Creating Religious Identity: Rabbinic Interpretations of the Exodus

and Günter Stemberger

Abstract:

According to the rabbis, only those belong to Israel who have lived through the central events of biblical history, above all the Exodus and the Babylonian Exile. This is demonstrated on the basis of three texts, the Haggadah of Pesaḥ, the Mekhilta, and the interpretation of the Exodus story in the Babylonian Talmud Sotah. Every Jew is expected to re-enact these events in their own lives: “In every generation man is bound to look upon himself as if he had come forth from Egypt.” Converts may also opt into this history and consider themselves as if they, too, had stood on Mount Sinai. Biblical history remains an active force beyond the limits of time; the consciousness of this ever present history is part of the rabbinic understanding of one’s own present and thus essential for one’s Jewish identity.

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Archiv für Religionsgeschichte is a specialised journal dealing primarily with religions of the ancient world. The different aspects of the field of research are covered in essays, reports on the main areas of religious studies and in individual articles.

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