Isaac ben Abba Mari of Marseilles

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ISAAC BEN ABBA MARI OF MARSEILLES (1120?–1190?), rabbinical scholar in Provence and Spain. Isaac studied under his father, *Abba Mari b. Isaac, and when only 17 years of age composed a work on the laws of *sheḥitah and forbidden foods, at his father's behest. Later he went to Barcelona, where he was received with great honor and, at the request of Sheshet *Benveniste, wrote a commentary on chapter 4 of the tractate Menahot which deals with the laws concerning *ẓiẓit, *mezuzah, and *tefillin. He corresponded with the most illustrious figures of his generation, such as *Abraham b. David of Posquieres and Jacob *Tam, whom he frequently mentions and quotes. His place in the first rank of rabbinic authorities is due to his encyclopedic work, Sefer ha-Ittur, a compilation of the main halakhic laws which are of practical application. Part one deals with the various laws of bills, both financial and of divorce. It is arranged according to subject matter but following a mnemonic acrostic Tashkef be-Geza Ḥokhmah. תשקף בגזע חכמה ("Consider the Root of Wisdom"), each letter representing a certain concept. Thus ת stands for tenai ("condition"), ש for shover ("receipt"), ק for kiyyum ("authentication"), etc. Part two includes the laws for the preparation of meat, sheḥitah, circumcision, tefillin, marriage benedictions, ẓiẓit, and a separate section entitled "Ten Commandments" containing ten positive commands which must be performed at specific times. This arrangement is unique in halakhic literature. Isaac b. Abba Mari made use of his vast knowledge of geonic literature and his work is still an important source for that literature. He also made extensive use of Spanish authorities and those of Germany and northern France. He used the Jerusalem Talmud to a considerable extent and also engaged in establishing the correct text of the Talmud on the basis of ancient sources, some of which are no longer extant.

The Sefer ha-Ittur was accepted as an authoritative halakhic treatise by the great rabbinical authorities of Spain and Germany and even such renowned talmudic scholars as Naḥmanides made frequent use of it without specifically mentioning it. Both the manuscript and the printed editions (Pt. 1: Venice, 1608; Warsaw, 1801; Pt. 2: Lemberg, 1860) of the text of the Sefer ha-Ittur are faulty to the extent of the deletion of entire lines, rendering its study difficult. A new edition of the entire work, together with a commentary, was prepared and published by Meir Jonah (1874–85). Additional fragments, entitled Tashlum ha-Ittur were published (from manuscripts) in the Festschrift in honor of Dr. Jakob Freimann (1937) by Alfred Freimann. Besides this work Isaac b. Abba Mari wrote a short treatise on Isaac Alfasi called Me'ah She'arim (printed at the end of some of the talmudic tractates in the Romm-Vilna edition).


Michael, Or, no. 1072; Benedikt, in ks, 25 (1949), 164–6; Assaf, in: hhy, 6 (1922), 289–309.

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Isaac ben Abba Mari of Marseilles

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Isaac ben Abba Mari of Marseilles