Asher ben Saul

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ASHER BEN SAUL (late 12th and early 13th centuries), one of the "sages of Lunel," later of Narbonne. Few biographical details are known about him and until recently many confused him with Asher b. Meshullam of Lunel. Asher was the younger brother of the kabbalist Jacob *Nazir. Asher's tendency toward mysticism can be detected in his writings. His principal teacher was Samuel b. David Provençal, but he was influenced by Abraham b. David of Posquières and Joseph b. Plat, although it is uncertain whether they were actually his teachers. Asher is the author of Sefer ha-Minhagot ("Book of Customs"), parts of which were first published from an incomplete manuscript by S. Assaf (see bibl.). It is the second book of its kind written in Europe (1205–10), having been preceded a few years earlier by the Ha-Manhig of Abraham b. Nathan ha-Yarḥi. Many customs were falling into neglect because of ignorance as to their origins. Asher sought to reinforce their observance by giving an extensive variety of sources. In addition to talmudic and midrashic material he quotes the Babylonian geonim and the rabbis of Spain and of northern and southern France. However, the only customs mentioned are those of Lunel and Narbonne. The Minhagot was well known by the codifiers and was used extensively, particularly by *Aaron b. Jacob of Lunel in his Orḥot Ḥayyim. The rest of his work is known only from quotations.


M.B.Z. Benedikt, in: ks, 27 (1950/51), 240–1; I. Sonne, ibid., 28 (1952/53), 416; S. Assaf, Sifran shel Rishonim (1935), 121–82; S. Schechter, in: jqr, 5 (1892/93), 18–23, 350 ff.; A. Marx, in: rej, 59 (1910), 204.

[Israel Moses Ta-Shma]