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Ibn Lev, Joseph

(404 words)

Author(s): Samuel Morell
Joseph ben David ibn Lev was born sometime after 1500 in Monastir (Bitola), Macedonia, and died around 1580 in Istanbul. By 1535, he had settled in Salonica, and in the course of his stay there his fame as a leading halakhic authority was firmly established. He moved to Istanbul, however, after becoming embroiled in a dispute with a powerful and tyrannical member of the Jewish community that may have been connected to the murder of his son David around 1548, and the drowning death of a younger son shortly thereafter. Ibn Lev paid tribute to David, his murdered son, by including some of his respons…

Ashqar, Moses al-

(366 words)

Author(s): Samuel Morell
Moses al-Ashqar, halakhic authority, was born in 1466/67 in Spain, probably in Zamora, where he spent his youth. There is an indication that he came from a noted rabbinic family. He studied in Zamora with Samuel Valensi, a student of the famed Isaac Canpanton (Campanton). After the expulsion from Spain in 1492 he went to North Africa, where he lived in Tunis for several years. He left before the Spanish invasion of the Tunisian coast in 1509, lived for a while in Patras, then moved to Cairo, where he became a rabbinic judge in the court presided over by David Ibn Abi Zimra (Radbaz). It was th…

Ibn Ḥabib, Jacob

(627 words)

Author(s): Samuel Morell
Jacob Ibn Ḥabib was a rabbinical scholar and communal leader in Salonica. Born ca. 1445 in Zamora, Spain, Ibn Ḥabib studied under Samuel Valency, a student of the famed Isaac Confonton, and subsequently headed a highly respected yeshiva in Salamanca. He left Spain for Portugal in 1492, set out for the Ottoman East in 1497, and by 1501 was settled in Salonica, where he remained for the rest of his life. He died in 1515/16. As a founder and leader of the Sephardic community in Salonica, Ibn Ḥabib used his rabbinic authority to help his compatriots adapt to the conditions of the…

Duran, Simon ben Ṣemaḥ

(1,096 words)

Author(s): Samuel Morell
Simon ben Ṣemaḥ Duran(1361–1444), known by the acronym Rashbaṣ, was an important halakhic authority. Born in Majorca into a wealthy scholarly family, he was related through his paternal grandmother to Gersonides, and through him to Naḥmanides. He was a physician by profession, learned in rabbinic studies, sympathetic to Kabbala, and accomplished in philosophy, mathematics and the natural sciences. Duran’s wife, herself a direct descendant of Naḥmanides, was from Teruel, in Aragon. Duran lived th…

Medina, Samuel ben Moses de

(563 words)

Author(s): Samuel Morell
Samuel de Medina (1505/6–1589), a major halakhic authority known by the acronym Maharashdam, was born and lived in Salonica. There are indications that his family came from Portugal, but the name connects it, perhaps at some earlier time, with Medina del Campo in Castile. De Medina had no recollection of his father, who died in his early childhood, and he was raised, and later supported, by his older brother. De Medina had as his masters two great scholars. One was Levi ibn Ḥabib, who departed for Jerusalem in 1522/23, when De Medina was only seventeen. The other was  Joseph Taitatzak (Taita…

Ibn Abi Zimra, David (Radbaz)

(1,073 words)

Author(s): Samuel Morell
Rabbi David ben Solomon Ibn Abi Zimra (Radbaz) was born in Spain in 1479/80. He left Spain during the expulsion in 1492, settled in Safed, Palestine, and later, perhaps soon after his arrival, relocated to Jerusalem. In 1513 or a bit earlier he moved to Mamluk Egypt, first briefly to Alexandria, but by 1514 he was in Cairo as a member of the rabbinic court of the official head of Egyptian Jewry, the nagid Isaac Shulal. In 1517, Egypt was conquered by the Ottomans, and the centuries-old office of nagid came to an abrupt end. Radbaz was accepted by the Egyptian Je…

Ibn Migash, Joseph ha-Levi ben Me’ir

(1,038 words)

Author(s): Samuel Morell
Joseph ha-Levi ben Me’ir ibn Migash (1077– 1141), the successor to Isaac al-Fāsī (the Rif) as head of the yeshiva in Lucena, the center of talmudic learning in al-Andalus, was born in Seville. At the age of twelve or so he went to Lucena to study with al-Fāsī. He continued under his tutelage for fourteen years, becoming his prime student and succeeding him upon his death in 1103. He continued as head of the yeshiva for thirty-eight years. There is evidence that during this time he traveled to other cities in Spain. He also refers to a visit to Fez. Directly and through his numerous students, I…

Perfet, Isaac ben Sheshet

(681 words)

Author(s): Samuel Morell
Isaac ben Sheshet Perfet (1326–1408), known as Ribash, was a major halakhic authority in Spain and North Africa. Until 1372 he lived in Barcelona, where his family had aristocratic roots, and was the foremost student of Nissim Gerondi (1320–1380). He also mentions as his teachers Perez ha-Kohen and the elder Ḥasday Crescas, grandfather of the well-known rabbi and philosopher of the same name, who was a lifelong friend of Perfet’s. Although he did not hold an official rabbinic position in Barcelona, Perfet conducted a school and had communal responsibilities. His standing is…

Duran, Solomon b. Simon

(597 words)

Author(s): Samuel Morell
The noted halakhic authority Solomon ben Simon Duran (Rashbash) was born in Algiers in 1400 and lived there until his death in 1467. He was the son of Simon ben Ṣemaḥ Duran and succeeded him as chief rabbi of Algiers. In that capacity he was the leading rabbinic authority for all the communities of Algeria. Rashbash studied at his father’s yeshiva in Algiers and also learned medicine and science from his father. At an exceptionally young age he was accorded the high honor of membership on the rabbinic court, and even before his father’s death in 144…

Kalai (Qalʿī), Samuel Ben Moses

(381 words)

Author(s): Samuel Morell
Samuel ben Moses Kalai (Qalʿī; variant: le-vet Qalʿī) was a halakhic authority in the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century. His surname alludes to his family’s origin in Calatayud in Spain. Kalai was born and raised in Corfu, where he studied under David ha-Kohen, an important Romaniot halakhic authority. He later settled in the Greek town of Arta (southern Epirus), where he married the daughter of Rabbi Benjamin ben Mattityahu. From 1525 on, Kalai was deeply involved in defending his father-in-law in a bitter, prolonged, and widespread controversy in which …

Elijah ben Ḥayyim

(344 words)

Author(s): Samuel Morell
Elijah ben Ḥayyim (ca. 1530–ca. 1610), known by the acronym Ra’anaḥ, was a halakhic authority of the Romaniot community. Originally from Adrianople (Edirne), he moved to Istanbul sometime between 1565 and 1575, and rose to become its chief rabbi. Ra’anaḥ carried on a wide correspondence with his rabbinic peers and wrote numerous responsa. He regularly delivered sermons, which have yielded a great deal of written homiletic material, and also produced commentaries on most of the tractates of the Talmud. Unfortunat…