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Section: Stories   Category: Gedolim Biographies
Maharam MiRottenberg - The Great Light From Behind The Prison Walls
In the Magid Meisharim which is a sefer recording the torah that a Malach learned Torah with Rav Yosef Karo the Michaber of the Shulchan Aruch, says that the Malach told Rav Yosef Karo the Halacha is always like the opinion of Rav Meir ben Boruch the Maharam MiRottenberg.  

The torah and mesorah of the Baalei Tosafos flowed through him to his numerous talmidim.  He was born in Worms, Germany around 4975/1215.  He was a talmid of the Rav Yitzchok of Vienna and then he traveled to Paris to learn under the great Ba'al Tosfos Rav Yechiel of Paris.  While he learned there together with Rabbeinu Peretz and the son-in-law of Rav Yechiel Rav Yitzchok of Korbeil (Smak), Rav Yechiel was forced to debate a kofer who denounced the Talmud to the Pope.  This led to the devastating burning of 24 wagon loads of Talmud in the streets of Paris.  The Maharam witnessing this tragedy wrote his famous Kinah that we say on Tisha B'Av Sha'ali Serufa Ba'Eish to commemorate this event.

He eventually returned to Germany where he became known as the outstanding posek and Gadol HaDor.  His Yeshiva attracted the great men of his generation including the Rosh, Mordechai, HaGahos Maimonis, the Shaarei Dura and others.

As conditions for the Jews in Germany deteriorated, the Maharam decided to flee Germany for safer pastures.  Along the way when passing through the city of Lombardy, he was spotted by a Kofer who reported him to an important Bishop who was passing through the city.  On 4 Tammuz 1286, the Maharam was arrested and handed over to Emperor Rudolf who imprisoned him and demanded an exorbitant ransom.

The ransom was raised by the Maharam's talmid the Rosh, but he refused to allow him to pay the ransom in accordance with the halacha forbidding ransom at too high value to discourage further kidnappings.  The Maharam spent the next seven years in jail where he was able to answer Shailos from all over the world as well as receive frequent visits from his talmid Rav Shimshon ben Tzaddok.  Many of his Shailos and Tshuvos were written in prison.

Even after his death on 19 Iyar 5053/1293 his body was not released until fourteen years later on 4 Adar 5607/1307 when he was ransomed for burial by R' Alexander ben Shlomo Wimpen, who spent almost his entire wealth to release the body.  For this he received the privilege of being buried near the Maharam in the cemetery in Worms.  

The Maharam's Mesiras Nefesh for the Klal and for halacha left a lasting impression and provided inspiration for the German Jews who were constantly persecuted, exiled, and murdered in Germany over the next few centuries.  The greatest light he emitted however, was the light of his torah which could not be kept behind bars, neither during his lifetime nor in his death.  Yehi Zichro Boruch!
RELATED ARTICLES:biography  Maharam MiRottenberg  prison

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