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Final Judgement and the Dead in Medieval Jewish Thought$
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Susan Weissman

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781906764975

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781906764975.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 28 June 2022

The Dangerous Dead

The Dangerous Dead

(p.17) Chapter One The Dangerous Dead
Final Judgement and the Dead in Medieval Jewish Thought

Susan Weissman

Liverpool University Press

This chapter analyses the fear of the dead in Ashkenazi society as depicted in Sefer ḥasidim and other, non-Pietist, sources. In the Talmud, the holy dead appear bodily to the living. In Sefer ḥasidim, by contrast, the holy dead make no appearance at all. The tremendous disparity between the Talmud and Pietist accounts in terms of the emotional response elicited by the returning dead can be understood only in the light of the latter's reflection of a firmly rooted and strongly held belief in pre-Christian notions of the dangerous dead. Sefer ḥasidim and other Pietist sources reveal evidence of German Jewish belief in the violence, vengeance, and summoning power of the dead. These sources prescribe methods of protection against harm from ghosts, exhumation of bodies in order to stop the spread of disease, and various apotropaic funeral practices which parallel other, similar methods and practices extant in the Germano-Christian environment.

Keywords:   Ashkenazi society, Sefer ḥasidim, Talmud, holy dead, returning dead, dangerous dead, German Jewish belief, ghosts, apotropaic funeral practices, Germano-Christian practices

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