Machir ben Judah

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MACHIR BEN JUDAH (first half 11th century), younger brother of *Gershom b. Judah, "the Light of the Exile." Machir was the author of Alef Bet de-Rabbi Makhir. This work was in the possession of Rashi and the tosafists, who quote from it (Rashi, Gen. 43:11; Pes. 50a; Er. 22a; Tos. Nid. 7b s.v.shammuti, et al.), but it is now lost. It was the first talmudic dictionary to be compiled in Europe, not unlike the Arukh of *Nathan b. Jehiel of Rome. Its chief function was to connect words used in the Talmud with Scripture, to explain them, and to translate them into French. In consequence it also engaged in biblical exegesis. All the explanations in Machir's book were, evidently, given anonymously, no authorities being mentioned in it.

Machir had four sons: Nathan, Menahem, Nehemiah, and Yakar. These four collected the rulings, customs, and responsa of the great scholars of their locality. Menahem included all the material in a work which is referred to in the literature of the *rishonim as Ma'aseh ha-Makhiri (Rabban – Eliezer b. *Nathan – Prague, 1610, 84c). Most of the material in his book, since lost, was included in the works of the De-Vei Rashi ("school of Rashi") and the whole book may have been used as the foundation for the Ma'aseh ha-Ge'onim (Berlin, 1909), certainly in respect of the information it affords about the customs of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz. The majority of the material in the Ma'aseh ha-Ge'onim is from these four brothers.


A. Epstein, Ma'aseh ha-Ge'onim (1909), x–xiii (introd.).

[Israel Moses Ta-Shma]