The attitudes and practices of Jewish life in our day
began to emerge during the period of the Middle Ages. It is
significant that during these centuries, filled with persecu
tion and insecurity, the approach toward Jewish law and
tradition began to develop which enabled the Jews to sur.
vive until the period of enlightenment.
The literature of the Middle Ages is composed primarily
of Responsa. These embodied the thinking of the rabbinic
leaders and reflected the problems of the day. Outstanding
among the Ashkenazie rabbis who wrote such responsa was
the Maharil, Rabbi Jacob Molin, who through his inter-
pretations of religious law and adaptations of custom made
Halakhah viable to meet the challenging needs of the times.
Of the rabbis of the 14th and 15th centuries, his contribu-
tion and influence were probably among the most profound
and widespread. They have had a lasting effect in the es
tablishment of the Ashkenazic Minhag.
In “Custom and Survival,” Dr. Steiman presents in
scholarly, succinct fashion an analysis of the Maharil’s
methods, point of view and influence. These touched upon
every aspect of daily life, and to this day many of the
customs practiced by Ashkenazic Jews are rooted in the
teachings of the Maharil. For the student of Judaica, this
book will satisfy the most exacting demands of scholarship.
For the layman, it is a most enlightening exposition of a
largely unknown influence on modern Jewish life, presented
in a most interesting and understandable style.