Simhah ben Samuel of Vitry

Simhah ben Samuel of Vitry (Hebrew: שמחה בן שמואל מויטרי; died 1105) was a French Talmudist of the 11th and 12th centuries, pupil of Rashi, and the compiler of the Vitry Machzor.

The Vitry Machzor

The Vitry Machzor contains decisions and rules concerning religious practise, besides responsa by Rashi and other authorities, both contemporary and earlier. The work is cited as early as the 12th century in R. Jacob Tam's Sefer ha-Yashar (No. 620) as having been compiled by Simchah; and the sources from which the compiler took his material—the Seder Rav Amram, the Halakot Gedolot, and others—also are mentioned. R. Isaac the Elder, a grandson of Simchah, also refers (responsum No. 835, in Mordekai, on Mo'ed Katan) to the Vitry Machzor compiled by his grandfather. Various additions were afterward made to this machzor, a large proportion of which, designated by the letter ת' (= "tosafot"), are by R. Isaac ben Dorbolo (Durbal). The latter often appends his name to such additions; and in one place he says plainly: "These explanations were added by me, Isaac b. Dorbolo; but the following is from the Machzor of R. Simchah of Vitry himself".[1] Other additions are by Abraham ben Nathan Yarhi, author of Ha-Manhig, and are designated by the letters אב"ן, his initials.

Extant manuscripts of the Machzor

Several manuscripts of the Vitry Machzor are extant, the oldest of which, according to Abraham Berliner in his additions to Hurwitz's introduction to the Vitry Machzor (p. 172), is from Reggio, currently in the Jewish Theological Seminary of America library.[2] It contains the Vitry Machzor proper without any additions. A second manuscript, in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (Neubauer, Cat. Bodl. Hebr. MSS. No. 1100), is said to have marginal annotations by Eleazar ben Judah, author of the Sefer ha-Rokeach (Michael, Or ha-Chayim. No. 1214). The third manuscript is in the British Museum (Cod. Add. Nos. 27,200 and 27,201), and contains still other additions; this manuscript served as basis for S. Hurwitz's edition of the Vitry Machzor published by the Meḳiẓe Nirdamim Society (Berlin, 1893). The edition is very faulty, as the editor used no critical judgment in his work; instead of the original treatises it contains some from the Sefer ha-Terumah of Baruch ben Isaac and from the Eshkol of Ravad.[3] A fourth manuscript is in Parma - Biblioteca Palatina Parm. 2574 (DeRossi cat. no. 159),[4] which appears to be of similar age to the Reggio manuscript.[2] A recently published paper suggests that another manuscript (MS ex- Sassoon 535) is earlier.[5]

Additions to the Machzor proper

The Vitry Machzor contains many prayers and liturgical poems (piyyutim), which are distributed throughout the work. Besides these scattered poems the British Museum manuscript has (pp. 239–260) a collection of piyyutim which was published by Brody under the title Ḳonṭres ha-Piyyutim. (Berlin, 1894). In the published edition of this Machzor there is also a commentary on the Pesach Haggadah, which, however, does not agree with that by R. Simchah b. Samuel of Vitry printed at Vilna in 1886. The latter commentary, which agrees with the one cited by Abudraham as being found in the Vitry Machzor, was taken from a manuscript of that machzor—probably from the parchment copy owned by the Vilna Gaon,[6] although no particular manuscript is mentioned in the Vilna edition itself.

There is also in the published edition of the Vitry Machzor a commentary on the Pirke Avot. This commentary is found in the British Museum manuscript, but in neither of the others. It is really a commentary by Jacob ben Samson, the pupil of Rashi (concerning whom comp. Schechter, Einleitung zu Abot des R. Natan, p. ix.), amplified in the present Machzor. Many midrashic sayings, which are cited as such in the Vitry Machzor, have been preserved in that work alone. Thus the passage cited (p. 332) from the Midrash Tehillim is no longer found in the present midrash of that name. Likewise there are found in the Vitry Machzor citations from the Jerusalem Talmud which are lacking in the existing editions of the latter.


  1. Vitry Machzor, p. 244
  2. 1 2 MAḤZOR VITRY in Jewish Virtual Library
  3. Vitry Machzor, pp. 752 et seq.
  4. Zwiep, Irene E.; Schrijver, E.; Hoogewoud, F. J. (2006). Omnia in Eo: Studies on Jewish Books and Libraries in Honour of Adri Offenberg, Celebrating the 125th Anniversary of the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana in Amsterdam. Peeters Publishers. p. 155. ISBN 9789042919082. Footnote 18 last access 2014-09-04
  5. S. Stern and J. Isserles, "The Astrological and Calendar Section of the Earliest Mahzor Vitry Manuscript ( MS ex- Sassoon 535)", Aleph: Historical Studies in Science and Judaism, 15.2 (2015), pp. 199-318.
  6. Rav Pe'alim, p. 19

Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "Simhah b. Samuel of Vitry". Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company. 

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