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Meir Abulafia

(c. 1170 - 1244)

The ibn Abulafia family settled in Toledo in the 12th century. A group of their family moved to the Land of Israel and Syria. Their descendants had rabbinic impact from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

The Spanish family became wealthy scholars. The most prominent was Meir Abulafia. Meir Abulafia was the most authoritative Spanish talmudist during the first half of the 13th century. In his thirties he was already one of the three appointed rabbis on the Toledo Jewish court. (One of the other two was Joseph ibn Migash's son, Meir.) As the Spanish kings gave the Jews more self-rule, Abulafia played an important role in establishing ritual regulations for Spanish Jewry.

He wrote a huge commentary on the Talmud, written in Aramaic, following the style of the RiF. Although he didn't cite his predecessors in his work, Abulafia was clearly influenced by Hai Gaon, Sherira Gaon, Alfasi, Joseph ibn Migash, Rashi, and RaMBaM.

Although his work, written in the "Old Spanish Style," was not popular with the "French-Style" Spanish talmudists, Abulafia had a great influence on Asher ben Yechiel, who, in turn, influenced his son, Jacob ben Asher. His legal insights thus got into the Tur.

Abulafia is also credited with writing the authoritative Torah scroll for Spanish Jewry. Scholars came from Germany and North Africa to copy his master copy. He also wrote a book of regulations about Torah-writing, called Masoret Siyag La-Torah, which became authoritative.

He is best-known, however, for beginning the first Maimonidean Controversy over the Guide For the Perplexed while RaMBaM was still alive. Outraged by Maimonides apparent disbelief in physical resurrection of the dead, Abulafia wrote a series of letters to the French Jews in Lunel. To his shock and disappointment, they supported RaMBaM.

When his younger contemporary, Nachmanides, wanted to renew the controversy (30 years later), Abulafia refused to participate.

Sources: Gates to Jewish Heritage