Solomon ben Abraham Adret
(c. 14th Century)
Solomon ben Abraham Adret was one
of the foremost Jewish scholars in the late 13th-early 14th century
in Spain. He grew up in a wealthy family in Barcelona. His principal
teachers were Jonah ben Abraham Gerondi and Nachmanides,
who considered him to be his outstanding student.
As a young man, Adret became
involved in financial deals; the king of Aragon was one of his
debtors. He soon got out of business and focused on being the chief
rabbi of Barcelona, a title he held for more than forty years.
He was a recognized Halachic authority, and he wrote more than 1,000 responsa to communities
around the Jewish world including Germany, France, Bohemia, Sicily,
Crete, Morocco, Algiers, Palestine,
and Portugal. He thus bridged the Sephardic and Ashkenazic worlds. Many of his responsa influenced Joseph
Karo and are the Halachah stated in the Shulchan
He was known by the acronym RaSHBa.
Many of his responsa dealt with
explaining difficult Biblical passages. Others dealt with communal
matters. Adret was instrumental in helping organize the Jewish
communities and their institutions.
He wrote Jewish defenses against
accusations formulated by Church members. He brought relative
communal stability to Spain.
Adret opened a yeshiva which
attracted top scholars from around the world. He wrote commentaries
to seventeen tractates of the Talmud and legal manual called Torat
HaBayit, which dealt with practical ritual observance.
Besides being a Halachist, Adret
was well-versed in philosophy and science.
Although a traditionalist,
believing in the literal meaning of Torah, he was also concerned that
the mystical influences were corrupting Judaism as well. He strongly
attacked the activities of Abraham Abulafia, but he also attacked the
secularists who forsook Torah study for science.
During the bitter Maimonidean
Controversy, Adret sided with those opposed to the reconciliation of
Divine Revelation with Rational Philosophy, but he felt they went too
far in wanting to ban all study of science. He offered an acceptable
compromise. In 1305, he wrote his famous ban: Jews could study
astronomy and medicine at any age. Jews could study physics and
metaphysics (philosophy) after the age of twenty-five. The Guide
For the Perplexed could be studied by mature adults.
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