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Jonathan ben David Ha-Kohen of Lunel


JONATHAN BEN DAVID HA-KOHEN OF LUNEL (c. 1135–after 1210), talmudic scholar of Provence, the leading rabbi of Lunel after the death of *Meshullam b. Jacob. He was a pupil of Moses b. Joseph Merwan in Narbonne and possibly of Meir ibn Migash – the son of Joseph ibn *Migash – in Spain, a fellow student of Zerahiah ha-Levi *Gerondi, and a pupil-colleague of *Abraham b. David of Posquières.

Jonathan was in the vanguard of the defenders of Maimonides in the controversy stirred up against him by Meir *Abulafia. In his reply (signed, however, by *Aaron b. Meshullam of Lunel) to Meir's letter to the sages of Provence, Jonathan strenuously countered Meir's accusation, at the same time highly praising Maimonides and his work. Jonathan's correspondence with Maimonides, which in the course of time created strong bonds of mutual affection and admiration, originated from a copy of Maimonides' Letter to Yemen, which found its way into his hands. Greatly impressed by its contents and the writer's wide vision, he sent him a letter full of praise, containing questions on the authenticity of astrology and the possibility of guarding against its prognostications. In his reply, delayed for several years, Maimonides referred Jonathan to his Yad ha-Ḥazakah, enclosing a copy with his reply. There followed a halakhic correspondence in which Jonathan submitted to Maimonides questions and strictures on the work by himself and the other scholars of Lunel. Maimonides was thus made aware of the vast talmudic knowledge of the Lunel scholars, and his replies were phrased in terms of great esteem. The whole exchange, permeated with a spirit of humility and reverence, is among the finest in the literature of Hebrew correspondence. In the course of it, Jonathan also requested Maimonides to send him his Guide of the Perplexed, which he thereafter submitted to Samuel ibn *Tibbon for translation into Hebrew. Jonathan was among the leaders of the "300 French and English rabbis" who emigrated in 1210 to Ereẓ Israel, and there he died.

Jonathan wrote commentaries on the Mishnah, Talmud, and Alfasi, embracing most of the Talmud. Much of his work, hitherto in manuscript, has recently been published. It includes commentaries on the tractates Megillah, Mo'ed Katan (1956), Berakhot (1957), Shabbat, Pesaḥim, Beẓah, Ḥagigah, Ketubbot, Bava Kamma (critical edition ed. S. Friedman, 1969), Bava Meẓia, Sanhedrin, Makkot, Avodah Zarah, and on Halakhot Ketannot and laws of ritual uncleanness (in El ha-Mekorot – Pardes ed. of the Talmud, 1959–63); Eruvin (standard editions of Alfasi); Rosh Ha-Shanah, Yoma, Ta'anit Sukkah (in Ginzei Rishonim, 1962–63); Horayot (in Ḥiẓẓei Menasheh, 1901); Ḥullin (in Avodat ha-Leviyyim, 1871). It is possible that he also wrote a treatise resolving David of Posquières' strictures on Maimonides (A. Neubauer, Sefer ha-Ḥakhamim, 2 (1891), 232, etc.). Numerous quotations from his teachings are to be found in the statements of other rishonim.


Marx, in: huca, 3 (1926), 328ff.; idem, in: jqr, 25 (1935), 408; Assaf, in: ks, 1 (1924), 61; idem, in: Tarbiz, 3 (1931/32), 27–32; idem, in: Minḥah li-Yhudah (1950), 162–9; Wieder, in: Meẓudah, 2 (1943), 126ff.; Stern, in: Zion, 16 (1951), 18–29; S.K. Mirsky, in: Sura, 2 (1955/56), 242–66; M. Hakohen, in: Sinai, 40 (1956/57), 408–13; I. Twersky, Rabad of Posquières (1962); S. Friedman (ed.), Perush R. Yonatan me-Lunel le-Bava Kamma (1969), introd., 1–62.

[Israel Moses Ta-Shma]

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