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

Blog I The Count of Cousy & the SMAG

The Count of Coucy Rav Shimshon Ben Shimshon

According to the Chida, the County of Coucy was born in the early 1200s and was commonly known by the acronym HaRaSh, which is a play on his name (HaRav Shimshon & the pour one) that was later adjusted by his students to HaSaR, or the Count as an honorary. A range of contemporaneous accounts points to the fact that the Count was most likely the bother-in-law of noted Totofos, the SMAG.

The Count is recognized in halachic discourse for his lenient stance on wearing the so-called ‘mark of disgrace’ instituted by Pope Innocent III in 1215. Additionally, the remarks of the Count are mentioned together with those of the Rash of Sens in Tosafos located in the tractate Berachos 47a. 

The SMAG Rav Moshe of Coucy

Born in the early 1200s in Coucy, Rav Moshe of Coucy was the prized student of Rav Eliezer ben Yoel HaLevi (the Ra’avyah) and later spent extended time in Spain. The SMAG (as he would later be called after his book the Safer Mitzvot HaGadol) represented the first significant wave of french Rishonim to journey to Spain in 1236, and detailed the origins of Spanish halachic transmission in the introduction to his eponymous opus ( published in Rome between 1473-75). 

The Smag was studied in Italian Yeshivos throughout the late Medieval Era (1200’s-1500’s) as a primary source for Mitzvah and practical Halacha discussion, no less than the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah. 

Only when the Shulchan Aruch was published in Italy, in 1565 did it replace the Smag as the major halachic codification studied in the Yeshivot.

The SMAG was one of the earliest Rishonim to mention the Igerres of Rav Sherira Gaon in his collective writings, as well as critically assess the Rambam’s Mishne Torah.

Rav Moshe of Coucy is remembered as one of the four leading French rabbis that defended the Talmud in front of King Louis IX in Paris in 1242.  The disputation of 1242 led to King Loius IX’s burning of 24 wagon loads of Talmudic works seized from jews across France.