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Collected Essays: v. 2$
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Haym Soloveitchik

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781904113980

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781904113980.001.0001

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Minhag Ashkenaz ha-Kadmon: An Assessment

Minhag Ashkenaz ha-Kadmon: An Assessment

(p.29) Chapter Three Minhag Ashkenaz ha-Kadmon: An Assessment
Collected Essays: v. 2

Haym Soloveitchik

Liverpool University Press

This chapter comments upon an influential article written by Israel M. Ta-Shma. In the article, the unique significance and force that ‘custom’ (minhag) possessed in Ashkenaz is emphasized. It is holly unlike the subsidiary role that minhag played in other west European Jewish cultures of the Middle Ages. In Early Ashkenaz (c. 950–1096) religious life was conducted according to custom and custom alone. When a conflict was detected between the prescriptions of the Talmud and popular practice, the latter prevailed — not simply by force of habit, but out of the deep conviction that the law embodied in the traditional conduct of the people should override any formal, written dictate. In the course of the twelfth century, the law inscribed in the Talmud came to predominate in Ashkenaz, but only after a bitter struggle with custom. Ta-Shma attributes this distinctive view of the power of established practice to the Palestinian origins of the Ashkenazic community. The Palestinian Talmud (Yerushalmi), in sharp contrast to the Babylonian (Bavli), was of the opinion that custom overruled the dictates of prescriptive law — minhag mevattel halakhah.

Keywords:   minhag, custom, Israel M. Ta-Shma, Early Ashkenaz, popular practice, Talmud, European Jewish cultures, Middle Ages

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