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Sefer Hachinuch


Rabbi Elchanan Lewis

27 Cheshvan 5765
When was Sefer Hachinuch written?
HA-CHINUCH Sefer Ha-Chinuch is a work about the 613 commandments. This work is based on Maimonides' listing of the Mitzvot, and is arranged according to the weekly Torah portion. Four aspects of every Mitzvah are discussed in Sefer Ha-Chinuch: (1) the definition of the Mitzvah and its sources in the Written and Oral Torah; (2) lessons which can be deduced from the Mitzvah; (3) basic laws pertaining to observance of the Mitzvah, including the penalty for its violation; (4) who is obligated to perform the Mitzvah and when. This work was composed in the thirteenth century by a member of Ramban's school, who refers to himself in the introduction to the book as "the Levite of Barcelona". Hence, the first publishers of Sefer Ha-Chinuch attributed it to the renowned R. Aharon Ha-Levi of Barcelona (Ra'ah). R. Aharon Ha-Levi was born to a rabbinical family in Barcelona in the thirteenth century. Together with his colleague, Rashba, he studied with Rabbenu Yonah and Ramban. Later these scholars taught Ritba and other Torah giants of that time. Ra'ah wrote many works, among them novellae on the Talmud and the Rif (only some of which are extant), and glosses, called Bedek Ha-Bayit, on Rashba's Torat Ha-Bayit (to which Rashba responded sharply in a work called Mishmeret Ha-Bayit). However, there are a number of difficulties in attributing the Sefer Ha-Chinuch to Ra'ah. Indeed, other scholars attribute the work to R. Pinchas Ha-Levi, the older brother and teacher of Ra'ah, but it would appear that the author was actually a student of Rashba. Sefer Ha-Chinuch was first published in Venice in 1523. (from the Bar Ilan Responsa CD)
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