Isaac ben Samuel of Dampierre

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ISAAC BEN SAMUEL OF DAMPIERRE (usually referred to by the initial letters of his name as Ri (initials of R abbi I saac) or Ri the Elder , or Ri of Dampierre , d. c. 1185), one of the most important of the *tosafists and leading authority of Franco-German Jewry in the second half of the 12th century. Isaac was the nephew and pupil of Jacob *Tam. His father was the son of Simḥah b. Samuel of Vitry, and his wife the daughter of Judah b. Yom Tov, great-grandson of *Rashi. He was thus related to the distinguished Jewish families of scholars and communal leaders of his time. He lived in Ramerupt for many years, accompanying his teacher, Jacob Tam, and helping him with his ramified correspondence. After R. Tam left Ramerupt, Isaac went to live in Dampierre. For some time he also lived in Joinville. Even after leaving his teacher, Isaac regarded himself as completely subordinate to R. Tam until his death, and rarely deviated from his rulings. Together with R. Tam, he is the central pillar of the entire tosafot activity, there being hardly a page of the printed tosafot where he is not mentioned. His tosafot have not survived in their original form except for fragments in some manuscripts and quotations in the works of the rishonim. His teachings were interwoven in the published tosafot, being handed down by a line of his pupils. Ḥ.J.D. *Azulai still had Isaac's tosafot to Kiddushin and quotes them in his Petaḥ Einayim. However the commentary published in the editions of the Talmud on Kiddushin with the title Perush Ri ha-Zaken is not by Isaac but by *Abraham b. Isaac of Montpellier. Especially abundant use of Isaac's tosafot was made by his pupil, *Samson b. Abraham of Sens, who based his own tosafot on them. Another important source for his teachings is the Haggahot Asheri of *Israel of Krems. There are historical testimonies (see introduction to the Ẓeidah la-Derekh of *Menahem b. Aaron ibn Zeraḥ, as well as a tradition cited by Solomon *Luria in the introduction to his Yam shel Shelomo on tractate Ḥullin) to the effect that the school of Isaac was the main creative center in which the tosafot were developed as a system of study and as a literary genre, and it was there that the system of study whose foundations had been laid by Rashi's sons-in-law reached its peak.

Many of Isaac's responsa are preserved in the works of the rishonim. These contain historical and cultural material of great value for a knowledge of the internal lives of the Jews and their relations with their neighbors. Despite his central position in the Jewish world of his time, his responsa lack the note of polemic, controversy, and vehemence that characterizes the responsa of the great tosafists, particularly of R. Tam. Great humility and an exceptionally gentle approach are especially conspicuous. His piety and uprightness were renowned and already in the 14th century there was a legend that he had ascended on high and received information from the angels. A tendency toward mysticism is discernible in his writings, and it is possible that he was in contact with *Samuel, the father of *Judah ben Samuel he-Ḥasid. *Elhanan b. Yakar of London, who wrote a commentary on the Sefer Yeẓirah (published by Vajda in Koveẓ al Yad, 6 pt. 1 (1966), 147–97) in the succeeding generation, quotes statements he heard in his name. Among his important pupils were *Abraham b. Nathan ha-Yarḥi, who acted as the intermediary between him and *Asher b. Meshullam of Lunel, and his own son *Elhanan who died during his father's lifetime. Noteworthy among his other pupils, all of whom were important tosafists, are *Baruch b. Isaac of Worms, *Isaac b. Abraham, and the above-mentioned Samson of Sens. Isaac's rulings were also known to the early scholars and manuscripts of them are still extant. His Hilkhot ha-Get, which he apparently composed toward the end of his life, has recently been published (Kupfer, in Koveẓ al-Yad, 6 pt. 1 (1966), 123–44). It is very doubtful whether he wrote a commentary on the Hilkhot ha-Rif of Isaac *Alfasi, its ascription to him being due to a printer's error (Responsa of the Rosh (Asher b. Jehiel), Kelal 85, no. 10 (ed. Zolkiew, 1803), 84b).


A. Aptowitzer, Mavo le-Sefer Ravyah (1938), 379–81; Assaf, in: A. Marx Jubilee Volume (1950), 9–22 (Heb. section); Benedikt, in: ks, 28 (1952–53), 227–9; Urbach, Tosafot, 195–211, 460ff.; idem, in: Sefer Assaf (1953), 18–32; Kupfer, in: Koveẓ al-Yad, 6 pt. 1 (1966), 123–44.

[Israel Moses Ta-Shma]

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Isaac ben Samuel of Dampierre

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