Nissim ben Jacob
Nissim ben Jacob (Hebrew: ניסים בן יעקב, also known as Rav Nissim Gaon or in Hebrew: רבנו נסים, lit. Nissim our teacher; 990–1062), was a rabbi best known today for his Talmudic commentary ha-Mafteach, by which title he is also known.
Rav Nissim studied at the Kairouan yeshiva, initially under his father - Jacob ben Nissim ("Rav Yaakov Gaon") who had studied under Hai Gaon - and then under Chushiel, who succeeded Jacob as head of the Yeshiva. Nissim himself later became head of the yeshiva; in this capacity he is closely associated with Chananel son of Chushiel. His most famous student is probably Isaac Alfasi (the "Rif"). Rav Nissim maintained an active correspondence with Hai Gaon and with Shmuel Hanaggid, whose son Joseph married Nissim's only daughter. As the former was in Bavel (Babylonia) and the latter was in Sferad ("Spain"), Rav Nissim is also credited with having maintained through his letters the lines of Rabbinic discourse between these easternmost and westernmost Jewish communities.
The commentary Sefer Mafteach Man'ulei Hatalmud (Hebrew: "The book of the key to the Talmud"; often, simply ha-Mafteach, (The Key), linked here) is essentially a Talmudic cross-reference. In it Rav Nissim identifies the sources for Mishnaic quotes, identifying obscure allusions to other places in Talmudic literature. He quotes from the Tosefta, Mekhilta, Sifre, Sifra, and from the Jerusalem Talmud, the explanations of which he sometimes prefers to those of the Babylonian Talmud. Nissim did not confine himself to quoting references, he also discusses these in connection with the text; this work is thus also a commentary. The work was written on several tractates, and is printed, in many editions, on the page itself.
Nissim also wrote other works, some of which have been lost, but which are quoted by later sages:
- "Siddur Tefillah", a siddur (prayerbook)
- A commentary on the Torah (now lost)
- A "Sefer ha-Mitzvot" on the commandments (now lost)
- "Hilkhot Lulav" a polemic against the Karaites (now lost)
- "Megillat Setarim": a collection of notes concerning halakhic decisions, explanations, and midrashim, primarily a note-book for the author's private use, and published by his pupils probably not until after his death.
- A collection of tales, "Sefer Ma'asiyyot ha-Hakhamim wehu Ḥibbur Yafeh meha-Yeshu'ah": about sixty tales, based upon the Mishnah, Baraita, the two Talmuds, and the midrashic writings; and written at the request of Nissim's father-in-law, Dunash, on the loss of his son. This is translated into English as "An Elegant Compilation concerning Relief after Adversity" (Bibliography, below)
R. Nissim appears as a character in A Delightful Compendium of Consolation: A Fabulous Tale of Romance, Adventure and Faith in the Medieval Mediterranean, a novel by Burton Visotzky. The novel expands on the few known biographical facts (including the marriage of his daughter). Its title, A Delightful Compendium, derives from "Ḥibbur Yafeh".
- Nissim ben Jacob ibn Shahin, tr. William M. Brinner, An Elegant Composition concerning Relief after Adversity: Yale 1977 (Yale Judaica Series vol 20)
- Nissim ben Jacob ben Nissim ibn Shahin, jewishencyclopedia.com
- Nissim ben Jacob, jewishhistory.org
- Sefer ha-Mafteah, Prof. Eliezer Segal
- R' Nissim ben Yaakov z"l, torah.org
Geonim Deans of Pumbedita AcademyHanan of Iskiya • Mari ben R. Dimi • Rav Hana (Huna) • Rav Rabbah (Rava, Ravah) • Rav Bosai (Bostanai) • Huna Mari ben Mar R. Joseph • Hiyya of Meshan • Rav Rabya ben R. Abaye (Moronai) • Natronai b. Mar Nehemiah • Judah Gaon • Joseph Gaon ben Kitnai • Samuel ben Mar R. Mari • Natroi Kahana b. Emuna • Abraham Kahana • Dodai ben R. Nahman (Rav Dorai) • R. Hananya ben R. Mesharsheya • Malka ben R. Aha • Rabba ben R. Dodai (Abba) • Rav Shinwai • Haninai Kahana ben Abraham • Haninai Kahana ben Abraham • Huna ben ha-Levi ben Isaac • Manasseh ben R. Joseph • Isaiah ha-Levi ben R. Abba • Joseph ben R. Shila of Shilhe • Kahana ben Haninai Gaon • Abumai Kahana ben Abraham • Joseph ben R. Abba • Abraham ben R. Sherira • Joseph ben Mar R. Hiyya • Isaac ben R. Hananiah • Joseph ben R. Abba • Paltoi ben R. Abaye • Aha Kahana ben Mar Rav • Menahem ben R. Joseph ben Hiyya • Mattithiah ha-Kohen b. Ravrevay b. Hanina • Abba ben R. Ammi • Zemah ben Paltoi • Hai ben R. David • Kimoi ben R. Ahhai • Mebasser Kahana ben R. Kimoi • Kohen Tzedek Kahana ben R. Joseph • R. Zemah ben R. Kafnai • Hananiah ben R. Yehudai • Aaron ben R. Joseph Ha-Kohen • Nehemiah ben Kohen Tzedek • Sherira Gaon • Hai Gaon • Hezekiah ben David (Hezekiah Gaon) Deans of Sura AcademyMar ben R. Huna • R. Hanina (Hinenai) • Rav Hunai (Huna) • Rav Sheshna (Mesharsheya b. Tahlifa) • Hanina of Nehar Pekkod (Hinenai) • Hillai of Naresh • Jacob of nehar Pekod • Rav Samuel Gaon • Mari ha-Kohen of Nehar Pekod • Rav Aha • Yehudai ben Nahman (Yehudai Gaon) • Ahhunai Kahana ben Papa • Haninai Kahana ben R. Huna • Mari ha-Levi ben R. Mesharsheya • Bebai ha-Levi ben R. Abba of Nehar Pekod • Hilai ben R. Mari • Jacob ha-Kohen ben Mordecai • Rav Abimai • Zadok ben R. Ashi (Issac ben Jesse) • Hilai ben R. Hananiah • Kimoi ben R. Ashi • Mesharsheya Kahana ben Jacob • Kohen Tzedek ben Abimai • Sar Shalom ben R. Boaz • Natronai ben R. Hilai ben R. Mari (Natronai Gaon) • Amram bar Sheshna (Amram Gaon)• Nahshon ben R. Zadok • Zemah ben R. Hayyim • Rav Malka • Hai ben R. Nahshon • Hilai ben Natronai ben Hilai • Shalom ben R. Mishael • Jacob ben R. Natronai • Yom-Tob Kahana ben R. Jacob • Saadia ben Joseph (Saadia Gaon) • Joseph ben R. Jacob • Zemah Tzedek ben Paltoi ben Issac • Samuel ben Hofni • Dosa ben Saadia • Israel ha-Kohen ben Samuel ben Hofni Others
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