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Gombiner, Avraham Abele ben Ḥayim ha-Levi

(1635–1682), author of commentaries on the Shulḥan ‘arukh (Oraḥ ḥayim) and Yalkut Shim‘oni. He was born in Gombin, Poland (hence his family name), where his father was martyred in 1655, in the aftermath of the Khmel’nyts’kyi massacres of 1648–1649. At a young age Gombiner became a dayan (judge) at the rabbinical court of Yisra’el ben Natan Shapira in Kalisz and directed his own yeshiva. Not yet 30, he began writing his commentary on Oraḥ ḥayim, the first section of the Shulḥan ‘arukh. From the praise this work received, we learn that he lived a difficult life, possibly suffering from illness before dying young. Among his associates were his son-in-law Mosheh Yekuti’el Kaufman (rabbi of Kutno and author of the commentary Leḥem ha-panim on the Yoreh de‘ah section of the Shulḥan ‘arukh) and Eliyahu Shapira of Prague (author of Eliyahu raba and Eliyahu zuta), a friend from the period when both men studied in Kalisz.

Gombiner wrote in his last will that he wished for only the names of his books to be engraved beside his name on his tombstone; he did not want his honorary titles inscribed. His literary works included his Shulḥan ‘arukh commentary, originally written in two versions and titled Ner Yisra’el. The book was not printed in his lifetime, but Torah scholars of his era quoted it frequently from manuscript. Gombiner’s son, Ḥayim, printed it in 1692 under the name Magen Avraham, along with the Shulḥan ‘arukh and the commentary Ture zahav by David ben Shemu’el ha-Levi (Taz). The commentaries of Gombiner and Taz are considered to be the most authoritative responses to the Shulḥan ‘arukh. [See the biography of David ben Shemu’el ha-Levi.] The succinct style of Magen Avraham demands that the reader have a thorough knowledge of rabbinic sources; consequently, a number of commentaries were written about the work, the most popular of which is Maḥatsit ha-shekel by Shemu’el ben Natan ha-Levi Kolin (1807–1808), which explains Gombiner’s literary sources for the Magen Avraham.

In 1704, Gombiner’s Zayit ra‘anan, a short kabbalistic and casuistic commentary on the Yalkut Shim‘oni, went into print. This work was accompanied by his Shemen sason, sermons on the weekly Torah readings through Ḥaye Sarah. In 1716 his lamentation for Tish‘ah be-Av was printed at the end of part 1 of Leḥem ha-panim; in 1732, his Magen Avraham on the Tosefta’, Nezikin was printed in part 2, along with some of his commentaries on other sections of the Shulḥan ‘arukh, and one responsum. This book was edited by Gombiner’s grandson, who was named after him.

Gombiner also produced a commentary on the Even ha-‘ezer section of the Shulḥan ‘arukh, in which he argued for the correct spelling of proper names. This work was printed in 1747 with another responsum in Ḥuke derekh, again by his son-in-law. Gombiner’s novellae on the Talmudic tractates Zevaḥim and Menaḥot are lost, but a poem in praise of the Torah was printed in Ḥuke ḥayim by his son-in-law in 1700.

Suggested Reading

Simon Moses Chones, Toldot ha-poskim: Leksikon li-ge’one u-gedole Yisra’el (Jerusalem, 1977); Mordechai Margalioth, Entsiklopedyah le-toldot gedole Yisra’el (Tel Aviv, 1946–1949 or 1950); Chaim Tchernowitz, Toldot ha-poskim: Kolel shalshelet ha-poskim tekhunat ḥavrehem ve-yisude shitotehem be-darkhe ha-hora’ah (New York, 1946/47).