Martyrdom in Judaism: Part 2

ZS wrote this two-part overview of Jewish martyrdom in 2018. We post it now with consideration of those who joined the ranks of kedoshim on October 7, 2023. Click here to read Part 1. Rewards in Heaven Jewish traditions hold that martyrs gain access to haolam haba. In the Maccabean martyr story of the seven brothers and their mother, rather than eating swine’s flesh, the family was killed one by one. With his last breath, the second brother exclaimed to his persecutor, “You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us … Continue reading “Martyrdom in Judaism: Part 2”

Jewish Martyrdom: Part 1

Eleazar Avaran dies while killing Seleucid war elephant.

ZS wrote this two-part overview of Jewish martyrdom in 2018. We post it now with consideration of those who joined the ranks of kedoshim on October 7, 2023. The concept of martyrdom within Judaism wrestles with several issues. Martyrdom carries different functions within Judaism, often changing with historical context. Judaism tries to set clear determinations for situations in which a martyr’s death is preferred, although this tends to be a difficult task with gray areas. A martyr receives rewards in haolam haba (“the world to come,” or the afterlife). Unlike Christian martyrdom, Jewish halakhah arguably focuses more on the action … Continue reading “Jewish Martyrdom: Part 1”

Halakhah and New York’s Recent Abortion Law

A month from its signing, I examine New York’s recent abortion law (the Reproductive Health Act, or RHA) under the lenses of Jewish law (halakhah). The RHA institutes two major changes: 1) it takes abortion out of laws regarding criminal activity, and 2) it allows abortion when “the patient is within twenty-four weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, or there is an absence of fetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health” (page 2, lines 46-49). This means that doctors performing abortions cannot be charged for carrying out unlawful abortions. Moreover, the law narrows … Continue reading “Halakhah and New York’s Recent Abortion Law”