Takkanot Shum
The or Enactments of SHU"M were a set of decrees formulated and agreed upon over a period of decades by the leaders of three of the central cities of Medieval Rhineland
Historically, the Rhinelands refers to a loosely-defined region embracing the land on either bank of the River Rhine in central Europe....

 Jewry: Speyer
Jewish community of Speyer
The history of the Jews in Speyer, Germany, reaches back over 1,000 years.In the Middle Ages the city of Speyer, Germany, was home to one of the most significant Jewish communities in the Holy Roman Empire. After many ups and downs throughout history the community was totally wiped out 1940 in the...

, Worms
Worms, Germany
Worms is a city in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, on the Rhine River. At the end of 2004, it had 85,829 inhabitants.Established by the Celts, who called it Borbetomagus, Worms today remains embattled with the cities Trier and Cologne over the title of "Oldest City in Germany." Worms is the only...

, and Mainz
Mainz under the Holy Roman Empire, and previously was a Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire...

. The initials of the Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 names for these cities, , , and form the initials . While these regulations were intended to address the problems of that time, they had an effect on European Jewry that lasted centuries.


Following the devastation of much of the Jewish communities of the Rhineland during the First Crusade, Jews who had formerly made their livings as itinerant merchants could no longer travel safely, and had to find careers in the cities which they lived. Many became local merchants; others became moneylenders. This drastically increased the rate of commerce between Jews and non-Jews, and, thus, litigation both internally amongst Jews and between Jews and Non-Jews. Simultaneously, heavy taxes were being levied on the Jewish communities by the local government, taxes which many Jews at the time felt were being unfairly distributed by the leaders of the local kehilla. The increasing internal and external pressures on the Jewish community, together with their recent near destruction during the Crusades, caused the leaders of the time to take the step of instituting broad decrees to strengthen their communities.

Synod of the Takkanot

In or around 1160, a synod
A synod historically is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not...

 was held in Troyes
Troyes is a commune and the capital of the Aube department in north-central France. It is located on the Seine river about southeast of Paris. Many half-timbered houses survive in the old town...

. This synod was led by Rabbeinu Tam
Rabbeinu Tam
Rabbeinu Tam , born Jacob ben Meir, was one of the most renowned French Tosafists and a foremost halachic authority of his generation...

, his brother, the Rashbam
Samuel ben Meir after his death known as "Rashbam", a Hebrew acronym for: RAbbi SHmuel Ben Meir, was a leading French Tosafist and grandson of Shlomo Yitzhaki, "Rashi."-Biography:...

, both grandchildren of Rashi
Shlomo Yitzhaki , or in Latin Salomon Isaacides, and today generally known by the acronym Rashi , was a medieval French rabbi famed as the author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud, as well as a comprehensive commentary on the Tanakh...

, and Eliezer ben Nathan
Eliezer ben Nathan
Eliezer ben Nathan of Mainz , Ra'aven , was a halakist and liturgical poet. As an early Rishon, he was a contemporary of the Rashbam and Rabbeinu Tam, and one of the earliest of the Tosafists. He was the son-in-law of Rabbi Eliakim b. Joseph of Mainz, a fellow student of Rashi...

 (the Ra'avan). Over 250 rabbis
In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

 from communities all over France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 attended as well. A number of communal decrees were enacted at the synod covering both Jewish-Gentile
The term Gentile refers to non-Israelite peoples or nations in English translations of the Bible....

 relations as well as matters relating internally to the Jewish community. Examples of such decrees include:
  • The restriction requiring Jews engaged in monetary disputes amongst themselves to have the case decided by a Jewish beth din
    Beth din
    A beth din, bet din, beit din or beis din is a rabbinical court of Judaism. In ancient times, it was the building block of the legal system in the Biblical Land of Israel...

    , and not a secular court, unless one of the parties was refusing to accept the ruling rendered by the beth din.
  • A person disputing the kehillah’s tax assessment on him should pay the tax first and then bring the assessors to beth din
    Beth din
    A beth din, bet din, beit din or beis din is a rabbinical court of Judaism. In ancient times, it was the building block of the legal system in the Biblical Land of Israel...

  • A person lending space to a community to act as a synagogue cannot restrict specific individuals from praying there. He can only rescind the permission in toto.

Among the many new decrees implemented or older decrees strengthened was the famous ban of Rabbenu Gershom
Gershom ben Judah
Gershom ben Judah, best known as Rabbeinu Gershom and also commonly known to scholars of Judaism by the title Rabbeinu Gershom Me'Or Hagolah , was a famous Talmudist and Halakhist.Rashi of Troyes Gershom ben Judah, (c. 960 -1040? -1028?) best known as Rabbeinu Gershom (Hebrew: רבנו גרשום, "Our...

 against polygamy
Polygamy is a marriage which includes more than two partners...


Synods of SHUM

The synod in Troyes was binding only on French Jewry. In or around 1196, the rabbis and community leaders throughout the entire Rhineland
Historically, the Rhinelands refers to a loosely-defined region embracing the land on either bank of the River Rhine in central Europe....

 called a synod of their own in Mainz
Mainz under the Holy Roman Empire, and previously was a Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire...

, in which they affirmed most of the decrees of the Troyes synod, and added a number of their own. The decrees did not take as firm hold as was desired, so twenty-four years later, in 1220, a second synod was convened in Mainz, in which the leaders of the generation re-affirmed the decrees enacted in the first synod. Important historical figures attending one or both of these synods included David of Münzenberg
Münzenberg is a town in the Wetteraukreis district in Hesse, Germany. It is located 13 km north of Friedberg, and 16 km southeast of Gießen. The castle of Münzenberg is in the town....

, Simha of Speyer
Simha of Speyer
Simha ben Samuel of Speyer was a German rabbi and tosafist. Neither the year of his birth nor that of his death is known. He was one of the leading signatories of the Takkanot Shum . He was a nephew of the director Kalonymus, a pupil of R...

, Jacob ben Asher of Speyer, Eliezer ben Joel HaLevi
Eliezer ben Joel HaLevi
Eliezer ben Yoel HaLevi was a noted rabbi and Talmudic scholar. He was a grandson of Eliezer ben Nathan , and authored Sefer Avi Ezri which is more commonly known by its author's acronym as Sefer Ra'avyah. He had a significant influence on Asher ben Jehiel...

, and Elazar Rokeach
Elazar Rokeach
Eleazar Rokeach , also known as Eleazar of Worms or Eleazar ben Judah ben Kalonymus, was a leading Talmudist and mystic, and the last major member of the Chassidei Ashkenaz, a group of German Jewish pietists.- Biography :...


These enactments covered both internal issues within the Jewish community as well as issues that involved interactions with the non-Jewish government of the time. Specific examples of enactments instituted or strengthened at the Rhineland synods include:
  • The placement of a cherem
    Cherem , is the highest ecclesiastical censure in the Jewish community. It is the total exclusion of a person from the Jewish community. It is a form of shunning, and is similar to excommunication in the Catholic Church...

    on anyone who informed on another Jew until such time as restitution was made.
  • The removal of all exceptions to community-imposed taxes.
  • The prohibition against lending money to other Jews without ensuring strict adherence to the halakhot
    Halakha — also transliterated Halocho , or Halacha — is the collective body of Jewish law, including biblical law and later talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions.Judaism classically draws no distinction in its laws between religious and ostensibly non-religious life; Jewish...

    that dealt with loans.
  • The prohibition against calling someone a mamzer
    The Hebrew noun mamzer in the Hebrew Bible and Jewish religious law, is a person born from certain forbidden relationships, or the descendant of such a person. A mamzer is someone who is either born of adultery by a married woman, or born of incest , or someone who has a mamzer as a parent...

    or otherwise cast aspersions about the legal validity of his or her parents' marriage.
  • The permission for the estate of a deceased person to be used to educate his or her children, even if the deceased indicated some other specific use for the funds.

There were many other decrees that dealt with various aspects of Jewish legal, financial, and religious life of the times.

In 1223 a third synod was held in the Rhineland community, this time in Speyer
Speyer is a city of Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany with approximately 50,000 inhabitants. Located beside the river Rhine, Speyer is 25 km south of Ludwigshafen and Mannheim. Founded by the Romans, it is one of Germany's oldest cities...

. The main focus of this synod was the "Chalitzah takkana," but other decrees were discussed, including the prohibition against a one person either placing or lifting a cherem. To be either placed or lifted, such bans needed more than one community leader to agree. Notable attendees of this third synod included Elazar Rokeach and David ben Shaltiel.

Modern adherence

While parts of various decrees still remain in force, the majority of the Takkanot Shum are no longer considered in force by most Ashkenazic Jewry. The decrees were instituted to deal with specific religious and sociological problems of the time, and were not considered to be placed in force for perpetuity, but for only as long as such issues existed. However, there are two specific decrees still considered active today: the Dowry takkana and the Chalitzah takkana.

Dowry takkana

At this time it was common to marry off daughters quite young, as soon as a suitable husband could be found and a dowry
A dowry is the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings forth to the marriage. It contrasts with bride price, which is paid to the bride's parents, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage. The same culture may simultaneously practice both...

 put together. Combined with childhood diseases and a high general mortality rate this meant that it was not uncommon for young people to die within a short time of marriage, before their spouses had formed lasting relationships with their families. Under Jewish inheritance law, a husband is his wife's sole heir, but a wife does not inherit from her husband. Thus, no matter who died, the dowry, which represented a substantial sacrifice by the wife's parents for their daughter's happiness, would end up with the husband or his family. As a result, parents became reluctant to give their daughters large dowries, which in turn led to difficulty in finding them husbands. Therefore the synod of Troyes, led by Rabbenu Tam, decreed that if a husband or wife dies within a year of marriage without leaving a surviving child, the dowry would revert to the parents who had given it; if the death was within two years half the dowry would revert. While Rabbenu Tam rescinded this decree before his death, it was reaffirmed by his students in the first synod of SHUM. This decree is today incorporated by reference into the standard Ashkenazi prenuptial contract (tena'im), with the phrase "and in case of absence [a euphemism for death] it will stand as the decree of ShUM"; in some communities even this elliptical mention of death is thought unlucky at a wedding, so it is merely hinted at with the cryptic phrase "and in case, etc." Even if it is not explicitly referenced at all, or if there is no contract, it is assumed that the parties consented to it unless it is explicitly excluded.

Chalitzah takkana

When a husband died childless, there is a mitzvah
The primary meaning of the Hebrew word refers to precepts and commandments as commanded by God...

 for a surviving brother to perform either Yibbum
Yibbum , or levirate marriage, in Judaism, is one of the most complex types of marriages mandated by Torah law by which, according to the law, the brother of a man who died without children has an obligation to marry the widow...

or Chalitzah
Under the Biblical system of levirate marriage known as Yibbum, Halizah is the ceremony by which a widow and her husband's brother could avoid the duty to marry after the husband's death....

. Already in the times of the Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

, performing yibbum was deprecated in favor of chalitza for various reasons. The decrees enacted in the various synods of SHUM dealt with the time span allowed and the disbursement of the deceased's property after chalitzah.

The original decree, discussed at all three synods of SHUM, instituted a time limit of three months after the husband's death within which to perform yibbum or chalitzah (although yibbum was rarely, if ever, performed) and after the chalitzah, a beth din would decide upon the disbursement of the estate, with no recourse for the brother performing chalitzah to subsequently sue. This decree was yet again re-affirmed 60 years later by Meir of Rothenburg
Meir of Rothenburg
Meir of Rothenburg was a German Rabbi and poet, a major author of the tosafot on Rashi's commentary on the Talmud...


However, in 1381, another synod was held in Mainz that changed the disbursement—instituting an even split between the widow and all surviving brothers. This was a change from previous tradition in which, most often, the brother performing the chalitzah would receive the ketubah
A ketubah is a special type of Jewish prenuptial agreement. It is considered an integral part of a traditional Jewish marriage, and outlines the rights and responsibilities of the groom, in relation to the bride.-History:...

monies, as well as usually receiving most, if not all, of the surviving estate. This version is the second of the decrees still enforced today.
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