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Lewin, Benjamin Manasseh


LEWIN, BENJAMIN MANASSEH (1879–1944), rabbinic scholar, educator, and authority on geonic literature. Born in Gorodets, Russia, into a wealthy ḥasidic family and orphaned at an early age, Lewin studied at various yeshivot and for a time served in the Russian army. He came under the influence of A.I. *Kook, who was then rabbi at Bausk, Latvia, and served as a tutor in his house. When Kook left to become rabbi in Jaffa (1905), Lewin continued his studies at the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary and Berne University. In Berne he edited the journal for Jewish studies and Jewish religious thought Taḥkemoni (1910–11). In 1912 he went to Ereẓ Israel, where he served as a teacher and later as head of the religious schools network Neẓaḥ Yisra'el. He edited volumes 9–14 of Z. *Jawitz's Toledot Yisrael (1932–40) and the sixth volume (biblical period) of I. Halevy's Dorot ha-Rishonim (1939). He also founded the short-lived Alummah Society for Jewish Studies, for which he edited the publication Alummah (1936). Lewin's major and pioneering work was in the field of geonic studies, in particular his Oẓar ha-Ge'onim (13 vols., 1928–62), an arrangement – with notes, references, and indexes – of geonic responsa and commentaries in the order of the Talmud tractates (to Bava Meẓia). The material for this monumental work was scattered over many works and responsa collections, some retrieved from the Cairo *Genizah treasures. Lewin also published a critical edition of Sherira Gaon's famous "Epistle on the origins of rabbinic tradition" (1921), and of the early Ḥillufei Minhagim… ("Differences of Custom Between Palestinian and Babylonian Jewries," 1937). He also reconstructed from Genizah material and early rabbinic literature parts of the lost Sefer Metivot (1934). Lewin contributed many articles on the geonic period in learned periodicals, and edited the five volumes of Ginzei Kedem (1922–34), devoted to geonic studies, the major part of the contributions being his own.


Y. Werfel, in: Sefer ha-Yovel (1939), 17–32, includes bibliography; Y. Raphael (Werfel), in: Sinai, 35 (1955), 66–73.

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