Piety Practicing in Medieval Ashkenaz

1978 words (8 pages) Essay

8th Feb 2020 Religion Reference this

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Regardless of their Christian surroundings, the beliefs, practices, and observance of piety by medieval urban communities of Northern France as well as Germany gave Jews legality to define and create their communities on their own terms (Abulafia, 123). Literate elites wrote most of the Jewish texts, and the laity observed majority of the religious rituals as a routine. In Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz, Elisheva Baumgarten questions the way Jews, and mainly the illiterate, managed to express their dominance due to their minority community. Primarily, this paper provides a social, religious and historical perspective, mostly pertaining to how Jews and Christians treated their male and especially their female colleagues.

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The author questions the convictions that were made apparent to both the Christian majority and the Jewish minority. Medieval Jews and their Christian counterparts shared many beliefs, notions and practices that were shared from one community to another. By depicting a dynamic faith and a diverse belief, a fresh assessment of Jewish tradition as well as shared practices made up the loyalty of the Jews over their majority Christian neighbors (Baumgarten, 126).

Baumgarten highlights the practices that continuously changed in Ashkenaz. His approach provides a vivid scenario that allowed for tremendous contribution towards the study of medieval Jewish history. The scholarly authorities opted to search for an appropriate ancient text that would aid in fostering these practices (167). Similarly, it makes it easy to find a comparison and a better comprehension of Christian practices.

Medieval culture, gender, inter-religious entanglements, and social history are well discussed. The primary attention on gender serves less to outline the obscured experiences that women faced, and instead, gives a brief comparison of the practices carried out by both genders. Baumgarten aimed to uncover the skills that non-elites possessed and similarly located the moments of social conflicts. These conflicts were aimed at looking for identification, as well as institutional control reflected by and imposed on women.

Baumgarten believes that women are marginalized and discriminated in the Jewish community. She delves on the differences between both genders as informed by the Christian background where the Jewish community lived. Additionally, she identifies the sources of religion within the social and cultural context. It is evident that Baumgarten’s analysis depicts ostensibly of personal acts of piety to show to the public. It also plays a vital role in restructuring the common ideals and the yearning for a community identity.

There is a lot of discrimination and demeaning to the women in the Jewish community (301). For instance, during the custom of sifrut de-bei Rashi, women always opted out of the synagogue due to menstruation[1]. This is a practice that calls for rigorous historical background by tracing any textual manifestation of this practice. However, according to Baumgarten, the initial impetus for frequent absenteeism from the synagogue during menstruation mostly had its basis on the religious women themselves. However, what seemed to be an optional religious practice was later normalized and thus rendered as a concrete justification of increased marginalization in places of worship (Baumgarten p.48). From this, Baumgarten succeeds in comparing both gender’s piety. The newly found preoccupation regarding female impurity is not, however, accompanied by issues regarding male impurity caused by seminal emissions. Controversially, men used to attend the synagogues with less emphasis put on their impurity status.

Baumgarten has aimed at anchoring the customs among the Christians and the Jews over the issues of impurity and entrance into sacred places dating back to early medieval times. Christian believers have debated on this issue of women who were menstruating, having a communion or attending masses dating back to early medieval times. During the late Middle Ages, there was a great emphasis regarding male clerical’s impurity [2]. The Christians deemphasized the issue of menstrual purity while Jewish elders were focused on the observance of the practice as a sign of their covenant. Baumgarten (2014) defines this as the covenant between their God and the women (247). Nonetheless, both the Jews and their Christian counterparts were aware of their purity issues. This awareness is in itself a kind of “competitive piety.”

Another imperative and a doubly-comparative issue that highlights the magnitude of gender disparity and discrimination is the issue of fasting. Like ostensible observance and adherence to niddah, rules and regulations had communal and public consequences. This changed to an increasingly visible and ubiquitous issue of pious during the medieval Ashkenaz. The increased issue on fasting led to a simultaneous adoption of the idea itself, and equally, the development of fasting regarding Christian piety had gender consequences. The Jews and the Christians together coordinated all the religious practice to a mutual idea of gender which had its basis on the assumption that women’s roles were limited to those of caregivers (Baumgarten p.245). This was compounded by the notion that even their biological creation only limited their options to make them adequate for religious expression. The reason for the rapid development and growth of Jewish fasting was because even to the Christians, the issue occupied a prominent place. However, both the Jews and the Christians anchored their faith and practices to ancient traditions, along with texts that had a complicated structures that entailed repentance[3].

Baumgarten supports these arguments by a juxtaposition of the familiar Jewish practices in comparison to the issues of the Christian religion. For example, Ashkenazi leaders only permitted women to recite and perform benedictions that involved solely men. However, throughout the Medieval period, increased restrictions were enacted that discouraged women from wearing or even make tsitsitand similarly tefillin (Baumgarten p.266).This is anequally familiar tale to the elites of the early Ashkenaz due to the information that vividly described these processes that had an adequate trend. The discriminatory and degrading of the female heightened in the early Middle ages until a self-conscious campaign was encouraged, which led to a large number of men adopting these responsibilities. The juxtaposition of men and women experiences revealed the extent of the limitations placed on the women’s pious expression.

A radical change took place in the early thirteenth century when critiques of gender disparity were done in a wide range of both moralistic and halakhic sources. There was a difference in articulations between men and women as the urge to limit women’s options for religious expressions heightened. As it was argued, men could manage to keep their entire bodies pure or clean long enough to be permitted to put on tefillin. At the same time, women were prohibited from wearing it[4]. The continued cases of gender disparity and the concurrent attempts to restrict women’s options reflect precise developments that were underway during the early thirteenth century. Thus, the consideration of both gender’s experiences, as well as settings of the Jewish practices regarding their Christian environment, results to a higher and fresh consideration on this issue of gender disparity when it comes to practicing of piety.

By exploring various ways through which piety could have manifested itself publicly during the medieval urban environment, Baumgarten constructs her arguments in a unique way. This involves surveying the garments, the hairstyles, and the fashions of both the Jews and the Christians. She points out that the tailoring of the Jews clothes would have aided in subtly differentiating the garments worn by the Jews from identical ones worn by the Christians. This led to having a Jewish fashion that became identical, as well as different, from those worn by the Christians. However, this assertion is developed from scanty evidence. Much of the focus is channeled on the need to reflect adequately on the needs of rabbinic scholars and less on the implementation of pious practices of the laypeople.

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Through rigorous and well-constructed arguments via a scathing attack on female discrimination and gendered perspective of loyalty in the Jewish community, Baumgarten finally fulfills her goals. It was supported that scholars would revisit the entrenched issues affecting rabbinic leadership as well as the social structure among the Jews[5]. There is substantive evidence aimed at supporting these criticisms. Baumgarten highlights the significant disparities that took place from as late as the Middle Age until when the issues started normalizing from the early thirteenth century. 

Baumgarten’s Practicing Piety in medieval Ashkenaz spurs one to the point of considering the extent to which Jews adapted with their piety and competed with Christians. The study gave a vivid variation of both the male and the female Jews when it came to the practice of piety. Practicing religion is a way of bringing together moralistic sources and historical sources with the halakhic ones in an attempt of making use of them. This aids in sharpening one’s notions on how social structures among the Jews impacted upon their religious observance.

Work cited

  • Abulafia, Anna SAPIR. “Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz: Men, Women, and Everyday Religious Observance. By Elisheva Baumgarten. University of Pennsylvania Press. 2014. 334 pp. $69.95/£ 45.50.” History101.344 (2016): 123-125.
  • Baumgarten, Elisheva. Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz: men, women, and everyday religious observance. University of Pennsylvania Press, (2014): 124-335.
  • Chazan, Robert. “Elisheva Baumgarten. Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz: Men, Women, and Everyday Religious Observance.” (2016): 1349-1350.

[1] Chazan, Robert. “Elisheva Baumgarten. Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz: Men, Women, and Everyday Religious Observance.” (2016): 1349-1350.

[2] Chazan, Robert. “Elisheva Baumgarten. Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz: Men, Women, and Everyday Religious Observance.” (2016): 1349-1350.

[3] Abulafia, Anna SAPIR. “Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz: Men, Women, and Everyday Religious Observance. By Elisheva Baumgarten. University of Pennsylvania Press. 2014. 334 pp. $69.95/£ 45.50.” History101.344 (2016): 123-125.

[4] Baumgarten, Elisheva. Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz: men, women, and

everyday religious observance. University of Pennsylvania Press, (2014): 124-335.

[5] Abulafia, Anna SAPIR. “Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz: Men, Women, and Everyday Religious Observance. By Elisheva Baumgarten. University of Pennsylvania Press. 2014. 334 pp. $69.95/£ 45.50.” History101.344 (2016): 123-125.

Regardless of their Christian surroundings, the beliefs, practices, and observance of piety by medieval urban communities of Northern France as well as Germany gave Jews legality to define and create their communities on their own terms (Abulafia, 123). Literate elites wrote most of the Jewish texts, and the laity observed majority of the religious rituals as a routine. In Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz, Elisheva Baumgarten questions the way Jews, and mainly the illiterate, managed to express their dominance due to their minority community. Primarily, this paper provides a social, religious and historical perspective, mostly pertaining to how Jews and Christians treated their male and especially their female colleagues.

The author questions the convictions that were made apparent to both the Christian majority and the Jewish minority. Medieval Jews and their Christian counterparts shared many beliefs, notions and practices that were shared from one community to another. By depicting a dynamic faith and a diverse belief, a fresh assessment of Jewish tradition as well as shared practices made up the loyalty of the Jews over their majority Christian neighbors (Baumgarten, 126).

Baumgarten highlights the practices that continuously changed in Ashkenaz. His approach provides a vivid scenario that allowed for tremendous contribution towards the study of medieval Jewish history. The scholarly authorities opted to search for an appropriate ancient text that would aid in fostering these practices (167). Similarly, it makes it easy to find a comparison and a better comprehension of Christian practices.

Medieval culture, gender, inter-religious entanglements, and social history are well discussed. The primary attention on gender serves less to outline the obscured experiences that women faced, and instead, gives a brief comparison of the practices carried out by both genders. Baumgarten aimed to uncover the skills that non-elites possessed and similarly located the moments of social conflicts. These conflicts were aimed at looking for identification, as well as institutional control reflected by and imposed on women.

Baumgarten believes that women are marginalized and discriminated in the Jewish community. She delves on the differences between both genders as informed by the Christian background where the Jewish community lived. Additionally, she identifies the sources of religion within the social and cultural context. It is evident that Baumgarten’s analysis depicts ostensibly of personal acts of piety to show to the public. It also plays a vital role in restructuring the common ideals and the yearning for a community identity.

There is a lot of discrimination and demeaning to the women in the Jewish community (301). For instance, during the custom of sifrut de-bei Rashi, women always opted out of the synagogue due to menstruation[1]. This is a practice that calls for rigorous historical background by tracing any textual manifestation of this practice. However, according to Baumgarten, the initial impetus for frequent absenteeism from the synagogue during menstruation mostly had its basis on the religious women themselves. However, what seemed to be an optional religious practice was later normalized and thus rendered as a concrete justification of increased marginalization in places of worship (Baumgarten p.48). From this, Baumgarten succeeds in comparing both gender’s piety. The newly found preoccupation regarding female impurity is not, however, accompanied by issues regarding male impurity caused by seminal emissions. Controversially, men used to attend the synagogues with less emphasis put on their impurity status.

Baumgarten has aimed at anchoring the customs among the Christians and the Jews over the issues of impurity and entrance into sacred places dating back to early medieval times. Christian believers have debated on this issue of women who were menstruating, having a communion or attending masses dating back to early medieval times. During the late Middle Ages, there was a great emphasis regarding male clerical’s impurity [2]. The Christians deemphasized the issue of menstrual purity while Jewish elders were focused on the observance of the practice as a sign of their covenant. Baumgarten (2014) defines this as the covenant between their God and the women (247). Nonetheless, both the Jews and their Christian counterparts were aware of their purity issues. This awareness is in itself a kind of “competitive piety.”

Another imperative and a doubly-comparative issue that highlights the magnitude of gender disparity and discrimination is the issue of fasting. Like ostensible observance and adherence to niddah, rules and regulations had communal and public consequences. This changed to an increasingly visible and ubiquitous issue of pious during the medieval Ashkenaz. The increased issue on fasting led to a simultaneous adoption of the idea itself, and equally, the development of fasting regarding Christian piety had gender consequences. The Jews and the Christians together coordinated all the religious practice to a mutual idea of gender which had its basis on the assumption that women’s roles were limited to those of caregivers (Baumgarten p.245). This was compounded by the notion that even their biological creation only limited their options to make them adequate for religious expression. The reason for the rapid development and growth of Jewish fasting was because even to the Christians, the issue occupied a prominent place. However, both the Jews and the Christians anchored their faith and practices to ancient traditions, along with texts that had a complicated structures that entailed repentance[3].

Baumgarten supports these arguments by a juxtaposition of the familiar Jewish practices in comparison to the issues of the Christian religion. For example, Ashkenazi leaders only permitted women to recite and perform benedictions that involved solely men. However, throughout the Medieval period, increased restrictions were enacted that discouraged women from wearing or even make tsitsitand similarly tefillin (Baumgarten p.266).This is anequally familiar tale to the elites of the early Ashkenaz due to the information that vividly described these processes that had an adequate trend. The discriminatory and degrading of the female heightened in the early Middle ages until a self-conscious campaign was encouraged, which led to a large number of men adopting these responsibilities. The juxtaposition of men and women experiences revealed the extent of the limitations placed on the women’s pious expression.

A radical change took place in the early thirteenth century when critiques of gender disparity were done in a wide range of both moralistic and halakhic sources. There was a difference in articulations between men and women as the urge to limit women’s options for religious expressions heightened. As it was argued, men could manage to keep their entire bodies pure or clean long enough to be permitted to put on tefillin. At the same time, women were prohibited from wearing it[4]. The continued cases of gender disparity and the concurrent attempts to restrict women’s options reflect precise developments that were underway during the early thirteenth century. Thus, the consideration of both gender’s experiences, as well as settings of the Jewish practices regarding their Christian environment, results to a higher and fresh consideration on this issue of gender disparity when it comes to practicing of piety.

By exploring various ways through which piety could have manifested itself publicly during the medieval urban environment, Baumgarten constructs her arguments in a unique way. This involves surveying the garments, the hairstyles, and the fashions of both the Jews and the Christians. She points out that the tailoring of the Jews clothes would have aided in subtly differentiating the garments worn by the Jews from identical ones worn by the Christians. This led to having a Jewish fashion that became identical, as well as different, from those worn by the Christians. However, this assertion is developed from scanty evidence. Much of the focus is channeled on the need to reflect adequately on the needs of rabbinic scholars and less on the implementation of pious practices of the laypeople.

Through rigorous and well-constructed arguments via a scathing attack on female discrimination and gendered perspective of loyalty in the Jewish community, Baumgarten finally fulfills her goals. It was supported that scholars would revisit the entrenched issues affecting rabbinic leadership as well as the social structure among the Jews[5]. There is substantive evidence aimed at supporting these criticisms. Baumgarten highlights the significant disparities that took place from as late as the Middle Age until when the issues started normalizing from the early thirteenth century. 

Baumgarten’s Practicing Piety in medieval Ashkenaz spurs one to the point of considering the extent to which Jews adapted with their piety and competed with Christians. The study gave a vivid variation of both the male and the female Jews when it came to the practice of piety. Practicing religion is a way of bringing together moralistic sources and historical sources with the halakhic ones in an attempt of making use of them. This aids in sharpening one’s notions on how social structures among the Jews impacted upon their religious observance.

Work cited

  • Abulafia, Anna SAPIR. “Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz: Men, Women, and Everyday Religious Observance. By Elisheva Baumgarten. University of Pennsylvania Press. 2014. 334 pp. $69.95/£ 45.50.” History101.344 (2016): 123-125.
  • Baumgarten, Elisheva. Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz: men, women, and everyday religious observance. University of Pennsylvania Press, (2014): 124-335.
  • Chazan, Robert. “Elisheva Baumgarten. Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz: Men, Women, and Everyday Religious Observance.” (2016): 1349-1350.

[1] Chazan, Robert. “Elisheva Baumgarten. Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz: Men, Women, and Everyday Religious Observance.” (2016): 1349-1350.

[2] Chazan, Robert. “Elisheva Baumgarten. Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz: Men, Women, and Everyday Religious Observance.” (2016): 1349-1350.

[3] Abulafia, Anna SAPIR. “Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz: Men, Women, and Everyday Religious Observance. By Elisheva Baumgarten. University of Pennsylvania Press. 2014. 334 pp. $69.95/£ 45.50.” History101.344 (2016): 123-125.

[4] Baumgarten, Elisheva. Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz: men, women, and

everyday religious observance. University of Pennsylvania Press, (2014): 124-335.

[5] Abulafia, Anna SAPIR. “Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz: Men, Women, and Everyday Religious Observance. By Elisheva Baumgarten. University of Pennsylvania Press. 2014. 334 pp. $69.95/£ 45.50.” History101.344 (2016): 123-125.

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