The Jewish Eye
Rav Avrohom Ben Dovid
The Raavad was from the greatest and most revered of the Rishonim. The Rashba wrote in a Tshuva "I am not worthy to argue with the great lion our great Rebbi the Raavad." The Ran called him one of the "Avos HaOlam." The Maharik writes that he was able to scan in his mind the entire Shas in mere moments and toss it around like he was winnowing wheat.
The Raavad was born in 5880/1120. He was a talmid and the son-in-law of Rav Avrohom Av Bais Din the Baal HaEshkol who was also called the Raavad. He lived in the time of Rabbeinu Tam the grandson of Rashi. He was a very wealthy person and had a big Yeshiva in Provence (the region between Spain and France) that attracted students from far and wide. He personally supported those who had little means of their own. The jealous lord of his town slandered him and had him briefly imprisoned before a Count released him and had the lord banished. Despite his great wealth the Raavad lived an ascetic lifestyle.
The Raavad is known for his sharp criticism of the Rambam in his Hasagos on the Rambam. In general he was against seforim codifying halacha and particularly in the Rambam's case where he does not cite his sources. Nevertheless there was a great deal of mutual respect between these two giants of the world. Apologetically, the Raavad also wrote a Hasagos on the Rif. When Rav Zerachia HaLevi (The Razah) wrote the Baal HaMaor arguing on the Rif's psak, the Raavad criticized him harshly.
The Raavad wrote classic seforim in Hilchos Nidah (Baalei HaNefesh), Issur V'Heter (Issur Mashehu), as well as other seforim. He was considered from the foremost Mekubalim of his generation. Rav Chaim Vital said that Eliyahu HaNavi studied Kabalah with him. The Raavad himself admits (Rambam Hilchos Lulav 8:5) that for already a number of years there was Ruach HaKodesh in his Bais Medrash. A commentary on Sefer Yetzira is considered to be his. His transmitted his knowledge of Kabalah to his son whom Rabbeinu Bachye called the "Father of Kabalah." The Raavad was niftar on Chanukah 5949 at the age of 79.
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