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Gestures accompanying Torah learning/recital among Yemenite Jews

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The article discusses one of the most ancient and unique customs in Jewish liturgy — the hand movements that accompany the Torah recital ritual in the Yemenite Jewish tradition. They are usually perceived as connected to the melody path of the recital: as a technique for its memorization and performance. For the first time, these movements and the technique of their performance are being recorded, classified and described in a systematic scholar way, particularly in terms of anthropokinesics and task dynamics. Their connection is discussed to other elements and techniques of the ritual. The gestures have been studied in two major frameworks: Torah learning in a children’s religious class, and Torah recital in the synagogue. The article argues that the recital gestures function as a kind of body technique, whose cultural, symbolic, aesthetic and psycho-dynamic significance reaches much farther than memorization of the recital melody.

Keywords: Jewish culture; Torah recital ritual; Yemenite Jews liturgy; anthropoetics; anthropology of body and gesture; body techniques; cognitive processing; gestures in pedagogy; task dynamics

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel

Publication date: January 1, 2007


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