Rabbi Yonah of Gerona

Popularly known as Rabbeinu Yonah. Ethicist, author of Shaarei Teshuvah.

Born: Gerona, Spain,, 1180
Died: Toledo, Spain, 1263

Popularly known as Rabbeinu Yonah. Ethicist, author of Shaarei Teshuvah.

A disciple of Rabbi Shlomo of Montpelier, Rabbi Yonah was one of the most active participants in the controversy instigated by his teacher over Rambam's philosophical works. However, when 24 wagon loads of Talmud were burned by the Church at the same spot in Paris where Rambam's Moreh Nevuchim had been burned some nine years earlier, R' Yonah, seeing in his Divine reproach, regretted his previous actions against Rambam's works. As related by his devoted disciple, R' Hillel of Verona, R' Yonah declared publicly that he had been wrong, and vowed to travel to Teveria to Rambam's tomb, where he would beg the forgiveness of the deceased before a minyan of ten people.

R' Yonah began his journey, but was detained for three years in Barcelona where he lectured, always quoting Rambam's halachic decisions and Talmudic interpretations with great reverence. After  three years, he again set out to fulfill his vow, but was detained in Toledo, where the community implored him to stay for a while and give them Talmudic instructions. He died there suddenly, never completing his journey to Eretz Yisrael. He was mourned by all of Spanish Jewry, and Ramban - whose mother was a sister to R' Yonah's father, and whose son R' Shlomo was married to R' Yonah's daughter - composed a eulogy in his honor.

R' Yonah is most famous for his classic ethical work, Shaarei Teshuvah ["Gates of Repentance"], a famous classic of Mussar litrature. The author offers a system for self-improvement derived from biblical and talmudic sources. It forms the basis of all later works on Mussar ethics.  He also wrote a number of halachic commentaries on Tractate Avot, and Sefer Hayir'ah.

Most prominent among his students was Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet, the RASHBA.

May the merit of the tzaddik Rabbi Yonah of Gerona   protect us all, Amen.

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