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Isaac ben Jacob Alfasi ha-Cohen (1013–1103) (Hebrew: ר' יצחק אלפסי‬, Arabic: إسحاق الفاسي‎) - also known as the Alfasi or by his Hebrew acronym Rif ( Rabbi
Rabbi
Isaac al-Fasi),[1] was an Algerian Talmudist and posek (decider in matters of halakha - Jewish law). He is best known for his work of halakha, the legal code Sefer Ha-halachot, considered the first fundamental work in halakhic literature. He was born in the Algerian city of Qalaat Beni Hammad, but spent the majority of his career in Fes, and is therefore known as "Alfasi" ("of Fes" in Arabic).

Contents

1 Biography 2 Works 3 See also 4 References 5 External links

Biography[edit] Isaac Alfasi
Isaac Alfasi
was born in Qalaat Beni Hammad, the capital city of the Hammadid
Hammadid
rulers of central Maghreb. He studied in Kairouan, Tunisia under Rabbeinu Nissim ben Jacob, and Rabbeinu Chananel ben Chushiel the recognized rabbinical authorities of the age. Rabbeinu Chananel trained Alfasi to deduce and to clarify the Halakha from Talmudic sources, and Alfasi then conceived of the idea of compiling a comprehensive work that would present all of the practical conclusions of the Gemara
Gemara
in a clear, definitive manner. To achieve this goal, he worked for ten consecutive years in his father-in-law's attic. In 1045, Alfasi moved to Fes
Fes
with his wife and two children. Fes' Jewish community undertook to support him and his family so that he could work on his Sefer Ha-halachot undisturbed. They also founded a yeshiva in his honor, and many students throughout Morocco came to study under his guidance. The most famous of his many students is Rabbi
Rabbi
Judah Halevi, author of the Kuzari; he also taught Rabbi
Rabbi
Joseph ibn Migash (the Ri Migash), who was in turn a teacher of Rabbi
Rabbi
Maimon, father and teacher of Maimonides
Maimonides
(Rambam). Alfasi remained in Fes
Fes
for 40 years, during which time he completed his Sefer Ha-halachot. In 1088, aged seventy-five, two informers denounced him to the government upon some unknown charge. He left Fes for Al-Andalus, eventually becoming head of the yeshiva in Lucena in 1089.[2] His "magnanimous character" is illustrated by two incidents. When his opponent Rabbeinu Isaac Albalia died, Alfasi adopted Albalia's son.[3] When Alfasi was himself on the point of death, he recommended as his successor in the Lucena rabbinate, not his own son, but his pupil Rabbi
Rabbi
Joseph ibn Migash.[4]

Chananel ben Chushiel

Nissim ben Jacob

Alfasi

Joseph ibn Migash

Judah Halevi

  Teachers   Students

Works[edit] Sefer ha-Halachot (ספר ההלכות; also referred to as "the Hilchot of the Rif") extracts all the pertinent legal decisions from the three Talmudic orders Moed, Nashim and Nezikin as well as the tractates of Berachot and Chulin - 24 tractates in all. Alfasi transcribed the Talmud's halakhic conclusions verbatim, without the surrounding deliberations; he also excludes all Aggadic (non-legal, homiletic) matter as well as discussion of the halakha practicable only in Land of Israel. Maimonides
Maimonides
wrote that Alfasi's work "has superseded all the geonic codes…for it contains all the decisions and laws which we need in our day…". Sefer ha-Halachot plays a fundamental role in the development of Halakha. Firstly, "the Rif" succeeded in producing a Digest, which became the object of close study, and led in its turn to the great Codes of Maimonides
Maimonides
and of Rabbi
Rabbi
Joseph Karo.[4] Secondly, it served as one of the "Three Pillars of Halakha", as an authority underpinning both the Arba'ah Turim
Arba'ah Turim
and the Shulkhan Arukh. Rabbi
Rabbi
Nissim of Gerona (the RaN) compiled a detailed and explicit commentary on this work; In yeshivot "the Rif and the RaN" are regularly studied as part of the daily Talmudic schedule. This work was published prior to the times of Rashi
Rashi
and other commentaries, and resulted in a profound change in the study practices of the scholarly Jewish public in that it opened the world of the gemara to the public at large. It soon became known as the Talmud Katan ("Little Talmud"). At the close of the Middle Ages, when the Talmud
Talmud
was banned in Italy, Alfasi's code was exempted so that from the 16th to the 19th centuries his work was the primary subject of study of the Italian Jewish community. Alfasi also occupies an important place in the development of the Sephardi
Sephardi
method of studying the Talmud. In contradistinction to the Ashkenazi
Ashkenazi
approach, the Sephardim sought to simplify the Talmud
Talmud
and free it from casuistical detail;[4] see for example Chananel Ben Chushiel. Alfasi also left many responsa. These were originally written in Arabic, and were soon translated into Hebrew as "She'elot u-Teshuvot ha-Rif". See also[edit]

History of the Jews
Jews
in Morocco History of the Jews
Jews
in Tunisia History of the Jews
Jews
in Kairouan

References[edit]

^ Jacob Neusner, Alan Jeffery Avery-Peck (2003). Blackwell Companion to Judaism. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 1-57718-059-3.  ^ Chisholm 1911. ^ http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/112370/jewish/Rabbi-Yitzchak-Ben-Baruch-Albalia.htm ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "'Al-phasi, Isaac". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 732. 

External links[edit]

The Rif, tzemachdovid.org Alfasi, jewishvirtuallibrary.org Alfasi at the Wayback Machine
Wayback Machine
(archived March 11, 2007) jewishgates.com Alfasi, jewishencyclopedia.com

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WorldCat Identities VIAF: 34806748 LCCN: n83162121 ISNI: 0000 0000 8114 1083 GND: 100728944 SELIBR: 265976 SUDOC: 160422167 BNF: cb1621

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