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Boton, Abraham ben Moses de


BOTON, ABRAHAM BEN MOSES DE (154?–after 1592), rabbi and halakhist. De Boton was born in Salonika, the son of the rabbinic scholar Moses de *Boton (d. 1570). He and Mordecai *Kalai studied at R. Samuel de Medina's yeshivah; the latter later intimated that many of Abraham's ideas were really his, but this claim was never proved. De Boton served as rabbi of the large and wealthy Apulia congregation in Salonika; while this congregation was established by Italian Jews (and retained the Italian liturgy), it eventually had both Sephardi members and rabbinic leaders (of Italian ancestry) in its midst.

De Boton was not noted for one particular field of expertise but considered to be capable of judging disputes in all areas. As a result, he was consulted throughout the Sephardi Diaspora. Among his writings is a commentary to portions of the Talmud tractate Bava Kamma which appears in Me-Hararei Nemarim (Venice, 1599) as well as a collection of numerous responsa he wrote entitled Leḥem Rav (Smyrna, 1660). The latter was published and financed by his grandson and grandson's brother-in-law. Leḥem Rav contains decisions that were frequently quoted throughout the Jewish world and set halakhic precedents. They deal with a broad range of topics, including international trade, taxation, public leadership, and congregational regulations as well as issues of property, inheritance, business, marriage, etc. A great deal can be learned from them about the Ottoman Empire and particularly about Salonika of the 16th century. The author's style here is precise and reflects erudition and a mastery of Hebrew.

His best-known work is Leḥem Mishneh (Venice, 1604), a commentary to Maimonides' Mishneh Torah. The Salonikan rabbi was not aware that Joseph *Caro was simultaneously preparing a similar study, and when Caro's Kesef Mishneh appeared in 1575, he was careful only to include his own innovations and even pointed out differences and agreements of opinion. De Boton had a sophisticated critical eye, for he examined different versions of the Talmud and editions of manuscripts while preparing his own work.

Abraham de Boton fell victim to a plague some time after 1592.


M. Ben-Sasson, W.Z. Harvey, Y. Ben-Naeh, and Z. Zohar (eds.), Studies in a Rabbinic Family: the de Botons (1998); H. Gerber, "Entrepreneurship and International Trade in the Economic Activities of the Jews of the Ottoman Empire in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries," in: Zion, 43:3–4 (1978), 38–67 (Heb.); A. Shochet, "Taxation and Communal Leadership in the Communities of Greece in the Sixteenth Century," in: Sefunot, 11 (1971–77), 299–341 (Heb.).

[Renée Levine Melammed (2nd ed.)]

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