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Masnut, Samuel ben Nissim

MASNUT, SAMUEL BEN NISSIM (13th century), talmudist and leader of Aleppo Jewry. Scarcely any biographical details are known of him, even the place from which his family originated being uncertain since some manuscripts mention Toledo and others Sicily. Judah *Al-Ḥarizi, who visited Aleppo about 1218, waxed eloquent in praise of "Samuel b. Rabbenu Nissim of Aleppo." He wrote a special composition in his honor called Iggeret Leshon ha-Zahav (published by Z.H. Edelmann in Divrei Ḥefeẓ, 1853). Because of the similarity of the names and the places, scholars are inclined to regard the two as identical, in spite of an explicit statement by Samuel in one of his commentaries (Dan. 7:25) to the effect that it was written in 1276, which would make him about 90 years old at the time. Masnut's renown rests on his extensive midrashic commentary, Ma'yan Gannim, which apparently embraced most, if not all, of the Bible. The following parts have been published: Genesis (1962), which the editor entitled Midrash Bereshit Zuta; Job (1889); and Daniel and Ezra (1968). His commentary on Chronicles is extant in manuscript and is remarkably similar verbally to the commentary of David *Kimhi. Fragments of his commentary on Numbers have also been preserved. Masnut's work is totally unlike other midrashic commentaries, even those of *David ha-Nagid and Jacob b. Hananel *Sikili – who were near him in place and time and bear some resemblance to him – in that he rarely uses his own words in the presentation of his commentary. It is, in effect, a verbal amalgam of different and independent midrashic sources woven together into a unique exegetical fabric. His familiarity with halakhic and aggadic sources (for which he rarely gives references) is quite exceptional. His books contain important halakhic material for research on the history of *halakhah, the texts of the Talmuds and the Midrashim, and particularly the various Aramaic *targumim, of which he made frequent use. A piyyut by Masnut for the morning service of the Day of Atonement has been preserved in the liturgy of Algeria and Tunisia.


Samuel b. Nissim Masnut, Ma'yan Gannim … al Sefer Iyyov (1889), introd. by S. Buber (ed.); idem, Midrash Bereshit Zuta (1962), introd. by M. Kohen (ed.), and 331–8; idem, Ma'yan Gannim … al Sefer Daniel ve-Sefer Ezra (1968), introd. by S. Land and S. Schwarz, and 164–71; A. Kasher, in: De'ot, 23 (1963), 59–62.

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