Charlemagne, now ruler of all of Western Europe, was master of a kingdom that had fallen very low culturally as well as economically. The successive invasions of the so-called “Barbarians” of Northern Europe, whose leading tribes. Among oihers, were the Goths, the Vandals and the Lombards, had reduced what had been the glory of ancient Rome, to ruined urban centers and had driven trade from that part of the world.
Moreover, the emperors of Rome, having removed the capital of the empire from its original home to Constantinople on the Bosporus, had played their role in diverting trade and commerce from Western Europe to the capital of what came to be known as the Byzantine Empire.
60. Briefly stated, what Charlemagne wanted was a renaissance of learning, a raising of the cultural standards of his kingdom. To this end he brought scholars from England, Ireland and Italy, the most prominent being Alcuin of York, who is credited with sparking the so-called “Carolingian Renaissance.”
61. The other factor that he demanded was people who could stimulate the economic revival of his empire. To achieve this goal,his decision was to bring Jews into Europe from Babylonia. He had no choice. At that time, in the year 800, the Islamic Empire of Babylonia with its capital at Baghdad, was the wealthiest empire in the Western world.
Its Jewish community was the most advanced, the most learned and culturally supreme. The Jews of Babylonia were quite wealthy and engaged in international trade on a large scale. Also, the Islamic Sultans, the Khalifs of Islam, were quite tolerant of their Jewish population and Jewish culture flourished in the Islamic Empire.
To achieve this goal, Charlemagne sent envoys to Baghdad to engage in discussions with the leaders of the Jewish communities. He succeeded in having the Jews agree to send some of their leading scholars to Christian Europe to elevate the standards of learning in the Jewish communities and to inspire them to participate in Jewish cultural life on higher level. He also provided them with all the facilities they would need to establish their schools in major urban centers. One was in Rome itself, another in Mayence, and another in Narbonne in southern France. These cities eventually became important centers of Jewish cultural growth in Christian Europe Rabbi Machir was one of the scholars who came from Babylonia.
62. But bringing Jewish scholars from Babylonia also meant that they brought the Babylonian Talmud with them. Seeing how more adaptable Jewish Law was as dealt with in the Babylonian Talmud, it did not take long before the Babylonian Talmud became, for all practical purposes, the legal system of the whole Jewish world.
63. Thus, from the beginning of the 9th century and down to the present day, the Babylonian Talmud has been the Corpus Juris of Jewish Life. The Jerusalem Talmud, which had served as the system of Jewish Law in the Christian world until this time, was still considered sacred Jewish literature, but it was thenceforth employed as a supplementary reference source.
63. The Babylonian Talmud has been, for centuries, the legal system of Jewish communities the world over. It remained so for all Jewish communities until the Age of Enlightenment and the Emancipation of the Jews of Western Europe and America beginning at the end of the 18th century. In the modern period many Jewish communities, having acquired equality and citizenship in many lands of the west, have also abandoned traditional Judaism and adopted variant forms of Jewish faith and worship.