Cursing the Christians?: A History of the Birkat HaMinim
Ruth Langer offers an in-depth study of the birkat haminim, a Jewish prayer for the removal of those categories of human being who prevent the messianic redemption and the society envisioned for it. In its earliest form, the prayer cursed Christians, apostates to Christianity, sectarians, and enemies of Israel. Drawing on the shifting liturgical texts, polemics, and apologetics concerning the prayer, Langer traces the transformation of the birkat haminim from what functioned without question in the medieval world as a Jewish curse of Christians, through its early modern censorship by Christians, to its modern transformation within the Jewish world into a general petition that God remove evil from the world. Christian censorship played a crucial role in this transformation of the prayer; however, Langer argues that the truest transformation in meaning resulted from Jewish integration into Western culture. Eventually, the prayer shed its references to any specific category of human being and lost its function as a curse. Reconciliation between Jews and Christians today requires both communities to confront a long history of prejudice. Ruth Langer shows through the birkat haminim how the history of one liturgical text chronicled Jewish thinking about Christians over hundreds of years.
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The Period of the Geonim and the Geniza
3 The Birkat HaMinim in Europe of the High Middle Ages
Early Modern Realities
Changes by Choice to the Text
Geniza Texts of the Birkat HaMinim
Evidence for the Birkat HaMinim in the PreSephardized Rites of the Muslim World
Uncensored Medieval European Texts of the Birkat HaMinim
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amidah Amsterdam apostates appears Ashkenaz Babylonian Berakhot birkat haminim Cambridge censored censorship century chapter Christian cites commentary concluding benediction concluding blessing context curse discussion early edition eighteen benedictions empire of insolence enemies and humbles evidence evil fourth line Ga’on geniza gentiles God’s halakhic Hebrew humbles the insolent Jerusalem Jerusalem Talmud Jewish community Jewish Liturgy Jewish Theological Seminary Jewish-Christians Jews Judaism kabbalah kabbalistic Karaites Land of Israel language liturgical liturgical texts Maimonides malkhut malkhut zadon malshinim manuscripts Margaritha medieval meshummad meshummadim MiKol HaShanah Minhag minim modern noz·erim Nusah original period polemics prayer book printed published rabbinic recited reference Reform Romaniote Seder Tefillot Sefer Sephardi rite Shmuel Siddur specific speedily suggests synagogue Talmud tannaitic Tefillah term Theological tion Torah Tosefta tradition translation understanding Venice verbs weekday words Yavneh Yisra’el Yosef zedim הרהמ הרהמב התא ךורב ונימיב לכו ןודז עגרכ עינכתו רבוש רבשתו רקעת תוכלמו