Sasson, Aaron ben Joseph

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SASSON, AARON BEN JOSEPH (1550/5–1626), rabbinic scholar in the *Ottoman Empire. Aaron was educated in *Salonika, where he lived until 1600, and died in Constantinople. He was a pupil of Mordecai Matalon and a pupil and colleague of his father-in-law, Solomon ii of the *Levi (Bet ha-Levi) dynasty. Aaron had charge of a yeshivah and disseminated Torah in Salonika and then in Constantinople. The circumstances under which he left Salonika with all his family are not clear, but seem to have been connected with the death of Solomon ii and the subsequent struggle that year to succeed him in the Evora community and its yeshivah. Aaron was active in teaching and the giving of halakhic rulings from c. 1585 until his death. Queries were addressed to him from many, often distant, places. His responsa, which he had already prepared for publication, were published in part after his death and show his keen mind and dialectical ability. He was a distinguished talmudist and halakhic authority. From the very beginning of his activity as a posek, the greatest posekim of Salonika turned to him for confirmation of their rulings. Aaron bases his rulings upon contemporary scholars – Joseph ibn *Lev, Samuel de *Medina, and Solomon ha-Kohen – and debates sharply with early scholars as well as with the great scholars who closely preceded him, such as Elijah *Mizraḥi, Joseph *Colon, and Joseph Caro. He was sometimes attacked for his attitude toward other scholars.

Aaron seems to have been even more important as a teacher than as a halakhic authority. He educated many students, many of whom were among the greatest scholars of the Ottoman Empire in the first half of the 17th century, such as *Ḥayyim (b.) Shabbetai, Ḥayyim *Alfandari, Mordecai Kalai, and Shabbetai Jonah. His novellae on the Talmud (on Ketubbot, Yevamot, Bava Kamma, Bava Meẓia, and other isolated subjects), which remain in manuscript, mirror the learning in his yeshivah. He bases himself greatly upon the words of Joseph ibn Lev, debating them by use of pilpul and explaining at length the Tosafot Gornish. In addition he wrote a work on Jacob b. Asher's Arba'ah Turim and on Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, as well as a short work on the laws of agunah and other topics.

Aaron was connected by marriage with the families of the greatest scholars of Salonika. His sister was married to David ibn *Naḥmias, and his son was the brother-in-law of Meir b. Abraham di *Boton. His family was generally on close terms with the Levi dynasty, and after his departure from Salonika, a correspondence ensued between the two families, part of which has been preserved. Aaron's son Joseph saw to the publication of his father's responsa Torat Emet (Venice, 1626) and served as rabbi in Venice. Joseph and Aaron's grandson Aaron b. Isaac (b. 1629) were renowned talmudists (see, e.g., the responsa of Joseph of Trani, eh no. 22; the responsa Penei Moshe, pt. 2, no. 105). A well-known dayyan named joseph b. moses sasson of Salonika, who was active from 1580 to 1600, appears to have been a member of the same family (see the responsa of Samuel de Medina, eh no. 165; Torat Emet no. 2).


A. Sasson, Torat Emet (Venice, 1626), introductions; Conforte, Kore, index; Michael, Or, nos. 294, 298, pp. 140–1; Steinschneider, Cat Bod, 2958, no. 8621; Ch. Hirschensohn, in: Hamisderonah, 2 (1888), 219–23, 340–3; Rosanes, Togarmah, 3 (1938), 55–56; S. Poznański, in: zhb, 16 (1913), 178–9.

[Joseph Hacker]