Isaiah di Trani
Isaiah originated in Trani (David Conforte, Ḳore ha-Dorot, p. 15a), an ancient settlement of Jewish scholarship, and lived probably in Venice. He carried on a correspondence with Simhah of Speyer and with Simḥah's two pupils, Isaac ben Moses of Vienna (Or Zarua, i.88, 218, 220) and Abigdor Cohen of the same city. Isaiah himself probably lived for some time in the Orient. He left a learned son, David, and a daughter, with whose son, Isaiah ben Elijah di Trani, he has often been confounded.
Isaiah was a very prolific writer. He wrote: Nimmuḳim or Nimmuḳe Ḥomesh, a commentary on the Pentateuch, consisting mainly of glosses on Rashi which show him to have been, as Güdemann says, an acute critic rather than a dispassionate exegete. The work has been printed as an appendix to Azulai's Pene Dawid (Leghorn, 1792); extracts from it have been published in Stern's edition of the Pentateuch (Vienna, 1851) under the title Peṭure Ẓiẓẓim (see also Berliner, Rashi, p. xii); and Zedekiah ben Abraham, author of Shibbole ha-Leḳeṭ and a pupil of Isaiah, composed glosses on it in 1297 (Leipzig MS. No. 15, p. 318). As regards other Bible commentaries ascribed to him, see Isaiah di Trani the Younger. Isaiah also wrote an introduction (petiḥah) to a seliḥah beginning with [missing Hebrew text] (Maḥzor Rome, ed. Luzzatto, p. 32, Introduction), which has been metrically translated into German by Zunz ("S.P." p. 299; see idem, Literaturgesch. p. 336).
Isaiah's chief importance, however, rests upon the fact that he was the most prominent representative of Talmudic scholarship in Italy. He wrote commentaries on almost the whole Talmud, in the form of tosafot, ḥiddushim (novellae), or pesaḳim (decisions). Of his tosafot the following have been printed: those to Kiddushin, in the Sabbionetta (1553) edition of that treatise (see Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. No. 1718); on Ta'anit and Kiddushin, in Eleazar ben Aryeh Löw's Ene ha-'Edah (Prague, 1809); on Baba Batra, Baba Kamma, Baba Mezia, Avodah Zarah, Hagigah, Shabbat, Niddah, Eruvin, Rosh haShanah, Yoma, Sukkah, Megillah, Mo'ed Katan, Pesahim, Bezah, Nedarim, and Nazir, in the two collections Tosafot R. Yeshayahu (Lemberg, 1861, 1869). Some extracts are also contained in Bezalel Ashkenazi's Shiṭṭah Meḳubbeẓet.
Of his pesaḳim there have been printed those on Rosh ha-Shanah, Hagigah, and Ta'anit, in Ohole Yiẓhaḳ (Leghorn, 1819); on Berakot in N. Coronel's Bet Natan (Vienna, 1854); on sukkah, tefillin, ẓiẓit, and mezuzah, in Sam Ḥayyim (Leghorn, 1803); and some others exist in manuscript only (MS. Vienna, No. xli., MS. Paris, Nos. 364, 365, 976, 2; Neubauer, Cat. Bodl. Hebr. MSS. Nos. 334-336; Steinschneider, Hebr. Bibl. iv. 54).
The author sometimes quotes the pesaḳim in his tosafot, from which it would seem that he composed the former earlier than the latter. As in many instances the pesaḳim appear to have been inserted in the tosafot by the copyists; they cannot always be distinguished. Of some of the tosafot Isaiah made two or more versions.
Isaiah also wrote, under the title Ha-Makria', halakhic discussions and decisions on ninety-two halakhic topics. The first edition of this work (Leghorn, 1779) contains also his tosafot (or ḥiddushim) on Ta'anit. Isaiah mentions other works of his; e.g., a second commentary on the Sifra, Ḳonṭres ha-Zikronot, Sefer ha-Leḳeṭ, and some responsa, a volume of which Azulai claims to have seen in manuscript and which exist in the collection of MSS. in Cambridge University.
Isaiah possessed a remarkable clarity of expression, which enabled him to expound the most difficult topics with ease and lucidity. The same severe criticism that he passed upon such respected authorities as Rashi, Alfasi, Jacob Tam, Samuel ben Meir, Isaac ben Samuel (RI), and others he applied toward his own halakhic decisions whenever he changed his view. He was in favor of a more moderate interpretation of the Law, and he condemned the ritualistic rigor of the teachers of France and Germany. According to Güdemann, Isaiah, as a halakhic authority, had for Italy the same importance that Maimonides had for the Orient and Jacob Tam for the Jews of France and Germany. He was held in very high esteem both by his contemporaries and by the teachers of the following centuries; even one so important as Isaac ben Moses of Vienna called him and Eliezer ben Samuel of Verona "the two kings of Israel" (Or Zarua', i.755).
Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography
- Azulai, Shem ha-Gedolim, i;
- Abraham Berliner, Pletath Soferim, pp. 8, 13 et seq.;
- Moritz Güdemann, Gesch. ii.184 et seq., 320 et seq. (the best monograph on the subject);
- Heinrich Grätz, Gesch. vii.160;
- Moritz Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. cols. 1389 et seq.;
- Winter and Wünsche, Die Jüdische Litteratur, ii.483;
- Zunz, Z.G. pp. 58 et seq., 101, 566;
- Marco Mortara, Indice, p. 66;
- Landshuth, Ammude ha-'Abodah, p. 134;
- Fuenn, Keneset Yisrael, p. 678;
- Schechter in J.Q.R., iv.95.