Aaron ben Joseph Ha-Levi

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AARON BEN JOSEPH HA-LEVI (H aRAH , initials of his name H a-R av A haron h a-Levi; c. 1235–1300), Spanish rabbi and halakhist. Aaron was a descendant of *Zerahiah b. Isaac ha-Levi. His principal teachers were his brother Phinehas and Moses b. Naḥman (*Naḥmanides). He had many disciples in his native Barcelona; the most famous was Yom Tov b. Abraham of Seville. In 1278 Aaron and Solomon b. Abraham *Adret were designated by Pedro iii to settle a dispute in the community of Saragossa. In 1284, on the instructions of the king, he was appointed rabbi of that town for the purpose of ending the continuous dissensions in Saragossa. On Aaron's advice, the community enacted several important ordinances; some were vigorously contested both during his lifetime and in subsequent generations (Isaac b. Sheshet, Responsa, 388). After some time he returned to Barcelona where he apparently engaged in business. In 1286 he went to Toledo and remained there briefly. He returned to Barcelona.

Noted for his originality, Aaron would defer neither to the majority nor to the traditional authorities. At times, both he and Solomon b. Abraham Adret, who had many mutual disciples, were consulted on the same legal question, and answered jointly. Their personalities clashed and they often disagreed. On one occasion they requested French scholars to pronounce a final decision (Yom Tov b. Abraham of Seville, responsa, ed. by Y. Kafaḥ (1959), 79). When Adret published his Torat ha-Bayit ("Law of the House") Aaron wrote critical comments called Bedek ha-Bayit ("Repair of the House") which were printed together with the former work (Venice, 1608 and in all subsequent editions). His introduction and notes were written in an inoffensive and respectful tone. Adret hastily wrote a sharp rejoinder called Mishmeret ha-Bayit ("Guard of the House"), which was issued anonymously. However, Adret admits his authorship in one of his responsa. Most of his attacks were based on statements of the early legal authorities whom Aaron had ignored.

Aaron wrote several independent books. Of his novellae to the Talmud, only those to three tractates have survived – Ketubbot (Prague, 1734), Beẓah (published in the Mareh ha-Ofannim of Jacob Faitusi, Leghorn, 1810), and Sukkah (1962); the novellae on Kiddushin (1904) are erroneously ascribed to him. A large part of his novellae to Shabbat is preserved in the pseudo-R. Nissim commentary to this tractate. Of his commentaries on the halakhot of Alfasi, only those on tractates Berakhot and Ta'anit have survived (Pekuddat ha-Leviyyim, 1874; new edition M. Blau, 1957). In his preface Aaron mentioned that he wrote a short commentary on the Talmud called Nezer ha-Kodesh in which he gives the halakhah without the accompanying discussion. The work is no longer extant. Of his legal decisions, only his Kelalei Yein Nesekh on the prohibition of wine prepared by Gentiles (published as an appendix to Adret's Avodat ha-Kodesh, (Venice, 1602)), and Hilkhot Niddah (1967), have survived. The Sefer ha-Hinnukh of Aaron ha-Levi of Barcelona has been wrongly ascribed to him.


J. Perles, R. Salomo b. Abraham b. Adereth (Ger., 1863), 62–63, n. 17; S. and N. Bamberger (eds.), Pekuddat ha-Leviyyim (1874), 5–10 (introd.); Michael, Or, no. 293; Graetz, Gesch, 8, pt. 2, 148–9; Gross, Gal Jud, 329–31, no. 20; Baer, Spain, 1 (1961), 224–5, 240, 418 n. 81; Shiloh, in: Sinai, 61 (1966/67), 291–7.

[Simha Assaf]