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Collected Essays: v. 1$
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Haym Soloveitchik

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9781904113973

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781904113973.001.0001

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The Halakhic Isolation of the Ashkenazic Community

The Halakhic Isolation of the Ashkenazic Community

Chapter Three The Halakhic Isolation of the Ashkenazic Community
Collected Essays: v. 1

Haym Soloveitchik

Liverpool University Press

This chapter focuses on the author's essay which was written for a conference on why science made so few inroads into medieval Ashkenazic culture. The scientific corpus was readily available in the Middle Ages, and some of it seems to have circulated in Ashkenaz, yet it remained without cultural resonance. The author then suggests that the phenomenon of cultural isolation held true for Ashkenaz even in halakhah. Only one figure in the history of Ashkenaz was free of this cultural chauvinism: R. Me'ir of Rothenburg. Unique in many ways, he recognized greatness when he saw it and availed himself of it from whatever source he could. He also instructed or inspired his student R. Me'ir ha-Kohen to write a massive Ashkenazic gloss to Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, known as the Haggahot Maimuniyot. At the time, and even in retrospect, there was every reason to believe that the cultural barriers would at last come down, at least in part. However, the Haggahot Maimuniyot served only to teach Ashkenaz more about itself, about some of its past thoughts that it had been in danger of forgetting. R. Me'ir of Rothenburg's revolutionary vision went unrealized. Ashkenaz, to its own detriment, remained as indifferent to Maimonides in the sixteenth century as it had been in the thirteenth. The essay also identifies the difference between the German and French halakhic cultures.

Keywords:   medieval Ashkenazic culture, Ashkenaz, cultural isolation, halakhah, R. Me'ir of Rothenburg, Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Haggahot Maimuniyot, German halakhic culture, French halakhic culture

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