Isaiah ben Mall di Trani

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ISAIAH BEN MALL DI TRANI (the Elder; c. 1200–before 1260), early Italian halakhist, scion of a well-known rabbinic and scholarly family. Born in Trani, he is mainly known as the author of extensive commentaries and pesakim ("decisions") on the Talmud. Isaiah was a pupil of Simḥah of Speier and kept in contact with German scholars. His responsa are to be found in the Or Zaru'a of *Isaac b. Moses of Vienna, who greatly esteemed him. He traveled in the Mediterranean countries, spending some time in Greece and in Ereẓ Israel. Among the scholars whom he quotes mention should be made of Baruch "of Greece" (see *Baruch b. Isaac of Aleppo) while Zedekiah b. Abraham *Anav, author of Shibbolei ha-Leket, quotes him extensively.

Isaiah's works cover a wide range. They include (1) Pesakim on the Talmud, containing a summary of the subject under discussion, along the lines of *Alfasi, with additional comments on unresolved difficulties and a final decision on the conflicting views in the manner of *Hananel b. Ḥushi'el. The following pesakim have been published: on Berakhot and Shabbat (1964); on Eruvin, Pesaḥim, Yoma, and Sukkah (1966); on Sukkah alone in Sam Ḥayyim (Leghorn, 1801); on Beẓah (in Maḥaneh David, 1889, wrongly described as Tosafot Rid); on Rosh Ha-Shanah, Ta'anit and Ḥagigah (in Oholei Yiẓḥak, Leghorn, 1821); on Yevamot (called Tosafot Rid, 1931); on Ketubbot and Gittin (in margin of tb, Vilna edition, wrongly described as Tosafot Rid); on Kiddushin (1965); on Makkot (in: Talpioth, 8, 1963); on Horayot (ibid., 9, 1965); on Ḥullin (first chapter, in Ha-Segullah, 1940), and on Niddah (1963). His pesakim on the Halakhot Ketannot have also been published (Leghorn, 1801). The remainder are still in manuscript. (2) Sefer ha-Makhri'a (Leghorn, 1779) deals principally with important halakhot in regard to which the codifiers were in dispute, and which Isaiah attempts to resolve. (3) Sefer ha-Leket (not extant) is similar in nature to ha-Makhri'a. (4) Tosafot Rid, novellae to the Talmud. Extant are his novellae to the tractates: Shabbat, Eruvin, Pesaḥim, Yoma, Sukkah, Beẓah, Rosh Ha-Shanah, Megillah, Ḥagigah, Mo'ed Katan, Nedarim, Nazir, Bava Kamma, Bava Meẓi'a, Bava Batra, Avodah Zarah, and Niddah (Lemberg, 1862–68; new edition in preparation partly printed); Kiddushin (Sabionetta, 1553, and subsequent editions, such as, New York, 1965); Ta'anit (at end of Sefer ha-Makhri'a). Tosafot Rid was compiled in several "editions" in the form of pamphlets in which Isaiah retracted or supplemented his previous statements. The exact relationship between this book and his pesakim has not been established, as much of the material is common to both and in addition the printers added to the confusion. (5) Responsa (1967). (6) Commentary on the Pentateuch. Extracts from this commentary were published by Ḥ.J.D. *Azulai in his Penei David (Leghorn, 1792). The commentaries on the other books of the Bible, published under his name in Jerusalem in 1959, are apparently to be ascribed to his grandson. (7) Piyyutim.

Isaiah was an independent thinker with considerable originality of approach and with a critical attitude to the opinions of his predecessors. Occasionally he sharply rejects the teachings of geonim, such as *Hai Gaon and *Samuel b. Hophni, and of other distinguished predecessors. He even criticizes his own works, commenting, "All that I have written is valueless (hevel)." He is not awed by authority and is concerned only with examination of the source material. His books are distinguished by clarity of explanation, careful choice of correct readings, and methodological approach to talmudic principles and lines of reasoning.


Guedemann, Gesch Erz, 2 (1884), 184–9, 320–6; Gross, in: zhb, 13 (1909), 46–58, 87–92, 118–23; Marx, ibid., 188f.; M. Higger, Halakhot ve-Aggadot (1933), 11–27; H. Tchernowitz, Toledot ha-Posekim, 2 (1947), 62–68; A.I. Wertheimer (ed.), Perush Nevi'im u-Khetuvim le-Rabbi Yeshayah ha-Rishon mi-Trani (1959), 11–56 (introd.); idem (ed.), Teshuvot ha-Rid (1967), 17–66 (introd.); Rosenfeld, in: Sinai, 54 (1963/64), 290–301; S.K. Mirsky (ed.), Shibbolei ha-Leket (1966), 29–34 (introd.); idem, in: Talpioth, 9 (1964), 49–109; S. Abramson, in: Sinai, 65 (1969), 103–8.

[Israel Moses Ta-Shma]