||Job with the commentary of the Rashbaz and R. Ovadia Seforno.
R. Simeon ben Zemah Duran (RaSHBaZ, Heb. acronym of Rabbi Shimon ben Zemah; 1361–1444), rabbinic authority. He was born in Majorca to R. Zemah Astruc Duran. In his youth R. Simeon studied in Palma (Majorca) at the yeshivah of R. Ephraim Vidal, who was martyred in the year 1391, and in Aragon at that of R. Jonah Desmaestre, whose daughter he later married. Educated in accordance with the old Spanish method, he acquired a thorough knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, science, logic, and particularly medicine, which was to become his profession. After his return to Majorca R. Simeon practiced as a physician and surgeon in Palma, and he seems to have been in comfortable circumstances. He was also highly esteemed as a rabbinic scholar and even his teacher R. Ephraim Vidal sought his advice. His prestige there can be gauged from the fact that 44 years after he had left the island he addressed a letter to the Jews of the island reproaching them for negligence in some religious practices and admonishing them to change their way of life.
After the massacre of 1391 in which he lost all of his fortune, R. Simeon left Majorca for Algiers together with his father and family. Jews from other parts of Spain also emigrated to North Africa, and the arrival of the immigrants had a beneficial effect upon the native Jews there. It caused a revival of knowledge and scholarship, which had been neglected and was in a state of great decline. Spanish rabbis now became religious leaders of African communities. In Algiers the aged R. Isaac bar Sheshet was appointed chief rabbi and was also nominated a supreme judge of the Jews by the king. R. Simeon seems to have joined his bet din. Having lost all his fortune and being unable to earn his livelihood from his medical profession, since the native population resorted to superstitious practices rather than to medical help, he was forced to accept a salaried office of rabbi. As Maimonides had prohibited the acceptance of a salary for a rabbinical office, and since in Algiers only Maimonides' decisions were regarded as authoritative, R. Simeon later found it necessary to justify his action.
The nature of R. Simeon's official activity during the lifetime of R. Isaac b. Sheshet can be seen from the following examples. In 1394 a commission to deal with matrimonial laws was appointed, consisting of R. Bar Sheshet, R. Isaac Bonastruc, a rabbi in Algiers, and R. Simeon, who was asked by the other members to draft the ordinances; his draft was accepted in its entirety. Originally intended for the Spanish immigrants, the ordinances were soon adopted by some of the native Jews as well and were authoritative for African Jewry for centuries. A ban against informers issued about that time was also signed by R. Bar Sheshet, R. Bonastruc, and R. Simeon. From the very fact that R. Simeon signed third, it is obvious that he was not assistant chief rabbi as some scholars believe (at least not at that time).
After R. Isaac bar Sheshet's death (1408) R. Simeon was appointed chief rabbi (he himself says dayyan) with the request that his appointment not be confirmed by the king. (According to the report of the Algerian rabbis in the introduction to Tashbez, R. Simeon's appointment already took place during the older man's lifetime.) During his period of office SR. imeon was very active. While he had to fight some practices not in accordance with Jewish religion current among the native Jews, he had to raise his voice against his own countrymen who criticized the doctrines of terefah and were lax in the observance of some commandments. As judge, R. Simeon was regarded as an undisputed authority, and interesting facts have become known of his legal proceedings. From various communities, questions were sent to him about religious and legal matters. He had to deal with the problem of the Marranos from the religious and legal points of view. Of his pupils only R. Abraham ha-Kohen Sholal is known by name, but he may have been his pupil when he was still in Majorca.
R. Simeon was against adopting stringent practices (humrot) which had no foundation in the Talmud; he said that one should be stringent with oneself, but lenient with others. There were some contradictions in him, however, which can also be found among other Spanish scholars. On the one hand he was meek, but on the other he praised himself for his wisdom. Although he greatly admired Maimonides and followed his philosophical views, he believed in astrology which Maimonides so strongly opposed, and he quoted R. Abraham ibn Ezra in connection with astrology, calling him" he-Hasid".
R. Obadiah b. Jacob Sforno (c. 1470–c. 1550), Italian biblical commentator and physician. Born at Cesena, R. Sforno was especially attached to his brother R. Hananel, who for a time supported him financially. Nothing is known about his father. In Rome R. Obadiah studied philosophy, mathematics, philology, and, in particular, medicine, which profession he followed; there on Cardinal Grimani's recommendation he taught Hebrew from 1498 to 1500 to the Christian humanist Johannes Reuchlin. He met David Reuveni when the latter was in Rome (1524). After staying in various cities, he finally settled at Bologna, where he played an active role in resuscitating a Hebrew printing house and in organizing the community. He established a bet-midrash which he conducted until his death. His renown was such that Italian rabbis addressed halakhic questions to him, and his decisions were quoted in the responsa of R. Meir Katzenelbogen, who referred to him in terms of great esteem (Resp. Maharam of Padua, nos. 48–49).
R. Obadiah's reputation rests chiefly on his commentary on the Pentateuch, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes, which first appeared in Venice in 1567; on Psalms (Venice, 1586), on Job (Mishpat Zedek, Venice, 1589) and on Jonah, Habakkuk and Zechariah which were published in the Rabbinic Bible, Kehillot Moshe (Amsterdam, 1724–28). While generally limiting himself to the literal exegesis of the biblical text and at times going beyond this to give an exposition in keeping with the contemporary scientific outlook (e.g., on the Creation), he avoids mystical and kabbalistic interpretations. He pays comparatively little regard to philology, being on the whole satisfied to elucidate the contents of a passage without entering into a philological analysis. He does not give historical explanations or identify places except in rare instances, availing himself, however, of his medical knowledge in his exegesis, e.g., Genesis 43:27, and in explaining the reasons for the commandments.
In his commentary on Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes, as well as on the Pentateuch, he employs allegory, e.g., in expounding the reason for the injunction of the red heifer. Instead of dealing separately with individual difficulties in a verse, he prefers to incorporate the solution in a brief running comment on the passage as a whole. He takes pains to emphasize the inner connection between different parts of a verse and to account for duplications in phraseology, e.g., Genesis 43:28. In many instances he deals with the motives that inspired acts of heroism. His explanation is at times extremely incisive, e.g., Genesis 39:19. While often quoting rabbinical statements in support of his views, he rarely makes use of historical aggadot. He aimed at inculcating a love for mankind in general and not only for fellow Jews, the difference between them being quantitative and not qualitative (Ex. 19:5), and his commentaries contain frequent references to humanistic ideas. In line with this he quoted that "righteous gentiles are undoubtedly dear to Me" i.e., to G-d (loc. cit.), and "the whole of mankind is Thine own treasure" (Deut. 33:3). At times, however, he introduces his views in a somewhat artificial manner, e.g., Numbers 23:22–24.
His commentary on the Pentateuch is prefaced by an introduction entitled Kavvanot ha-Torah ("The inner meaning of the Torah"), in which he deals with the structure of the Pentateuch and the reasons for its precepts, in particular for the sacrifices, on which he dwells at some length. His wide learning is reflected in his other literary productions. Thus he wrote a philosophical work Or Ammim (Bologna, 1537), in which he sought to refute the views of Aristotle, which are in conflict with the principles of Judaism, by employing the basic elements of the Greek philosopher's own teachings. He translated the work into Latin, under the title Lumen Gentium, dedicating it to King Henry II of France (Bologna, 1548). He wrote a commentary on Avot (published in the Roman Mahzor, Bologna, 1540–41), as well as other unpublished works: a translation of Euclid's eight books, a Hebrew grammar, some responsa, and smaller works on various subjects.