This article uses Hermann Gunkel's form-critical approach in studying the fifteen short ‘Psalms of Ascent’ (Psalms 120–134). Jewish tradition as well as subsequent scholarship associates these Psalms with the Biblical Pilgrim festivals in Jerusalem, sung by the pilgrims on their way but later incorporated into cultic rites within the Temple. Gunkel's analysis identifies templates which serve as frameworks for both simple and complex artistic variations. Using the form-critical approach descriptively rather than prescriptively, the article uses the identification of formal elements primarily as a tool for understanding the language, themes, message and mood of these Psalm texts. A study of King Solomon's dedicatory prayer (1 Kings 8 and 2 Chronicles 6) in conjunction with Psalm 132 indicates a new locus of performance in a ritual in modern synagogue liturgy.
Shani Tzoref is currently an MA student in Digital Humanities at CUNY Graduate Center in New York. She was formerly a Professor of Hebrew Bible and Biblical Exegesis, and an academic activist who sought to promote diversity, dignity and generosity.