Hananel ben Ḥushi'el

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HANANEL BEN ḤUSHI'EL (d. 1055/56), scholar, posek, and commentator. Hananel was born in *Kairouan, the son of *Ḥushi'el b. Elhanan. The early authorities refer to him as "of Rome," lending credence to the suggestion of Italian origin. Like his father, he was accorded the title resh bei rabbanan ("chief among the rabbis") by the Babylonian academies. After his death in Kairouan the title passed to *Nissim Gaon, his pupil. Hananel's most important work, which has not been completely preserved, was his commentary on the Talmud. Unlike Rashi, he limited himself to the subject matter only and did not give a running commentary, his main intention being to sum up the discussion and decide the halakhah. He relied greatly on the geonim, and in particular upon *Hai Gaon to whom he refers as "the gaon" without further qualification. In many places the commentary of Hananel is simply a word for word copy of Hai's commentary, sometime without acknowledgment. When he writes "we have received" a certain explanation – which contradicts the opinion of the geonim – the reference is to traditions received from his father or earlier Italian scholars, upon whose teaching he drew. The commentary contains explanations of many difficult words, chiefly in Arabic or Greek, most of which found their way into the Arukh of *Nathan b. Jehiel of Rome. Hananel was the first to make frequent use of the Jerusalem *Talmud, and he regularly compares it with discussions in the Babylonian Talmud. In consequence some scholars have exaggerated the importance of his influence upon the spreading of the study of the Jerusalem Talmud in particular. In addition to the Jerusalem Talmud, he also includes much from the Tosefta and the halakhic Midrashim in his commentary. It is not certain whether the commentary covered all the six orders of the Talmud, and in particular whether he wrote commentaries to those tractates whose subjects have no practical application. The following of his commentaries are extant: Berakhot (collected from published books and manuscripts in B. Lewin, Oẓar ha-Ge'onim, 1 (1928), appendix; the whole of the order Mo'ed (published in the standard editions of the Talmud); most of the order Nashim (also in Oẓar ha-Ge'onim, 7–11 (1936–42)); most of the order Nezikin (in the standard Talmud); and a fragment to tractate Ḥullin (ed. by B. Lewin, in: Sefer ha-YovelJ.L. Fishman (1926), 72–79). The commentaries to Horayot (in standard Talmud edition) and Zevaḥim (the last three chapters, ed. by I.M. Ben-Menahem (1942)) attributed to him are not by him. This list shows that he also wrote commentaries to sections not of practical application (e.g., the second half of tractate Pesahim and the fragment of Ḥullin which includes chapter ii).

Hananel's commentary gained wide circulation soon after its appearance, and served as the main bridge between the teaching of the Babylonian geonim and the scholars of North Africa and that of the scholars of Europe and Ereẓ Israel. *Eliezer b. Nathan was the first of the scholars of France and Germany to make use of and disseminate it, and Nathan b. Jehiel of Rome was the first of the Italian scholars. In Ereẓ Israel it was used first by *Nathan (Av ha-yeshivah) and in Spain by the author of Sha'arei Shavu'ot (see Isaac b. Reuben). Among the scholars of North Africa, extensive use was made of it by Isaac *Alfasi who copied very many of his rulings, both in his name and anonymously; in fact, the whole of Alfasi's work is based upon it. From Alfasi it passed to the scholars of Spain after him, such as *Joseph ibn Migash, *Maimonides, Meir ha-Levi *Abulafia, and others. In Germany and France the tosafists based themselves to a considerable extent on Hananel, and he is frequently quoted by them. All the rishonim laid great store on the readings of the Talmud embedded in his commentary, and he himself several times emphasized his readings. In addition to his commentary he wrote a Sefer Dinim whose nature is not known (see S. Assaf, Teshuvot ha-Ge'onim (1942), 51), and there are a number of citations from a book in Hilkhot Terefot. The rishonim quote his commentary to the Pentateuch and fragments of it have been collected by A. Berliner (in Migdal Ḥananel, 1876) and by J. Gad (Sheloshah Me'orot ha-Gedolim, 1950). Some of the rishonim erroneously attributed to Hananel the anonymous Sefer Mikẓo'ot.


S.J.L. Rapoport, in: Bikkurei ha-Ittim, 12 (1831), 11–33; Migdal Ḥananel (1876), includes biography; S. Poznański, in: Festschrift… A. Harkavy (1908), 194–8 (Heb. pt.); Kohut, Arukh, 1 (19262), 12–13 (introd.); V. Aptowitzer, in: Jahresbericht der Israelitisch-TheologischenLehranstalt in Wien, 37–39 (1933), 3–50; (= Sinai, 12 (1943), 106–19); S. Abramson, in: Sinai, 23 (1948), 57–86; idem, Rav Nissim Ga'on (1965), index; Urbach, Tosafot, index.

[Israel Moses Ta-Shma]