Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wiesel lecture

ELIE WIESEL has given a lecture at BU on martyrdom in the Talmud:
Martyrdom, suicide, sins spark Elie Wiesel lecture

Written by Regine Sarah Capungan (The Daily Free Press)
Published Oct 23, 2012

Boston University professor Elie Wiesel addressed the perceptions surrounding martyrdom and suicide in Jewish culture as he spoke before hundreds of students Monday night.

In Wiesel’s lecture, “In the Talmud: Is Martyrdom or Sanctification of His Name a Valid Response?” he focused on whether the act of martyrdom was accepted or legal in Jewish culture.

He said suicide is forbidden in Judaism, as life is always of greater importance than death.


Wiesel drew on examples from religious texts to support his argument. He gave an illustration of martyrdom by introducing the three largest sins of Judaism: idolatry, or worship of a false idol, murder and adultery.

Wiesel used the story of Rabbi Hanina as an example of martyrdom. Hanina defied Roman law and taught the Torah. As a result, Hanina was sentenced to death and Roman soldiers burned him to death at the stake as punishment.

“We are always amazed at the life and death of these great teachers,” Wiesel said.

Incidentally, R. Hanina is one of the martyrs in the traditional Legend of the Ten Martyrs and he plays an important role in the rather idiosyncratic version of the story in the Hekhalot Rabbati. See the link for details.