||First printed edition of this classic work on tractates Berakhot, Shabbat, and Eruvin by R. Nissim Gaon (Rabbenu Nissim), and brought to press and annotated by Jacob Goldenthal. There are facing Latin (Clavis talmudica auctore Rabbi Nissim ben Jacob Cairovanensi) and Hebrew title pages, the latter with an attractive frame with depictions of Moses and Aaron on the sides. Mafte’ah shel Manulei ha-Talmud was published from an early Hebrew translation and subsequently included in the Romm (Vilna) editions of the Talmud. It is a reference book for quotations encountered in the course of talmudic study. It also gives the sources of the beraitot and mishnayot quoted in the Talmud as well as parallels in the Talmud and Midrashim and includes extensive commentaries on many Talmudic themes. Only the sections on the orders Zera'im (Berakhot), Mo'ed, and Nashim are extant but it is probable that the original scope of the work was greater.
R. Nissim ben Jacob ben Nissim Ibn Shahin (R. Nissim Gaon, Rabbenu Nissim, c. 990–1062), together with R. Hananel b. Hushi'el, the outstanding leader and talmudist of North Africa. His father headed a bet ha-midrash in Kairouan and was the representative of the academies of Sura and Pumbedita for the whole of North Africa. Little is known of R. Nissim's personal history. It is known that he, too, was head of an academy in Kairouan and maintained close ties with the academy of Pumbedita. After the death or R. Hananel, he was appointed by the Babylonian academies Rosh bei-Rabbanan ("Head of the College") in his stead. There were close ties between R. Nissim and R. Samuel ha-Nagid. R. Samuel supported R. Nissim financially and R. Nissim served as the principal channel for R. Samuel's knowledge of Babylonian teachings, particularly those of R. Hai Gaon. When one of R. Nissim's sons died in childhood, R. Samuel composed a poem in consolation for the bereaved father. R. Nissim's daughter married R. Joseph ha-Nagid, R. Samuel's son, and on that occasion Nissim visited Granada and taught there. According to R. Abraham ibn Daud, R. Solomon ibn Gabirol was among those who heard his lectures. R. Nissim's teachers were his father, R. Hushi'el, and possibly also the latter's son R. Hananel, whose teachings reveal a close affinity with that of R. Nissim. R. Nissim obtained a great part of his halakhic tradition from R. Hai Gaon, with whom he corresponded. Noteworthy among his pupils is R. Ibn Gasom, the author of a book on the laws of prayer.
R. Nissim was a prolific and versatile writer. Five works, including this Mafte’ah, of great length and value are known to have been written by him. The other four are, commentaries on a few tractates of the Talmud, apparently written in Hebrew. Only a few fragments from several tractates are extant; Halakhic rulings. A few fragments of what was evidently a comprehensive work are extant; Megillat Setarim (completed in 1051 at the latest). This work was very well known among the rishonim, Sephardim as well as Ashkenazim; and Hibbur me-haYeshu'ah (Ferrara, 1557), R. Nissim's best-known work, is a collection of Hebrew stories and folktales taken from early sources. It is designed to strengthen belief, faith, and morality among the people and to raise their spirit. This work, possibly the first prose storybook in medieval Hebrew literature, paved the way for Hebrew belletristic literature as a literary genre. Tradition has it that R. Nissim dedicated the book to his father-in-law, Dunash, who is otherwise unknown, to console him in his mourning.
Jacob Goldenthal, (1815–1868), Austrian orientalist. Goldenthal was born in Brody and became principal of the Jewish school in Kishinev, Russia, in 1843; in 1846 he settled in Vienna and taught oriental languages, rabbinics, and literature at the University of Vienna from 1849 until his death. Goldenthal published several articles on medieval Jewish literature in Kokhevei Yizhak (5, 1846; 24, 1858). He edited the following medieval texts: Abraham ibn Hasdai's Hebrew translation of al-Ghazali's Arabic Mizan al-Amal, Sefer Moznei Zedek (1939); Averroes' commentary on Aristotle's Rhetoric, translated to Hebrew as Be'ur Ibn Rushd le-Sefer ha-Halazah le-Aristo (1842); Mesharet Moshe (1845), an exposition of Maimonides' teaching on the concept of providence; Nissim b. Jacob's Mafte'ah shel Manulei ha-Talmud (1847), dealing with Talmud methodology; Moses Rieti's poem Mikdash Me'at (1851), on ancient philosophy and the history of Jewish literature; and Moses Narboni's commentary on Maimonides' Guide, Be'ur le-Sefer Moreh Nevukhim (1852). Goldenthal tried to revive Jost and Creizenach's periodical Zion, but only one issue, Neue Zion (1845), appeared. His correspondence with S. D. Luzzatto was published in Kokhevei Yizhak. He also published the first Hebrew textbook for the study of Arabic, Sefer Maspik li-Ydi'at Dikduk Lashon Arvi (1857), and compiled a catalog of forty Hebrew manuscripts at the National Library of Vienna (1851).
Added t.p.: Clavis talmudica auctore Rabbi Nissim ben Jacob Cairovanensi... nunc primum e codice... bibliothecae palatinae viennensis edidit et introductione notisque instruxit J. Goldenthal ...