Eliezer ben Nathan

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Eliezer ben Nathan (Hebrew: אליעזר בן נתן) of Mainz (1090-1170), Ra'aven (ראב"ן), was a halakist and liturgical poet. As an early Rishon, he was a contemporary of the Rashbam and Rabbeinu Tam, and one of the earliest of the Tosafists. He was the son-in-law of Rabbi Eliakim b. Joseph of Mainz, a fellow student of Rashi. Through his four daughters Eliezer became the ancestor of several learned families which exerted a great influence upon religious life in the subsequent centuries. One of his great-grandsons was R. Asher b. Jehiel (ROSH), father of R. Jacob, author of the Ṭurim.


Eben ha-'Ezer

(Pronounced EL-e-Azer ben Naa-than) Eliezer proves himself conscientious and careful in his decisions. Unlike R. Tam, he possessed little self-confidence, and in his humility and reverence for tradition he is inclined to extremely rigid interpretations of the Law. Solomon's injunction (Prov. i. 8), "Forsake not the teaching of thy mother," he interprets as meaning, "What the older rabbis have prohibited we must not permit" (No. 10). The chapters on civil law contain many an interesting document, and also a statement of commercial relations occasioned by various trials. They contain precise statements of the prices of goods and accurate information concerning commercial usages in the Rhineland and in distant Slavic countries; e.g., concerning the golden trade routes in Strasburg and Speyer (fol. 145b); the coinage of the time (Zunz, Z. G. p. 5b); and the export trade with Galicia and southern Russia (No. 5). Slavicion customs and character are also discussed in connection with ritual matters. Among the decisions are some containing interpretations of Biblical and Talmudic sayings; one of them (No. 119) even presenting a connected commentary on Prov. xxx. 1-6, in which R. Saadia's view is cited—namely, that Isthiel and Ucal were the names of two men who addressed philosophical questions to Agur ben Jakeh.

The work mentions the year 1152, and must therefore have been completed after that date. The year 1247, which occurs on two copies, may be credited to later transcribers. In the subsequent centuries Eliezer came to be regarded as a great authority, but his work was little known. Not until its importance had been specially urged by the most influential rabbis of Poland—Mordecai Jafe, Samuel Eliezer Edels (Maharsha), Solomon Ephraim Luntschitz, among others, in a formal appeal issued from Posen in 1609—was its publication undertaken.

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