His name was Yehudah and he lived sometime during the Middle Ages. Perhaps he witnessed the massacre of innocent Jewish communities during the First Crusade and saw a need to find a deeper meaning for the tragedy within the context of Jewish history. Or perhaps he lived a few hundred years later, when the Catholic Church was applying pressure to convert, and he wished to help his fellow Jews remain firm in their decision to accept martyrdom rather than abandon their faith. The truth is that we do not know why Yehudah Chazak—Yehudah, may he be strong—penned his stirring liturgical poem Eleh Ezkerah (These I Will Remember), since we know nothing else about him.
Yet we do know that this piyut about the Ten Martyrs, which is read during Mussaf of Yom Kippur, has strengthened and inspired countless kehillos during the centuries that have followed. It is therefore worth a closer look, both at the piyut and the lives of the Aseret Harugei Malchut, during these weeks of preparation for the Yamim Noraim.
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