Thursday, January 05, 2012

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The Maharam of Rothenburg

by Reb Akiva & Reb Avichaj @ Mystical Paths

A commentor, a descendant of the Maharm of Rothenburg, requested we tell the story of this holy rabbi.  Our friend Reb Avichai, who provided the pictures, shared a link from Chabad.org and some direct information.  Here’s the story…

Rabbi Meir ben Baruch, known by the abbreviation 'MaHaRaM' (Moreinu Horav Reb Meir) of Rothenburg, Talmudist and Paytan (religious poet), was born in Worms, Germany, nearly eight centuries ago, around the year 1220.

Rabbi Meir was an eyewitness to this public burning of twenty-four wagonloads of Talmudic manuscripts in June, 1244, and he bewailed this tragedy in his celebrated "Kina" (elegy, mournful poem) Shaali serufah which we say on Tisha b'Av.

The following year Rabbi Meir, already a famous Talmudist, returned to Germany, where he became the rabbi of several large communities successively. Finally he settled in Rothenburg, where he maintained, at his own cost, a famous Yeshivah. Among his disciples were many scholars who later became leading Talmudists and codifiers, notably Rabenu Asherben Jehiel ("ROSH") and Rabbi Mordecai ben Hillel Ashkenazi.

Rabbi Meir, became universally acknowledged as the leading authority on Talmud and Jewish law, and many communities in France, Italy and Germany frequently turned to him for instruction and guidance in all religious matters and on various points of law.

Those days were full of persecution for the Jews of Germany, and they lived in constant fear for their property and life. In the year 1286, Rabbi Meir took his entire family and set out for the Land of Israel, together with a group of well-to-do friends. In the Land of Israel they hoped to continue their work in behalf of their persecuted brethren. However, while passing through Lombardy, Rabbi Meir was recognized by an apostate Jew who was accompanying the archbishop of Mainz. The archbishop had Rabbi Meir arrested and taken back to Germany. There by order of King Rudolph, Rabbi Meir was imprisoned in the fortress of Ensisheim and held for ransom. The king knew that the Jews would give away their last mark to redeem their beloved Rabbi, and indeed the sum of 20,000 marks was raised for Rabbi Meir's freedom.

Rabbi Meir, however, forbade his friends and followers to pay any ransom for him. In his selflessness he knew that once ransom were paid for him, every noted Rabbi in Germany would be arrested and held for ransom by the greedy and cruel German rulers of those days. Thus Rabbi Meir preferred to remain in prison, and even die there, in order to save many others from a similar fate.

For seven years Rabbi Meir remained a prisoner in that fortress, until his passing in 1293. During this time his disciples were permitted to meet with him, and he was even able to compose several of his works within the prison walls. After he died, his body was not surrendered until 14 years later, when a heavy ransom was paid by a generous Jew, Alexander Suskind Wimpfen of Frankfort.

In return Alexander Suskind requested only that after his own death his body should be laid to rest by the side of the saintly Rabbi Meir.

According to legend, the MaHaRaM appeared to Reb Alexander Wimpfen in a dream and informed him, that due to the holy deed (of redeeming his body for a kosher funeral), he may choose between two heavenly blessings: One would be, that he and all of his offspring will become wealthy until the coming of Moshiach. The other one was, that he himself and the MaHaRaM would share together the same place in Gan Eden, but under the condition, that he will pass in the course of one year. Alexander Wimpfen's chose fell on the second blessing, and so it was.

The story is written on the Mazeiva of Alexander Wimpfen itself (in the above picture.)

1 comments:

Anonymous said...

in case someone would think that the action of Rabbi Meir would apply to a soldier captured by Hamas - i would like to point out that this article clearly states that the Rabbi's students visited him and he was able to compose several works. this is clearly in contrast to the life threatening conditions of a soldier in the hands of Hamas. Rabbi Meir's life as not in danger. the story of Rabbi Meir is not a teaching that can be applied to the release of Gilad Shalit.

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