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that Rabbi Aha did not use the Yerushalmi passage in
Ketuhot admits of no doubt. His presentation of the case
is very much more detailed than that of the Yerushalmi,
a-nd the peculiarity of Rabbi Aha, so far from being a
tendency to elaborate a passage, is to condense the Tal-
mudic sources. There is a positive and clinching proof,
besides, to show that his source was a Babylonian and not

^ To this peculiarity Rapoport drew attention in his biography of
Rabbenu Nissim, note 39, and in recent times such so-called Yerushalmi
quotations were collected by Ruber, Epstein, and Wolf Rabbinowitz, and
published in Luncz's U'^h^^^\ VII. Rabbi Aaron, of Lunel, r/'-ix, II, 179,
calls our Tamid, Yerushalmi Tamid ; comp. also below, p. 157.



86 THE GEONIM

a Pcalestinian work. The final phrase, p^ro^T r^nnx n^J''?D XJn,
makes it plain ; this expression occurs nowhere but in the
Babylonian Talmud ^ Another proof of the Babylonian
origin is afforded by the proverb cited, Nt^^an ^yii'\b r]^)bi
HTiDnn n'h, also a Babylonian locution. Moreover, it appears
from a comparison of this passage with "l^"^T^1, II, 145-6,
that our text of theSheeltot has been considerably shortened 2;
the author of the We-Hizhir had the complete text before
him, and as he has it, it could not have been taken from
Yer. Ketuhot, w-hich is by far not so full of details. It
is not an impossible supposition that Rabbi Aha's text
of Bahli Ketuhot, 22 a-b, contained his whole statement,
while but a few words have been preserved in our Talmud
editions.



Plan and Pukpose of the Sheeiltot.

In spite of all the results attained above, it would still
be an over-hasty conclusion to infer that Rabbi Aha wrote
his work in the years of his life in Babylonia. Internal
and external reasons alike militate against this assumption.
There are, in the first place, a number of linguistic
peculiarities in the Sheeltot, which clearly betray the
Palestinian origin of the w^ork. With a Babylonian like
Rabbi Aha, who handled the dialect of his native land
with extraordinary skill, they can be explained only as
marks left upon his style by the Palestinian Aramaic of
his later abode ^. Here are some of the idiosyncrasies on

^ Keluhot, 22 h, and six other passages, marked in the margin of the
Talmud.

2 The application of this proverb becomes intelligible only in the form
it has in the i^mm ; Briill {Jahrhiicher, II, 149-50), who, contrary to his
usual habit, has treated this question of Rabbi Aha's use of the Yerushahni
in a very superficial way, decides in the affirmative, essentially on the
basis of this passage.

^ If Eabbi Aha actually delivered lectures in Palestine, which seems
very probable, the influence of the Palestinian Aramaic is all the more
to be expected.



THE HALAKIC LITERATURE 87

which the assertion just made is based. Rabbi Aha uses ^
N'J^n Nn^JriD indiscriminately for Mishnah and Baraita, while
the Babylonian Talmud is unfailing in drawing a sharp
distinction between pn^JriD, the Mishnah, and i^n^JriD, a
Baraita. In this respect, Rabbi Aha follows the habit
of the Yerushalmi, which conveys both concepts by {<n''jnD.
The interrogative pronoun K'T'M, an exclusively Palestinian
expression, is frequently used by Rabbi Aha. Similarly,
the introductory formula of many of the Sheeltot, ns^nS?,
peculiar to our author, is of Palestinian derivation. In the
Babylonian dialect the only permissible forms would be
"'Sii'li^i' or ^?^3 "^. The other formula used by our author,
■jnv D"i3, is also Palestinian ; in the Aramaic of Babylonia,
mn is not used at all, and the connotation given to inv
by Rabbi Aha also corresponds to its Palestinian rather
than its Babylonian meaning ^. In connexion with this
linguistic analysis, it must be borne in mind that Pales-
tinian forms of speech were current in official and legal
documents. With the customs and regulations which the
Babylonian Jews imported from their Palestinian brethren,
they borrowed also the language garb in which they were
clothed in their original home. From the lexicographical
point of view, the Targum Onkelos is the Aramaic of the
Babylonian dialect, but its grammatical structure stands
the most rigid tests imposed by a correct Palestinian
Aramaic. The formulas prescribed by the Bahli "^ for legal

^ The passages are enumerated by Reifmann, I.e., though he failed
to notice that they betrayed Palestinian influence. On this difference
between the Babli and the Yerushalmi, comp. Lewy, Ueber . . . Misclma des
Abha Said, 4, note 2, and the article on "Baraita'' by the present writer,
in the Jewish Encyclopedia.

2 The root rhi^ disappeared from the Babylonian, with the exception
of N3cbi5«?, which may be a Palestinian terminus technicus. Instead of it,
ny is used, to which, of course, Fjb^Q belongs, not, as Koliut, s. v., says,
to Tp^. He also reads t^icbis, deriving it from the Aphel, though the
other form x:Dbv assures the reading NDQbis from the Kal.

^ Rabbi Aha uses -[m* in the sense of "doubtful", as the Yerushalmi
does. The use of the word in the Babli is very different.

•* Comp., for instance, Gittin, 85 b, and what is said upon the passage
in G. S., p. 166.



88 THE GEONIM

documents are likewise in the Aramaic dialect of Palestine,
and it would not be unnatural to find that the turns of
speech used in the Academies and in the houses of prayer
were Palestinian. As for the formula *]n^ D">:i, Nathan
says explicitly (84, 12) that it was used by the Geonim
in their lectures. In view thereof, it is very suggestive
that Nathan himself offers us the Babylonian form, X''y23,
while Kabbi Aha uses xni^'N^^^, the Palestinian form ^

These internal proofs of the Palestinian origin of the
Sheeltot are strengthened by reasons of an external nature.
The most important Halakic product of the Geonic time,
the Sheeltot are yet not mentioned by a single one of the
Geonim, excepting only the last of them. Rabbi Hai.
The latter has only one reference to Rabbi Aha's work,
to be found in Harkavy's Collection, 191. But of Babbi
Hai we know ^ that he was in correspondence with Pales-
tinian scholars^ and it is natural to conjecture that the
Sheeltot were brought to his notice through his intercourse
with them. Even in the post- Geonic time, the scholars
who make use of Rabbi Aha's work are those in particular
of whom we know in other ways that Palestinian sources
were accessible to them ^. So far as I am aware, Alfasi
never mentions the Sheeltot in his compendium ^, while his
younger contemporary in France, Rashi, attributes great
importance to them ^. Also, the Italian Nathan, the author

^ On this peculiar use of ^^nb^^r, comp. above, p. 75, n. 2.

2 Harkavy, 29.

^ If tlie Tmm was not composed in Palestine, at least it was written
under Palestinian influence. Comp. Epstein, E.E.J., XLVI, 201, and
Barnstein, in Sokolow's 'rivn 'c, 49. Concerning the relation of the
Sheeltot to We-Hizhir, see Farcies, 22 a, where the text stands in need of
emendation. R. Kalonymos of Lucca quotes the Sheeltot, comp. p"j, 133.

^ The benediction for yon bran, in Alfasi, Pesahim, I, i, is not derived
from the Sheeltot, but from a Geonic Responsum, and the passage in
'p'^ZT^ 'n, 15, ed. Wilna, is a gloss.

^ Rashi copies complete sentences from the Sheeltot, and always calls
the author pi^:i ; comp. the Sheeltot passages cited by Rashi, in Zunz's
biography of Rashi ; also the quotation from the MS. of mo in Azulai ;
:i"n\r, s. v. ><nx.



THE HALAKIC LITERATURE 89

of the 'Aruk, mentions the Sheeltot several times. Now
it is well known that the Italian and the Franco-German
Jews early maintained relations with Palestinian scholars,
a,nd this would explain their knowledge of the Sheeltot.

We are now called upon to deal with a curious com-
bination of circumstances — a work composed in Palestine
ignores the Yerushalmi, though its author has the oppor-
tunity of citing it on every one of his pages. The
explanation must be sought in the nature of the author's
aim when he set himself the task of writinp* the book.
In the introduction to his work, nn^nnn JT'a, reprinted in
Neubauer, Mediaeval Jeiuish Chronicles, II, 225, Rabbi
Menahem Meiri has the following to say upon this subject :
'' We have a trustworthy tradition that Rabbi Aha had
a son who refused to devote himself to study, and for him
he wrote the Sheeltot, that in reading the Pentateuch
portion each week, he might at the same time be forced
to familiarise himself with certain Halakic pieces."

In spite of all the reverence due to so great a scholar as
Meiri, it is still difficult not to indulge in doubts of the
trustworthiness of his tradition. We are expected to
believe that the first work of importance after the close
of the Talmud owed its existence to the laziness of an
unruly boy. In general, Meiri's account of the Geonim
is a mixture of distorted and inaccurate statements ^, and
this fact relieves us of the necessity of dealing seriously
with his legend, which, besides, is denied by the plan and
style of the Sheeltot.

First as to the plan of the book. In the editions ^ we

^ Rabbi Nahshon is put before Rabbi Moses, Rabbi Hai ben David
officiates as the successor of Rabbi Saadia, while Kohen-Zedek and
Rab Amram are called his successors ! This specimen should suffice
to put a proper valuation upon Meiri's Geonic traditions.

-^ First edition, Venice, 1546, to which the other editions go back, with
the exception of ed, Wilna, for which the learned editor and commentator,
Rabbi Naphtali Zebi Berlin, used manuscript material. The bibliography
on the Sheeltot will be found rather complete attached to the present
writer's article, " Aha of Shabha," in the Jeivish Encudopedia.



9° THE GEONIM

have of it, it contains 171 ^ Sheeltot, arranged according
to the weekly pericopes of the Pentateuch. Each Sheelta
consists of five elements, unfortunately not always present
in our printed edition. We shall take as an illustration
the first Sheelta, which probably has reached us com-
paratively intact. It begins thus: ''Sheelta: The house
of Israel is in duty bound to rest on the Sabbath day, for
when the Holy One, blessed be his Name, created the
world, he created it in six days, he rested on the seventh
day, which he blessed and sanctified." This is the intro-
duction to the first division of the Sheelta, which consists
of a number of Halakot from the Talmud relating to the
rest of the Sabbath day and its sanctification. Then
follows the second division, beginning with the words:
^b'D^ n^< yi)i mn, ^'But this thou must learn," which
introduce two Halakic questions— whether a fast should
be broken simultaneously with the entering of the Sabbath,
as fasting on the Sabbath is forbidden, and whether the
prohibition against running on the Sabbath includes run-
ning to the synagogue or the house of learning. The
arguments for and against having been stated briefly, the
third part comes, introduced by the formula nn"pn n^Dt:^ inn
bi^-i^^ nu n-'Dy i<^bi6 N^m n^D n^ bv NniiVDi Nnnix nj!? nn>n
— " Blessed be the Name of the Holy One who hath given
us the Torah and the laws, by the hand of our teacher
Moses, in order to instruct his people, the house of Israel."
But instead of giving a decisive reply to the questions
propounded, the third division consists of Halakic and
Haggadic pieces taken from the Talmud Bahli, and from the
Midrashim, all of them such as bring out the significance of
the Sabbath. After this rather lengthy portion, in the nature
of a digression, the fourth division presents the answer
to the two questions, introduced by the words: "And
regarding the questions which you put to me," Nni?\s*c^ p^jyi?
])yD^p i<:b'>i<^l. The questions and arguments are recapitu-

* There are two ways of counting the SheiHlot, I follow tliat of ed.Wilna.



THE HALAKIC LITERATURE 9I

latedj and on the basis of the statements of the Tahnud,
a conclusion is reached. The final division is a Derashah, of
which the text has preserved only the superscription ^, and
nothing besides. While the other four parts are still more
or less distinguishable in many of the Sheeltot, the fifth
part, the Derashah, has disappeared in absolutely every
instance, and even of the superscriptions only twenty-nine
have come down to us ^.

In an article by the present writer, on Rabbi Aha, of
Shabha, Jewish Eiicycio'pedia, I, pp. 278-80, the conjecture
was hazarded that these Derashot were talks consisting of
Halakic and Haggadic material, and that the Sheeltot as
we now have them were abstracts of these lectures, giving
the beginning of them and the end. It now appears that
this conjecture requires considerable modification, by reason
of the new light shed upon the subject by the Genizah
fragment published in G. S., pp. 354-62, which constitute
the Derashah attached to Sheelta, XLIII, and pp. 365-9,
the Derashah of the next Sheelta, show the character of
the fifth, the concluding division of each of the Sheeltot.
They are neither more nor less than literal extracts from
the Babylonian Talmud, occasionally somewhat shortened,
the choice of the parts of the Talmud being influenced



^ The superscription is ^y^:xD D"ipn, the fourth section of the treatise
Pesahim. The beginning (50 b) deals with travelling on Friday, a subject
akin to the one discussed by Rabbi Aha in this Sheelta. Reifmann, I.e.,
thinks that ^^^n2'<^ aipQ has reference to Yer. Moed Katan, III, 82 d, which
is out of the question.

^ Comp. the list in Reifmann, 1. c. In G. S., p. 366, a marginal note
by a scribe or a reader gives the order of the succession of the parts
of a Sheelta agreeing with that of the editions. The probability is,
however, that originally the Derashah came in the fourth place, with
the introductory word T12. For reasons given further on it was later
moved to the end of the Sheelta, and then dropped entirely. This surmise
is corroborated by G. S., p. 364, 1. 5, where jia is followed by the heading
^^ Derashah" together with the theme of the Derashah, though the Derashah
itself is at the end, in p. 365, line 9 et seq. If I am correctly informed,
the order here described as original with the Sheeltot is met with in MSS.
of the Sheeltot.



92 THE GEONIM

by their connexion with the subject treated in a given
Sheelta. The Derashah on Sheelta, XLIII, pp. 354-62, is
composed of extracts from the fifth section of the treatise
Baha Mezla, containing the Talmudic laws of usury, which
are discussed in the Sheelta. A similar analysis holds good
of the other Derashah given \ This being their character,
it is now plain why the copyists omitted the Derashot.
They conveyed absolutely nothing new, either in form
or in content, and in later times there was no reason for
rewriting what could be found in the Talmud copies.

The important aspect of the Derashot is that through
them light is thrown upon the purpose intended to be
served by Rabbi Aha with his book. The Sheeltot have
the purpose of introducing the Babylonian Talmud to the
Palestinians. At the time of Rabbi Aha, we may be sure
that copies of the Talmud were not too plentiful, therefore
it was his aim to extract verbatim a considerable portion
of it -J especially the practical material, and group it
about the Biblical laws as they succeed each other in the
Scriptures. To make his collection available for practical,
pedagogic ends. Rabbi Aha, considerate of Palestinian
taste, provided each section of his compendium with a
lecture consisting of Halakah and Haggadah, in which
a comprehensive summing up was made of one or more
of the points treated ramblingly and minutely in the
Derashah. From of old, the Haggadists in Palestine applied
the Yelamdenu Midrash for their purposes. Their method
was to take a Halakah as their starting-point, and then
pass over to their real subject. Rabbi Aha followed their
example to the extent that he did not exclude the Hag-
gadah from his lectures, but in his scheme it occupied
the same place that the Halakah had in the scheme of the

' In this Derashah there are even extracts from the Mishnah. Probably
they were followed by the Talmud passages applying to them.

2 If the Derashah reproduced in G. S., pp. 354-62, is a proper criterion
as to the length of the Derashot, Rabbi Aha extracted about one-fifth of
the whole Talmud !



THE HALAKIC LITERATUEE 93



Palestinian Haggadists ^. The Haggadah was his starting-
point, his real subject was the Halakah. To the Haggadists
he owed also the arrangement of the material according
to the weekly lesson from the Pentateuch, which had never
before him been attempted by a Babylonian, nor was there
one to attempt it after him 2. In Babylonia, the home
of the Halakah, a plan on this basis would have been
entirely unnatural, in view of the fact that the first book of
the Pentateuch is purely narrative, as are also large portions
of the second, fourth, and fifth, and therefore altogether
unsuitable as a basis for legal discussions. Palestine, on the
other hand, was the home of Haggadistic interpretation,
for which the Pentateuch was chosen with instinctive dis-
cernment. Kabbi Aha shows a fine sense for the peculiarity
of his new surroundings, when he accepts, for Halakic
purposes, the model furnished him by the Haggadists.
But docile as he was, he could not prevent himself from
l)etraying his Babylonian origin. Instead of using as
the basis of his work the triennial cycle of Pentateuch
pericopes adopted in the Holy Land, he held to the annual
cycle of his native country ".

In general, Rabbi Aha remained more or less consciously
under the dominance of Babylonian customs during hi&
sojourn in Palestine. His predilection appears notably in
the fact that he did not attach his discussion upon the
importance of the study of the Torah to the Biblical law

^ Graetz, Geschichte, V^, 162, has completely reversed the true relation
of Rabbi Aha to the Haggadic Midrashim, when he maintains that the
Sheeltot served as a model for the later Haggadic collections, by which
he means the Tanhuma Midrashim.

^ Of all the Midrashim, the ss"-) ^p-\D may be designated as Babylonian^
and although it is essentially a Haggadic elaboration of the narratives
in the first book of the Bible, it still is not arranged according to the
Pentateuch lessons.

^ Doubtless the influence of the Babylonians must have made itself
felt in this respect in the time of Rabbi Aha, and probably there were
'* Babylonian synagogues " in Palestine, such as had the one-year cycle
of Pentateuch lessons. On the influence of the Babylonian rituals in
Palestine see G. S., p. 58.



94 THE GEONIM

in Deut. vi. 7, in the section pnnsi. Instead, he displayed
great ingenuity in working it into the pericope called i? ']b.
The reason is very simple. The " reception Sabbath " of the
Exilarch in Babylonia coincided with Sabbath i? i?. The
Geonim, or rather the Geonim of Sura, w^ere in the habit
of utihsing this occasion, which attracted people from
all parts, for a lecture, and naturally enough the study
of the Torah was a favourite theme ^. And it w^as this
custom of his native land Rabbi Aha had in mind when
he used the Sheelta on lb i? for a disquisition on nicl^n
min.

How^ completely the Geonic and post-Geonic develop-
ment of Halakic literature was moulded by Babylonia,
is shown by the fact that there is but a single work
patterned after the Sheeltot, the book We-Hizhir, the be-
ginnings of which are probably to be placed in the tenth
century. All that we know^ about the author is that he
stood under strong Palestinian influences^. Not only is
the We-Hizhir constructed on the same formal plan as the
Sheeltot, but it embodied copious excerpts fi'om Rabbi
Aha's w^ork, a circumstance which makes it most valuable
for us, inasmuch as its text of the Sheeltot frequently
diflfers from ours ^. The text upon which our editions are
based has suffered additions and abbreviations as well. In
^- ^'i P- 353 6^ seq., below, Genizah fragments of pieces of
the Sheeltot missing in the printed text have been repro-



' Comp. above, p. 5, n. i.

^ Comp. above, p. 88, 11. 3.

3 On this comp. Rapoport, p: 'i mi'^in, note 4, and Addition i, also
Reifmann, 1. c. Our Sheliltot are defective in arrangement, too. For
instance, there can be no doubt that the Sheclia CXXIII on c:™ nDii
belongs to the pericope ,v<i^-2 and not to "jmbrni, as the editions have it.
Ma/isor Vitry, 394, and Rashi's SidcHr (Buber's Introduction to misn 'c,
84) quote this She'dta properly as belonging to sir: . Hurwitz, the editor
of the Mahzor, and Buber both went astray, therefore, when they were of
opinion that the Sheeltot passage in question was missing in our editions.
On Sheeltot quotations in the 'Antk, comp. Buber's letter addressed to
Kohut, in the latter's introduction to the -ji-ir.



THE HALAKIC LITERATURE 95

duced from the Taylor- Schechter collection at Cambridge ^.
On the other hand, the Halakot of Rabbi Aha, which are
mentioned by Maimonides in his introduction to the
Mishnah, are not a lost book, but the Sheeltot under
another name. The Halahot Pesukot of Rabbi Aha, sup-
posed to be mentioned by Rabbi Moses of Coucy in his
y^DD, Commandement 50, is a printer's error as old as the
second edition of 1488. The first edition, before 1480,
reads properly wiv instead of ^^«^K ^.

Rabbi Jehudai the Earliest Halakic Writer in
Geonic Times.

" Since many years until this day there was none like
unto Rab Jehudai, for he was great in knowledge — of
the Bible, the Mishnah, the Midrash, the Tosafot, the
Haggadot — and in the practical law. It was his habit
never to say anything he had not heard from his teacher.
He was great in holiness and purity, in piety and humility,
he was zealous in the fulfilment of all commands. He
sacrificed himself for the sake of God ^, and he drew men
near to the Torah and to obedience to the law, and none

after him was like unto him Rabbi Jehudai once

said, Ye have never submitted a matter to me, and I

^ There is no telling whether all these Shecltot fragments belong to the
original work of Rabbi Aha, or are later productions modelled after his
work. The Sheelta on the Day of Atonement, pp. 373-81, shows so many
verbal agreements with the /'n that it cannot but have made use of the
latter.

2 The first to call attention to this alleged Halakot of Rabbi Aha was
S. Bloch, in his Hebrew translation of Zunz's biography of Rashi.
Reifmann, 1. c, mentions it likewise, without referring to Bloch. Comp.
also below, p. 100, n. i.

^ The expression □'O^rb Tiri" n^< vc^n is usually applied to martyrs who
sacrifice life in the service of God, but the preceding word n^m shows
plainly that there was no idea of conveying the notion of Rabbi Jehudai's
having died a martyr's death. Rapoport's assumption, inn DID , VI, 243,
that Rabbi Jehudai died a martyr, is refuted by this fragment ; comp.
also Weiss, 41, n. 17.



96 THE GEONIM

decided it, but that I had a proof from the Talmud for
my decision, and from the practice of my teacher, who
would have it from his teacher. I never rendered a decision
wherefor I had only a proof from the Talmud, and not
from the practice of my teacher, or wherefor I had a proof
only from the practice of my teacher, and not from the
Talmud."

This characterisation of Rabbi Jehudai, quoted in G. >S%
pp. S^-'^, by a younger contemporary of the great Gaon,
shows how high an opinion his own time had of his ability
and achievements. The centuries following his death felt
the same appreciation of his mental powders. He was
called the "light of the w^orld," and a number of other
epithets betokening honour and reverence^. An anony-
mous author, probably a Gaon of Pumbedita, flourishing*
about the beginning of the ninth century, could find
no more effectual way of investing w^hat he wrote with
authority than by the plea that " all I have written unto
you I did not w-rite out of my own learning and wisdom,
but it rests upon wdiat I have derived, in theory and in

practice, from my teacher Kabbah, the disciple of

Rabbi Jehudai Gaon, may the memory of our teacher
be unto a blessing and unto life in the future w^orld -."

' Comp., for instance, r"ic, 45 a. Eabbi Sherira, h"y, 43, observes that
Eabbi Jehudai granted no absolution for oaths, and as a consequence
the scholars of the generations succeeding him opposed the exercise of
mmc mnn, since they would not arrogate to themselves greater authority
than Rabbi Jehudai assumed ! On his aversion to absolving from oaths
and vows see Nahmanides, Nedarim, end. Comp. also the Geonie
Eesponsum in JIttur, II, 2 a, where the authority of Rabbi Jehudai is


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