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Aaron ben Jacob Ha-Kohen of Lunel


AARON BEN JACOB HA-KOHEN OF LUNEL (end of 13th and first half of 14th century), Provençal scholar. Despite his name, he was probably not from Lunel but from Narbonne, where his forefathers lived. In his well-known work Orḥot Ḥayyim he makes frequent mention of the customs of Nar bonne and often cites the opinions of its scholars. Aaron's grandfather, David, wrote a work on the laws of terefot (Orḥot Ḥayyim, 2:420), and his great-grandfather, Isaac, was a pupil of *Abraham b. David of Posquières and wrote a commentary on the Jerusalem Talmud (Meiri, Beit ha-Beḥirah on Avot, ed. by B.Z. Prag (1964), 56). Aaron was among those exiled from France by Philip iv in 1306 and apparently reached Spain, subsequently proceeding to Majorca. Orḥot Ḥayyim is for the most part a compilation of halakhot taken verbatim from earlier halakhic works sometimes without indicating the source (e.g., extracts from Nathan b. Judah's Ha-Maḥkim and David b. Levi's Mikhtam). It is a work of great importance and cites halakhot not found in any other source. Halakhic authorities esteemed it greatly, and it was cited by Jeroham b. Meshullam, Isaac b. Sheshet, Simeon Duran, Levi ibn Ḥabib, Joseph Caro, and others. Its sources are extremely varied. Though based on Maimonides, it contains statements of German, French, Provençal, and Spanish scholars. Some (Joseph Caro, Azulai, and others) consider the anonymous work Kol Bo (1490) to be an abbreviated version of Orḥot Ḥayyim. This view, however, is controverted by a comparison of the two works. Benjacob and S.D. Luzzatto are more correct in maintaining that Kol Bo is the editio princeps of Orḥot Ḥayyim, probably representing an early stage of that book, and antedating the three manuscripts mentioned below.

Part i of Orḥot Hayyim was first published in Spain before 1492, but no complete copy of it is extant (for part of the missing introduction see A. Freimann, Thesaurus Typographiae Hebraicae (1931) b37, 1–2). The existing edition first appeared in Florence in 1750, although the manuscript had already been sent for publication by Elijah Capsali of Candia to Meir of Padua in Venice in the middle of the 16th century (Responsa Maharam Padua, no. 77). The order of the halakhot is very similar to that of the Tur, Oraḥ Ḥayyim of *Jacob b. Asher, Aaron's younger contemporary. The Tur quickly gained wide acceptance at the expense of Orḥot Ḥayyim. Its second part, dealing with laws of marriage, damages, things ritually prescribed or permitted, and the like was published by M. Schlesinger in Berlin in 1902 from the Warsaw Communal Library Ms. (a copy of the Jerusalem Ms. of 1455) after a rather inadequate comparison with another earlier manuscript, now in the Montefiore Library, London. There are significant differences between these two manuscripts, and between a third (in the Guenzburg Collection, Moscow, copied in 1329) which was not used by Schlesinger and which represents the earliest version of the work, having been written apparently before Aaron went to Majorca, since it omits all the passages (at least 15) referring to that island and to Shem Tov Falkon, the local rabbi. It contains however 12 more chapters than the 73 in the printed version. These deal with faith, philosophy, messianic legends, paradise, hell, the natural sciences, the formulae for documents, and (in a lengthy chapter) the principle of intercalation. The date 1313, given in this chapter, shows that the manuscript was not composed before this date.


Benjacob, in: Kerem Ḥemed, 8 (1854), 167 ff.; Benjacob, Oẓar, 51, no. 984, 239, no. 118; S.D. Luzzatto, Meged Yeraḥim, 1 (1855), 5–10; idem, Iggerot Shadal, 8 (1892), 1232–40, no. 562; Gross, in: mgwj, 18 (1869), 433–50, 531–41; Gross, Gal Jud, 290, 420; Zunz, Ritus, 31–32, 179–80; M. Schlesinger (ed.), Sefer Orḥot Ḥayyim, pt. 2 (1902), introd.; J. Freimann, in: Ha-Eshkol, 6 (1919), 107–9.

[Shlomoh Zalman Havlin]

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