The second group mentioned, the "monographic," becomes more prominent toward the end of the geonic period, from *Saadiah Gaon onward, a classical example of this group (not on a halakhic topic) being the Iggeret de-Rav *Sherira Ga'on, written in response to an inquiry by *Jacob b. Of the tens of thousands of geonic responsa, only a small portion has been published in the various collections of geonic responsa.The major portion remains in the Cairo *Genizah fragments and scholars are still engaged in publishing them.

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are already mentioned in the Talmud, which tells of an inquiry touching upon halakhic practice that had been sent to the father of *Samuel (Yev. It relates of Samuel that he sent to Johanan "13 camels" (some Mss.

read גְּוָלִם "parchments" for גְּמָלִים "camels") laden with questions concerning *terefot (Ḥul. The same passage speaks of a ramified halakhic correspondence that took place between Johanan in Ereẓ Israel and Rav and Samuel in Babylon.

Such "letters," of which the amora *Avin wrote many, constituted a general exchange of opinion in halakhah and did not necessarily bear the exact character of "query" and "reply" in the classical sense; they may be considered the inception of the responsa literature. 29a) speaks of a litigant who claimed that he could bring a letter from Ereẓ Israel which would support his view, the allusion being to a written "responsum" obtained on presentation of the facts of the case before the respondent in a distant locality.

The major novelty lay in the committing of halakhic subjects to writing, the prohibition against committing to writing words transmitted orally (Git. The beginning of responsa literature as a literary and historical phenomenon of important dimensions, however, took place in the middle of the geonic period, when it played a decisive part in the process of disseminating the Oral Law and establishing the Babylonian Talmud as the sole authority in the life of the Jewish people, who were becoming ever more widely dispersed as a result of the Islamic conquests.

The Jews of the Diaspora outside Babylon, already strangers to the language and format of the Talmud, turned to the scholars of the Babylonian academies, whom they had always regarded as their spiritual leaders, asking them to send them "such and such a tractate or chapter" together with "its explanation." They also turned to them for decisions on the many disputes which arose continually between different local scholars and on new halakhic problems for which they could find no precedent.

Nor were problems wanting on scriptural subjects, traditions, beliefs, and opinions.

Accordingly geonic responsa are divisible into: very short responsa, sometimes consisting of only one or two words, such as the earliest surviving responsa, those by *Yehudai Gaon; and responsa containing the exposition of an entire book, chapter, or topic.

There was also, understandably, an intermediate group – the most common – of responsa of average scope, but most of these, too, tended toward extreme brevity.

Apart from issues of practical halakhah, they included explanations of verses and of talmudic themes, theological and ideological discourses, and various chronographic, medical, and scientific discussions, all written at the request of individuals or communities who desired this knowledge, either for the needs of the community or for their polemics with the *Karaites and with their Muslim neighbors.