Christians had long believed that the Talmud was the main obstacle to Jews believing in Christianity. A Jewish apostate, Nicholas Donin, told the Pope that the Talmud contained insults to the Christian religion. In France, on the order of the Pope, many volumes of the Talmud were seized. In 1240, King Louis IX ( later St. Louis) ordered the Talmud put on trial. Jewish representatives were permitted only to defend themselves, not to advance positive proofs for their position. Not surprisingly, the Talmud was declared guilty, and in 1242 24 wagonloads of Talmudic volumes were publicly burned in Paris. As each book was painstakingly handwritten and could not be easily replaced, it was a disaster of massive proportions for French Jewry. Indeed, Torah scholarship rapidly declined, and France never again regained its prominent position as a Torah center.

In line with the Jewish principle that spiritual destruction is the greatest tragedy, Rabbi Meir of Rothenberg composed an elegy for the burned Talmud that became part of the Tisha B'Av Kinnos. Sadly, Jewish infighting regarding Rambam's works also played a major role in this tragic event. Some overzealous Jews denounced the Rambam's writings to the Church, and once the Church determined that his books should be burned, it was only a small step until all Jewish books were consigned to the flames. Pious individuals observe the day on which the Talmud was burned, Friday of Parshas Chukas, as a fast day.