About Yehudah ben Barzilai al-Bargeloni (ben Mar Shealtiel)
Yehudah ben Barzillai (Al-bargeloni) was a Spanish philosopher, Talmudist, p (born in Barcelona in 1070). Almost nothing is known of his life.
He came of a very old Rabbinic Family who traces their ancestry to King David. His father was named "Barzillai" on account of the aid he negotiated for Mar Solomon Shealtiel and his son, Yosef ibn Ferruzi'el, to be delivered by the Emir of Denia in support of El Cid.
The Gileadite named Barzillai came to King David's aid when he provided King David and his weakened troops food and supplies, allowing David's troops to gain the upper hand and defeat the army of Absalom (2 Sam 17:27–29). King David, deeply indebted to Barzillai, invited the aged man to take up residence near his palace in Jerusalem so he could be looked after in an honorable way.
However, Barzillai, in a self-effacing gesture, asked the king to convey his offer to a younger member of his family, Hisham by name, and King David complied (2 Sam 19:31–40). King David directed his son, Solomon, to make sure that the family would continue to be provided for in perpetuity (1 Kgs 2:7).
Later, a member of one of the priestly families married one of the descendants of this family, one of the "daughters of Barzillai," and adopted (or was ascribed) the name for his family. After the return from exile in Babylon, the Barzillai priestly family was denied their right to be inscribed in the priestly register because of the ever-present issue of disputes over ethnic mixture and yichus (Ezra 2:61-63 = Neh 7:63-65).
Yehudah ben Barzillai Al-bargeloni was one of the greatest codifiers of the Middle Ages, although, with the exception of a few fragments, his writings in this department have been lost. They are often cited as authoritative, however, by Rabad II, Isaac ben Abba Mari (for both of whom he is simply "Ha-Rab," or "Ha-Rab ha-Meḥabber"), Abraham ben David (RABaD III), and Zerahiah ben Isaac ha-Levi.
The works of Maimonides and Judah ben Asher, published a century later, caused Judah's codex to be neglected, although individual scholars down to the 16th century made use of it. From quotations found in works of more than forty authors it is seen that Judah codified the whole law, ritual and civil. His Sefer ha-'Ittim, of which manuscript fragments exist in the library of Jews' College, London (Hirschfeld, in J. Q. R. xiv. 191-192), is cited by name. The fragments contain regulations for the Sabbath, but the book originally included not only regulations for the Sabbath, festivals, and the New Moon, but also nearly all the material treated of in the first part of the Ṭur, and probably even more than this.
Part of the Sefer ha-'Ittim is printed in Coronel's Zeker Natan (pp. 129 et seq., Vienna, 1872). The part of the codex which deals with marriage laws and kindred topics is called by some Seder Nashim; by others, Yiḥus She'er Bosar. The civil law was contained in the Sefer ha-Dinim (so read by Halberstam instead of Sefer ha-Dayyanim), which was divided into five "gates," and the extent of which may be judged from that portion of it published as Sefer ha-Sheṭarot (S. I. Halberstam, Berlin, 1898), embracing 138 pages, and treating of the different forms of contracts according to rabbinical law.
Besides this halakic work Judah wrote a detailed commentary on the Sefer Yeẓirah. Like most commentaries on this remarkable book, that by Judah helps little to an understanding of the text; on the contrary, it contains Judah's own rather diffuse, half-mystical, half-philosophical theological discussions. The author betrays, besides, an astonishing familiarity with the Talmudic-Midrashic literature, and gives extracts from works of the Geonim which are otherwise unknown.
Yehudah was acquainted with the philosophical writings of Saadia and of Samuel ben Hophni, but not with those of Solomon ibn Gabirol and Baḥya. He shows little talent for dealing with theological or philosophical subjects. He argues strenuously against the charge made by the Karaites that the Rabbis favored anthropomorphisms. The Sefer Yeẓirah was first published by Halberstam in 1885 (Berlin).
A treatise on the preparation of scrolls of the Law, published by E. Adler in J. Q. R. ix. 681-716, is attributed to Judah, but hardly with sufficient reason. In his commentary to the Sefer Yeẓirah Judah mentions another of his own works, Zemannim, about which nothing further is known. To judge from certain allusions of Judah it would seem that he wrote a commentary also on the Bible; at any rate he had planned such a work.