Introduction to the Literature of the Rishonim

JHI 5821

Bernard Revel Graduate School

Fall 2005: Haym Soloveitchik

Syllabus (Original in PDF)

WorkbooksNotes, (Miscellany)

Please ask for the password for any files so marked; it is copyrighted.


Students are responsible for the basic biographies of all figures mentioned in this course.  The four basic reference works for the Franco-German culture are:

There are unfortunately no similar works either for the Provencal culture or that of Catalonia, though for the former Eliezer Horvitz’s Introduction to his edition of Sefer haMenuha l’r’ Manoah miNarboanna al haRambam (Mosad Harav Kook, 5730) is useful.

Reading Assignments:

I: Background

Y.H. Yerushalmi, Zakhor, Ch. 1, 2Copyrighted

II: Eleventh Century Background

  1. Background

  2. R. Kalonymos – Move to Ashkenaz

  3.  R. Gershom

  4.  Rashi

    1. The Problem with the Editions

      1. Lipschütz, Eliezer Meir,  Rashi, (Mosad ha-Rav Kuk, 1966), pp. 55-81 (missing 1 page) 

      2. Epstein, J. N., “peirush haRivan,” from Meḥkarim be-sifrut ha-Talmud uvi-leshonot Shemiyot, Vol. 3, (Y.L. Magnes, ha-Universitah ha-‘Ivrit, 1983-), pp. 71-74 

      3. Frenkel, Y., “Nusah Peirush Rashi u’ba’ayat haHahadurot,” from Darko shel Rashi be-ferusho la-Talmud ha-Bavli., (Y.L. Magnes, ha-Universitah ha-‘Ivrit, 1975), Chapter 1. 

      4. Friedman, S., Perush Yehonatan ha-Kohen mi-Lunil, (Feldhaim, 1969), Intro, pp. 28-39 

      5. Grossman, Hokhmei Zarfat HaRishonim, pp. 223-234

    2. General

      • Grossman, op. cit., pp. 121-253 (???)

  5. Rabbenu Tam

    1. Biography

    2. Thematic Presentations

      1. Albek, Y, “Yihuso shel HR”T l’Ba’ayot zemano,”, Zion 19 (5714), pp. 103-141

      2. Shilo, S., “ ‘Idud Mechsar v’haKalkala b’Psikat HR’T”, Sinai Sefer haYobel (???) 5743, pp. 885-896

    3. Law and Reality

      1. Albek, Y (op. cit.)

      2. Katz, Y., “Bikoret al a.a. Urbach,” ba’alei Hatosafot, Kiryat Sefer (5716), pp. 9-16

      3. Soloveitchik, H., “Religious Law and Change,” AJS Review (1987), pp. 205-223

  6. Ri of Simponte

  7. German Tosafists

III: Provence

  1. Twelfth Century

    1. Twersky, I., Rabad of Posqui'ers, pp. 19-49

    2. Benedict, B., Z, "Merkazei Torah bi-Provence," pp. 1-33

    3. Horovitz, A., "Sefer ha-Menuha," introduction, pp. 36-47

    4. Soloveitchik, H.,  "Rabad of Posqui'ers: A Programmatic Essay," pp. 1-39

    5. Ta-Shma, Y., "Sifrei ha-Rivot benha-Rabad l'ben RZ'H," Kiryat Sefer, 52, (5737), pp. 557-577

    6. Ta-Shma, Y., "Gedeiraiv shel Sefer haMaoral Halahot haRif," Shnaton Mishpat ha-Ivri 5, 5638, pp. 361-385.

  2. Thirteenth Century

    1. Horovitz, A., "Sefer ha-Menuha," introduction, pp. 9-36, 82-93

    2. Ta-Shma, Y., "Gedeiraiv shel Sefer haMaor al Halahot haRif," Shnaton Mishpat ha-Ivri 5, 5638, pp. 386-395.

  3. ?

  4. Meiri

    1. Katz, J., "Exclusiveness of Toleration, Ch. XI

    2. Halbertal, S. H., "R' Menachem ha-Meiri: bein Torah l'hakhma," Tarbiz 5754, pp. 63-118, esp. 102-114

III: Spain

  1. Diffusion of Spanish rishonim in modern times

  2. There is no work on the Spanish rishonim, though there are introductions which are useful, but must be used with caution, e.g.:

    1. Shevet, E, "Hidushei ha-Ramban l'Ketuvot, introduction

    2. Gerlitz, M. M. ed., Sifrei ha-Rashba, pt. 1 (Oriyta 5746), introduction 



Mayim Rishonim  Part 1 (13 Meg; please "Save As..." locally before printing.  To open you must have the password since it is copyrighted)

Mayim Rishonim  Part 2 (8 Meg; please "Save As..." locally before printing.  To open you must have the password since it is copyrighted)

Mayim Rishonim - Rabad Addendum



Session 1

Structure of the course:

4 basic books
See ta-shma  תא שמע 4 vol. To ????
Rabbeinu Gersom was the first Talmid Chakham of Mainze

When Magenza has a fire, the jews flew to Shpira

Also Wormiza and or Gormiza.

Rav Elyakim of Germiza is the only surviving peirush after Rashi since he wipes Wormiza or the map from a peirush standpoint. 

50% of the exam is on the reading.  Know Biographical facts.  Short.  What is there intellectual history.  Who did they write to and from.  What did he write, and his teachers and students.  Get hands on 1939 Mavo l’sefer Ra’avia. 

Art Scroll and Shilat’s Al haRishonim. 

Use Mavo l’sefer Ra’aviya

General Background (Get a Hoveret)

Halakhik Collages (excluding southern Italy)

1. Ashkenaz
2. Provence
3. Muslim Spain (Andalusia)
4. Christian Spain (Catalonia)


Geography of Europe in the Middle Ages:  Forget about the current map.  For instance, France doesn’t exist.  Neither the alps or English Channel or Gibraltar are boundaries.  Ashenaz extends form Prague/Vienna to Alsace Lorain, inc. Metz and Verdan.  NS from South of Rome, North to Netherlands and Belgium.  Italy north of Rome and Rome is German.  Too much land; conflict with the Pope cause fracturing from 13 cent to until Bismarck.  Dominant force in Northern France, 10?? Duke William becomes William the Conqueror of Normandy and England.  Half of France belongs to Henry the second, and for the next 250 years, England has control until lessons until 1555.  In 1180 people would have said that France would be crushed by German moving East or the Normans moving West.  But France has a bunch of good kings while England has a bunch up weak ones.  2nd chance for French. 


Division are cultural, and play a role.  North France and Southern France has a great difference.  From a legal standpoint, SF sees itself as heirs of Rome; NF is governed by Germanic Law.   Language: NF=langue d’ ouil and SF=langue doc.  Architecture: NF=Gothic, SF=Romanesque.  Poetry: NF=Epic, SF=Troubadour.  Religion: NF=Religious, SF=Nonreligios.  In halacha literature tzarfat is almost exclusively NF.  The dividing line is .  Jewish dwelling is around the modern Riviera.  South of the line.  Final distinction: Roofs: round or flat. Female Horse:  name. 


Louka is on the trade route from Italy to Germany, and one traces the Jewish Germanic movement stems from Rome.  English Ba’alei Tosafot originate from France. 


What is Ashkenaz: From York to Prague.  England, Northern France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Austria.  Curtain rises with Rabbeinu Gershom.  Had a teacher named Leontin, who is nearly unknown.  1306 expulsion from France.  Germany Jews are never expelled due to the disintegration, but there are pogroms in the 13th and 14th centuries.    Mordechai killed in Rindfleisch, Rosh flees 1304 with Rav Ya’akov Ba’al Haturim, Maharam dies 1293.  So Germany is culturally finished. 


Provence:  The name is very old.  The southern literal was called Provencal of rome.  Then it broke up (after rome).  East of the Rhone is Provence, West is Longue doc.  Intellectually, most of the activity is in the West, but still called Provence.    1306 Expulsion (France is on the map politically now.)  Meiri is also significant.  Sefer Ittim is from the Ri of Abrgeloni (Barcelona).  Provence is Catalonia  which is not Spain, since Catalonia was Christian vs. the rest of Muslim Spain.  The term Chokmai sfarad are all from Catalonia, but with the reconquistida they spread and influence the rest of Spain. 


Dialectic is Teima and Yesh Lomar starts with French Tosafot and culminates with the Ritva and Ran, with also included the Ramban, even though the latter draws from other sources. 


Andelusuan school brought to an end by the Almohade 1146-7.  They bring their culture to Provence.

Session 3

See Arugat haBosem for commentary on piyyut.  Orbach’s edit on this is excellent. 

Get Ta Shma in Kneset Mehkarim by Tas Shma


Exegesis is replaced by dialectic.  Rabbeinu Tam utilized dialectic on the entre Gamara AND he came up with solutions that satisfy and aid the understanding of The Talmud. 


The only thing we have from RT is sefer Hayyashar.  He was held on awe (only the Ri M’gash has a similar status.)  Sefer Kabbalah doesn’t know of Rashi, but he knows Rabbeinu Tam.    Sefer Yashar is corrupt.  But mostly because his writing was difficult.  The RY his nephew saved RT ‘s work from loss.  The RY was mellow, but relentless in documenting every line of Gemara put to the dialectic.  Only from the RY do we know the RT.    The RY style was Reportatio: meaning the students had documented the teacher’s work in the name of the pupil.    The mark is מ"ר. 


The Torah of the RY came down in 4 sources

A)    His son-Tosafot Rabbeinu Elhanan.  Little left of this.  Rash mi Shanz

B)     Rabbi Yehuda of Paris

C)    Sefer Hateruma.  Rabbeinu Baruch (of Wormiza) 


Halachik thinking, from interpretation of Rashi to the dialectic of the Ran in ~1370 the halakhik analysis of