chapter  3
13 Pages

EARLY RABBINIC DEATH-PRACTICES

The evidence of the Mishnah

In the late second century, a small group of rabbinic masters and their disciples gathered in the Galilee. Having recovered from the ravages of the war with Rome (133-5 CE), these scholars and religious visionaries sought to redefine Judaism for an unprecedented age. Mere decades following Rome’s suppression of the revolt led by Bar Kokhba, these rabbis, like other Jews around them, could no longer imagine that the Temple in Jerusalem would be rebuilt “speedily and in their days,” that Jewish autonomy would be recovered through some messianic miracle. Facing a people traumatized by upheaval and loss, the rabbis grappled with fundamental issues of definition and direction.1