Page 258 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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number of years in northern France, studying with R. Yehiel
of Paris and R. Samuel of Falaise among others.4 Indeed, R.
Meir was present at the so-called burning of the Talmud that
occurred in Paris in 1242.
To mourn and commemorate this event, Maharam authored
the elegy
Sha°ali Serufah va-Esh
(“Inquire, you who have been
burned in the fire”), in which he described the pain and surprise
felt by students of the Talmud. R. Meir intimates that despite
their momentous loss, Ashkenazic scholars characteristically
maintained their faith and continued their studies.5 Nonethe­
less, this incident undoubtedly contributed to the heightened
sense of intellectual insecurity and spiritual inadequacy that be­
came evident in rabbinic literature o f Ashkenaz in the second
half of the thirteenth century.6
In the last decades of the thirteenth century, western Euro­
pean Jewry experienced dramatic increases in severe taxation
measures and other threats to their livelihoods, and in incidents
of physical persecution. R. Meir’s own life came to an end fol­
lowing his arrest and a lengthy period of imprisonment. His
most famous student, R. Asher b. Yehiel (Rosh), fled Germany
for Spain in the early years of the fourteenth century.7 The
spectre of increased persecution serves to partially explain the
fact that while R. Meir composed and dictated
(novellae) to a number of tractates, and edited col­
4. Agus, 9. Cf. Urbach, 528 , and
Responsa ofMaharam,
ed. Moshe Aryeh Bloch
(Berlin, 1891) [see below, n. 8], 69 (#521 ) . On the drawing power and dom­
inance of the Tosafist academies in northern France over those in Germany
during the 13th century, see Haym Soloveitchik, “Three Themes in the
Hasidim," AJS Review
1 (1976): 348 -50 ; “Can Halakhic Texts Talk History?”
AJS Review
3 (1978 ): 194-95.
5. Cf. S.W. Baron,
A Social and Religious History of the Jews,
IX :6 5 -7 l , and
Urbach, 453 -56 .
6. See the sources cited in my
Jewish Education and Society,
171-72, n. 49.
7. A.H. Freimann,
Ha-Rosh Rabbenu Asher b. Yehiel ve-Ze^eza’av
1986), 22-29 . See also below, n. 35. For other German rabbinic scholars and
members of Maharam’s circle who left Germany for Spain at this time due
to persecution, see Israel Ta-Shema, “Rabbenu Dan mi-Galut Ashkenaz 3asher
Mehkarim be-Filosofiyyah Yehudit uve-Sifrut ha-Musar vehe-Hagut
(Muggashim le-Yeshayah Tishby),
ed. Joseph Dan and Joseph Hacker (Jerusalem,
1986), 385-87 .