Rabbi Isaac Alfasi: Rif

A legal code for the Jews of medieval North Africa and Spain.

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Alfasi's work supplanted many books of halakhot written in his own time and even later; and an entire literature of commentary was composed around it, partly to explain and supplement it, and partly to query or defend it.

The tremendous influence exerted by Alfasi's work in the Jewish legal system is evidenced by the fact that after some five centuries and the appearance of many other codificatory works such as Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, Asheri's Piskei ha-Rosh, and Jacob b. Asher's Sefer ha-Turim, Alfasi continued to be one of the most influential authorities to be reckoned with in Jewish legal decision making. This status of Alfasi was authoritatively established by the rule of decision making declared by Joseph Caro in the sixteenth century as the basis of his works Bet Yosef and Shulhan Arukh:

"Since I concluded that the three pillars of instruction upon which the House of Israel rests are Alfasi, Maimonides, and Asheri, of blessed memory, I resolved that when two of them agree on any point I will determine the law in accordance with their view, except for those few instances when all or most [of the other] halakhic authorities disagree with that view and a contrary practice has therefore become widespread."

In this way, many of Alfasi's rulings found their way into the authoritative Corpus Juris of halakhah, where they remain to this day.

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Menachem Elon

Justice Menachem Elon has had a long and distinguished career as a legal scholar. He is a retired professor of Jewish Law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and a prolific author on Jewish Law. In 1977 Justice Elon was appointed to the Supreme Court of Israel and served as its Deputy President from 1988 until 1993. He lives in Jerusalem.