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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
er hand, were meant to be all-encompassing, centralized codes
that would arrive at firm and undisputed conclusions.12
Maharam and his students venerated these two pillars of
halakhah
from the Sefardic orbit precisely because they provided
additional stability and finality for their own rulings. Indeed,
R. Jacob b. ha-Rosh, who was undoubtedly influenced by
Maharam, was the first rabbinic scholar trained in Ashkenaz
to produce a code,
Arbacah Turim,
that was in the mold of the
earlier Sefardic works.
MAHARAM’S APPROACH
Despite the hundreds of Maharam’s legal decisions that are
extant, it is impossible to categorically describe R. Meir’s tend­
encies toward strictness (
humra)
or leniency. For every program­
matic statement that appears, one can find examples that con­
tradict it. R. Meir writes, “In all matters that the great scholars
(gedolim
) disagree, I rule with the stricter view, unless there is
an obvious leniency that has been transmitted and adopted (
heter
pashut she-pashat hetera)
in the practices of the earlier [sages] that
we have before us.”13 And yet, there are responsa in which
R. Meir directly challenges his predecessors and rules leniently,
against them.14 Nonetheless, R. Meir’s proclivities in deciding
matters of Jewish law and custom may be accurately character­
ized as conservative, especially when compared to the tendencies
of the Tosafists who preceded him.
Rather than advocating one position or the other, R. Meir
often concluded that both sides of an halakhic controversy
should be represented by or even incorporated into his final
ruling. Thus, Maharam ruled that a new fruit or garment
should be procured to enable one to make the
sheheheyanu
bless­
ing on the second day of
Rosh ha-Shanah
in any event. This
ruling skirted the unresolved dilemma of whether the two days
of
Rosh ha-Shanah
were to be considered as one elongated day
or were to be viewed as two separate festival days in which case
12. Ta-Shema, “Rabbenu Asher,” 85 ; “Kelitatam,” 197. Note that R. Meir also
recommended the study o f
Sefer Mizvot Katan
; see Agus, 28.
13.
Responsa
(Berlin), 294 (#356 ) .
14. See Urbach, 447 -51 , and Agus, 41 -48 .