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.
Pinchas Roth (PR) is a post-doctoral fellow at Ben Gurion University of the Negev.