Abraham ben Azriel

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ABRAHAM BEN AZRIEL (13th century), liturgical commentator, one of the "Elders of Bohemia." Abraham was a disciple of the great German pietists, *Judah b. Samuel he-Ḥasid and *Eleazar b. Judah of Worms (Rokeah) as well as of *Baruch b. Isaac of Regensburg, the latter two being his chief teachers. *Isaac b. Moses Or Zaru'a was his disciple. About 1234 he wrote Arugat ha-Bosem ("Spice Garden"), a commentary on liturgical poems (edited by E.E. Urbach with commentary, 1939). The work reveals a comprehensive knowledge of every branch of Jewish learning: masoretic text and vocalization, exegesis and grammar, the halakhic and aggadic Midrashim, the two Talmuds and their early expositors, and philosophical and kabbalistic literature. All obscure references in the piyyutim are explained in great detail. As a result of its prolixity, the book did not have a wide circulation and is only rarely quoted in later literature. However, after Abraham *Berliner discovered the manuscript in the Vatican library, scholars realized its importance. Abraham's main sources are: Abraham Ibn Ezra, Eleazar Rokeaḥ, Judah Ḥayyuj, Judah b. Samuel he-Ḥasid, Joseph Kara, Jacob Tam, Moses of Taku, Rashi, Solomon Parḥon, Samuel b. Meir, Nathan b. Jehiel of Rome, and Maimonides. He was the first of the French and German scholars to make full use of the whole of Maimonides' work. The quotations in the book give an insight into the nature and character of many books no longer extant, by authorities such as Samuel b. Meir and Eleazar Rokeaḥ (who is mentioned by name more than 170 times) and by scholars whose names were previously unknown. Abraham was known for his critical insight and independence and did not hesitate to contradict his teacher, Eleazar Rokeaḥ. His quotations from the halakhic and aggadic literature, the Tosefta, and the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds are valuable, for there are many differences between his texts and those appearing in the printed editions.


Steinschneider, in: hb, 9 (1869), 174; mwj, 1 (1874), 2–3, 5; Perles, in: mgwj, 26 (1877), 360–73; Kaufmann, ibid., 31 (1882), 316–24, 360–70, 410–22; E.E. Urbach (ed.), Arugat ha-Bosem (1967), introduction.

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Abraham ben Azriel