Ephraim Ibn Avi Alragan

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EPHRAIM IBN AVI ALRAGAN (late 11 and early 12th centuries), North African halakhist. He is referred to in halakhic literature as "Rabbenu Ephraim," "Ephraim of Kaleah," "Ephraim the Sephardi," "Ephraim, pupil of the Rif" (i.e., Isaac *Alfasi), "Ephraim the Elder," etc. He lived in *Qalʿat Hammād (Algeria). Ephraim was an outstanding disciple of Alfasi, with whom he discussed halakhic problems and Alfasi at times accepted his view. The "Mahadura Batra" (second recension of the halakhot of Alfasi) contains Ephraim's amendments. He was the first to write a commentary on the halakhot of Alfasi, and this is referred to in the works of rishonim under various names: haggahot ("glosses"), hassagot ("critiques"), teshuvot ("responsa"), tosafot ("addenda"), and tashlum halakhot ("complement to the halakhot "). The work has not survived, but quotations from it appear in the works of the rishonim, and a substantial part of it, on Bava Kamma, was published in the Temim De'im, no. 68, margin in the Romm Vilna (1882) edition of Alfasi. The quotations indicate that the book covered the whole of the halakhot and possibly also the Mishnah of tractates which Alfasi did not include in his work. The book consists of supplements to the halakhot ("additional halakhot omitted by Alfasi"), explanations of passages from the Gemara which Alfasi quoted without comment, explanations of the text itself, and refutations of Alfasi's critics. It also contains criticism of Alfasi, mainly where he disagrees with the decisions of the Babylonian geonim and North African scholars, and with their customs. The criticisms are presented vigorously but respectfully. Sometimes, when an opinion attributed to Alfasi is not acceptable to Ephraim, he, like other admirers of Alfasi, questions the attribution. Ephraim's purpose was to secure universal acceptance for the halakhot; even his criticisms were directed to this end, for by citing the views of earlier scholars which conflict with those of Alfasi, those who disagreed with him could still use the work as a whole as an authoritative code. Because the rishonim quoted mainly the criticisms of Ephraim, it was thought that the whole work was critical. Ephraim exercised an influence particularly on the early scholars of Provence and Catalonia, such as *Abraham b. David of Posquiéres, *Zerahiah ha-Levi, *Jonathan ha-Kohen of Lunel, *Isaac b. Abba Mari of Marseilles, and *Nah-manides. Much of his teachings are contained in their works, sometimes without attribution. In some cases his glosses in the margins were incorporated in error by copyists into the text of the halakhot itself. Solomon b. Parḥon was one of Ephraim's pupils.


Benedikt, in: ks, 25 (1948/49), 164–9, 229–30; 26 (1949/50), 216, 322–38; 31 (1955 /56), 264; Ta-Shema, ibid., 42 (1966/67), 507–8.

[Binyamin Zeev Benedikt]