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The Religious Experience in the Book of Psalms


Shamai Gelander

This book deals with the world of the psalms, in order to reveal the elements of faith as expressed in the various prayers. It includes an encompassing study of the variety of experiences: How can an individual in distress experience a situation which contrasts his actual reality altogether? What causes an individual to believe that God wants him to live and does not want him to die? What are the individual’s sources of confidence in justice as ruling over the universe, and his confidence that the harmony of the universe leaves no room for evil? Virtually all books of the Old Testament express the world view and opinions of their authors, with a didactic purpose on mind. Not so the Book of Psalms: Here we can find an expression of the pious individual’s world and his beliefs. The psalms are what the authors sought to place in the mouth of the worshippers, thinking that they would aptly express what was on their mind. Anybody who seeks to understand how faith and thoughtfulness join together with the individual’s emotions through a wonderful creative shaping, is invited to read this book.
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5. The Ceremonial Experience


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5.  The Ceremonial Experience

5.1  The procession or rally

In this chapter we shall look at psalms that feature or suggest a ceremonial occasion. All psalms, as we know, have served as part of a prayer or ritual ceremonies of one sort or another over the centuries, and as such they are all worthy of serving as elements on ceremonial occasions, be it expressly for that purpose, or when cobbled together by editors. Therefore, in this chapter we shall deal only with the psalms whose descriptions or formal components depict a ceremonial celebration or some kind – particularly the preliminary part of festivities, namely the pilgrimage.1

The fundamental difference between this kind of experience and others is that in the others, the mental/spiritual aspect of the experience is derived from the content, i.e., the ideas and views expressed: the ideas and the speaker’s emotional reactions and perspectives of what is happening in the given situation being described affect each other. Here, however, the very sense of participation and belonging to the festive congregation is what gives rise to the ideas that serve in these contexts as symptoms of identification, i.e. as testimonies to the celebrants’ conscious identity. The tenets of morality and faith being expressed by the participants are, in the main, declarations about the superiority of the festive congregation over those who are not part of it. The speaker’s sense of festive elation stems from the power of the ← 163...

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