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Execution and InventionDeath Penalty Discourse in Early Rabbinic and Christian Cultures$
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Beth A. Berkowitz

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195179194

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2006

DOI: 10.1093/0195179196.001.0001

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Performing Execution, Part 2

Performing Execution, Part 2

The Relatives and the Rabbis

(p.127) 5 Performing Execution, Part 2
Execution and Invention

Beth A. Berkowitz (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter completes the study of the cast of characters found in rabbinic execution, turning attention to the criminal’s relatives and to the role of the Rabbis themselves. In exploring the part of the relatives, it extricates the relevant passages of Mishnah from their accepted interpretation by the Babylonian Talmud to show that the criminal is permanently buried in a location separate from the family burial site. It argues that the Mishnah’s laws prescribing separate burial, prohibiting the relatives from mourning, and requiring the relatives to reconcile with the court are all means of asserting the primacy of the rabbinic community over the bonds of family. Finally, the chapter examines narratives in which sages are portrayed as agents of execution. It shows that these stories project the power of execution onto the Rabbis, but also evince a strategic ambivalence about that power.

Keywords:   relatives, Rabbis, Mishnah, Babylonian Talmud, burial, mourning, primacy, family bonds, ambivalence

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