Another Rabbi with a lock on his oven?
A while back in a series of posts on the shabbes goy I mentioned that R. Meir of Rothenberg used to put a lock of sorts (“מפתח”) on his oven over Shabbat so that the non-Jewish servants wouldn’t add to the fire. I was only aware of this being done by R. Meir of Rothenberg so I was pleasantly surprised when I read in Israel Abrahams’s classic book Jewish Life in the Middle Ages the following,
Rabbi Solomon ben Aderet had a lock made to his stove and kept the key over the Sabbath to prevent his too considerate housemaid from lighting a fire on Saturdays.
(p. 83 [p. 99 in the expanded edition by Cecil Roth])
In another place Abrahams writes,
In Spain, a great pietist like Solomon ben Aderet (died about 1310) found it very difficult to evade the attention of a kind-hearted Christian housemaid. Though I have mentioned the incident before, it is worth citing the Rabbi’s own words: ‘Though in France they allow non-Jews to light a fire on Sabbaths in winter, I do not allow it. Two or three times I saw that my maidservant heated the oven, though I had repeatedly forbidden it. So I had a lock put on, and I remove the key on Friday evening, and only replace it on Saturday night.’
(p. 157 [p. 173 in the expanded edition by Cecil Roth])
In both instances Abrahams references the Responsa of the Rashbah, par. 857 (ed. Venice). The second time that Abrahams references the Rashbah’s responsum he also writes “An exactly similar story is told of Meir of Rothenberg (Güdemann, i. p. 255).” Abrahams apparently read about the description of R. Meir of Rothenberg’s actions in Moritz Güdemann’s Geschichte des Erziehungswesens der Cultur der abendlandischen Juden. I checked the reference in Güdemann and sure enough he talks about the responsum of R. Meir of Rothenberg, but does not reference the Rashbah. Things went awry when I checked Abrahams’s reference in the Rashbah (I checked ed. Venice) and saw R. Meir of Rothenberg’s responsum verbatim, complete with “ושלום מאיר בר ברוך שיחיה” at the end.
In his preface Abrahams writes that,
Indeed, I honestly believe that not five in a hundred of the many citations made in the course of the following pages have been set down without reference to the original sources. Moreover, a large proportion of my quotations, and almost all of my citations from Responsa, have been made at first hand.
I guess in a book as large and comprehensive as Abrahams’s work, one is allowed to make a few mistakes now and then.