Does the Angel of Death kill Torah scholars? The approach of the stammaim

Boaz Spiegel

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1 Scopus citations


Our study shows two approaches of talmudic literature to the question of whether the Angel of Death is the one who takes the life of Torah scholars. The earlier, more original approach posits that the scholar was not under the jurisdiction of the Angel of Death. Such an approach can be found in the midreshei halakhah and also found, both explicitly and implicitly, in the Talmud of the Land of Israel and in midreshei 'aggadah, all composed in the Land of Israel. This early position was preserved as well in the Babylonian Talmud, both in tannaitic and amoraic sources, but only in the sections that have clear attributions. However, in the non-attributed, stammaitic sections, one finds witness to a different approach. According to the stam of the Bavli the Angel of Death is personally responsible for the death of scholars. We try to prove that the new position, as found especially in the stories of the stammaitic sections of the Bavli, is late and post-amoraic. At the end of our research, we offer an explanation for the new stammaitic approach based upon the studies of Jeffrey Rubenstein and Yaakov Elman.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-86
Number of pages38
JournalHebrew Union College Annual
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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