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Who was Yitzchaki?

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In his commentary on Beresheet 36:31, Ibn Ezra writes:

"ואלה המלכים. יש אומרים כי בדרך נבואה נכתבה זאת הפרשה. ויצחקי אמר בספרו כי בימי יהושפט נכתבה זאת הפרשה. ופי' הדורות כרצונו הכי קרא שמו יצחק כל השומע יצחק לו. כי אמר כי הדד הוא הדד האדומי ואמר כי מהיטבאל אחות תחפנחם. וחלילה חלילה שהדבר כמו שדבר על ימי יהושפט וספרו ראוי להשרף ולמה תמה על שמנה מלכים שמלכו שהם רבים. וכו'"

Translation:

"And these are the kings. Some say that by way of prophecy this section was written. And Yitzchaki said in his book that in the time of Yehoshaphat this section was written. And he commentated the generations according to his will, and because of this he was named Yitzchak, all who hear laugh at him. For he said that Hadad is Hadad the Edomite and that Meheitavel the sister of Tachpanches. And God forbid twice that this would be as he said about the days of Yehoshaphat, and his book is deserving of being burned and why did he wonder that he counted many kings that ruled etc"

Who was this Yitzchaki person that deserved to have his book burned? He appears to have been, at the time, some sort of well-known heretic. In the book Ezra L'havin, it says he was a Karaite. Is there any more information on him and his book?

Why should this post be closed?

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1 answer

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He should be identified as Yitschak Hayyisraeli, an early Jewish-Arabic philosopher and commentator.

The Ibn Ezra actually quotes him again in the very next verse as יצחק המהביל. Apart from here (Ibn Ezra on Genesis 36:31.1 and Ibn Ezra on Genesis 36:32.1), these two names (יצחקי and יצחק המהביל) are mentioned explicitly a few more times: Ibn Ezra on Numbers 24:17.7, Ibn Ezra on Hosea.1:1, Ibn Ezra on Job 42.16.1. Other references are his introduction (first approach), Ibn Ezra on Exodus 19:12.1, Ibn Ezra on Exodus 21:8 (short), Ibn Ezra on Daniel 1:1 (possibly), Tsachut 72a, Safa Berura 9b, Hashem 3b. His introduction is worth quoting from, since it gives some biographical and bibliographical details: This Rav Yitschak (this is the only place in his writings the Ibn Ezra gives him an honorific) is among the sages of the yeshivot in the Arab kingdoms and wrote a lengthy philosophical/scientific commentary on the beginning of the Torah.

The identification was made by Dr. Carmoly in Tziyyon vol. 1, 46-47 (referred to by Jewish Encyclopedia) who found a manuscript by Chasdai explaining Yitschak's philosophical method, who ends by stating:

היה חכם בתורה ... ולא כדברי אבן עזרא שקראו מבהיל

In other words, the Yitschak that Ibn Ezra called מבהיל (sic; our text is מהביל) - a characterization that Chasdai disagrees with - was Yitschak Hayyisraeli.

Ezra Fleischer, in an article in Hebrew Union College Annual vol. 38, identifies a fragmentary poetic work called She'elot Attikot as by this same author, as many of the comments that the Ibn Ezra criticizes are posed similarly there. I found further helpful references in the commentary Mechokekei Yehuda on Ibn Ezra's introduction, first approach fn. 8.

1 comment

Thank you for the very informative answer. With this and with what @Mithical brought on Rashi in the now-deleted answer, it makes me wonder why Ibn Ezra wrote so harshly against other rabbis. Harel13 17 days ago

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