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Jewish Commentators — Their Lives and Works


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Joel Sirkes
Hebrew Name(s): יואל סירקיש; ב"ח
Other Names: BaCh, Yoel Sirkis
Period: Acharonim — 16th–17th Century
Location: Poland
Dates: 1561–1640

Joel Sirkes (Yoel Sirkis, aka. BaCH, an acronym of his famous work Bayit Chadash, 1631-39) was one of the foremost Talmudic scholars and halakhists of Poland.
Sirkes was born in Lublin.
Sirkes studied under Solomon ben Judah and Rabbi Phoebus and occupied the rabbinates of Pruszany, Lubkow, Lublin, Medzyboz, Beltz, Szydlowka, Brest-Litovsk and Kraków. In Krakow Sirkes was appointed Av Bet Din and Rosh Yeshivah in 1619. Many of his students became leading rabbis in Poland and included his son in law, R. David b. Samuel ha-Levi (The TaZ.)
Rabbi Sirkes was a kabbalist but never-the-less rejected kabbalist practices that were contrary to the halakhah. He was an opponent of pilpul, a method of studying Talmud through intensely critical analysis of conceptual differences in halakhic rulings or apparent contradictions found in different readings of the text. He was also critical of those who depended solely upon the Shulḥan Arukh rather than the Talmud and Geonim for halakhic decisions.

Bayit Ḥadash  (The New House); HaGahot haBach; Meshiv Nefesh; Teshuvos haBach; Beurei ha-Bach le-Pardes Rimmonim; She'elot u-Teshuvot Bayit Hadash; She'elot u-Teshuvot Bayit Hadash ha-Hadashot; She'elot u-Teshuvot ha-Ge'onim Batri

Bayit Ḥadash (The New House) is an analysis of the Arba'ah Turim (the Tur) of Jacob ben Asher. It is a critical and comprehensive commentary in which he traced each law to its Talmudic source and followed its subsequent development through successive generations of interpretation. Sirkes was concerned with what he saw as a constriction of the law through codification and the growing dependence of his contemporaries on the Shulḥan Arukh. His major authorities were the Talmud, the Geonim, the Tosafists, Alfasi, R. Asher b. Jehiel, and Maimonides.
HaGahot haBach is a collection of glosses [a brief notation of the meaning of a word or wording in a text] for textual emendations in the Talmud and Rashi. These were copied from notes Sirkes added to his own Talmud. (These notes can be found in the text as a Rashi script letter within parentheses.)
Meshiv Nefesh is a commentary on the Book of Ruth.
Teshuvot haBach is a collection of responsa.
Beurei ha-Bach le-Pardes Rimmonim is an explanatory work for passages in Moses ben Jacob Cordovero's Kabbalistic work, Pardes Rimonim (An Orchard of Pomegranates).
She'elot u-Teshuvot Bayit Hadash (1697) - responsa published posthumously.
She'elot u-Teshuvot Bayit Hadash ha-Hadashot (1785) is responsa published posthumously.
She'elot u-Teshuvot ha-Ge'onim Batri (1760)contains 22 responsa which were either written by Sirkes or deal with responsa which he had written.


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