The first edition of this text was greeted by lively debates and bitter controversy. In this new edition the author, a renowned scholar of Judaism, has enriched the text by clarifying and extending his analysis and defending his research methods and findings. The topic of Toaffs study is the medieval world of Ashkenazi Judaism, in which popular beliefs tinged by magic, superstition and visceral anti-Christian prejudice encouraged a widespread blood culture that clashed with Biblical and rabbinical precepts. This culture hosted distorted religious rituals which unwittingly supported accusations of ritual murder, i.e., the terrible so-called blood libels which lay at he heart of many anti-Hebrew persecutions. It is precisely from the confessions wrested in ritual murder trials (such as the one held in Trento and involving the death of two-year-old Simeon) that there emerges a description of this world. By exploring the libellous stereotype of murder rituals, Toaff depicts a different picture, heretofore unfamiliar in many ways, of those communities and offers an innovative contribution to the knowledge about European Judaism.
Ariel Toaff teaches Medieval and Renaissance History at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.