Appendix 1
Translated samples of the original source material
in Jewish women in europe in the middle ages

Appendix I

Translated samples of the original source material

Chapter 3

Q. A. often beats his wife. She begged him to promise not to beat her any more, but he refused to make any such promise. Even when she appeared in the Synagogue to demand that A. pay the debts she had contracted in order to pay for her sustenance [probably during a period of separation], A. stubbornly refused to promise that in the future he would refrain from beating her

A. A. must pay for his wife’s sustenance, since by his action he has shown that he has not decided to desist from his shameful practice. One deserves greater punishment for striking one’s wife than for striking another person, for one is enjoined to respect her. Far be it from a Jew to do such a thing. Had a similar case come before us we should hasten to excommunicate him. Thus, R. Paltoi Gaon rules that a husband who constantly quarrels with his wife must remove the causes of such quarrels, if possible, or divorce her and pay her the ketubah; how much more must a husband be punished who not only quarrels but actually beats his wife.

Sources. Meir ben Barukh, Sefer She’elot u Teshuvot, Crimona edition, Jerusalem 1986, no. 291; Meir ben Barukh, Sheelot u-Teshuvot ha-Maharam, Prague edition, ed. M. A. Blakh, Budapest 1895, no. 780 (p. 319).

Translation. I. A. Agus, Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, New York 1970, No. 298. pp. 326–327.

Isaac left home on the twenty-fifth of the month of Adar (1271) and a year later heard that his wife had given birth to a child. She gave birth in 1272, in the week after the festival of Purim. Isaac quickly came home, tried unsuccessfully to divorce her as an adulteress and to deprive her of her rights under the marriage contract. To do this, he had to go through the rabbinical court. To his surprise, the court that he turned to, three months after the event, refused to hear his case. In his distress, Isaac used what was an accepted technique in those days, the mechanism of the takana known as ‘Cancelling the daily offering’ or ‘Holding up the prayer service’. In the case under discussion the dayanim stated explicitly that they did not want to meet to hear Isaac’s case until he, using the ‘Holding up the prayer service’ mechanism, created social pressure on the members of the rabbinical court to meet and begin to deal with this case. When the court began its work the protocol allows us to follow the efforts it took and its method of work. The main part of the court’s work is to gather evidence and indeed there is information in the protocol on quite a few witnesses.

Sarah claimed that when Isaac left home she was already pregnant, and Isaac claimed ‘there was never such a thing’ since everyone knew that he was away and that she gave birth twelve months later. According to the protocol three types of witnesses came forward.

The first witnesses were a number of members of the same family, the Shaltiel family, who lived in the township where the incident took place. From the wording we understand the wordings of the court. The court sent emissaries to where the incident took place, and these emissaries required everyone who knew something about the case to come and give testimony, on pain of being banned from the community. It seems that a local court had a mechanism for collecting testimony even from remote places, a mechanism that included making contact with potential witnesses, collecting written testimony, and confirmation of written evidence. These witnesses testified that Isaac had indeed left home in the month of Adar and that his wife had given birth twelve months after he had left.

The second witness was a man who came and witnessed that on the eve of the festival of Shavuot, Pentecost, he was on the way to Sarah’s house in order to make kiddush for her. Since he knew that there was no man to make kiddush for her, he took the trouble to go to her house to do this for her and he saw that she was keeping company with non-Jewish men, and the dayanim assumed that it was at this time that Sarah conceived, since from Pentecost to the festival of Purim, when she gave birth, is exactly nine months.

The third witness was the father of the wife who had come to consult the dayanim even before Isaac came home, and asked that he be permitted to kill his daughter, to drown her in the river, since he suspected that in the end she would convert to Christianity. The dayanim explicitly forbade the father from killing her. They said that the situation described in the Talmud bore no resemblance to the case they had before them and furthermore they emphasized that it was clear that if anyone came to consult a court on whether or not it is permissible to kill someone, the answer must always be that it is forbidden.

Additional testimony that the court heard, that later turned out to be most important testimony, was that on the 7th of the month of Elul, seven months prior to the birth, someone asked Sarah if she was pregnant, and she vehemently denied being pregnant and roundly cursed the enquirer.

Source. Meir ha-Kohen, Teshubot Maimuniut in to Moses ben Maimon, Mishneh Tora, Ishut No. 25; Meir ben Barukh, Sheelot u-Teshuvot Maharam bar Barukh, Lemberg 1860, No. 310; Mordechai ben Hillel Sefer Mordechai, Tractat Yebamot, No. 121–122.

Chapter 4

Q. L.’s husband was killed on a day of rioting and massacre. L. lost her ketubah document. Is she entitled to collect her ketubah?

A. L. is entitled to collect the ikkar ketubah (the amount the husband undertakes to pay the wife on the dissolution of the marriage), since no document is required to prove the existence of an obligation classified as maaseh-beit-din (a final verdict or decision handed down by a rabbinical court), an obligation imposed by the rabbison all husbands alike, as a mere verbal claim of having discharged such obligation is of no avail unless one can produce documentary evidence (B.M. 17b). Therefore, if L. can prove through witnesses that her husband married her as a maiden,she will be entitled to collect 200 zuzim as her ikkar ketubah; otherwise she will be entitled to collect only 100 zuzzim. As to the £50 of dowry and £50 ofadditional jointure that we generally include in the ketubah of our wives, I am doubtful whether these sums may be considered maaseh-beit-din. It seems to me, however, that since we havea firmly established custom throughout our kingdom to writethe aforementioned amounts in the ketubah of all maidens, the same law should apply to these amounts as to a maaseh-beit-din. We should not, therefore, put forth the claim, for the benefit of the heirs, that the widow has already received payment of the dowry and the additional jointure. Moreover, since witnesses testify that L. and her husband lived a normal married life when he was killed, we cannot put forth the claim that she has already received payment of the aforementioned amounts, for we have no reason for supposing that the husband deposited valuables with L. to be used in payment of her ketubah. Thus Rabbi Simon of Jointville ruled that when a man suddenly dies we need not suppose that he deposited valuables with hiswife to be used by her in payment of her ketubah, for while he is alive the ketubah is not an obligation requiring payment and as long as he is well he does not think of the possibility of his death.

Sources. Mordecai Hagadol, p. 179 margin. Cf. Asher, Responsa 85, 1; Terumat Hadeshen 330.

Translation. I. A. Agus, Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, New York 1970, No. 321 pp. 346–347.

Q. L., A’s widow, who has had no children with A., gave away his books to religious (or charitable) institutions of two or three communities before she took the required oath regarding her ketubah. A.’s heirs summoned her to court, claiming that she had taken from A. more than was due her according to her ketubah. L. appeared in court and was ready to take the required oath regarding her ketubah but died before she could do so L.’s trustee asked the judges how to dispose of the books that were entrusted to him, and the judges instructed him to deliver them to the donee institutions. Now A.’s heirs demand the return of these books.

A. This is a highly controversial subject. The courts of Würzburg – and I believe also of Speyer, following a decision by R. Simha – usually follow the decision of R. Eliezer (Shebu. 48a) which in our case would be in favour of the donees. However we follow the ruling of Rav and Samuel (ibid.) that the entire estate belongs to the heirs. According to our opinion, therefore, even if the donee has already taken possession of the widow’s gift, it should be returned to the heirs; but, if the donee has originally taken possession of the gift at the instruction of a court, we usually uphold the court’s decision on the assumption that the court has followed the opinion of R. Eliezer (ibid. 48b). However, you state that the court has also decided that L.’s heirs have no claim on A.’s estate; they followed, therefore, the opinion of Rav and Samuel. Thus their decision in favour of the donees can no longer be construed as following the opinion of R. Eliezer, and must be considered a mere error.

Source. Meir ben Barukh, Sefer She’elot uTeshuvot, Crimona edition, Jerusalem 1986, no. 88.

Translation. I. A. Agus, Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, New York 1970, No. 339 pp. 360–361.

Q. While critically ill, A. gave a bill of divorcement to his wife on condition that, should he die from the illness, she should be divorced therewith from the day she received the divorce After the bill of divorcement was thus delivered to A.’s wife it was torn up. Subsequently A.’s condition improved; he got up from bed, walked to the synagogue and to the market place without a cane, and even arranged his mother’s funeral out of town. Twenty-eight days thereafter, however, he felt ill again and died. During those twenty-eight days he was at times lying in bed, and at other times he was upon his feet. Was the bill of divorcement effective?

A. The bill of divorcement was ineffective. First, according to R. Tam and Ri the stipulated condition, mentioned above, is to be interpreted to mean that A. intended the divorce to become effective an hour before his death. Since on the day of A.’s death the bill of divorcement was already torn up, no divorce took place. A similar query was sent to me from Acco [Aachen?] and l ruled that no divorce took place. I always advise women who receive such conditional divorces to guard their bill of divorcement carefully till their husbands die. Secondly, even according to Rashi, who believes that the divorce becomes effective immediately upon the delivery of the bill of divorcement, if the husband subsequently dies from his illness, the fact that A. was walking thereafter without the support of a cane nullified the bill of divorcement. In any event the advice of a medical authority would be required in order to decide whether or not A. died from his first illness; and nowadays we have no medical authorities on whose expert opinion we can definitely rely in such a vital matter.

R. Meir adds: I do not have available to me the tosafot to tractate Gittin, nor the code books from the south (Alfasi and Maimonides). I composed the above with the help of heavenly guidance; if you find that the tosafot and the codes hold another opinion, my opinion is nullified by theirs; for what does a poor man know, one who dwells in darkness and gloom for three and one half years. [Probably a reference to his being imprisoned at this time.]

This responsum was sent to Rabbi Asher from the tower of Ensisheim and was placed in his (R. Meir’s) novellae in his own handwriting.

Sources. Meir ben Barukh, Sefer Sharei Teshuvot, ed. M. A. Blakh, Berlin 1891, no. 108, pp. 199–201; Meir ha-Kohen, Teshubot Maimuniut in to Moses ben Maimon, Mishneh Tora, Nashim, no. 30.

Translation. I. A. Agus, Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, New York 1970, No. 378 pp. 385–387.

Chapter 5

Q. A believed that his brother’s [childless] widow had retained from her husband’s estate more than the amount due her for her ketubah, and he refused to go through with the ceremony of halitzah unless she paid him some money. They finally agreed on the sum of twenty* marks. Before the ceremony of halitzah she gave the money to a trustee in A.’s presence A. said to the trustee: ‘After the ceremony, you must give me the twenty* marks.’ To this, the trustee replied, ‘I shall.’ After the ceremony, the widow produced her ketubah, swore that she had not received enough to cover same, and demanded the twenty* marks back. The court decided that the twenty* marks belonged to the widow. Is the decision of the court correct?

A. The question is not sufficiently clear for us to express an opinion. If the widow told the trustee, in A.’s presence, to give the money to A. after the ceremony, the money belongs to A., since this money is simply a gift which the trustee received for A.’s benefit. But, if the widow said nothing while she gave the money to the trustee, A.’s words are of no avail, and she can reclaim her money in payment of her ketubah.

Sources. Meir ben Barukh, Sefer She‘elot u Teshuvot, Crimona edition, Jerusalem 1986, no. 65; Meir ben Barukh, She’elot u-Teshuvot ha-Maharam, Prague edition, ed. M. A. Blakh, Budapest 1895, no. 30; Meir ben Barukh, She’elot u-Teshuvot Maharam bar Barukh, Lemberg 1860, no. 339.

Translation. I. A. Agus, Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, New York 1970, No. 384 pp. 390.

I confirm with my signature that Shlomo the son of R. Hananel, a righteous man of blessed memory, on the instruction of my master in Mainz, came before me, because he has been making a protest by disturbing the prayer service and has been complaining about his wife, who was refusing to have sexual relations with him. And her relatives had been saying about him that he is not allowed to be a member of the community since he is petzua daka [the term used in Deut. 23:2 to describe a man who has a sexual defect]. And I was asked, not because of any wisdom I might have, and not because of my worth, to give him my humble opinion. I, Avi Ha’ezri [Eliezer ben Yoel haLevi, known as Raviah] examined him and I saw that the orifice of his urethra was out of place and was cut off from the flesh of the glans penis by more than a finger’s width and when he urinated he would spray upward towards his eye. And I asked him how his happened to him. And he answered me saying: It was well known in the community that I had been ill and was obliged to walk with the help of a walking stick and in the end my legs gave in and I have not been able to walk at all for more than a year. And I bought a horse and hired a guide and I rode to Barcelona to see the benefactor and esteemed R. Sheshet, the physician. And when I came to see him and he saw my affliction, he said you have a worm in your glans penis which is eating on you and is also pulling towards it the tendons where the tendons come together, since all of them are connected and joined to each other. He said that if I agreed he would cut away the flesh containing the worm, but then it would be uncertain whether or not I would be able to father a child. And I agreed to the operation. And he took a scalpel and he cut in the place closest to the worm. And immediately the tendons of my legs were freed and spread out again as did my other organs. And he took a bandage and a dressing and he cured me, and here I am healthy as you can see for yourself and I have the same sexual desires as any other man. And the place of the cut was almost a finger and a half wide and went as far as the penis duct and beyond, and had damaged and affected to some extent the whole length of the penis, and upwards the cut was the width of the flesh without any damage apart from below where the jet of urine sprays and the sperm duct. And because these two cuts were attached together by the dressing there is now a scar in this place which draws the head of the glans penis upwards so urine sprays upwards. And relating to the subject of his request, I pronounced him fit to be a member of the community. And in the light of these matters his wife returned to him and he took her and a son was born and his father called him Eleazar, after me.

Source. Eliezer ben Joel ha-Levi, Sefer Ra‘aviah, ed. D. Debelitski. Bnei Brak 2000, No. 983, pp. 74–75.

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