ALEXANDER SUSLIN HA-KOHEN OF FRANKFORT
By: Louis Ginzberg
One of the most important Talmudists of his time; flourished in the first half of the fourteenth century. He was rabbi first in Cologne and Worms, and then moved to Frankfort-on-the-Main, where he died some time before 1349. Alexander was the author of the book "Aguddah" (Collection), the contents of which justify its title. In concise fashion it enumerates the most important legal decisions, based on Talmudic law, made by preceding rabbinical authorities. Its purpose is to render such decisions accessible for guidance in their practical application. A comparison of the "Aguddah" with Jacob b. Asher's "Ṭur" written at the same time in Spain, reveals the deficiencies of the German Jews of that day in matters of method and systematization. While Jacob b. Asher, in spite of the fact that he partially discards Maimonides' order and method, exhibited in his "Yad ha-ḤazaḲah," presents a comparatively concise compendium of the dinim (laws) in use, the "Aguddah" shows a conglomeration of legal enactments and personal comments on the Talmud—in which much foreign matter is interspersed—so that it would have proved actually worthless for the practical purpose for which it was intended. Among the German Jews, however, the "Aguddah" received a cordial welcome, while Sephardic Jews have almost absolutely ignored it. Such authorities of the beginning of the fifteenth century as Jacob Mölln (Maharil) and Jacob Weil consider Suslin's judgments to be decisive. Its reputation is also shown by the fact that extracts from the same were made a hundred years later (Hanau, 1610), under the title of "Ḥiddushe Aguddah" (Novellæ from the "Aguddah"), comprising a selection from Alexander's own explanations in the "Aguddah." Characteristic of the author, his work, and the period in which he lived is his decision—upon Ḥul. i. 32—that the ("pupil of the wise") of the present day can not claim the rights and privileges of the class thus named in the Talmud, because nowadays there is no longer any true talmid ḥakam. Alexander evidently acknowledged by this the decadence of Talmudical learning in his time and was conscious of his own inferiority.
- M. Horovitz, Frankfurter Rabbinen, i. 9-11;
- Michael, Or ha-Ḥayyim, No. 476.