[Avodah] Askara

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Fri Jan 10 06:22:08 PST 2020

Talmudology is a blog by R Jeremy Brown on science and gemara, following
the daf yomi. (His wife is the known author on Torah topics, Dr Erica

In this installment, for Berakhos 8a (tomorrow's daf)
or http://bit.ly/36EBBHy
RJB rules out the usual translation of "askara" as "croup", since even in
their day it wasn't likely to be fatal. Instead, he finds that diphtheria,
epiglottitis and quincy fit the gemara's description and suggests it
was one of those.

Adding another suggestion we're discussed here during the omer in years
past: R Sheira Gaon (She'iltos 1:1) says "askara" refers to the sicarii,
literally: daggers, but the name was given to the dagger-bearing class
of Roman soldiers. His context is the death of R' Aqiva's students by
askara; he says they died at the Romans' hands.

But, to quote Koren's translation of the gemara, minus the word "croup":

    [Askara] is like a thorn entangled in a wool fleece, which, when
    pulled out backwards, tears the wool. Some say that [askara] is
    like ropes at the entrance to the esophagus, which would be nearly
    impossible to insert and excruciating to remove.

I cannot believe R' Sherira Gaon didn't have an answer for the description
in this gemara. Maybe askara is an actual illness that in that one story
was being used euphemistically? Or maybe the Romans took to shechting
or garroting their victims, r"l?


PS: Below is a very helpful signature quote, for those of us who spend
a lot of time "talking" about things online.

Micha Berger                 Rescue me from the desire to win every
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   argument and to always be right.
Author: Widen Your Tent                 - Rav Nassan of Breslav
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF                 Likutei Tefilos 94:964

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