SCROLL STUDY SAFE IN JEWISH HANDS
It is not often that a scholarly work makes most of its predecessors obsolete. But that can be said about the seminal book by my friend Prof. Lawrence Schiffman, ("Reclaiming the Scrolls? March 31).
After the study of many of the scrolls had been blocked to Israeli scholars for many years due to their exclusion from the Jordan-appointed all-Christian committee, they are now safely in the competent hands of Jewish scholars. Gone are the days when hundreds of books and papers exasperated us with non-stop searches for non-existing Christian traces in the scrolls, based on imagined Christian beliefs. With the appearance of Schiffman’s book, only those at home in the rabbinic literature ought to apply.
Since Judaism is a religion of halacha and its observance, Jewish communities can only be judged, defined and gauged by their degree of such observance.
Christianity was totally opposed to halacha, the pivotal Dead Sea Scroll document Mikizat Ma’asel Hatorah (The Laws of the Torah was totally rejected by the man who invented Christianity as we know it, Paul (Galatians 2:16, where the term is mistranslated as "works of the law").
Schiffman opens up to us the wonderful world of hatacha at Qumran, a world where the student finds tefillin, mezuot, strict Sabbath observance, stringent purity laws and many more basic halachot.
Some 25 years ago, I published the first claim that the Qumranites were Sadducees, not Essenes, based on their stringent observance of the mitzvot. Yigael Yadin, whom I consulted, was delighted with my identification. Schiffman today agrees with me, and lists 13 of my works on the scrolls in his bibliography, covering my 4 years of work on the scrolls.
It is a pity that your reviewer Magen Broshi still clings to the Christian efforts to find commonality with the scrolls. Maybe this is "politically correct" in today’s climate in Israel, but among Jewish scholars it is passé.
Schiffman’s book will remain the definitive book on the scrolls for the foreseeable future, and should be required reading by all interested in this body of fascinating Jewish literature.
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