“Mehabevin et ha-tsarot”: Crusade Memories and Modern Jewish Martyrologies
Myers, David N.
Jewish History . Volume 13, No. 2 . Fall (1999)
In tracing the echoes of the Crusades in Jewish historical writing and consciousness, one is anested by the phrase “they cherish their troubles.” Does it not appear to be a poignant, even shocking, epigram for the Jewish historical experience, or at least for the “lachrymose conception” of that experience according to which suffering assumes pride of place? Here, as elsewhere in Jewish literature, the gates of interpretation were open to various and diverse travelers. Rashi, the great French commentator who was a contemporary of the first Crusaders and who lost relatives and friends to their anti-Jewish excesses, understood “they cherished their troubles” to mean that Jews cherished not their troubles, but rather their liberation from such troubles. Jews were compelled to recall their troubles, he claimed, so as to praise God for His miraculous intervention. Moreover, the sense of inadequacy in recording these travails stemmed, in part, from their sheer ubiquity.