What Kind of Name is “Bachya”?

Unfortunately, the study of Jewish History is often given short shrift in many Jewish schools. I have often encountered teachers and Rabbis who don’t comprehend the critical role the study of Jewish History can play in understanding Torah. One personal pet peeve is the significant number of yeshiva graduates who have virtually no sense of historical context of the Rabbis they spend their days studying. One significant example which I have encountered is that many yeshiva graduates are surprised to find out that, in fact, there was more than one Rabeinu Bachya (or Bechaye, as it is often pronounced).

The earlier one was Rabeinu Bachya ben Yosef Ibn Paquda, famed author of Chovos Halevavos, a very important work originally written in Arabic and later translated into Hebrew by R. Yehuda ibn Tibbon.

Then there is Rabeinu Bachya ben Asher ibn Halawa, best known for authoring of his eponymous commentary on the Torah, but who also wrote the significant works Shulchna Shel Arba and Kad Hakemach. He dies in 1340, which means that not only are there two Rabbeinu Bachyas, but they lived almost three hundred years apart!

When you look into it, Bachya is a pretty unusual name. In fact, we only know of a couple of significant Jews in all of history who have had that name, and they are the aforementioned Torah scholars.

Rabbi Re’uven Margaliyos, in Peninim U’Margaliyos (pg. 183), writes that he has long surmised that “Bachya” was not a real name, but merely a nickname, similar to “Kashisha” of the Talmud.

He records that a manuscript of R. Bachya ben Asher’s Kad Hakemach was recently discovered in the Spanish Royal Library in Madrid. The title page of this manuscript proves the accuracy of his guess. It reads:

Written by R. Yehuda ben R. Asher, called R. Bahya

It can therefor be seen clearly that R. Bachya ben Asher’s real name was Yehuda, not Bachya. At this point I’m unaware of a similar discovery referencing Rabeinu Bachya ben Asher ibn Paquda, but it is a fairly safe assumption that he had another name, as well.




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1 Comment

Filed under Miscellaneous

One response to “What Kind of Name is “Bachya”?

  1. voodooqueen126

    what does Bahya/Bachya mean? I have looked it up 2letterlookup and it is not there.. There is an Arabic girls name Bahia?

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