Wednesday, July 30, 2014

That Time When The Pope Wanted All his Jewish Subjects to Wear Sisit

Did you hear the one about the Pope who championed the Mitzvah of sisit for his Jewish subjects? No it's not a joke. It really happened.
Lateran Council IV, Canon 68: "On Jews and Muslims" (1215)
In some provinces a difference in dress distinguishes the Jews or Saracens from the Christians, but in certain others such a confusion has grown up that they cannot be distinguished by any difference. Thus it happens at times that through error Christians have relations with the women of Jews or Saracens, and Jews and Saracens with Christian women. Therefore, that they may not, under pretext of error of this sort, excuse themselves in the future for the excesses of such prohibited intercourse, we decree that such Jews and Saracens of both sexes in every Christian province and at all times shall be marked off in the eyes of the public from other peoples through the character of their dress. Particularly, since it may be read in the writings of Moses [Numbers 15:37–41], that this very law has been enjoined upon them.<<
From: H. J. Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils: Text, Translation and Commentary (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1937)
Here is the passage in question:
Numbers 15
37 The Lord said to Moses, 38 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. 39 You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. 40 Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. 41 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the Lord your God.’”

Could this be taken as a tacit admittan by the Pope that the Jews are still bound by The Old Testament code?
This landmark ruling marked the first time that European Jews were decreed to wear distinctive garb. 
Ironically, sisit and tefillin were often not clung to with zeal by medieval Ashkenazic Jews (מצוה זו רפויה בידם French tosafist Rabbi Moses of Coucy (c. 1240,), author of a compendium of commandments writes)



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