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The Maharam Of Padua - A Bitter Battle, The Banning Of The Talmud, And The Advent Of Haskamos

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The Maharam Of Padua - A Bitter Battle, The Banning Of The Talmud, And The Advent Of Haskamos
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Rav Meir Katzenelenbogen was born in Prague in 5242/1482. He was a Talmid of Rav Yaakov Pollack in Poland and a close friend of his successor Rav Shalom Shachna the father in law of the Rema, before heading off to Italy where he became a talmid of Rav Yehuda Mintz, otherwise known as the Mahari Mintz. He was taken as a son in law by Rav Avrohom Mintz the son and successor of his father the Mahari.

After the petira of Rav Avrohom, Rav Meir became Rov of Padua and Venice, but his name and Psak reached far and wide all the way back to his roots in Eastern Europe where he was held to be one of the Gedolei HaDor by the younger Gedolim of his time including the Maharshal and the Rema who was a cousin of Rav Meir, and with whom he maintained halachic correspondence as well as quoting him in Shulchan Aruch. He also corresponded with Rav Ovadia Sforno and the Maharam Alshakar among others. The Maharashdam writes (EH 64) "All the words of the Rav HaMufla Maharam Padua z"l are Divrei Elokim Chaim... There is no doubt that you cannot argue with him, Ki Mi Yavo Acharei HaMelech?"

One of the landmark events of the Maharam's life was a dispute that broke out between two non-Jewish seforim publishers. In 1550 Aloiso Bragadini printed a new version of the Rambam's Mishneh Torah. it included Hagahos from Rav Meir who was also his partner in this venture. A competing printing house headed by Marco Guistiniani printed a competing edition that very same year including Rav Meir's hagahos although he did not reveal Rav Meir to be the author and downplayed their importance and scholarship value.

Rav Meir turned to the Rema for a psak on the matter and the Rema ruled in favor of Rav Meir and placed a Cheirem on the Guistiniani Edition until all the Bragadini copies were sold and the stipulations of the psak were upheld. Guistiniani then turned to the church, and in 1553 as a result of this, a law was issued banning the printing or possession of the talmud, based on supposed slanderous remarks made against Christianity.

A year later in 1554 a landmark takana was enacted by the Rabbonim including Rav Meir forbidding the publication of any sefer without prior haskama from the gedolim.

The Katzenelenbogen traces its roots back through Rashi to Dovid HaMelech. It is said that the vast majority of descendants from Eastern European Jewry can trace their roots back to this illustrious family. The Maharam Padua was niftar 10 Shevat 5325/1565 and is buried in the cemetery in Padua where his matzeiva still exists. Yehi Zichro Boruch!

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