Page 19 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 35

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ORLINSKY / TO GIVE VOICE TO THE SILENCE OF THE PAST
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previously that “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge ol
the Lord” (Isa. 11 .9 ) .
Some vested interests opposed the new invention; this was true,
for example, of the copyists, Jewish as well as non-Jewish, whose
livelihood was endangered by this new phenomenon; the Chris­
tian copyists referred to printing as “the work of the devil.” For
a number of Jews there were certain problems of Halakhah
that had to be faced and solved: both the talmudic and post-
talmudic literature had dealt with the precise details concerning
the w riting and the care of sacred books and the sacred texts
for such objects as tefillin and mezuzoth; but could such books
and texts be printed, and i f so, what sanctity should they be
attributed?
But the fact is that the Jewish community overwhelmingly en­
dorsed and threw itself wholeheartedly into the printing of its
sacred books, not only the Bible and commentaries on it, but
even more, the Talmud. There was a very good reason for this.
THE A TTACK UPON THE TALMUD
In protecting its special status and varied interests, the Church
frequently shifted the hostility of the Christian community away
from itself toward the Jews by accusing the Jews of harboring in
the Talmud secret passages and texts dealing with Christ and
Christianity in a derogatory and even magical manner. Strict
censorship of the Talmud was often introduced by the Church,
and book-burning was not an uncommon phenomenon. That
the Jewish community had nothing in the Talmud to hide—and
that the Church officials were quite aware of this—was beside
the point; the Jews and their writings served a useful purpose
as a scapegoat, and that was that.
Thus in 1264, a commission of Dominicans in Barcelona, in
keeping w ith the papal bu ll issued against the Talmud, was
responsible for “the cancellation of passages (in the Talmud
considered) reprehensible from a Christian point of view.” In
1415, two years after he had convened the famous disputation
at Tortosa between representatives of the Church and of the
Jewish community, Pope Martin V “issued a bu ll . . . forbidding
the Jews to read the Talmud and ordering the destruction of all
copies of it.” On Rosh Ha-Shanah, 1553, in Rome—and later in