Rabbi Zerachyah HaLevi

Moshe did it again — he found a significant error on pp. 135-136.

The author of the Sefer HaMaor was not named Zecharyah (like the Prophet), but rather Zerachyah. Since the acronym “Razah” fits both names — Rabbi {Zerachyah, Zecharyah} Halevi — I misread the more common name in my research. The more significant mistake, though, is that Nachmanides’ Milchamos HaShem attempts to prove R’ Zerachyah was in error, rather than the Ra’avad as I wrote on p. 136.

That was, in fact, how I had understood the debates between them previously. The passage that I misread, resulting in the error in the book, comes from the entry on Rabbi Zerachyah found on p. 164 of The Rishonim, by Rabbi Hersh Goldwurm with Rabbi Shmuel Teich. He writes, “Ravad [or, in my book, Ra’avad] III attacked his colleague, Razah, in very sharp language… Ramban… attempts to prove that Razah, not Rif, is in error.” Somehow I misread the double negative (“not Rif… in error”) and had Ramban defending the Razah, when the opposite is true.

Here is the relevant passage from The Rishonim in its entirety:

Despite his disclaimers and apologetics, Razah was sharply attacked for presenting a work which implies that Rif sometimes erred in his halachic decisions. In his Hasagos, Ravad III attacked his colleague, Razah, in very sharp language. The similarly youthful Ramban, who calls R’ Zerachyah “the princely cedar,” compiled the extensive work Milchamos HaShem in which he attempts to prove that Razah, not Rif, is in error. Sefer HaMaor, together with the Hasagos and Milchamos HaShem, are printed in all current editions of Sefer HaHalachos.

Very Good…

Congratulations to Moshe for catching the error I meant, and to Andrea for catching two more.

1) I’ve never heard of Chafalashim either, but the stack of books on the lower left hand corner of the front cover has a book of their prayers at both the top and bottom of the stack. The book on top reads “Seder Tefilot Chafalashim“, which means “The Order of Prayers of the Chafalashim,” followed by “Daily Prayer Book” in English.

The Falashim, “HaFalashim” with a hey rather than ches, refers to the Ethiopian immigrants who have come to Israel since the 1980s. However, it is my understanding that this term, Anglicized as “Falashas,” is somewhat derogatory — there are other self-descriptive terms, and they wouldn’t put “Falashim” on their own prayer book. And further, they lost much of their connection with Jewish prayer, and to the best of my knowledge have adopted one of the traditional orders of prayer, either that of the Sephardic communities (Morocco, Syria, Iraq etc.) or that of the Ashkenazim of Europe.

2) As Andrea mentioned, it’s incongruous for the term “Old Testament” to appear on the cover of a Jewish book, and the Jewish Bible comprises more than five books (twenty-four, by our count, which groups the Twelve Prophets (Hoshea-Malachi) into one).

As mentioned before, I didn’t do the cover — I even sent them some scans of genuine Jewish book covers, like Maimonides’ Mishnah Torah (his legal code). In most English-speaking countries, everyone recognizes “Old Testament” so I left that alone — but I myself missed the reference to the Five Books!