Page 265 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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KANARFOGEL /PRESERVATION, CREATIVITY, AND COURAGE
257
that could not be observed in the Diaspora. The Babylonian
Amoraim could not return to Israel in their day owing to harsh
conditions there, but it appears that R. Meir believed that set­
tlement was possible in his day.30 Maharam was actually in con­
tact with scholars who lived in Israel.31 There can be no doubt,
however, that by the time R. Meir’s teacher R. Yehiel of Paris
emigrated to Israel c. 1260, worsening economic and political
conditions in western Europe played a major role in his decision
to leave, in addition to the ideological considerations that fa­
vored settlement in Israel.32
M AHARAM ’S D EPAR TUR E
It is likely that R. Meir was himself on the way to Israel when
he was apprehended in Italy in 1286.33 The exact details and
reasons for his flight, capture, and lengthy imprisonment have
not been fully clarified. Nor has the inability of German Jewry
to ransom him prior to his death and even beyond been suf­
ficiently explained. During the reign of Rudolph I (1273-91),
the Jews of Germany felt compelled to leave Germany in large
numbers. A series of blood accusations and murders in the
mid-1280’s, and the implementation of extraordinarily high tax
demands appear to have been the impetus for a sudden, east­
ward mass-migration of Jews from Germany in 1286. R. Meir
of Rothenburg and his family were part of that group. R. Meir
was arrested in Italy and delivered to Rudolph. Negotiations
between Rudolph and German Jewish rabbinic leaders and com­
munities led to sums of money being paid and guaranteed but
not to R. Meir’s release. R. Solomon Luria, writing in the six­
teenth century, maintained that Maharam himself forbade the
communities to pay anything additional for his release.34 It is
possible, however, that negotiations continued up until R. Meir’s
death in 1293.35 R. Meir’s body was finally ransomed from Al­
bert I in the spring o f 1307.36
30.
Responsa
(Berlin), 5 (nos. 14-15).
31.
Responsa
(Berlin), 199 (#108 ) . Cf. Urbach, 541.
32. See my “The
cAliyah
o f ‘Three Hundred Rabbis’,” 208-15 .
33. See Joshua Prawer,
Ha-Zalbanim
(Jerusalem, 1975), 326 -27 , and Urbach,
op. cit.
34.
Yam shel Shelomoh, Gittin
4 :66 . Cf. Agus, 125-32, 150-51.
35. Urbach, 542 -45 . Note the involvement of R. Asher b. Yehiel.
36. Agus, 155.