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Jacob ben Nissim ibn Shahin


JACOB BEN NISSIM IBN SHAHIN (d. 1106/07), scholar of *Kairouan. Jacob was head of the bet ha-midrash in Kairouan. He is referred to under a variety of titles such as ha-rav *alluf, rosh kallah, ha-rosh ("chief rabbi"), etc. He had close ties with the Babylonian academies of *Sura and *Pumbedita and acted as their representative for the countries of North Africa, both with regard to the monies collected for yeshivot and transmitted through him, and in correspondence on halakhic matters. Questions from different communities in Africa were addressed to Jacob who forwarded them to the Babylonian academies, received the replies, and passed them on to the inquirers. The many responsa he received from the geonim of Babylon, and the praise which they bestowed on him (Mann, Texts, 1 (1931), 108) testify to his importance and status. The long historical responsum known as "The Letter of Sherira Gaon" was sent to him in 987 c.e. by *Sherira b. Hanina Gaon in response to Jacob's question on behalf of "the holy community of Kairouan" as to "How was the Mishnah written down?" (He sent him another responsum quoted in the Arukh (s.v. Abbaye) on the subject of the names of the scholars of the Talmud, which is regarded by some as part of the same responsum.) Some scholars have attributed the commentary to the weekly biblical portion of Va-Yeẓe mentioned in an ancient list of books (Mann, ibid., 644 n. 3) to Jacob. Similarly, a commentary to the Sefer Yeḥirah was thought to be his; it has been proved, however, that the basis of that commentary is by Isaac b. Solomon *Israeli, and that it was apparently written by *Dunash ibn Tamim of Kairouan. His son was Rav Nissim *Gaon, who continued his father's activities and functions.


S.D. Luzzatto, Iggerot Shadal, 7 (1891), 1031f.; Poznański, in: Festschrift… A. Harkavy (1908), Heb. pt., 204–7; idem, in: Ha-Kedem, 2 (1908–09), 103–5; B.M. Lewin (ed.), Iggeret Rav Sherira Ga'on (1921), introd. 36b; Mann, Texts, 1 (1931), 74 n. 25, 112–3, 124; V. Aptowitzer, in: Sinai, 12 (1943), 110 n. 14; Nissim b. Jacob, Ḥibbur Yafeh me-ha-Yeshu'ah, ed. by H.Z. Hirschberg (1954), introd. 23–26; Hirschberg, Afrikah, 1 (1965), 237–45 and index s.v.; Abramson, Merkazim, 42–44, 57, 77, 92, 101–3; idem, Rav Nissim Ga'on (1965), introd. 17–20.

[Shlomoh Zalman Havlin]

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