Babylonian halakist of the first half of the ninth century. The early identification of his surname with "Ḳahirah," the Arabic name of Cairo (founded 980), was shown by Rapoport ("Teshubot ha-Ge'onim," ed. Cassel, p. 12, Berlin, 1848) to be impossible. Neubauer's suggestion ("M. J. C." ii., p. viii.) of its identification with Ḳayyar in Mesopotamia is equally untenable. It is now generally and more correctly assumed that "Ḳayyara" is derived from a common noun, and, like the Syro-Arabic "ḳayyar," originally denoted a dealer in pitch or wax.

The "Halakot Gedolot."

Ḳayyara's chief work was the "Halakot Gedolot," or, as it is called by some Spanish authors, to distinguish it from later halakic codices of a similar nature, "Halakot Rishonot" (see "Ha-Ma'or," Ket. v.; Ḥul. i.; RaMBaN, "Milḥamot" to Shab. iii.; I. Halevy, "Dorot ha-Rishonim," iii. 103). It gives the entire halakic and practical material of the Talmud in a codified form, and seems to represent the first attempt to treat it according to its contents rather than according to the arrangement of its treatises (for further details see Law, Codification of).

As to the time of its composition all the older authorities are silent. Abraham ibn Daud alone has an allusion to this problem, which has caused much perplexity. According to him ("Sefer ha-Ḳabbalah," in "M. J. C." i. 63), "Simeon Ḳayyara wrote his work in the year 741, and after him lived Yehudai Gaon, author of the 'Halakot Pesuḳot,' which he compiled from Simeon's 'Halakot Gedolot.'" According to Epstein, there can be no doubt that Simeon Ḳayyara wrote the "Halakot Gedolot," although some authors ascribe this work to Yehudai Gaon. Ancient authorities, like the geonim Sherira and Hai ben Sherira ("Teshubot ha-Ge'onim," ed. Harkavy, No. 376; Isaiah di Trani, "Ha-Makria'," No. 36; "Teshubot Ge'onim Ḳadmonim," ed. Cassel, No. 87, Berlin, 1848), Samuel ben Jacob , of Kabez, author of Arabic rules for slaughtering (see Steinschneider in Geiger, "Jüd. Zeit." ii. 76), Israel ben Abba Mari of Marseilles ("'Ittur," ed. Warsaw, p. 65a; comp. "Halakot Gedolot," ed. Warsaw, 191b; ed. Hildesheimer, p. 387), and others, testify to this fact. It is also evident from the statements of these authorities that Simeon Ḳayyara's chief sources were the "She'eltot" of R. Aḥa of Shabḥa and the "Halakot Pesuḳot" of Yehudai Gaon.


The Hildesheimer edition of the "Halakot Gedolot," Index, p. 140, gives no less than eighty-three passages in which the "She'eltot" has been cited (Reifmann, in "Bet Talmud," iii. 111 et seq., gives 109 passages); and it has in addition more than forty literal though unacknowledged quotations from this same source. It is more difficult to trace material borrowed from Yehudai Gaon's "Halakot Pesuḳot," since the original form of that work has been lost. A comparison with the redaction of Yehudai Gaon's composition, which has been preserved as the "Halakot Pesuḳot" or "Hilkot Re'u" (ed. Schlossberg, Versailles, 1886), shows that most of the halakot in that recension are found in the "Halakot Gedolot," although they deviate from it both in wording and in arrangement. Simeon Ḳayyara, however, used yet another recension of the "Halakot Pesuḳot," and at times cites both. There were of course other sources at his disposal which have not been preserved. Not only does the fact that both the "She'eltot" and the "Halakot Pesuḳot" were used, but also certain passages in the "Halakot Gedolot" of themselves, prove that the work was composed about the year 825, apparently at Sura, since many explanations and usages of the "Halakot Gedolot" are elsewhere cited under the names of Geonim of that place.

Interpretations and Redactions.

In the course of time the "Halakot Gedolot" underwent many changes. In Spain and in North Africa the legal decisions of the Geonim were incorporated into the book, and its whole appearance was so changed that gradually a different recension was developed. The original or Babylonian redaction exists in printed form in the editions of Venice (1548), Amsterdam (1762), Vienna (1810), etc., and finally in that of Warsaw (1874, with an index of passages and notes by S. A. Traub). This redaction was used by the Babylonian geonim and by the German and northern French scholars; for the citations of the latter from the "Halakot Gedolot," which work they ascribe to Yehudai Gaon, refer to this recension. The second or so-called Spanish redaction () exists in a manuscript in the Vatican, and has been edited by I. Hildesheimer in the collection of the Meḳiẓe Nirdamim (Berlin, 1888-92). The material of this recension is much richer and more comprehensive, since it contains many passages from the Talmud, mnemonic introductory words ("simanim"), the order of the weekly lessons, and, most important of all, legal decisions of the Geonim, usually indicated by the term "shedar" (="he sent"), which are lacking in the earlier redaction (see I. Hildesheimer, "Die Vaticanische Handschrift der Halachoth Gedoloth," in "Beilage zum Jahresberichte des Rabbinerseminars zu Berlin," 1885-96, and Schorr in "He-Ḥaluẓ," xii. 100). The first gaon of whom a "teshubah" is mentioned in this recension is Yehudai Gaon; the last, Ẓemaḥ ben Palṭoi (d. 890). Epstein has concluded, accordingly, that this redaction was made, or rather finished, about the year 900, in some place where the Jews were in close literary correspondence with the Babylonian seminaries. This was either in Spain or in northern Africa—probably in Kairwan, the center of Talmudic studies at that time. Evidence in favor of Kairwan is supplied by a passage in the "Halakot Gedolot" (ed. Hildesheimer, p. 175), which mentions a usage as being common among the "Bene Afriḳa"; for it is known that "Afriḳa" frequently connotes Kairwan. From northern Africa or Spain this recension was carried into Italy: it was used by the scholars of these three countries; and all of them regarded Simeon Ḳayyara as its author.

In the twelfth century the recension was brought to northern France, and in the thirteenth to Germany, where it is sometimes cited by the scholars of both countries as "Halakot Gedolot shel Aspamia" (see R. Tam, "Sefer ha-Yashar," No. 509; "Or Zarua,"B. M. No. 276; Sanh. No. 23). On the other hand, the Babylonian redaction in the thirteenth century reached Italy, where it was used by Isaiah di Trani (see "Ha-Makria'," No. 31).

  • A. Epstein, in Ha-Goren, iii. 46 et seq.;
  • Harkavy, Teshubot ha-Ge'onim, pp. xxvii., 374 et seq.;
  • Rapoport, in Kerem Ḥemed, vi. 236;
  • Schorr, in Zunz Jubelschrift (Hebr. part), pp. 127 et seq.;
  • He-Ḥaluẓ, xii. 81 et seq.;
  • Weiss, Dor, iv. 26, 32 et seq., 107, 264;
  • Brüll, in his Jahrb. ix. 128 et seq.;
  • Grätz, Gesch. v. 234;
  • idem, in Monatsschrift, vii. 217 et seq.;
  • S. T. Halberstam, ib. viii. 379 et seq., xxxi. 472 et seq.;
  • I. Halevy, Dorot ha-Rishonim, iii. 200 et seq.;
  • see also the bibliography of the article Yehudai ben Naḥman.
G. M. Sc.
Images of pages