Leadership, Authority, and Religious Roles

Is there such a thing as a Jewish saint?

Jewish tradition tells of numerous individuals noted for their holiness and even for the ability to work marvels. But there has never been a formal process by which a man or woman was officially recognized as a paragon of sanctity. Embodiments of holiness fill the pages of the Bible, beginning with Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph and continuing with Moses and David. Numerous women of the Bible are revered for their virtues, including Sarah, Rebecca, Ruth, Esther, and Judith. But saintly figures are not lacking in post-biblical tradition. Some early rabbis, such as Simeon ben Yochai (c. 150), continue to fascinate, most notably in mystically oriented sects such as the Hasidim. Founders of certain sects have also been canonized by popular acclaim. The figure of the tzaddik has been especially important among mystically oriented groups, capable of performing wonders and possessed with esoteric knowledge. An important group of holy persons are the Jewish martyrs of various periods in history. When the Maccabeans revolted against the Seleucids, many of their number were martyred and acknowledged as heroes for the faith. During the Roman period, Jews were forbidden to teach Torah openly. According to much later traditional accounts a number of stalwart sages acted in defiance of the prohibition and were executed by Hadrian. They came to be called “The Ten Martyrs.” One of the most famous of those killed by Hadrian was Rabbi Akiva (c. 50-135 C.E.), also celebrated for his profound wisdom.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Religion Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App