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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

Pre‐rabbinic Traditions

The biblical passages just cited, and many similar to them, indicate that the earliest biblical sources provide later Jewish practice with the inspiration for personal, improvised prayer, in prose format, with patterns using common speech forms. This type of prayer constituted a democratic and egalitarian way of approaching God, not at all similar to the formal, sacrificial cult of the Jerusalem Temple. During the Second Temple period, the tendency developed to link the personal prayer and the formal liturgy. From prayers incorporated into Hellenistic apocryphal and pseudepigraphical sources, it is apparent that there was an increasing number of benedictions, hymns and praises, mystical formulations of considerable variety, a concern for the absorption of Torah knowledge, and a growing use of the Temple precincts on special liturgical occasions.

The Hellenistic Jewish authors Philo and Josephus make clear that Jews prayed and studied in various contexts, at times with priestly guidance and involvement, especially on the Sabbath, and that biblical texts played a part in such rituals. Though unquestionably devoted to the Temple cult in the 2nd century BCE, ben Sirach (author of the Wisdom book of that name, also called “Ecclesiasticus”) linked Torah and wisdom with prayer. He also used words and phrases that are essentially biblical but take on special forms and meanings. The Qumran scrolls provide clear evidence of apractice, at least among some groups, to recite regular prayers at specific times. Some of these were linked to the calendar, some to special events, and some to penitential themes, but there is no obvious consistency of text and context.

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