NISSIM B. REUBEN GERONDI (RaN,
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Physician, astronomer, and halakist; flourished at Barcelona about 1340 to 1380. He had much to suffer at the hands of certain wealthy and powerful Jews of his community, who even slandered him before the government (Isaac b. Sheshet, Responsa, Nos. 377, 447). When the Spanish Jews combined to send a petition to the king entreating his protection, Nissim was one of the committee who drafted the document (O. H. Schorr, in "He-Ḥaluẓ," 1852, i. 22 et seq.). The name of his teacher is not known; for although he frequently terms R. Perez "morenu" (= "our master"), this title was applied to great scholars in general, even by those who had not studied under them. Conforte's statement in "Ḳore ha-Dorot" (p. 26a) that R. Perez was Nissim's teacher, is, therefore, a mere assumption. It is much more probable that Nissim was the pupil of his father, Reuben b. Nissim, since he says in his commentary on Alfasi's "Halakot" (Shebu., end) that he had received a certain interpretation "from his father and teacher."Attitude Toward Predecessors.
Nissim was a clear and acute thinker, and, being for the most part quite independent of his predecessors in his comments, he did not hesitate to refute the foremost earlier authorities, such as Rashi, Rabbenu Tam, Maimonides, Moses b. Naḥman, and Solomon b. Adret. He showed his reverence for these teachers, on the other hand, by adopting their opinions in practise, and, according to his pupil Isaac b. Sheshet (Responsa, No. 385), he was in general very cautious in his decisions and inclined toward conservatism. It frequently happens, therefore, that after refuting the opinion of an earlier teacher he finally says: "Yet since the ancients have decided thus, their conclusions may not be set aside."His Commentaries on Alfasi.
In his commentaries Nissim endeavored to establish the decisions relating to practise, and he devoted himself to the explanation and defense of Alfasi's "Halakot," since that compendium had been adopted for practical decisions. The extant commentaries of Nissim on the "Halakot" cover the treatises Shabbat, Pesaḥim, Ta'anit, Rosh ha-Shanah, Beẓah, Sukkah, Megillah, Ketubot, Giṭṭin, Ḳiddushin, Shebu'ot, and 'Abodah Zarah. Commentaries on Mo'ed Ḳaṭan and Makkot are erroneously ascribed to him. According to a very improbable statement of Conforte (l.c.), Nissim wrote also on all the other treatises covered by Alfasi's "Halakot." He is very detailed and explicit where the subject is important from a practical point of view, but extremely brief when dealing with matters of mere theory.
Nissim wrote also commentaries on the Talmudic treatises themselves. Several of these have been lost entirely, and others are extant only in manuscript. Those which have been printed are on Shabbat (Warsaw, 1862), Rosh ha-Shanah (Jerusalem, 1871), Baba Meẓi'a (Dyhernfurth, 1822), Giṭṭin, Nedarim, Ḥullin, Sanhedrin, and Niddah (several times), while commentaries on the treatises Pesaḥim, Beẓah, Megillah, Ta'anit, Mo'ed Ḳaṭan, and Baba Batra are still in manuscript (Azulai, "Shem ha-Gedolim," s.v. "Nissim"; Jellinek, "Ḳontres ha-Mefaresh"). In these works also Nissim sought to determine the practical decisions, and at the end of nearly every exposition and explanation of any length he summed up whatever was of importance for practical purposes. He was the first to write a complete commentary on the treatise Nedarim; and this part of his work is the most valuable portion of the collection, since this treatise was neglected in the geonic period, and the later glosses on it left much to be desired.As a Rabbinical Authority.
Nissim was recognized as a rabbinical authority even beyond Spain, and rabbinical questions ("she'elot") were addressed to him not only from his own country, but also from France, Italy, Africa, and Palestine. He wrote in reply about 1,000 responsa, (Azulai, l.c.), of which seventy-seven only have been preserved. These show his insight and his rationalistic method of treating halakic material. His responsa were first published at Rome (1546), and were reprinted at Constantinople (1548) and, in an enlarged form, at Cremona (1557).
In addition to the works mentioned above, Nissim wrote a philosophical work containing twelve homilies ("derashot"), displaying in this small volume his familiarity with philosophy, especially with that of Maimonides and Ibn Ezra. He was no friend of mysticism, and even reproved Moses b. Naḥman (RaMBaN) for devoting too much time to the Cabala (Isaac b. Sheshet, Responsa, No. 167).
Nissim had two scholarly sons, Ḥisdai and Reuben (ib. No. 388), and many other disciples, the most prominent being Isaac b. Sheshet. The latter refers in his responsa to various details of his teacher's life, declaring that Nissim was the foremost rabbi of his time, with whom none of his contemporariescould compare (ib. No. 375), and that he was, moreover, highly respected and famous even in non-Jewish circles (ib. No. 447).
- Conforte, Ḳore ha-Dorot, p. 26 a, b;
- Azulai, Shem ha-Gedolim, s.v.;
- Michael, Or ha-Ḥayyim, No. 1132;
- Weiss, Dor, v. 135-142.;
- Grätz, Gesch. vii. 361-362;
- Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. cols. 2064-2066;
- Fürst, Bibl. Jud. iii. 37-38.