Isaac ben Moses of Vienna

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ISAAC BEN MOSES OF VIENNA (c. 1180-c. 1250), halakhic authority of Germany and France. He is usually referred to as Isaac Or Zaru'a, i.e., by the title of his important halakhic work. Isaac was born in Bohemia which he usually refers to as "the land of Canaan." In his youth he suffered from "poverty and wanderings" (Or Zaru'a pt. i, 6d), but as a result of his peregrinations he came in contact with contemporary German and French scholars, by whose teaching he was influenced. Among the scholars of Bohemia under whom he studied were Jacob b. Isaac ha-Lavan of Prague and *Abraham b. Azriel, author of Arugat ha-Bosem. In Regensburg he studied under Judah ben Samuel he-Ḥasid and Abraham b. Moses. His chief teachers, "on whom he waited," were, according to him, *Simḥah b. Samuel of Speyer, Eliezer b. Joel ha-Levi (the Ravyah), and *Judah b. Isaac Sir Leon of Paris. He noted their decisions and learned from their conduct and customs. In Wuerzburg he studied under Jonathan b. Isaac, and in France was a pupil of Samson of Coucy. He transmitted a ruling in the name of Samson of Coucy in connection with the decree in 1215 of Pope Innocent iii compelling Jews to wear the yellow *badge (ibid., pt. iiHilkhot Shabbat 84:3).

Isaac's monumental work Or Zaru'a shared the fate of similar halakhic works which were apparently not sufficiently copied because of their extensive nature, and as a result did not achieve large circulation. Only 600 years after his death were the first two parts of the work published (1862) from a manuscript in the possession of Akiva *Lehren of Amsterdam (the adventures related in connection with the manuscript are pure legend). The first part deals with blessings, laws connected with the land of Israel, niddah and mikva'ot, laws of marriage, and a collection of responsa, mostly by the author, but some by other scholars. Part ii contains topics which are now included in the Oraḥ Ḥayyim section of the Shulḥan Arukh. Two further parts were published at a later date (1887–90) from a manuscript in the British Museum. These contain halakhic rulings derived from the tractates Bava Kamma, Bava Meẓia, Bava Batra, Sanhedrin, and Avodah Zarah. A supplement to this section, comprising decisions based on the tractate Shevu'ot, which had not been published in the previous collections because they were thought to pertain to tractate Shevi'it, was published by A. Freimann (in Festschrift zu I. Lewy … (1911), Heb. pt. 10–32). A number of abridgments have been made of the work, the best known of which is that by Isaac's son *Ḥayyim b. Isaac Or Zaru'a, entitled Simanei Or Zaru'a which achieved a wide circulation although this work too was not at the disposal of all scholars. The quotations from Isaac Or Zaru'a in the Haggahot Asheri of *Israel of Krems are from this abridgment. Although the work did not have a wide circulation, later authorities quote his views to a considerable extent from secondary sources, such as the Mordecai, the Haggahot Maimuniyyot, etc. The complete work constitutes a valuable collection of the halakhic rulings of German and French scholars as well as being of great value for the history of Jewish communities in Europe during the Middle Ages (for instance, he discusses whether "our brothers in Bohemia" are permitted to carry arms on the Sabbath when they have to guard the city). A great part of the work (according to Aptowitzer, a third) is derived from his teacher *Eliezer b. Joel ha-Levi, whose Ravyah was already available to Isaac. There is no definite information as to how the work was composed and edited, or the order in which the various parts were written. One reason pointed out by Urbach (Tosafot, 367 n. 61) is that an examination of the manuscripts indicate that the existing text is not the original. Urbach came to the conclusion that copyists made copies of the work in sections, which were subsequently combined into a unified book. The book itself was compiled over a long period, the author adding various supplements. As a result there are mutual cross references between passages and it is impossible to determine which was written first. Before compiling the book, the author made notes and assembled data which were later written up, as he himself states (Or Zaru'a, pt. ii, no. 38). He was still engaged in its compilation in 1246 (idem, Av. Zar. no. 107).


Gross, in: mgwj, 20 (1871), 248–64; Wellesz, ibid., 48 (1904), 129–44, 209–13, 361–71, 440–56, 710–2; idem, in: jjlg, 4 (1906), 75–124; Vogelstein, in: mgwj, 49 (1905), 701–6; V. Aptowitzer, Mavo le-Sefer Ravyah (1938), 25–32; Tykocinski, in: mgwj, 55 (1911), 478–500; idem, in: Germ Jud, 1 (1934), 400–10; Urbach, Tosafot, 359–70; Samet, in: ks, 43 (1968), 435.

[Shlomoh Zalman Havlin]

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Isaac ben Moses of Vienna

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