Ibn Migash, Joseph ben Meir Ha-Levi

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IBN MIGASH, JOSEPH BEN MEIR HA-LEVI (1077–1141), greatest Spanish talmudic scholar of the third generation of Spanish rabbis. He studied first under Isaac b. Baruch *Albalia, and at the age of 12 went to Lucena where he studied under Alfasi for 14 years. His teacher encouraged him, ordained him as rabbi and greatly honored him, even nominating him his successor as head of the yeshivah, though his own son was a talmudic scholar. Ibn Migash occupied this post for 38 years, until his death.

Ibn Migash enjoyed an outstanding reputation among his contemporaries. *Maimon, the father of Moses *Maimonides, was apparently among his many pupils, and Maimonides, especially in his novellae on the Talmud, frequently relies upon the traditions of Ibn Migash, which, as he states, he had received from his father. In his introduction to his commentary on the Mishnah, he says of him, "The understanding of that man in Talmud was awe-inspiring… so that it could almost be said of him that never before had there been his like." Maimonides' attachment to Ibn Migash is so strong that for a long time he was erroneously thought to have been his pupil. *Judah Halevi, from youth the friend of Ibn Migash, composed poems of praise in his honor, and it was he who formulated the letter to the scholars of Provence in which Ibn Migash sought an acquaintance with them and their teachings. This letter is the earliest extant document on the ties between the centers of learning in Provence and Spain.

Very little of Ibn Migash's work is extant. His novellae to Bava Batra (Amsterdam, 1702) and Shevu'ot (Salonika, 1759) have been published, but his commentary must have embraced at least half of the Talmud, and even the portion published is not complete in itself. His novellae to Bava Batra are quoted more extensively and fully in the works of other rishonim, and are found in superior form in the Shitah Mekubbezet to that tractate, and in *Aghmati's work, Sefer ha-Ner. A relatively small number of his responsa (translated from the original Arabic) have been published (Salonika, 1786); some are included in the works of others (e.g., in the responsa Pe'er ha-Dor, Amsterdam, 1765), and more are extant in manuscript. He is known to have composed a book of comments (which is not, however, extant) on the Hilkhot ha-Rif of his teacher. The works of Ibn Migash decisively influenced the study of Talmud in Spain and Provence. Meir *Abulafia, who summed up the teaching of the Spanish scholars until the generation of Naḥmanides incorporates – mostly anonymously – many of Ibn Migash's comments in his work. So does Naḥmanides, who transmitted them to his pupils and followers, such as Solomon b. Abraham *Adret and *Yom Tov b. Abraham Ishbili (the Ritba). They were well known in Provence, too, already being quoted by *Abraham b. Isaac, who frequently relies upon them in his responsa. meir, the son of Joseph ibn Migash, was also a well-known scholar in Spain; his son Isaac served with Meir Abulafia on the bet din of Toledo in 1205. Among Meir's important pupils was *Jonathan ha-Kohen of Lunel.


A.L. Grajevsky, Rabbenu Yosef ha-Levi ibn Migash (19632); B.Z. Benedict, in: Tarbiz, 22 (1950/51), 99ff.; idem, in: ks, 31 (1955/56), 264–5; I. Ta-Shema, in: ks, 46, 47 (1971–72).

[Israel Moses Ta-Shma]