In this article, you will learn a bit about Bruriah, a 2nd century historic figure who earned a rather significant place in religious history. This wise woman has a remarkable life and family story, which has led to a handful of legends lingering as part of her legacy , including tales regarding her husband, father, mother, and sister. What is not debatable is that she earned the respect of her peers as a woman full of wisdom and compassion.
During the 2nd century, Bruriah resided in Palestine, where she earned the reputation as a renowned sage and Talmudic scholar. Most of the information regarding her existence is found in an assortment of Rabbinic texts, where various references are made, including by a commentator during the 11th century. Bruriah was born to Hanina ben Teradyon , a revered rabbi during second century Palestine. However, her mother’s identity is unknown.
In the Talmud, we learn that Bruriah stands by her father’s side as the Romans slowly burn him to his death because he refused to follow the Roman ban regarding studying or teaching the Torah in a public arena. To say the least, the death of her father was rather dramatic and visible in the region. His torturous end involved his body being wrapped in the Torah scroll while he was set on fire. However, the Roman soldiers soaked wool in water and placed it over his heart so that he would stay alive as long as possible.
Reports state that her father was heroic and even the man in charge of the execution was touched by his disposition. The executioner is believed to have asked the Rabbi if he took away the wet wool sponges , would the Rabbi promise him entry into the “World to Come.” The Rabbi consented and the wool sponges were removed and the flame raised. What happens next is rather remarkable, as the executioner is said to have thrown himself into the flames as well after Hainin ben Terdyou had died.
Others were not so willing to relent, as it is reported that Bruriah’s mother was sentenced to death and her sister condemned to live out the rest of her life as a prostitute in a brothel. Some stories state that the sister who has no other mention in history but to being sent to a brothel is none other than Bruriah herself. A tale states that the woman was able to avoid her first sexual encounter with a man sent to her because he recognized her innocence.
Later, Bruriah’s father became one of the “Ten Martyrs,” which refers to a group of rabbis that thrived during the era of the Mishnah and who were martyred by the Romans during the period of time that took place after the destruction of the second Temple. While all ten men were not killed at the same time , they are nonetheless listed together and read about in a dramatic poem (referred to as the Eleh Ezkera), which is recited during two significant Jewish holidays. It is an attempt to bring about the mood for the day, as they center on hope of redemption and reflection.