The Rabbis Confront Death: Four Stories from the Midrash with Burt Visotzky
Midrash Mishle (The Midrash to Proverbs, 9th century CE) waxes narrative with four stories of death and mourning. These legends offer a comprehensive rabbinic view on death, mourning, and consolation that have meaningful lessons for us today. This series discusses the Midrashic literature surrounding the death of famous Jewish figures.
The Death of Moses
Tuesday December 7, 2021
Unlike the biblical narrative at the end of Deuteronomy, in this Midrash, Moses does not go gentle into that good night. Instead, he goes through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, similar to what we know from modern accounts of death and dying.
The Death of Rabbi Meir’s Sons
Tuesday December 14, 2021
This event discusses how Rabbi Meir’s wife breaks the news to Rabbi Meir about the sudden death of their two sons, and how the couple mourn their loss together – from theodicy to consolation.
The Death of the Apostate Elisha ben Avuyah
Tuesday December 21, 2021
Elisha’s disciple Rabbi Meir tries to convince him to repent, but Elisha dies unrepentant! How does one cope with a loss that has no apparent redemption or closure?
The Death of Rabbi Akiba
Tuesday December 28, 2021
In Midrash Mishle’s version, Akiba does not die by torture, but rather dies quietly in prison. This Midrash focuses on how his disciple (and surrogate son), Joshua of Gerasa, buries and mourns him with the help of Elijah the Prophet.
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