Meshullam ben Nathan of Melun

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MESHULLAM BEN NATHAN OF MELUN (12th century), talmudist in northern France. Meshullam was born in Narbonne, where he eventually became a member of the bet din of *Abraham b. Isaac of Narbonne. From there he went to head the community of Melun. Meshullam became involved in a long and bitter dispute with Jacob *Tam, who accused him of abrogating ancient customs and replacing them with new ones; of introducing many lenient rulings; of exaggerated emendment of the text of the Talmud; of slighting *Rashi and French scholars in general; and of unwarranted independence in halakhah. Tam cited, among other instances, permitting a gentile to touch wine-vinegar, permitting ritual immersion for women in the daytime because of the danger from attacks by gentiles at night (an accusation denied by Meshullam), and abrogating the blessing over the Sabbath candles. Tam's complaint to the community of Melun resulted in a lengthy correspondence between the two men, which has in part been preserved (Sefer ha-Yashar le-Rabbenu Tam, Responsa vol. ed. by F. Rosenthal (1898), nos. 43–50). Meshullam defended himself vigorously against all the accusations of Tam, accusing him (though in much milder language) of essentially the same things and refusing to accept the slightest external interference in matters of Torah. The fact that Meshullam could base himself on existing halakhic traditions which differed in origin from those held by Tam, and his mastery of the Talmud, stood him in good stead in his dispute with Tam, the greatest scholar of his generation. Meshullam is frequently mentioned in the printed tosafot. Meshullam's son, Nathan, and his descendants after him (with the family name of Official) were renowned as the family of the Mekanne'im ("Zealots") because of its many noted polemists, who, for several generations, engaged in disputes with high church dignitaries.


Kahn, in: rej, 1 (1880), 222–46; 3 (1881), 1–38; Urbach, ibid., 100 (1935), 49–77; Urbach, Tosafot, 62–71 and index; Z. Malter, in: Mi-Mizraḥ u-mi-Ma'arav, 4 (1899), 9–16; J. Rosenthal, in: Aresheth, 2 (1960), 142–3.

[Israel Moses Ta-Shma]

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Meshullam ben Nathan of Melun

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