Abraham ben Isaac of Narbonne

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ABRAHAM BEN ISAAC OF NARBONNE

ABRAHAM BEN ISAAC OF NARBONNE (known as Rabi Abad ; c. 1110–1179), talmudist and spiritual leader of Provence; author of Sefer ha-Eshkol, the first work of codification of the halakhic commentary of southern France, which served as a model for all subsequent compilations. Abraham was a student of *Isaac b. Merwan ha-Levi and *Meshullam b. Jacob of Lunel. It is probable that Joseph *Ibn Plat, too, was one of his teachers. Abraham aparently spent some time in Barcelona where, it seems, he also studied with *Judah b. Barzillai al-Bargeloni. He was av bet din in his native Narbonne, and his prestige was such that he was cited by the early scholars simply as "the Rabbi, Av Bet Din." *Benjamin of Tudela speaks of him as "principal of the yeshivah" in Narbonne. Among his renowned students were *Zerahiah ha-Levi and *Abraham b. David of Posquieres, who became his son-in-law. Abraham's halakhic compendium Sefer ha-Eshkol is an abridged version of the Sefer ha-Ittim, by Judah b. Barzillai al-Bargeloni, with additions from Rashi, R. Tam and his contemporaries, and Abraham himself. In the main, he omitted the geonic responsa and those of Alfasi. As most of the Ittim was lost, the Eshkol took on additional significance, in that it rescued a part, at least, of the extensive source material in the Sefer ha-Ittim. The very ambitious enterprise of excerpting Judah b. Barzillai al-Bargeloni's book was carried out with the support and under the inspiration of his teacher, Meshullam b. Jacob, who encouraged the introduction of Spanish halakhah and tradition into Narbonne. The Eshkol was first published by Ẓevi Benjamin *Auerbach (1869) with an introduction and commentary, but doubts about the authenticity of at least parts of Auerbach's manuscript were expressed by Shalom *Albeck. The ensuing controversy was inconclusive. Auerbach's manuscript is rich in additions, the exact origin of which is not clear. Although there are no grounds for accusing Auerbach of willfully tampering with the manuscript, the version of the Eshkol that Albeck had in hand is undoubtedly the authentic one. Albeck himself published part of the Sefer ha-Eshkol (with introductions and notes) and his son Hanokh *Albeck completed this edition (1935–38). Abraham played a vital role as the principal channel through which the Spanish traditions passed into Provence and from there to northern France. At the same time, he emphasized the local traditions of the "Elders of Narbonne," of which he also made great use. His eclecticism is clear from the fact that he also gave due consideration to north-French halakhic traditions, using his personal authority to decide between the various traditions. Abraham was the recipient of numerous queries. A collection of his responsa has been published (ed. Kafaḥ, Jerusalem, 1962) and another is extant in the Guenzburg Collection. Several of the responsa were published by S. Assaf in Sifran shel Rishonim (1935), and in Sinai, 11 (1947). He also wrote commentaries to the entire Talmud (except for the Order of Kodashim) which were quoted by his contemporaries and by later scholars, such as Zerahiah ha-Levi, *Naḥmanides, Solomon b. Abraham *Adret, and others, but only his commentary on the second half of the tractate Bava Batra is extant (in a Munich manuscript, a fragment of which was published in Oẓar ha-Ḥayyim, 12, 1936). The commentary resembles that of *Samuel b. Meir (Rashbam), which served, in a way, as a transition from Rashi's commentary to the novellae of the tosafists, except that Abraham makes greater use of the earlier commentators and quotes them verbatim. He also excerpted Judah b. Barzillai's Sefer ha-Din.

bibliography:

Gross, in: mgwj, 17 (1868), 241–55, 281–94; Assaf, in: Madda'ei ha-Yahadut, 2 (1926/27), 17; Benedikt, in: Tarbiz, 22 (1950/51), 101–5; I. Twersky, Rabad of Posquières (1962), 7–10.

[Simha Assaf]