In This Land: Jewish Life and Legal Culture in Late Medieval Provence
Studies and Texts 223; Judaism in the Medieval and Early Modern World 1 • 2021 • x, 168 pp. • ISBN 978-0-88844-223-9 • Cloth • $90
Jewish communities existed across the county of Provence throughout the Middle Ages. In This Land reveals the changes that those communities underwent during the late-thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and the social and cultural tensions that shaped their identity.
Legal responsa and other genres of rabbinic literature produced in Provence during this period – many of them previously unpublished – provide access to aspects of the past that have long gone unnoticed. Engagement with legal culture played a central role in the formation of medieval communal identity, providing both a language and a forum for the airing of grievances and the demarcation of social legitimacy. Relations among different ethnic and religious groups, warring spouses, legists and local power brokers were negotiated through the intricacies of Jewish law or Halakhah. Through a close and historically contextualized reading of rabbinic sources, this book provides a startlingly vivid portrait of Jewish life in southern France during the later Middle Ages.
Pinchas Roth teaches in the Department of Talmud and Oral Law in the Faculty of Jewish Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. A critical edition of the Responsa of Rabbi Isaac ben Samuel of Dampierre, co-edited with Rami Reiner, was published in 2020. His articles have appeared in AJS Review, Journal of Medieval History, Revue des études juives, Jewish Studies Quarterly, and Medieval Encounters, among other journals. A specialist in the history of Halakhah (Jewish law) in the medieval West, he is currently preparing a corpus of medieval rabbinic responsa from England.
“In This Land is a remarkable achievement by any standard. It is a clear and well-argued study of the inner workings of the Jewish communities of the medieval county of Provence, ‘This Land,’ in the idiom of the natives. The author addresses with precision and insight the legal system, social practices, cultural conflicts, and intellectual disputes arising out of the different origins of the Jewish inhabitants of the county. Yet, the study possesses a power beyond its substantive findings. It is a roadmap of how to deal creatively and intelligently with what at first sight appear to be almost intractable sources, namely, the contemporary Hebrew responsa, that body of precedents, advice, and critical discourse, in laconic and highly allusive form, on the proper operation of Jewish law.” — William Chester Jordan, Princeton University
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