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16 Chapter One Moreover

by David Joshua Malkiel
16 Chapter One Moreover, this circle of leaders shrank during the Libro Grande period. This extreme circumscription of power is contrasted with evidence that those in power had little desire to rule. The Libro Grande shows that Venetian Jews made every effort to escape election, or even participation in the political process. The Venetian Jew preferred being ruled to ruling, anticipating that communal activity would cost him time and money, and gain him enemies. Thus, forcing a reluctant elite— presumably comprised of the communitys wealthier and more worldly constituents— to don the uncomfortable mantle of communal leadership and decision- making was one of the  fundamental characteristics of Venetian- Jewish communal politics. 19 4. Lay and Rabbinic Leadership The interplay between rabbinic influence over a community and the latters administration by wealthy lay constituents  is typical of medieval Jewish self- government in general. 2 0  Cooperation and conflict can both be documented, with each side recognizing the legitimacy of the others authority, but seeking to assert its own version of an appropriate status quo. Discussion of the Venetian context first focuses on two communal committee attempts to circumscribe the rabbis authority to grant rabbinic titles and to engage in communal administration. 2 1  The Venetian communitys struggle over the power to ordain has hitherto been interpreted as a proto- modern uprising against rabbinic  authority and tradition, conducted by a secularized laity. 2 2  Our discussion begins by showing that lay authority was solidly grounded in Talmudic and medieval texts and precedents, and was therefore not revolutionary per se. The next point is that neither of the two confrontations represents a 19 Trying to tempt gifted individuals with the offer of power and prestige, while keeping out the merely self- serving  does not seem to have been a dynamic of Venetian Jewish politics. 20 Throughout, the term lay is  used to denote non- rabbinic members of Jewish society. There were no barriers dividing these populations into separate social or economic classes. Therefore, no parallels should be drawn between my use of these terms and their  use in reference to the laity and clergy of medieval Christian society. 21 See chapter seven. 22 Klarr,  Shaagat, pp. 144,146.   Chapter Home  | TOC  | Index t t t t

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16 Chapter One Moreover, this circle of leaders shrank during the Libro Grande period. This extreme circumscription of power is contrasted with evidence that those in power had little desire to rule. The Libro Grande shows that Venetian Jews made every effort to escape election, or even participation in the political process. The Venetian Jew preferred being ruled to ruling, anticipating that communal activity would cost him time and money, and gain him enemies. Thus, forcing a reluctant elite— presumably comprised of the community's wealthier and more worldly constituents— to don the uncomfortable mantle of communal leadership and decision- making was one of the fundamental characteristics of Venetian- Jewish communal politics. 19 4. Lay and Rabbinic Leadership The interplay between rabbinic influence over a community and the latter's administration by wealthy lay constituents is typical of medieval Jewish self- government in general. 2 0 Cooperation and conflict can both be documented, with each side recognizing the legitimacy of the other's authority, but seeking to assert its own version of an appropriate status quo. Discussion of the Venetian context first focuses on two communal committee attempts to circumscribe the rabbis' authority to grant rabbinic titles and to engage in communal administration. 2 1 The Venetian community's struggle over the power to ordain has hitherto been interpreted as a proto- modern uprising against rabbinic authority and tradition, conducted by a secularized laity. 2 2 Our discussion begins by showing that lay authority was solidly grounded in Talmudic and medieval texts and precedents, and was therefore not revolutionary per se. The next point is that neither of the two confrontations represents a 19 Trying to tempt gifted individuals with the offer of power and prestige, while keeping out the merely self- serving does not seem to have been a dynamic of Venetian Jewish politics. 20 Throughout, the term \\" lay\\" is used to denote non- rabbinic members of Jewish society. There were no barriers dividing these populations into separate social or economic classes. Therefore, no parallels should be drawn between my use of these terms and their use in reference to the laity and clergy of medieval Christian society. 21 See chapter seven. 22 Klarr, \\" Sha'agat,\\" pp. 144,146. << Chapter >> Home | TOC | Index t t t t
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