Smoke billows as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS/BENOIT TESSIER)
Two haredi news outlets highlighted the 13th century burning of 24 cartloads of Talmudic manuscripts in Paris following the severe fire damage caused to the Notre-Dame Cathedral on Monday.
The JDN news website went a step further and seemingly ascribed divine justice to the burning of the cathedral when it cited a phrase from Jewish liturgy, “and evil in its entirety will go up like smoke,” after noting in its Monday night report that the fires were yet to be brought under control.
It also headlined its article “Paris: Notre-Dame church which serves as a house of idol worship, goes up in flames.”
Some prominent rabbis, from medieval to modern times, have categorized Christianity as “idol worship,” due to concerns over whether Christianity fulfills Judaism’s definition of monotheism.
Wadie Abunassar, the “Advisor to Church Leaders in the Holy Land,” made an immediate demand to JDN that the phrase be removed, which the website subsequently agreed to.
The article went on to point out that after the Disputation of Paris in 1240 in which King Louis IX of France put the Talmud on trial at the urging of Jewish apostate Nicholas Donin, 24 wagon loads of Talmudic manuscripts were burnt in the Place de Grève, in close proximity to the Notre-Dame Cathedral in 1244.
The burning of these manuscripts, an estimated 12,000 in total, in an era before the printing press was a huge loss to the Jewish world and to Talmud study, leading one of the preeminent rabbis of the age, the Maharam of Rothenburg, to write a liturgical lamentation of the event which is now read every year on the Fast of Tisha Be’Av.
“The fire that is raging in the Notre-Dame Cathedral reminds us of the burning of the Talmud which took place in front of the church in 1244,” the JDN article read.
Yated Ne’eman, the largest selling haredi daily newspaper, also mentioned the burning of the Talmud in its article on Wednesday, mentioning the fire in Notre-Dame briefly and the recalling the Disputation of Paris and the subsequent destruction of the Talmudic manuscripts.
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, a leader of the conservative wing of the national-religious community, posted a question he received whether or not someone should be sad at the destruction of the cathedral, and the response he gave regarding the fire on the Srugim news website.
Aviner said the question of whether to be happy or not “is not our work at this time” and said that “it is not a religious requirement to find Christian churches abroad and burn them.”
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