The Maharik – A History & Overview

The Maharik – Rav Yosef Colon was born in about 1420 in Cambary, France on the border with Italy. His father Rav Shlomo Colon was a student of Rav Yochanon of Paris. Their last name was originally Yonah, however due to persecution was changed to Colon, which is similar to Colombe, french for dove. 

Rav Yosef spent his formative years in Germany, before heading back to France upon his marriage. due to persecution, he fled to Northern Italy and became a traveling Melamed. It was during this time that his reputation preceded him to the various locales he visited and he soon amassed a following of hundreds of students. He became a Rav in Piedmont in Northern Italy, before moving on to positions in Bologna and Mestre. During this period, there was mass emigration of the Jewish community from Germany to Italy and the community of Manitoba was founded and needed a leader. He became Rav and rosh yeshiva.

 Up until this point in time, the derech halimmud was that they learned a Masechta thoroughly for six months and the next six months they learned the same Masechta Aliba D’ Hilchasa. Rav Yosef started a revolution, which is still practiced to this day, of learning the sugya Aliba D’Hilchasa from the outset. He often said that while pilpul is important, it is much more important to know the Halacha and have a bekius in it.

His students include some of the outstanding Torah luminaries such as Rav Ovadia Bartenura; Rav Dovid Modina of Bologna, amongst others.

He was Niftar in Manitoba in the year 1480.

About 39 years after his death, in 1519, his talmidim published the sefer Shu’t Maharik. The sefer contains hundreds of Shorashim or Shailos and Teshuvos and contains numerous klalim and Yesodos that teach us how to reach a psak.

The Sefer is not just about the halachic approach to every part of life but also  gives us a glimpse to life in Italy and the general diaspora of the Jewish people at the time.

As we know, diaspora has its challenges and although the sefer was reprinted numerous times, due to censorship and time, there amassed numerous typos and mistakes in the sefer.  Rav Menachem Mendel Gerlitz of Machon Oryasa has republished this sefer after meticulous research and reformatting. The sefer includes footnotes which show where the Sefer is quoted in the seforim of the rishonim and early acharonim. There is a short summary of the psak at the end of each shoresh. 

Additionally, the end of the Sefer includes a section of new teshuvos that have been found in manuscripts and in seforim of other early gedolim, as well as a section of comments on the teshuvos by gedolim such as the Chavas Yair, Shagas Aryeh,Yaavetz, Beis Meir and others.

As an added bonus, there is an extensive index for easy searching. 

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