Asher ben Jehiel

Asher ben Jehiel (Hebrew: אשר בן יחיאל, or Asher ben Yechiel, sometimes Asheri) (1250 or 1259 – 1327) was an eminent rabbi and Talmudist best known for his abstract of Talmudic law. He is often referred to as Rabbenu Asher, “our Rabbi Asher” or by the Hebrew acronym for this title, the Rosh (רא"ש, literally "Head"). His yahrzeit is on the 9 Cheshvan.

Asher ben Jehiel
Bornc. 1250
Died24 October 1327
ChildrenJudah ben Asher
Jacob ben Asher
Yahrtzeit9 Cheshvan


The Rosh was probably born in Cologne, Holy Roman Empire,[1] and died in Toledo. His family was prominent for learning and piety, his father Yechiel was a Talmudist, and one of his ancestors was Rabbi Eliezer ben Nathan (the RaABaN). Asher had eight sons, the most prominent of whom were Judah and Jacob. Jacob was the author of the Arba'ah Turim and independently wealthy.

In 1286, King Rudolf I had instituted a new persecution of the Jews, and the great teacher of the Rosh, Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, left Germany but was captured and imprisoned. The Rosh raised a ransom for his release, but Rabbi Meir refused it, for fear of encouraging the imprisonment of other rabbis. Thereafter the Rosh assumed Rabbi Meir's position in Worms. He was, however, forced to emigrate (in all likelihood, a victim of blackmail by the government, aimed at acquiring his fortune). After leaving Germany, he first settled in southern France, and then in Toledo, Spain, where he became rabbi on the recommendation of Rabbi Solomon ben Abraham Aderet (RaShBA). Rabbenu Asher's son Judah testified to the fact that he died in poverty. Rabbeinu Asher died in Toledo on 9 Cheshvan 5088 (1327 CE). His known surviving children were said to have been killed in the ensuing persecutions that affected Spain in 1392.[2]

Rabbenu Asher possessed "methodical and systematic" Talmudic knowledge, and was distinguished for his ability to adumbrate long Talmudic discussions. The ROSH, influenced by his teacher Rabbi Meir, was averse to lenient decisions in halakha, even when theoretically justified. (Several of his rulings which may appear lenient, are actually strictures: his decision against praying more than three times a day is, in fact, limiting. Similarly, his assertion that the phrase halacha le-Moshe me-Sinai—"an oral law revealed to Moses on Sinai"—does not always bear a literal meaning but often signifies a universally adopted custom, is not usually taken as a liberal interpretation.) The ROSH was, however, known for his independent legal reasoning: "We must not be guided in our decisions by the admiration of great men, and in the event of a law not being clearly stated in the Talmud, we are not bound to accept it, even if it be based on the works of the Geonim." (For instance, the ROSH ruled that the liturgy of the Geonim was not subject to the Talmudic rule against change in the prayers.)

Rabbenu Asher was opposed to the study of secular knowledge, especially philosophy. He held that philosophy is based on critical research, whereas religion is based on tradition and the two are thus "incapable of harmonization". He said that "none that go unto her may return"—in fact, he thanked God for having saved him from its influence, and boasted of possessing no knowledge outside the Torah. He attempted to issue a decree against the study of non-Jewish learning. One effect of this attitude was to limit his influence on secular Spanish Jewry. At the same time, within rabbinic circles, "he transplanted the strict and narrow Talmudic spirit from Germany to Spain", and this, in some measure, turned Spanish Jews from secular research to the study of the Talmud.


Rabbenu Asher's best known work is his abstract of Talmudic law. This work specifies the final, practical halakha, leaving out the intermediate discussion and concisely stating the final decision. It omits areas of law limited to Eretz Yisrael (such as agricultural and sacrificial laws) as well as the aggadic portions of the Talmud. Asher's son Jacob compiled a list of the decisions found in the work, under the title Piskei Ha-ROSH (decisions of the ROSH). Commentaries on his Halachot were written by a number of later Talmudists. In yeshivot, this work is studied as a regular part of the daily Talmud study.

This work resembles the Hilchot of the Rif (Rabbi Isaac Alfasi)—also an adumbration—but differs in quoting later authorities: Maimonides, the Tosafists and Alfasi himself. One theory states that the work is actually not a commentary on the Talmud but is rather a commentary on the Rif, given that it always starts with the text of the Rif (see Shach, as quoted in Kelalei HaRif, Rabbeinu Asher VeTur printed before the Rosh on Shabbat, Klal 2). Some however dispute this (see Sdei Chemed, Klalei HaPoskim, s.v. "Rosh").

Rabbenu Asher's work superseded Alfasi's within a short time and has been printed with almost every edition of the Talmud since its publication. This work was so important in Jewish law that Yosef Karo included the ROSH together with Maimonides and Isaac Alfasi as one of the three major poskim (decisors) considered in determining the final ruling in his Shulchan Arukh.

Rabbi Asher also wrote:

  • Orchot Chaim, an essay on ethics, written for his sons. It begins with the comment, “Distance yourself from haughtiness, with the essence of distancing.” Orchot Chaim is today an important work of musar literature.
  • A commentary on Zeraim (the first order of the Mishnah)—with the exception of Tractate Berachot.
  • A commentary on Tohorot (the sixth order of the Mishnah).
  • The Tosefot ha-Rosh, Tosafot-like glosses on the Talmud.
  • A volume of responsa; see History of Responsa: Fourteenth century.
  • There is a volume of responsa entitled 'Besamim Rosh' which is falsely attributed to the Rosh. In fact it has been shown to be a forgery from the 18th century, and contains controversial decisions which contradict what the Rosh wrote in his (genuine) responsa. This collection was published by Saul Berlin, Tzvi Hirsch Levin's son. It was exposed as a forgery by Mordecai Benet (amongst others)


  1. ^
  2. ^ Gedaliah ibn Jechia the Spaniard, Shalshelet Ha-Kabbalah, Jerusalem 1962, p. 268 (Hebrew)

External links

  • References
    •  Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "Asher ben Jehiel". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.
    • Rabbi Asher ben Yechiel – The “Rosh”,
    • Rabbi Asher ben Yechiel- Rosh
  • Resources
Arba'ah Turim

Arba'ah Turim (Hebrew: אַרְבָּעָה טוּרִים), often called simply the Tur, is an important Halakhic code composed by Jacob ben Asher (Cologne, 1270 – Toledo, Spain c. 1340, also referred to as Ba'al Ha-Turim). The four-part structure of the Tur and its division into chapters (simanim) were adopted by the later code Shulchan Aruch. This was the first book to be printed in Southeast Europe and the Near East.

Asher (name)

Asher is a common Jewish and Christian given name, after a character in the Old Testament. Published 1860, Patronymica Britannica: a dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom; by Lower, Mark Antony, 1813-1876 says Asher as a surname is "Perhaps the same as Ashmen."

Baraita of the Forty-nine Rules

The Baraita of the Forty-nine Rules (Hebrew: ברייתא מ"ט מדות) is a work of rabbinical literature which is no longer in existence except in references by later authorities. It is mentioned or cited by Rashi, the Tosafists, Abraham ibn Ezra, Yalḳut, and Asher ben Jehiel. Rashi on Exodus 26:5, Yalkut Shimoni Genesis 61, calls it "Midrash"; Rashi on Exodus 27:6 calls it "Mishnah".

Beit Yosef (book)

Beit Yosef (Hebrew: בית יוסף‎) (also transliterated Beth Yosef), written by Rabbi Joseph Caro, is a long and detailed commentary on the Arba'ah Turim ("Tur") by Jacob ben Asher. It served as a precursor to the Shulchan Aruch, which Rabbi Caro wrote later in his life.

Eliakim ben Meshullam

Eliakim ben Meshullam (born about 1030; died at the end of the eleventh century in Speyer, Rhenish Bavaria) was a German rabbi, Talmudist and payyeṭan.

He studied at the yeshivot in Mainz and Worms, having Rashi as a fellow student. Eliakim himself founded a Talmudical school in Speyer.

He wrote a commentary on all the tractates of the Talmud except Berakot and Niddah (see Solomon Luria, Responsa, No. 29, and Asher ben Jehiel, Responsa, Rule 1, § 8), which was used by scholars as late as the fourteenth century. At present there exists only the commentary on Yoma, in manuscript (Codex Munich, No. 216).

Ritual decisions by Eliakim are mentioned by Rashi ("Pardes," 42a, 44c, 48a). He was the composer of a piyyuṭ, to be read when a circumcision takes place in the synagogue on a Saturday.

Eliezer ben Joel HaLevi

Eliezer ben Yoel HaLevi of Bonn (Hebrew acronym ראבי״ה Ra'avyah; 1140–1225) was a Rabbinic scholar in Germany. He had a significant influence on Asher ben Jehiel (the ROSH). As a Rishon, he was prominent amongst the Tosafists of the middle-ages, and was a signatory to the Takkanot Shum. In the course of his long life he wandered from place to place: Bonn, Worms, Wuerzburg, Mainz, Cologne, Regensburg, and throughout France and Lombardy.His maternal grandfather was Eliezer ben Nathan (Ra'avan). Eliezer studied under his father Joel haLevi of Bonn, as well as under Judah HeHasid and Judah ben Kalonymus of Mainz. His brother died a martyr's death in 1216. Eliezer's mourning for him was so great that his vision was impaired and he was compelled to dictate his novellae to his students.

His major work, Sefer Avi HaEzri (My Father is my Help), which is more commonly known by its author's acronym as Sefer Ra'avyah, is a compendium of articles that he developed into a book. It contains halakhot and legal decisions.

Gershom ben Judah

Gershom ben Judah, (c. 960 -1040) best known as Rabbeinu Gershom (Hebrew: רבנו גרשום, "Our teacher Gershom") and also commonly known to scholars of Judaism by the title Rabbeinu Gershom Me'Or Hagolah ("Our teacher Gershom the light of the exile"), was a famous Talmudist and Halakhist.

Rashi of Troyes (d. 1105) said less than a century after Gershom's death, "all members of the Ashkenazi diaspora are students of his." As early as the 14th century Asher ben Jehiel wrote that Rabbeinu Gershom's writings were "such permanent fixtures that they may well have been handed down on Mount Sinai."

He is most famous for the synod he called around 1000 CE, in which he instituted various laws and bans, including prohibiting polygamy, requiring the consent of both parties to a divorce, modifying the rules concerning those who became apostates under compulsion, and prohibiting the opening of correspondence addressed to someone else.

Isha katlanit

Isha katlanit (Hebrew: אישה קטלנית‎, literally: "lethal/deadly woman") is a term used in halakha ("Jewish law") for a married woman who has become a widow twice. Such a woman, it is said, should not marry again, because marrying her carries the risk that her next husband may also die (i.e., she will become the "cause" of his death because her marriage to her two previous husbands ended when they died.)

The origin of this rule is Talmudic. There is a dispute in the Talmud about whether a woman becomes a katlanit ("causing death") after the death of two husbands or the death of three husbands. The conclusion is that two are enough to define a katlanit, a term of art found in post-Talmudic literature.The Talmud presents two reasons why marrying a katlanit is risky:

According to the first reason, the "bad luck" or "misfortune" of the katlanit may endanger her husband.

The second reason is that her "fountain" (i.e., a euphemism for vagina), can have a "risky nature."Maimonides maintains that if one has already married such a woman, he has no obligation to divorce her according to Jewish law. Other rabbis, including Rabbi Asher ben Jehiel, take a more rigorous position. In their opinion, a man is not an "owner" of his life, so he has no right to endanger it. Consequently, one who married a katlanit must divorce her.

Technically, the isha katlanit rule may still be valid for those who adhere to Orthodox Judaism. As a practical matter, however, rabbinic authorities have substantially curtailed the relevance of the principles, thanks partly to the rabbinic principle of "The Lord protects the simple" from unusual dangers. In addition, rabbinic authorities have expressed in responsa their concern that widows be allowed to remarry, both for their own moral benefit and for the sake of the Jewish population. Today it is accepted that deaths of old husbands (over age 70) or deaths of husbands caused by an obvious accident are not reasons to define a woman as a katlanit. Unnatural causes, though, may activate the rule.

Jacob ben Asher

Jacob ben Asher, also known as Ba'al ha-Turim as well as Rabbi Yaakov ben Raash (Rabbeinu Asher), was probably born in the Holy Roman Empire at Cologne about 1269 and probably died at Toledo, then in the Kingdom of Castile, about 1343.Jacob was an influential Medieval rabbinic authority. He is often referred to as the Ba'al ha-Turim ("Master of the Rows"), after his main work in halakha (Jewish law), the Arba'ah Turim ("Four Rows"). The work was divided into four sections, each called a "tur," alluding to the rows of jewels on the High Priest's breastplate. He was the third son of the Rabbi Asher ben Jehiel (known as the "Rosh"), a Rabbi of the Holy Roman Empire who moved to Castile, due to increasing persecution of Jews in his native Germany. Besides his father, who was his principal teacher, Jacob quotes very often in the Turim his elder brother Jehiel; once his brother Judah (see Tur Orach Chaim, § 417), and once his uncle Rabbi Chaim (ib. § 49). According to many, Jacob moved to Castile with his father and was not born there.

Some say Jacob succeeded his father as the rabbi of the Jewish community of Toledo (Zacuto), while others say his brother Judah ben Asher did. His brothers were also rabbis of different communities in Iberia. He lived in abject poverty most of his life, and according to the Sephardic Community of Chios, is said to have fallen ill and died with his ten companions on the island of Chios, in Greece, whilst travelling.

Joseph ibn Naḥmias

Joseph Naḥmias (also Joseph ibn Joseph ibn Naḥmias) was a 14th-century Jewish scholar of Toledo, Castile, a student of Asher ben Jehiel.

He is best known for an astronomical work in Arabic, Nūr al-ʿĀlam ("The Light of the World") between c. 1330 and 1350, translated into Hebrew by an anonymous scholar later in the 14th century.

Naḥmias is also the author of commentaries on the Pentateuch, on Pirkei Avot and on Proverbs.

Joseph b. Abraham ibn Naḥmias, mentioned below; he was a contemporary of Joseph ben Joseph ibn Naḥmias, who also lived at Toledo, was a colleague of Judah and Jacob ben Asher, and wrote a commentary on Esther in 1326 or 1327.

List of Tosafists

Tosafists were medieval rabbis from France and Germany who are among those known in Talmudical scholarship as Rishonim (there were Rishonim in Spain also) who created critical and explanatory glosses (questions, notes, interpretations, rulings and sources) on the Talmud. These were collectively called Tosafot ("additions"), because they were additions on the commentary of Rashi. The Tosafists lived from the 12th century to the middle of the 15th century and the Tosafot are a compilation of the questions, answers and opinions of those rabbis. The Tosafot are very important to the practical application of Jewish law because the law will differ depending on how the Talmud is understood and interpreted.

Each generation of the Tosafists would add to those compilations and therefore there are many different versions of the Tosafos. In addition each compilation of the Tosafos did not contain everything that was said by the Tosafists on the subject so compilations will differ in what they say. For this reason some things that were said by the Tosafists will be found only in obscure versions of the Tosafos.

The final version of these commentaries was published on the outer side of the Soncino edition of the Talmud, printed in Soncino, Italy (16th century), and was the first printed edition of the full Talmud. The publisher of that edition was a nephew of Rabbi Moshe of Spires (Shapiro) who was of the last generation of Tosafists and who initiated a project of writing a final compilation of the Tosafos. Before he published his Talmud he traveled throughout France to the schools where the Tosafists learned and gathered all of the different manuscripts of that final version of the Tosafos and printed them in his Talmud. Since then every publication of the Talmud was printed with the Tosafos on the outer side of the page (the inner side has the commentary of Rashi) and is an integral part of the study of the Talmud.

During the period of the Tosafists the church enacted a law that prohibited possession of the Talmud under pain of death and 24 wagon loads of scrolls of the Talmud were gathered from all of France and burned in the center of Paris. The intention of the church was that the study of the Talmud should be forgotten and once forgotten it would remain forgotten for all generations since there would be nobody to teach it. As a result, the Tosafists devised a system where they could study the Talmud without the existence of a text despite the vastness of the Talmud. They appointed scholars, each to be expert in one the volumes of the Talmud, to know it by heart and very well, and so through these scholars they would have expertise and knowledge in all of the Talmud. As they would study a particular text in one volume of the Talmud those scholars who were expert in different volumes of the Talmud would tell of anything in the volume of the Talmud that they were expert on that would contradict their understanding of the text at hand. Thus an important aspect of the scholarship of the Tosafists is to use texts in different areas of the Talmud to disprove certain interpretations of the Talmud (often those of Rashi) and to determine the correct way to understand the Talmud.

Meir ibn Aldabi

Meir ibn Aldabi (Hebrew: מאיר אבן אלדבי) was a writer of the 14th century, son of Isaac Aldabi, "He-Ḥasid" (The Pious), grandson of Asher ben Jehiel, and a descendant of the exiles from Jerusalem. His name (erroneously spelled Albadi, Albalidi, Alrabi, and Altabi) is ascertained from his chief work, Shebile Emunah, wherein a poem is found in which every line begins with a letter of his name, and there it reads "Aldabi."

Midrash Taame Haserot ve-Yeterot

Midrash Taame Haserot ve-Yeterot (Hebrew: מדרש טעמי חסרות ויתרות) is one of the smaller midrashim, which has been edited most completely by Wertheimer (Jerusalem, 1899). It gives haggadic explanations not only of the words which are written defective or plene, as the title of the work implies, but also of a great number of those which are not read as they are written (comp. on the "ketib" in Wertheimer's ed., Nos. 8, 11, 13, 19, 21-30, 37, 51, 69, 89, 106, 111, 113, 124, 125, 127-129, 131, 134, 138-140, 181, and No. 12 on a word which is read without being written).

There are likewise notes on names and words which are read differently in different places (e.g., in Nos. 17, 20, 123, 126, 141, 142, 164, 172), on the ἅπαξ λεγόμενον שמיכה, Book of Judges iv. 18 (No. 108), on the peculiar writing of certain words (e.g., No. 133 on לםרבה, Isa. ix. 6, and No. 163 on ההלכוא, Josh. x. 24), and on the suspended letters in Judges xviii. 30, Ps. lxxx. 14, and Job xlviii. 50 (Nos. 112-114).

The midrash may be termed, therefore, a Masoretic one, although it frequently deviates from the Masorah. The haggadic interpretations are derived for the most part from scattered passages in the Talmud and in the Midrashim, while the arrangement is capricious, the individual words being arranged neither according to the order of the alphabet nor according to the sequence of the books of the Bible. In the different manuscripts and editions of it this midrash varies considerably, not only in the number and arrangement of the passages which it discusses, but also in the wording of individual interpretations. It is cited under its present title in the Tosafot (Ber. 34a), in the Sefer Miẓwot Gadol of Moses of Coucy, and by Asher ben Jehiel, while it is called "Midrash Ḥaserot we-Yeterot" by Solomon Norzi. A brief extract from this work enumerating the words to be written "defective" or "plene," but omitting the reason therefor, is contained in the Maḥzor Vitry, § 518, pp. 656 et seq.

To the Masoretic midrashim belong also the explanations of passages read and not written, or written and not read which have been edited from an old grammatical and Masoretic miscellany in the Manuel du Lecteur of Joseph Derenbourg (Paris, 1871), and in Jacob Saphir's Eben Sappir (ii. 218 et seq., Mayence, 1874), and reprinted by A. Jellinek in his B. H. (v. 27-30).

Moses Isserles

Rabbi Moses Isserles (Hebrew: משה בן ישראל איסרלישׂ, Polish: Mojżesz ben Israel Isserles) (February 22, 1530 / Adar I 25, 5290 – May 11, 1572 / Iyar 18, 5332), was an eminent Polish Ashkenazic rabbi, talmudist, and posek.

Rabbenu Yerucham

Yerucham ben Meshullam (Hebrew: ירוחם בן משולם‎, 1290-1350), often called Rabbenu Yerucham (רבנו ירוחם), was a prominent rabbi and posek during the period of the Rishonim.


Rishonim (Hebrew: [ʁiʃoˈnim]; Hebrew: ראשונים‎; sing. ראשון, Rishon, "the first ones") were the leading rabbis and poskim who lived approximately during the 11th to 15th centuries, in the era before the writing of the Shulchan Aruch (Hebrew: שׁוּלחָן עָרוּך, "Set Table", a common printed code of Jewish law, 1563 CE) and following the Geonim (589-1038 CE). Rabbinic scholars subsequent to the Shulkhan Arukh are generally known as acharonim ("the latter ones").

The distinction between the rishonim and the geonim is meaningful historically; in halakha (Jewish Law) the distinction is less important. According to a widely held view in Orthodox Judaism, the acharonim generally cannot dispute the rulings of rabbis of previous eras unless they find support from other rabbis in previous eras. On the other hand, this view is not formally a part of halakha itself, and according to some rabbis is a violation of the halakhic system. In The Principles of Jewish Law, Orthodox rabbi Menachem Elon writes that:

The Principles of Jewish Law


Rosh (Hebrew: ראש‎, "head" or "leader") may refer to:

Rosh (biblical figure), a minor Biblical figure, mentioned in the Book of Genesis and possibly a nation listed in Ezekiel

"The ROSH", Rabbi Asher ben Jehiel (1250–1328) a prominent Talmudic scholar

Rosh Hashanah, the day of the Jewish New year

Rosh Hashanah (tractate), a text of Jewish law in the Mishna and Talmud

Rosh Chodesh, the first day of each Hebrew month

Rosh yeshiva, the head of a Talmudic academy (yeshiva)

Lea Rosh, German television journalist and publicist

Roshambo, an alternate name of Rock–Paper–Scissors

Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, an environmental European law

Samuel of Évreux

Samuel of Évreux was a French tosafist of the thirteenth century, the younger brother and student of Moses of Évreux, author of the tosafot of Évreux. He is identified by Gross with Samuel ben Shneor (not ben Yom-Ṭov, as given by Zunz in Z. G. p. 38), whose explanations of Nazir are cited by Solomon ben Aderet, and whose authority is invoked by Jonah Gerondi.

Samuel directed a rabbinical school at Château-Thierry, and had for disciples R. Ḥayyim (brother of Asher ben Jehiel of Toledo), R. Perez, and R. Isaac of Corbeil. He carried on a correspondence on scientific subjects (and shared R. Perez as a student) with Jehiel of Paris and with Nathaniel the Elder. Samuel's Talmudic interpretations are often quoted in the Tosafot. From the fact that the author of the tosafot to Soṭah mentions there the name of Moses of Évreux as being his brother, it is inferred that these tosafot were written by Samuel.

Saul Berlin

Saul Berlin (also Saul Hirschel after his father; 1740 at Glogau – November 16, 1794 in London) was a German Jewish scholar who published a number of works in opposition to rabbinic Judaism.

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