Yom Tov ben Abraham Ishbili

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YOM TOV BEN ABRAHAM ISHBILI (Asbili ; i.e., of Seville; known as Ritba – from the initial letters of his Hebrew name R abbi Y om T ov B en A braham; c. 1250–1330), Spanish talmudist. Famous already in his youth as a scholar, he studied in Barcelona under *Aaron ha-Levi of Barcelona and Solomon b. Abraham *Adret, and was mentioned in an official document of 1280 of the kingdom of Aragon as a ḥakham and dayyan of the community of Saragossa. Even during the lifetime of his teachers, questions were addressed to him for he was regarded as among the leading Spanish rabbis. When the king's bailiff in Saragossa asked his opinion about the protests of the local Jews against the excessive privileges of the wealthy families Alconstantini and Eleazar, he, despite his youth, condemned their domineering behavior and abuses, whereupon they attacked and seriously injured him.

After the death of his teachers, he was regarded by Spanish Jewry as its spiritual leader. When the community of Daroca introduced certain decrees, it was stated that this was done "in the name of R. Asher [b. Jehiel] and in that of R. Yom Tov b. al-Ishbili" (Resp. Ritba, no. 159). His bet din was referred to by contemporary rabbis as "the great and excellent bet din" (ibid., no. 43). In his humility, he would apologize if he thought he had used somewhat harsh language in writing to anyone who disagreed with his views (ibid., no. 208). He devoted himself also to the study of philosophy, in particular Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed, acquiring a thorough knowledge of it and comparing its translation with the Arabic original. He also studied the works on logic of the Provencal scholars Samuel ibn Tibbon, Jacob Anatoli, and Gershom b. Solomon.

Yom Tov regarded Nahmanides as "a faithful shepherd" and declared it to be "the glory of the scholars of our land" that they received their Torah from him (ibid., no. 208). Nevertheless he published a work (Sefer ha-Zikkaron) in defense of the Guide of the Perplexed against Naḥmanides' criticism of it in his commentary on the Pentateuch. In this work Yom Tov did not hesitate to declare that Naḥmanides "went much too far in saying of a great man brimful of the wisdom of the Torah and fully versed in all knowledge that his are empty words." He added that most of Naḥmanides' criticisms originated from his deficient knowledge of philosophical works, and that, not having adequately studied the Guide, he was unable to grasp its inner meaning and purpose (Sefer ha-Zikkaron). In this defense, Yom Tov did not attempt to blur the dividing line between "the path of truth" followed by Nahmanides and that "of logic" followed by Maimonides, but expressed the view that the latter's course "is very correct according to his outlook," while the former's "is more correct according to his." Generally Yom Tov reaffirms: "there are 70 ways in which the Torah can be interpreted, all of them the words of the living God." Even where he disagrees with Maimonides and accepts the view of Nahmanides, he declares that "all his [Maimonides'] statements are for the sake of Heaven and characterized by great wisdom" (ibid.).

Yom Tov's reputation rests upon his novellae to the Talmud, Ḥiddushei ha-Ritba. He apparently began writing them from the direct dictation of his teacher Aaron ha-Levi (Ḥiddushim to bb 63b, ed. by M.Y. Blau, vol. 1 (1952), 250). When, however, he realized that the work would be inordinately long, he decided to make an abbreviated version. There is even a possibility that he wrote a third "version" to some tractates. These facts give rise to a difficult and complicated literary problem, his novellae to the different tractates being of different "types," and therefore not always of the same quality. It is sometimes very hard to identify them with certainty. His novellae are, in general, very rich in early source material: tosafistic, Spanish, Provençal, and geonic, and display a considerable originality, though he is very much under the influence of his two great teachers.

His novellae have been published many times, and in different editions. Their first editions are: Berakhot (1968); Shabbat (1967); earlier works on this tractate which purported to be Ḥiddushei Ritba were ascribed to him erroneously; Eruvin, Ta'anit, Mo'ed Katan, Ketubbot (Amsterdam, 1729; Pesaḥim (1864) is not his); Sukkah (in Sheva Shitot le-ha-Rashba, Constantinople, 1720; wrongly ascribed to Solomon b. Adret); Rosh Ha-Shanah (1858); Yoma (Constantinople, 1754); Megillah (in David Hayyim Samuel Hassan, Kodshei David, Leghorn, 1792); Yevamot (Leghorn, 1787); Gittin (Salonika, 1758); Kiddushin, in the very rare edition of the tractate of Sabionetta, 1553, and afterward Berlin, 1715; Bava Batra (1952–54); Bava Meẓia (1962; the earlier editions are not his); Makkot (in Ḥamishah Shitot, Sulzbach, 1769); Ḥullin (Prague, 1735); Niddah (1868 – chapter Tevul Yom; in Ha-Segullah, 4, Jerusalem, 1937). His other works include: a commentary on Hilkhot Nedarim by Naḥmanides (in Ishei ha-Shem, Leghorn, 1795); Hilkhot Berakhot (at the end of Ḥayyim Isaac Musafia's responsa Hayyim va-Hesed, 1844); Responsa (ed. by Y. Kafaḥ, 1959); Sefer ha-Zikkaron (by S.H. Halberstamm, in Ḥiddushei ha-Ritba al Niddah, 1868; critical edition by K. Kahana, 1956); a commentary on the Passover Haggadah in Peh Yesharim (1838); Perush al Hilkhot ha-Rif, in manuscript: Sefer ha-Derashot, his homilies, now lost.

[Ephraim Kupfer]

A complete edition of Ishbili's responsa, edited by Y. Kafaḥ, was first published in 1959. The Institute for Research in Jewish Law of the Hebrew University has now published the first volume of a comprehensive historical index to those responsa (together with that of the responsa Zikhron Yehudah of *Judah ben Asher, the son of *Asher b. Jehiel) under the editorship of M. Elon. The volume is the second in the series of the indexes to the responsa literature. The first volume, that of the responsa of Asher b. Jehiel, consisted for the most part of indexes to the legal matters in these responsa and their sources in biblical, talmudic, and post-talmudic literature. The present volume consists of an exhaustive historical introduction, and the subject matter is arranged under different headings, such as the political, juridical, and social status of the Jews as revealed in the responsa, communal organization, family and social life, economic life, realia, etc.


Graetz, Gesch, 7 (c. 1900), 305; Weiss, Dor, 5 (19044), 57–60; Baer, Spain, 1 (1961), 224, 428; 2 (1966), 452; idem, in: Zion, 3 (1938), 45; M.Y. Blau (ed.), Ḥiddushei ha-Ritba al Massekhet Bava Batra, 1 (1952), introd.; Yom Tov b. Abraham Ishbili, Sefer ha-Zikkaron, ed. by K. Kahana (1956), introd.; J.M. Toledano, Oẓar Genazim (1960), 208–10; Yom Tov b. Abraham Ishbili, She'elot u-Teshuvot, ed. by Y. Kafaḥ (1959), introd.; Eidelberg, in: Sinai, 40 (1957) 41–46.