Memory and Covenant
The Role of Israel's and God's memory in Sustaining the Deuteronomic and Priestly Covenants
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers
Series: Emerging Scholars
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
This book is a substantial revision of my dissertation, “Memory and Religious Praxis: The Meaning and Function of Memory in Deuteronomic and Priestly Religion,” written under the supervision of Dr. Stephen Geller at the Jewish Theological Seminary. As its title indicates, the dissertation was concerned with mapping the semantic field of memory in deuteronomic and priestly...
Part I. Theoretical Underpinnings
What did “memory” mean to the Israelite authors behind the Pentateuch? The question assumes, first of all, that memory was a meaningful concept for them, an assumption unlikely to be challenged by the mainstream ever since 1982 when Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi published Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory. Yerushalmi identified memory as “a religious imperative to an entire...
2. Two Worldviews: Creation—Destruction—Re-Creation
Readers familiar with the book Genesis know that the book starts with two stories of creation, one (Gen. 1:1—2:4a) a seven-day schema culminating in God’s rest on the seventh day, attributed to P, and a second (Gen. 2:4b–3:24), the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, attributed to J. The second story describes not only creation, but (in Genesis 3) the events that bring about...
3. What Is “Memory”?
As stated at the outset of this work, memory is central to the covenant theologies of the deuteronomic and priestly traditions. But what is “memory” for each? Is it recollection or retrospect? Is it retrieval or retention? Does it concern specific episodes or extended events? Is it information or experience, ideas or images? As historians of memory theory know, the question of what...
Part II. Memory at Work in the Lived Covenant
4. “Remember, do not forget”: Israel’s Covenantal Duty in Deuteronomy
Deuteronomy is not usually associated with ritual. Its law code says almost nothing about the practices associated with the shrine such as sacrifices and purification rites other than that they must be performed “only in the place which [Yahweh] has chosen.”1 When it does stipulate specific activities, such as the pilgrimage festivals (Deut. 16:1-17) or sacred donations (Deut. 14:22-29; 15:19-21), it couches...
5. The Priestly Solution: Sensory Stimuli for God
According to the priestly tradition, the revelation at Sinai consists of the plans, practices, and laws associated with Israel’s cult. Moses receives directions for the construction of the tabernacle and its furnishings and vessels, and for making the priestly vestments. He also receives commands concerning the ordination of the priesthood and the consecration of the tabernacle, and descriptions of...
6. Israel’s Memory in the Priestly Tradition
While the deuteronomic tradition prescribes relatively few ritual practices, in the priestly tradition ritual is a central concern. The attention to the mechanics of ritual is what leads some readers to identify Leviticus (plus portions of Exodus 25–40 and Numbers 1–8) as a manual for the priesthood. Admittedly, there is something doctrinal, not in the sense of theological creed but in terms of...
7. Memory and the Transformation of Priestly Terms into Lay Concepts
The loss of the temple and its rituals left a chasm in the religious experience of the Israelites living in exile. That disaster could well have been understood as God’s utter rejection of God’s people and the end of the covenant with Israel. With no way to enact the relationship through the rituals of the temple or to keep God present and aware by means of those rituals, the priesthood must have...
8. Signs for God
Signs, as demonstrations of God’s presence and power, dominate the beginning of Israel’s national story as related by the priestly tradition. God instructs Moses to perform signs before the Israelites as proof of God’s readiness to save them (Exod. 4:4-8) and before Pharaoh to demonstrate God’s superior power (Exod. 4:17, 28, 30). As God prepares to carry out the onslaught of demonstrations, God declares, “I will...
9. Conclusion and Comments
The summer after I finished my dissertation, I took myself to Rome for a month to celebrate. My last day was August 5, which is also the Feast Day of Our Lady of the Snows celebrated at Santa Maria Maggiore, the largest church in Rome and one of the Papal Basilicas. According to legend, in 356 CE Pope Liberio received a vision of the Virgin Mary instructing him to build a church in her...
Index of Subjects and Names
Index of Biblical References and Rabbinic Texts