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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

Ḥushiel ben Elḥanan

(1,045 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
According to the well-known and compelling account by Abraham ibn Daʾūd in his Sefer ha-Qabbala (sec. 7, beg.), Ḥushiel ben Elḥanan was one of the “four great scholars” (Heb. ḥakhamim gedolim) taken captive by the Andalusi Umayyad commander Ibn Rumāḥiṣ (under ʿAbd al-Raḥmān III) while en route by sea from Bari in southern Italy to Sfax (per Gil, sec. 122; not “Sefastin”). The four (Ḥushiel, Moses ben Ḥanokh, Shemarya ben Elḥanan, and an unnamed companion) were eventually ransomed by Jewish communities in different Mediterran…
Date: 2015-09-03

Ibn al-Shuwaykh, Isaac ben Israel

(666 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Isaac ben Israel, whose full name in Arabic is given by the Baghdadi Arab historian Ibn al-Fuwaṭī (1334–1405) as Fakhr al-Dawla Abū ʾl-Fatḥ Isḥāq ibn Abū ʾl-Ḥasan ibn Abū ʾl-Barakāt ibn al-Shuwaykh, succeeded Isaac ha-Kohen ibn al-Awānī as gaon of the main Babylonian yeshiva in Baghdad (following the decline of the yeshivot in Pumbedita and Sura). He was already gaon by 1221, in which year a copy of Abū ’l-Barakāt Hibat Allāh’s commentary on Ecclesiastes was completed on his behalf in which he is described as “the head of the scholars’ yeshiva geʾon Yaʿaqov.” In addition to his halakhic…
Date: 2015-09-03

Bar Saṭya, Joseph ben Jacob

(504 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
In the famous Epistle of Sherira Gaon (Heb. Iggeret Rav Sherira Ga’on), Joseph ben Jacob is described as “a son of geonim, grandson of the officiants, the priests,” from which it has now been established that Joseph’s father was Jacob ha-Kohen ben Naṭronay (not Jacob ben Mordechai, as per Ibn Da'ud in his Book of Tradition), the gaon of Sura from around 911 to 924. Joseph was appointed gaon of Sura in 930 by the exilarch David ben Zakkay I in apparent retaliation against the presiding gaon, Saʿadya ben Joseph, for his support of the a…
Date: 2015-09-03

Daniel ben Eleazar ibn Hibat Allāh

(472 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Daniel ben Eleazar ibn Hibat Allāh, who elsewhere refers to himself as Daniel b. Eleazar he-Ḥasid, succeeded Eleazar b. Hillel b. Fahd as gaon of the main Babylonian yeshiva in Baghdad (following the decline of the ones in Pumbedita and Sura). Daniel’s gaonate began no later than April–May 1201, which is when the earliest of his letters affirming his incumbency is dated. He is mentioned by the Arab historian and native of Baghdad Ibn al-Sāʿī (1197–1276) in the extant portion of his History ( al-Jāmi ʿal-mukhtaṣar), in which he transcribes the writ of Daniel’s appointment to the …
Date: 2015-09-03

Salmon ben Jeroham (Sulaym ibn Ruḥaym)

(1,285 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Salmon ben Jeroham (Yerūḥam),—known in Arabic as Sulaym, or Sulaymān, ibn Ruḥaym, flourished in Jerusalem around the middle of the tenth century alongside such important Karaite littérateurs as Abu ʾl-Surri ibn Zūṭṭā, David ben Abraham al-Fāsī, Ḥasan ben Mashiaḥ, Sahl ben Maṣliah, Japheth (Yefet) ben ʿEli, and Joseph ibn Nūḥ. According to the chronicle of Ibn al-Hītī he died in Aleppo. His patronymic should probably be spelled Yerūḥam, as implied by the rhyme with yenūḥam in ( inter alia) the proem to his commentary on Esther (Ms. RNL Yevr.-Arab. I 4467, fol. 1v), though …
Date: 2015-09-03

Ibn al-Barqūlī Family

(472 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Members of two generations of the Ibn al-Barqūlī family are mentioned in several letters from the Cairo Geniza (all composed during the first decade of the thirteenth century), as well as in the poetry of Eleazar ben Jacob ha-Bavli and Judah al-Ḥarīzī. From what is said in these sources, it is apparent that the Ibn al-Barqūlī family played a central role in the communal and spiritual life of the Jewish communities in Baghdad and Wāsiṭ (in central Iraq) and also contr…
Date: 2015-09-03

Ibn Sughmār Family

(1,356 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
The Ibn Sughmārs were a prominent Maghrebi family of merchants and scholars whose activities from the 1040s to the 1090s are attested by several letters preserved in the Cairo Geniza. The members of the family whose existence is known from this source (each attested…
Date: 2015-09-03
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