A Treasury of Jewish Letters: Letters from the Famous and the Humble - Vol. 1

By Franz Kobler | Go to book overview

36
Rabbi Meir ben Baruch of Rothenburg answers questions

MEIR BEN BARUCH of Rothenburg was the glory of German Jewry in the second half of the thirteenth century, and along with Solomon ben Adret of Barcelona the leading rabbinical authority of his time. Questions were addressed to him not only from all parts of Germany but also from Italy and France, and he became one of the most eminent contributors to the Responsa literature. Towards the end of his life he decided to leave the country of his birth and to emigrate to Palestine. His pious intention, however, was not carried out. While in Lombardy, waiting for the arrival of other Jewish emigrants, he was seized and delivered to the authorities. In 1286 he was confined in the fortress of Ensisheim, near Colmar. The Jews offered an enormous sum for his release, but Rabbi Meir refused to be ransomed at such a price lest a dangerous precedent should be established by this procedure. Thus his longing for the Holy Land remained unfulfilled. He died in the German fortress in 1293.


1. Responsa on Emigration to Palestine

Many questions arising out of the desire of the Jew for Palestine, which gave such a tragic turn to Rabbi Meir's own life, were addressed to Rothenburg. The following Responsa show what may be regarded as the authoritative opinion about this subject.


MEIR OF ROTHENBURG TO UNKNOWN INQUIRERS

[Rothenburg, second half of the 13th century ]


(A)

'If one should commit a sin in the Land of Israel his guilt is greater than elsewhere'

You ask me: What is the chief merit of him who emigrates to the Land of Israel?

I know no more than what is said in Ketubot.1

-241-

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