A Time to Mourn, a Time to Dance: The Expression of Grief and Joy in Israelite Religion

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Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991 - Religion - 139 pages
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Anthropologists have long known that different cultures give expression to their symbol systems through external mediums such as food and clothing, but they have not recognized as readily that cultures also mold emotional life to fit particular patterns of meaning. This prejudice against the role of behaviors in shaping the emotional and cognitive life is especially strong in the study of religion. Gary Anderson's study reveals that, in the Israelite culture (and later, the Jewish culture), mourning and joy as emotional experiences have visible behavioral components for both the individual and the community at large. The best evidence of this can be found in rabbinical texts that prescribe behaviors appropriate to joy and determine when this ritual state supersedes that of mourning. For example, on religious feast days, mourning is forbidden and joy is prescribed. Mourning cannot resume until after the festival. The terms "mourning" and "joy" so employed do not refer to simple emotional states, but rather constitute a discrete set of ritual behaviors. In fact, the types of discrete behaviors that constitute joy (eating, drinking, festal song, anointing with oil, festive attire, sexual relations) all have exact anti-types in the ritual of mourning (fasting, dirges, putting ashes on the head, rending one's garments or putting on sackcloth, sexual continence). Anderson shows that it is not only the rabbinical texts that use the terms "mourning" and "joy" in this way; rabbinic tradition is simply heir to a much older tradition, as witnessed in biblical and other ancient Near Eastern narratives such as the Gilgamesh Epic.

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The Behavioral Expression of Grief and Joy
The Expression of Grief and Joy in the Life of the Individual
Index of Passages Cited

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Common terms and phrases

A. R. Radcliffe-Brown Akkadian Amarna letters amoraic Anat ancient Near East ancient Near Eastern ANET anointing Aramaic Arnold van Gennep Asherah Ashkelon Assyriology Baal baraita behavioral Ben Sira Besah Bible biblical biblical Hebrew binic book of Lamentations Canaanite Canaanite religion Chron commandment to rejoice context covenantal cultic Danil dead deliverance Deut Deuteronomy discussion E. P. Sanders eating and drinking Edom Elephantine emotional Enkidu Epic of Gilgamesh experience of joy expression feast day feast of Weeks gemara George Lindbeck Gilgamesh Gilgamesh epic groomsmen Hagigah halakhic halakhot Hebrew hendiadys Humbert Ibid idiom Isaiah Israel Israelite Jerusalem Jewish Jewish Theological Seminary Jon Levenson Jonas Greenfield joyous Judaism kadian Kirta lamentation Lord marriage meaning Mekhilta Mesopotamia midrash Midrash Tehillim Mishna Mishnaic Mishnaic Hebrew mourner mourning Muffs Neukirchen Ninth of Ab Old Testament one's onomy Palestinian Talmud parallel Passover Pesahim pleasure girl praise psalmist psalms Psalter Purim rabbinic rabbinic literature Rashi Ravad religion religious rite rite of passage ritual role root sacrifice scripture Second Temple Selamim Semitic Semitic languages sequence sexual intercourse sexual relations Shabbat Shamash Shamhat Shapshu Sheol Siduri Sifre simha simhd song steppe sugya sukkah Sukkot Syriac Taanit Talmud tannaitic Targum Temple term Testament Testament of Abraham tion Torah Torah-study translation Ugaritic underworld usage verb wife wine YHWH Zechariah

About the author (1991)

Gary A. Anderson is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia.

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