Luz of the Spine

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LUZ OF THE SPINE , a bone which, according to the rabbis, is to be found at the base of the spine, an addition to the 18 vertebrae. Called the luz she-ba-shidrah, it is indestructible and is the source of the future resurrection of the body. According to the Midrash, R. Joshua b. Hananiah demonstrated it to the Emperor Hadrian, in answer to his questions as to how the resurrection would take place. "They put it in water and it did not dissolve, in fire and it was not consumed, on a mill and it was not ground. They placed it on an anvil and struck it with a hammer. The anvil cracked and the hammer split, but it remained whole" (Eccl. R. 12:5, no. 1; Lev. R. 18:1). It is apparently the statement that the luz is an addition to the 18 vertebrae which is the basis of the statement of the Talmud that the *Birkat ha-Minim, the 19th blessing added to the original 18 of the daily *Amidah, corresponds to the luz of the spine (Ber. 28b). On the other hand, the enumeration of the bones of the body in the Mishnah (Oho. 1:8) lists only the 18 vertebrae and does not mention the luz. There is no scientific basis for this legend. It may be connected with the statement that in the second city of *Luz (Judg. 1:26), which was still identified as existing in talmudic times as a place where the *tekhelet, the blue dye for the ritual fringes (Num. 15:38), was manufactured, "the Angel of Death had no permission to pass through it, and when old men there become tired of life, they go outside the city to die." In Genesis Rabbah 69:8, the reading is, "they are carried out beyond the city walls to die." The belief in the indestructibility of the luz was linked with Ps. 34:21, which was translated, "He keeps all his bones; one of them cannot be broken." The Church Fathers Origen and Jerome also regarded it as a pointer to resurrection, and this was accepted by non-Jewish scholars in the Middle Ages, and they spoke of the "Jews' bone" (Judenknoechlein) and identified it with the last vertebra of the spinal column.


Baer, S., Seder, 87n.; Kohut, Arukh, 5 (19262), 24–25, s.v.Luz shel Shidrah, and introd., lxii.

[Louis Isaac Rabinowitz]