Commentaries on Alfasi

Alfasi's groundbreaking legal code invited criticism, defense, and supplementation.

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Nahmanides went on to state that although it is not always possible to demonstrate the correctness of a halakhic opinion with the compelling force of a mathematical proof, nevertheless the proper approach is to accept the reasoning that conforms most closely to the plain meaning of the laws and the talmudic passages.

Sefer ha-Zekhut [The Book of Merit] answers Rabad's critiques on Alfasi. Nahmanides was very temperate in his expressions about Rabad and accorded him great respect.

Rezah, Rabad, and Nahmanides essentially were critics or defenders of Alfasi and only incidentally his explicators. The main purpose of the commentators next discussed was to explain Alfasi and, incidentally, also to supplement him.

Jonathan of Lunel

Jonathan of Lunel, who lived in the second half of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth centuries, was a disciple of Rabad and the foremost halakhic authority of Lunel in his generation. He wrote a commentary on Alfasi's Sefer ha-Halakhot, of which only the part on Tractate Eruvin is included in the printed editions of the Talmud; but his commentaries on additional tractates have recently been published separately. He carried on a correspondence with Maimonides, who held him in the highest regard. Toward the end of his life (1210), he was one of the "three hundred rabbis of England and France" who settled in the Land of Israel, where he lived until his death.

Nissim Gerondi (Ran)

Ran, a judge and head of the yeshivah in Barcelona, was one of the leading Spanish halakhic authorities of the fourteenth century. He wrote a commentary on Alfasi covering fourteen tractates, but it is possible that a few of these have been erroneously attributed to him. Today, Ran's is the most widely accepted commentary on Alfasi.

Joseph Habiba

Joseph Habiba, a disciple of Ran, lived in Spain at the beginning of the fifteenth century. His work Nimmukei Yosef [The Argumentations of Joseph--a play on the author's name] is a commentary on the entire Sefer ha-Halakhot of Alfasi; but the printed editions of the Talmud contain his commentary only on the seven tractates on which there is no commentary by Ran. The bulk of Habiba's published commentary is on Nezikin; his commentary on additional tractates has only recently been published. In terms of acceptance, Nimmukei Yosef ranks a close second to Ran's commentary on Alfasi.

Joshua Boaz b. Simon Baruch

Joshua Boaz was among the Jews exiled from Spain. He immigrated to Italy, where he lived during the first half of the sixteenth century. His book Shiltei Gibborim contains supplementation to Alfasi as well as critiques and divergent views of leading authorities, including Isaiah of Trani (Riaz; known also as Isaiah the Latter), who lived in Italy at the end of the thirteenth century.

Other Commentators

There were many other commentators on Alfasi's work, and an extensive halakhic literature developed around his Sefer ha-Halakhot, which to this day remains the first of the "three pillars" of the edifice of Jewish law.

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Menachem Elon

Justice Menachem Elon has had a long and distinguished career as a legal scholar. He is a retired professor of Jewish Law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and a prolific author on Jewish Law. In 1977 Justice Elon was appointed to the Supreme Court of Israel and served as its Deputy President from 1988 until 1993. He lives in Jerusalem.