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Judah ben Barzillai ("Ha-Nasi"), al-Bargeloni


JUDAH BEN BARZILLAI ("ha-Nasi "), AL-BARGELONI (late 11th and early 12th century), rabbi of Barcelona. Naḥ-manides claimed descent from him, referring to him as "zekeni" ("my ancestor"). According to one statement (responsa, Tashbeẓ, 1:15), he was a pupil of R. *Isaac b. Reuben of Barcelona, but this is not substantiated from any other source and is open to question. The assumption that *Abraham b. Isaac of Narbonne was his pupil is unfounded, even though Abraham constantly refers to his teachings. He was a contemporary of *Abraham b. Ḥiyya, with whom he engaged in an interesting controversy on the question of postponing a wedding date for astrological reasons. Judah was strongly opposed, since he regarded it as contrary to Jewish law. Judah's works consistmostly of codes which were highly regarded in their time, but most of them were subsequently lost. Quotations from them by other authors show that they embraced all the halakhah which applied in practice.

His works are (1) Sefer ha-Ittim, dealing with Sabbath and festivals in the Jewish calendar, and of which there have been published – with many errors – only those concerning the Sabbath, with commentaries by R.J. Schorr (Cracow, 1902), and two further fragments, by J.L. Zlotnick (see bibliography); (2) Yiḥus She'er Basar, on marriage and personal law, known through a few quotations; (3) Sefer ha-Din, on civil law, of which the Sefer ha-Shetarot only has been published (Berlin, 1898). In 1928 S. Assaf published Likkutei Sefer ha-Din, a précis of the original book (Madda'ei ha-Yahadut, 2, 1926); (4) commentary on Sefer Yeẓirah (Berlin, 1885). This work is a mine of information on geonic and philosophical literature.

One important aspect of Judah's commentary on Sefer Yeẓirah is that in it he quotes extensively from the Ishrūn Maqālāt ("Twenty Tractates") of *Al-Mukammis. Since only a small portion of this work has been published, Judah's summaries are the major source of Al-Mukammis' teachings. Among Judah's own philosophical contributions were his polemics against dualistic and trinitarian doctrines (Commentary on Sefer Yeẓirah, 75, 175), and especially against Christian allegorism (ibid., 77). Even when not polemicizing, he tried to interpret all of Scripture with a view to removing doubts about God's total spirituality. Among other philosophic doctrines he held that the revelations received by the prophets were emanations of the Divine Spirit, the first created being, to which Scripture also refers as the "glory of God" (ibid., 16, 119, 174). At the end of his commentary Judah reproduced a considerable portion of one early Hebrew translation (no longer extant) of about half of *Saadiah's commentary on Sefer Yeẓirah (see H. Malter, Saadiah Gaon, His Life and Works (1921), 355–8).

The hassagot ("strictures") of the "Ri [ר״י] of Barcelona" on the early work, Shimmusha Rabba, quoted in the Halakhot Ketannot (laws of tefillin) of R. Asher b. *Jehiel are not to be attributed to Judah, but to the aforementioned Isaac, of Barcelona.

Judah based himself mainly on the halakhot of Isaac *Alfasi, his older contemporary, on the latter's responsa, and especially, on the geonic responsa and the Hilkhata Gavruta of *Samuel ha-Nagid. He also made use of the works of *Isaac b. Judah ibn Ghayyat and Isaac b. Baruch *Albalia, without mentioning them by name. Though the book was planned as a halakhic codex, the author adopted the practice of commenting extensively on the subject under discussion, thus rendering the work of great importance, both for the study of talmudic themes and for variae lectiones. Until the 16th century Judah's works were much used and extensively quoted but were increasingly neglected in favor of other codes, mainly because of their enormous range and prolixity. Nevertheless, many extracts and selections from his work have been published: the Sefer ha-Eshkol of Abraham b. Isaac of Narbonne is merely a précis of the Ittim, indicating its original magnitude; such too are the collections of geonic responsa, Sha'arei Teshuvah (Leghorn, 1869) and those published by Jacob Musafia (Lyck, 1864) which are anthologies taken from the Ittim. The Sefer ha-Orah, from the "school" of Rashi, contains many extracts from Ittim (S. Buber (ed.), Sefer ha-Orah, 1 (1905), 27). The Temim De'im of *Araham b. David of Posquières contains many quotations from Judah's works. Judah was in possession too of the most ancient version of *Ḥisdai ibn Shaprut's letter to the king of the Khazars, though, with the critical approach which characterizes all his works, he doubted its authenticity.


S.J. Halberstam (ed.), Perush Sefer Yeẓirah (1885), ix–xxx (introd.); R.J. Schorr (ed.), Sefer ha-Ittim (1902), iii–xxiii (introd.); Albeck, in: Tiferet Yisrael (= Festschrift… Lewy; 1911), 104–31 (Heb. pt.); S. Albeck (ed.), Sefer ha-Eshkol (1935), 31–65 (introd.); Assaf, in: Jeschurun, 11 (1924), 13–7 (Heb. pt.); idem, in Zion, 7 (1941/42), 48–50; J.L. Zlotnick, in: Sinai, 16 (1944/45), 116–38; Z. Schwarz, in: Festschrift… A. Schwarz (1917).

[Israel Moses Ta-Shma]

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