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Выпуск № 1 (2013 год)

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Elinoar Bareket
Achva Academic Colledge

A Holy Community — the Terminology and Its Usage according to Genizah Letters of the 11th Century

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The identity between the Synagogue and the community in the Genizah letters starting from the 10th century is already a known fact. Likewise, it is already well established in the heart of Jewish awareness that the community, like the synagogue, is the visible and substantial expression on daily life of the Godly Holiness, which has no other practical expression. During the research of many Genizah letters, I came across the term «Holy Community» in a few versions, and it raised my curiosity — especially since the term «Holiness» is not lightly used in the medieval Jewish community as it is used so disrespectfully today.
I chose a random corpus of letters I had at my disposal, which included hundreds of letters from the 10th and 11th centuries, and started checking. From 618 Genizah documents published by Gil in his big corpus that deals with Palestine during the first Muslim period (634–1099) most of them letters I found 14 letters in which the term «Holy Community» is mentioned in some version or another. Clearly, this is an occasional body of documents, but I believe it is a typical one, if we take into consideration that the term originates in the Palestine and was used only in the Jewish Palestinian society and its derivative communities, mainly in Egypt.
From a closer look at the mentioned letters, a few fascinating findings can be seen, some of which I have already mentioned: an identity between the Synagogue and the community; the fact that the term «Holy Community» was in usage only in Palestine and its derivatives; the notion that the term was not common and only found in letters from one community to another, or in those from a community leader to his community, in letters with public appeal – either formal or semi-formal. In most cases, the term was used in letters that contained requests for help from one community to another. In my article I have checked whether the usage of this term is merely a linguistic habit – a tradition of previous generations – which carries no deep significances in these medieval times, or is it a means of putting a traditional-psychological pressure on the community in order to achieve a certain goal. In other words: did community leaders and writers on behalf of the community make a conscious usage of the term «Holy Community», which carries obvious social connotations, in order to act on their interests and push the right buttons for achieving results.
 
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