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"For Death Severs their Bonds": Family and Eschatology in (and beyond) SEFER HASIDIM

Tue, December 18, 8:30 to 10:00am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Federal 1 Complex


During the high Middle Ages, Ashkenazic exegetes, moralists, and theologians were newly preoccupied by the relationship between one's familial status and their eschatological prospects. This perceived linkage manifested itself in new intercessory rituals such as Yizkor and the Mourner's Kaddish, which presuppose that familial relationships survive the death of the body. But medieval Ashkenazic thinkers, especially those associated with the school of the (so-called) "German Pietists," also probed the spiritual significance of the family from more theoretical theological vantage points: Will deceased spouses remain married to one another after the Resurrection of the Dead? Will parents and children be reunited with one another in the next world? Is it possible for one to share their heavenly reward with their less-righteous progeny--or conversely, can children be punished in the next world for their parents' sins? In this presentation, I will seek to contextualize this "sacralization of the family" within its broader Jewish and Christian settings, and argue that seemingly abstract theological sources can shed light upon the changing social and institutional dynamics of the Jewish Middle Ages.


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