Chananel ben Chushiel

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Chananel ben Chushiel or Ḥananel ben Ḥushiel (Hebrew: חננאל בן חושיאל‎), an eleventh-century Tunisian Rabbi and Talmudist, was a student of one of the last Geonim. He is best known for his commentary on the Talmud. Chananel is often referred to as Rabbeinu Chananel - Hebrew for "our teacher, Chananel" (Hebrew abbreviation: ר"ח).

Biography[edit]

"Rabbeinu Chananel" was born in 990 in Tunisia.[1] R. Chananel studied under his father, Chushiel, head of the Kairouan yeshiva and through correspondence with Hai Gaon. He is closely associated with Nissim Ben Jacob in the capacity of rabbi and Rosh yeshiva of Kairouan. His most famous student is probably Isaac Alfasi. Chananel was also successful in business and was said to be very wealthy. He died in 1053, leaving nine daughters.

Works[edit]

Chananel wrote the first complete commentary on the Talmud, today embedded in the Vilna edition Talmud page on certain tractates. The commentary only addresses the orders Moed, Nashim and Nezikin, in other words the topics relevant to practice at the time of writing, and some sections have been lost. Some further fragments have been recovered from the Cairo Genizah and are published in B. M. Levin's Otzar ha-Geonim, and there is now an edition published by Vagshal covering tractate Berachot and order Moed, which also includes the Sefer ha-Mafteaḥ of his colleague Nissim Gaon. The commentary presents a paraphrased summary of the main arguments in the gemara, omitting most of the non-legal sections (Aggada). A distinctive feature of the commentary is the presentation of the parallel passages from the Jerusalem Talmud.

He also authored a commentary on the Torah, cited by many later Biblical commentators, chiefly Bahya ben Asher. This commentary is to some extent directed against the Karaites. While no full copy of this work survives, we possess many fragments of it; it has recently been published by the Mosad Ha-Rav Kook as a separate work, as well as in the Torat Hayyim Torah edition with commentaries.

Other works by Rabbeinu Chananel include a collection of responsa, as well as "Sefer ha-Miktzo'ot," decisions on ritual law, both quoted by various rishonim.

References[edit]

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