There are many books devoted to explicating Jewish laws and customs relating to death and mourning and a wealth of studies addressing the significance of death practices around the world. However, never before has there been a study of the death and mourning practices of the founders of Judaism - the Rabbis of late antiquity. The Meanings of Death in Rabbinic Judaism fills that gap.
The author examines the earliest canonical texts - the Mishnah, the Tosefta, the Midrashim and the Talmud of the Land of Israel. He outlines the rituals described in these texts, from preparation for death to reburial of bones and the end of mourning. David Kraemer explores the relationships between the texts and interprets the rituals to uncover the beliefs which informed their foundation. He discusses the material evidence preserved in the largest Jewish burial complex in antiquity - the catacombs at Beth Shearim. Finally, the author offers an interpretation of the Rabbis' interpretations of death rituals - those recorded in the Babylonian Talmud.
The Meanings of Death in Rabbinic Judaism provides a comprehensive and illuminating introduction to the formation, practice and significance of death rituals in Rabbinic Judaism.
'His analyses of the pertinent Rabbinic narratives as well as laws are systematic and cogent, a coherent set of questions coming to bear at each point in his presentation' - Jacob Neusner, The Jerusalem Post 18/02/00
'This book contributes significantly to the growing interdisciplinary field of death studies...' - Douglas J. Davies, University of Durham, Journal of Semetic Studies
'This book will be a source of enjoyment and inspiration to anyone interested in the encounter between Buddhism and Christianity and indeed in inter-religious encounter in general.' - 'Elizabeth J. Harris, Reviews in Religion and Theology
'David Kraemer ... provides an interesting, yet highly critical academic insight into Jewish practices as expounded in rabbinic literature.' - Rabbi Martin van den Bergh, Mortality