Rabbi Yaakov Ibn Chaviv
one of the ironies of Jewish history that much of Abravanels
literary output would never have been produced if not for the Spanish
Expulsion which caused so much suffering and devastation.
The same can probably be said for R. Yaakov Ibn Chavivs classic
he resided in Spain R. Yaakov had planned to compose a compendium of the
Aggada portion of the Talmud but was unable to do so due to the paucity of
copies of the Talmud and the Commentaries.
After the expulsion in 1492 he moved to Portugal and finally
settled in Salonika where he found copies of the entire Talmud as well as
the commentaries of Ramban,
Rashba, Ritva, Ran and Baalei
Tosfot in the home of Judah Benveniste. In his old age R. Yaakov began compiling his work and printed
two orders (Zeraim and Moed) when he died.
His work was not intended to encompass the complete Aggada of the
Talmud but was to be a selection of passages in 12 categories, or what he
called 12 pillars: Torah,
Avodah, Kindness, Justice, Truth, Peace, Repentance, Heaven and Hell, Mitzvot,
G-d, The Temple and Messiah. Since
there was no commentary on the Jerusalemite Talmud, he included the Aggada
portion of the Talmud together with his own commentary thereon.
Yaakovs son, R. Levi, who traveled with his father from Spain was
forcibly baptized while they were in Portugal.
R. Levi became an illustrious talmudist known as the Ralbach and
later moved to Eretz Yisrael to atone for his baptism and became rabbi of
Jerusalem. It was R. Levi who
completed the other 4 orders, but with little commentary and nothing of
the Jerusalemite Talmud, which was apparently unavailable on the latter 4
As time went on additional parts of the Aggada were added as were more commentaries so that the Ayn Yaakov which we know today is an expanded version of R. Yaakovs original work.
The above graphic includes photographs that were provided by VERAfilm archives.