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Martyriology in Judaism: Home

Information on how Judaism views martyrdom

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Introduction

Massacre of the Jews of Metz during the First Crusade (Auguste Migette, 1802-1884)

 In Judaism, martyrdom is called Kiddush Hashem—"the sanctification of God's name".  And yet, a Jew is not permitted to seek martyrdom, but rather to seek life and sustain life. True, the Talmud says of those who died al Kiddush Hashem that their place in the world to come is beyond the reach of any created being. But then, the same Talmud also teaches that, "One hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is more beautiful than all the life of the world to come.
There are multiple examples of martyrs in Jewish history.  One such instance is the talmudic passage that recalls the ten rabbis who died at the hands of the Romans and are remebered in the prayer Eleh Ezkerah recited on the Day of Atonement.  During the First Crusade (1096-1099) the Jewish communities on the Rhine chose death rather than conversion to Christianity.  Putting  these examples aside, however, martyrdom is not a positive value in Judaism.  Living righteously in this world is the goal of Jewish life and the the purpose for why God put humanity on this earth.

Subject Guide

Nanette Stahl
Subjects:Judaic Studies

Secondary Sources