AVILA, ELIEZER B. SAMUEL DE:
By: Louis Ginzberg
Author of rabbinical works, and rabbi at Rabat, Morocco; born 1714; died at Rabat Feb. 7, 1761. Avila was a scion of an illustrious family of scholars. His father Samuel, his grandfather Moses, and Ḥayyim b. Moses ibn Attar, his maternal uncle, were all prominent Talmudists and well-known authors. Likehis uncle Ḥayyim, Avila desired to see the Holy Land and intended to settle in Jerusalem; but, owing to an epidemic and a famine in Morocco, which lasted a long time and compelled him to leave Rabat for a while, he lacked the necessary means to do so.
Avila was a prolific writer, and among his manuscripts were found notes dating from his sixteenth year. After his death the following of his works appeared: (1) "Magen Gibborim" (The Shield of the Mighty), Leghorn, 1781-85, in two volumes; the first containing novellæ to the treatises, Baba Meẓi'a and Horayot; the second, novellæ to the treatises Ketubot and Ḳiddushin. (2) "Milḥemet Miẓwah" (The War for the Law), ib., 1806, containing the principles of the Talmudic and post-Talmudic Halakah. Some funeral sermons are appended under the title "Ḥesed we-Emet" (Kindness and Truth). (3) "Beër Mayyim Ḥayyim" (A Well of Living Waters), ib., 1806, consisting of thirty-six responsa, treating of questions relating to jurisprudence and cases of 'Agunah. (4) "Ma'yan Gannim" (A Fountain of Gardens), explanations and elucidations of Jacob ben Yeḥiel's "Turim," especially of the second and third parts (ib., 1806).
As these works show, Avila confined his work in rabbinical literature to the Halakah. In this province at all events he was an undisputed master; and his epithet, "Ner ha-Ma'arabi" (Light of the West) was not undeserved. His greatness as a Talmudist was recognized even by the most eminent Palestinian scholars, who, in the capacity of "Meshullaḥim," had the opportunity of becoming personally acquainted with him. It was to them that he owed this title. Among the scholars of Morocco, Avila, with his avowed inclination toward the casuistic treatment of the Halakah (Pilpul), was a rare personality. This tendency explains his independent attitude toward his colleagues, on whom his keen and brilliant intellect made a deep impression, as shown in his responsa. These responsa contain many interesting items concerning the condition of the Jews in Morocco ("Beër Mayyim Ḥayyim," p. 71).
Avila left one child, a daughter, who married her cousin Solomon de Avila, a man of wealth and a distinguished Talmudist. The sons by this marriage, Moses and Samuel, were, in a way, the successors of their grandfather, both being rabbis and Talmudic teachers in Rabat. Joseph de Avila, son of Moses, was the publisher of the works of his great-grandfather Eliezer.
- For information concerning Avila and his family, see the approbations and prefaces to Beër Mayyim Ḥayyim;
- Azulai, Shem ha-Gedolim, i. 23, 59; ii. 77;
- Eleazar ha-Kohen, Ḳinat Soferim, p. 70, Lemberg, 1892;
- Nepi-Ghirondi, Toledot Gedole Yisrael, p. 46 (where Avila is erroneously designated as the grandson of Ḥayyim ibn Attar);
- Zedner, Cat. Hebr. Books Brit. Mus. p. 64;
- Benjacob, Oẓar ha-Sefarim, pp. 296, 333, 349.