The Tri­al of the Tal­mud: Paris, 1240

John Fried­man, Jean Con­nell Hoff & Robert Chazan
  • Review
By – May 17, 2013
The events of 1240, when the Tal­mud — and, by exten­sion, the entire rab­binic tra­di­tion and any Jew­ish claims to legit­i­ma­cy — was put on tri­al before the Queen of France, are a fair­ly well remem­bered moment in Jew­ish his­to­ry. Rab­bi Meir of Rothenburg’s dirge (includ­ed at the end of this book) com­mem­o­rat­ing the burn­ing of the Tal­mud, which occurred in Paris in the wake of the tri­al, has become emblem­at­ic of the medieval Jew­ish expe­ri­ence of per­se­cu­tion and suf­fer­ing. The pro­ceed­ings of the tri­al itself have been pre­served from two inde­pen­dent van­tage points. Var­i­ous Latin sources, includ­ing papal let­ters and an enu­mer­a­tion of the accu­sa­tions lev­eled against the Tal­mud, tell the sto­ry from the side of the Chris­t­ian accusers, while Rab­bi Yehiel of Paris com­posed an account of the defense that he offered at the tri­al. All of these texts have been pub­lished mul­ti­ple times, in var­i­ous forms, and sev­er­al impor­tant stud­ies have been writ­ten about them. The Tri­al of the Tal­mud gath­ers all of the rel­e­vant texts togeth­er in anno­tat­ed Eng­lish trans­la­tions, and Robert Chazan’s intro­duc­tion pro­vides a wide his­tor­i­cal con­text for the events and the dif­fer­ent texts. This pleas­ant­ly slim paper­back vol­ume seems designed for use in col­lege class­rooms, where it will pro­vide con­ve­nient access to these impor­tant texts. It includes a short top­i­cal index, and the bib­li­o­graph­ic details of the trans­lat­ed texts are found in Chazan’s essay. 

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