יום חמישי ד' בתשרי תשפ"ג 29/09/2022
Search
  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

    Read More...

בראי היום

  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

    Read More...

Place

  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

    Read More...

Join Our Mailing List!

Please add a Valid Email Address
Join
Thanks!

Reflections

the Yahrzeit of the ‘Yad Ramah’

Rabbeinu Meir ben Todros haLevi Abulafia, more commonly known as the Ramah was a great scholar in both the revealed and hidden Torah.

Motty Meringer 12/04/2009 10:00

Rabbeinu Meir ben Todros haLevi Abulafia, the Ramah, was born in the year 4930 in the town of Burgos, Spain.
The period before his birth was one of great unrest and turmoil for the Jews of Spain. After the death of Rabbi Yosef Ibn Migash, the Jewish communities of Spain effectively collapsed, after the moderate Muslim government of the land was replaced with the rule of extremist Muslim tribes who had arrived in Spain from Morocco. The new rulers proceeded to embitter the lives of their Jewish subjects, eventually attempting forcible conversion to Islam. Whoever refused to convert was then expelled from Spain.
The Rambam and his family were among those who left Spain; they moved to Egypt, and many other prominent Jews went to France or to the northern provinces of Spain which were under christian control. A period of sixty years ensued, during which the fortunes of the Jews of Spain waned considerably; however, simultaneously the ‘Reconquista’ was taking place, the process by which the northern christians gradually reconquered the muslim-held provinces and forced the muslims southwards.
Towards the end of this period, the Ramah was born. His family was one of the prominent families of Spain, of the leaders of the community; his father, Rabbi Todros, was Nasi and after his death his son the Ramah was chosen in his stead, and was given the title ‘the Levi Nasi of the Nesi’im’ by the great Rishonim.
When the Ramah was still young his family moved their place of residence from Burgos to Toledo. Toledo was then a spiritual center, home to more than twelve thousand Jews. Upon arriving in Toledo, the Ramah’s father, Rabbi Todros, established there a yeshiva, in which the Ramah learned, and Rabbi Todros himself headed this yeshiva for many years.
The Ramah also learned Torah from Rav Yechiel of Paris and Rav Yitzchok miVina (the Ohr Zarua). During the Rama's lifetime Spanish Jewry was also graced with the presence of the Ramban, the Rashba, Rav Shimshon miShantz and the Sages of Lunelle. When the Ramah was just twenty-nine years of age, he was appointed as a Dayan on the Toledo Beis Din, serving together with Rav Yitzchok Meir ibn Migash (the son of Rav Yosef ibn Migash) and Rav Avraham ben Nosson haYarchi. The Ramah was esteemed as one of the greatest poskim in Spain and many halachic questions were sent to him from all over Europe.
In approximately the year 4960 the Ramah first received a copy of the Rambam’s work ‘Yad haChazakah’. After a deep perusal of the sefer, the Ramah came to the conclusion that the Rambam had erred in many areas; he disagreed with the Rambam especially over the matters of the resurrection of the dead and the world to come. Although the Ramah was then still a young man, he did not hesitate to publicise his views, sending letters to the Sages of Lunelle in which he attacked the views of the Rambam.
The Ramah’s attack was the opening salvo in the polemic over the Rambam’s works and views. The Sages of Lunelle had great admiration for the Rambam and were infuriated at the attack of the Ramah; Rav Aharon ben Meshulam of Lunelle returned a letter of rebuke to the Ramah in which he refuted his arguments. However, the Ramah was undaunted and dispatched a second letter to the Lunelle Sages in which he maintained his original position. He then sent a copy of this second letter to Rabbeinu Shimson miShantz, in order that this great scholar should lend the weight of his own opinion towards settling the argument in the favour of whomever he believed to be correct. Rav Shimshon miShantz concurred with the Ramah; however, he held great respect for the Rambam and refused to openly oppose him. After Rav Shimshon had made his opinion known, this phase of the polemic came to a close and the arguments subsided for a period of thirty years.
After this timespan, the polemic recommenced with new force when Rav Shlomo min haHar and his student Rabbeinu Yonah disputed the Rambam and his opinions, and placed a cherem on his sefer ‘Guide for the Perplexed’. In response, the supporters of the Rambam, including the Radak, placed a cherem on Rav Shlomo and Rabbeinu Yonah. The Ramah took no part in this argument, keeping his opinions to himself. Eventually the Rambam himself sent out an explanatory letter entitled ‘Resurrection of the dead’, in which he showed how the controversy over his views on the matter was based on a mistaken interpretation of his writings. Despite his personal disagreement with the Rambam, the Ramah accorded the Rambam great respect and even composed a special elegy in his honour after his petira.
The Ramah’s main work was called ‘Pratei Pratin’; today it is better known as ‘Yad Ramah’. In this sefer, the Ramah used the technique of ‘pilpul’ in learning the Gemora to derive halachic conclusions. The Ramah covered many masechtos in these commentaries, but many of his writings were subsequently lost. Today we only possess the Ramah’s commentaries on the masechtos of Sanhedrin and Bava Basra. On other masechtos, such as Brochos, Gittin and Kiddushin, only partial commentaries are extant, which have been pieced together and approximated from fragmentary hand-written manuscripts, or from sources in the writings of other Rishonim. From the writings of other Rishonim, such as the Rosh, the Tur and the Shita Mekubetzes, one can deduce that they were in possession of commentaries of the Ramah on other masechtos, which were later lost, to our detriment. From the writings of Rav Aharon ben Zerach, a talmid of the Rosh, it seems that the Ramah also published a second edition of his commentaries, the first edition being a more abbreviated version, the second more detailed. The Chida concurs with this understanding as he writes in ‘Shem haGedolim’; there he states that the commentary of the Ramah to Bava Basra that we possess is from the longer version, and the commentary to Sanhedrin is from the shorter one.
Apart from his commentaries on Shas, the Ramah also wrote a sefer entitled ‘Masores Syag leTorah’. This sefer was written according to the order of the aleph-beis, and it enumerates in it all the words appearing in the Torah whose spelling is a matter of controversy. The Ramah ruled on all of these cases as to which he felt to be the correct version, and also ruled on the status of ‘open’ and ‘closed’ verses in the Torah. This sefer became a fundamental work on mesorah, and until today Ashkenazim follow the Ramah’s rulings in the majority of cases.
The Ramah was one of the great scholars not only in the revealed Torah but also in the hidden Torah. He authored a work entitled ‘Lifnei veLifnim’, a commentary on Sefer haYetzirah, another entitled ‘Ginas haBisan’ which expounded on Sefer Bereishis according to Kabbalistic interpretations and yet another sefer entitled ‘Shushan Sodos al haKabalah’. In addition to these seforim are extant a number of his halachic responsa, from among the hundreds sent by the Ramah to his inquirers; these were published in the sefer ‘haIgros’ and the sefer ‘Ohr Tzadikim’.
The Ramah was summoned to the Heavenly Yeshiva on the 18th of Nissan in the year 5004, at the age of seventy-four.