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Wahb b. Yaʿīsh al-Raqqī

(964 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Wahb b. Yaʿīsh al-Raqqī, apparently called Nathan ben Ḥayyim in Hebrew, was a Jewish religious thinker during the second half of the tenth century. As indicated by his nisba (cognomen), he hailed from the city of (al-)Raqqa on the mid-Euphrates in present-day Syria. At that time, Raqqa was an important center of Jewish culture, and seems also to have been the locus of interfaith philosophical and religious dialogue between Jews (Rabbanite as well as Karaite/Ananite), Muslims, Christians, Sabaeans, and Zoroastrians. Indeed …
Date: 2015-09-03

Judah ben Eli (‘Allān)

(1,317 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Judah ben Eli, whose patronymic is usually attested as ben ʿAllān (the diminutive (?) of ʿAlī, the Ar. equivalent of Eli) and accompanied by the gentilic “the Tiberian,” was apparently one of the earliest Karaite scholars of Jerusalem, active at the end of the ninth century and during the first three decades of the tenth. Primary evidence for this chronological, geographical (Tiberias-Jerusalem), and sectarian placement of Judah is to be found in the portion of a muqaddama on parashat Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1–3:22) published by Pinsker (sec. 2, p. 64), written by Levi (Abū…
Date: 2015-09-03

Ḥananel ben Ḥushiel

(1,192 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Ḥananel ben Ḥushiel was resh be rabbanan and dayyan in Qayrawān in the first half of the eleventh century. Other than the statement of Abraham Ibn Da’ud in his Sefer ha-Qabbala (sec. 7, beg.) that Ḥananel was born in Qayrawān sometime after his father was redeemed from captivity, having been captured at sea by the Umayyad commander Ibn Rumāḥiṣ, there is no definitive information about the place and date of his birth. On the other hand, insofar as Ḥananel and Ḥushiel’s son Elhanan are taken to be the same person (on which see below), it is clear that Ḥananel was already at least thirty years old …
Date: 2015-09-03

David ben Boaz

(655 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
David ben Boaz, known in Arabic as Abū Saʿīd, was a fifth-generation descendant of Anan ben David, 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 fami…
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

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…

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…

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

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

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

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

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…

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

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 with the patronym Ibn/Ben Sughmār) are listed below. Note that the family name is rendered here per the plene spelling with vav, rather than “Sighmār,” as rendered by Goitein and an earlier generation of scholars. (Abū Zikrī) Judah (Yaḥyā) ben Moses, the most frequently mentioned member of the family, was a mer…
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

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

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

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

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…

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
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