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After One-Hundred-and-Twenty:
Reflecting on Death, Mourning, and the Afterlife in the Jewish Tradition
Hillel Halkin

Long-listed for the 2017 Jewish Quarterly Wingate Prize

Paperback | June 2018 | $18.95 | £14.95 | ISBN: 9780691181165
Hardcover | 2016 | $27.95 | £22.95 | ISBN: 9780691149745
232 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
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After One-Hundred-and-Twenty provides a richly nuanced and deeply personal look at Jewish attitudes and practices regarding death, mourning, and the afterlife as they have existed and evolved from biblical times to today. Taking its title from the Hebrew and Yiddish blessing to live to a ripe old age—Moses is said to have been 120 years old when he died—the book explores how the Bible's original reticence about an afterlife gave way to views about personal judgment and reward after death, the resurrection of the body, and even reincarnation. It examines Talmudic perspectives on grief, burial, and the afterlife, shows how Jewish approaches to death changed in the Middle Ages with thinkers like Maimonides and in the mystical writings of the Zohar, and delves into such things as the origins of the custom of reciting Kaddish for the deceased and beliefs about encountering the dead in visions and dreams.

After One-Hundred-and-Twenty is also Hillel Halkin's eloquent and disarmingly candid reflection on his own mortality, the deaths of those he has known and loved, and the comfort he has and has not derived from Jewish tradition.

Hillel Halkin is an author, translator, critic, and journalist. His books include Jabotinsky: A Life and Yehuda Halevi, which won the National Jewish Book Award. He lives in Israel.


"It's refreshing to read a Jewish book on death that does not presume to offer guidance, either through that dark portal, or around it. Instead, Hillel Halkin . . . has written a brief, pellucid account of the role death has played in Jewish texts, law, thought and lives--including his own."--Esther Schor, Wall Street Journal

"[A]n accessible and trenchant exploration of Judaism's evolving concepts of death with his own struggle with understanding it. . . . Halkin's frankness about his own difficulties in coming to terms with his parents' deaths and traditional Jewish rituals such as sitting shiva help make this nuanced quest for meaning personal and affecting."--Publisher's Weekly

"By combining historical examples with his firsthand experiences, Halkin has created a well-rounded and thoroughly readable examination of how Jews face the unknown."--Jeff Fleischer, Foreword

"Literary scholar, premier translator of Hebrew and Yiddish literatures, depth reporter on modern Israeli life, and on the far side of 75, Halkin is just the man to condense the riches of Jewish thanatology. . . . What begins as analytic history ends in deeply moving, reflective memoir."--Ray Olson, Booklist

"A very user-friendly historical account of Jewish ideas about death . . . and how those ideas change. . . . [Halkin] is a master at 'popularisation' in the best sense of that term, bringing to a non-academic audience what are, in essence, some very complicated ideas."--David Hillel-Ruben, Jewish Chronicle

"Hillel Halkin, an American-born Israeli scholar and novelist, poignantly explores his own experiences while providing a history of Jewish thought."--Amy Frykholm, Christian Century

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Table of Contents:

  • Frontmatter, pg. i
  • CHAPTER ONE, pg. 9
  • CHAPTER TWO, pg. 43
  • CHAPTER THREE, pg. 89
  • CHAPTER FOUR, pg. 137
  • CHAPTER FIVE, pg. 177


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Cosponsored by the Tikvah Fund

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    File created: 9/7/2017

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