Alfasi, Isaac ben-Jacob


Alfasi, Isaac ben-Jacob
(1013–1103)
   Spanish talmudic scholar. Alfasi was sometimes called Rif from the initials of Rabbi Isaac Fasi. He was born at Kal’at Hammad in North Africa, now in Algeria, and after studying in Kairouan, settled in Fez, in northern Morocco. The Arabic name of the town is Fas, and it is from this that Alfasi got his name.
   Alfasi’s fame as a learned authority spread throughout the region and representatives of other Jewish communities turned to him to settle difficulties. In response to an enquiry, Alfasi confirmed that it was the bounden duty of all Jews everywhere to ransom Jewish captives. At that time, travel was a perilous business, with brigands on land and pirates at sea. In another of his answers, Alfasi roundly condemned the setting of prayers to Arabic tunes. It appears that Alfasi lived a respected and comparatively uneventful life in Fez until he was seventy-five years old, when he was denounced to the authorities and obliged to flee. He escaped to Cordova, Spain, then under a different Moslem dynasty, and later moved to Lucena in Andalusia, where he was the head of an academy. Here he remained until his death. While he was in Spain he completed his Sefer ha-Halachot (‘Book of Rulings’), one of the most important codifications of the Talmud before that of MAIMONIDES. It is still printed with every edition of the Talmud. The great body of aggadot, or homiletical stories contained in the Talmud, are sifted, and only those with a didactic purpose are included. The code was written in Talmud Aramaic, which put it within reach of every moderately educated Jew no matter where he lived.
   Alfasi’s code, known as the Little Talmud, was greatly respected by Maimonides and the scholars of the Franco-German school, but it was criticized in Spain itself, although defended by the great scholar NAHMANIDES. In the 16 century Joseph CARO, who lived in Safed in Palestine, made it one of the three pillars of the Shulchan Aruch, a brief and systematic codification of the law which became practically required study for all Jews. After the middle of the 13 century, when the Catholic clergy embarked on their campaign of burning and confiscating the Talmud, Alfasi’s Little Talmud became of even greater value.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • ALFASI, ISAAC BEN JACOB — (known as Rif; 1013–1103), author of the most important code prior to the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides. In a sense, Alfasi brought the geonic period to a close. The last of the Babylonian geonim, Hai Gaon, died when Alfasi was 25 years old. Alfasi …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Alfasi, Isaac ben Jacob — born 1013, near Fès, Mor. died 1103, Lucena, Spain Moroccan Jewish scholar. He spent most of his life in Fès, but in 1088 he was denounced to the government and was obliged to flee to Spain. He became head of the Jewish community in Lucena and… …   Universalium

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