Bertinoro, Obadiah ben Abraham Yare

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BERTINORO, OBADIAH BEN ABRAHAM YARE (Di or Of ; c. 1450–before 1516), Italian rabbi and Mishnah commentator. The name Yare is an acrostic of the Hebrew יְהִי רְצוּי אֶחָיו(Yehi Reẓui Eḥav; "Let him be the favored of his brethren"; Deut. 33:24). Little is known of his family, which derived from the town Bertinero in northern Italy. At some time he apparently lived in Città di Castello, where he was a banker. His best-known teacher was Joseph *Colon. Much more is known about Bertinoro, after he left this place, from three letters he wrote during 1488–91 in which he described his travels and his early impressions of Ereẓ Israel. (See Map: Journey from Italy to Israel). Leaving his home at the end of 1486, he went on via Rome to Naples and stayed there and at Salerno for four months, where he taught (probably Jewish matter). In 1487 he reached Palermo where he stayed three months, preaching every Sabbath. Though pressed to become rabbi, he refused, and sailed by way of Messina and Rhodes for Alexandria, where he arrived early in 1488. He describes at length the Jewish communities of these places and their customs. He proceeded to Cairo, and the nagidNathan ha-Kohen *Sholal received him with great honor. Sholal asked Obadiah to remain in Cairo but he refused and continued his journey via Gaza, Hebron, and Bethlehem, reaching Jerusalem just before Passover in 1488. Jacob of Colombano, an Ashkenazi rabbi who had come to

Jerusalem from Italy, welcomed him warmly. On his arrival Bertinoro became the spiritual leader of Jerusalem Jewry, and was embroiled with the local communal leaders, in his words – "zekenim" (elders). However, he was successful in uniting the oppressed and divided community. He established regular courses of study and preached twice a month in Hebrew. He even occupied himself with the burial of the dead since no one else was ready to undertake this religious duty. He enacted communal regulations and made himself responsible for the collection of funds from Italy for the support of the poor. Emanuel Ḥai Camerino of Florence, to whom Bertinoro had entrusted his property and who had promised to send 100 ducats a year, added an additional 25 ducats for charity. Bertinoro's wealthy brother also sent contributions. Nathan Sholal put his house in Jerusalem in Bertinoro's charge and authorized him to manage the communal affairs. It seems also that he officially served as a deputy *nagid in Jerusalem. With the repeal of the communal tax and the arrival after 1492 of refugees from Spain, the community began to grow. An anonymous traveler testifies in 1495 to Bertinoro's fame in Ereẓ Israel and in the Diaspora. From his third letter in 1491 from Hebron it appears that he left Jerusalem for a while and became rabbi of Hebron. By 1495, however, he was back in Jerusalem. He was buried on the Mount of Olives.

Bertinoro's fame rests on his commentary on the Mishnah which was completed in Jerusalem and published in Venice (1548–49). It has become the standard commentary on the Mishnah as is Rashi's on the Talmud. This commentary was published with the text in almost every edition of the Mishnah. Written in an easy, lucid style, it draws largely on Rashi, often quoting him literally, and on Maimonides, whose rulings he cites. For the sections of Mishnah which have no Talmud he drew on the commentary of *Samson b. Abraham of Sens and of *Asher b. Jehiel. Falsely attributed to him is Amar Neke (published: Pisa, 1810), a commentary on Rashi on the Pentateuch. The three letters mentioned above were written in a flowing, limpid Hebrew to his father, his brother, and possibly his friend, Camerino. They have frequently been published under the title Darkhei Ẓiyyon or Ha-Massa le-EreẓYisrael and translated into many languages, such as, German, French, English, Italian, and Spanish. Other works remain in manuscript: responsa, novellae on R. Moses of Coucy, Sefer Mitzvot Gadol, and Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, as well as an exchange of letters, poems, and prayers.


Luncz, Ha-Me'ammer, 3 (1919), 93–174; Sachs, in: Jahrbuch fuer die Geschichte der Juden und des Judenthums, 3 (1863), 193-270; Marx, in: Sefer ha-Shanah shel Ereẓ-Yisrael, 2–3 (1926), 97–99; Cassuto, in: Ha-Ẓofeh le-Ḥokhmat Yisrael, 10 (1926), 296–302; P. Grojewski, Rabbenu Ovadyah Yare mi-Bartenura (1938); E.N. Adler, Jewish Travellers (19662), 209–50; Artom, in: Yavneh, 3 (1942), 112–24; A. Yaari, Iggerot Ereẓ Yisrael (1943), 98–144; M.A. Shulvass, Roma vi-Yrushalayim (1944), 31ff.; Ch. Albeck, Mavo la-Mishnah (1959), 249ff. add. bibliography: Shochetman, in: Pe'amim, 37 (1988), 3–23; Toaff, ibid., 24–30; Horowitz, ibid., 31–41; G. Busi (ed.), Ovadyah Yare da Bertinoro e la presenza ebraica in Romagna nel quattrocentro (1987); I.D. Lerner, Rabenu Ovadiah mi-Bartenura (1988); Reiner, Shalem, 6 (1992), 23ff.; M.E. Artom and A. David, Me-Italyah li-Yerushalayim (1997).

[Abraham David]

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Bertinoro, Obadiah ben Abraham Yare

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