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Last Shabbat, I was reading a book called היהודים בערב (The Jews in Arabia) by Dr. Yisrael Ben Ze'ev. In the book, a section was dedicated to a pre-Islamic Arabian Jewish poet named Shmuel ben Adiyah. A passage from one of his songs reads (pg. 42):

"...אנו בני-עם לא ראינו בושת במלחמה. תעבנו למות מיתה לא על שדה קטל. נשפך דמנו על חרבותינו..."

Translation: "...we are members of a people we do not find shame in war. We hate dying a death that is not upon the battlefield. Our blood has spilled upon our swords..."

In terms of the general culture of Arabia at the time (and to a certain extent, to this day), such a passage fits perfectly. However, the author of the book included this section within a chapter in which he attempted to stress that the Jews of Arabia were pious, Hashem-fearing Jews and knowledgeable in the whole spectrum of Torah - halacha, aggadah, etc. This passage seemed to contradict that. The concept of wishing to die upon the battlefield (what the battle was about is not stated (note it is generally accepted that the Arabian Jewish tribes not only fought other Arab tribes but also other Jewish tribes - as was typical in Arabia)) seemed to me to be more in line with radical Jewish sects such as the Zealots - a line of thought that pretty much died out centuries earlier, but certainly wasn't one that our sages agreed with.

So I was wondering whether there actually are such views in Chazal, the Geonim and/or the Rishonim that speak about the importance of dying on the battlefield, barring cases of Kiddush Hashem, that is (as Shmuel did not mention that this was the reason for the death)?

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  • I don't think so. A lot of Jewish poets were influenced by their surroundings to write poetry more in line with Arabic thought than Jewish thought.
    – N.T.
    Feb 20 at 23:06

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