Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home


HA-ḤINNUKH (Heb. הַחִנּוּךְ; "the Education"), an anonymous work on the 613 precepts (see *Commandments, 613) in the order of their appearance in Scripture, giving their reasons and their laws in detail. The various attempts to identify the author have proved unsuccessful; the most widely held view is that he was *Aaron b. Joseph ha-Levi of Barcelona, the identification being based on an obscure allusion in the introduction: "A Jew of the house of Levi of Barcelona." From certain references in the book (precept 400) it has been concluded that the author was a pupil of Solomon b. Abraham *Adret. The first edition (Venice, 1523) gives "Rabbi Aaron" as the author. In the opinion of S.H. Kook the basis for this identification lies in the introduction to precept 95: "out of fear of drawing near to the tabernacle of the Lord, the levites my brethren [aḥai] were purified and Aaron offered them." The proofreader of the second edition (ibid., 1600–01) in fact based himself on this passage but he is mistaken because it is the biblical Aaron who is referred to and the text should read: "and the levites after [aḥar] being purified" (cf. Num. 8:21). This identification was already questioned by Ḥ.J.D. Azulai and other scholars, who have shown it to be completely without foundation. Elsewhere the name of the author is given as Baruch (David ibn Zimra, Meẓudat David, precept 206). The book was compiled at the end of the 13th century. Some deduced the date of its composition from the date 1257 mentioned in precept 326 with reference to the sabbatical years, but the passage in question is taken from the novella of Solomon b. Abraham Adret to Avodah Zarah 9a. The Vatican library contains a manuscript written in 1313.

The name of the book is taken by some as referring to its educational aim, to which in fact the author alludes at the end of the introduction: "To touch the heart of my young son and his companions in that each week they will learn the precepts that are included in the weekly portion of the Law" (see also Meẓudat David, precept 397). This is the reason both for the order in which the commandments are given, and its contents, which are mainly for the purpose of study and not to give the halakhah. The work follows a definite pattern: (1) a definition of the essence of the precept; (2) its source in the Written Law and the connection with its development in the Oral Law; (3) the principles of the precept and its reasons; (4) its main details.

The book is mainly based on the Sefer ha-Mitzvot and the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, at times whole sections being copied verbatim (precepts 173, 485). The author used Ibn Ḥasdai's Hebrew translation of the Sefer ha-Mitzvot. He also used the works of other authors, including those of Alfasi and chiefly of Adret and Naḥmanides. The uniqueness of the work lies in the section dealing with the explanation of the principles of the precepts, especially "the simple description" (precept 98). His explanations are based on common sense. His style and presentation are clear and understandable befitting its educational aim for youth and ordinary people. Many editions of the work have appeared. The best known is that containing the commentary Minḥat Ḥinnukh of Joseph *Babad. Other well-known authors to devote compositions to it include Judah *Rosanes and Isaiah *Pick. It has been issued according to the first edition with notes, variant readings, and an introduction by C.B. Chavel (19625).


C.B. Chavel (ed.), Sefer ha-Ḥinnukh (19625), introd., and 797–806; H. Heller (ed.), Sefer ha-Mitzvot le-Rabbenu Moshe ben-Rabbi Maimon (1914), 8f. (introd.); S.H. Kook, Iyyunimu-Meḥkarim, 2 (1963), 316–20; Munk, in: ZHB, 11 (1907), 186–8; D. Rosin, Ein Compendium der juedischen Gesetzeskunde aus dem vierzehnten Jahrhundert (1871); J. Rubinstein, in: J. Babad, Sefer Minḥat Ḥinnukh ha-Shalem, pt. 3 (1952), 151ff. (bibliographical list of editions of Sefer ha-Ḥinnukh).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.