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Aghmāṭī, Zechariah ben Judah al-

(700 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
As indicated by his nisba (Ar. gentilic), Zechariah ben Judah (al-)Aghmāṭī was either born or reared in the town of Aghmat, in southern Morocco. He is known from his single extant work—an exegetical compendium arranged primarily around the Halakhot Rabbati of Isaac ben Jacob al-Fāsī. The extant portions of this massive work are contained primarily in British Library MSS Or. 11361 (on BT Berakhot, Shabbat, and ʿEruvin ) and Or. 10013 (on BT Bava Qamma, Bava Meṣiʿa, and Bava Batra ). Also surviving is a small portion on Moʿed Qaṭan. Whether he proceeded beyond Bava Batra and complete…

Nathan ben Hananiah

(495 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Nathan ben Hananiah (also attested as ben Ḥanina) flourished in Qayrawan between 820 and 870, during all or most of which period he and Judah ben Saul served as the heads ( rabbanan) of the bet midrash there and as dayyanim for the Jewish community of North Africa generally. Nathan corresponded with the Jewish authorities in Iraq in connection both with halakhic matters and the collection of donations (Heb. ḥoq or rashut) for the Babylonian yeshivot (see Yeshivot in Babylonia/Iraq). The period of Nathan’s gaonic correspondence was approximately forty years, as indi…
Date: 2015-09-03

Aaron ben Amram

(760 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Aaron ben Amram—or, as his name is given in Arabic sources, Hārūn ibn ʿImrān—lived in the second half of the ninth century and the first quarter of the tenth. He apparently began his career as a trader, as in one Arabic source he and his partner, Joseph ben Phinehas , are referred to as al-tujjār (the merchants). Eventually he became a jahbadh (banker). In this capacity, with responsibility for administering, remitting, and supplying funds, Aaron, together with the jahbadh Joseph ben Phinehas (Yūsuf ibn Fīnḥās), played a key role in the financial administration of the ʿAbbasid empire. The b…
Date: 2015-09-03

Japheth (Abū ‘Alī Ḥasan) ben Eli

(1,608 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Japheth ben Eli ha-Levi, known also by his Arabic name as Abū ʿAlī Ḥasan ibn ʿAlī ʾl-Lāwī ʾl-Baṣrī, was apparently of eastern origin, as were many of the Jerusalem Karaites of his day. As suggested by his nisba (relational suffix), he may have been from the city of Basra in southeastern Iraq. It is possible that his full first name was Saʿīd Japheth, because that is how he is once referred to by his son Levi (Abū Saʿīd) ben Japheth. Together with the Karaite littérateurs Abū ʾl-Surrī ibn Zūṭā, Sahl ben Maṣliaḥ, Salmon ben Jeroham, and Joseph ibn Nūḥ, Japheth was an importa…
Date: 2015-09-03

Baradānī, Joseph al-

(523 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Joseph al-Baradānī was a payṭan (liturgical poet) and a cantor in tenth-century Baghdad. His father, Ḥayyim, had also been a poet and cantor, and so too were his son Nahum al-Baradānī and at least one grandson, Solomon.  As indicated by his nisba (attributive name) the family was based at some point in the Baghdad suburb of Baradān, though by Joseph’s time it had moved into the city proper, where he served with distinction as cantor of the main synagogue—in fact, in a letter Hay Gaon refers to him, post-mortem, as “the great cantor” (Heb. ha-ḥazzan ha-gadol). Joseph’s corpus of liturgical…
Date: 2015-09-03

Josiah ben Jesse

(589 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Josiah ben Jesse flourished in the first half of the thirteenth century as part of a family of nesi’im centered in Mosul. He had three brothers—Hodiah (probably the Jalāl al-Dawla of several Geniza letters; cf. infra), Hezekiah, and Solomon (= Jedidiah? [see Gil, sec. 259, ad fin.])—and spent some time in Egypt (Ashmun, Bilbays, Fustat, al-Maḥalla, and, perhaps, Alexandria and Damira) as well as in Damascus, where he met the poet Judah al-Ḥarīzī. At least six different “date points” are attested for Josiah, based on dated or datable sources…
Date: 2015-09-03

Dunash (Abū Sahl) ben Tamīm

(1,170 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Dunash (from Ber.-Ar. dhū nās, master of men, trans. by Heb. adonim) ben Tamim ibn Ya‘qūb al-Isrā’īlī, also known by the kunya Abū Sahl and the nisba  "al-Shaflajī", flourished in the first half of the tenth century as one of the preeminent scholars and jurists ( dayyanim), in Qayrawān (Tunisia). The earliest attested date-point for Dunash’s life is ca. 895, as deduced from his statement in the introduction to his commentary on Sefer Yeṣira that he had read letters sent to Qayrawān by Saʿadya ben Joseph before the latter’s departure for Babylon, which took place in 915, if not…

Jeshua ben Elijah ha-Levi

(770 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Jeshua ben Elijah ha-Levi lived between ca. 1160 and ca. 1250, probably in al-Andalus, and was the last known compiler-redactor of the poetry collections (Ar. dawāwīn; sing. dīwān) of the preeminent medieval littérateurs Judah ha-Levi and Abraham ibn Ezra. The poems in both dawāwīn were arranged by Jeshua in the same tripartite fashion according to their poetic form—namely, as summarized in his introduction to Judah ha-Levi’s dīwān (Geiger, p. 170): “the first part encompasses rhyming metrical poems, the second part encompasses distinctly metrical strophic compositions [Ar. muwas…
Date: 2015-09-03

Ben Yijū, Abraham

(962 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Unquestionably one of the most colorful figures to be illuminated by documents from the Cairo Geniza—and in Goitein’s estimation ( Letters, p. 186) “the most important single figure” of his important “India Book”—is the Tunisian merchant and littérateur Abraham (ben Peraḥyā) ben Yijū, who flourished in the first half of the twelfth century and has been identified as the recipient or sender of some seventy different written items (mostly documentary). The name Yijū, applied by or for Abraham as a surname (sometimes …
Date: 2015-09-03

Tanḥum ben Joseph ha-Yerushalmi

(1,327 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Tanḥum ben Joseph ha-Yerushalmi was unknown to Western scholars until the latter half of the seventeenth century, when the English orientalist Edward Pococke(1604–1691) brought several manuscript copies of Tanḥum’s writings to Europe from the Near East and published extracts from them in several of his own works. Tanḥum’s works make frequent eulogistic references to a host of medieval authorities, from Saʿadya Gaon (d. 942) down to Joseph Ibn ʿAqnīn (d. ca. 1220), and the attested date of the ol…
Date: 2015-09-03

Daniel ben Samuel ibn Abī ʾl-Rabīʿ ha-Kohen

(507 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Daniel ben Samuel ibn Abī ʾl-Rabīʿ ha-Kohen succeeded Isaac ben Israel in 1248 as gaon of the main Babylonian yeshiva in Baghdad and continued in office until his death in 1250/51. The Arabic historian Ibn al-Fuwaṭī (p. 218) reports that when Daniel, accompanied by “a throng of Jews and a group of devotees of the dīwān,” was returning to the yeshiva “on foot” after being appointed by the chief qāḍī ‘Abd al-Raḥmān, he was met by “a group of the common people [who] interposed with the intent to stone him, yet they were rebuffed in their endeavor and prevented.” Wh…
Date: 2015-09-03

Baradānī, Nahum al-

(689 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Nahum al-Baradānī flourished in the second half of the tenth century and the first decade of the eleventh as the third (at least) in a line of poets and cantors. As indicated by his name, the family must once have been based in the Baghdad suburb of Baradān, but this would have been before the time of Nahum’s father, Joseph, who served as the “Great Cantor” in Baghdad’s central synagogue. Although his main occupation seems to have been as a merchant—and a quite wealthy one, at that—Nahum is know…
Date: 2015-09-03

Ibn al-Majjānī Family

(392 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
The Ibn al-Majjānī family, known from documentary sources in the Cairo Geniza, were active in Mediterranean trade during the first half of the eleventh century. The earliest member of the family for whom any correspondence survives was Mūsā (Abū ʿImrān) ibn Yaḥyā al-Majjānī. The nisba indicates that the family once resided in the Tunisian town of Majjāna. Goitein suggested that this pertained to Mūsā’s grandfather ( Med. Soc., vol 1, p. 371, no. 9), from whose hand there are three letters (Gil, nos. 116–18) dated respectively 1000 (from Fustat), 1011 (from Qayr…

Ben Yijū Family

(1,773 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
The Ben Yijū family of traders and scholars is known from documents in the Cairo Geniza. Its most colorful member was Abraham Ben Yijū in the twelfth century, whose enterprises took him as far as India. The family originated in Tunisia; over the next few generations members lived in Sicily and Egypt. The family name Ben Yijū is of Berber origin. The founder of the family was probably under the protection of the Aït Īshū (part of the Izaïn and Aït Sgugu tribes), and the name continued in use among Maghrebi Jews into modern times as Bénichou (see Bénichou Family). The documents of the Cairo Geni…

Ibn Bundār, Ḥasan , Abū ‘Alī (Japheth)

(662 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Abū ‘Alī Ḥasan (Japheth) ibn Bundār, in the second half of the eleventh century and the beginning of the twelfth, was the “representative/trustee of the merchants” (Heb. peqid ha-soḥerim; Ar. wakīl al-tujjār) in Aden and “head of the [Jewish] communities” (Heb. roshar ha-qehillot; Ar. rayyis) in southern Yemen. The name Bundār (Pers. established, intelligent, rich) indicates that either he or his predecessors came to Yemen from Iran—the former scenario being more likely, because Ḥasan is the first member of the Bundār family in Yemen attested in the extant records (Goitein, Yemenit…
Date: 2015-09-03

Eleazar ben Ḥalfon ha-Kohen

(547 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Eleazar (Elʿazar) ben Ḥalfon ha-Kohen came to the attention of modern scholars as a poet separate and distinct from other poets named Elʿazar ha-Kohen only with the publication in 1954 of five of his poems discovered by Alexander Scheiber among the leaves and fragments of the Kaufmann Geniza Collection (see Cairo Geniza). Since then a total of twenty-two poems by Eleazar, most of them complete, have been discovered and published by Scheiber,  Jefim (Ḥayyim) Schirmann, and Ezra Fleisher from the remnants of four MSS: (1) Kaufmann MS…

Shabīb ben Jacob

(416 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Shabīb ben Jacob was a resident of Qayrawān, Ifrīqiya (Tunisia), in the latter half of the ninth century, and is one of five named individuals attested by documents from the Cairo Geniza as spiritual-halakhic authorities (i.e., bearers of the title rav and rabbana) of Qayrawān’s Jewish community in that century (the others being Nathan ben Ḥananiah/Ḥanina, Judah ben Saul, Ḥonay, and Samuel). Shabīb is mentioned by Sherira Gaon as the recipient of a responsum written in 870 by Amram ben Sheshna Gaon (Lewin, p. 70, l. 1) and is also the a…
Date: 2015-09-03

Daniel ben Ḥasday

(594 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Daniel ben Ḥasday (Ḥisday) served as exilarch in Baghdad after the death of his father, Ḥasday ben David b. Hezekiah. The date of Daniel’s accession is uncertain. It was no earlier than 1113, because Ḥasday ben David is mentioned as exilarch in a bill of sale written that year. It was no later than 1120, because Daniel is mentioned in a Purim-style story in the Cairo Geniza concerning an edict issued that year against the Jews of Baghdad and their eventual deliverance (for the lat…
Date: 2015-09-03

ʿAlī ibn Sulaymān

(1,483 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
‘Alī ibn Sulaymān, whose full Arabic name is attested as Abu ʾl-Ḥasan ‘Alī ibn Sulaymān al-Muqaddasī—or, as otherwise attested in Hebrew (cf. Skoss, Commentary, p. 34; Mann, p. 41; Ibn al-Hītī, p. 435, l. 21), ‘Eli ben Shelomo (i.e., Eli ben Solomon)—was a Karaite grammarian-lexicographer and Bible exegete who flourished toward the end of the eleventh century and the beginning of the twelfth. As suggested by his nisba, he was a native of Jerusalem, but he clearly must have departed before the Crusader destruction of the Jewish community there in 1099. According…
Date: 2015-09-03

Levi (Abū Saʿīd) ben Japheth

(903 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Levi ha-Levi ben Japheth (Yefet), also known as Abū Saʿīd, flourished in the first half of the eleventh century. He was the younger of the two known sons of Japheth ben Eli , the Karaite Bible exegete par excellence (his brother being ʿAlī Saʿīd, or Saʿadya, ha-Levi). Like his father, Levi apparently resided in Jerusalem, where, according to Ibn al-Hītī , he counted Jeshua ben Judah (Abū ’l-Faraj Furqān ibn Asad) among his pupils. Later Karaite writers sometimes incorrectly refer to Levi as Saʿīd (not Abū Saʿīd) or Saʿ…
Date: 2015-09-03
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