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Abraham ben Nathan Ha-Yarhi


ABRAHAM BEN NATHAN HA-YARHI (c. 1155–1215), Provençal talmudic scholar. His name "Ha-Yarḥi" is the Hebrew translation for "of Lunel" where he spent many years. He was born at Avignon and was related to *Isaac b. Abba Mari. He studied with the scholars of Lunel, with Abraham b. David of Posquières, and in Dampierre in northern France, under the tosafist Isaac the Elder, and other scholars of his circle. Abraham wandered through many countries, and visited Toledo, Spain, in 1194. Later he settled there and apparently became a member of the rabbinical court (before 1204). He left Toledo again, went to France, and returned to Spain in 1211.

During his travels Abraham made a point of "observing the customs of every country and every city" and noted that "they [the Jews] varied in their religious practices and that they were divided into 70 languages." He recorded various customs, particularly concerning prayer and other synagogue usages, in a book which he called Manhig Olam known popularly as Sefer ha-Manhig (Constantinople, 1519; republished by A.N. Goldberg, Berlin, 1855). This work has come down in a corrupt form. Chapters and paragraphs are omitted and the printed text contains many mistakes. Various attempts have been made (by Freimann, Toledano, and Raphael) to correct it and fill some of the lacunae. The correct text however has been preserved in the manuscripts. In this book he describes the customs of both southern and northern France, of Germany, England, and Spain. His literary sources include the Talmuds and the Midrashim, the works and responsa of the Geonim and the writings of French, Spanish, and other scholars. This work is the first book of minhagim (local customs) written in Europe. Its explicit purpose was to show that there is a halakhic basis for every minhag. The need for such a compilation was mainly the result of the spread of the halakhic works of the Spanish authorities in Provence, which took place at that time and caused confusion and misunderstanding at both places (see Asher b. Saul). Abraham also wrote a commentary to Massekhet Kallah Rabbati (Tiberias [Jerusalem], 1906; jqr, 24 [see bibliography]) and Maḥazik ha-Bedek on the laws of ritual slaughtering and forbidden foods (lost). Some of Abraham's responsa are preserved (S.A. Wertheimer, Ginzei Yerushalayim, 1 (1896), 19–32).


J. Reifmann, in: Ha-Meliẓ, 1 (1860/61), 63–64, 99–101; idem, in: mwj, 5 (1878), 60–67; B. Toledano (ed.), Perush Massekhet Kallah Rabbati (1906), introd.; Higger, in: jqr, 24 (1933/34), 331–48; A.H. Freimann, in: Festschrift … J. Freimann (1937), 105–15 (Heb. pt.); B. Toledano, in: Sinai, 41 (1958), 75–80; I. Twersky, Robad of Posquières (1962), 240–4; Raphael, in: Sefer Yovel … H. Albeck (1963), 443–64; S. Abramson, Rav Nissim Ga'on (1965), 566 (index); Cassel, in: Jubelschrift … L. Zunz (1884), 122–37.

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