Meir of Rothenburg

Meir of Rothenburg

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Meir of Rothenburg was a German
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

 and poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

, a major author of the tosafot
The Tosafot or Tosafos are medieval commentaries on the Talmud. They take the form of critical and explanatory glosses, printed, in almost all Talmud editions, on the outer margin and opposite Rashi's notes...

on Rashi
Shlomo Yitzhaki , or in Latin Salomon Isaacides, and today generally known by the acronym Rashi , was a medieval French rabbi famed as the author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud, as well as a comprehensive commentary on the Tanakh...

's commentary on the Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

. He is also known as Meir ben Baruch, the Maharam of Rothenburg.


In 1286, King Rudolf I instituted a new persecution of the Jews, declaring them servi camerae ("serfs of the treasury"), which had the effect of negating their political freedoms. Along with many others, Meir left Germany with family and followers, but was captured in Lombardy
Lombardy is one of the 20 regions of Italy. The capital is Milan. One-sixth of Italy's population lives in Lombardy and about one fifth of Italy's GDP is produced in this region, making it the most populous and richest region in the country and one of the richest in the whole of Europe...

 and imprisoned in a fortress near Ensisheim
Ensisheim is a commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Alsace in north-eastern France.On 7 November 1492, a 250 pound meteorite fell there, and since then it has attracted many meteorite enthusiasts. It was described in detail by the contemporary poet Sebastian Brant.Ensisheim is also the birthplace...

 in Alsace
Alsace is the fifth-smallest of the 27 regions of France in land area , and the smallest in metropolitan France. It is also the seventh-most densely populated region in France and third most densely populated region in metropolitan France, with ca. 220 inhabitants per km²...

. Tradition has it that a large ransom of 23,000 marks
Mark (weight)
The mark was originally a unit of mass for gold and silver common throughout western Europe, and was equal to 8 troy ounces . Variations throughout the Middle Ages were, however, considerable.Later, the weight called "mark" was generally half-a-pound...

 silver was raised for him (by the ROSH), but Rabbi Meir refused it, for fear of encouraging the imprisonment of other rabbis. He died in prison after seven years. Fourteen years after his death a ransom was paid for his body by Alexander ben Salomon Wimpfen, who was subsequently laid to rest beside the Maharam.


Rabbi Meir wrote no single major work, but many notes, commentaries, expositions, and poems - as well as 1,500 responsa
Responsa comprise a body of written decisions and rulings given by legal scholars in response to questions addressed to them.-In the Roman Empire:Roman law recognised responsa prudentium, i.e...

His disciple ROSH, Rabbi Asher ben Jehiel
Asher ben Jehiel
Asher ben Jehiel- Ashkenazi was an eminent rabbi and Talmudist best known for his abstract of Talmudic law. He is often referred to as Rabbenu Asher, “our Rabbi Asher” or by the Hebrew acronym for this title, the ROSH...

, codified much of his teaching.
  • His responsa are of great importance to advanced students of the Talmud, as well as to students of Jewish life and customs of those days, especially for the picture which they give of the condition of the German Jews, and of their sufferings from the caprice of princes and from heavy taxation. These responsa also contain rulings of other older and contemporary Ashkenazi poskim
    Posek is the term in Jewish law for "decider"—a legal scholar who decides the Halakha in cases of law where previous authorities are inconclusive or in those situations where no halakhic precedent exists....

    ; see History of Responsa: Thirteenth century.

  • Rabbi Meir is well known as a Tosafist and in particular, authored the Tosafot
    The Tosafot or Tosafos are medieval commentaries on the Talmud. They take the form of critical and explanatory glosses, printed, in almost all Talmud editions, on the outer margin and opposite Rashi's notes...

    commentary of the Talmudic tractate Yoma; he is quoted in the Tosafot on various other tractates. He also authored commentaries
    Close reading
    Close reading describes, in literary criticism, the careful, sustained interpretation of a brief passage of text. Such a reading places great emphasis on the particular over the general, paying close attention to individual words, syntax, and the order in which sentences and ideas unfold as they...

     on the Tohorot
    Tohorot is the sixth order of the Mishnah . This order deals with the clean/unclean distinction and family purity. This is the longest of the orders in the Mishnah. There are 12 tractates:...

    and Zeraim
    Seder Zeraim is the first and shortest Seder of the Mishnah, the first major work of Jewish law. The section of mishnah was written by the rabbis to inform all Jews what must be done to fulfill their biblical obligations of prayer and commandments about food.Observers of Jewish law are bound with...

    orders of the Mishnah
    The Mishnah or Mishna is the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions called the "Oral Torah". It is also the first major work of Rabbinic Judaism. It was redacted c...


  • Rabbi Meir wrote a number of liturgical poems ("piyyutim").

  • His writings on specific areas of Halakha
    Halakha — also transliterated Halocho , or Halacha — is the collective body of Jewish law, including biblical law and later talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions.Judaism classically draws no distinction in its laws between religious and ostensibly non-religious life; Jewish...

    (Jewish Law) include:
    • Piske Eruvin on the laws of the Eruv
      An Eruv is a ritual enclosure around most Orthodox Jewish and Conservative Jewish homes or communities. In such communities, an Eruv is seen to enable the carrying of objects out of doors on the Jewish Sabbath that would otherwise be forbidden by Torah law...

    • Halachoth Pesukoth a collection of decisions on controversial points of Jewish law;
    • Hilchoth Berachot on the blessings;
    • Hilchoth Avelut on the laws of mourning;
    • Hilchoth Shechitah on the ritual slaughtering of animals for Kosher meat.