Rabbeinu Gershom, whose takkanot are considered binding by many Ashkenazim, is often the earliest name which I hear being cited in relation to the Ashkenazi mesorah. From whom was his mesorah, if known? Can it be traced back to Chazal?

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    See Haym Soloveitchik's essay in his Collected Essays. I don't recall if it's in volume 2 or 3. – Double AA Oct 28 '14 at 15:52
  • @DoubleAA very funny... – הנער הזה Oct 28 '14 at 18:16
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    To summarize the thesis set forth by R. Dr. Soloveitchik and in collected Essays vol. II and elaborated on in vol. III, the Ashkenazic mesorah was founded by a group of Babylonian scholars who, annoyed with the increasing liberalisation of their "mainstream" Geonic counterparts, moved to the Rhineland to start anew. Thus, in spite of a few Palestinian/ Italian influences on Ashkenzaic liturgy, their massoret in learning is a continuation of those maverick Babylonians. If you are interested I will post this as an answer, but at this time I do not have the collected essays, so all is from memor – mevaqesh Aug 9 '16 at 2:42
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    If 'we' follow the Italian hypothesis who is we? He demonstrates that much of the alleged Palestinian positions received via Italy are bogus. Sure they picked up some liturgy, but that isn't the same as what he is discussing; a living halakhic tradition. – mevaqesh Jul 19 '17 at 14:51

From this article on early roots of Jewish life in Germany, it sounds like Rabeinu Gershom himself wrote about Rabbi Yehudah ben Rabbi Meir HaKohein (aka Rabbi Leontin) in one of his teshuvos, that it was "...Rabbi Leon who taught me the majority of his learning."

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The Shaim HaGedolim from the Chida brings three opinions regarding who his teacher was. One is Rav Hai Gaon, another is Rabbeinu Chananal, and the third is Rabbi Yehuda Ben Meir HaKohen HaZakein who is called Rabbeinu Leontin.

The entry for the latter has no biographical information, but under Rabbeinu Leontai it says in the notes that this is an Italian version of the name Yehuda, and he is referenced that way in Hagaos Maymonis.

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