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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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Bonds Between the Living and the Dead Part II

Bonds Between the Living and the Dead Part II

(p.307) Chapter Eight Bonds Between the Living and the Dead Part II
Final Judgement and the Dead in Medieval Jewish Thought

Susan Weissman

Liverpool University Press

This chapter studies R. Judah the Pious's theories of sin and accountability in Divine judgement relative to contemporary Jewish views, and explores his conception of God as depicted in Sefer ḥasidim. In opposition to the new religious mood, R. Judah sees justice, not mercy, as the dominant Divine attribute in posthumous judgement. With the individual to stand on trial alone and with the odds more against him than in his favour, R. Judah's view of God's judgement departs sharply from midrashic and contemporary liturgical and artistic images. While Ashkenazi commentators on piyut and illuminators of maḥzorim depict a compassionate God who throws away one's sins or tilts the scales of judgement in one's favour, R. Judah paints an austere portrait of humankind overwhelmed by the gravity and inescapability of sin in front of an unforgiving and unswayable deity. His rejection of all models of patronage, both Jewish and Christian, his refusal to allow merit to cancel out sin — a view which he holds in opposition to other Jewish thinkers of his day — and his vision of posthumous judgement as absolute justice untempered by mercy serve to isolate him from members of his own Pietist circle and render his notions of accountability for sin exceptional in Jewish tradition.

Keywords:   Judah the Pious, sin, accountability, Divine judgement, God, Sefer ḥasidim, posthumous judgement, absolute justice, Jewish tradition

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