Regional boundaries and medieval halakhah: Rabbinic responsa from Catalonia to southern France in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries

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Abstract

The medieval Jewish communities of Catalonia and Southern France lived in geographic proximity to each other. They were also quite similar culturally, and maintained ties with each other for centuries. However, the opinions of some historians notwithstanding, the two communities were not identical to each other and they perceived themselves as distinct entities. This article makes this point by focusing on the Halakhic responsa sent from Catalonia to Southern France in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Most Catalonian rabbinic authorities who fielded questions from Southern France were approached because the communities in Provence and Languedoc needed an outside authority to resolve an issue on which their local authorities were divided. Rabbi Shlomo ben Abraham ibn Adret (Rashba) stands out in this regard, because he received almost 100 questions from Southern France. Several of Rashba's responsa to that region betray what are probably misunderstandings stemming from Adret's distance from Southern France and its political realities. These misunderstandings underscore the real and conceptual distance that lay between Barcelona and Southern France. They also emphasize the personal prestige that Rashba enjoyed in Southern France, to the extent that his questioners were willing to run the risk that his answer would not be entirely applicable to their situation. This prestige did not carry over to Adret's successors in Barcelona, and the Provençal communities reverted to their earlier policy of sending questions to Catalonia only when they could be resolved locally.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-98
Number of pages27
JournalThe Jewish Quarterly Review
Volume105
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Religious studies

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