Rabbi Abraham Ibn David (Raavad III): (12th Century, Provence)

One of three sages called Raavad, he was known as "the critic" for his sharp disagreements with the Rif and especially the Rambam. Clearly, the Raavad did not engage in personal attacks; rather, his sole motivation was to fight for the truth of Torah as he understood it. Therefore, on many occasions he praised the Rambam, agreeing with his decisions. In one instance, Raavad notes that Rambam achieved a great accomplishment in compiling such a masterful work. However, when Raavad disagrees with Rambam, he spoke strongly. In one place, Raavad stated that the words of the Rambam are Lo Nahir VeLo Tzahir VeLo Bahir, (don’t make sense), while elsewhere he states that Rambam is simply incorrect. Raavad composed numerous scholarly works, many of which were lost. His treatise on the halachos of family purity and mikva form the basis of many of these laws today. At the time, Raavad was held in such great esteem that Kohanim were permitted to attend his funeral.

Rabbi Zechariah Halevi: (12th Century, Provence)

Rabbi Zerachiah wrote critical glosses on the Rif, which are included in the Rif's standard editions. These glosses, called either HaMaor HaGadol or HaMaor HaKatan, depending on the tractate under discussion, are combined as the Baal HaMaor. In response, Raavad and Ramban defended the Rif, the Ramban titling his rebuttal Milchamos HaShem, the Wars of G‑d. Interestingly, both these commentaries are also found on the printed Rif page. (Parenthetically, the Baal HaMaor and Milchamos HaShem are written in extremely difficult and terse language, challenging even the most accomplished Torah scholars.) Although Rabbi Zerachiah often disagreed with the Rif, he regarded him with the greatest respect, in one instance stating, "We may rely on the Rif and Rashi, who are two great pillars" [of wisdom].

Rabbi David Kimchi: (12th-13th Centuries, Provence)

Popularly known as the Radak, he is the author of a basic commentary on Neviim and some Kesuvim, printed in the standard Mikraos Gedolos text. A famous statement of Radak is his observation in Jeremiah 1:5 that a prophet is born with an innate inclination toward prophecy. Likewise, he says, if a person excels in a given area, it is due to a combination of inborn traits and subsequent training.

Rabbi Menachem Meiri: (13th-14th Centuries, Provence)

The author of the monumental Bais HaBechirah on many Talmudic tractates, the Meiri composed a commentary so unique in that it systematically explains each topic in a logical progression, from simpler concepts to more difficult ones. One of the more easily understood commentaries of the Rishonim, Bais HaBechirah was not discovered until relatively recent times. As a result, its halachic conclusions do not carry the weight of other Rishonim who have undergone an acceptance process over time. (Many other manuscripts of Rishonim are being found, particularly in the archives of the Vatican, and the same rule applies to them.)