradition and assigns it a key place in explaining the origins of the visionary elements in the literature, a view that is not taken in this study.

44. One could call this genre a kind of mnemonic magic. Because memorization was learning in this society, acquiring skill in memory meant progress in the learning of Torah. There is an irony in this, in that many of the rituals involve the memorization of long, impenetrable combinations of magical names and prayers. While mnemonic techniques in rhetorical and esoteric traditions have a well-documented history in classical Roman and medieval European society (on which see F. Yates, The Art of Memory[Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966] and Carruthers, Mary J., The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture[Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990]), it would be useful to locate similar instances of the application of magic to acquisition of memory in Greco-Roman antiquity. For examples, see Hans Dieter Betz, ed., The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986) 1:9 and 28–31. The place of memory in Rabbinic Judaism and its relationship to magic are discussed in Swartz, Scholastic Magic.Google Scholar

45. A brief version is found in §278–280 (in Hekhalot Rabbati)and §677–679 (in Merkavah Rabbah).A longer version appears in §307–314 of Hekhalot Rabbati.A parallel unit is found in Ma'aseh Merkavah, sec. ü (§565–568). See Swartz, Mystical Prayer, pp. 77–90.

46. Hekhalot Rabbati§297–306 and Merkavah Rabbah§680–684.

47. G8, first published in Ithamar Gruenwald, “Qeṭa'im Hadashim Mi-Sifrut ha-Hekhalot, ” Tarbis38 (1969), 300–319. Fol. 2b (Schäfer) and fol. 1/ (Gruenwald) and G22, also published in Gruenwald, “Qeta'im.” There are also texts in the Cairo Genizah that adjure the Sar-Torahor provide instructions for such adjurations. Some of these are brief fragments which are found on separate leaves, like amulet texts, and many of these appear in magical handbooks. These texts attest to the persistence of the Sar-Torahtradition and to the active use of such rituals. They also lack the narrative framework of the Sar-Torahtexts found in the Hekhalot corpus, suggesting that this phenomenon may have evolved independently from Merkavah mysticism and was later incorporated into its literature. There are also incantations in Hekhalot and magical manuscripts for petiḥat lev, “opening the heart, ” so that the individual will be successful in study. These are often unrelated to the narrative or angelological Sar-Torahtradition. See Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic, pp. 190–192.

48. §571–578, on which see below; see also Swartz, Mystical Prayer, p. 62.

49. See Peter Schäfer, “Beschworung des Sar ha-Panim. Edition un übersetzung.” in Hekhalot-Studien, pp. 118–153.

50. §512 claims that anyone who recites the Divine name presented in the text will be able to revive the dead. §502–507 is a dream ritual for adjuring the Prince of the Dream (sar shel halom);cf. the talmudic conjuration of the “man of dreams” (ish halom)cited in n. 62 below. A collection of magical recipes appended to the Hekhalol texts in MS Oxf. 1531 includes an incantation for opening a gate (§826–827). finding a slave (§828). and other practical purposes.

51. See Schäfer, “Aim and Purpose, ” and idem. Hidden and Manifest God.

52. Halperin, Faces of the Chariot;see especially pp. 376–387.

53. The question of the relationship of ascent to adjuration texts in Hekhalot literature must be decided primarily by form-critical criteria and lies outside the scope of this study. The issue is discussed further in Swartz, Scholastic Magic.

54. See Joshua Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic, pp. 78–103; Swartz, Michael D., “Scribal Magic and Its Rhetoric: Formal Patterns in Medieval Hebrew and Aramaic Incantation Texts from the Cairo Genizah, ” Han aid Theological Review 83 (1990): 179; Schiffman and Swartz, Incantation Texts, pp. 40–43.Google Scholar

55. A portion of this text has been translated by Gruenwald. “Manichaeism and Judaism, ” pp. 267–270. The text is notable because it combines many of the principal ritual and rhetorical motifs of the Sar-Torahand allied texts into a coherent whole, although its purpose is not for the cultivation of that particular angel.

56. Hai Gaon extended this tradition to the forty-two-lelter name; see Lewin, Oṣar ha-Ge'onim, Ḥagigah, p. 23. On these sources, see Schiffman, Lawrence H., “A Forty-two Letter Divine Name in the Aramaic Magical Bowls, ” Bulletin of the Institute for Jewish Studies 1 (1973): 92102.Google Scholar

57. Cf. also the Aramaic Sar-Torahritual in Ma'aseh Merkavah(§571–578), in which a fast from the new moon of Sivan to Shavuot is prescribed, thus reinforcing the link with Moses' revelation. The relationship of the Sar-Torahliterature to midrashim about Moses' ascent has been analyzed extensively in Halperin, Faces of the Chariot.

58. See the articles on asceticism in ancient Judaism cited in n. 5 above.

59. On the meaning of these patterns, see Anderson, Gary A., A Time to Mourn, a Time to Dance(University Park, Pa: Penn State Press, 1991).Google Scholar

60. Arbesmann, Rudolph, “Fasting and Prophecy in Pagan and Christian Antiquity, ” Traditio 7 (1949): 932; cf. Lowy, “Motivation of Fasting, ” pp. 30–38.Google Scholar

61. Y. Kit.9:4 (32b) and y. Ketub.12:3 (35a); see Lowy, “Motivation of Fasting, ” pp. 36–38 (his citation of the latter source on p. 37, n. 170, should be corrected). A series of stories describing fasting for visions appears in Qoh. Rab.9:8.

62. See, for example, t. Ma'as. Sheni5:9; cf. y. Ma'as. Sheni 4:1(55b); in b. Sanh.30a the term is ba'al halom.

63. T. Sofa 15:10–15.

64. See Fraade, “Ascetical Aspects, ” pp. 271–272; Urbach, “Asqesis, ” pp. 445–446.

65. Cf. Anderson, A Time to Mourn, pp. 112–114, which stresses the relevance of this pattern for communal mourning rituals.

66. Cf. the list in m. Yoma8:1.

67. Anderson, A Time To Mourn, pp. 112–114. Weeping can constitute both a literary motif for the expression of grief and a ritual act in itself; see Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives, pp. 75–88; cf. Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven, p. 107.

68. §313–314. A parallel to this story also appears in Ma'aseh Merkavah;see Swartz, Mystical Prayer, pp. 86–89.

69. Rabbi Ishmael says, “I did not bring you down for my glory, but to do the will of your creator” (reading kevodifor the manuscript's kevodekha, “your glory, ” which may be a pious circumlocution). Cf. Jonathan ben Uzziel's reply in b. Meg.3a to the heavenly voice that rebukes him for revealing divine secrets in his Targum.

70. This clause is in Aramaic.

71. §489.

72. The Mishnah tractate Makhshirim, based on Lev. 11:34 and 38, is built on this assumption; on foods which are under presumption of impurity, see chap. 6 of that tractate.

73. Arbesmann, “Fasting and Prophecy, ” p. 2, n. 9, citing Tertullian, De ieiunio1.

74. Cf. Tertullian, De ieiunio5.

75. Cf. also Gruenwald, “Manichaeism and Judaism, ” pp. 269–270. Gruenwald cites sources that maintain that vegetables compromise one's health and notes that Mani and the Elchasaites refrained from certain kinds of vegetables. Garlic was also seen as an aphrodisiac throughout the Mediterranean, and it may have been avoided in these rituals because it would encourage seminal emission. See Fred Rosner, trans, and ed., Julius Pieuss' “Biblical and Talmudic Medicine”(New York: Hebrew Publishing Co.. 1983), pp. 461–462, citing b. B. Qam.82a.

76. See §299, §684, and §489.

77. §489 and G19, line 12.

78. §560.

79. Chapter 6 of Avotis a post-mishnaic composition known as Pereq Qinyan Torah, and appears at the end of that tractate as well as in extracanonical tractates. See M. B. Lerner, “The Tractate Avot, ” in Shmuel Safrai, ed., The Literature of the Sages(Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987), 1:273–275.

80. Aram, dwd'rypt', which might be translated as “pot bread, ” or “boiled bread.” This translation is uncertain. The word dwd'probably means some kind of cauldron; see Jastrow, Dictionary, p. 283 and Sokoloff, , A Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic(Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, 1990), p. 140. Sokoloff, p. 523, translates rypthas “coal-baked bread;” cf. Epstein, Perush ha-Ge'onim, p. 136. See also b. Hor.13b, which lists among the substances that restore memory pt phmyn, “coal-baked bread.” See however the variants listed in Diqduqe Soferimad loc.; see Martin S. Jaffee, The Talmud of Babylonia: An American Translation, vol. 26, Tractate Horayot(Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987), p. 207.Google Scholar

81. There are rituals for the recitation of an incantation over the wine of havdalah; such a ritual, forpetihat lev, is found in MS TS K1.117 fol. 2a. See also Gershom Scholem, “Havdalah de-Rabbi Akiba: Maqor le-Masoret ha-Magiah ha-Yehudit bi-Tequfat ha-Ge'onim, ” Tarbiṣ50 (1980–81): pp. 243–281. In MS TS K1.101, a man who has been prevented from seeing his wife is to recite magical names over a cup of wine and drink.

82. §314. Cf. §560, which prohibits kol mine zohama, “any kind of defilement.”

83. Halperin, Faces of the Chariot, pp. 379–380.

84. Cf. b. Shab.108a, where the term zohamarefers to foul odors. 85. Cf., however, b. Nid.20b and 52b, where zhmis clearly distinguished from menstrual impurity. For evidence of the Sar-Torahpractice in the diaspora, see §305.

86. The reader is sometimes instructed that if an emission occurs, he must bathe and repeat the entire regimen from the first day, as the resulting pollution has invalidated the entire preparation. See §684 and §489.

87. T. Ber.2:12–13. See Saul Lieberman, Tosefta ki-Feshutah, Zeraim, vol. 1, p. 20.

88. Cf. however the Babylonian Talmud's discussion of this passage in b. Ber.22a, in which the leniency of the rabbis regarding purification from seminal impurity is framed in terms of its consequences for Torah study and sexual activity. Here the rabbis' basic concern for the purity of the man studying Torah is offset by their consideration of how this leniency would affect his performance of the miṣvahof procreation, according to one opinion, or whether it would lead to promiscuity, according to another. This discussion, in effect, thus minimizes the importance of purity itself.

89. Cohen, Shaye J. D., “Purity and Piety: The Separation of Menstruants from the Sancta,” in Grossman, Susan and Rivka Haul, eds., Daughters of the King: Women and the Synagogue(Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1992), pp. 103115. On popular customs relating to menstruants, see Yedidya Dinari, “Minhage Tum'at ha-Niddah-Meqoram ve-Hishtalshelutam, ” Tarbiṣ49 (1979–80): 302–324; idem, “Ḥillul ha-Qodesh 'al-yede Niddah ve-Taqqanat 'Ezra, ” Te'udah3 (1983): 17–37; Mordechai A. Friedman, “Harḥaqat ha-Niddah ve-ha-Minut Esel ha-Rambam u-Veno R. Avraham 'Al-Pi Kitve Genizat Qahir, ” in Arthur Hyman, ed., Maimonidean Studies(New York: Yeshiva University Press, 1990), 1:1–21 (Hebrew sec); and Daniel Sperber, Minhage Yisra'el: Meqorot ve-Toledot(Jerusalem: Mosad ha-Rav Kook, 1989), pp. 222–234. See further below.Google Scholar

90. See below.

91. §560. Cf. b. 'Abod. Zar.20b, which warns against looking at a woman's colored garments.

92. G19 lines 11–14.

93. Sgyr'and sgyrt'.The term sgyrderives from the meaning of the root sgras “quarantined, ” as in the procedure for lepers according to Lev. 13:46. Cf. t. Neg.6:1.

94. This latter category is lacking in one recension of this text, represented by MSS Moscow Ginzburg 90 and 175, MS Cambridge Add. 405.4 and MS Florence Plut. 44.131.

95. The word ṣara'atis translated here as “leprosy, ” although it probably does not refer to Hanson's disease. On these terms and regulations, see Baruch A. Levine, The JPS Torah Commentary: Leviticus(Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society. 1989), pp. 75–99.

96. Gruenwald, “Manichaeism and Judaism, ” p. 267 n. 31.

97. Gruenwald. takes the prohibition to mean that the individual is prohibited from looking at his own twin. However, this reading is not supported by the text, which affixes no possessive pronouns to the words tywm'and nnnit'.Another clue to this prohibition may be found in b. Pes.110–113. which discusses the practice of avoiding pairs when eating, drinking, and attending to one's bodily needs; doing these in pairs is said to make one vulnerable to demons. However, there is no suggestion there that the taboo would be extended to the avoidance of human pairs.

98. Braita de-Massekhet Niddahin Chaim M. Horovitz, Tosefta 'Atiqta, pi. 5 (Frankfurt a. Main, 1890). Schechler, Cf. S.Jewish Literature in 1890, ” Jewish Quarterly Review, o.s. 3 (1891): 338342; N. Brüll. JahrbuchfürJudische Geschichte and Literatur(Frankfurt: Withelm Erras, 1876), pp. 124–226; Saul Lieberman, Sheqi'in(Jerusalem: Wahrman. 1970). p. 22 and idem, in Sefer Metivot, ed. B. Lewin (Jerusalem. 1934; reprint ed. Jerusalem: Maqor, 1973), pp. 115–118. See also the sources listed in note 89 above.Google Scholar

99. Ma'aseh Yafeh shel R. Yishma'el Kohen Gadol, in Horowitz, Tosefta 'Atiqta5:57–61, from Liqquṭe ha-Pardesattributed to Rashi (Amsterdam, 1715), fol. 4a; see also Horowitz, Tosefta 'Atiqta, 5:44–45 and his list of versions of the story, 4:14. Cf. Micha J. bin Gorion, Mimekor Yisrael, ed. Emanuel bin Gorion and trans. I. M. Lask (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976), 2:547 and the sources listed in 3:1506. n. 5. Another version of this story appears in the late medieval Ma'aseh-buch.See Gaster, Moses, Ma'aseh Book: Book of Jewish Tales and Legends Translated from the Judeo-German(Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1934), pp. 237239.Google Scholar

100. Horovitz, Tosefta 'Atiqta5:57.

101. Seeb. Shab.129b. which warns that encountering a pig (davar aher)after bloodletting can lead to leprosy (Rashi, ad. loc., cites b. Qid.49b that of the ten measures of skin afflictions [nega'im]that descended to the world, nine were taken by pigs). The legend in Gaster. Ma'aseh Book, is associated with the statement in b. Ber.20a that R. Yohanan would stand outside the women's bathhouse so that the women would have children as handsome as he; the reasoning behind this version of the story is thus that if Rabbi Ishmael's mother had seen a pig, she would be thinking of it when she conceives. See Moses Gaster. The Exempla of the Rabbis(1924; reprint ed. New York: Ktav, 1968), pp. 145–146, 102, and 222. Cf. Num. R., chap. 9. In contrast, the purpose of the versions quoted by Horowitz is to demonstrate the merits of ritual immersion, which removes those harmful effects. As Cohen observes (“Purity and Piety, ” p. 108), Braita de-Massekliet Niddahstresses the physical dangers of menstruation, contrary to the prevailing rabbinic conception.

102. The comment in Tosafotad loc. moderates this statement by explaining that if she had practiced witchcraft on him (kishuf), the power of her impurity will make it effective. According to b. Shab.110b, a woman can repel a snake by telling it she is in menstruation; cf. Rashi. ad loc. On these and other examples of the idea of the destructive power of the menstruant, see Dinari, “Ṭum'at ha-Niddah, ” p. 311.

103. See §489, §495, and §663.

104. See Gruenwald, Apocalyptic, p. 135; Idel, Moshe, “Le-Gilgulehah shel Tekhniqah Qedumah shel Hazon Nevu'i Bi-yeme ha-Benayim, “ Sinai 86 (1979–1980): 17; Jacob Z. Lauterbach, “Tashlik: A Study in Jewish Ceremonies.“ Hebrew Union College Annual11 (1936): 207–340; cf. Halperin, Faces of the Chariot, p. 212.Google Scholar

105. See Chernus, Ira, Mysticism in Rabbinic Judaism(New York: de Gruyter, 1982); Joseph P. Schultz, “Angelic Opposition to the Ascension of Moses and the Revelation of the Law, ” Jewish Quarterly Review61 (1970–71): 282–307; Moshe Idel, “Tefisat ha-Torah be-Sifrut ha-Hekhalot ve-Gilguleha ba-Qabbalah, ” Mehqere Yerushalayim be-Mahshevet Yisra 'el1 (1981–82): 23–84; Peter Schäfer, Rivalitdt zwischen Engeln und Menschen: Untersuclumgen zur rabbinischen Engelvorstellung(Berlin: de Gruyter, 1975); and Halperin, Faces of the Chariot.Google Scholar

106. Cf. Halperin, Faces of the Chariot.

107. In particular, Pesiqta Rabbati, ed. Meir Ish Shalom (Vienna, 1880; reprint ed., Israel, n.d.). 96b–98a (chap. 20); Midrash Tehillim, ed. S. Buber (Vilna, 1891; reprint ed., Jerusalem, Wahrman, 1966), pp. 73–76 (chap. 8); Pirqe de-Rabbi 'Eliezer(Warsaw, 1852; reprint ed. Jerusalem, n.d.), p. 110b (chap. 46). See the sources listed in Ginzberg, L., Legends of the Jews(Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1946), 6:4647; Schultz, “Angelic Opposition, ” pp. 286–287; and Halperin, Faces of the Chariot, pp. 289–322. A frequently cited source is Ma 'ayan Hokhmah, in A. Jellinek, Bet Ha-Midrash(Leipzig, 1878; reprint ed., Jerusalem: Wahrman, 1967), 1:58–61, which is in fact the introduction to the magical book Shimmushe Torah;see Gershom Scholem, On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism(New York: Schocken, 1969), p. 38 and Swartz, “Book and Tradition.“Google Scholar

108. Pesiqta Rabbati96b.

109. This epithet is also used by angels in 3 Enoch §3, §9, §79 and in §149. discussed below. On this term, taken from Job 14:1 and 15:14, see Ginzberg, Legends, 6:57 and Schultz, ”Angelic Opposition, “ p. 287.

110. §313; cf. also §79 and §565. This term is based on m. Avot3:1, where humans are admonished to remember that we come from a stinking drop and go to a place of worm and vermin. For an interpretation of the saying in Avot, see Lieberman, Saul, ”How Much Greek in Jewish Palestine?” in Altmann, Alexander, ed., Biblical and Other Studies(Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1963), pp. 136139.Google Scholar

111. Seder Eliahu Zuṭa, chap. 12, in Seder Eliahu Rabbah ve-Seder Eliahu Zuta, ed. Meir Ish Shalom (Vienna, 1904; reprint ed., Jerusalem: Wahrman, 1969), p. 193. For the phrase cf. b. Yoma75b, where God also declares that in giving Israel manna, which did not need to be eliminated, he wished to make them like the ministering angels.

112. See also §181, discussed below.

113. The unit appears in MS. MY 8128 at §147–149 and in MS Vatican 228 at 315–317. Both of these manuscripts tend to include later material not found in other Hekhalot manuscripts. On MS NY 8128 see Schäfer, Synopse, p. x, and Swartz, Mystical Prayer, pp. 43–44.

114. Conversely, it is a characteristic of the righteous that they emit no bad odor. Cf. the story of Rabbi Eleazer in b. B. Mes.83a-85a, on which see Boyarin, Daniel, “Literary Fat Rabbis: On the Origins of the Grotesque Body, ” Journal of the History of Sexuality 1 (1991): 551584.Google ScholarPubMed

115. This view is opposed by Mattiah ben Heresh. See also Avot de-Rabbi Natan, ed. Schechter, version A, chap. 1.

116. The discussion centers on the exegesis of Deut. 9:9 vs. Ps. 78:25. According to Leviticus Rabbah 34:8, Targum Ps.-Jonathan to Gen. 18:8, and one opinion in b. B. Mes.86b, the three angels who visited Abraham were only pretending to eat and drink. For the sources on this subject, see Goodman, David, “Do Angels Eat?Journal of Jewish Studies 37 (1986): 160175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

117. See Chernus, Mysticism in Rabbinic Judaism, pp. 74–87.

118. Based on Exod. 24:11 and Ps. 78:25, and often related to the manna in the wilderness. See Goodman, “Do Angels Eat?” pp. 160–162.

119. Anderson, A Time to Mourn, pp. 75–76.

120. On the protective device of standing in a circle, which is used by Ḥoni ha-Ma'agel in m. Ta'an.3:8, see Gruenwald, Apocalyptic, p. 185.

121. Midrash Tehillim(ed. Buber), chap. 8, pp. 74–75. See also Schultz, “Angelic Opposition, ” pp. 286–287, 300–301.

122. Synopse§790–791, MS Oxf. 1531 and §810–811 in the same manuscript (= §180–181 in MS NY 8128).

123. On the correspondence between the heavenly and earthly liturgies, see Swartz, Mystical Prayer;Schäfer, “Aim and Purpose”; and Gruenwald, “Angelic Songs, the Qedushah and the Problem of the Origin of the Hekhalot Literature, ” in Apocalyptism, pp. 145–173.

124. Baruch A. Levine, In the Presence of the Lord(Leiden: Brill, 1974).

125. See Levine, Leviticus, pp. 59–60.

126. See, for example, §558 (on which see Swartz, Mystical Prayer, pp. 132–133), §569, and §624.

127. Scholem, Gnosticism, pp. 9–13; Schiffman, Lawrence H., “The Recall of Rabbi Nehunia ben ha-Qanah from Ecstasy in the Hekhalot Rabbati, ” AJS Review 1 (1976): 269281; Saul Lieberman, “The Knowledge of Halakhaby the Author (or Authors) of the Heikhaloth, ”in Gruenwald, Apocalyptic, pp. 241–244; and Margarete SchlUter. “Die Erzahlung von der RUckholung des R. Nehunya ben Haqana aus der Merkava-Sdnawin ihrem redaktionellen Rahmen, ” Frankfurter Judaistische Beitrdge10 (1982): 65–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

128. In b. Nid.67a, the term lo 'altah lah ṭevilahrefers to an immersion invalidated by an interposing substance. See Schiffman, “Rabbi Neḥunia, ” p. 274; Lieberman, “Knowledge of Halakha, ”p. 243.

129. Jewish Gnosticism, p. 9.

130. Unlike many of the ritual texts under discussion, this one does not contain a recommendation for the praxis in which the tradent or an angel testifies to its effectiveness for everybody regardless of status. Such a recommendation occurs, for example, in §305, in which the narrative stresses that the Sar-Torahpraxis is effective for the lowliest shepherd and is as potent outside of the land of Israel as within its boundaries.

131. The ascent is also undertaken because of an emergency: Rome's evil decree against Israel. Furthermore, SchlUter's textual analysis (“Erzahlung, ” pp. 84–95) shows that the account of Rabbi Nehuniah's deposition is a later addition to this section of Hekhalot Rabbati.

132. Lieberman, “Knowledge of Halakha, ”p. 242, suggests that the minority would include Rabbi Eliezer, who was known to take a stricter position on purity.

133. The myrtle branch dipped in balsam would serve to disguise the odor of the cloth according to Lieberman, or, in Schiffman's view, act as a magic wand that would likewise affect the deposition and reinforce the action.

134. Schiffman, “Recall, ” pp. 275–281; Schlüter, “Erzahlung, ” p. 107.

135. Schlüter, “Erzählung, ” pp. 108–109. It is also possible that this episode, which seems to have been interpolated into the ascent narrative of Hekhalot Rabbati, reflects a later stage in the tradition's development in which the influence of rabbinic halakhah was greater. If this is the case, its halakhic nature does not argue for the rabbinic origin of Merkavah mysticism.

136. See especially Neusner, Purities;idem, The Idea of Purity, and Bokser, Baruch M., “Approaching Sacred Space, ” Han aid Theological Review 78 (1985): 279299.Google Scholar

137. To be sure, many passages in rabbinic literature can be found that do reflect this older concept. See for example, Avot de-Rabbi Natan, chap. 34 and Aptowilzer, A., “Bet ha-Miqdash shel Ma'alah 'al Pi ha-Aggadah, ” Tarbis 2(1931): 137153 and 257–287. Cf. also Swarlz, Mystical Prayer, pp. 28–29.Google Scholar

138. See Dinari, “Minhage Ṭum'at ha-Niddah, ” pp. 304–305. Indeed, the book seems at limes to be a pallid imitation, if not an outright parody, of mishnaic literature. The text cites “Haninah ben ha-Qannah” (for Nehuniah ben ha-Qannah) and opens with the words, “Shammai says …” which also begin m. Nid.This led Schechter (“Jewish Literature, ” p. 339) to propose that the sources of the text can be found among Karaites or Samaritans. This view has been refuted by Dinari, “Minhage Tum'at ha-Niddah”; cf. Lieberman, Sheqi'in, p. 22.

139. These customs can thus take their place with folk practices such as kapparot, tashlikh, and other extrahalakhic rituals. On these folk rituals, see the studies collected in Jacob Z. Lauterbach, Studies in Jewish Law, Custom and Folklore(n.p.: Ktav, 1970); and idem, “Tashlik.”

140. As Charles A. Long points out (“Popular Religion, ” Encyclopedia of Religion11:440–452), the term popular religion can have several meanings, not all of them useful for describing the religious phenomena described here. One of these possible definitions (p. 446) approximates the relevance of the term for this study: “Popular religion as an amalgam of esoteric beliefs and practices differing from the common or civil religion, but usually located in the lower strata of society.” This definition is useful to us notwithstanding the degree of education our authors seem to have had. Halperin, Faces of the Chariot, seeks to locate the authors in the lower classes ('am ha-areṣ)and argues that the Hekhalot literature constituted a protest against Rabbinic Judaism. This study thus confirms the opinion of Halperin and others, who argue that these texts did not originate in the rabbinic academies, and that the Sar-Torahtradition's notion of the acquisition of Torah should be contrasted with that of Rabbinic Judaism. Cf., however, below.

141. Cf. Halperin, Faces of the Chariot.

142. On the complexity of Jewish society in talmudic Palestine, see Levine, Lee I., The Rabbinic Class of Roman Palestine in Late Antiquity(Jerusalem: Yad Izhak ben Zvi; New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1989); see pp. 117127 on the rabbis' relationships with other social groups; cf. also Aharon Oppenheimer, The Am Ha-aretz(Leiden: Brill, 1977). On Babylonian Jewish society, see Jacob Neusner, A History of the Jews in Babylonia, 5 vols. (Leiden: Brill, 1965–70); I. Gafni, Yehude Bavel bi-Tequfat ha-Talmud(Jerusalem: Zalman Shazar Center, 1990).Google Scholar

143. On this issue and its relevance for the social position of the authors, see Swartz, “Book and Tradition.“

144. See especially Brown, Peter, The World of Late Antiquity(London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971), pp. 100103Google Scholar; Body and Society, pp. 323–338; Fox, Robin Lane, Pagans and Christians(New York: Knopf, 1987), pp. 375418Google Scholar. The ideal of virginity, however, plays no part in the Jewish patterns of abstinence described here. For the situation with regard to Rabbinic Judaism, see Fraade, “Ascetical Aspects“; Boyarin, Daniel, “Internal Opposition in Talmudic Literature: The Case of the Married Monk, “ Representations 36 (1991): 87113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar