Meir of Rothenburg

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Tombs of Meir of Rothenburg (left) and Alexander ben Salomon Wimpfen (right) in the Jewish cemetery Heiliger Sand in Worms, Germany

Meir of Rothenburg (c. 1215 – 2 May 1293) was a German Rabbi and poet, a major author of the tosafot on Rashi's commentary on the Talmud. He is also known as Meir ben Baruch, the Maharam of Rothenburg. Rabbi Meïr ben Solomon of Perpignan, referred to Rab Meir of Rothenberg, as the "greatest Jewish leader of Zarfat" alive at the time, Zarfat is medieval Hebrew for France which was a reference to Charlemagne's rule of Germany.

One interesting aspect of the prolific writings of the Maharam is that he never referred to the Frankish kingdom of Germany as Ashkenaz. Rab Meir instead refers to what he termed 'his kingdom' as Canaan, in contrast to the areas where Hebrews were living in Normandy and England.[1]

Biography[edit]

Rabbi Meir was born between 1215 and 1220 in Worms . He comes from a long line of rabbis. His first teacher was his father. He continued his training in Würzburg under Isaac ben Moses of Vienna and in France, where he remained until 1242, his teachers being Yechiel of Paris, Samuel ben Solomon of Falaise, and Samuel of Evreux, witnessing the burning of the Talmud in Paris . He then settled in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, opening a yeshiva in his house. After the death of his father in 1281, he settled in Worms. In 1286, King Rudolf I instituted a new persecution of the Jews, declaring them servi camerae ("serfs of the treasury"), which had the effect of negating their political freedoms. Along with many others, Meir left Germany with family and followers, but was captured in the mountains of Lombardy having been recognized by a baptized Jew named Kneppe, and imprisoned in a fortress near Ensisheim in Alsace. Tradition has it that a large ransom of 23,000 marks silver was raised for him (by the Rosh), but Rabbi Meir refused it, for fear of encouraging the imprisonment of other rabbis. He died in prison after seven years. Fourteen years after his death a ransom was paid for his body by Alexander ben Salomon Wimpfen, who was subsequently laid to rest beside the Maharam in the Jewish cemetery of Worms.[2]

Works[edit]

Rabbi Meir wrote no single major work, but many notes, commentaries, expositions, and poems—as well as 1,500 responsa. His disciple the Rosh (Rabbi Asher ben Jehiel) codified much of his teaching.

  • His responsa are of great importance to advanced students of the Talmud, as well as to students of Jewish life and customs of those days, especially for the picture which they give of the condition of the German Jews, and of their sufferings from the caprice of princes and from heavy taxation. These responsa also contain rulings of other older and contemporary Ashkenazi poskim; see History of Responsa: Thirteenth century.
  • Rabbi Meir wrote a number of liturgical poems ("piyyutim").
  • His writings on specific areas of Halakha (Jewish Law) include:
    • Piske Eruvin on the laws of the Eruv;
    • Halachoth Pesukoth a collection of decisions on controversial points of Jewish law;
    • Hilchoth Berachot on the blessings;
    • Hilchoth Avelut on the laws of mourning;
    • Hilchoth Shechitah on the ritual slaughtering of animals for Kosher meat.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Responsa, No. 30, p. 8, ed. Bloch, 1891; see also p. 10
  2. ^ http://www.chabad.org/calendar/view/day.asp?id=265714&tDate=3/4/2006#265714

External links[edit]