The Yeshiva of the Rosh
In the newest issue of Tarbitz there is an important article by Judah (Yehudah) Galinkski. The title of the article is “Asher ben Yechiel (The Rosh), the Ashkenazi, in Spain: His Tosafot, Psakim, and his Yeshiva”. The English abstract reads as follows,
“Late medieval and modern historiography have chosen to describe the Rosh’s impact on the Jews of Spain mainly from the perspective of halakhic practice. Before the Rosh arrived, the Jews of Castile followed the decisions of Alfasi and Maimonides. Due to the Rosh’s influence the halakha of Ashkenaz and Zorfat made strong in-roads and changed the practice of the Spanish Jews.While it is true that looking back from 1500 (and later) this description is accurate, however if one reads the descriptions of the Rosh’s contemporaries one receives a completely different impression. In their eyes the Rosh’s most important influence on Castile was not in the realm of Halakha but rather in that of Torah education, Talmud Torah.
Before the Rosh arrived in Toledo the study of Talmud and Tosafot was not emphasized and in the Yeshivot they studied mainly the Halakhot of Alfasi. Moreover, upon his arrival the Yeshiva of Toledo was not an impressive one and was basically a satellite of the Yeshivot of Barcelona. The Rosh toiled mightily to change the situation and had immediate success….”
One of the topics which Galinski examines in depth is the question of the reliability of the versions of the Tosafot that were in Castile before the arrival of the Rosh versus those which the Rosh brought with him. According to Galinski the Tosafot which were being used in Castile were primarily those from the students of Rabbeinu Peretz, while those which the Rosh brought with him were from the students of R. Shimshon of Shantz. Galinski gives a number of reasons as to why the Tosafot of the students of R. Shimshon of Shantz were seen to be more reliable by the Rosh. First, the Tosafot of R. Shimshon of Shantz reflect the teaching of the Ri, a student of R. Tam. Chronologically the Tosafot of the students of the Ri can be placed in the second half of the 12th century, while those of Rabbeinu Peretz are later, circa the last quarter of the 13th century. Also the Tosafot of the students of the Ri were “reportings” of what they learned from their teacher in the beit midrash and more reliable. Many of these have the signature of מ”ר=מפי רב, while those of the students of Rabbeinu Peretz were subject to revisions and changes and therefore seen as less reliable. For some sources on this question see Shu”t haRosh Kelal 20:27 and 2:17, also see the discussion by Hayyim Soloveitchik in his book יינם, p. 25, as cited by Yehudah.
One of the conclusions that Galinski arrives at is the primacy of the Tosafot haRosh versus his Pesakim. The Pesakim were not meant to be a practical halakhic work, but rather a distillation of the halakhah as it was taught by the French masters and brought in the Tosafot of the Rosh.