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Shabbat Prayers: The Ba’al HaTurim: The Purpose

The 12th of Tammuz is the Yahrtzeit of Rabbeinu Yaakov ben Asher, the Baal Haturim (1268-??), son of the Rosh. When his father fled Germany with his entire family to Spain in 1803, Rav Yaakov first lived with his brother Rav Yechiel, in Barcelona , then moved to Toledo , where his father was Rav. His younger brother, Rav Yehuda, who would marry Rav Yaakov’s daughter, succeeded the Rosh as Rav of Toledo, while Rav Yaakov himself preferred to take a position on the Beis Din. His monumental halchic work, the Arba’ah Turim included virtually all opinions available to Rav Yaakov, as well as a wealth of customs. The many commentators on the Tur include those of Rav Yosef Karo (the Beis Yosef), Rav Moshe Isserles (Darkei Moshe), Rav Yoel Sirkes (The Beis Chadash), Rav Yehoshua Falk (Derishah uPerishah), and Rav Yosef Escapa (the Rosh Yosef), who deals with only a part of the work. The Chida comments that without a proper study of the Tur and its commentaries, one cannot begin to determine halachah. Rav Yaakov also authored Sefer HaRemazim (also known as Kitzur Piskei HaRosh), an abridged version of his father’s compendium of the Talmud, quoted in Sefer Mesharim. Rav Yaakov died in Toledo.


Very little is known of Rabbi Jacob’s private life. It is known that he lived in great poverty, although he was, well known as a great scholar. He refused to accept any paid rabbinical post, which would have diverted his attention from the study of the Torah and Talmud. His father had lost practically all his possessions when he fled from Germany, and upon his death had little to leave to his children in the way of material things.

Rabbi Jacob ben Asher could not even afford special garments for: the holy Sabbath and holidays, or special food in honor of these holy days. But all this did not worry him, for he truly led a saintly fife. The only thing that took him away from his studies and writings was his effort to help the poor and needy. Although he had no money to give to them, he did not spare his time or effort, and used his influence to raise funds for those whose poverty was their greatest misfortune. We know that he asked his father how literally one should apply the Talmudic teaching of how far one should go to avoid being financially dependent on others, because he had absolutely no money! His father urged him to trust in God.

“You sanctified the seventh day for Your Name’s sake, the conclusion/purpose of the creation of heaven and earth. Of all days, You blessed it; of all seasons, You sanctified it; and so it is written in Your Torah:

“Thus the heaven and earth were finished, and all their legion. On the seventh day, the Lord completed His work which He had done, and He abstained on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. The Lord blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because on it He had abstained from all His work which the Lord created to make.”

The Ba’al HaTurim (O”C 263) writes, “And this that we say, ‘and so it is written in Your Torah,’ does not refer to the verse immediately preceeding, ‘Of all days, You blessed it; of all seasons, You sanctified it,” but to, ‘The conclusion/purpose of the creation of heaven and earth,’ as in, “Vayichulu,” which relates to Tachlit.

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