From Worms to Rothenburg, and back to Worms
Located near the entrance to Worms’ old Jewish cemetery are gravestones of two important figures in medieval Jewish-German history. The cemetery is also called “Holy Sand”1, and is one of many places of interest in the medieval ShUM league of Jewish cities. The gravestones for Rabbi Meir ben Baruch (centre) and Alexander ben Salomo (right) are shown in the picture above.
Rabbi Meir ben Baruch2 was one of the most eminent rabbinic and legal experts of his time in Ashkenaz (medieval Jewish Germany) and throughout western Europe. He was born in Worms around 1215 AD/CE to a family of Talmud scholars. After studies in Mainz, Würzburg, and Paris, he moved to Rothenburg ob der Tauber where over a period of 35 years, he became a leading Talmud scholar and authority, wrote commentary and poetry, and taught and mentored students.
Meir’s strong attachment to the Holy Land eventually influenced his decision to emigrate with his family. Fearing the loss of tax revenue with mass emigration of Jews, King Rudolf the First captured and imprisoned him, and demanded a large sum for his release. Meir forbid the Jewish community to accede to the king’s demands. Meir died in 1293 as prisoner in the fortress near Ensisheim (Alsace).
In 1307 fourteen years after Meir’s death, merchant Alexander ben Salomo (Schlomo)3 paid a large ransom to liberate Meir’s remains and had the latter moved and buried in Worms’ Jewish cemetery. Salomo’s only stipulation was that he’d be buried next to Meir. Salomo died shortly thereafter and his wish was granted. Both Meir’s and Salomo’s gravestones are dated to the same (Gregorian) year of 1307. Gravestone inscriptions in Hebrew and German for Rabbi Meir ben Baruch and Alexander ben Salomo are provided by the Steinheim Institute.
1 In the southern section of the cemetery, two gravestones identified and dated to the mid 11th-century make “Holy Sand” (Heiliger Sand) the oldest preserved Jewish cemetery in Europe; more about the “Holy Sand” in a future post.
2 Rabbi Meir ben Baruch was also called “MaHaRaM”, an honorary title derived from “MHRM”, the first letters of the Hebrew moniker “Moreinu Harav Rabbi Meir” (Our teacher, the rabbi, Rabbi Meir).
3 Alexander ben Salomo (Schlomo) was also named Süsskind Wimpfen.