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Jewish Commentators — Their Lives and Works

 

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Eliyahu Mizraḥi
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Hebrew Name(s): אליהו בן אברהם מזרחי; אליהו מזרחי
Other Names: ROM, Re'em, Elijah Mizrachi, Elijah ben Abraham Mizrachi
Period: Acharonim — 15th–16th Century
Location: Turkey
Dates: 1440–1525

Biography:
Eliyahu Mizraḥi was a Talmudist, Midrashist and astronomer and renowned for his elucidations, by responsa and commentary, of Rashi. Rabbi Eliyahu studied under Rabbi Judah of Padua (Italy).
 
Eliyahu Mizraḥi conducted a yeshivah in Constantinople and also taught mathematics, algebra and astronomy. He succeeded Moshe Kapsali as Leading Rabbi of the Turkish Empire (rav kolel, ha-rav ha-manhig) at the time of the Spanish Expulsion (1492) and provided a haven for refugees. He is also noted for his efforts to help the some members of the Karaites who wished to return to Jewish life.
 
Mizraḥi focussed in the main on writing and teaching halakhah and general knowledge but it is his supercommentary to Rashi [1st Edition, Venice, 1527] which is seen as his crowning achievment. The word provides an exhaustive commentary of Rashi, sometimes disagreeing with Rashi and at other times defending Rashi [against the criticism of Naḥmanides.] Later commentators on published work which answered his criticisms and justified Rashi. Rashi's commentary accompanyied by Mizraḥi 's supercommentary became standard study materials for rabbinical commentators from the 16th Century onward.

Works:
Sefer haMizrachi; She'eloth uTeshuvot; Tosafot Al SeMaG (Tosefe Semag); Teshuvot Re'em; Sefer ha-Mispar (Book of the Numbers); Melekhet ha-Mispar;  A Commentary on Euclid's Elements

Comments:
Sefer haMizrachi, Eliyahu Mizrachi’s best known work, is a supercommentary on Rashi’s commentary to the Torah and appears in digest form alongside Rashi's commentary in many editions of the Chumash. Sefer haMizrachi is considered an important commentary on the Torah in its own right. It was published in Venice, after his death, in 1527. MIzrachi, himself, considered Sefer haMizrachi to be his most important work (Responsa, Nos. 5, 78). MIzrachi showed Rashi's Talmudic and midrashic sources and endeavored to elucidate all obscure passages, thus defending Rashi from the strictures of the later commentators, particularly Naḥmanides. Rashi's commentary, accompanied by Mizraḥi 's supercommentary, became standard study materials for rabbinical commentators from the 16th Century onward. Sefer haMizrachi is also considered important for the quotations which it provides from the Romaniot scholars of the 14th and 15th Centuries.
She’eloth uTeshuvot is responsa material published in two volumes. Part 1. containing 100 responsa (Constantinople, 1546); Part 2. containing 39 responsa, printed with the responsa of Elijah ibn Ḥayyim under the title Mayim 'Amuḳḳim (Venice, 1647).
Tosefe Semag (Constantinople, 1520) is novellae to Sefer Mitzvot Gadol (SEMAG, the Big Book of Commandments) of R. Moses ben Jacob of Coucy. The work was later published (1541) together with the Semag under the title Ḥiddushim.
Sefer ha-Mispar published 1533 was concerned with the study of mathematics and includes a commentary on Ptolemy's Almagest, an important text on astronomy. The work is in three books, divided into "gates" (she'arim), which are subdivided into chapters. 1. whole numbers, 2. Fractions, 3. mixed numbers. In the introduction, Mizraḥi treats of the relationship between theology, mathematics, and the natural sciences. While theology is in no sense concrete he says, the other two sciences are. Mathematics, he says, is like a bridge by which one may pass from one science to the other, and therefore special attention should be paid to it.
Teshuvot Re'em is a collection of Responsa material. Mizraḥi's responsa were accepted as authoritative by his and succeeding generations, despite the fact that some of the leading contemporary scholars opposed his views.
Melekhet ha-Mispar is a similar work to Sefer ha-Mispar which, in addition, contains a chapter on Chess.
Mizrachi’s Commentary on Euclid's Elements is a mathematical text.

 

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