Page 158 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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These conversations also offer much deeper insight into Caro’s
aspirations. They show his sense of divine mission in pursuing his
halakhic writings and especially his three major obsessions: the
first was to have his
Beit Yosef
become the definitive work of Jew­
ish law so that he would win admiration and recognition as an
authority in halakhah. He wanted, further, to merit associating
with prominent scholars in the world to come and to have sons
who would be scholars capable of adding to his writings. Caro’s
second aspiration was to go to the Land of Israel and succeeed in
reinstating the ordination of rabbis there. He yearned to preside
over the Sanhedrin and to serve as a leader of the Jews all over the
world. His third wish was to die the death of a martyr at the stake
in order to cleanse himself of his sins and to fulfill a divine com­
mandment. This third goal, however, was in perpetual conflict
with his second aspiration since the Land of Israel was under
Ottoman control. It would have been difficult to find an opportu­
nity for martyrdom there; to do so would have necessitated leav­
ing the domain of Islam for Christian Europe.
Thus, Caro’s conversations with the maggid served him as his
conscience, his super-ego, and as a source of rebuke and encour­
agement. Until recently Caro’s authorship of
Maggid Meisharim
(Lublin, 1646; Venice, 1649; Amsterdam, 1708), the book con­
taining his conversations with the maggid, was contested by both
his defenders as well as his detractors. Recent writers, however,
have argued that, based on the references to Caro’s conversations
with the maggid recorded in works written by those who knew
him before any record of these events was first published a cen­
tury later, Caro was indeed the author, despite the great liberties
taken by editors who rearranged the material.8.
According to some scholars, Caro’s relations with the maggid
served to enhance his position as a legal authority. Not only did
these conversations give him confidence to present his views, but
they also bestowed upon him added prestige in the eyes of his
contemporaries and successors, who took the words of
Beit Yosef
Shulhan Arukh
more seriously because of the author’s rela­
tionship with a maggid. This interpretation has been stoutly
rejected by others.
8 David Tamar, “Maamar mi-‘Maggid Meisharim’ be-Ferush R. Avraham
Galante le-Eykha,”
Mehkarim le-Toledot ha-Yehudim be-Eretz Yisrael uve-Italyah
(Jerusalem, 1970): 101-106.