Adret, Solomon ben Abraham
Adret, Solomon ben Abraham
ADRET, SOLOMON BEN ABRAHAM
ADRET, SOLOMON BEN ABRAHAM (known from his initials as RaShBa, R av Sh lomo B en A braham; c. 1235–c. 1310), Spanish rabbi and one of the foremost Jewish scholars of his time, whose influence has remained to this day. Adret belonged to a well-to-do family of Barcelona where he lived all his life. His principal teacher was Jonah b. Abraham *Gerondi and Adret always refers to him as "my teacher." He also studied under Naḥmanides, being considered one of his outstanding students and principal exponent of his "school" in the interpretation of the Talmud.
While still young, Adret engaged extensively in financial transactions, and the king of Aragon was among his debtors. After a few years he withdrew from business and accepted the position of rabbi in Barcelona, which he held for more than 40 years. Adret was recognized as the leading figure in Spanish Jewry before he was 40 and his opinions carried weight far beyond the frontiers of Spain. He was a man of great accomplishments, strong character, and incorruptible judgment. Not long after he entered upon his office as rabbi, he vigorously defended an orphan against leading court Jews and the powerful Christian nobles who supported them. Yet, he was a humble man, with a warm, sensitive heart. Pedro iii of Aragon submitted to him for adjudication of a number of complicated cases that had arisen between Jews of different communities. Against his will, the case of an informer belonging to an aristocratic family was assigned to him for trial by order of the king: he sentenced the man to death. Three years later the relatives of the condemned man appealed the verdict. Adret referred the case to *Meir b. Baruch of Rothenburg, the foremost rabbinic authority in Germany, who sustained the verdict.
Questions were addressed to Adret from all parts of the Jewish world including Germany, France, Bohemia, Sicily, Crete, Morocco, Algiers, Palestine, and Portugal. The communities gathered his responsa into special collections and kept them as a source of guidance. He explained the most abstruse matters in clear and simple terms. Many of his responsa deal with the clarification of problematic biblical passages, and some of them touch on questions of philosophy and the fundamentals of religion. Altogether Adret wrote thousands of responsa (3,500 have been printed). One responsum, written a few days before his death, is signed by his son. Adret's responsa constitute a primary source of information for the history of the Jews of his period and, to some extent, also for general history. When Maimonides' grandson David was denounced to the Sultan of Egypt, Adret collected 25,000 dinars from the Spanish community to secure his release. Similarly when the Rome community wished to translate Maimonides' commentary on the Mishnah into Hebrew, Adret secured the necessary manuscripts and translators, one of whom testified, "It is because of the awe with which our master inspires us, that we have persisted in our undertaking."
Adret acquired a considerable knowledge of Roman law and local Spanish legal practice. He played a vital role in providing the legal basis for the structure of the Jewish community and its institutions, and many of his responsa are devoted to communal matters and to the activities of rabbinic courts. He defended the rights of the Jewish communities and opposed all attempts at arbitrary control and recourse to non-Jewish tribunals. That Adret was considered by his contemporaries to be one of the outstanding authorities of the generation is obvious from the efforts that Abba Mari *Astruc made to enlist his support in the campaign for the preservation of the traditional way of study and traditional values against the philosophical school. These efforts ultimately culminated in a ban (see below). The correspondence on the subject was included by Astruc in his Minḥat Kenaot (Pressburg, 1838).
Adret had a considerable knowledge of philosophy and was well-versed in the scientific literature of his day, although he headed the movement against the spreading of these subjects among the masses. To an opponent of a ban on secular studies he wrote: "You seem to think that we have no share in (secular) wisdom… This is not the case… for we know these lofty sciences and we are aware of their nature" (Abba Mari b. Moses of Lunel, Minḥat Kena'ot (1838), 43). He defended Maimonides in the second attack directed against his writings in France and in Palestine. He opposed both the allegorical method of interpreting the Bible that was then prevalent among the rationalists in southern France and in Spain, and the extreme mystical tendency which was making headway in Spain, and he strongly attacked the activities of Abraham *Abulafia. He also took precautions against those who denied the Divine origin of the Torah and forsook its study for that of the sciences. In the bitter conflict which flared up in the communities of southern France, Adret was on the side of the traditionalists. There were extremists who wished to prohibit the study of the sciences completely; in the text of the ban which they suggested to Adret they proposed that such studies be prohibited until the age of 30. However, Adret, in the famous ban he proclaimed in Barcelona in 1305, adopted a middle course. He permitted the study of physics and metaphysics from the age of 25, put no restriction at all on the study of astronomy and medicine, and sanctioned the reading of Maimonides' works. In the end the communities in southern France resisted Adret's ban. In part, their resistance stemmed from the efforts of Philip the Fair (1285–1314) to unite all of France. Since rabbinic bans required authorization from the State, the acceptance of a ban originating in Spain might have been viewed as treason by the French crown.
Adret took up arms also, both in oral and written disputes, against detractors of Judaism, such as Raymond *Martini and his work Pugio fidei. Adret replied to this in a special work in which he defended the eternity of the Torah and the value of its practical commandments. In his responsa (4, 187) he gave details of a disputation he had with a leading Christian scholar. He wrote a book refuting the attacks of the 11th-century Mohammedan scholar, Aḥmad ibn Ḥazm (published by Perles, 1863). A variety of reasons have been suggested as to why Adret wrote his attack on ibn Ḥazm. They include the fact that Christian polemicists drew many of their arguments from ibn Ḥazm's tract, that Adret's book served to bolster the communities of Jews under Muslim rule, and that Adret was fearful that ibn Ḥazm's biblical criticisms might be accepted.
Collections of the responsa of Adret are extant today. They pose a difficult literary problem. The first collection was printed in Rome before 1480 and the second, of which only a few copies remain, in Constantinople in 1516. In 1908 (on the front page incorrectly 1868) these two collections were reprinted in Warsaw, and the editor called them "Part 7" of the responsa of Adret. An additional collection, containing 1255 responsa, was printed in Bologna in 1539. It is this which is referred to as the Responsa of Adret "Part 1." The so-called "Part 2" containing 405 responsa, called Toledot Adam, was published in Leghorn in 1657, and "Part 3" with 488 responsa, also in Leghorn, in 1788. "Part 4" was published in Salonika in 1803 and "Part 5" in Leghorn in 1825. "Part 6" was published together with the 1908 Warsaw edition previously mentioned. Many of the responsa are not the work of Adret, but of other scholars whose responsa the copyists collected together with his. On the other hand, most of the responsa in the collection attributed to Naḥmanides (Venice, 1519) are the work of Adret. These collections, amounting to a few thousand responsa, contain many responsa identical in wording and context. A critical edition of Adret's responsa, which should facilitate identification and determine authorship, is a primary scholastic need and is still lacking.
Adret headed a yeshivah to which students flocked, even from Germany (Responsa 1,395) and other countries. Among his distinguished students were *Yom Tov b. Abraham of Seville, Shem Tov *Ibn Gaon, and *Bahya b. Asher. According to Adret, his academy housed valuable manuscripts of the Talmud brought from the Babylonian academies or which had been checked in the academies of Kairouan. It appears that he composed his famous novellae to the Talmud in connection with his lectures to his students. His novellae to 17 tractates of the Talmud have been published: Berakhot (Venice, 1523); Shabbat (Constantinople, 1720); Eruvin (Warsaw, 1895); Beẓah (Lemberg, 1847); Rosh Ha-Shanah (in part, Constantinople, 1720, and in a complete, critical edition, 1961); Megillah (Constantinople, 1720; complete edition, 1956); Yevamot (Constantinople, 1720); Gittin (Venice, 1523); Kiddushin (Constantinople, 1717); Nedarim (ibid., 1720); Bava Kamma (ibid., 1720); Bava Mezia (in part, Jerusalem, 1931); Bava Batra (ibid., 1957);Shevu'ot (Salonika, 1729, and in full, Jerusalem, 1965); Avodah Zarah (in part in Jerusalem, 1966); Hullin (Venice, 1523); Niddah (Altona, 1797 and a complete edition, Jerusalem, 1938). The novellae to Menahot are not his, and the novellae to Ketubbot ascribed to him are actually by Naḥmanides. Ketubbot and Nazir are still in manuscript. In his novellae, Adret was greatly influenced by Naḥmanides' method, a synthesis of the methods of French scholars and of the early Spanish authorities such as Joseph *Ibn Migash and his colleagues. He carried, however, Nahmanides' methods to their extreme, establishing the French school in Spain, though there exist strong literal ties between the two methods. The novellae enjoyed a wide circulation; they have gone through many editions and are still extensively consulted by students of the Talmud.
Adret also devoted much time to commenting on the aggadot in the Talmud and wrote a special work on the subject (Ḥiddushei Aggadot ha-Shas, Tel Aviv, 1966). In his commentaries, Adret followed the methods of inquiry of the moderate Spanish scholars; the influence of Maimonides' Guide is also evident. It is evident from many places in his works that Adret interested himself in Kabbalah and even acquired great knowledge of it. In this he resembled his teacher Naḥmanides. On the other hand it appears that he did his best to conceal his opinions on the subject. However it is significant that most of his pupils wrote commentaries to the mystical part of Naḥmanides' commentary on the Pentateuch, many of them still in manuscript.
Beside his responsa and novellae, Adret wrote two legal manuals. The more important, Torat ha-Bayit, deals with most of the ritual observances, such as ritual slaughter, forbidden foods, gentile wine, and the laws of niddah (Venice, 1607), together with Sha'ar ha-Mayim – laws of mikveh (first published in Budapest, 1930, and again in Jerusalem, 1963). The book is divided into seven parts, is written with great profundity and perception, and embodies detailed halakhic discussions. He reviews the methods of his predecessors, raises and meets objections, refutes and corroborates, decides among opposing views, and advances his own opinion. For practical purposes of guidance, he wrote a compendium of the larger work, Torat ha-Bayit ha-Kaẓer (Cremona, 1566). Aaron ha-Levi of Barcelona (see *Ha-Ḥinnukh), a fellow townsman and old friend of the author, wrote many critical notes on this book in his Bedek ha-Bayit. Although Aaron ha-Levi in his introduction and criticisms wrote in a respectful tone, Adret felt offended and wrote in reply his Mishmeret ha-Bayit (all included in the 1608 Venice edition) which was issued anonymously and contained no clue to the author's identity. It purports to have been written by a scholar solicitous of Adret's honor. However, in one of his responsa Adret revealed that he was the author. Adret's refutations are written in a pungent style reminiscent of *Abraham b. David of Posquières' strictures on Maimonides, and in this book he reveals himself as a doughty polemicist.
Adret's Avodat ha-Kodesh on the laws of the Sabbath and the festivals is also extant. It appeared in two versions, one complete and the other abridged. The former has not yet been published, while the latter was published in Venice in 1602. He also wrote Piskei Ḥallah (Constantinople, 1516) on the laws relating to *Ḥallah.
The changes in rabbinic study in Spain started by Naḥmanides were finally effected by Adret. His responsa have at all times been highly influential and were a major source of the Shulḥan Arukh.
Baer, Spain, index, s.v.Solomon b. Abraham ibn Adret (Rashba); J. Perles, R. Salomo b. Abraham b. Adereth (Breslau, 1863); I. Epstein, The "Responsa" of R. Solomon ben Adreth of Barcelona (1962); A. Rosenthal, in: ks, 42 (1966/67); A.S. Halkin, in: Perakim (1968), 35–57; Havlin, in: Moriah, 1 (1968), 58–67; L.A. Feldman, in: Sinai, 33 (1969), 243–7. add. bibliography: C. Adang, in: Judios y Musulmanes en al-Andalus y el Magreb (2002), 179–209; S. Klein-Braslavy in: "Encuentros" and "Desencuentros": Spanish Jewish Cultural Interaction throughout History (2000), 105–29; M. Saperstein, in: Jewish History, 1:2 (1986), 27–38; L. Feldman, in: Rabbi Joseph H. Lookstein Memorial Volume (1980), 119–24; D. Horwitz, in: Torah u-Madda Journal, 3 (1991–92) 52–81.
[Simha Assaf /
David Derovan (2nd ed.)]