Generally referred to by the euphemistic title Sema-Hot ("Rejoicings"), this tractate, dating probably from the third century, is the oldest known Rabbinic text that sets forth the laws governing death, burial, and mourning. The behavior and activities of the mourner are treated in detail, and precise rules of conduct are set down for priests and for close and distant kin of the deceased. Numerous Halakhic and Aggadic passages, not found elsewhere in Rabbinic literature, deal with such matters as the inspection of the dead and the procedure to be followed during the ossilegium. Also included is the classis eulogy delivered by Rabbi 'Akiba for his son. The tractate contains in addition what is perhaps the most complete martyrology to be found in Tannaitic literature. Yale Judaica Series, 17.
Mr. Zlotnick is assistant professor in Talmud at the Jewish Theological Seminary of American in New York.