The References to England in the Responsa of Rabbi Meir Ben Baruch of Rothenburg, 1215-1293

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It is not surprising that Meir ben Baruch of Rottenburg,2 the outstanding and most influential rabbi of the thirteenth century, should have had some contacts with English Jewry. The fame of this "saint among rabbis and scholar among saints"3 was so widespread?he is one of the few upon whom the coveted tide of Meor ha-Golah, Light of the Exile, was bestowed?that letters were addressed to him from all over Europe and the near East.4

But quite apart from his almost universal renown, another important factor can account for the allusions to England in his Responsa.5 Commerical relations had been established between England and the Continent for some time; English wool and cloth, the staple products of the age, were interchanged for French wines and for other commodities which came overland across Europe from the East; while the Anglo-Jewish

1 Paper read before the Jewish Historical Society of England on 7th March, 1949.

2 He is known in Rabbinic literature as D'-ina and sometimes, in order to distinguish him from other scholars called Meir, as ^na "n D*nna or rroawna D'nna

A number of monographs have been published on the life and work of R. Meir, the most recent being Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg by Irving A. Agus (Philadelphia, 1947, 2 vols.) See also Samuel Back, R. Meir ben Baruch aus Rothenburg (Frankfurt A.M., 1895); J. Wellesz, Meir b. Baruch de Rothenburg {Revue des Emdes Juives LVIII-LXI1909-1911) ; H. J. Zimmels Beitr?ge zur Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland in 13 J?hrhundert insbesondere auf Grund der Gutachten des R. Meir Rothenburg (Vienna, 1926).

3 Laurie Magnus, The Jews in the Christian Era3 p. 319.

4 ids? in one Responsum (Berlin ed. p. 199 no. 108) may refer to Acre in Palestine.

5 A Responsum may be defined as the written answer by an outstanding talmudic scholar to a query of a legal or religious nature put to him in writing. Similar in some respects to 'counsel's opinion/ a responsum, however, if emanating from the pen of a famous authority, carries the weight of a judicial decision and the various collections of Responsa literature are, in effect, the case-books and the law reports of Jewish jurisprudence. The importance of the old Responsa is now recognized not only for their legal decisions but because of their incidental references to contemporary life, providing a source of inestimable value for the historian.

There are four editions of R. Meir's Responsa : (a) Cremona. A collection of 315 Responsa first printed in Cremona (nraij? la-a^YPir) in 1557. (b) Prague. A collection of 1022 numbered items?but only about 400 of which can be attributed to R. Meir?printed in Prague in 1608 and later in Sdilkow in 1835 and finally edited by Moses Bloch and printed in Budapest in 1895. The Takkanot of R. Gershom and R. Tarn and the Rhine communities are included in this collection, (c) Lemberg. An edition edited by Nathan Rabinowitz and printed in Lemberg in 1860. This contains 507 numbered items but the manuscript used by Rabinowitz was incomplete and the edition

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