The Qumran Community
---Service of the Heart: Evenings and Sabbaths
“And the Congregation shall watch in community for a third of every night of the year, to read the Book and to study the Law and to bless together” (Community Rule VI, 5–6).
“They are stricter than all Jews in abstaining from work on the seventh day” (Josephus, Jewish War
II, viii, 9).
The work day at Qumran lasted until dusk, when the members of the Community immersed themselves once again in the ritual baths, in order to purify themselves before the evening meal. The nighttime hours served not only for rest, but also for spiritual pursuits: the study of the Law and communal prayer. The Community thus combined profane with spiritual affairs during the week, until the advent of the Sabbath day.
The sect’s Sabbath laws were extremely rigorous, the day being used primarily for prayer and study. The scroll known as Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice
reveals some details of their worship: the scroll consists of thirteen hymns recited by certain angels, one hymn every Sabbath, for the 52 weeks of the year, so that each hymn was recited a total of four times a year. As the title indicates, these hymns were considered a substitute for the sacrifices that were offered on the Sabbath in the Jerusalem Temple; the sectarians believed that in singing them they were emulating the songs of the angels in the heavenly Temple.