Isaac Alfassi: The Rabbi Who Revived the Study of Talmud

Isaac Alfassi is one of the eminent Jewish figures who have marked the history of Moroccan Jewry. Although he was born near Kalaat Béni Hammad in Algeria in 1013, the capital of the Hammadites who ruled the Maghreb-Al-Aqsa, he spent most of his life in the spiritual capital of Morocco, hence his nickname.

As one of the great Moroccan rabbis and intellectuals, he was respected by sultans and scholars. He spent more than 40 years writing Sefer Hahalkhot in Hebrew, a book specializing in the prescriptions of the Halakhah (set of Jewish laws and commandments). He also wrote several books that historians put on the same pedestal as those of the Jewish philosophers Moses Maimonides and Joseph Karo, the latter being the author of the greatest book of Jewish laws used until today.

Isaac Alfassi, who died in 1103 in Lucène in Cordoba, studied in Kairouan in Tunisia, where he received the teachings of the great rabbis, notably Nassim Ben Jacob and Hananel ben Houshiel. He then returned to Morocco and was financially supported by the Jewish community of Fez so that he could devote himself to his writings and studies.

Having been denounced by a hater to the governor of Fez, Isaac was forced to flee in 1088 to Andalusia where he held several religious positions. He was head of the Jewish community of Lucene (a municipality in the province of Cordoba). He founded a religious school in 1089 and succeeded the philosopher and poet Moses ibn Ezra, becoming rabbi of Granada. He also helped revive the study of the Talmud in Andalusia after founding an academy. Indeed, it is thanks to him that several famous Andalusian Jews received their religious training, including Judah Halevi and Joseph ibn Migash, who transmitted his teachings to Maimoun ben Yossef and his son Moses, all of whom are Jewish scholars.

To honor him, the Jewish community of Fez founded a yeshiva (religious school) that attracts many Jewish students from all over the Kingdom.

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