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Jewish Commentators — Their Lives and Works


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Judah ben Isaac Messer Leon
Hebrew Name(s): יהודה בן יצחק מסר ליאון
Other Names: Judah Messer Leon, Sir Leon of Paris, Judah Sir Leon of Paris
Period: Rishonim — 12th–13th Century
Location: Paris, France
Dates: 1166–1224

A French Tosafist, Judah ben Isaac Messer Leon (Sir Leon of Paris) was born in Paris. It is thought he was a descendent of Rashi, he married a daughter of Abraham ben Joseph of Orleans (aka. Abraham ben Rabbi Joce, Chief Rabbi in London in 1186) and was a pupil of Isaac ben Samuel of Dampierre and his son Elhanan.
Sir Leon probably left Paris when all Jews were expelled. [In 1182, King Philip Augustus (Philip II) of France expelled the Jews in his dominion only allowing them to return in 1198 when, under financial pressure from his war with Richard the Lion-Heart, he required funds.] Sir Leon did not return to Paris till 1198. Meanwhile he studied at Dampierre under Samson of Sens, Samson of Coucy, Solomon of Dreux, and Abraham b. Nathan of Lunel.
After returning to Paris he founded an important school of Tosafists. Jehiel ben Joseph (Sir Leon's successor,) Isaac ben Moses of Vienna (Or Zarua), Samuel ben Solomon (Sir Morel of Falaise) and Moses of Coucy were his pupils.
Judah ben Isaac composed Tosafot to most of the tractates of the Talmud, most of which are no longer extant. However, some of his Tosafot to Abodah Zarah is still extant in a manuscript and is now in the possession of Jews' College, London. He also wrote a commentary on the Pentateuch, in which he appears to have followed the method of Rashbam.
Sir Leon died in Paris in 1224 (cf. Solomon Luria, Responsa, No. 29).

Tosafot; Commentary on the Pentateuch; Piyyutim


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