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Pre-Expulsion England in the Responsa

Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Pre-Expulsion England in the Responsa By Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein, B.A., D.Lit. Paper read before the Jewish Historical Society of England, July 6, 1937. It must have been a rash moment when I undertook to read a paper on Pre-Expulsion England in the Responsa before a gathering com? posed largely of experts. I confess that I was under no illusion from the very outset as to the difficulties involved. I saw before me a few small green patches that had already attracted the notice of former gleaners in the field of Anglo-Jewish history. But it was only after applying myself to the task that I discovered to what extent these patches had been left denuded. Nevertheless, bearing in mind the saying that no man having set his hand to the plough and looking back is fit for the kingdom of heaven, I determined to persevere. And here I stand this evening with all diffidence venturing to offer you my handful of gleanings in the hope that they will not be entirely devoid of quality or value. As a preliminary to the subject, a few remarks of a general nature on that branch of Rabbinic literature known as Responsa and of the sources I have utilized would not be out of place. Briefly, the Responsa are rulings and judgments given by Rabbis in reply to ques? tions addressed to them by communities as well as individuals in search for guidance on all kinds of subjects?religious, domestic, social, economic, and political. Based as they are on the problems of the day, the Responsa throw much light on contemporaneous affairs, on Jewish external and internal organization, and communal social and moral relations, all of which serve to illustrate the condi 187</page><page sequence="2">PRE-EXPULSION ENGLAND IN THE RESPONSA tions of the times in which they were penned. The Responsa have thus proved an attractive and fruitful source of investigation for the history of the Jews of the Middle Ages. The mass of data they supply helps to fill many a gap in the story of the vicissitudes of our people in different countries and climes. Turning to Anglo-Jewish history, there is little which these Rabbinic records could add to the fullness of information we already possess, thanks to the unparalleled wealth of official records or Rolls, on the social, economic and general secular life of the early English Jews. The only aspects on which the Responsa might well be expected to shed new light are those relating to their internal affairs and religious life. But here, unfortunately, we meet with disappoint? ment. The material is much too scanty and sparse to satisfy our requirements. The wholesale destruction of Hebrew writings at the time of the Expulsion involved, as it is now known, the loss of a whole literature, including numerous and extensive Halachic works. The few literary productions in the domain of Rabbinics that have some? how escaped annihilation, the Etz Hayyim of Jacob b. Judah, the Hazzan of London,1 and the Commentary on the Tractate Bera choth and Order Zeraim by Elijah Menahem of London, discovered recently in the Hebrew University Library of Jerusalem, still await publication.2 The only printed material available is largely that which has been preserved in the Halachic compilation of Mordecai ben Hillel, a thirteenth-century German Rabbi, in the form of legal decisions of English scholars. In the circumstances to limit the inves? tigation to printed works is to court certain failure. I have, however, been able to obtain additional data from two manuscripts?the Mordecai MS. No. 534 in the possession of Mr. D. S. Sassoon which he kindly allowed me to consult,3 and the Montefiore MS. No. 108, 1 A full description of the MS. and its history has been furnished by Kautfmann, D., J.Q.R., v. pp. 353ft.; see also iv. pp. 2off. and pp. 50ft. A specimen of the Etz Hayyim has been published by Adler, H., in Steinschneider's Festschrift (Leipzig, 1896), Hebrew section pp. 185-208. 2 See Epstein, J. N. tfjnn ftmzb t^rnnb? nttfo 'ns on:? in^s nt^-D in MH/Tn '?yio (Jerusalem, 1926), i. pp. 51 ff., and Marmorstein, A., Trans., xii. p. 113. y Sec Marmorstein, A., J.Q.R. (N.S.), xix. pp. 31-2.</page><page sequence="3">PRE-EXPULSION ENGLAND IN THE RESPONSA l89 now at Jews' College, consisting of an Italian fourteenth-century Halachic compilation which has already been described by Dr. Mar? morstein in a paper read before this Society in 1927.4 Finding the material still inadequate, I considered it advisable to interpret the term Responsa in a broad sense so as to include all such writings as were compiled under Rabbinic influence or guidance, and have thus in? cluded within my scope of investigation the Shetaroth? Such, then, are the leading sources from which the information embodied in this Paper has been drawn. 1. Of the Anglo-Jewish Rabbinic authorities, whose legal Responsa I have been able to utilize, the names are as follows: Yomtob and his son Moses, both of London, the latter being probably the author of a ritual work on the laws of kashering meat, nrp^ft JTDSt? preserved in an Oxford manuscript;6 Benjamin of Canterbury, a disciple of Rabbenu Tarn;7 Elijah Menachem of London and his brother Bera chia of Lincoln, both the sons of Moses b. Yomtob;8 Joseph of Lin? coln;9 Meir of Angleterre, author of a work on the laws of mourning, fn^K JTI^fi ;10 Jacob b. Judah, the compiler of the notable work Etz Hayyim; Eliezer of London, and Isaac b. Peretz of London.11 This list is not as impressive as that which Joseph Jacobs, with the excessive though somewhat pardonable zeal of a pioneer, pressed into the service of Anglo-Jewish history.12 But it has the merit of having admitted the names of such scholars only whose contributions to 4 See Trans., xii. pp. 103fr. 5 Edited by (a) Myer D. Davis, Shetaroth; (b) Abrahams, I.; Stokes, H. P., and Loewe, H., Starrs and Jewish Charters in the British Museum. 6 See Neubauer, A., Catalogue of the Hebrew Manuscripts of the Bodleian Library, No. 882, pp. 104-5. n-? 'n D""1"ID ntr*? ?^-m bll V?l Jiln^D JTDto "I^H 7 See Marmorstein, Trans., xii., pp. 104 and 114. Adler, Michael, Jews of Medieval England, pp. 50-1, following Joseph Jacobs, places his home in Cambridge. 8 See Marmorstein, op. ait., p. 104, n.9. 9 See below, p. 201. 10 See below, p. 204. 11 See below, p. 195. 12 For the list of authorities used by Joseph Jacobs, see his Jews of Angevin England, pp. 39fr.</page><page sequence="4">I90 PRE-EXPULSION ENGLAND IN THE RESPONSA English Halachic studies are beyond dispute. Most of the names are shadowy, almost nothing being known of the life and activities of their bearers. The only one who emerges somewhat in relief from an all-enveloping darkness is Elijah Menachem, son of Moses, son of Yomtob, identified with the Magister Elias fil' Mosseus of the She taroth.13 He was thus a member of a distinguished Anglo-Jewish family who, for generations, had represented in this country the ideal blending of Torah and Derech Eretz?Jewish learning and worldly wisdom. The foremost authority in the thirteenth century, he is often referred to as Ram (an abbreviation of Rabbi Menachem) of London,14 and it is he who appears as adjudicator in most of the civil cases on record.15 He was, in addition, a prolific Rabbinic author. Reference has already been made to his Commentary on the Tractate Berachoth and Order Zeraim which was regarded so brilliant a contribution to Talmudic lore that Rabbi Yomtob Lipmann Heller, the famous Polish Rabbi of the seventeenth century, made copious extracts from it for his classical Commentary of the Mishnah, the Tosafoth Yomtob.1G He is also spoken of as an author of a Midrash,17 and of a tract on oaths, which seems to have been appended to a commentary of his on a Talmudic Tractate, probably Shebuoth.18 The Tosafoth to the Tractate Rosh Hashanah are also ascribed to him.19 His eminence in Halachah is testified by the fact that he is not afraid to oppose the ruling of the Geonim.20 With all his supre? macy, we gain of him the impression of a kindly and lovable person? ality, free from arrogance and self-conceit, deferential to the opinions 13 Died about 1284. See Epstein, J. N., op. cit., p. 52; also Jacobs, op. at., p. 287. 14 See Epstein, J. N., op. cit., pp. 53-4. 15 See below, p. 197. 16 See above, p. 188. 17 See MS. Montefiore, ?376: Bnvttlte DrU? ,mnrSQ tm?2 *?riKX? 18 7?i&lt;/., ?804: BnmVra nmo 'n '^m mmst? thd 19 See Epstein, J. N., op. cit., pp. 67-8. 20 See MS. Sassoon, p. 28. A had given money to B to pass it on to C for trad? ing purposes. B, disregarding A's, instructions, traded with the money himself. Rabbi Menachem declared A to be entitled to the whole of the profit made by B with the money in opposition to a CJlMn rQVtffl which would allow him only a share in the profit.</page><page sequence="5">PRE-EXPULSION ENGLAND IN THE RESPONSA 191 of others and ready to admit a mistake and rectify an error.21 To his manifold activities he added that of a Reader22 and Baal Koreh, reciting the Misheberach that attends the reading of the Law.23 In this connection, he appears as an innovator in that he disapproved of the practice of reciting the Misheberach after each person who is called up, introducing in its place an " omnibus " Misheberach at the conclusion of the reading.24 To have the authority of so eminent a Rabbi for this departure from general practice is indeed something from which those of our modern Anglo-Jewish Synagogues who have abolished the individual Misheberach may indeed take heart. 11. In examining the legal decisions and pronouncements of the English pre-Expulsion Rabbis, we see them not only as great masters of Rabbinic lore and teaching, but as men of independent mind, who in their interpretation and application of the law contributed to the progress and development of the Halachah. This finds striking illus? tration in the two new rulings in connection with the Agunah that originated with English Rabbis. It is known that the Talmud has relaxed considerably the laws of evidence in case of the Agunah&gt; 21 See MS. Sassoon, p. 92: ?"HnK Ts mtoi jnps i1? rm nattf ^1 w1? s? ntwo ptmvj njnaar pon* di?o 'wan p-on aura wayai nvx naifi^ is ]o? p^n yatyai ?'o^it -na^na ??ns^d Tiann wd nty pi ]na ist1? mwm un .mm hdm oma min im^a as rjN y^Vp^nx pin, See also below, Note 24. 22 See Epstein, J. N., op. cit., p. 63: n^Kl? J?1T2 ^Wtf |1W ?pn'Jlttf1? jn JO^D .vnanai rrpoa ^ki vinxa ^aipa "p airnn pin1? s1?! n"?^pa 23 See next note. 24 See Adler, H., op. dt., p. 189: nns as mins n^npn i*\?&gt; "pn tonin ?a^n rv^srD "nm irr a^in minn nxnp The reason for this innovation was because he considered the Misheberach formula to constitute a petition and as such not to be recited on behalf of a private person on the Sabbath. He similarly on the same grounds refused first to recite the Mishe? berach for the sick, though in this case he ultimately retracted his opinion. K1? p21 ?pjrnna pTrpn *?jn "?nana ak? ?om nnsi na^a a^in tu1? ??nto-nn See Epstein, J. N., op. cit., p. 53.</page><page sequence="6">I92 PRE-EXPULSION ENGLAND IN THE RESPONSA going so far as to allow a woman to re-marry on the report made at random by a non-Jew as to the death of her husband. The question however arose whether credence was to be given to a statement made by a non-Jew who claimed at the same time to have murdered her husband. In such a case, it was argued, the statement might well have been a mere invention of the non-Jew designed to terrorise his Jewish listeners. Authorities were for long undecided on the subject. It was an English Rabbi, Eliezer of London, who was the first to lav down the law which has ultimately been incorporated in the Schal? chern Aruch permitting re-marriage even on the basis of such slender evidence.25 This precedent thus established found its extension in another ruling of English Rabbis who permitted a woman, Judith by name, to re-marry on the strength of a confession made by a non-Jew that he had murdered a Jew between York and Lincoln when he was carrying the sum of ten pounds to the latter city, although he did not mention the name of the victim, attending circumstances on inquiry having proved that the lady in question had sent that amount through her husband to her brother in Lincoln.26 Joseph Jacobs, on the basis of references to English Jews which he collected from Rabbinic literature, declares it as curious and character? istic that most of the Anglo-Jewish enactments relate to the customary dietary laws.27 It is hardly credible that a Jewry, whose conception of Judaism was one that concerned itself largely with what may or may not be eaten or drunk, could have produced from its midst spiritual leaders capable of tackling with such signal courage intricate Agunah problems. But apart from this consideration, there is addi? tional evidence of a wide range of Anglo-Jewish enactments affecting 2r&gt; Haggahoth Mordecai, Kid da shin, 550, and Naphtali Levi, Nahalath Naphtali, p. 24. 20 See Mordecai Yebamoth: nbivn nnt? inmt? njWJJ nttKtf d^dis nmm ntyyo nrfrr? dk n"? i^Kt^a? ^ noin ^ rvoo dwd inaw n^nm k^ip^a rvrofc rp-nrr* mo Naphtali Levi, he. cit., identifies this lady with Judith the daughter of Belaset, the daughter of Berachiah of Lincoln mentioned by Davis, Shetaroth, pp. 302 and 309. 27 Op. cit., p. 337, note.</page><page sequence="7">PRE-EXPULSION ENGLAND IN THE RESPONSA 193 many departments of life, economic, social, communal and political, which proceeded from English Rabbis. Among the many problems which engaged the attention of the Rabbis of that period was the relation of the Jewish law to the law of the State. The Jews, as is known, enjoyed in England a right of jurisdiction among themselves. Such jurisdiction was administered by a Court consisting as a rule of three judges or by a single eminent Rabbi to whom the Jews chose to bring their cases.28 In the administration of justice the Jewish j udges, though guided on the whole by Jewish Law, would often take into consideration the law of the land. This was in conformity with the Talmudic principle that declares the law of the State to be divine law: tfj'H Nfil^Dl Wl-29 This dual system of jurisdiction made it necessary for the Rabbis to define the validity of the law of the State, how far it was binding upon them when it came in conflict with Jewish law. Such a problem meets us in connection with the transfer of debts. We know from the Shetaroth and other docu? ments that the Jews were in the habit of transferring their debts from Christians to each other. Such assignments were not always recog? nised by the king who, as the legal creditor, would not hesitate to seize the transferred bond on any pretext for any payment for which the original creditor might have been rendered liable. To provide against such a contingency we often find in the Shetaroth the inser? tion of a special clause whereby the creditor undertakes to indemnify the transferee against any loss that he may suffer as the result of the transaction. One such clause appearing in a Shetar dated 1254 reads as follows: " But if heaven forfend it (the bond) should be seized by the king or queen under any pretence or for any debt which I may be liable, I undertake for myself, and my heirs to pay him (the trans? feree) or his attorneys producing this bill all that pertains to my share, principal or interest within a month of its being presented, granting a lien on my effects, movable or immovable that I possess under the whole heaven." 30 28 See op. cit., p. 372. 29 See e.g., Baba Bathra, 55a. O 30 See Davis, op. cit., p. 215.</page><page sequence="8">194 PRE-EXPULSION ENGLAND IN THE RESPONSA This right of confiscation exercised by the Crown, the Jewish authorities did not dispute. Acting on the Talmudic principle in regard to the law of the State, they upheld the validity of such royal confiscations, and the transferee was accordingly declared by them to be entitled to indemnification. This rule, however, according to a decision of a London Rabbi, whose name is not given, was limited to the case where the confiscation was in default of tax payments.'51 Where, however, it was on account of a liability in regard to fines, using the term in its broad medieval sense, as comprising amerce? ments for transgressions and payments for a great variety of licences and privileges, the transferee had no claim; for whereas tax payments were regarded as regular and constitutional entitling the king to con? fiscate the debts of the defaulter, fines were considered irregular and arbitrary exactions. Similarly, English Rabbis refused to recognise the validity of baronial confiscations, and in the case where a baron misappropriated to himself the property of a Jew and sold it to another Jew, the transaction was considered void, and the victim held to be in his right to reclaim his property without any payment to the buyer. An exception was, however, made by Rabbi Elijah Menachem of London in respect of Hebrew books. In this case, the buyer of the books was entitled to recover from the original owner the amount he had paid for them up to their value, as otherwise no Jew would buy them, and the baron, in his disregard of the Hebrew books left on his hands, would throw them away with contempt.32 Another instance of the application of the validity of the law of 31 See Mordecai, Baba Kamma, 152: nns amn ppoPb QKl^ t^mil^a am pDB pyatp amn toiai "jton xai i?p a^au-ia anns mnmn lawn1? pihn dip ainai ?b^d?1? nan ro^K runianff ^sa pyatr1? ubwb ]aixn"? psrr pirn n:na ^atya The text is in disorder but the reading as reproduced here is evidently the correct one. a^aa stands for taxes in general. fUfio is the Hebrew equivalent of the term donum which was used in the general sense of fines, e.g., the Donum of Northamp? ton of 1194. Of. Gross, Ch., Exchequer of the ]ews of England, Papers, Anglo Jewish Historical Exhibition (1887), p. 194. 32 See Mordecai, loc. cit. The name of the authority for this decision is supplied by MS. Sassoon, p. 14: nxam mai vya a*nsD rr:a&amp;&gt; aixa tsnruiba irrte am ana etc., continuing as in the printed editions of the Mordecai. See also Choshen ha Mishpat, 237.</page><page sequence="9">PRE-EXPULSION ENGLAND IN THE RESPONSA I95 the State in Anglo-Jewish jurisdiction is found in the ruling of Rabbi Isaac b. Peretz of London declaring that the law of the State permit? ting the sale of pledges after a year in the case of defaulting debtors33 was operative even with debts of Jews between themselves, although this is against Talmudic law.34 And the application of the same principle also occurs in connection with money-lending on interest to converted Jews. A converted Jew is, in the eyes of Jewish law, still a Jew. Kin Nftnttf ^"iVS ? and the law which prohibits the lending of money on interest to a Jew applies equally to a converted Jew. Nevertheless, it was decided that once the debt had been con? tracted and the principal and interest payable entered in the bond, the Jew was permitted to exact the interest from the converted Jew. This legal point, which is of a rather intricate and technical character, does not lend itself to a full discussion on this occasion. But the principle on which this decision is based is that of the validity of the law of the State. For in the words of the Shibbole Hale\et (in manu? script) where this ruling is preserved, " the bonds (muffin) which are drawn up in England are regarded as definite money bills for those who produce them, according to the law of the kingdom, and in consequence the prohibition against the Biblical exaction of interest does not apply in regard to them."35 Money-lending for profit, being forbidden to Christians in Eng? land by the Church, was practically in Jewish hands. Although most of the loans on interest were contracted by non-Jews, it must not be imagined that Jews did not engage in money-lending among themselves. They overcame the Biblical prohibition by resorting to 33 See Jacobs, op. cit., p. 331. 34 Mordecai, Baba Kamm a, 154. 35 Montefiore MS. (Jews' College) No. 126 (H.237), fol. 6iv. pwi manin ^ ?nnn pajna^i wvb sn-Dton wid n?a ibbo xaity py1? awn s-ita^aasn On the limita? tions regarding the application of the principle wh xm^an K3H, see Epstein, I., Responsa of Adreth, p. 73. An illustration of a case where Anglo-Jewish authorities hesitated to apply it is afforded by the uncertainty of the " Sages of Norwich," '?oan, whether a creditor was allowed to put a defaulting debtor to work for repayment of his debt: nftfl t)ia DIDM1? mte Dlt? DK t^ana '??Sn Ipsnoa .Sin *wn nan See MS. Sassoon, p. 100. On ?"?am3 *?D5n see Adler, H., Papers, Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition, pp. 272ft.</page><page sequence="10">I96 PRE-EXPULSION ENGLAND IN THE RESPONSA a legal device whereby the transaction was conducted through the aid and by the medium of a Christian friend.36 We are informed of a Jew paying the necessary expenses in order to obtain a decision from the Beth Din whether this procedure was permitted.37 We have no record of the verdict. But the fact that this practice was, as we learn from the Shetaroth, in vogue in our period shows that, though the ecclesiastical authorities may not have expressly sanctioned this evasion of the law, they at least adopted an attitude of, what might be called, benevolent neutrality in regard to the matter. Money-lending was not, of course, the only business occupation of the Jew. The majority of the Jews eked out their living mostly in huckstering and peddling in all kinds of wares among themselves as well as among their neighbours. Much business was carried on by means of travelling agents, who worked either on a commission, or who retained all profits beyond a fixed margin to themselves. The risks of the journey in those days were considerable. The roads were unsafe, and the losses incurred often occasioned litigation. Elijah Menachem adjudicating in a dispute of such a kind draws a distinc? tion in the matter of responsibility between the two types of agents. The agent who works on commission, he declares, works equally for his principal as for himself, and consequently is entitled to demand of the principal a share in the loss, whereas the agent retaining profits, works entirely for himself and must alone bear the loss.38 We also have on record several cases of partnerships formed between Jews 36 Davis, Shetaroth, p. 47 (1251); p. 64 (1253). 37 See op. cit., p. viii. 38 MS. Sassoon, p. 89: psn iTan1? ms td?'? axttf b"i annai^a iTte Tin1? tetf mao1? Mt^p ax bax v?ty nxan "?a psw p^a tr"p '??ty naion ^n inna tjp T? ai mao1? '\n x1?^ teitsr naion ntpya nan ia rpriT naio1? 11? tan1? trpai tbtj xai a^sn .paaixa naian a^nai naion naia1? fnanaa? xbx maio"? na-itr1? naion nr njna A similar principle underlies the decision of Rabbi Elijah's father, R. Moses of London, in a case in which a woman agent was involved as recorded loc. cit. : \r\im nnx nan naoa iDaxaty anas maio nnx ntrxa nwya t^Tiaito nttfa 'n ras y'n a^ai anaa amana1? pnoia Buoys'? *&gt;a pbnb nxnan a^m nr^y1? no i1? itetn mao1? n1? ?pi -jaa mao 10s a^oysi nao^ x1? ax tj^ an1? xt x^i na*p x^a rtavtp naa mao1? ??an bao tp"!tf "nn "?so Mttf rancor? ^aa1? mo xpn nxan x\nnan ya im^i n,1^ nmom vnna nt^o. pn pnaa nwxn a^n1? nxn:</page><page sequence="11">PRE-EXPULSION ENGLAND IN THE RESPONSA 197 for general trading purposes, with one of the partners acting as a traveller, while the other traded locally. Here, too, the insecurity of the roads gave rise to litigation, and, in one instance, where the travelling partner on his journey fell in with robbers, and was obliged to ransom himself, Elijah Menachem decided that he had no claim against the other partner, as he had no right to expose himself and his merchandise to the risks of dangerous places.39 And not only for trading in petty wares were partnerships formed. We have an instance of two Jews going into partnership and investing money on interest with a non-Jew.40 This indeed is noteworthy, as we have it on the authority of Joseph Jacobs that the king would not allow Jewish financiers to form a partnership, because it would affect adversely his royal interests. For when a Jewish money-lender died, his possessions became the absolute property of the king. Where, however, the money was held in partnership, the death of one of the partners would bring the king no such windfall, and the king would thus lose his chief advantage of his Jews.41 Apart from the risks of the journey, common to all travellers, Jewish enterprise was especially exposed to all kinds of danger from the general attitude of the population to Jewish property. A grim flash revealing the Jewish experiences in this respect is reflected in the following decision of Elijah Menachem. We are told that a Jew hired a horse from another Jew and allowed a Christian to ride on it. The horse died, and the owner brought a claim for negligence against the person who hired it. Elijah Menachem declared him liable, on the ground that it was an act of negligence on the part of the Jew to entrust the horse he had hired to a non-Jew, who would have little regard for the belongings of a Jew.42 As already stated, justice in civil cases between Jews was admini 39 See Mordecai, Baba Bathra, 660. 40 MS. Sassoon, p. 97: niBmtitt mn anb 'W a^as "?at? t^-^naibo ann sa wa aay1? 'jia'h ann pDDi "?d? mna -iaiK mam yns1? "?ian rmam? i-panb imn laxi .*obd an tick mipjfo i^k *onna rnan r"?j&gt; ppibm ^apon pnsn tonna 41 See Trans., iii. p. 167. 42 MS. Monteflore ?774: Dion nasai *na a^aim mana bid latjw nnxa rwya .Qbvb a^m 'wn^ to i:iaa t?n ?nan ps iwib tenrw b'tdi</page><page sequence="12">I98 PRE-EXPULSION ENGLAND IN THE RESPONSA stered by the Beth Din. Very often special arbitrators would be appointed for matters which required expert knowledge in commerce and finance.43 Such appointments were usually made in the presence of a special convocation of ten Jews, which it appears was attended by a kind of adjuration of the arbitrators to dispense justice in fair? ness and equity.44 The two parties to the lawsuit would make a written declaration undertaking on an oath pronounced on the Ten Commandments, a Scroll of the Law, or some sacred vestment,45 and under a stipulated fine to abide by the award of the arbitrators, such a fine being payable either to the Crown, to the local governor, the Synagogue, or, as we have it in some cases, to the cemetery of London or the Hospital.46 The execution of judgment was, however, still reserved for the Crown or its representative.47 But this was only in the last resort. Though possessing no physical power of their own on which they could rely, the Jewish authorities were able to wield the formidable weapon of the Herem, the ban of excommunication, which proved sufficiently effective in enforcing discipline and ensuring obedience. Chiefly with the help of these sanctions were they able to frame measures and introduce enactments regulating the many aspects of communal life. Several of the enactments recorded in our sources relate to matrimony. It is noteworthy that Anglo-Jewry was one of the few early communities where the old method of Erusin betrothal proper, whereby a woman became on betrothal legally bound to a man, had almost been displaced, except in the case of child marriage, 4;} Sec Davis, Shctaroth, e.g., pp. 137, 144. 44 0/7. cit., p. 298: mvtf&gt; rwm usnanm -irnmn 4r&gt; 0/7. a/., nnnn mtryn nyatw, p. 149; pen fi1^^ nmm, p. 109; nv^ui miMH nE"Dfi2 la^Ba, p. 195. This latter procedure is indeed noteworthy as the custom of holding a scroll of the law on taking an oath had been generally discon? tinued in the days of the Geonim. See Ginzberg, L., Geonica, ii. p. 147, also Stokes, H. P., Trans., viii. p. 80. 46 See Davis, op. cit.; p. 9 to the King (1246); p. T41 to the London hospital, unYUft? rpff?nn JTO^ (1266); p. 118 to the Synagogue (Norwich, 1264); P- 180 to the London cemetery ffVHTlto miSpn W2b (no date). 47 See below, p. 202.</page><page sequence="13">PRE-EXPULSION ENGLAND IN THE RESPONSA 199 by the modern engagement, attended by Tenaim48 at which a pro? mise of marriage at some fixed date was contracted by the young couple and the parents under a stipulated fine that was to be paid by the defaulter to the other party. In England, however, the statutes governing the Tenaim undertakings were very vigorous. In virtue of an enactment adopted by the Anglo-Jewish communities, the party that failed to present itself for marriage at the stipulated date was rendered liable to the ban of excommunication, apart from the fine which had been previously agreed upon.49 There was also a regula? tion forbidding the betrothal of any maiden without the consent of her parents, or the nearest relative in the land. And Rabbi Yomtob ruled that the man who had betrothed a woman in contravention of this regulation was to be compelled to give her her freedom by means of a bill of divorce.50 Another enactment which makes its appearance in this country at this period is that ^ioo?a considerable sum in those days?was fixed as the minimum amount which a husband had to settle on his wife for her Kethubah. This we read was customary throughout the Island.51 The heavy charge on the husband's estate which the Kethubah thus involved explains the stringent procedure, attendant on the collection by the woman of her marriage settlement, which was adopted by the Anglo-Jewish Courts?a procedure which went be? yond that provided for in the Codes. The woman had to take a solemn oath, which was confirmed in turn by the ban of excom 48 Sec Davis, op. cit., p. 4}. 49 See Davis, op. cit., pp. 33fr.: Y'n "?nsn onro nasn id'v o dwj n"?s onm tyi mbnpn nipnl; also Bacr, F., D/&gt; Juden im Christlichen Spanien, i. p. 1000. ?',u MS. Sassoon, quoting Etz Hayyvm : d^l?npn MTU "?y 13 ^ a""P 'in pDB d^anp in ss invo njna xto ntys tsHpa1? pi mbios1? ptrya ntrss t^na1? im? ptswa sbi 1^0 ?? s"?i ani^m iton by r^yn^ w-inn1?! inn:1? a^i^ psn ut^ as ?dtp ^asn ??"dj; yio aaa mjna tm:p s1? as irmap^ 51 See Davis, op. cit., p. 302: "?sn smas pna1? nsaa naina r6 mtyy'n (1271). See the text of the Betrothal Contract in Adler, M., op. cit., p. 43. The 100-pound standard Kethubah originated in Germany before the year 1000, whence it was adopted as a basis of the money clauses of the KethubotJi by all other Ashkenazic Jewries to the present day. For a full discussion see Agus, Irving A., J.Q.R. (N.S.), xxx. pp. 22iff. According to Naphtali Levi, op. cit., p. 26, it was R. Elijah Menachem who introduced it into this country.</page><page sequence="14">200 PRE-EXPULSION ENGLAND IN THE RESPONSA munication, that she had not collected any part of her jointure during the lifetime of her husband or after his death.52 It further accounts for the regulation that if a widow on re-marriage brought in more property than she was entitled under the terms of her Kethubah, her second husband had to return the surplus to the orphans.53 And not only by the husbands were the women fairly well provided for. It was also usual for parents to furnish their daughters with sub? stantial dowries, and for this reason it was customary for parents to stipulate for the return of the dowry or part of it should the daughter die at any time without issue.54 One further ruling reflects the chivalrous attitude of the Anglo-Jewish Rabbinate to the weaker sex. According to Talmudic law, a divorce by proxy may be effected in two ways. Either the husband appoints an agent to take the Get to the woman, in which case the woman is not divorced until the Get is delivered into her hands; or the woman appoints an agent to receive on her behalf the bill of divorce from her husband, in which case she gains her freedom as soon as the Get reaches the hands of the agent, although it had not been yet delivered to her. The reason for the law requiring the woman to be in actual receipt of the Get, where the agent is appointed by the husband, is because it is assumed that divorce generally operates to the disadvantage of a woman, and it is a principle that one cannot take possession of any? thing on behalf of a person in a matter which is harmful to the person concerned without his or her own express wish. From this it would follow that, where it is evidently to the advantage of the woman to be divorced from her husband, the husband might in such a circumstance appoint an agent to receive the divorce on behalf of the wife, releasing her from the matrimonial bond the very moment the agent accepts it from the husband. There is, however, no record apart from the case where the husband became an apostate that the Rabbis drew this conclusion. Rabbi Moses of London was the first, 52 See Davis, op. cit.: ri&gt;2p dk minn ninaws mayattfm nbx nairn iro nrmnaD, p. 137; t"^ pin rmyatrKi n"aa n:mx, p. 337. 53 MS. Sassoon in the name of Etz Hayyim. Cf. Eben ha-Ezer, 96, 5. 34 See Davis, op. cit., p. 162, also p. 97.</page><page sequence="15">PRE-EXPULSION ENGLAND IN THE RESPONSA 201 and it appears the only one to apply it in the case of a child marriage. We are told that on one occasion a man had two daughters, one of whom he gave into betrothal without mentioning the name of the girl concerned. This created, according to Jewish law, a curious situation. He could not marry either of them, as each one might be the sister of his legal wife which is prohibited by Leviticus xviii, 18, forbidding the marriage of two sisters, and divorce of the girls was the only way of escape. Such a divorce was arranged without the knowledge of the girls, because, said Moses of London, " we assume it is to the advantage of both girls to be divorced."55 The opinion may be hazarded that it was in order to spare the girls any embarrassment that the divorce was effected unbeknown to them. This incident is, by the way, an echo of what is related in the Haggahoth Maimonides. It happened once in Troyes that Isaac the son of Hosea, the grandson of Rabbi Menachem, was betrothed to a daughter of Rabbi Morel of England. But the latter had three daughters and the name of the betrothed was not mentioned, so that Isaac was compelled to divorce the three.56 It might be surmised that the two incidents are two different versions of the same story, although the number of girls differs in each case, allowance being made for the easy confusion by scribes between the letters 2 and 3 standing respectively for two and three. The monogamous enactment of the eleventh-century Rabbenu Gershom, " the Light of the Exile ", prohibiting bigamy under pain of excommunication, though not intended originally to extend beyond Germany, spread already in those days to England. This gave rise to an important decision by Rabbi Joseph, probably of Lincoln, that he who accuses his wife of infidelity without being able to substan? tiate his charge, had to be placed under the ban, for there is a possi? bility that his accusation was designed to enable him to divorce his 55 MS. Montefiore, ? 375: nisw n^mv ukw tfrnaito nt?? '-in awn tepi nun o i1? mi? msn rwj?o pi nn$n? Kto aan ^np1? mx bsvir taa n^K1? sin ?]Wio sto i^ww ria^ "?npi ins nat? mnn kVi fins'? rrwnp See also Mordecai, Gittin, 467. 36 Jacobs, op. cit., p. 53.</page><page sequence="16">202 PRE-EXPULSION ENGLAND IN THE RESPONSA wife and marry another woman, whilst by his very charge he ren? dered her forbidden to him.57 Rabbenu Gershom's enactment relating to monogamy penetrated this island by the way of France; and, in the famous divorce case of 1242, one can trace the beginnings of this penetration. The story to which M. D. Davis was the first to call attention58 has been told several times;59 but the legal issues involved have so far not been elucidated. The following, however, may be offered in reconstruc? tion of the legal aspects of the case. David of Oxford wished to set aside his wife Muriel without her consent. As the law of Rabbenu Gershom against forcible divorce had not yet been recog? nised by Anglo-Jewry, the Beth Din had no alternative but to grant him his ' reliefThey, however, insisted that he should first pay up in full the Kethubah to Muriel. This reservation was in accor? dance with a Geonic ruling which disallows divorce where the hus? band is no position to pay his wife the Kethubah.? David, how? ever, refused to be bound by this condition and succeeded in obtain? ing a writ from the Crown in virtue of which the Get was to be made absolute, enabling him to take to wife whomsoever he fancied. Muriel thereupon sought to restrain her husband by invoking the monogamous enactment of Rabbenu Gershom. This regulation had not yet enjoyed at that date the force of law in Anglo-Jewry. She consequently appealed to the Paris Beth Din,61 urging them to use their influence in having the operation of its measures extended to England. Her representations with the Paris Rabbis had the desired effect. This resulted in the issue of a second writ that no Rabbi either of England or France should venture to coerce David " to take or to hold any woman to wife except at his own free will." 57 MS. Montcfiore, quoting from Etz Hayyim, ? 413: ??nffK "laiKH rpr iin ana nnnxa jn: rry xoff pvJ"n dv^: o st^1? x1?^ mma n napn nns i^y mints nnar ?rrn y'ay a^wan napn baaa xim v^y intyx idk^ inn:1? 5? /.?.?., v. p. 136. 59 See Stokes, H. P., Trans., x. p. 199; Adler, M., op. cit., p. 29; and Roth, C, Anglo-Jewish Letters, p. 13. 60 See Solomon ben Adreth, Responsa, i. 1254, and Simon b. Zemach Duran, Responsa, iii. 223. 61 Cf. Epstein, I., op. cit., p. 87; also p. 120, n.63.</page><page sequence="17">PRE-EXPULSION ENGLAND IN THE RESPONSA 203 The woman in such circumstances as described above enjoyed a high status. We find her engaged in all kinds of commercial occu? pations and business, including money-lending, dealings in property, and we also see her acting in one case as agent for the sale of clothes on commission.62 Turning to matters ritual, the material apart from that already collected by Joseph Jacobs is very meagre. The following items, however, are not without interest. It has already been observed that English Jews had the reputation abroad as orthodox.63 Nevertheless, we find English Jews somewhat lax in regard to some of the dietary laws. They had little scruples about eating non-Jewish bread. Nor did the English Rabbis seem to disapprove of this laxity. In fact Isaac b. Peretz went so far as to state that non-Jewish bread if fresh was to be given preference at benediction to Jewish bread which was stale. Elijah Menachem, however, took a somewhat stricter view, declaring, " We are sufficiently ashamed of the fact that we do eat non-Jewish bread, should we also give it preference? "6'i English Jews used also to drink non-Jewish beer, which was for? bidden by the later Amor aim of the Talmud, who placed it in the same category as non-Jewish wine,65 and which was against the prac? tice of other Jewries. This somewhat shocked the Jewish communi? ties in other countries; though they appreciated the special circum? stances which made it difficult for English Jews to abstain from drinking beer with their non-Jewish neighbours without running the risk of embittering their relations which were none too cordial.66 Non-Jewish milk was also drunk by English Jews. Here, too, they had the authority of Joseph of Lincoln who was inclined to permit 62 See above, p. 196, 11. 38. On the woman's part in the economic life of Jewry during that period, see Adler, M., op. fit., pp. i8ff. 6:5 See Adler, E. N., History of the Jews in London, p. 48. 64 See Adler, H., Steinschneider's Festschrift, p. 186: ,taD prof n) rpa?nn nasi TO1? a^a '*&gt;pa nci nap te'W ns arroD^ a*na to nsa a*nma pat? last? jxna (po .na-ia^ ims a\npai a^u las nVoxn i1? rma px mnaite ann bnx wtr nnxa 65 See Tosafoth, Abodah Zar ah, 31b. s.v. las? 66 MS. Montefiore (Jews' College), No. 65 (H.58), Tosafoth R. Elhanan b. Isaac, on Abodah Zarah, 72b.</page><page sequence="18">204 PRE-EXPULSION ENGLAND IN THE RESPONSA it in view of the fact that non-Jews in this country rarely milked unclean animals.67 Wine was rare in England, and was imported by non-Jews from Germany. This was conveyed in barrels with only one seal, which was against the general law in practice. We are told, however, that Rabbenu Tarn, towards the end of his life, permitted it.68 The scarcity of the wine was particularly felt on Sabbath at Kiddush, as Rabbi Isaac b. Peretz wistfully observes. " We in Eng? land, where wine is not in abundance, just taste a little from the Kiddush cup, and when we want to make another blessing we add a little fresh wine to what remains."69 A ruling of Rabbi Meir of Angleterre, which in view of the impending fast of Ab will appeal seasonable and which shows his humane outlook, is that on the Ninth of Ab when the law requires the Jew to walk about unshod, one may wear shoes in non-Jewish districts and take them off only when entering the Jews' Street D'HWfi lirn?70 The striking humanism of Meir of Angleterre is reflected in his decision that a proselyte who loses his mother must sit Shiva for her, a decision which has not been accepted by the Codes.71 The rever? ence for man lies behind the decision of Rabbi Eliezer of London that one may convey a corpse across the river on the Sabbath out of respect for the dead.72 Speaking of the river, one might mention in conclu? sion an additional item of interest. We learn that the Jews would spend the Sabbath in the summer on the roofs of their houses in specially erected canvas tents where they would receive their visitors. On one occasion a boatman, who was short of a sail, set his eyes on a Jewish Sabbath tent and helped himself to a canvas. The Jew, who expected visitors, thereupon made for the port in the company 67 Shilte Jka-Gibborim, ? 5, on Mordecai, Abodah Zarah, 826. 68 Hisronoth lia-Shass (K?nigsberg, i860), p. 39. See Adler, M., op. cit., p. 135, n.5. 69 Etz Hayyim in Adler, H., op. cit., p. 209: Ii"? p?ff Pxn r\"W*\n nroi ?aya vbv "pa1? -ni&gt; mcY-ffsi oyo oian p points "?wo p1? See also Adler, E. N., op. cit., p. 49. 70 Mordecai, Moed Katan, 913. On D'HirVJl mm see Adler, M., op. cit., p. 68. 71 Mordecai, Moed Katan, 970. 72 Haggahoth Mordecai, Sabbath, xix.</page><page sequence="19">PRE-EXPULSION ENGLAND IN THE RESPONSA 205 of a non-Jew and procured there some canvas which he had made into a tent by the non-Jew. This act was declared permissible in honour of the guests. Rabbi Eliezer, however, disapproved of it, and wrote a long Responsum in support of his view.73 All this is, of course, very sketchy and very imperfect. However, with all the sins of omission and commission of which I plead guilty, I hope I have succeeded in bringing to the light of the day some Anglo Jewish characteristic specimens of Responsa literature worthy of our attention and curiosity. The light which these reflect is admittedly faint. Perhaps the publication of the Etz Hayyim which is now being planned by the Mekitze Nirdamim Society in Jerusalem may shoot revealing searchlights into obscure recesses hitherto undivined. For this reason only, apart from all other considerations, Anglo-Jewry ought to associate itself with the undertaking and assist in the release to an expectant world of Jewish scholarship of the only great Anglo Jewish literary production to have survived the ravages of plunderers and centuries. But, however that may be, the orderliness of com? munal life reflected in the account I have attempted to present, affords convincing proof of the vitality of the governing power of Anglo Jewish communities. It also bears testimony to an Anglo-Jewish tradition of mifl and learning and piety, culture and religious devotion?a tradition which is gradually being resuscitated after the oblivion of centuries, with the power to inspire and to move. 73 Mordecai, Sabbath, 'm n p^D</page></plain_text>