Wednesday, August 05, 2009

World Congress day 4

Session 213. I made it for the last moments of Ephraim Kanarfogel's speech. He's speaking slowly! Gap between France and Ashkenaz. France continued to follow Rashi in his sympathetic attitude towards apostates, while Germany perceived them as enemies. But from the late 13th century, in Evreux, the antagonistic attitude prevailed.

Elisheva Baumgarten on women and time-bound commandments in the 13th century. Mahzor Vitry in section on tsitsit begins with midrash about David, emphasizing the role of these mitsvot in creating Jewish identity. How involved were women in this kind of Jewish identity? The topic of women performing these mitsvot has been studied in recent years by Mordechai Friedman (recent MA), Bitkha Har Shefi, Avraham Grossman and the late Yisrael Ta-Shma. There are three Halakhic questions – can they perform it, can they make the blessing, and can men help them? Friedman claims that there is no unity on these questions even within medieval France. Grossman made it clear that women did perform these mitsvot on a fairly wide scale. None of these scholars tried to place the women within a wider social perspective. For the moment, only in the Jewish context, but the Christian context is important too. Gender does not include only women. Medieval sources discuss this in biblical exegesis, in minhag and halakhah books, in responsa and in books like Sefer Hasidim. Lulav, sukkah and shofar. The initiative to perform these mitsvot came from the women themselves. Discussed by Rashi and his teacher, wide discussion in 12th century, especially R Tam. In 13th century less enthusiasm but not rejection of R Tam. From mid-13th century, discussion focuses on Tefilin and Tsitsit, and earlier discussions are neglected. The first triad were performed on festivals, but these were performed daily. As Kanarfogel has shown, men neglected these daily mitsvot. Some for theological reasons, some because they felt they could be performed only by special people, and some because of the mahloket Rashi-R Tam regarding Tefillin. So they were performed mostly by the religious elite. We don't know how many women performed these mitsvot – probably fewer than those who performed lulav et al. R Avigdor says that נשים צדקניות would do it. In any case, this is not a small group of women joining the larger body of all men, but rather a small group of women joining a small group of men. So the gender difference is not the full explanation here – part of it is social. Exemplum in Sefer Hasidim – people who perform Tefillin and Tsitsit suffer socially because people humiliate them. R Moses of Coucy and R Isaac of Corbeil reflect the importance of encouraging men to perform them. Maharam discourages women from performing them – his contemporaries were surprised, because it was accepted that women did. But by the 15th century, Maharam's position had become normative – Maharil mentions only one women known for wearing tsitsit, and it appears odd and even arrogant. The attitude of the poskim changed, as did their rhetoric – at first, women were compared to blind men, who are exempt from these mitsvot, and the main discussion was about the question of reciting the blessing. But from Maharam onwards, women are discouraged from performing it at all, and their rhetoric has more to do with the female body (that is not consistently clean). Perhaps this move was meant to encourage men to perform the mitsvot, to distinguish themselves as a group from women. [R Yosef Bekhor Shor – concern that women's busying themselves with mitsvot would keep them from paying attention to their husbands]. This shift reflects a change in thinking about the differences between men and women. Women became more 'other' than they used to be.

Simcha Emanuel – EE Urbach surveyed medieval German scholars. 12th century. We start with Riva –wrote pesakim before him. Ra'avan was his younger contemporary. Albeck's introduction has a list of scholars who corresponded with him – 22 people. Moving to Regensburg, we find several important scholars, students of both Riva and R Tam. Plenty of people. When we reach the end of the 12th century, we find the two sons-in-law of Ra'avan – Rashbat and R Yoel of Bonne, with whom he corresponded and argued. Speyers – Yihuse Tannaim va-Amoraim, Riva tsair. Beginning of 13th century – Ra'avyah, R Simcha of Speyers, R Baruch of Mainz and others. They died around 1320s. But who comes next? Who were the students of Ra'avyah? You may think of R Yitshak Or Zarua – but he lived in Austria. Aptowitzer doesn't know of any students. Explanation in my Shivre Luhot for lack of students of R Baruch of Mainz is insufficient. Students of R Simha of Speyers did not live in Germany – Bohemia (Arugat ha-Bosem), Austria and Italy. Magdeburg was also very far away. Some of these students came to Germany from other lands, but others were German-born but chose to move East. So by the 1230s, there were no significant Torah scholars in Germany. There are a few names, but none are noteworthy. 1241 – Rachel Furst's case of Frankfurt. Important point is that all the scholars were involved – four German scholars and R Yitzhak Or Zarua. The German scholars are almost anonymous, but Or Zarua, who lived in Vienna, is well known. At this time, R Meir of Rothenburg was starting to emerge. When he did, it was not as heir to the German tradition but as a lonely figure. R Elazar of Worms wrote at the beginning of the 13th century (1217) about the lack of scholars to sustain the tradition, particularly after the death of R Yehudah he-Hasid. It sounds subjective, and some historians have claimed that the passage is forged. In another place, unquestionably by Rokeah, he writes more about how people are not able to learn properly, and with the death of his only son he has no one to pass his Torah to. This is what compelled him to commit his mysticism to writing, unlike his predecessors. Rokeah's concern was real – he saw that there were no young students in the yeshivot. So what happened? Why weren't these sages able to create a new generation? I don't know. I'm not aware of any major historical event to explain it ca 1235. Jacob Sussman pointed out the break in relations between France and Germany, that erupted after the first quarter of the 13th century – best shown by the lack of German students in French yeshivot. Afterwards they started up again – R Yitshak Or Zarua and Maharam of Rothenburg. This is the same period we are talking about. But which came first? Haym Soloveitchik in book on interest says that in second quarter of 13th century Germany stopped being independent of France in its Halakhic thought. Or Zarua and Maharam, and especially their students, are basically French in their Talmudic thought. Is this a coincidence? Was the tower built by German scholars one of cards? Soloveitchik in his article on creativity and catastrophe says that French creativity ended after R Shimshon of Sens, and therefore the 1306 expulsion didn't really change anything. But the Rintfleisch attacks in Germany in 1298 had a critical impact. If I were a young student in the 1240s, I would certainly have gone to learn in France, even though the teachers were not as great as R Tam – R Jonah of Gerona did this. But who could I have learned with in Germany? Now we need to re-appraise Maharam of Rothenburg. He missed learning with the German greats by a few years – he even knew R Yitshak Or Zarua slightly, and he tells of one thing he learned from him when he was a tinok. Maharam's German teachers (R Yehudah ha-Kohen of Friedberg, actually of Wurzburg, and another) were minor figures. Maharam filled the vacuum in Germany, so that the break there lasted only one generation. Maharam wrote thousands of responsa, and Talmudic commentaries, and his students wrote a long list of important works. This was indeed broken by the 1298 attacks. But it was not an original German tradition that was broken, but rather a new one created by Maharam.

Yehuda Galinsky. The literary works on Halakhah in 13th century Northern France and what they teach us about Jewish society at the time. 'Can Halakhic Texts Talk History' has been answered positively. The question today is what we can learn from the works themselves. Two kinds of works – student notes (pesakim), and Halakhic compositions. The first are usually haphazard and not comprehensive. The second are usually carefully built and include an introduction and survey of contents. The goal of the pesakim was to preserve the opinions of a teacher who did not commit his thoughts and decisions to writing, so the disciple set them to writing and tried to disseminate them outside the confines of his Bet Midrash. But there is no attempt to cover a topic comprehensively. Often, this will include the pesakim of his teacher's teachers. With the second category, the goal is not simply to preserve the teacher's opinions. Table shows that the genre of student notes had a long history, from R Shemaiah for Rashi, through to the student of R Isaac and R Peretz of Corbeil at the end of the 13th century. This genre did not change much over time in form. Usually, these notes have no introduction, and it is difficult to ascertain who wrote them, and the circumstances under which they were written. In the second category we find Sefer Yere'im, Sefer ha-Terumah, Semag and Semak. All of these have introductions, and the authors invested in planning the book. Yere'im follows the order of Bahag, but supplies all the details himself. He presents the sugyot based upon the Tosafist tradition, and emphasizes practical issues. R Eliezer of Metz writes explicitly in his introduction that he composes his work for the scholars who are caught up in pilpul and find it difficult to keep track of practical halakhah. Sefer ha-Terumah – student of Ri ha-Zaken. Two parts – iyun and pesakim. Much of the book can be compared to Tosafot Sens – the overall structure of the book is inscrutable, but the internal structure follows the tractate it is based upon. Focus on practical issues is an innovation of the book, and the other is the table of contents that precedes the book. The author explains that this table itself can often supply relevant Halakhic information. So it is really a list of pesakim, linked to a longer iyun work. So both these books are aimed at Talmudists caught up in the Tosafist revolution. In the 13th century, we find a change. R Moses of Coucy left his Bet Midrash and wandered through the Diaspora as a preacher. When he returned home, he became the first French scholar to compose a comprehensive Halakhic work – based on his French antecedents, but mostly upon Maimonides' Mishneh Torah. Who was the audience? Several – to help Talmudic scholars remember things; in Asin 3 he mentions the genesis of his book – the communities in Spain who heard his preaching requested a concise explanation of the mitsvot. Not his students or his colleagues, but his popular audience. It doesn't matter that the finished product did not really answer the needs of this audience – what is important is that this is an audience that we have not encountered before (except perhaps the consumers of the genre of Mahzorim). Semak by R Isaac of Corbeil. Epistle appended to beginning shows that it was directed at a wide audience, including even women. For R Moses of Coucy, the popular audience was just part of his aim – for R Isaac of Corbeil it was the primary one. It is a shorter work. He also made an effort to encourage people to read the work every work. More manuscripts survive than any other French Halakhic work – 96 mss in Ashkenazic writing from 13th-14th centuries, while Semag has 24 and Terumah fewer than 10. A few other works from this time were also aimed at a popular audience – Kitzur Semag, Sefer ha-Niyar and maybe also the lost Sefer ha-Menahel. Clearly, something changed from the 12th to the 13th century. Ephraim Kanarfogel has been studying the second tier scholars in Ashkenaz and France in the 13th century, and that may be connected. In 13th century, the scholars write for a wider audience, and the masses became more interested in reading.

David Berger – chairman and respondent. First – women. Having heard Dr Baumgarten, apparently in the time of Rashi, hardly any women wore tefillin or tsitsit, and the focus on festival commandments was stronger. Perhaps the 13th century campaign to convince men to wear tefillin convinced women as well. I don't see much difference between Ri and Maharam in their concern about women's hygiene, and they both feel that women do not really take it seriously. And dropping tefillin also led to dropping tsitsit, which is not really a binding commandment for men either. Dr Galinsky also points us to an interesting passage about women – the epistle of the student of R Isaac of Corbeil – that women should also learn the commandments that relate to them. Unclear whether this teaches us much about the learning of women in Northern France, but apparently the author thought they were capable of reading the Semak. Not clear how seriously we should take this line. Dr Emanuel's important suggestion may have a partial explanation. There were students, but they left for Austria and Bohemia – this may be the explanation. The Jewish communities in Austria and Bohemia were growing greatly at this time, and received special legal encouragement. Moving East seemed attractive. If enough leading students were drawn East by financial considerations, that could be enough to leave the yeshivot in Germany barren. Another comment about Maharam – Haym Soloveitchik pointed out that Maharam was the first German scholar to adopt the work of Maimonides because he was the first figure great enough to recognize the greatness of Mishneh Torah. Emanuel's speech suggests that because Maharam was working in a void that sapped the self-perception of German Torah, and therefore he was more open to outside influences. Prof Kanarfogel – according to the programme I should be speaking in English. The speeches were in Hebrew, so I should respond in Hebrew, but here is a passage that I wrote in English about Jacob Katz's explanation of Rashi's position on apostates. 'I would add… Jews wanted to see all the acts of apostates as sins… increase[ing] the temperature of the hellfire that awaits them'. And Kanarfogel has supplied two texts that support this. For instance, the position that a Jew may not lend an apostate money at interest because of 'lifne iver'. And Rid wrote to R Yitshak Or Zarua דלא כל הימנו להפקיע עצמו מישראל. Jews felt that apostates had no right to stop considering themselves as Jews.

Questions. JI Lifshitz to Emanuel – we would have expected to see more of a break in the work of Maharam, but there is continuity. Emanuel answers that Maharam was open to different options – French, Maimonides, and German traditions from 25 years earlier. But what is striking is that Maharam is only one person, as opposed to the large groups of scholars from before. Rami Reiner to Baumgarten – women had access to lulav etc already from the Mishnah. So what changed at the time of Rashi? Alex Tal asked something about tefillin as amulets. Baumgarten says that there are Talmudic sources, but their focus is different. Will be dealt with more at length in writing. However you define the objects of these mitsvot, they are objects that build a Jewish identity. Women wearing tefillin started before the Tefillin campaign, so Berger's comment is weak. Ephraim Halivni says that the sources talk only about tefillin, and not also about tsitsit. Baumgarten agrees that halakhically they are different, but from a social perspective the issue with tefillin is hygiene and with tsitsit it is hubris – both of these are related claims that are targeted at Christian women at this time as well.

Someone asks Galinsky about the term 'remazim' in Sefer ha-Terumah. Galinsky says they have a double purpose – not just a table of contents but also pesakim and an independent work. Rashba, in writing Torat ha-Bayit in long and short version, was probably thinking of Terumah. Questioner refers to remazim in Yalkut Shimoni (which function as internal cross-referencing). Ari Geiger asks Galinsky whether the change in reading audience is connected to burning of Talmud in 1240, and whether Simane Or Zarua is a parallel German phenomenon. Galinsky doesn't believe that the Tosafists disappeared after R Shimshon left for Israel. Yeshivot continued to work. But in parallel to the yeshivot, the audience widened, not diminished.


Anonymous Menachem Mendel said...

Thanks for your live-blogging. Now I know what I am missing.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Shai said...

Agreed. Great stuff.

3:31 PM  

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