A request for help with an entry on the Jews of Winchester

The project team wonders if anyone can help with the meaning of an entry in the fine roll for 1251-1252.  Entry number 173 from near the start of membrane 20, with the marginal annotation ‘concerning taking an inquisition’, is an order to the sheriff of Hampshire to inquire by oath of twelve of the more law-worthy Jews of Winchester by their roll, whether a Jew, Cressus of Stamford, had violently seized and taken away from the synagogue  of the Jews in the same city ‘the apple of eve’ to the shame and opprobrium of the Jewish community. If convicted, Cressus was to give one mark of gold to the king for the trespass.  The writ was authorised by the king and ‘witnessed as above’ which indicates it was witnessed by the king at Geddington on 19 January 1252.

What, then, is all this about?   Was ‘the apple of Eve’ some kind of object within the synagogue, perhaps of ritualistic significance, hence the shame involved in its theft.   Any ideas gratefully received.

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2 Responses to “A request for help with an entry on the Jews of Winchester”

  1. Ben says:

    Hi

    There’s no such thing in Judaism that I’m aware of (and searching for the Hebrew phrase תפוח חוה in the usual databases gives you שום דבר (nothing at all)). BUT there are objects of great value in synagogues that are shaped like fruit: the rimonim of the Sifre Torah, the pomegranate decorations that go on the ends of the Torah scroll. Even today these are purloined by the unscrupulous and/or needy, since they are highly decorated in gold and silver. I reckon that this is what is meant. A google image search for ‘rimonim’ (= pomegranates) will show you the sorts of thing I mean.
    That these might be confused for ‘apples of eve’ is likely. Judaism doesn’t recognise the fruit given by Eve to be an apple, but just to be a fruit. Now perhaps in later traditions this is associated with the rimon (I’m not sure, and I can’t face wading through the midrashim to find out!), since the rimon holds a special place in Judaism and is often equated with the Torah. A loose translation as the ‘apple of Eve’ (= fruit of Eve) might not be unexpected therefore. There’s always been a shade of ambiguity when translating Hebrew fruits into other languages, and you wouldn’t necessarily expect a 13th-c. Jew to be an expert on such matters, particularly given the (presumably) limited range of fruits that he might have been exposed to in 13th-c. Winchester.

    Ben

  2. Louise Wilkinson says:

    Many thanks for this Ben. This is tremendously helpful.

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