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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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The Neutral Dead and the Pietist Dead

The Neutral Dead and the Pietist Dead

(p.115) Chapter Four The Neutral Dead and the Pietist Dead
Final Judgement and the Dead in Medieval Jewish Thought

Susan Weissman

Liverpool University Press

This chapter examines the role of the neutral dead in Sefer ḥasidim and shows how the concern for clothing the dead, in its various stages of existence, assumed specifically medieval forms. It also looks at the Pietist practice of burial in a talit with tsitsit, which highlights the singularity of the Pietists' unusually strong attachment to burial in such a garment and reveals an affinity with an ancient Germanic belief and custom regarding the afterlife. The belief that physical objects possessed the power to propel their bearers to Paradise was present in Ashkenazi sources both within and outside the Pietist circle. In this light, various Ashkenazi halakhists viewed specific garments of the dead, such as the tsitsit, as aids in the passage of the soul to the hereafter. These garments were not solely intended, as the talmudic rabbis would profess, for the time of the resurrection. The focus on the period immediately after death, rather than a concern with the World to Come, was a hallmark of the medieval period and one which separated yet again the world of the Pietists from the world of the rabbis of the Talmud.

Keywords:   neutral dead, Sefer ḥasidim, Pietist burial practice, afterlife, Ashkenazi halakhists, talit, tsitsit, resurrection, Pietists, talmudic rabbis

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