Knowing How To Die: Reflections on Kinah 16
“They sent the children away to the land of Uz in three ships.”
The Talmud tells a horrifying story of three ships sent to Rome by Vespasian filled with four hundred Jewish boys and girls to be used for immoral purposes. The children preferred taking their own lives rather than live in sin. They were inspired by a verse, “I will bring back those threatened by disgrace,” and understood that they would not forfeit their share in the World To Come by jumping into the sea. All the children jumped. (Gittin 57b)
This reminds me of an inscription on a WWII memorial in Bosnia:
Here lies the grave. Stay for a while, when the forest listens.
Take off your caps! Here rests the flower
Of a people that knows how to die.
These children had so much clarity about how to live, that they knew how to die.
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