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Isaac ben Asher Ha-Levi


ISAAC BEN ASHER HA-LEVI (known as Riba, initials of R abbi I saac B en A sher; second half of 11th and beginning of 12th century), talmudist of Speyer, the first of the German tosafists. He was a pupil of *Rashi and the son-in-law of Rashi's colleague Eliakim b. Meshullam ha-Levi. Contemporary scholars addressed their problems to him and treated him with great respect. His pupils referred to him as " ha-Kadosh " ("the Saint," cf. Eliezer b. Nathan, Sefer Rabban (Prague, 1610), 149a; Simleul-Silvaniei edition, 1926, 298b). This appellation may be connected with the manner of his death, it being related that he became very ill on the Day of Atonement and on being told by the physicians that if he fasted he would certainly die, but if he ate he might live, he decided to fast and succumbed to his illness (Menaḥem of Recanati, Sefer Recanati (Piskei Halakhot), Bologna, 1538, no. 166). He compiled tosafot to most tractates of the Talmud, but only extracts included in the later collections of tosafot are extant. Some of his statements are likewise quoted in subsequent halakhic literature (Sefer ha-Yashar of Jacob Tam, Or Zaru'a of Isaac b. Moses of Vienna, Meir of Rothenburg, and others). He compiled halakhic collections on loans, on usury, on the tractates Ḥullin, Bava Batra chapter 4, Avodah Zarah, Gittin, and Ketubbot. It is stated that before teaching he went over the halakhah by himself four times (Aaron Ha-Kohen, Orḥot Ḥayyim, pt. i, Law of Mondays and Thursdays, no. 20, Jerusalem, 1956 ed., 49). It is also stated that he and his pupils endeavored to create a *Golem by the aid of practical Kabbalah (Commentary to Sefer Yeẓirah attributed to Saadiah Gaon, 2:4, Grodno, 1806 ed., 42b). Among his pupils were Isaac b. Mordecai (the Riẓbam), Moses b. Joel Saltman, and Shemariah b. Mordecai.

Isaac b. Asher had a grandson of the same name (first quarter of the 12th century–1195) who is known as Riba ii, to distinguish him from his grandfather. He was also known as Riba ha-Baḥur ("The Younger"). He was born in Speyer on the day his grandfather died and they applied to him the verse (Eccles. 1:5), "The sun also ariseth and the sun goeth down" (see Eccles. R. to 1:5; Da'at Zekenim to Ex. 7:25). He studied under Shemariah b. Mordecai and Abraham b. Moses of Regensburg. He was a member of the bet din among whose other members were Meir b. Kalonymus and alternately Meir's brother Judah. His signature appears with theirs on a responsum to R. Joel. Among his pupils were *Eliezer b. Joel ha-Levi (the Ravyah) and Simḥah b. Samuel of Speyer. He met a martyr's death in 1195 after rioters abused the dead body of his daughter (Narrative of Ephraim of Bonn in Quellen zur Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland, 2 (1892), 74f.).


riba i: Michael, Or, no. 1074; V. Aptowitzer, Mavo le-Sefer Ravyah (1938), 259, 369f.; Urbach, Tosafot, 141–8, 304–5, and index s.v.; J. Lipschuetz, Sanhedrei Gedolah (1968), introd.; I. Ta-Shema, in: ks, 43 (1968), 573, n. 17. riba ii: Urbach, Tosafot, 304f.

[Shlomoh Zalman Havlin]

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