Monday, July 21, 2014

Anan ben David and his Descendants (and the mysterious Karaites from Al-Hit), Part II

For Part I of this series see here



מתוך ספרו של פירקוביץ "מסה ומריבה"

Notice the interesting characters who provided funding for Firkovich's work.

מתוך "תולדות היהדות הקראית" אלגמיל, יוסף ,ח"א

Elgamil mentions that the Karaite Jews of Al-Hit were traditionally descended from Anan ben David himself.
More on Hit later.


Here is some additional information on some Anan ben David's immediate descendants from Brill:

David ben Boaz (421 words)

David ben Boaz, known in Arabic as Abū Saʿīd, was a fifth-generation descendant of Anan benDavid, and is thus rarely mentioned without the title ha-Nasi (and sometimes by that alone) or its Arabic equivalent, al-ra’īs. Hs lived in Jerusalem and, together with his brother Josiah ha-Nasi, is supposed to have supported Saʿadya Gaon in his conflict (ca. 930–937) with the Babylonian exilarch David ben Zakkay I, perhaps due to the strong enmity between the Karaite nesiʾim and the Palestinian geonim of the Ben Me’ir family, whose head at that time, Aaron ben Me’ir, lent his support to David ben Zakkay. According to Ibn al-Hītī, David ben Boaz was still alive in 993, when he composed a commentary on Ecclesiastes. He was succeeded by his son Solomon, who was serving as Nasi by at least 1016.
In his writings, notably but certainly not atypically among Karaites of the Karaite “Golden Age” (9th–11th centuries), David cites both tannaitic and amoraic sources. He was well regarded as a scholar and was often cited as an authority by both contemporary and later Karaite writers. According to his son Solomon, moreover, he was the first Karaite to oppose his sect’s rikkuv, or catenary, theory of forbidden marriages.
Among David’s known and more or less extant works are fragments of Arabic commentaries (tafāsīr), with translation (tarājim), on the Pentateuch (Mss. Brit. Lib. Or. 2403 [§304], 2494 [§318], fols. 1r–30v, 2495 [§306], 2561 [§305], fols. 1r–74v, 2562 [§307]; JTSA 8916; RNL Yevr.-Arab. I 4803; T-S Ar.21.133), Ecclesiastes, and Lamentations (both in Ms. Brit. Lib. Or. 2552 [§299], fols. 90r–141v). Not extant are an Arabic commentary, probably with translation, on Psalms (an abridgement by ʿAlī ben Sulaymān is extant in fragments) and, according to Ibn al-Hītī, a work entitled Kitāb al-Uṣūl (The Book of Roots/Fundamentals), the topic of which is unclear.
Michael G. Wechsler

Bibliography

Mann, Jacob. Texts and Studies in Jewish History and Literature, vol. 2: Karaitica(Philadelphia: Hebrew Press and Jewish Publication Society, 1935).
Pinsker, Simcha. Liqquṭe qadmoniyyot (Zur Geschichte des Karaismus und der karäischen Literatur) (Vienna: Adalbert della Torre, 1860).
Polliack, Meira (ed.). Karaite Judaism: A Guide to Its History and Literary Sources, Handbuch der Orientalistik, Erste Abteilung, Nahe und der Mittlere Osten 73 ( Leiden: Brill, 2003).
Poznański, Samuel. The Karaite Literary Opponents of Saadiah Gaon (London: Luzac,1908; repr. from Jewish Quarterly Review, o.s. 18 [1906]: 209–250; 19 [1907]: 59–83; 20 [1908]: 74–85, 216–231.
Steinschneider, Moritz. Die arabische Literatur der Juden (Frankfurt a.M.: J. Kauffmann, 1902; repr., Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1986).
Cite this page
Michael G. Wechsler. "David ben Boaz." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online, 2013. Reference. National Library of Israel. 10 October 2013 <http://www.brillonline.nl/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-in-the-islamic-world/david-ben-boaz-SIM_0006350>

__________________

Daniel ben Saul ben Anan (1,029 words)

Daniel ben Saul (fl. 9th century) was the grandson of ʿAnan ben David, said to have founded the proto-Karaite Ananite sect in the eighth century. The Jacobite Syrian historian Bar Hebraeus (d. 1286), basing himself on earlier Syriac chronicles, recounts that in 825 a battle over the office of exilarch in Baghdad broke out between Daniel and David ben Judah. Bar Hebraeus asserts that Daniel was an adherent of the Ananite heresy. Since this conflict had repercussions for Christians in the Abbasid caliphate, it attracted the attention of Christian chroniclers. According to their accounts, the dispute was brought before the caliph al-Ma'mūn (r. 813–833), and he ruled that every group of ten people among the ahl al-dhimma had the right to form their own sect. The Epistle of Sherira Gaon states that the power of the exilarchs declined during the exilarchate of David ben Judah, an assertion repeated by the gaon of the Baghdad yeshiva,Samuel ben Eli. Both geonim may have been referring to the dramatic outcome of the struggle between the two figures who according to the Syrian chronicles were contending for the position of exilarch.
Sherira Gaon was interested in the struggle over the exilarchate because it caused a split in the Pumbedita yeshiva. By his account, the conflict broke out during Abraham ben Sherira’s incumbency as gaon of Pumbedita (816–828). A competitor for the exilarchate appointed theav bet din (chief judge) of the academy to the post of gaon as a quid pro quo for the av bet din’s support; this gave rise to a situation in which two geonim were serving simultaneously. Sherira failed to mention who it was that the av bet din had backed. As for the rival candidates for the exilarchate, Sherira merely gave the name Daniel (without patronymic) as the rival ofDavid ben Judah. The responsa of the gaon of Sura, Naṭronay bar Hilay (853–861), preserved in the siddur (prayerbook) of Rav Amram Gaon (861–872), note that Anan ben David had a grandson named Daniel.
That a grandson of Anan ben David could have received support from one of the gaonic academies in a contest for the exilarchate caused scholars to question the identity of David benJudah’s rival.  Jacob Mann claimed that this Daniel could not have been the grandson of the man who according to early Karaite sources had founded the Ananite movement. He found it inconceivable that a member of this family would have had supporters in the bastion of the Babylonian Rabbanite establishment. With respect to the assertion of Bar Hebraeus, Mann maintained that he had conflated two notables who were both active at that time, one of them being Daniel the exilarch, a Rabbanite, and therefore supported by members of the Rabbanite camp, and the other Daniel ben Saul, the grandson of Anan, who was obviously in the Karaite camp.
A recently discovered document from the Cairo Geniza indicates that the Daniel who was striving to become exilarch was indeed the grandson of Anan and was supported by a faction in the Sura yeshiva. No less surprising, another Geniza document, dealing with the history of the Palestinian gaonate, reveals that Anan’s great-grandson, Ṣemaḥ ben Josiah ben Saul benAnan ben David (the son of Daniel’s brother), served as head of the Palestinian yeshiva for thirty-one years, till about 893. Ṣemaḥ was apparently not the only gaon from the House ofAnan in the Palestinian yeshiva. According to Moshe Gil, an anonymous letter written by a Babylonian exilarch indicates that there was an alliance between the Palestinian yeshiva headed by the House of Anan and Daniel the exilarch. This letter, which Gil ascribes to Daniel, deals with the calendrical arrangements for the year 835, and in it the exilarch declares that the sages of Palestine support him on issues related to the calendar. It should be noted that scholars are still divided about the identity of this exilarch.
The Muslim historian al-Bīrūnī (d. after 1050) states that Daniel ben Saul’s son, whose name was Anan, was the person who founded the Ananite movement in about 890. According to Gil, the exilarchic branch of the House of Anan only joined the Karaites and became their leaders in the second half of the ninth century, the period when Daniel and his son Anan (Anan II) were active. In Gil’s opinion, the fact that both Daniel and Ṣemaḥ held leadership positions in the Rabbanite establishment demonstrates that it was only in a later period that Anan ben Davidcould have been credited with establishing the Ananite movement. André Paul assumed, even before Gil, that the Rabbanite source recounting that Anan ben David managed to get out of prison during his struggle over the exilarchate with his brother, the exilarch Ḥananiah, by claiming that he was not rebelling against him but rather establishing a new Jewish sect, fits the period of al-Ma'mūn, during whose reign Daniel was trying to attain the exilarchate. Thus the story should not be attributed to the era of al-Manṣūr’s caliphate, when Anan ben David was active.
In summary, the sources indicate that Daniel, Anan’s grandson, was the person who engaged in a struggle over the office of exilarch around the year 825. The outcome was significant for all the dhimmī communities in the Abbasid caliphate. The support Daniel received from factions in the Rabbanite establishment and the fact that his nephew Ṣemaḥ served as the head of the Palestinian yeshiva have posed difficult questions about the origins of the Karaite movement. A final verdict is not yet possible. As for Anan II, Daniel’s son, there is only uncorroborated evidence from a single Muslim source that credits him with founding the Ananite movement. His descendants, if there were any, disappeared from the historical arena.
Yoram Erder

Bibliography

Abramson, Sheraga. In the Centers and in the Diaspora (Jerusalem, 1965), pp. 9–20 [Hebrew].
Gil, Moshe. Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages (Leiden: Brill, 2004), pp. 105–111, 221-223.
Mann, Jacob. Texts and Studies, vol. 2 (New York: Ktav, 1972), pp. 128–131.
Paul, André. Ecrits de Qumran et sectes juives aux premiers siècles de lʿIslam (Paris: Letouzey & Ané, 1969), pp. 15-24.
Cite this page
Yoram Erder. "Daniel ben Saul ben Anan." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online, 2013. Reference. National Library of Israel. 10 October 2013 <http://www.brillonline.nl/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-in-the-islamic-world/daniel-ben-saul-ben-anan-SIM_0006170>


The Mysterious Community in Al-Hit

We know very little about the community there. Here are some sources I have come across.

Jewish Virtual Library:

HIT, town on the Euphrates, approximately 90 mi. (144 km.) W. of Baghdad; site of the Mesopotamian city of Is. An old *Karaite community, dating back to the 10th century at least, existed in Hit. Persecution and ill-treatment by the authorities brought about a gradual reduction of its size and by the middle of the 19th century it numbered only 20 families. The community was headed by the Muʿallim ("teacher, sage") whose home also served as the religious school and house of prayer (after the decrepit synagogue that had existed in the town was abandoned in the second half of the 19th century). The community went to Israel shortly after the establishment of the State, settling in Beersheba.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

A. Ben-Jacob, Yehudei Bavel (1965), 318–20.
[Abraham Haim]

*********

While reading Dan Shapira’s “Avrham Firkowicz in Istanbul”, the following passage caught my eye (p. 18): He (Firkowich) also wished to visit Hit in Iraq, the home of an old Qaraite community that preserved ancient traditions (including daily ablutions in the Tigris). In the comment there (n. 36), Shapir further writes: at that time, communities of Mandeans, Yazidis, and Nestorian Christians also inhabited Hit.
Now while there is a relative abundance of material on the mandaeans, yazidis and Nestorian Christians of the area, I have been unable to find anything on the unique community of Karaites mentioned. Aside from a genetic study, which sheds little light on the history and daily life of the community here 

The daily ablutions in the Tigris (although Hit is located on the shores of the Euphrates[indeed Mikahil Kizilov claim that the Karaites of Hit immersed in the Euphrates twice daily, before each prayer see herehttp://books.google.co.il/books?id=hGILHIgEl7cC&pg=PA149&lpg=PA149&dq=karaites+hit+iraq&source=bl&ots=IUMo4GI6L8&sig=gPp124p1G8FksQ1LAYo4ixJG3Z8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Q9kWT9aeIoPo8QP2r5nvAg&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=karaites%20hit%20%20&f=true]) are of particular interest. I would have expected that more from their Mandean neighbors; followers of John the Baptist, but very interesting nonetheless.
Here is an interesting excerpt from the NYT, that indicates that some Mandaeans, have kept this tradition even under difficult conditions.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/09/world/europe/09iht-mandeans.4.5202220.html?pagewanted=all

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Want To Attract Money? Try Hanging This Painting in Your Home or Office



This is probably one of the most hilarious listings I have ever seen on Ebay. Its hilarious to me mostly because the seller seems to be dead serious. 

We all know how to keep rodents away from our places of residence (hang a portrait of Rabbi Yeshaya Steiner of Kerestir of course see). So now that your apartment or office is nice and rodent free, how do you start attracting money?

Apparently this is how. According to seller 2_bee_pollen_123 "Many people from europe said that you can attract money if you have a picture of a jewish man counting gold coins in your home or office."

Note:

Ashkenazic Worry Beads?

Jews counting money sounds like it plays right into ancient anti-semitic stereotypes but this is not exaclty so.
I came across something interesting recently in David Assaf's biography of Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin:



מנהג מניית מטבעות זהב, כאמצעי לריכוז ולהפגת מתח, מיוחס גם לרבינו תם "כשהיה רוצה ללמוד תמצית מהלכה חמורה היה נותן לפניו תל של זהובים לשמוח בהן ונתרחב לבו ולמד בכח (שו"ת מהרי"ל, לקוטים, דפוס צילום: ירושלים, תשלח עמ' 87), על תפלה ולמוד בנחת "כמונה מעות", ראה המקורות שהביא בן מנחם בשערי ספר, עמוד 92

אסף, "דרך המלכות" עמוד 235 הערה 30

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Ever Fascinating and Eccentric Karaite Sage, Avraham Firkovich.

http://toldotyisrael.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/avraham-firkovich-the-adventures-and-foibles-of-a-karaite-maskil-in-19th-century-eastern-europe-part-i/

Friday, April 11, 2014

Can a Convert Recite Certain Sections of the Haggada?

At my other blog
http://toldotyisrael.wordpress.com/2014/04/11/can-a-convert-recite-some-portions-of-the-haggadah/

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

What is the Tetragrammaton Doing on a Tombstone in a Christian Cemetery?

At my other blog.
http://toldotyisrael.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/a-hebrew-tetragrammaton-on-a-tombstone-in-the-protestant-graveyard-on-mount-zion

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Mystery of the Silent Jewish Tombstones of Hevron

at my other blog
http://toldotyisrael.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/the-silent-tombstones-of-hevron/

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Please Help My Manuscript Come to Fruition.

Are you one of the myriad of Eastern European Ashkenazy Jews wondering about possible (or certain) Sephardic roots? Hundreds of curious individuals have contacted me over the years with questions, comments and observations about their own family background. Some have sent me family anecdotes, others: copies of family heirlooms, documents etc.

I have spent a good portion of the last decade in libraries and archives-both in the US and now in Israel- researching this woefully under-explored subject. Readers of my blog know that I've covered the subject of Eastern European Yiddish-speaking Jews with Sephardic roots several times before-- here and elsewhere. However with the budget at my disposal I am lacking the means to pursue this subject any further and have barely scratched the surface with my hard work thus far. The photo you see is of a raw manuscript that requires much more research (hopefully even travels to European archives) editing and ultimately publishing. With the very difficult times that have come upon me, I simply cannot do it without your generous help. Any donation is extremely welcome and a donation of twice chai: 36 US dollars (or its equivalent) will earn you my heartfelt thanks as well as a complimentary copy of this book. Please help this book get to the press by sending your donation to the following paypal account dkrishevsky@gmail.com Its time has come!

With the warmest blessings for the coming spring, I remain.

Joel

Thursday, February 27, 2014

On Karaites in Medieval Hevron and a Tantalizing Clue about the Famous Tiberian Masoretes

מספר חברון  (ערך עודד אבישר, ירוש' 1970) עמוד 40:

המאות ה8 ה9 וה10 אמנם לוטות בערפל בדרך כלל ואין בידינו עדויות הקובעת כי היישוב היהודי בחברון עזב את שערי מערת המכפלה במקום שהיה לו בי"כ ובית קברות. נראה כי עדה קטנה של קראים התגוררה בחברון. בשנת תשסב 1002 אנו מוצאים כי סופר קראי אחד  ששמו  צדקה ב"ר שמרון ב"ר מוחה ב"ר משה הסופר ב"ר מורנו ורבנו הרב מוחה רי"ת הטברייני מכרמי
(זה קרים)
1002 כתב שם בחברון ספר נביאים ביום א ב' חשון  ד'תשס"ב
(הורוביץ  עמוד 250)

The gist of this quote (from an article by Horowitz) is that a small Karaite community is attested to in Hevron at the beginning of the 11th century and in that period we find that a certain scribe in Hevron by the name of Sedaka ben Shimron ben Muha ben Moses The Tiberian rit (?) from Crimea, authored a Book of Prophets in the year 1002, if I am reading it correctly. Unfortunately I don't have access to mentioned article by Horowitz at the moment). I am also assuming that this colophon was discovered among the Cairo Genizah and contains this colophon.

The name and description is very interesting to say the least. Sedaka and Shimron don't seem like common Karaite or Rabbanite names (and even sound vaguely Samaritan...). However 'Moshe Hasopher' already sounds familiar. According to the scanty information that we have on the Tiberian Masoretes, one of the early members of the Ben Asher family was named Moshe. What's more is that he is clearly identified as a scribe and of Tiberian provenance! (although he is also described as stemming from Crimea). This definitely deserves a closer examination! (כתב שם בחברון may convey the fact that he wrote this book while visiting The Cave and not necessarily that he was a resident of the city). If this is indeed Moshe ben Asher of Masorete fame then we learn that: 1. The Ben Asher family were indeed Karaites (a vociferous debate that continues to this day) and 2. The Ben Asher family ascended to Eretz Israel from Crimea (which would fit perfectly well as Crimea was host to a large Karaite and Rabbanite ['krymchak'] community dating back to antiquity).

On Moshe b. Asher, Aharon Maman:


Moses ben Asher lived and worked in Tiberias in the second half of the ninth century C.E. He was a member of the fifth generation of the Ben Asher family, which had earned a reputation for raising famous masoretes. The first member of the dynasty was Asher the Elder, who lived in the eighth century, as recorded in an ancient masoretic work: “Asher, the greatest elder of blessed memory, followed by his son Nehemiah, may his soul rest in peace, followed by [his son] Moses ben Nehemiah, followed by his son Asher, followed by his son Moses, i.e., Moses ben Asher, followed by Aaron, i.e., son of Moses. Be aware that this Aaron ben Moses ben Asher ben Moses ben Nehemiah ben Asher the greatest elder of blessed memory, was the close of the dynasty.” Moses ben Asher, then, was the father of the last masorete, Aaron ben Asher. He is mostly known from the Cairo codex of the Prophets, whose colophon ascribes to him the copying of the codex and the addition of the Masora in Tiberias in the year 896.

The codex is beautifully written in three columns and decorated with drawings and illuminations. The text, the vocalization, and the Masora are as accurate as in the famous Aleppo codex, but its Masora magna is shorter. However, the study of the codex tradition vis-à-vis Mishael ben Uzziel’s Kitāb al-Khilāf alladhī bayn al-Muʿallimayn Ben Asher wa-Ben Naftalī (Book of Differences between the Two Masters Ben Asher and Ben Naphtali) reveals that it only fits Aaron ben Asher’s Masora in 33 percent of the disputed cases, whereas in 64 percent it fits the tradition of his opponent, Ben Naphtali. For instance, the pointing of liysra’el with a quiescent yod fits the Ben Naphtali reading of words beginning in yod when preceded by the particle lamed with a shewa (as against Aaron ben Asher’s reading le-yisrael). On the other hand, in vocalizing the word Yissakhar, it doubles the first sin and omits the second, according to the Ben Asher reading, against Ben Naphtali’s reading Yish-sakhar. The codex also fits the Ben Asher–Ben Naphtali list of agreements only in 75 percent of the cases and thus does not follow either the Ben Asher tradition or the Ben Naphtali one in its entirety.

The idea that a father and son of the same family would hold different masoretic views seems implausible. Indeed, in the 1980s some scholars doubted the authenticity of the colophon, claiming that it was added to the manuscript in the eleventh century, which indeed was proved by a chemical test (Carbon 14) in 1996. If one assumes that the Ben Asher family held the same Masora tradition for generations, one can accept Aron Dotan’s view that Moses ben Asher only copied the text of the Cairo codex, whereas the vocalization and Masora marks were added by a different scribe. A facsimile edition of this codex (Jerusalem, 1971) and a critical edition (Madrid, 1979–88) have been published.

Another work of Moses ben Asher is the famous piyyuṭ “The Song of the Vine,” marked by the acrostic Moshe ben Ash . . ., of which the last letter has been lost. The vine in this song (as in biblical poetry) symbolizes the people of Israel and its roots—the patriarchs, from whom came forth the prophets and the sages. The song relates to Masora notions, accents, and to the masoretes. The views expressed in the song are regarded by some as Karaite, whereas A. Dotan regards them as Rabbanite.

Aharon Maman

Bibliography

Cohen, M. “Ha-Omnam Katav Moshe ben Asher et Ketav Yad Qahir?” Alei Sefer (1982): 5–12.

Penkower, Jordan S.“A Tenth-Century Pentateuchal MS from Jerusalem (MS C3), Corrected by Mishael ben Uzziel,” Tarbiz 58 (1988): 49–74 [Hebrew]

Perez Castro, F., et al. (eds.). El Codice de Profetas de el Cairo, 8 vols. (Madrid: Instituto Arias Montana, 1979–92).

Yeivin, Israel. The Biblical Masora (= Studies in Languages 3), (Jerusalem, 2003) [Hebrew].

THE HEREM ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES

I've mentioned the custom of the Gaonim of EY to institute a Herem (excommunication) against all schismatics on the Mt. of Olives. According to legend, Rav Hai Gaon himself would ascend from Babylonia in order to lead this procedure. I also noted that 'aliyah l'regel' to Jerusalem during the thrice- yearly biblical festivals continued to be practiced well into the Geonic period (see Goitien, Mann and others) and when Jerusalem was off limits (due to intermittent Islamic-Christian wars or inter-Islamic wars or anti-Jewish persecution), Gaza was seen as an alternative destination for the Jews of the surrounding countries of the Near East.

What is interesting is that Hevron and its holy site: The Cave of The Patriarchs seems to have also been used as a platform from which to proclaim similar bans (it may have been used, as Gaza was at one point, as an alternative site--or there may have been simultaneous bans taking place at several different places at the same time).

Avisar in Sepher Hevron:

...לפי מכתבו של ר' שלמה בן יהודה בסעדיינה (ספר היישוב ח"ב8) מסתבר כי בתקופת הגאונים היו נוהגים להתכנס במערה ובשעת הצורך היו אף מנדים אנשים שהיו גורמים מחלוקת בישראל

Notes:

1. On ancient Jewish settlement on the Crimean Peninsula, Michael Zand writes:

Hellenized Greek-speaking Jews first settled in Crimea in Panticapaeum (today’s Kerch) in the first century BCE. Their presence in Panticapaeum as well in the Bosporan towns of Phanagoria and Gorgippa in the first through fifth centuries CE is well documented archaeologically. Hebrew names on amphorae dating to the third century were found during excavations of the Bosporan town of Tanais, and may be seen as evidence either of Jews residing in that town or of their involvement in trade there. Archaeological findings attest to the presence of Jews in Chersonesus as early as the first century CE and to the existence there of an organized Jewish community in the late fourth through early fifth centuries. Inscriptions testify to the merging with the Jewish community of non-Jewish slaves released by Jews. Another group that may have merged, albeit partially, with Jewish community was the Sebomenoi ton Theon (God-fearers), whose profession of the Most High God (Theos Hypsistos) was strongly influenced by Judaism. In the early 630s, the Jewish population increased with the arrival of Byzantine Jews fleeing forced conversion in areas of Crimea bordering Byzantium.


Prayers at the Cave of the Patriarchs for the Wellbeing of Evyatar ben Eliyahu Hacohen Gaon of Eretz Israel (11th c.)

מספר חברון, עמוד 40



סעדיה החברוני כותב המגילה "החבר לקברי אבות" היה כפי הנראה הממונה על אנשי קברי אבות (ככה קראו לחברה שהיו ממונים על הקדש המערה) וכך אנו קוראים במגילה בין השאר: כי אנו מתפללים עליו (על מורנו ורבנו אביתר הכהן, ראש ישיבת גאון יעקב) בכל יום במערת המכפלה בתפילה...ולי היום שני חודשים חולה, לא האמנתי כי אחיה ונתייאשו מפני כל אנשי קברי אבות זל"ה..ויברך אתכם וישמע תפילתי בעדכם במקום הקדוש הזה..כי התפללתי עליו ביום כיפור במערה הקדושה...המתפלל בעדך סעדיה החבר לקברי אבות זכרם לברכה..

מר י. ברסלבי במחקרו "למינויו של ר' אביתר גאון בחיי אביו ומערת המכפלה" (ארץ ישראל ספר ה מזר 1958 עמוד 221) וכן ממאמרו "קטעי גניזה על חברון" אשר העלה מתוך אוספי הגניזה באנגליה (ידיעות י תש"ג עמוד 65-73 לחקר ארצנו עמוד 95) בהסתמכו על אותה מגילה מבסס את ההנחה המתקבלת על הדעת, כי במאות ה11 וה12 היה ישוב יהודי קבע ליד מערת המכפלה. לפי ברסלבי מסתבר כי ר' סעדיה החברוני שהוא דור שלישי בחברון פעל וחי בעיר האבות כבר בשנת 1081, בימי התמנתו של ר' אביתר גאון ע"י אביו ר' אליהו גאון

to be contd.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Rabbi Ebiathar Hacohen Gaon; The Last of the Mohicans of The Eretz Yisrael Gaonate PART I

Elinoar Bareket writes in the Brill Encyclopedia:
Abiathar ben Elijah ha-Kohen, who was born around 1041, probably in Jerusalem, was the last important gaon of the Palestinian yeshiva. He was the eldest of the four sons of Elijah ha-Kohen Gaon, and in keeping with standard practice, his father put him on an advancement track in the yeshiva. By 1067 he was already signing documents as “fourth in line,” thus making him a member of the ḥavurat ha-qodesh (sacred collegium; i.e., the yeshiva); by 1071 he was co-signing responsa with his father and, apparently as his right hand, went on missions to Egypt on his behalf.

In addition to Geniza documents, the most important source of information about Abiathar’s life is Megillat Evyatar (Heb. The Scroll of Abiathar), a work he wrote in 1094. Abiathar’s account of the bitter struggle for authority over Fatimid Jewry begins in the 1050s, when Solomon Gaon, Abiathar’s grandfather, died and was succeeded as head of the Palestinian yeshiva by a newcomer from Baghdad, Daniel ben Azariah, a nasi of the exilarchic house. Daniel died in 1062 and was succeeded by Abiathar’s father, Elijah, who moved the yeshiva to Tyre after the Seljuq conquest of Jerusalem in 1073. Conflict broke out in the 1080s when Daniel ben Azariah’s young son David ha-Nasi attempted to revive the exilarchate, claiming supreme authority over Egyptian and Palestinian Jewry, and denying the superior status of the yeshiva in exile in Tyre under Elijah Gaon and his son Abiathar.

Abiathar ultimately won the bitter struggle. He wrote and disseminated the Megilla to tell his version of events to Jewries everywhere. His account lambasted David ben Daniel and his associates, repudiated their attacks on him and his family, and condemned David’s regime as dictatorial. The correspondence from the Cairo Geniza that documents the other side of the dispute tells a different tale: massive grass-roots support for David, his moderate and sagacious political conduct, and the legitimacy of his Davidic descent.

The conflict between the two extended over fifteen years. It was not an ordinary struggle for leadership of the yeshiva, but rather a conflict between the yeshiva and a new force seeking to create a exilarchate center based in Egypt. The struggle came about as a result of the already diminished status and power of the Palestinian yeshiva, which had been forced into exile, and had lost much of its prestige. The struggle also involved the nagid in Egypt, Mevorakh ben Saʿadya, who was deposed by David ben Daniel and, when reinstated in 1094, renewed his allegiance to Abiathar Gaon. According to the Megilla, divine intervention on behalf of Abiathar induced the vizier al-Afḍal to dismiss David ben Daniel, restore Mevorakh, and thus bring an end to the conflict.

With the coming of the Crusaders, Abiathar and the yeshiva fled from Tyre in or around 1097 and apparently went to Tripoli in Lebanon , since they were there in 1102. Abiathar is mentioned in several Geniza documents from the early twelfth century. He died sometime before the end of 1112 and was succeeded by his brother Solomon. The yeshiva moved to Damascus, but it had already lost its prominence in the Jewish world.

On the aforementioned Scroll of Ebiathar, Bareket writes:



Megillat Evyatar (Scroll of Abiathar) was written by Abiathar Gaon ben Elijah ha-Kohen in 1094. It mirrors the turmoil and internal conflict in the Jewish communities of the eastern portion of the Mediterranean basin at the end of the eleventh century. In particular, it contains direct reverberations of the disasters that befell the Jewish community in Palestine, and especially in Jerusalem, in the wake of a series of political and military vicissitudes that included the Seljuk invasion and the events leading up to the First Crusade.

Abiathar was apparently born in the fourth decade of the eleventh century and was the right hand of his father, Elijah Gaon. The Jerusalem yeshiva remained in Jerusalem until just before the Seljuk conquest in the summer of 1073, but then moved to Tyre, a seemingly logical destination given the close economic ties between the city’s governor and its Jewish merchants. Megillat Evyatar’s retrospective account of the gaonate of Daniel ben Azariah and subsequent events tells us about the conflict that began on the death of the gaon Solomon ben Judah in 1051 and ended with a compromise in 1052. The scroll is practically the only source that discusses Ben Azariah’s successor, Elijah Ha-Kohen, Abiathar’s father, during the period between his ascendancy to the gaonate and his death.

Megillat Evyatar also provides important details about David ben Daniel, Abiathar’s rival. It recounts David’s arrival in Egypt, his sojourn in Damira and afterwards in Fustat, his relations with the nagid Mevorakh ben Saʿadya and other people, his marriage into a prestigious, wealthy Karaite family, his status and activities in Fustat, and his connections with Ashkelon and other communities. David ben Daniel is described as fanatical and authoritarian, a picture confirmed by several letters from the Cairo Geniza.

The scroll also gives a full account of the process of appointing an exilarch and of the problems of the yeshiva in Tyre resulting partly from the uncertain political situation in the city, but also from the disruption of its connections with the Jewish community of Egypt and the other communities that remained under or returned to Fatimid rule. The difficulties for Abiathar and the other members of the yeshiva peaked during the ten months from June 1093 to April 1094, when Mevorakh ben Saʿadya resumed the post of nagid and his close association with the Fatimid regime, bringing about the removal of David ben Daniel.

The ideological portion of Megillat Evyatar is aimed at proving the legitimacy of the Jerusalem yeshiva and of the ha-Kohen family, its heads, as the leaders of the Jewish Diaspora. The relatively numerous statements in the scroll about the blessing of the new month and the leap year seem to have been made chiefly to provoke the Karaites (see Karaism), with whom David ben Daniel had developed a special relationship. In the final analysis, this work is a bitter polemic against David ben Daniel’s attempt to seize the leadership in the name of the house of the exilarchs on the grounds of its descent from King David. Over a period of more than ten years, David ben Daniel gained the support of many Rabbanite as well as Karaite communities, most likely because he spoke to the messianic hopes and yearnings of the masses.

Megillat Evyatar was distributed to Jewish communities far and wide to commemorate the victory of Abiathar and the house of Ha-Kohen over David ben Daniel and the Davidic dynasty. It may be assumed that the scroll was copied many times. The copy preserved in the Cairo Geniza was evidently made by Judah ha-Levi; it had been in the hands of a relative of Maimonides relatives and influenced his views on the Babylonian/Palestinian issue.

And who exactly was this 'pesky' Daniel b. Azaryah? Again Bareket:

 David, the only son of the gaon of the Palestinian yeshiva Daniel ben Azariah was born around 1058. Only four when his father died, he was evidently raised by family members in Damascus. When the Seljuks conquered Syria and Palestine in the 1170s, he went to Egypt, where he was adopted by relatives in Damira in the Nile Delta, who treated him well and pledged him in marriage to a female relative.
David had other plans, however, as well as supporters who saw in him a hope for redemption because of his Davidic descent. Leaving Damira and his fiancée, he moved to Fustat, where he was received with open arms by Mevorakh ben Sa‘adya, the nagid and court physician. There David married a woman from a wealthy Karaite family, a match served him well financially and politically.
From then on he began to overtly oppose the Palestinian yeshiva, promoting himself and the idea of his legitimate right to rule as a member of the House of David. Around 1082, he established his own high court (Heb. bet din ha-gadol; Aram. be dina rabba) and began appointing communal magistrates and officials, a traditional prerogative of geonim. This was apparently the underlying reason for the clash between him and his chief supporters in Fustat, among them Mevorakh ben Sa‘adya, who opposed the idea of a revolt against the Palestinian yeshiva, but David already had many other supporters, among them the Karaites, whose leader was also a scion of the Davidic house.
David now turned against his former supporters. We do not know the details, but according to Megillat Evyatar (Heb. Scroll of Abiathar), he acted maliciously and informed on fellow Jews to the authorities, who ousted Mevorakh ben Sa‘adya from his offices. Geniza documents from this period refer to David as nasi and rayyis (Ar. head). David declared himself exilarch in Egypt in 1091, an unprecedented act, and ruled aggressively over all the Jewish communities of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria, while mercilessly pursuing his rivals, the geonim of the Kohen line, residing at the time in Tyre, whence the yeshiva had been transferred in 1071.
In 1094, events took a new turn. The vizier Badr al-Jamālī, who had supported David ben Daniel, fell ill and was succeeded by his son al-Afḍal, a close associate of Mevorakh ben Sa‘adya, who was now reinstated as nagid and court physician. David ben Daniel disappeared from the historical records and his fate remains unknown. Jacob Mann has theorized that two Hebrew poems attributed to a David ha-Nasi who expresses sorrow for causing dissension and exhorts his soul to turn from pride and self-aggrandisement were composed by David ben Daniel after he was deposed. 

Let us backtrack for a moment and take a look at how the Yeshibha fared under the leadership of Ebiathar's father, R' Eliyahu Hacohen. Yoram Erder writes:
In about 1076, the Palestinian yeshiva, now led by Elijah ha-Kohen ben Solomon Gaon (1062–1083), was forced to leave Jerusalem and settle in Tyre, which was no longer under Fatimid authority. The move was a result of the Turcoman invasion, which had begun in 1071 and had caused the situation in Palestine to seriously deteriorate for the entire population. The hardships and lamentations of Christian inhabitants and pilgrims following this occupation were one of the factors that led to the launching of the First Crusade. Jerusalem’s Karaite leaders, the nesi’im, moved to Egypt. Elijah’s son Abiathar, the last gaon of the Palestinian yeshiva, never returned to Jerusalem and died as a refugee in Damascus around 1112, while fleeing the Crusaders.
As is apparent from the preceding survey, the Palestinian yeshiva was beset with problems on many fronts—the vicissitudes of relations with the changing Muslim governments and the ongoing attempts by the Babylonia yeshivot to undermine its status. The haughty attitude of the Babylonian yeshivot toward the Palestinian yeshiva was probably the main factor that led to the situation whereby, until the discovery of the Geniza, the existence of an active Jewish center in Palestine during the geonic period was totally unknown. The yeshivot in Babylonia contested both the authority of the Palestinian yeshiva in the Diaspora and the Palestinian tradition of halakhic interpretation. The Palestinian yeshiva also had to contend with the challenge posed by the Karaite community in Palestine, mainly in Jerusalem. Although the Karaite movement began in the Diaspora communities of Babylonia and Persia, the most important Karaite center was established in Jerusalem in the last quarter of the ninth century by the Mourners of Zion. They vigorously challenged the Rabbanite leadership, which they considered the main obstacle to the coming of the messiah. Karaite communities in the Diaspora were less militant.
In addition to these external problems, there was no lack of power struggles over the leadership of the yeshiva among the families whose members routinely filled this position. Two representatives of the exilarchic line, Ṣemaḥ and Jehoshaphat, served as geonim. This branch of the Ananite dynasty was deposed from the yeshiva as the Karaite movement increased in strength. Daniel ben Azariah, who held the office of gaon from 1051 to 1062, was also of exilarchic lineage. He fought against the Kohen family, who hailed from North Africa ( Elijah and Abiathar, mentioned above, were members of this family). From 1038 to 1042, Solomon ben Judah was forced to defend his position against a challenge by Nathan ben Abraham, who attempted to have Solomon removed so that he could declare himself gaon. (On this power struggle see Palestine.)
A twofold disaster brought an end to the geonic period in Palestine. The First Crusade dealt a demographic death blow to the country’s Jewish population. A considerable number of communities simply disappeared. Second, the status of the yeshiva had already suffered a severe setback when it moved to Tyre, since it was cut off from the Jews of the Fatimid caliphate. It remained in exile until the First Crusade and was never able to return to Palestine. As a result, for many generations Palestine ceased to be the center of Jewish authority for the Diaspora. The attempt to preserve the authority of the Palestinian yeshiva in exile failed, and the Diaspora communities that were called Palestinian or Jerusalemite began to wane and finally disappeared altogether.


In the EY Kaddish prayer, they would add this caveat, while the Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Ebiathar was alive:

׳בחיי אדוננו אביתר
הכהן ראש ישיבת גאון יעקב ובחיי רבנו שלמה הכהן אב הישיבה ובחיי
רבנו צדוק השלישי בחבורה, בחייכון וביומיכון ובחיי כל ישראל במהרה
ובזמן קריב׳... . ׳בחיי נשיאנו ראש הגולה ובחיי ראש הישיבה
ובחיי כל כלל(!) ישראלי

His relationship to the Jewish community of Hevron (second holiest city for Jews after Jerusalem):
 I've come across some Genizah gragments, cited in Sepher Hevron, that indicates that Medieval EY Jews gathered en masse at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron to pray for the health and wellbeing of this remarkable figure, Ebiathar Gaon, the last EY Gaon of influence.

see also Joseph Elias's article here

His relationship with the Jews of early Ashkenaz from wiki (still looking for a better source on this):
בשנת 1071 עבר עם אביו לפוסטאט (קהיר הקדומה) כנראה בשל פלישת הסלג'וקים. נמצאה בגניזה הקהירית קבוצת שאלות ותשובות משנת 1071 שהובאה בשם "שאלות ששאל רבי משולם בן משה ממגנצא את פי אריות שבירושלם עיר הקודש"

Rabbi Eliyahu Cohen's last resting place is supposedly here
And here is that of his son-the subject of my blog post.

In 1985, during construction work, carried out in the Galilean village of Gush Halav (now known as J'ish), his crypt was (possibly) found. Some hypothesized that it may  be a remnant of his tombstone [others a signpost of the actual entrance to The Academy, similar to this find. For an explanation see here]).



(which would make his final resting place The Galil and not Syria-as sites like MyTzadik would have us believe). See here

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