Isaac ben Menahem the Great

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ISAAC BEN MENAHEM THE GREAT (11th century), French scholar of the generation of *Rashi's teachers. In his youth Isaac studied in Mainz at the yeshivah of *Eliezer b. Isaac of Worms. Later he settled in France and the correspondence thereafter between Isaac and his teacher shows that the two were very closely attached and contains great praise by Eliezer for Isaac. Rashi made extensive use of Isaac's teachings, both written and oral, particularly in determining the correct text of the Talmud. Isaac had apparently copied out in his own hand several orders of the Mishnah and the Talmud while still in the yeshivah, and Rashi, in at least one case, preferred Isaac's text to that of his own teachers and "of all the manuscripts" (Suk. 40a). Rashi also made use of Isaac's work to explain difficult words (Shab. 67a; bm 7b; et al.). At the same time, Rashi did not hesitate to disagree with one of his rulings and to set it aside completely (J. Mueller (ed.), Teshuvot Ḥakhmei Ẓarefat ve-Loter (1881), 10a–b, no. 17), and some of Isaac's other rulings met with opposition from authorities of the time (Tos. to Git. 21b; S. Hurwitz (ed.), Maḥzor Vitry (19232), et al.). His text and explanation of words were generally relied on by scholars, in that they were based on the traditions of the main yeshivah in Mainz (Maḥzor Vitry, 610, 635). Many scholars accepted as authoritative the example of the religious practices of his sister, Bella, who apparently grew up in his house and thus learned them from him (ibid.).

[Israel Moses Ta-Shma]

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Isaac ben Menahem the Great

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