Rav Shmuel HaKohen ben Chofni Gaon

Shmuel HaKohen ben Chofni Gaon (also spelled Samuel ha-Kohen ben Hofni (? – 25 Menachem-Av HC 4773), leader of the Sura yeshiva and extensive writer of halacha literature.


Rav Shmuel’s father, Chofni ben Kohen-Tzedek also served as gaon, as did his uncle Nechemya ben Kohen-Tzedek. Rav Shmuel’s son Yisroel, took over his father’s post as gaon of yeshivat Sura upon his demise.


Halacha works

The works that Rav Shmuel ben Chofni composed where mostly penned in the Arabic language but using Hebrew text. His many works include;

His work Sefer HaDayanim, composed of 23 volumes and containing not less than 42 topics, methodically detail court procedure of the bet-din, ranging from the look of the premises, the demeanor of the bet-din personnel, the character traits of the dayan. This lost work is known to have been based on the talmud and is referenced in important rishonim Rabbinic sources.

Rav Shmuel ben chofni, in his torah commentary, is specific in saying that shevet levi has a unique designation in torah instruction to the nation of Israel;

אחלקם ביעקב..משה רבנו ייחד אותו בברכה ולמה איפוא לא ייחד את שמעון בברכה ייאמר לו ששבט לוי מיוחד לתועלת האומה בתשובות לשאלות ובמשפטים ובקרבנות כאמרו “יורו משפטיך ליעקב..” ומשום כך ייחדו בברכה..ויתכן כי ה’ ישתבח בחר בשבט לוי לפזרם ..כדי שיביא תועלת לאומה על ידיהם והם ילמדו אותם ויקנו להם דעת וכאמרו “וְאֶת עַמִּי יוֹרוּ..2)2

It is plausible to say that Rav Shmuel may have made a similar note in his Sefer HaDayanim when discussing the many qualities of the dayan.

From the responsa of the Rambam, it is apparent that he too relied on Rav Shmuel ben Chofni as a reputable authority in halacha3)3,

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