Rav Alfas, V. II, Zhitomir 1864 (50714)

רב אלפס, ח"ב - Hasidic

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Listing Details

Lot Number: 50714
Title (English): Rav Alfas, V. II
Title (Hebrew): רב אלפס, ח"ב
Note: Hasidic
City: Zhitomir
Publisher: Hanina Lipa & Joshua Heschel Shapira
Publication Date: 1864
Estimated Price: $300.00 USD - $600.00 USD
Content/listingImages/20210320/50714-0_fullsize.jpg Content/listingImages/20210320/50714-1_fullsize.jpg


Physical Description

259 ff., folio, 375:233 mm., wide margins, age and damp staining, lacks title. A good copy bound in contemporary boards, rubbed, split, no spine.


Detail Description

Volume 2 (of 3) of the most important code prior to the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides. It was recounted that R. Jacob of Marvege, a tosafist, inquired in a dream whether the law concerning a certain case was according to the geonim or according to Alfasi; he received an answer from heaven: "And I shall establish my covenant with Isaac" (Gen. 17:21). R. Abraham b. David of Posquieres, who tended to be severely critical of other authors, wrote of him: "I would rely on the words of Alfasi even if he should say that right is left." R. Menahem ha-Meiri always refers to the Alfasi as "the greatest of codifiers." R. Joseph Caro regards the Alfasi as the first among the three pillars of learning upon whom the house of Israel rests (Alfasi, Maimonides, and R. Asher b. Jehiel), and upon whose authority he determined the laws in his Shulhan Arukh. Thus the Alfasi's influence pervades Jewish code-literature up to modern times. At the close of the Middle Ages, when the Talmud was banned in Italy, the Alfasi's work was expressly exempted, so that between the 16th and 19th centuries it was a principal subject of study among Italian Jews.

R. Isaac b. Jacob Alfasi (known as Rif; 1013–1103), author of the most important code prior to the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides. Alfasi was a native of Qal'at Hammad near Constantine, in Algeria, and is therefore sometimes called "ha-Kala'i." According to R. Abraham ibn David, Alfasi studied in Kairouan under both R. Nissim ben Jacob and R. Hananel b. Hushi'el, but nowhere does Alfasi mention them as his teachers. After a period of study in Kairouan, Alfasi settled in Fez (hence his surname "Alfasi" or Rif, initials of R. Isaac Fasi). He remained there until 1088, when, in his 75th year, he was denounced to the government by enemies and was forced to flee to Spain. After a few months in Cordova he moved to Lucena, where he remained until his death.

In 1847 the Shapira printing press was established by the three brothers Hanina Lipa, Aryeh Leib, and Joshua Heschel Shapira, sons of Samuel Abraham Abba Shapira, the printer in Slavuta. Until 1862 this was one of the only two Hebrew presses the Russian government permitted to operate in the whole of Russia, the other being in Vilna. This press had 18 hand presses and four additional large presses. In 1851 Aryeh Leib broke away and established his own printing press in Zhitomir. In these two establishments only sacred books of every kind were printed. During the years 1858–64 the press of the two brothers printed a beautiful edition of the Babylonian Talmud together with the Halakhot of Isaac Alfasi, while between 1860 and 1867 Aryeh Leib printed an edition of the Jerusalem Talmud.