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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.
The slaughter of the Jews in the Rhineland in 1096 is one of the better-known events of the First Crusade. Cohen analyzes the texts of the Jewish accounts of these massacres in light of the martyrdom tradition of Masada, well-known at that time, and the contemporary Christian cult of self-sacrifice. . . . Recommended. --Choice
Comparative readings of contemporary Christian texts and Talmudic narratives that thematize the connections and differences between Christians and Jews as these emerged around the issue of martyrdom. The author argues that, in the end, the developing discourse of martyrology involved the circulation and exchange of cultural and religious innovations between the two communities as they moved toward sharper self-definition.
"The Ways of Jewish Martyrdom" discusses the phenomenon of Jewish Martyrdom in medieval Germany, northern France, and England from the time of the First Crusade (1096) until the mid-fourteenth century (that is, the time of the 'Black Death'), in light of modern research and with ample use of hitherto-neglected primary sources.
"There is a true struggling with the texts and perennial human issues. The author's treatment forces the reader to think about martyrdom and the larger complex of law, history, biography, and redemption differently from the conventional ways we have been 'taught' to conceive of these issues in general and within Judaism." -- Steven D. Fraade, Yale University
During the first months of the First Crusade, groups of crusaders attacked the Jewish communities in the Rhineland, forcing them to choose between death and conversion. Many converted, but many others choose to die as martyrs. These events are described in three Hebrew Chronicles, and in a number of Hebrew liturgical poems. These Hebrew Chronicles introduce many new ideas connected to martyrdom which are not found in earlier Jewish martyr texts. They also differ considerably from contemporary texts on martyrdom, written by Jews living under Muslim rule. The purpose of the present study is to outline the most salient features of this new ideology of martyrdom found in the Hebrew Crusade Chronicles and how it differs from earlier Jewish tradition