I hesitate to keep sharing these posts from Torah In Motion because I have heard several ideas I find objectionable, but there's some good reporting too.
"Musings from Mainz
"Askenazic Jewry begins as Jews settle along the Rhine river in the middle decades of the tenth century. While individual Jews may have arrived in earlier years it is only in the 10th century when the first communities are established.
"It is Rabbeinu Gershom of Mainz who puts Askenaz on the map. Biographically we know little of him and his fame today rests primarily with the takkanot he established, the most famous being the prohibition of polygamy. But his even greater importance lay in the Torah community that he spearheaded in Mainz and throughout Germany. It is not by chance that he is known as Rabbeinu Gershom Maor Hagolah, the light of the exile. His cherem, ban of excommunication, on reading the private letters of others has much application in the internet age.
"Takkanot are laws established for the betterment of society - Talmudic examples include a purzbul or not overpaying to redeem hostages. Adding a cherem adds a curse that one who violates the takkanah should drop dead, and if he does so under the ban of cherem burial rites were to be denied and mourning was not to be observed. What a cherem often did was take an existing law and give it additional teeth.
"It was the development of Germany as a major centre of learning that brought Rashi from France to Germany. His teachers were the students of Rabbeinu Gershom, most notably Rav Yaakov ben Yakar. One can still see the tombstones of Rav Yaakov and Rabbeinu Gershom in the ancient cemetery of Mainz."
continue reading but ignore what seems to be a criticism of Rav Chaim ben Bezalel for being one to"fear change." His fears turned out to be correct and the printing press did damage traditions. This same writer will probably be one who criticizes contemporary Jewry for its reliance on the Mishnah Brura, which is also an example of how printed text was used (not saying it was the Chofetz Chaim's intention) to change practices. It's like computers, we need them and they are destroying us. So one who fears the computer and the Internet has a reasonable concern. I have that concern with this blog. Am I bringing people to the Internet who would be better off without it? We don't necessarily have firm answers to these conundrums and in my view condescension of a person from centuries ago, particularly a great scholar, is out of order. We don't know fully what he meant and we shouldn't project contemporary cliches onto others. If you read the post, you'll see what I mean.