Isaac ben Melchizedek of Siponto

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ISAAC BEN MELCHIZEDEK OF SIPONTO

ISAAC BEN MELCHIZEDEK OF SIPONTO (c. 1090–1160), the first Italian commentator on the Mishnah. It is unknown whether his commentary covered the whole of the Mishnah, since only the commentaries on Zera'im and Tohorot are known. The former is printed in the Romm Vilna Talmud, while the latter is quoted by the tosafot in the Sefer ha-Makhri'a (Leghorn, 1779) of Isaiah di Trani (nos 62, 86, et al.) and by other rabbis. Abraham b. David of Posquières refers to him as " ha-rav ha-Yevani," "the Greek rabbi," part of southern Italy being at that time Byzantine. Isaac's commentary is based on the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds, and he quotes from the Tosefta, the Sifra, the *SifreiZuta, and mentions R. Nissim, R. Daniel of Rome (brother of Nathan, the author of the Arukh), the Arukh, and Hai Gaon. He often translates Hebrew words into the vernacular, making use of Greek, Italian, and Arabic. His commentary is brief and clear, like that of Rashi, and he does not give halakhic decisions.

bibliography:

Frankel, Mishnah, index; Ch. Albeck, Mavo la-Mishnah (1959), 245; V. Aptowitzer, Mavo le-Sefer Ravyah (1938), 261, 283, 377–8; E.E. Urbach, Tosafot, index.

[Hirsch Jacob Zimmels]

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