Jewish Life in the Middle Ages
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: Jewish Publication Society
THE expression 'middle ages' is often employed in a very elastic sense, but as to the inner life of the Jews it has little or no relevancy. There was neither more nor less medievalism about Jewish life in the ninth than there was in the fourteenth century. If medievalism implies moral servitude to a Church and material servitude to a polity, - a polity known in one form as Imperialism and in another as feudalism, - the Jews had no...
CHAPTER I. THE CENTRE OF SOCIAL LIFE
THE medieval life of the Jews had for its centre the synagogue. The concentration of the Jewish populations into separate quarters of Christian and Moslem towns was initially an accident of Jewish communal life. The Jewish quarter seems to have grown up round the synagogue...
CHAPTER II. LIFE IN THE SYNAGOGUE
THE attitude of the medieval Jew towards his House of God was characteristic of his attitude towards life, Though the Jew and the Greek gave very different expressions to the conception, the Jew shared with the Greek a belief in the essential unity of life amidst its detailed obligations, It is not enough to say that the Jew's...
CHAPTER III. COMMUNAL ORGANIZATION
THE original identity between the organizations of Synagogue and Church was obliterated by the earlier growth within the latter of institutions. The Jewish communal organization provided for everything that the Church supplied, but it did so without specialization, without...
CHAPTER IV. INSTITUTION OF THE GHETTO
LONG before residence within a restricted quarter or ghetto1 was compulsory, the Jews almost everywhere had concentrated in separate parts of the towns in which they lived.2 Though the era of the ghetto proper begins with the sixteenth century. Numerous records are extant...
CHAPTER V. SOCIAL MORALITY
PRESENT-DAY observers are commonly struck by the domesticity of Jewish men. Even the working man among the Jews spends his leisure at home. This feature of Jewish life dates from the early middle ages, and is easily explained. Judaism demanded devout attention to...
CHAPTER VI. THE SLAVE TRADE
THE real blot on the social morality of the middle ages lies in the attitude both of Church and Synagogue towards slavery. The holding of slaves and the trade in them, nay, the direct enslavement of captives, were not made unlawful by the Church until the thirteenth century,l Jews had ceased to enslave Jews long before the Christian...
CHAPTER VII. MONOGAMY AND THE HOME
HEINE has familiarized the modern world with an imposing feature of Jewish home life in the middle ages. The Jewish home was a haven of rest from the storms that raged round the very gates of the ghettos, nay, a fairy palace in which the bespattered objects of the mob's derision threw off their garb of shame and resumed the royal attire of freemen. The home was the place where...
CHAPTER VIII. HOME LIFE (continued)
IF then the synagogue reproduced the home, the home was the analogue of the synagogue. All the ritual ceremonies of the latter had their counterpart in the domestic preparations. Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles, Chanuka, Purim, were all home feasts.1 Jewish history, too, was taught in the home by the occasional fast-days, the rites...
CHAPTER IX. LOVE AND COURTSHIP
THE prevalence of child-marriages in the middle ages reduced Jewish courtship to an expression of the will of the parents. But the sons of Israel did not quite forget that the noblest of love poems is contained in the Hebrew Bible. The Song of Songs was perhaps the most popular of all the Books of the Old Testament. It was read in...
CHAPTER X. MARRIAGE CUSTOMS
THE choice of certain days of the week on which to celebrate Jewish marriages was, however, quite free from superstitious motives. The favourite wedding day in the middle ages was Friday,l The selection of this day was entirely against the Talmudic prescriptions on the subject...
CHAPTER XI. TRADES AND OCCUPATIONS
IN the year 1160, or thereabouts, a Jewish merchant left Tudela, his native town in Navarre, on a journey round the world. Of the incidents of this journey, Benjamin of Tudela's Itinerary has preserved the precious record.l Benjamin travelled from Saragossa by way of Catalonia, the South of France, Italy, Greece, the Archipelago, Rhodes, Cyprus, and Cilicia, to Syria, Palestine, the lands...
CHAPTER XII. TRADES AND OCCUPATIONS (continued)
THE medieval Jews, however, even where they were free to choose their own handicrafts, were not very prone to select those which involved mere physical exertion. They were not so much wanting in endurance, they were not so much to shirking bodily toil, as they were con temptuous of unskilled labour. The restrictions...
APPENDIX TO CHAPTERS XI AND XII
CHAPTER XIII. THE JEWS AND THE THEATRE
ABOUT thirty-five years ago a certain Solomon Benoliel built a theatre in Gibraltar with the intention of letting it for dramatic performances. Some scruples were felt as to the lawfulness of his conduct, and application was made to a foreign Rabbi for his opinion on...
CHAPTER XIV. THE PURIM-PLAY AND THE DRAMA IN HEBREW
THOUGH the Jews received rough treatment in the Carnival sports, they yet were not able to resist the temptation to imitate them. Purim, or the Feast of Esther, occurs at about the same time as Lent, and thus Purim became the Jewish Carnival. The Jewish children in Italy used to range themselves in rows, then they pelted one another with nuts...
CHAPTER XV. COSTUME IN LAW AND FASHION
IT would be impossible to find in older Jewish literature a parallel to the Oriental proverb that 'the shirt does not change the colour of the wearer's skin.' On the other side, it is easy to philosophize too subtly on the subject of clothes, for it is a mere exaggeration to assert that costume is t the impression and expression of a people's thought and...
CHAPTER XVI. THE JEWISH BADGE
THE close alliance between Jewish and general costume in the middle ages is perhaps seen most clearly in the exaggerations of fashion which reached their climax in Italy at the beginning of the fourteenth century. It will be unnecessary to enter into much detail here with regard to the sumptuary laws on the subject of extravagance in dress, for incidental allusions have been already made to several such attempts to check the ruinous excess which...
CHAPTER XVII. PRIVATE AND COMMUNAL CHARITES THE RELIEF OF THE POOR
LANCELOT ADDISON, in his entertaining account of the Jews of Barbary,l is at some pains to dispel the belief prevalent at his time that ' the Jews have no beggars.' He attributes this error to the ' regular and commendable ' methods by which the Jews supplied the needs of their poor and ' much concealed their poverty.' The medieval...
CHAPTER XVIII. PRIVATE AND COMMUNAL CHARITY (continued) THE SICK AND THE CAPTIVE
IT is obvious that if the charitable organization was to keep pace with the wants of the sick and the poor, special arrangements had to be made for meeting the various types of necessity.'Societies' were already instituted at the end of the thirteenth century,1 but a most luxuriant crop of benevolent agencies grew up in the sixteenth and seventeenth...
CHAPTER XIX. THE MEDIEVAL SCHOOLS
THE Renaissance produced a violent transformation in the relative excellence of the Jewish and Christian systems of education in Europe. Before the revival of letters, the Jews were probably better educated than any other section of the European population. The average Jew could always read and...
CHAPTER XX. THE SCOPE OF EDUCATION
UP to the thirteenth year the education of Jewish boys all the world over was practically identical. Religion was the foundation of the school curriculum, and the training that the child received was designed to form his character as well as his mind. Herein lay the advantage of the medieval...
CHAPTER XXI. MEDIEVAL PASTIMES AND INDOOR AMUSEMENTS
A MERRY spirit smiled on Jewish life in the middle ages, joyousness forming, in the Jewish conception, the coping stone of piety. There can be no greater mistake than to imagine that the Jews allowed their sufferings to blacken their life or cramp their optimism. Few pastimes of the...
CHAPTER XXII. MEDIEVAL PASTIMES (continued) CHESS AND CARDS
THOUGH it is open to grave doubt whether the game of chess is referred to in the Talmud, it was already a well- known Jewish pastime in the twelfth century. It seems to have first made its way into Jewish circles as a women's game; indeed most of the indoor games of the Jews in the...
CHAPTER XXIII. PERSONAL RELATIONS BETWEEN JEWS AND CHRISTIANS
IF the legal status of the Jews were our sole criterion, the picture of their relations with medieval Christians would need to be painted in very sombre hues. Laws, however, were made to be broken, and the actual relations between Jews and Christians were...
CHAPTER XXIV. PERSONAL RELATIONS (continued) LITERARY FRIENDSHIPS
SOME fine illustrations of this last phenomenon - namely, the power of great medieval Jews to rise above their personal experiences in order to form a fair estimate of another faith-will lead us to one of the most fertile causes promotive of personal intercourse between Jews and Christians in the middle ages. Maimonides was himself a sufferer from Mohammedan fanaticism, and his father...
INDEX I. HEBREW AUTHORITIES
INDEX II. GENERAL INDEX
Publication Year: 2010
OCLC Number: 794700955
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