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Sacred Death For Orthodox Jewish Thought During The Holocaust: With A Preliminary Inquiry Into Christian Parallels

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Chapter Summary

The elements of sacred death during the Holocaust for ultra-Orthodox Judaism at the time invite comparison with classical, patristic Christianity. Parallels between rabbinic and patristic concepts of sacred death, as part of a common universe of discourse, have been identified. Did this community remain through the ages? For wartime ultra-Orthodox thinkers, the term for sacred death, mesirut nefesh al kiddush Hashem, submission of the soul in sanctification of the Name, applied to specific individuals, classes of pious Jews, and Jewish victims collectively. The parallel term in Christianity has been martyr, meaning witness. Christian martyrdom was rooted in, and revolved around the atoning passion of Christ. This central reality permeated its various aspects, precluding substantive identification between the sacred death of the Christian martyr and that of the Jewish victim of the Holocaust.

Keywords: Christian martyrdom; Holocaust; Jewish victims; patristic Christianity; sacred death; ultra-Orthodox Judaism



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