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The Ri Migash: A Matter of A Rumor Print E-mail

writingsThe 30th of Nissan is the Yahrtzeit of Rabbeinu Yosef Halevi ibn Migash (Rimigash), talmid of the Rif (1077-1141). As head of the famous academy of Lucena, Spain, R' Yosef taught numerous disciples including

Rabbi Maimon, father of Rambam. Rambam's praise of R' Yosef in uncharacteristically ecstatic. "The depth and scope of his wisdom astound all who study his words" said the Rambam. Having absorbed R' Yosef's teachings from his father, Rambam refers to R' Yosef as "my teacher".

The Meiri reports that the Rif waited until his successor as head of the Yeshiva, the Ri Migash, became bar-mitzvah! The Rambam was two years old when he met the Ri Migash just before he died. He described the meeting as the most powerful experience of his life.

The Ri Migash (Responsa #95) was asked about a Chazzan who was about to be elected to the position but was objected to by some members of the congregation on the grounds of a rumor that he had been a sinner in his youth. The Talmud (Ta’anit 16a-b) rules that a Chazzan is disqualified if ‘an evil reputation had gone forth in his youth.’

One sage argued that the Talmud refers only to a rumor subsequently established as correct, but in this case it was a mere rumor, which was insufficient to disqualify him.

Another sage referred to a Responsum of the Gaonim in the Siddur of Rav Amram Gaon in which the ruling was given that a Chazzan can be deposed on the strength of even a mere rumor.

To this, the first sage replied that the Gaonim refer to a Chazzan about whom there was at the time an evil report, not to someone reported to have sinned in his youth.

The Ri Migash replied that if there is a rumor now that he is a sinner, he must not be appointed as Chazzan. There is generally no smoke without fire, unless the person is known to have enemies. But if the rumor concerned sins that he had committed in his youth, he is not to be disqualified. Even if the rumor is true, he has now repented.

The Talmudic statement that disqualifies even such a person refers only to a Chazzan on a public fast day, for which function special piety is required. Repentance is accepted by God, and a reader must not be rejected for sins of which he has now repented.

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