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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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On Sin, Penance, and Purgation

On Sin, Penance, and Purgation

(p.208) Chapter Six On Sin, Penance, and Purgation
Final Judgement and the Dead in Medieval Jewish Thought

Susan Weissman

Liverpool University Press

This chapter evaluates R. Judah the Pious's position on posthumous punishment as compared with rabbinic tradition and tosafist commentary. It assess his views on the matter in light of the changes that occurred within the Christian doctrine of penance and the rise of Purgatory in the high medieval period. The sabbath rest of souls — a belief commonly held by Jews of the time — has no place in R. Judah's vision of Gehenna. Besides increasing the duration of posthumous punishment, the Pietists also heighten its severity. Such punishment is punitive rather than purgative, and is to be avoided as much as possible through the performance of harsh acts of penance in this world. Several important themes of the early medieval penitential literature have been transferred onto the pages of Sefer ḥasidim. Having substituted the doctrine of Inevitable Sin for Original Sin, and depicted the Pietist master as a Christ-like figure of atonement, R. Judah has unwittingly adopted a thoroughly Christian world-view. Moreover, R. Judah's advocacy of voluntary corporeal suffering, as well as his definition of the hasid as one who lives in constant daily battle with sin and in ascetic withdrawal from the pleasures of this world, demonstrate the Pietists' identification with several fundamental monastic ideals.

Keywords:   Judah the Pious, posthumous punishment, rabbinic tradition, tosafist commentary, penance, Purgatory, Gehenna, Sefer ḥasidim, voluntary corporeal suffering, Pietists

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