Some Lessons from the Talmudic Plague That Gave Rise to Post-Passover Mourning Rituals

April 27 2020

The interval between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot is traditionally a period of mourning, during which the observant refrain from getting haircuts and holding weddings. While these customs took shape in the wake of the Crusades, when many massacres of Jews occurred during this time of year, rabbinic authorities cite as their source an episode described by the Talmud. According to this passage, the great sage Rabbi Akiva, who lived in the early 2nd century CE, had “12,000 pairs of disciples,” scattered throughout the Land of Israel, all of whom died of disease because “they did not accord respect to one another.” Basil Herring discusses some of the questions this story raises, and seeks to answer them:

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More about: Akiva, Coronavirus, Jewish calendar, Talmud

Israeli Sovereignty Would Free Residents of the West Bank from Ottoman Law

To its opponents, the change in the legal status of certain areas of Judea and Samaria is “annexation;” to its proponents, it is the “extension of sovereignty” or the “application of Israeli law.” Naomi Khan argues that the last term best captures the practical implications of the measures in question. Since the Six-Day War, the Jewish state has continued to uphold the Ottoman legal system in areas of the West Bank under its jurisdiction—despite the fact that the Ottoman empire ceased to exist in 1922; “annexation” would end this situation. Setting aside the usual questions of foreign policy, security, and the possibility of Palestinian statehood, Khan argues that this change would be the one most felt by those who live there:

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More about: Annexation, Israeli law, Ottoman Empire, Palestinian Authority, West Bank