Little known figures with big impact, bringing the personalities of Jewish History to life. 

Rabbi Dr. Nosson Dovid Rabinowich, a noted scholar and historian who studied at some of the most prestigious Torah institutions (Torah Vadaath, Mir, Ponevzn, Brisk) and received his Ph.D. from NYU, has thoughtfully researched the lives and personalities of who have shaped Talmudic discourse for centuries. 

By contextualizing the people and events which have influenced Jewish life throughout time, we hope to give you a more experiential narrative of Jewish History and the personalities who helped form it. 

Composed from the collective writings of HaRav Nosson Dovid Rabinowich

Travels in Tradition to Andalusia

The ideas and towering figures who rose out of the Spanish Jewish golden age (6th-11th century) continue to influence the thoughts and minds of mainstream Jewish thinkers to this day. From Rabeinu Chananel and the Rif to the MiGash and the Rambam, these Rabbanic heavy hitters define the Sephardic Jewish tradition and illuminate the basis for the codified text of Jewish law (Shulchan Aruch in the 14th century) but did you know that before 1242, the broader Jewish world was in the dark to the origin story of rabbinic scholarship in the Iberian peninsula.

The French Totafos, led by Rav Moshe of Coucy, known by his acclaimed book the Safer Mitzvot HaGadol SMaG) were the first to codify the chain of lineage connecting the Geonic schools of Babylon with the evolving Jewish tradition in the french and Spanish heartlands. 

In the introduction to his seminal work, the SMaG details the chain of transmission between the academy of Kairouan (in present-day Tunisia) to the bastons of Spanish Jewish tradition in the ideas and publications of the Rambam mid-1200s. In the first published genealogy of Sephardic tradition the SMaG makes some fascinating notes:

  • Rabbeinu Chananel is considered the first Spanish Rishon, with his origins in both the scholarship of his native Kairouan as well as his correspondence with Rav Chai Goan and the academies of Babylon.
  • The Rif, Rabbeinu Yitzchak Alfasi as his name dictates came from the academies of Fez to become the head of the first major Yeshivah in Lucena (modern-day Spain).

  • Rabeinu Yehosef MiGash was a powerhouse of rabbinic knowledge who succeeded the Rif as head of the Yeshiva of Lucena. The majority of his writing has been lost through pogroms and wanton destruction of Jewish texts ( like the burning of the Talmud in 1242 link to the previous blog)
  • HaRav HaGoan HaRabbeinu Moshe ben Maimon, the Rambam was one of the most controversial and seminal figures in all of the Jewish rabbinic tradition. The Rambam brought his multifaceted philosophical approach to Torah wisdom from Iberian to north Africa and beyond the categorically shape Jewish law and practice for centuries to come. Rav Moshe ben Maimon considered the MiGash his teacher, however current scholarly discourse questions the feasibility that this relationship as the Rambam could not have been more than 6 years old at the time of the former’s death.