Page 257 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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Preservation, Creativity, and
Courage: The Life and Works of
R. Meir of Rothenburg
On the occasion of the 700th anniversary of his death
t h e
r a b b i n i c
c u l t u r e
of medieval Ashkenaz (northern France
and Germany) produced a series of outstanding scholars who
in turn led their students and communities in matters both spir­
itual and temporal. Four major studies on the life and career
of R. Meir (Maharam) of Rothenburg published during the past
century have focused attention on the significant role that he
played.1 His death in 1293, some seven hundred years ago, sig­
naled the end of the period of the Tosafists. My goal here is
to briefly highlight and analyze some of Maharam’s accomplish­
ments and methodologies, with special attention to issues that
have been raised in recent research.
R. Meir was born into a rabbinic family circa 1220. His father,
R. Barukh, had studied with R. Simhah of Speyers and possibly
with R. Eliezer b. Joel ha-Levi (Rabiah).2 Although the precise
year of his birth cannot be documented, it appears that R. Meir
began to study with leading Tosafists while still in his early
teens.3 He studied with R. Isaac b. Moses
Or Zaruca
Wurzburg. Following an established pattern, he also spent a
1. Samuel Back,
R. Meir b. Baruch aus Rothenburg
(Frankfurt, 1895); Julius
Wellesz, “Meir b. Baruch de Rothebourg,”
58 (1909): 226 -40 ; 59 (1910):
42 -58 ; 60 (1910): 53 -72 ; 61 (1911): 44 -59 ; Irving Agus,
R. Meir of Rothenburg
(Philadelphia, 1947) [hereafter, Agus], 3-155 ; E.E. Urbach,
Bazalei ha-Tosafot
(fourth edition, Jerusalem, 1980), [hereafter, Urbach], 521-64 .
2. Urbach, 522 , n. 8.
3. See my
Jewish Education and Society in the High Middle Ages
(Detroit, 1992),
121-22, n. 14.