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Why Did Medieval Northern French Jewry (Ṣarfat) Disappear?

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Chapter Summary

In northern France, Rashi and his descendants transformed but did not begin northern French rabbinic learning any more than Rabbi Moshe b. Ḥanokh had in Cordoba. Rashi and the Tosafists did conquer the rabbinic world, and the printed Talmud became a French page. In the revolution that print engendered, spreading regional cultures throughout the Jewish world, northern French rabbinic culture became universal. Being universally adopted, the Rashi-Tosafist "national" origins were almost forgotten. Like the other French Jews, whom Christian political leaders treated as individuals, not as a legal community, members of the school of Rashi saw themselves as individuals who were concerned with keneset Yisra ʾel, not the culture of Ṣarfat. Rashi, Rabbenu Tam, Rabbi Yiṣḥaq of Dampierre and their students may serve as a symbol of medieval French Jewry. Rashi and the Tosafists are among the Jewish immortals; northern French Jewry was a Jewish diaspora that disappeared.

Keywords: Ṣarfat; Christian political leaders; Cordoba; Northern French Jewry; northern French rabbinic culture; Rashi; Tosafists



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