Simḥah ben Samuel of Speyer

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SIMḤAH BEN SAMUEL OF SPEYER (second half of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th century), German scholar. He may have been a descendant of Judah ha-Kohen, author of the Sefer ha-Dinim (see Aptowitzer). Simḥah was one of the rabbis and dayyanim of the Speyer bet din together with his kinsman (cousin?) Judah b. Kalonymus, who was also one of his teachers, and with Nathan b. Simeon (Or Zaru'a, bk no. 460 and Beit ha-Keneset no. 388). He studied – together with his colleagues Eleazar b. Judah (of Worms), author of the Roke'aḥ, and *Eliezer b. Joel ha-Levi (Ravyah) – under *Eliezer b. Samuel of Metz (Maharshal, resp. no. 29), Moses b. Solomon ha-Kohen of Mainz (Ravyah no. 1,024), and *Isaac b. Asher ha-Levi. There were ties of close intimacy between Simḥah and Eliezer b. Joel ha-Levi, and they corresponded on numerous halakhic problems, exchanging responsa (see Aptowitzer's list, pp. 200–5, 222f.).

Some of the responsa he addressed to various other scholars are extant (see Germania Judaica, 1 (1934), 344ff.). Among those who addressed problems to him was the renowned Italian scholar, Isaiah di Trani, who, though generally one of the severest critics of the scholars of Germany and France, expressed great esteem for Simḥah. Other quotations from his teachings are in the work of his distinguished pupil Isaac b. Moses of Vienna (Or Zaru'a), and Abraham b. Azriel in his Arugat ha-Bosem copies whole pages from Simḥah (Urbach, 344 n. 29). There are quotations in the books of French, German, and Italian authors. Urbach (p. 346) conjectures that most of the quotations, with the exception of the responsa and oral traditions, are from his large work, Seder Olam, which is no longer extant although there are many indications that such a work did exist (Zunz, Lit Poesie, 621). From quoted fragments it may be concluded that the work encompassed many fields. They reveal that it was his custom to enlarge on the details of the subject under discussion, and it can therefore be assumed that it was this, combined with the widespread habit of compilers to include quotations and abridgments of it in their compilations, that caused the disappearance of the work. There is mention of his commentary to the Sifra (OrZaru'a, Mikva'ot, no. 333, 336), and to the tractate Horayot (Tos. to Hor. 4a–b). There is no evidence that he wrote tosafot to tractates of the Talmud or a commentary to the Mekhilta, as some scholars thought (see Urbach, pp. 346f.). Ten of his seliḥot have been listed by Zunz (Lit Poesie, 311). Among his distinguished pupils was also Avigdor Katz of Vienna, who wrote down his teacher's words in his presence. Samuel b. Baruch of Bamberg also appears to have been one of his pupils and addressed queries to him (Urbach, 354).


Zunz, Lit Poesie, 284, 309–11; H. Gross, in: mgwj, 34 (1885), 309 n. 12, 558; B. Ratner, Mavo le-Seder Olam Rabbah (1894), 143; V. Aptowitzer, Mavo le-Sefer Ravyah (1938), 200–5, 222f., 412–4; Urbach, Tosafot, 341–7 and index.

[Shlomoh Zalman Havlin]