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Cornell University Library 
DS 123.G73 1891 

"' History of the Jewsfrom the earliest tim 

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Cornell University 

The original of tliis book is in 
tlie Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 







From the Revolt against the Zendik (511 C. E.) to 

THE Capture of St. Jean d'Acre by the 

Mahometans (1291 C. E.). 


Jewish Publication Society of America. 


(-^ • 


Copyright, 1894, 
By the Jewish Publication Society of America. 





The Zendik Religion — King Kobad and Mazdak the Re- 
former — Revolt of the Jews — Mar-Zutra — Revival of the 
Schools — The Saburaim — The Talmud committed to writing 
— Tolerance of Chosru II — The Christianization of Judcea — 
The Jews under Byzantine Rule — Justinian — Persecution of 
the Samaritans — Benjamin of Tiberias — Attack on Tyre — 
The Emperor Heraclius po^g^ i 

500 — 628 c. E. 


Growth of the Jews in Europe — The Communities in Con- 
stantinople and Italy — Theodoric — Isidore of Seville — Pope 
Gregory I — The Jews of France — Chilperic and Dagobert — 
Avitus — The Jews in Spain — Controversies between Jews and 
Christians page 24 

510 — 640 c. E. 


Happy condition of the Jews in Arabia — Traditions as to their 
original settlements — Yathrib and Chaibar — The Jewish- 
Arabic tribes — The Benu-Nadhir, the Benu-Kuraiza, and 
Benu-Bachdal — The Benu-Kainukaa — The Jews of Yemen — 
Their power and influence — Conversion of Arabian tribes to 
Judaism — Abu-Kariba, the first Jewish- Himyarite king — 
Zorah Dhu-Nowas — Samuel Ibn-Adija— Mahomet^His in- 
debtedness to Judaism— Mahomet's early friendliness to the 
Jews and subsequent breach with them — His attacks on the 
Jewish tribes — The War of the Fosse— The position of the 
Jews under the Caliphs page 53 

500—662 c. E- 




The Conquests of Islam— Omar's Intolerance— Condition of 
the Jews in Babylonia— Bostanai— The Princes of the Cap- 
tivity and the Geonim— Dignity and Revenues of the Prmce 
— Communal Organization— Excommunication— Julian of 
Toledo and the Jews— The Moslems in Spain— The Jews 
and Arabic Literature— The Assyrian Vowel-system — The 
Neo-Hebraic Poetry : Jose ben Jos6— Simon ben Kaipha— 
Employment of Rhyme— Jannai — Eleazar Kaliri — Oppo- 
sition to the Study of the Talmud— The Jews in the Crimea 
and the Land of the Chazars- The False Messiah Obadia 
Abu-Isa— Solomon, the Prince of the Captivity . page ^d 

640 — 760 C. E. 


Anan ben David, the founder of Karaism — His life, writings, 
and influence — Hostility to the Talmud — Anan's innovations 
— Karaite reverence of Anan— The Exilarchate becomes 
elective — Adoption of Judaism by the Chazars — King Bulan 
and Isaac Sinjari — Bulan's Jewish successors — Charlemagne 
and the Empire of the Franks — The Jews and Commerce — 
Jewish Envoy sent to the Caliph Haroun Alrashid— Spread 
of the Jews in Europe — The Caliphs and the Jews — The 
study of philosophy — Sahal — The Kalam — Mutazilists and 
Anthropomorphists — ^Judah Judghan — The Shiur Komah — 
The Akbarites — Moses the Persian page 127 

761 — 840 c. E. 


The Jews under Louis le D6bonnaire — The Empress Judith 
and her Veneration for Judaism — Agobard, Bishop of Lyons 
— Conversion of Bishop Bodo — Amolo's effort against the 

Jews — Charles the Bald — Troubles in B6ziers and Toulouse 

Decree against the Jews in Italy — Boso of Burgundy Ba- 

silius — Leo the Philosopher — Decline of the Exilarchate 

The Geonim acquire Additional Influence — The Prayer Book 
of Amram — Mar-Zemach — Literary and Scientific Activity 
of the Jews — Decay of Karaism — Dissensions at Pumbe- 

ditha page 160 

814 — 920 c. E. 




Judaism in the Tenth Century — Saadiah, the Founder of Re- 
ligious Philosophy — Translation of the Bible into Arabic — 
Saadiah opposes Karaism — The Karaite Solomon ben Yeru- 
cham — Saadiah and the School at Sota— Saadiah tetires 
from Sora — His Literary Activity — Extinction of the Exil- 
archate — Sahal and other Karaite writers — Jews in Spain — 
The School at Cordova— Dunash ben Tamim — Chasdai — 
His services to Judaism — Menachem ben Saruk— Chasdai 
and the King of the Chazars . page x^"] 

928 — 970 c. E. 


The Gaon Sherira and his son Hai — Shefira's Historical Letter 
— The Jewish Congregations in Spain — ^Jewish Culture in 
Andalusia — The Disciples of Menachem and Dunash — ^Je- 
huda Chayuj — Contest between Chanoch and Ibn-Abitur — 
Jacob Ibn-Jau — The Jews of France — Nathan the Babylonian 
and Leontin — The Jews of Germany — Gershom and his 
Ordinances — The Emperor Henry II — The Caliph Hakem 
— The Jewish Chagan David and the Russians — Destruction 
of the Jewish-Chazar Kingdom — The Karaites — Joseph Al- 
karkassani and Levi Halevi — Hai Gaon — His Character and 
Importance — Samuel bar Chofni — Chiskiya, the last Gaon — 
Samuel Ibn-Nagrela — Jonah Ibn-Janach . , . page 231 

970 — 1050 c. E. 


Solomon Ibn-Gebirol — His early life — His poems — The states- 
man Yekutiel Ibn-Hassan befriends him — Murder of Yeku- 
tiel — Bachya Ibn-Pakuda and his moral philosophy — The 
Biblical critic Yizchaki ben Yasus — Joseph ben Chasdai, the 
Poet — Death of Samuel Ibn-Nagrela — Character of his son 
Joseph and his tragic fate — Death of Ibn-Gebirol — The 
French and German communities— Alfassi — Life and works 
of Rashi— Jewish scholars in Spain— King Alfonso, /a^<; 265 

1027 — 1070 c. E. 




The position of the Jews in Germany previous to the Crusades 
—The community of Speyer and Henry IV— The Martyrs 
of Treves and Speyer— Emmerich of Lemmgen and the 
Martyrs of May ence— Cruel persecutions at Cologne — Suffer- 
ing of the Jews in Bohemia— Pitiful death of the Jews of 
Jerusalem— Emperor Henry's justice towards the Jews— 
Return of Converts to Judaism— Death of Alfassi and 
Rashi page 297 

1096 — 1 105 C. E. 



The Jews under the Almoravides — Joseph Ibn-Sahal, Baruch 
Ibn-Albalia, Joseph Ibn-Zadik — Joseph Ibn-Migash — The 
Poets Ibn-Tabben, Ibn-Sakbel and Ibn-Ezra — Abulhassan 
Jehuda Halevi — His Poems and Philosophy — The Chozari 
— Incidents of his Life — Prince Samuel Almansur — ^Jehuda 
Halevi's Pilgrimage to Jerusalem — His Death . page ■^w 

1 105 — 1 148 c. E. 


Condition of the Jews in France — The Second Crusade — Peter 
the Venerable and the Monk Rudolph — Bernard of Clair- 
vaux and ihe Emperor Conrad — Protectors of the Jews — 
Persecutions under the Almohades — Abdulmumen and his 
Edict — The Prince Jehuda Ibn-Ezra — The Karaites in Spain 
— ^Jehuda Hadassi — The historian Abraham Ibn-Daud and 
his Philosophy — Abraham Ibn-Ezra — Rabbenu Tarn, 

page 347 
1 143— 1 170 c. E. 



The Jews of Toledo — Ibn-Shoshan, Ibn-Alfachar — The Poet 

Charisi — Sheshet Benveniste — Benjamin of Tudela The 

Jews of Provence — The Kimchis — The Communities of B6- 
ziers, Montpellier, Liinel, and Marseilles — Persecutions of 
Jews in Northern France — The Jews of England — Richard 
I — The Jews of York — The Jews of Germany — ^Judah the 


Pious, of Ratisbon — Petachya the Traveler — The Jews of 
Italy and of the Byzantine Empire — Communities in Syria 
and Palestine — The Jews of Bagdad — Mosul — 1 he Pseudo- 
Messiah, David Alroy — The Jews of India — Conversion to 
Judaism of Tartars — The Jews of Egypt . . . page 2,^1 

1 171 — 1205 c. E. 


Early years of Maimuni (Maimonides) — His journey to Fez — 
Letter of Consolation of Maimun (father of Maimonides) — 
Maimuni and the Jewish Converts to Islam — The Maimun 
Family in Palestine and Egypt — Maimuni's Comnientary on 
the Mishna — Saladin and the Jews — Letter of Maimonides to 
Yemen — The Mishne- Tor ah of Maimuni — Controversies with 
reference to this Work — Joseph Ibn-Aknin — Maimuni as a 
Physician — Jerusalem again populated by Jews — Maimuni 
and the Jews of Provence — The More Nebuchim and its im- 
portance — Death of Maimonides pa^ge 446 

1 17 1 — 1205 c. E. 


Effects of the Death of Maimuni — Abraham Maimuni and 
Joseph Ibn-Aknin — Hostility of the Papacy against the Jews 
— Pope Innocent III — The Albigenses — Emigration of Rab- 
bis to Palestine — The Lateran Council and the Jewish Badges 
— Synod of Rabbis at Mayence — The Dominicans and the 
Rise of the Inquisition — King Jayme of Aragon and his 
Physician Bachiel — Stephen Langton and the Jews of Eng- 
land — Gregory IX and Louis IX of France — The Jews of 
Hungary page 494 

1205 — 1232 c. E. 


The Opposition against Maimuni — Maimunists and anti-Mai- 
munists — Meir Abulafia— Samson of Sens — Solomon of 
Montpellier — Excommunication of the Maimunists— David 
Kimchi's energetic Advocacy of Maimuni — Nachmani— His 
Character and Work— His Relations to Maimuni, Ibn-Ezra, 


and the Kabbala— Solomon of Montpellier calls in the aid 
of the Dominicans— Moses of Coucy— Modern date of the 
Kabbala— Azriel and Ezra— Doctrines of the Kabbala— 
Jacob ben Sheshet Gerundi— The German Kabbalists— 
Eleazar of Worms— Last flicker of the Neo- Hebraic Poetry 
—The Satirical Romance : Al-Charisi and Joseph ben Sa- 
hara P"-Se 522 

1232 — 1236 C. E. 



Pope Gregory IX — Emperor Frederick H and the Jewish 
Scholars, Jehuda Ibn-Matka and Jacob Anatoli — The Jewish 
Legislation of Frederick of Austria — The Martyrs of Fulda 
and of Aquitaine — Louis XI of France and his Enmity to 
the Jews — Attacks on the Talmud — The Apostate Nicholas- 
Donin — Disputation at the French Court between Yechiel 
of Paris and Nicholas-Donin — The Martyrs at Frankfort — 
The Rabbinical Synod — The Church and Jewish Physicians 
— Moses Ibn-Tibbon and Shem-Tob Tortosi — Papal Bull 
acquitting Jews of the Blood-accusation — The Last French 
Tossafists — The Jews of England — The Jewish Parliament — 
Alfonso the Wise and the Jews of Spain — Meir de Maleaand 
his Sons — The Jewish Astronomers Don Judah Cohen and 
Don Zag Ibn-Said — The Jews of Aragon — De Penyaforte 
and the Apostate Pablo Christiani — The First Censorship of 
the Talmud — Nachmani's Disputation with Pablo — Influence 
of Nachmani — The Karaites page 563 

1236 — 1270 c. E. 


Martyrs in Germany— The Jews of Hungary and Poland — The 
Council at Buda — The Jews of Spain and Portugal — Solomon 
ben Adret, his character and writings — Raymund Martin's 
anti-Jewish Works — New antagonism to the Maimunist Phi- 
losophy—David Maimuni— Moses Taku — Meir of Rothen- 
burg— The Jews of Italy— Solomon Petit— Rudolph of Habs- 
burg — Emigration of Jews from the Rhine Provinces — Suffer- 
ings of the English Jews — Expulsion of the Jews from Eng- 
land and Gascony— Saad-Addaula — Isaac of Accho,/>a^f 610 
1270 — 1306 c. E. 




The Zendik Religion — King Kobad and Mazdak the Reformer — 
Revolt of the Jews — Mar-Zutra — Revival of the Schools — The 
Saburaim — The Talmud committed to writing — Tolerance of 
Chosru II — The Christianization of Judaea — The Jews under 
Byzantine Rule — Justinian — Persecution of the Samaritans — 
Benjamin of Tiberias — Attack on Tyre — The Emperor Heraclius. 

500 — 628 C. E. 

Hardly had the Jews recovered from the long and 
horrible persecution to which they had been sub- 
jected by King Firuz, when they were overtaken by 
fresh storms, which subverted the work of three 
centuries. Firuz had been followed by his brother, 
who reigned a short time, and was succeeded by 
Kobad (Kovad, Cabades). The latter was a weak 
king, not without good qualitie's, but he allowed 
himself to become the tool of a fanatic, and was 
prevailed upon to institute religious persecutions. 
There arose under this monarch a man who desired 
to reform the religion of the Magi and make it the 
ruling faith. Mazdak — for that was the name of this 
reformer of Magianism — believed that he had dis- 
covered a means of promoting the promised victory 
of Light over Darkness, of Ahura-Mazda over 
Angromainyus. He considered greed of property 
and lust after women the causes of all evil among 
men, and he desired to remove these causes by 
introducing community of property and of women, 
even allowing promiscuous intercourse among those 


related by ties of consanguinity. In Mazdak's 
opinion it was on the foundation of communistic 
equality that the edifice of Zoroaster's doctrine 
could most safely be raised. As he led a. virtuous 
and ascetic life, and was very earnest in his en- 
deavors to reform, he soon succeeded in gaining 
numerous adherents (about the year 501), who 
availed themselves of these advantageous liberties, 
and called themselves Zendik, or true believers of 
the Zend. King Kobad himself became Mazdak's 
faithful disciple and supporter. He issued a decree 
commanding all the inhabitants of the Persian 
Empire to accept the doctrines of Mazdak, and to 
live in accordance therewith. The lower classes 
became the most zealous of Zendiks ; they promptly 
appropriated the possessions of the rich and such 
of the women as pleased them. Thus there arose 
a confusion of the ideas of right and wrong, of 
virtue and vice, such as had never been known in 
the history of nations. Finally, the Persian nobles 
dethroned this communistic king, and threw him 
into prison ; but when Kobad escaped from confine- 
ment and, by the aid of the Huns, was again placed 
in possession of his dominions, they were unable 
to prevent Mazdak's adherents from renewing their 
licentious conduct. Many children born during 
Kobad's reign were of doubtful paternity, and no 
one could be certain of the peaceful enjoyment of 
his property. 

The Jews and Christians naturally did not escape 
the communistic plague, and although only the rich 
suffered from the legalized robbery of the Zendiks, 
the community of women struck a terrible blow at 
all classes. Chastity and holding sacred the mar- 
riage vows had, from the first, been characteristic 
virtues of the Jews, and by Talmudic law, they had 
become even more deeply rooted in their natures. 
They could not endure the thought of their wives 
and maidens exposed to violation, and the purity of 


their families, which they treasured as the apple of 
their eye, threatened with defilement. They appear 
therefore to have opposed an armed resistance to 
the Hcentious attacks of the Zendiks. An insur- 
rection of the Jews, which broke out at this juncture, 
was in all probability organized for the purpose, of 
resisting this intolerable communism. At the head 
of this insurrection stood Mar-Zutra II, the youthful 
Prince of the Captivity, who, to judge from the fact 
alone that legend has embellished his birth and 
deeds with wonderful details, must have been a 
remarkable personage. 

Mar-Zutra, born in about 496, was the son of 
Huna, a learned Prince of the Captivity, who, after 
the death of the tyrant Firuz, was invested with the 
dignity of the Exilarchate (488-508). At the time 
of his father's death, Mar-Zutra was still a young 
boy. During the period of his minority, the office 
of Prince of the Captivity was held by Pachda, his 
sister's husband, who does not seem to have been 
inclined to yield this dignity to the lawful heir. 
Mar-Zutra's grandfather, Mar-Chanina, in company 
with his grandson, sought the court of the Persian 
king, and in 511, presumably by means of valuable 
presents, succeeded in effecting Pachda's deposition 
and Mar-^utra's investiture. It was this young 
prince who now arose, sword in hand, to protect his 
brethren. The immediate cause of the insurrection 
is said to have been the murder of Mar-Isaac, the 
president of one of the academies. Mar-Zutra's 
forces consisted of four hundred Jewish warriors, 
with whose help he probably succeeded in expelling 
Mazdak's rapacious and lustful adherents from the 
territory of Jewish Babylonia, and in resisting this 
shameless violation of most sacred rights. He is 
further said to have accomplished such brilliant feats 
of arms that the troops which had been sent by the 
king to quell the insurrection were unable to with- 
stand him. Mar-Zutra is even said to have won 


independence for his people, and to have laid the 
non-Jewish inhabitants of Babylonia under tribute. 
Machuza, near Ctesiphon, became the capital of a 
small Jewish state, with the Prince of the Captivity 
for its king. 

The independence thus conquered by Mar-Zutra 
lasted nearly seven years ; the Jewish army was 
finally overcome by the superior numbers of the 
Persian host, and the Prince of the Captivity was 
taken prisoner. He and his aged grandfather, 
Mar-Chanina, were executed, and their bodies nailed 
to the cross on the bridge of Machuza (about 520). 
The inhabitants of this town -were stripped of their 
possessions, and led into captivity, and it is probable 
that this was not the full extent of the persecution. 
The members of the family of the Prince of the 
Captivity were compelled to flee. They escaped 
to Judaea, taking with them Mar-Zutra's posthum- 
ous heir, who also bore the name Mar-Zutra. 
He was educated in Judaea, and there became a 
distinguished scholar. On account of Kobad's per- 
secution, the office of Prince of the Captivity in 
Babylonia remained in abeyance for some time. 
The Talmudical academies were closed, for the 
teachers of the Law were persecuted and com- 
pelled to hide. Two of the leading m§n, Ahunai 
and Giza, fled, and the latter settled on the 
river Zab. Other fugitives probably directed their 
steps towards Palestine or Arabia. Kobad's re- 
venge for an insurrection provoked by fanaticism 
dealt a severe blow at the public life of the Baby- 
lonian Jews, which centered in the two academies, 
at Sora and Pumbeditha. However, the persecution 
does not seem to have extended over the whole of 
Persia, for Jewish soldiers served in the Persian 
army which fought against the Greek general 
Belisarius, and the Persian captain had so great a 
regard for them that he requested a truce in order 
that they might peacefully observe the feast of 


After Kobad's death, the persecution of the 
Babylonian Jews ceased. His successor, Chosroes 
Nushirvan, was not, indeed, well-disposed towards 
them, and imposed upon them and the Christians a 
poll-tax from which only children and old men were 
exempt ; yet this tax was not an indication of 
intolerance or hate, but simply a means of filling 
the imperial treasury'. 

As soon as peace was restored the representa- 
tives of the Babylonian Jews hastened to re-establish 
their institutions, to re-open the academies, and, as 
it were, to re-unite the severed links in the chain 
of tradition. The fugitive Giza, who had remained 
In hiding by the river Zab, was called to preside 
over the academy at Sora ; the' sister academy at 
Pumbeditha chose Semuna as its head. A third 
name of this period has been transmitted to pos- 
terity, that of Rabai of Rob (near Nahardea), whose 
position and office are, however, not clearly known. 
These men, with their associates and disciples, 
devoted their whole activity to the Talmud. It was 
the sole object of the attention of all thoughtful and 
pious men of that period ; it satisfied religious zeal, 
promoted tranquillity of mind,, and was also the 
means of acquiring fame, and thus furthering both 
spiritual and temporal aims. The persecution of 
the Law endeared and sanctified it, and the Talmud 
was the sacred banner around which the entire 
nation rallied. 

But the disciples of the last Amora'irh had lost all 
creative power, and were unable to continue the de- 
velopment of the Talmud. The subject-matter and 
the method of teaching were both so fully defined 
that they were incapable of extension or of amplifi- 
cation. The stagnation in Talmudical development 
was more marked than ever before. The presidents 
of the academies were content to adhere to the 
ancient custom of assembling their disciples during 
the months of Adar (March) and Ellul (September), 


giving them lectures on the traditional lore and the 
methodology of the Talmud, and assigning to them 
themes for private study. At the utmost they 
settled, according to certain principles, many points 
of practice in the ritual, the civil law and the mar- 
riage code, which had until then remained undeter- 
mined, or concerning which there was a difference of 
opinion in the academies. Their purpose was to 
render the exhaustless material of the Talmud, 
which discussion and controversy had deprived of 
all definiteness, available for practical use. In 
order to prevent the decay of religious living, it was 
necessary that all doubt and uncertainty should 
cease ; the judges stood in need of fixed principles by 
which to decide the cases brought before them, and 
all were ignorant of authoritative precepts by which 
to regulate their religious conduct. The establishing 
of the final rules for religious and legal practice after 
careful consideration of the arguments /ro and coit 
conferred upon the post-Amoraic teachers the name 
of Sabureans (Saburai). After the various opinions 
(Sebora) were reviewed, they were the ones that 
established the final, valid law. The activity of the 
Sabureans really began immediately after the com- 
pletion of the Talmud, and Giza, Semuna and 
their associates merely worked along the same 
lines ; their intention was to develop a practical 
code rather than the theory of the Law. They did not 
arrogate to themselves the authority to originate. 
First of all, Giza and Semuna, the presidents of 
the academies, engaged in the work of committing 
the Talmud to writing. They availed themselves 
partly of oral tradition, partly of written notes 
made by various persons as an aid to memory. 

As everything which proceeded from the Amoraic 
authorities appeared of importance to their succes- 
sors, they gathered up every utterance, every 
anecdote which was current in learned circles, so 
that posterity might not be deprived of what they 


deemed to be the fulness of wisdom. They made 
additions for the purpose of explaining obscure 
passages. In this form, as edited by the Sabureans, 
the contemporary communities and posterity re- 
ceived the Talmud. 

The era of the Sabureans witnessed the begin- 
nings of an art without which the sacred writings 
had remained a sealed book,- — the introduction of a 
system of vowel-points^ by means of which the 
text of Holy Writ became intelligible to the un- 
learned. This art owes its origin to a faint breath 
of "scientific research" wafted from dying Greece. 
Justinian had closed the schools of philosophy in 
Greece, and the last of her wise men sought refuge 
in Persia. From them the science of grammar 
was communicated to the Syrian Christians, these 
in turn roused in their Jewish neighbors the spirit 
of emulation in the investigation of the Scriptures, 
and this led to the adoption of vowel-points and 

The names of the immediate successors of Giza 
and Semuna have been preserved neither by the 
chronicles nor by tradition ; they were forgotten in 
the persecution with which the academies were 
again visited. In this century Magianism contended 
with Christianity for the palm of intolerance. 
Judaism was an abomination to both, and the priests 
of these two religions, of which the one preached the 
victory of light, and the other the rule of brotherly 
love, used weak kings as the instruments of hor- 
rible persecutions. 

Chosroes Nushirvan's son, Hormisdas (Ormuz) 
IV, was unlike his great father in every respect. 
His tutor and counselor, Abuzurj-Mihir, the Persian 
Seneca, is said to have invented the game of chess 
for this weakly monarch, in order to teach him the 
dependence of the king on the army and the people. 
During this philosopher's lifetime the true character 
of Hormisdas was hidden, but immediately upon 


his retirement the Nero-like nature of the king 
broke out, and overstepped the bounds of prudence 
and moderation. 

Led by the Magi, who attempted to arrest the 
approaching dissolution of their religion by perse- 
cuting the adherents of other beliefs, he vented his 
wrath upon the Jews and the Christians of his 
empire. The Talmudical academies in Sora and 
Pumbedltha were closed, -and as under Firuz and 
Kobad, many of the teachers of the Law again 
emigrated (about 581). They settled in Firuz- 
Shabur (near Nahardea), which was governed by 
an Arabian chieftain, and was, therefore, less ex- 
posed to espionage. They continued their labors 
in Firuz-Shabur, and new academies arose in that 
town, the most distinguished being that of Mari. 

Hormisdas' cruel reign, however, was of short 
duration ; the Persians became dissatisfied and 
refractory, and the political enemies of Persia 
entered its territory, and possessed themselves 
of the country. The empire of the Sassanians 
would have become the prize of some success- 
ful invader, had it not been saved by the efforts 
of the brave general Bahram Tshubin. But when 
the foolish monarch went so far as to reward 
the deliverer of his country with ingratitude and to 
dismiss him, Bahram rose against the unworthy 
king, dethroned him, and threw him into prison, in 
which he was afterwards murdered (589). At first, 
for the sake of appearances, Bahram governed in 
the name of Prince Chosru, but soon he threw off all 
disguise and ascended the Persian throne. The 
Jews of Persia and Babylonia hailed Bahram as 
their deliverer. He was for them what the Emperor 
Julian had been for the Jews of the Roman empire 
two hundred years before ; he put an end to their 
oppression and favored their endeavors. For this 
reason they espoused his cause with great devotion, 
assisted him with money and troops, and supported 


his tottering throne. Without the aid of the Jews, 
it is probable that he would have experienced 
great difficulty in retaining it for any length of time, 
for after some hesitation the Persian nation turned 
towards Chosru, the lawful heir to the throne. Only 
the army for the most part remained faithful to 
Bahram, and the Jews, doubtless, provided for the 
maintenance and the pay of the troops. The 
re-opening of the academies in Sora and Pumbe- 
ditha is undoubtedly to be attributed to the favor of 
Bahram in return for the devotion of the Persian 
Jews. Chanan of Iskia returned from Firuz-Shabur 
to Pumbeditha, and restored the ancient academic 
organization ; it is also probable that the academy 
of Sora, which enjoyed by far the greater repute, 
elected a president at this time, although his name 
is not mentioned in the chronicles. 

Bahram's rule was brought to a sudden end. 
The Byzantine emperor. Mauritius, to whom the 
fugitive Prince Chosru haa fled, sent an army to his 
aid, with which the loyal Persians united to make 
war upon Bahram. The Jews paid with their lives 
for their adherence to the usurper. At the capture 
of Machuza, a town containing a large Jewish popu- 
lation, the Persian general Mebodes put the greater 
part of the Jews to death. They probably fared 
no better in the other cities into which Chosru's 
victorious army penetrated. Bahram's army was 
vanquished, and he himself compelled to take 
refuge with the Huns. Chosru II, surnamed Firuz, 
ascended the throne of his ancestors. This prince, 
who was both just and humane, resembled his 
grandfather Nushirvan rather than Hormisdas, his 
father ; he did not hold the Jews to account for 
their participation in the revolt. Throughout his 
long reign (590-628), the two academies enjoyed 
uninterrupted prosperity. Chanan was succeeded 
by Mari bar Mar, who had founded an academy in 
Firuz-Shabur, and the president of Sora during the 


same period was a teacher of similar name, Mar 
bar Huna (609 to about 620), during whose admm- 
istration the fortunes of the Jews of Palestme 
alternated from victory to defeat. The successors 
of these teachers were Chaninai in Pumbeditha and 
Chananya in Sora ; they lived to see the victorious 
advance of the Arabs and the end of the Persian 
rule. The last of the Sassanian kings, of whom 
there were ten in the short period of twelve years, 
had no leisure to devote to the affairs of the Jewish 
population of their shattered empire ; the Jewish 
community in Babylonia continued, therefore, to 
exist in its ancient order, with the Prince of the 
Captivity at its head. During the half-century that 
elapsed between the re-opening of the academies 
under Bahram and the Arab conquest of Persia 
(589-640), three Resh-Galutas are mentioned by 
name : Kafna'i, Chaninai, and Bostanai. The last 
of these belongs to the ensuing epoch, in which, 
aided by favorable circumstances, he succeeded in 
again investing the dignity of Prince of the Cap- 
tivity with substantial power. 

The position of the Jews in Judaea during the sixth 
century was so terrible that a complete cessation 
of intellectual pursuits ensued. Like their co-reli- 
gionists of the Byzantine empire, they were without 
political standing ; the laws of the younger Theo- 
dosius were still in force, and were applied with 
increased severity by Justin I. The Jews were 
excluded from all posts of honor, and were forbidden 
to build new synagogues. The successors of this 
emperor, as narrow-minded as he and even harder 
of heart, enforced the anti-Jewish laws rigorously. 
The spirit which animated the rulers of the Eastern 
Empire against the Jews is shown by an utterance 
of the Emperor Zeno, the Isaurian upstart. In 
Antioch, where, as in all the great cities of the 
Byzantine empire, there existed the race-course 
(stadium) and the factions of the two colors, blue 


and green, one of those disturbances which seldom 
ended without bloodshed had been fomented by 
the latter party. Upon this occasion the partisans 
of the green murdered many Jews, threw their 
bodies into the flames, and burned their synagogues. 
When the Emperor Zeno was informed of this 
occurrence, he exclaimed that the sole fault of the 
partisans of the green was that they had burned only 
the dead Jews, and not the living ones as well ! 
The bigoted populace, whom the disputes of the 
clergy and the color-factions had demoralized, saw 
in their ruler's hatred of the Jews a tacit invitation 
to vent their rage upon them. The inhabitants of 
Antioch had always been inimical towards the Jews. 
When, therefore, a notorious charioteer of Con- 
stantinople, Calliopas by name, came to Antioch, 
and joining the party of the green, occasioned 
a riot, the Jews again felt the brutal barbarity of 
this faction. Its partisans had repaired to Daphne, 
near Antioch, in order to celebrate some festival, 
and there, without any sufficient motive, they 
destroyed the synagogue and its sanctuaries, and 
brutally murdered the worshipers (507). 

Meanwhile how much of the land of their fathers 
still remained in the hands of the Jews ? Chris- 
tianity had made itself master of Judaea, and had 
become the heir of Judaism. Churches and monas- 
teries arose in the Holy Land, but its former mas- 
ters were subjected to all sorts of persecution 
whenever they attempted to repair a dilapidated 
synagogue. Bishops, abbots and monks lorded it 
over Palestine, and turned it into a theater of 
dogmatic wranglings over the simple or dual nature 
of Christ. Jerusalem had ceased to be a center for 
the Jews ; it had become a thoroughly Christian 
city, the seat of an archbishop, and inaccessible 
to its own sons. The law forbidding Jews to enter 
the Holy City, which had been revived by Constan- 
tine, was, after the death of Julian, most rigorously 

12 HISTORY OF THE JEWS. ^"' ■'' 

enforced by the authorities. Tiberias, the stately 
city on the lake, alone maintained its academical 
rank, and under the presidency of Mar-Zutra 11 
and his descendants, it became a seat of authority tor 
the Jews of other countries. Even the Jewish king 
of Arabia voluntarily submitted to the exhortations 
addressed to him from Tiberias. But Christianity 
had acquired a hold even there, and Tiberias was 
also the seat of a bishopric. The mountain cities 
of Galilee were inhabited by Jews, who probably 
followed the same occupations as their forefathers, 
namely, agriculture and the cultivation of the olive. 

Nazareth, the cradle of Christianity, where the 
most beautiful women in all Palestine were to be 
found, seems to have been mostly populated by 
Jews, as it had not been raised to the rank of a 
bishopric. Scythopolis (Bethsan), which became 
the capital of Palsestina Secunda during this cen- 
tury, and Neapolis (Shechem), the capital of the 
Samaritans since Samaria had become Christian, 
had Jewish inhabitants. But in all these cities, with 
the exception of Nazareth, the Jews seem to have 
been in the minority, insignificant in comparison 
with the number of the Christians. 

There probably existed an educational system 
among the Jews of Palestine, but it must have been 
inadequate and unimportant, since, with the excep- 
tion of Mar-Zutra, not even the names of the 
teachers are known. Until the time of Justinian 
the Jews of Palestine and the Byzantine empire, 
whatever may have been their civil disabilities, 
enjoyed complete religious liberty ; the em.perors 
did not interfere in the affairs of the heart. Jus- 
tinian was the emperor who, besides imposing 
greater civil restrictions, first interfered in matters 
of conscience. It was he who promulgated the 
disgraceful law that Jewish witnesses were not to 
be allowed to testify against Christians, and that 
they were to be considered competent witnesses 


only in their own cases (532). Compared with the 
Samaritans, the Jews were a favored class, for the 
evidence of the former had no validity whatever, 
and they were not even allowed to dispose of their 
property by will. This was an act of revenge 
against the Samaritans, who had several times 
risen in revolt against the imperial power, and on 
one occasion had set up a king in the person of 
Julian ben Sabar (about 530). As the Jews had 
not taken part in this insurrection, they were favored 
to a certain extent. Meanwhile, however, Justinian 
also published an anti- Jewish law. Although the 
Jews and Samaritans were excluded, like all here- 
tics, from offices of honor, they were obliged by law 
to assume the onerous and expensive decurionate 
(magisterial office), without being permitted, how- 
' ever, to enjoy the privileges attached to it, namely, 
- exemption from exile and flogging. " They shall 
bear the yoke, although they sigh under it ; but they 
shall be deemed unworthy of every honor" (537). 

Justinian was one of those rulers who, in spite 
of narrowness of mind and wickedness, have their 
own opinions on religious matters, and desire to 
assert them without regard for their subjects' peace 
of mind. Justinian wished to carry out his views 
concerning the Christian celebration of Easter, and 
he therefore forbade the Jews to celebrate the 
Passover before the Easter of the Christians. The 
governors of the provinces had strict orders to 
enforce this prohibition. Thus, whenever the Jewish 
feast of the Passover preceded the Christian Easter, 
in the year before leap-year, the Jews incurred 
heavy fines for holding divine service and eating 
unleavened bread (about 540). 

Other invasions were made by Justinian on the 
territory of religious affairs. A Jewish congregation, 
probably in Constantinople or Csesarea, had been 
for some time divided against itself. One party 
wanted the reading of the portions of the Penta- 

CH I' 

teuch and the Prophets to be followed by a transla- 
tion into Greek, for the benefit of the ^H'terate and 
the women. The pious members on the otner 
hand, especially the teachers of the Law, enter- 
tained an aversion to the use of the language of 
their tormentors and of the Church in divme ser- 
vice, probably also on the ground that no time 
would be left for the Agadic exposition. Ihe dis- 
pute became so violent that the Grecian party laid 
the matter before the emperor, and appealed to 
him, as judge, in the last instance. Justinian of 
course pronounced judgment in favor of the Greek 
translation, and recommended to the Jews the use 
of the Septuagint or of Aquila's translation in their 
divine service. He also commanded that in all 
the provinces of his empire the lessons from the 
Holy Scriptures be translated into the vernacular. 
Thus far Justinian was in the right. It is true 
that he also forbade, under threat of corporal 
punishment, the excommunication of the Greek 
party or party of innovation by those that clung 
to the old liturgical system ; but even this may 
be regarded as an act of justice, as the emperor 
desired to guarantee liberty in matters connected 
with the liturgy. But another clause of the same 
rescript proves unmistakably that in this matter 
he was consulting the interests of the Church 
alone, laboring, as he did, under the delusion that 
the use of a Greek translation in the synagogical 
services, especially of the Septuagint, Christian in 
coloring, would win over the Jews to the Christian 
faith. He decreed that all the Jewish congregations 
of the Byzantine empire, naturally including those 
which entertained no desire in this direction, should 
use a Greek or Latin translation of the lessons for 
each Sabbath, and he forbade the use of the Agadic 
exposition, which had been customary until then. 
Justinian desired to suppress the national concep- 
tions of the Holy Scripture in favor of a translation 


which had been altered in many places to suit the 
purposes of Christianity. 

It was probably Justinian who forbade the recital 
of the confession of faith, " Hear, O Israel, the 
Lord is one," in the synagogues, because it seemed 
a protest against the doctrine of the Trinity. He 
also forbade the prayer, " Holy, holy, holy," because 
the Jews added an Aramaic sentence, by way of ex- 
planation, in order that this prayer might not, as the 
Christians held, be taken as a confirmation of the 
Trinity. Finally, he forbade the reading of the 
prophet Isaiah on the Sabbath, ' so that the Jews 
might be deprived of this source of comfort for their 
present sorrows and of hope for future happiness. 

The service in the synagogue was to be a means 
of converting the Jews, and the spirit of Judaism, 
manifesting itself in Agadic expositions and hom- 
ilies, was to be made to yield to Christian doctrines, 
the path to which was to be leveled by a method of 
interpretation showing Christ to be prefigured in 
the Old Testament. It appears, therefore, that 
the despotic Justinian by no means proposed to 
grant liberties to the synagogue, but that he desired, 
on the contrary, to impose a species of restraint. 
He was very zealous in exacting obedience to this 
decree, and he commanded his minister, Areobindus, 
to communicate the edict concerning the translation 
of the lessons read in the synagogue to all the 
officers of the provinces, and to enjoin upon them 
to watch strictly over its rigorous execution (Feb- 

This malignant decree was, however, followed by 
no serious consequences ; the need of a translation 
of the Bible was not sufficiently pressing among the 
Jews to oblige them to make use of one. The 
party which desired to introduce a translation stood 
isolated, and it was not difficult to conduct divine 
service in the customary manner and to escape the 
notice of the authorities in those instances in which 

1 6 HISTORY OF THE JEWS. '^^' ^' 

the congregation was at peace. The preachers 
continued to make use of the Agada, even intro- 
ducing covert attacks upon anti-Jewish Byzantium 
into their sermons. '"There are creeping things 
innumerable' (Psahn civ) signifies the _ countless 
edicts which the Roman empire (Byzantium) pub- 
lishes against us ; the ' small and great beasts ' are 
the dukes, governors, and captains ; whosoever of 
the Jews associates himself with them shall become 
an object of scorn." "As an arrow is not perceived 
until it has pierced the heart, so it is with the de- 
crees of Esau (Byzantium). His shafts come sud- 
denly, and are not felt until the word is spoken for 
death or imprisonment. Their writings are ' the 
arrow that flieth by day.' " In this strain the 
teachers of the Law preached in Judaea, 

The Jews of Palestine had but little cause to be 
satisfied with Justinian's rule, which oppressed them 
doubly with its extortionate taxation and its reli- 
gious hypocrisy. Stephanus, the governor of Palaes- 
tina Prima, doubtless no better than the majority of 
officials in Justinian's time, helped to irritate the 
Jews, by whom he was thoroughly hated. The time 
was past, however, when the Jews could angrily 
shake the galling yoke from their necks, and take 
up arms against their oppressors. The Samaritans, 
who had been hard pressed since the days of the 
Emperor Zeno, were more passionate and venture- 
some, but their numerous insurrections resulted in 
forging new chains for them, especially since the 
days of their short-lived king, Julian, when they had 
so ruthlessly massacred their hated enemies, the 
Christians. They were compelled, with even greater 
rigor than the Jews, to embrace Christianity, and 
all who refused to submit forfeited the right of dis- 
posing of their property. Although Sergius, bishop 
of Cssarea, declared that the obstinacy of the 
Samaritans had decreased, and that they embraced 
Christianity with ever-increasing sincerity, and 


although he succeeded in inducing Justinian to 
mitigate the severity of the harsh laws which had 
been promulgated against them, they nevertheless 
concealed in their hearts the deepest hatred toward 
their tormentors. 

On the occasion of a chariot-race in Csesarea, 
the capital, where the jealousy of the color-factions 
against one another never allowed an event of that 
kind to pass off without a riot, the Samaritans threw 
off all restraint, and fell upon the Christians. The 
Jewish youth mjide common cause with them, and 
together they massacred their Christian opponents 
in Caesarea and destroyed their churches. Ste- 
phanus, the governor, hastened to the aid of the 
Christians, but the Samaritans pressed him and his 
military escort so hard that he was obliged to take 
refuge in his official residence. Eventually they 
killed him in his own house, and spread terror 
throughout the city and the surrounding country 
(July, 556). The Samaritans probably counted upon 
the support of one of their countrymen, Arsenios 
by name, the all-powerful favorite of Empress Theo- 
dora, with whose secret commissions he was en- 
trusted. Stephanus' widow hurried to Constanti- 
nople to acquaint the emperor with this disturbance 
and the death of her husband, whereupon Justinian 
ordered Amantius, the governor of the East resi- 
dent in Antioch, to intervene with an armed force. 

Amantius found it easy to execute this command, 
as the movement was not serious, but few of the 
Samaritans and Jews of Palestine being concerned 
in it. Punishment was meted out only to the guilty, 
but was in keeping with the spirit of the times, and 
consisted of beheading, hanging, loss of the right 
hand, and confiscation of property. 

Justinian's successor, Justin the Younger, appears 
to have made no change in the anti-Jewish laws. 
Although he renewed the oppressive enactments 
of his predecessor against the Samaritans, whom 


he deprived of the right to dispose of their prop- 
erty by testament or by deed, there is no edict of 
his which was prejudicial to the Jews. Under the 
two excellent emperors, Tiberius and Mauritius, no 
mention is made of the Jews. It is not until the 
accession of the usurper Phocas, who renewed 
the times of Caligula and Commodus, that a disturb- 
ance occurs, in the course of which the Jews were car- 
ried away to a deed of brutal violence, which proves 
that the arbitrariness of the officials and the arro- 
gance of the clergy must have cgjised intolerable 
suffering among them. 

In Antioch, hatred had existed between Jews and 
Christians for centuries, and had been intensified 
by constant friction. Suddenly the Jews fell upon 
their Christian neighbors, perhaps at the races in 
the circus, and retaliated for the injuries which they 
had suffered ; they killed all that fell into their 
hands, and threw their bodies into the fire, as the 
Christians had done to them a century before. The 
Patriarch Anastasius, surnamed the Sinaite, an 
object of special hate, was shamefully abused by 
them, and his body dragged through the streets 
before he was put to death. When the news of 
this rebellion reached Phocas, he appointed Bono- 
sus governor of the East, and Cotys, commander 
of the troops, and charged them to bring the rebels 
to account. But the Jews of Antioch fought so 
bravely that the Roman army could obtain no , ad- 
vantage over them. It was only when the campaign 
was renewed with numerous troops collected from 
the neighboring country that they succumbed to 
the Roman generals, who killed part of them, muti- 
lated others, and sent the rest into exile (Septem- 
ber and October, 608). 

The misdeeds of the Emperor Phocas afforded 
the Jews an unexpected opportunity to give vent to 
their deep resentment. He had dispossessed his 
predecessor Mauritius, and this provoked the Per- 


sian king, Chosru II, the son-in-law of the latter, to 
attack the Roman possessions in the East. A 
Persian host inundated Asia Minor and Syria, in 
spite of the fact that Heraclius, the newly elected 
emperor, sent news to the Persian king of Phocas' 
well-merited chastisement, and begged for peace. 

A division of the Persian army under the general 
Sharbarza descended from the heights of Lebanon 
in order to wrest Palestine from the Byzantine 
scepter. On hearing of the weakness of the Chris- 
tian arms and of the advance of the Persian troops, 
the Jews of Palestine felt a fierce desire for battle. 
It seemed to them that the hour had come for 
revenge upon their twofold enemy, Roman and 
Christian, for the humiliations which they had borne 
for centuries. Tiberias was the hotbed of this war- 
like movement, and it was started by a man named 
Benjamin, who possessed a prodigious fortune, 
which he employed in enlisting and arming Jewish 
troops. A call was issued to all the Jews of Pales- 
tine to assemble and join the Persian army, and it 
met with a ready response. The sturdy Jewish 
inhabitants of Tiberias, of Nazareth, and of the 
mountain cities of Galilee, flocked to the Persian 
standard. Filled with rage, they spared neither the 
Christians nor their churches in Tiberias, and prob- 
ably put an end to the bishopric. With Sharbarza's 
army they marched on Jerusalem, in order to wrest 
the Holy City from the Christians. The Jews of 
southern Palestine joined their countrymen, and with 
the help of the Jews and a band of Saracens, the 
Persian general took Jerusalem by storm (July, 
614). Ninety thousand Christians are said to have 
perished in Jerusalem ; but the story that the Jews 
bought the Christian prisoners from the Persians, 
and killed them in cold blood is a pure fiction. 

In their rage, however, the Jews relentlessly de- 
stroyed the Christian sanctuaries. All the churches 
and monasteries were burned, and the Jews undoubt- 


edly had a greater share in this deed than the Per- 
sians. Had not Jerusalem — the original possession 
of the Jews — been torn from them by violence and 
treachery ? Did they not feel that the Holy City 
was as foully desecrated by the adoration of the 
cross and of the bones of the martyrs as by the 
idolatries of Antiochus Epiphanes and Hadrian? 
The Jews seem to have deluded themselves with 
the hope that the Persians would grant them Jeru- 
salem and the surrounding territory whereon to 
establish a commonwealth. 

With the Persians, the Jews swept through Pales- 
tine, destroyed the monasteries which abounded in 
the country, and expelled or killed the monks. A 
detachment of Jews from Jerusalem, Tiberias, Gali- 
lee, Damascus, and even Cyprus, undertook an 
incursion against Tyre, having been invited by the* 
four thousand Jewish inhabitants of that city to fall 
upon the Christians on Easter-night and to mas- 
sacre them. The Jewish host is said to' have con- 
sisted of 20,000 men. The expedition, however, 
miscarried, as the Christians of Tyre had been 
informed of the impending danger. They antici- 
pated their enemies, seizing their Jewish fellow-citi- 
zens and throwing them into prison ; then they 
awaited the arrival of the Jewish troops, who found 
the gates closed and fortified. The invading Jews 
revenged themselves by destroying the churches 
around Tyre. As often, however, as the Christians 
of Tyre heard of the destruction of a church, they 
killed a hundred of their Jewish prisoners, and threw 
their heads over the walls. In this manner 2000 
of the latter are said to have met their death. 
The besiegers, disheartened by the death of their 
brethren, withdrew, and were pursued by the 

The Palestinian Jews were relieved of the sight 
of their enemies for about fourteen years, and the 
immediate result of these wars filled them with joy. 


No doubt many a Christian became converted 
through fear, or because he despaired of the con- 
tinuance of Christianity. The conversion of a monk 
who of his own free will embraced Judaism was a 
. great triumph for the Jews. This monk had spent 
many years in the monastery on Mount Sinai in 
doing penance and reciting litanies. Suddenly he 
was assailed by doubts as to the truth of Chris- 
tianity. He alleged that he had been led to this 
change by vivid dreams, which showed him on one 
side Christ, the apostles, and the martyrs enveloped 
in gloomy darkness, while on the other side were 
Moses, the prophets, and the holy men of Judaism, 
bathed in light. Weary of this internal struggle, 
he descended from Mount Sinai, crossed the desert 
to Palestine, and finally went to Tiberias, where he 
declared his settled determination to embrace Ju- 
daism. He offered himself for circumcision, adopted 
the name of Abraham, married a Jewess, and hence- 
forward became a zealous advocate of Judaism and 
a vehement opponent of his former religion. 

Meanwhile the hope which the Jews had placed 
in the Persian conquerors had not been fulfilled. 
The Persians did not deliver up to them the city of 
Jerusalem, and did nothing to promote the rise of a 
free Jewish commonwealth, besides which they prob- 
ably oppressed the Jews with taxes. There thus 
arose great discord between the allies, which ended 
in the Persian general's seizing many of the Jews of 
Palestine and banishing them to Persia. This only 
served to increase the discontent of the Jews, and 
induced them to change their opinions and to lean 
more towards the Emperor Heraclius. This prince, 
who underwent the rare transformation, by which a 
dull coward is in a night changed into an enthusi- 
astic hero, was anxious to conciliate his Jewish 
enemies in order to use them against his chief 
opponent. He therefore entered into a formal 
alliance with the Jews, the negotiations for which 



were probably conducted by Benjamin of Tiberias. 
This treaty secured for them immunity from punish- 
ment for the injuries which they had inflicted on the 
Christians, and held out to them other advantages 
which have not come down to us (about 627). 

Heraclius' victories, coupled with Chosru's inca- 
pacity, and the revolt which Syroes, the son of the 
latter, had raised against his father, won back for 
the Greek emperor all those provinces which were on 
the point of being permanently constituted Persian 
satrapies. After the conclusion of peace between 
Heraclius and Syroes, who dethroned and killed his 
aged father, the Persians quitted Judaea, and again 
the country fell under Byzantine rule (628). In the 
autumn of the same year the emperor proceeded 
in triumph to Jerusalem. On his journey he touched 
at Tiberias, where he was hospitably entertained by 
Benjamin, who also furnished the Byzantine army 
with the means of subsistence. In the course of 
conversation the emperor asked him why he had 
shown such hatred towards the Christians, to which 
Benjamin ingenuously replied, " Because they are 
the enemies of my religion." 

When Heraclius entered the Holy City he was 
met by the vehement demand of the monks and 
the Patriarch Modestus for the extirpation of all 
the Jews of Palestine, at once a measure of revenge 
for their past treatment of the Christians, and a 
safeguard against the recurrence of the outrage if 
similar incursions should happen. The emperor 
protested, however, that he had solemnly and in 
writing promised immunity from punishment to the 
Jews, and to violate this pledge would make him 
a sinner before God and a traitor before men. 
The fanatical monks replied that the assassination 
of the Jews, far from being a crime, was, on the 
contrary, an offering acceptable to God. They 
offered to take the entire responsibility for the sin 
upon their own shoulders, and to appoint a special 


week of fasting by way of atonement. This argu- 
ment convinced the bigoted emperor and sufficed 
to quiet his conscience ; he instituted a persecution 
of the Jews throughout Palestine, and massacred 
all that failed to conceal themselves in the moun- 
tains or escape to Egypt. 

There still existed Jewish congregations in Egypt, 
even in Alexandria itself, whence the jews had been 
expelled by the fanatic Cyril in the beginning of 
the fifth century. A certain Jew of Alexandria, 
Urbib by name, celebrated for his wealth and gene- 
rosity, during a pestilential famine charitably fed 
the needy without distinction of religion. The 
Jews of Alexandria, moved by warm sympathy for 
their suffering coreligionists, fraternally welcomed 
the unhappy fugitives from Judaea, the victims of 
monkish fanaticism. Heraclius seized upon this 
occasion to renew the edicts of Hadrian and Con- 
stantine, by which the Jews were forbidden to enter 
Jerusalem or its precincts (628). 



Growth of the Jews in Europe— The Communities in Constantinople 
and Italy — Theodoric— Isidore of Seville— Pope Gregory I.— The 
Jews of France — Chilpericand Dagobert — Avitus — The Jews in 
Spain — Controversies between Jews and Christians. 

510 — 640 C. E. 

The Jews of Europe had no history, in the proper 
sense of the word, until a conjunction of fortunate 
circumstances enabled them to develop their powers, 
and to produce certain works whereby they wrested 
the pre-eminence from their brethren in the East. 
Until then there are only chronicles of martyrdom 
at the hands of the victorious Church, monotonously 
repeated with but little variation in all countries. 
" Dispersed and scattered throughout the world," 
says a celebrated author of this period, " the Jews, 
though subject to the Roman yoke, nevertheless 
live in accordance with their own laws." The only 
point of interest is the manner in which the Jews 
settled in the European states, and lived unmo- 
lested, in friendly intercourse with their neighbors, 
until Christianity gradually encompassed them, and 
deprived them of the very breath of life. In the 
Byzantine empire, in Ostrogothic Italy, in Prankish 
and Burgundian Gaul, • in Visigothic Spain, every- 
where we are confronted with the same phenomena. 
The people, even the barons and the princes, were 
entirely free from intolerance, felt no antipathy 
against the Jews, and associated with them without 
prejudice ; to the higher clergy, however, the pros- 
perity and comfort of the Jews appeared as a 
humiliation of Christianity. They desired the fulfill- 
ment of the curse which the founder of Christianity 


is said to have pronounced on the Jewish nation, 
and every anti-Jewish, narrow-minded thought which 
the fathers of the Church had uttered against them 
was to be literally fulfilled by embittering their life. 
At the councils and synods, the Jewish question 
occupied the clerical delegates quite as fully as dog- 
matic controversies and the prevailing immorality, 
which was continually gaining ground among the 
clergy and the laity, in spite, or perhaps in conse- 
quence of, ecclesiastical severity and increased aus- 
terity in observances. 

It is remarkable, however, that the Roman bishops, 
the recognized champions of Christianity, treated 
the Jews with the utmost toleration and liberality. 
The occupants of the Papal throne shielded the 
Jews, and exhorted the clergy and the princes 
against the use of force in converting them to 
Christianity. This liberality was in truth an incon- 
sistency, for the Church, following the lines of 
development prescribed by the Council of Nice, 
had to be exclusive, and therefore hard-hearted and 
given to persecution. It could only say to Jew, 
Samaritan, and heretic : " Believe as I believe, or 
die," the sword supplying the lack of argument. 
But who would not prefer the benevolent inconsist- 
ency of Gregory the Holy to the terrible consist- 
ency of the bloodthirsty kings Sisebut and Dago- 
bert, who, ecclesiastically speaking, were more 
Catholic than the Pope? But the toleration of 
even the most liberal of the bishops was not of 
much consequence. They merely refrained from 
proselytizing by means of threats of banishment or 
death, because they were convinced that in this 
manner the Church would be peopled with false 
Christians, who would curse it in their inmost hearts. 
But they did not hesitate to fetter and harass the 
Jews, and to place them next to the serfs in the 
scale of society. This course appeared absolutely 
just and pious to almost all the representatives of 


Christianity during the centuries of barbarism. 
Those nations, however, which were baptized in the 
Arlan creed showed less intolerance of the Jews. 
The more Arianism was driven out of Europe, and 
the more it gave way before the Catholic religion, 
the more the Jews were harassed by proselytizing 
zeal. Their valiant resistance continually incited 
fresh attacks. Their heroic constancy in the face 
of permanent degradation is, therefore, a noble 
trait which history ought not to conceal. Nor were 
the Jews devoid of all knowledge in those illiterate 
times. They were certainly better acquainted with 
the records of their religion than the inferior clergy, 
for the latter were not capable of reading their 

Our survey of the settlement of the Jews in Europe 
begins, on our way from Asia, with the Byzantine 
empire. They lived in its cities before Christianity 
had begun its world-conquest. In Constantinople 
the Jewish community inhabited a separate quarter, 
called the brass-market, where there was also a 
large synagogue, from which they were, however, 
expelled by one of the emperors, Theodosius II or 
Justinus II, and the synagogue was converted into 
the " Church of the Mother of God." 

The holy vessels of the ruined Temple, after hav- 
ing been transported from place to place, had at 
last been deposited at Carthage, where they re- 
mained for nearly a century. It was with pain that 
the Jews of the Byzantine capital witnessed their 
removal to Constantinople by Belisarius, the con- 
queror of the empire of the Vandals. The Jewish 
trophies were displayed in triumph along with 
Gelimer, the Prince of the Vandals and grandson 
of Genseric, and the treasures of that uqfortunate 
monarch. A certain Jew, filled with profound grief 
on seeing the living memorials of Judaea's former 
greatness in the hands of her enemies, remarked to 
a courtier that it was not advisable to deposit them 


in the Imperial palace, for they might bring- misfor- 
tune in their train. They had brought misfortune 
to Rome, which had been pillaged by Genseric, and 
they had brought down adversity upon his succes- 
sor, Gelimer, and his capital. It would therefore be 
better to remove these holy relics to Jerusalem, 
where they had been wrought by King Solo- 
mon. No aooner had the Emperor Justinian been 
informed of this observation than his superstitious 
mind began to be fearful of the consequences, and 
he accordingly removed the Temple vessels in 
haste to Jerusalem, where they were deposited in a 

In Greece, Macedonia, and Illyria the Jews had 
been settled a long time, and although the Chris- 
tian emperors persecuted them, and laid them under 
considerable restraint, they nevertheless allowed 
them autonomy in communal affairs, and the appli- 
cation of their own system of jurisprudence in civil 
suits. Every community had a Jewish overseer 
(ephoros), who had the control of the market prices, 
weights and measures. In Italy the Jews are known 
to have been domiciled as early as the time of the 
Republic, and to have been in enjoyment of full 
political rights until these were curtailed by the 
Christian emperors. They probably looked with 
excusable pleasure on the fall of Rome, and exulted 
to see the ruling city of the world become the prey 
of the barbarians and the mockery of the whole 
world, and felt that the lamentation over Jerusalem 
could be literally applied to Rome as well : " She 
that was great among the nations, and princess 
among the provinces, how is she become tribu- 
tary ?" After the Gepidse and the Heruli, by whom 
Rome had been temporarily enslaved, came the 
Goths, who threw the name of Rome into oblivion 
by founding the Ostrogothic empire under Theo- 
doric (Dioterich) of the house of the Amali. 

The Jews also had to bear a share of the 


calamities which the savage swarms of barbarian 
tribes brought upon the Roman world. With the 
adoption of Christianity the Germanic and Scla- 
vonic hordes learnt also intolerance from the 
Romans, their teachers, and in their rude minds it 
assumed even more hateful forms. The Jewish 
preachers of this time had to complain of new foes. 
" See, O Lord, how many are mine enemies ! If 
Esau (Rome) hateth Jacob," thus the Agadists 
expressed themselves, " he hath at least some spe- 
cious ground, for he was robbed of his birthright ; 
but what hath Israel done to the barbarians and the 
Goths ?" But of what could the barbarians rob the 
Jews ? They had long since forfeited their political 
independence, and their spiritual fortune was secure 
against destruction. Rome, however, was robbed 
by the barbarians of its crown, and clothed with the 
dress of the slave. 

Rome did not remain the political center of 
Italy, Ravenna, in alternation with Verona, being 
the residence of the Ostrogothic emperors. In 
these cities, as also in Rome, Milan, and Genoa, 
Jewish communities existed at this period. The 
Jews were also well represented in Lower Italy, 
especially in the beautiful town of Naples, in 
Palermo, Messina, and Agrigentum, on the island 
of Sicily, and in Sardinia. In Palermo there lived 
Jewish families of ancient nobility, who bore the 
name of Nasas (Nassi). The laws governing the 
Italian Jews were the decrees of Theodosius, which 
gave them autonomy in the management of the 
internal affairs of their communities, but forbade 
the building of new synagogues, the assumption of 
judicial offices and military rank, and the possession 
of Christian slaves. The last point frequently led 
to friction between the clergy and the Jews. The 
repeated invasions of the barbarian tribes and the 
numerous wars had increased the number of pris- 
oners, and the Jews carried on a brisk trade in 


slaves, although they were not the only slave 
merchants. The depopulated cities and the deso- 
late fields rendered the slave-market a necessity. 
Laborers were thus obtained for agriculture and 
the business of daily life. The Jewish slave-owners 
made a practice of converting their slaves to Ju- 
daism, partly because there was a Talmudical ordi- 
nance which directed that they should either be 
circumcised, or, if they resisted, be sold again, 
and partly in order not to be hindered in the exer- 
cise of religious duties by the presence of foreign 
elements in the house. The slaves themselves 
preferred to remain with their Jewish masters, 
who, with few exceptions, treated them humanely, 
regarded them as members of the family, and 
shared their joys and sorrows. 

Although the restrictions of the Theodosian code 
had the force of law, it may be questioned whether 
they were really carried into effect. The bishops of 
the apostolic see, who had learnt political shrewd- 
ness from the Roman statesmen, were too prudent 
to be fanatic. The Pope Gelasius had a friend, a Jew 
of Telesina, who bore the title of " the most illustri- 
ous " (clarissimus), and at his intercession his rela- 
tive Antoninus was warmly recommended by the 
Pope to the bishop Secundinus. A charge having 
been brought against a Jew named Basilius, of 
selling Christian slaves from Gaul, he pleaded that 
he only sold heathen slaves, and that it was impos- 
sible to prevent a few Christians from being included 
among a number of other slaves ; this excuse was 
accepted by Pope Gelasius. 

When Italy became Ostrogothic under Theodoric, 
the Jews of that country were placed in a peculiar 
position. Hostile outbreaks were not infrequent 
during this reign, but at bottom they were not 
difected against the Jews, but against this hated 
Arian monarch. Theodoric, although an Arian, 
was by no means favorably disposed towards the 

30 HISTORV OF THfi JeWS. CM. 11. 

Jews, whose conversion he desired. On a certain 
occasion, he had his counselor and minister Cassio- 
dorus write the following to the community of Milan : 
"Why dost thou seek temporal peace, O Judah, 
when because of thine obduracy thou art unable to 
find eternal peace ? " The Jews of Genoa having 
requested permission to put their synagogue into 
better repair, Theodoric sent them the following 
reply : " Why do you desire that which you should 
avoid? We accord you, indeed, the permission 
you request, but we blame the wish, which is tainted 
with error. We cannot command religion, however, 
nor compel any one to believe contrary to his 
conscience." He permitted the Jews neither to 
erect new synagogues, nor to decorate old ones, but 
simply allowed them to repair such as were falling 
into decay. 

The Ostrogothic ruler was zealous in preserving 
internal peace and in upholding the laws, and ac- 
cordingly he was just to the Jews whenever any 
undeserved injury was inflicted upon them. The 
Catholics entertained a secret hate of the Arians, 
and with the deepest resentment saw Arianism on 
the throne, while the Catholic Church was merely 
magnanimously tolerated : they seized upon every 
opportunity of thwarting Theodoric, when it could 
be done with impunity. On one occasion, when a 
few slaves rose against their Jewish masters in 
Rome, the mob gathered, burnt the synagogue, 
illtreated the Jews, and plundered their property, 
in order to laugh Theodoric's edicts to scorn. Theo- 
doric, having been informed of this, bitterly re- 
proached the Roman Senate, which was now but 
the shadow of its former self, for permitting such 
misconduct, and imperiously charged it to discover 
the culprits and oblige them to make compensation 
for the damage they had done. As the leaders 
of the riot were not discovered, Theodoric con- 
demned the Roman commune to make compensa- 

CH. 11. f HE lTALIA^f JEWS. 3 1 

tion. This severity roused the entire Catholic 
Church against him. 

It is creditable to the Italian Jews of this period 
that, in spite of the general deterioration and de- 
moralization, the political and ecclesiastical litera- 
ture of the times imputes no other crimes to them 
than obduracy and unbelief. Their religion shielded 
them- from the prevailing wickedness. Cassiodo- 
rus, who became a monk after resigning all his 
dignities, composed among other works a homiletic 
exposition of the Psalms, in which he makes fre- 
quent reference to the Jews, apostrophizing them, 
and endeavoring to convert them. It is character- 
istic of this period that Cassiodorus, — who, besides 
Boethius, was the only notability of the sixth cen- 
tury possessing a certain philosophic culture — de- 
signated the Jews by the most opprobrious names. 
It would be easy to compile a dictionary of abusive 
words from his writings ; he called them " scorpions 
and lions," "wild asses," "dogs and unicorns." 

In spite of the antipathy of the leaders of opinion, 
the Jews of Italy were happy in comparison with 
their brethren of the Byzantine empire. Theodoric's 
successors, his beautiful and accomplished daughter 
Amalasuntha, and her husband and murderer Theo- 
datus, a weakling with philosophical pretensions, 
followed his principles. The Jews supported King 
Theodatus with tenacious fidelity, even when he 
himself had given up all hope. The Jews of Naples 
risked their lives rather than come under Justinian's 
scourge. Belisarius, the conqueror of the Vandal 
empire, the laurel-crowned hero, trembled at Jus- 
tinian's wrath, and allowed himself to be used as 
the blind tool of the latter's tyranny ; he had already 
subjugated the whole of Sicily and the southern 
extremity of the Italian peninsula, and now was 
swiftly approaching Naples, the largest and most 
beautiful city of Lower Italy. On his summons to 
the inhabitants to surrender, the Neapolitans di- 


vided into two factions. But even the war party 
was not disposed to sacrifice itself for the Ostro- 
goths, who were hated in Italy. The_ Jews aione, 
and two lawyers, Pastor and Asclepiadotus, who 
had been raised to fame through the influence of the 
Ostrogothic kings, opposed the surrender of the 
city to the Byzantine general. The Jews, who were 
wealthy and patriotic, offered their lives and their 
fortunes for the defense of the city. In order to 
allay the fear of scarcity of provisions, they prom- 
ised to supply Naples with all necessaries during 
the siege. The Jews, unaided, defended that part 
of the city which was nearest the sea, and fought 
with such bravery, that the enemy did not venture 
to direct their attacks against that quarter. A con- 
temporary historian (Procopius) has raised a glorious 
monument to the heroic bravery of the Jews of 

Having one night, by means of treachery, pene- 
trated into the city, the enemy almost made them- 
selves masters of it (536), but the Jews, with the 
courage of lions, still continued the struggle. It 
was only at break of day, when the enemy had 
overwhelmed them with numbers, and many of their 
own side had been killed, that the Jews quitted 
their posts. It is not related how the surviving 
Jewish combatants fared- — certainly no better than 
their confederates Asclepiadotus and Pastor, who 
fell victims to the fury of the people. Now occurred 
that which the Italian Jews had anticipated with 
horror ; they came under the rule of the Emperor 
Justinian, whose anti-Jewish ideas place him in a 
class with Hadrian, Constantlne, and Firuz. Italy, 
ruler of the world, sank to the rank of a province 
(Exarchate) of the Byzantine empire, and the Jews 
of Italy trembled before the exarch of Ravenna. 

This situation, however, did not continue long. 
Justinian's successors were obliged to abandon a 
great part of Italy forever to the powerful and 


uncouth Lombards (589), who, half heathen, half 
Arian, troubled themselves but little about the 
Jews. At all events there are no exceptional laws 
for the Jews to be met with in the Longobard 
code. Even when the Lombards embraced the 
Catholic faith, the position of the Jews in Italy- 
remained bearable. The heads of the Catholic 
Church, the Popes, were free from extreme intoler- 
ance. Gregory I (590-604), called the Great and 
the Holy, who laid the foundation of the power of 
Catholicism, gave utterance to the principle that 
the Jews should be converted only by means of 
gentle persuasion and not by violence. He con- 
scientiously maintained their rights of Roman citizen- 
ship, which had been recognized by various em- 
perors. In the territory which was subject to the 
papal sway in Rome, Lower Italy, Sicily, and Sar- 
dinia, he steadfastly persisted in this course, in the 
face of the fanatical bishops, who regarded the 
oppression of the Jews as a pious work. His 
pastoral letters are full of earnest exhortations, 
such as the following : " We forbid you to molest 
the Jews or to lay upon them restrictions not im- 
posed by the established laws ; we further permit 
them to live as Romans and to dispose of their 
property as they will ; we only prohibit them from 
owning Christian slaves." 

But greatly as Gregory abhorred the forcible 
conversion of the Jews, he exerted himself to win 
them for the Church by other means. He did not 
hesitate to make an appeal to cupidity, and remitted 
a portion of the land-tax to such of the Jewish far- 
mers and peasants as embraced Christianity. He 
did not, indeed, deceive himself with the belief that 
the converts who were obtained in this naanner 
were loyal Christians ; he counted, however, upon 
their descendants. " If we do not gain them over," 
he wrote, " we at least gain their children." Having 
heard that a Jew named Nasas had erected an altar 


to Elijah (probably a synagogue known by this 
name) in the island of Sicily, and that Christians 
met there to celebrate divine service, Gregory 
commanded the prefect Libertinus to raze the 
building, and to inflict corporal punishment on 
Nasas for his offense. Gregory vigorously per- 
secuted such of the Jews as purchased or pos- 
sessed Christian slaves. In the Prankish empire, 
where fanaticism had not yet made its way, the 
Jews were not forbidden to carry on the slave 
trade. Gregory was indignant at this, and wrote 
to King Theodoric (Dieterich) of Burgundy, Theo- 
debert, king of Austrasia, and also to Queen Brun- 
hilde, expressing his astonishment that -they allowed 
the Jews to possess Christian slaves. He exhorted 
them with great warmth to remove this evil, and to 
free the true believers from the power of their 
enemy. Reccared, the king of the Visigoths, who 
submitted to the papal see, was flattered beyond 
measure by Gregory for promulgating an edict of 

In the Byzantine empire and in Italy, Christianity 
had from the very first shown more or less hostility 
to Judaism, but in the west of Europe, in France 
and Spain, where the Church established itself with 
difficulty, the situation of the Jews assumed a dif- 
ferent and much more favorable aspect. The inva- 
sions of the barbarians had completely changed the 
social order existing in these countries. Roman 
institutions, both political and ecclesiastical, were 
nearly effaced, and the polity of the empires estab- 
lished by heathen or half Christianized nations was 
not built up on the basis of Church law. It was a 
long while before Catholicism gained a firm footing 
in the west of Europe, and the Jews who had settled 
there enjoyed undisturbed peace until the victorious 
Church gained the upper hand. 

The immigration of the Jews into these important 
and wealthy provinces took place probably as early 


as the time of the Republic or of Caesar. The 
Jewish merchants whose business pursuits brought 
them from Alexandria or Asia Minor to Rome and 
Italy, the Jewish warriors whom the emperors Ves- 
pasian and Titus, the conquerors of Judaea, had dis- 
persed as prisoners throughout the Roman prov- 
inces, found their way voluntarily or involuntarily 
into Gaul and Iberia. The presence of the Jews in 
the west of Europe is a certain fact only since the 
second century. 

The Gallic Jews, whose first settlement was in 
the district of Aries, enjoyed the full rights of 
Roman citizenship, whether they arrived in Gaul 
as merchants or as fugitives, with the peddler's 
pack or in the garb of slaves ; they were treated 
as Romans also by the Prankish and Burgundian 
conquerors. The most ancient legislation of the 
Franks and Burgundians did not consider the Jews 
as a distinct race, subject to peculiar laws. In the 
Prankish kingdom founded by Clovis, the Jews 
dwelt in Auvergne (Arverna), in Carcassonne, 
Aries, Orleans, and as far north as Paris and 
Belgium. Numbers of them resided in the old 
Greek port of Marseilles, and in Beziers (Biterrae), 
and so many dwelt in the province of Narbonne 
that a mountain near the city of that name was 
called Mons Judaicus. The territory of Narbonne 
belonged for a long time to Visigothic Spain, and 
for this reason the Jewish history of this district 
reflects all the vicissitudes of the Jews on the further 
side of the Pyrenees. 

The Jews of the Prankish and Burgundian king- 
doms carried on agriculture, trade, and commerce 
without restraint ; they navigated the seas and 
rivers in their own ships. They also practised 
medicine, and the advice of the Jewish physicians 
was sought even by the clergy, who probably did 
not care to rely entirely on the miraculous healing 
powers of the saints and of relics. They were also 


skilled in the use of the weapons of war, and took 
an active part in the battles between Clovis and 
Theodoric's generals before Aries (508). 

Besides their Biblical names, the Jews of Gaul 
bore the appellations which were common in the 
country, such as Armentarius, Gozolas, Priscus, or 
Siderius. They lived on the best of terms with the 
people of the country, and intermarriages even 
occurred between Jews and Christians. The Chris- 
tian clergy did not scruple to eat at Jewish tables, 
and in turn often entertained the Jews. 

The higher ecclesiastics, however, took umbrage, 
because the Jews refused, at Christian banquets, to 
eat of certain dishes, which the precepts of their 
religion forbade them to enjoy. For this reason 
the council of Vannes (465) prohibited the clergy 
from taking part in Jewish banquets, " because they 
considered it undignified that Christians should eat 
the viands of the Jews, while the latter refused to 
eat of Christian dishes, thus making it appear as 
though the clergy were inferior to the Jews." 
But this decision of the council was of no avail ; 
canonical severity was powerless to check this 
friendly intercourse. It became necessary to re- 
enact this ecclesiastical prohibition several times. 
Thus, in spite of their separation from Judaea and 
Babylonia, the centers of Judaism, the Jews of Gaul 
lived in strict accordance with the precepts of their 
religion. Wherever they settled they built their 
synagogues, and constituted their communities in 
exact agreement with the directions of the Talmud. 

The friendly relations existing between the Jews 
and the inhabitants of Gaul underwent no change 
even when the country, by reason of Clovis' con- 
version, came under the rule of the Catholic Church. 
Clovis was, indeed, a bloodthirsty butcher, but not 
a fanatic. The clergy were under obligations to 
him, because he had abandoned heathenism for 
Christianity, and he did not need to yield to them 


in any way. As he left an hereditary kingdom to 
his successors, they were not placed in painful 
situations and dilemmas, as were the elective kings 
of the Visigoths, and were not obliged to make 
concessions or sacrifices to the Church. Among 
the Franks, therefore, heathen customs remained 
long in vogue, and the Jews were permitted to live 
according to their religion without molestation. It 
is true that many ecclesiastical fanatics exerted 
themselves to convert the Jews by every means in 
their power, even using ill treatment, and many 
severe resolutions were passed at their councils. 
But these persecutions remained isolated, even 
when they were countenanced by one or another 
of the zealous kings. Burgundy, however, ever 
since King Sigismund had embraced the Catholic 
faith (516), and felt bound to elevate oppression 
of the Arians and the Jews into the policy of the 
state, was more hostile to the Jews than the rest 
of France. It was this king who first raised the 
barrier between Jews and Christians. He con- 
firmed the decision of the council of Epaone, held 
under the presidency of the bloodthirsty bishop 
Avitus, forbidding even laymen to take part in 
Jewish banquets (517). 

A spirit of hostility to the Jews gradually spread 
from Burgundy over the Frankish countries. As 
early as the third and fourth councils at Orleans 
(538 and 545), severe enactments were passed 
against them. Not only were the Christians com- 
manded not to take part in Jewish banquets, and 
the Jews forbidden to make proselytes, but the 
latter were even prohibited from appearing in the 
streets and public squares during Easter, because 
" their appearance was an insult to Christianity." 
Childebert I of Paris embodied this last point in 
his constitution (554), and thus exalted the intoler- 
ance of the clergy into a law of the state. This 
feeling of hostility, however, was not prevalent 


among Childebert's contemporaries. The Prankish 
empire was divided among several monarchs, who, 
although related, mortally hated one another ; this 
division had the effect of confining intolerant prac- 
tices to single provinces. Even ecclesiastical digni- 
taries of high rank continued to maintain friendly 
intercourse with the Jews, without fearing any 
danger to the Church. But fanaticism is naturally 
contagious ; when it has once gained a firm footing 
in a country, it soon obtains ascendancy over all 
minds, and overcomes all scruples. In the Prankish 
empire the persecution of the Jews proceeded from 
a man who may be regarded as the very incarnation 
of Jew-hatred. This was Avitus, Bishop of Arverna, 
whose see was at Clermont ; what Cyril had been 
to the Jews of Alexandria, Avitus was to the Jews 
of Gaul. 

The Jewish population of his bishopric was a 
thorn in his side, and he accordingly roused the 
members of his flock against it. Again and again 
he exhorted the Jews of Clermont to become con- 
verts, but his sermons meeting with no response, 
he incited the mob to attack the synagogues, and 
raze them to the ground. But even this did not 
content the fanatic ; he offered the Jews the choice 
between presenting themselves for baptism and 
quitting the city. Only one Jew received baptism, 
thus making himself an object of abhorrence to the 
whole community. As he was going through the 
streets at Pentecost in his white baptismal robe, he 
was sprinkled with rancid oil by a Jew. This seemed 
a challenge to the fanatic mob, and they fell upon 
the Jews. The latter retreated to their houses, 
where they were attacked, and many of them killed. 
The sight of blood caused the faint hearts to waver, 
and five hundred of the Jews besought Bishop Avitus 
to accord them the favor of baptism, and implored 
him to put an end to the massacre at once. Such 
of them as remained true to their religion fled to 


Marseilles (576). The Christian population cele- 
brated the day of the baptism of the five hundred 
with wild rejoicing, as though the cross might pride 
itself on a victory which had been won by the sword. 
The news of the occurrence in Clermont caused 
great joy among the fanatics. Bishop Gregory of 
Tours invited the pious poet Venantius Fortunatus 
to celebrate in song the achievement of Avitus. 
But the Latin verses of this poet, who had emigrated 
to France from Italy, instead of glorifying A\^tus, 
raised a monument of shame to his memory. They 
indicate quite clearly that the Jews of Clermont 
suffered innocently, and became converts to Chris- 
tianity out of sheer desperation. Thus the effects 
of the ever-growing fanaticism made themselves felt 
in many parts of France. The Council of Macon 
(581) adopted several resolutions which aimed at 
assigning an inferior position in society to the Jews. 
They were neither to officiate as judges nor to be 
allowed to become tax-farmers, "lest the Christian 
population appear to be subjected to them." The 
Jews were further obliged to show profound rever- 
ence to the Christian priests, and were to seat 
themselves in their presence only by express per- 
mission. All who transgressed this law were to be 
severely punished. The edict forbidding the Jews 
to appear in public during Easter was re-enacted 
by this council. Even King Chilperic, although he 
bore no particular good-will to the Catholic clergy, 
emulated the example set by Avitus. He also 
compelled the Jews of his empire to receive baptism, 
and himself stood sponsor to the Jewish neophytes 
at the baptismal font. But he was content with the 
mere appearance of. conversion, and offered no 
opposition to the Jews, although they continued to 
celebrate the Sabbath and to observe the laws of 

The later Merovingian kings became more and 
more bigoted, and their hatred of the Jews conse- 


quently increased. Clotaire II, on whom had de- 
volved the rule of the entire Prankish empire (613), 
was a matricide, but was nevertheless considered a 
model of religious piety. He sanctioned the de- 
cisions of the Council of Paris, which forbade the 
Jews to hold magisterial power or to take military 
service (615). His son Dagobert must be counted 
among the most anti-Jewish monarchs in the whole 
history of the world. Many thousands of Jewish 
fugitives who had fled to the Prankish empire to 
escape from the fanaticism of Sisebut, king of the 
Visigoths, roused the jealousy of this sensual mon- 
arch, who was ashamed of being considered inferior 
to his Visigothic contemporary and of manifesting 
less religious zeal. He therefore issued a decree, 
wherein he declared that the entire Jewish popula- 
tion of the Prankish empire must either embrace 
Christianity before a certain day, or be treated as 
enemies and be put to death (about 629). 

The more the authority of the Merovingian fai- 
neants, as they have been called, declined, and the 
more the power of the politic and cautious stewards, 
Pepin's descendants, rose, the greater was the ex- 
emption from persecution and torture enjoyed by 
the Jews. The predecessors of Charlemagne seem 
to have felt that the Jews were a useful class of 
men, whose activity and intellectual capabilities could 
not but be advantageous to the state. The slave 
trade alone remained a standing subject of legisla- 
tion in the Councils ; but in spite of their zeal they 
were unable to abolish the traffic in human beings, 
because their condemnation appHed to only one 
phase of the trade. 

The Jews of Germany are to be regarded merely 
as colonies of the Prankish Jews, and such of them 
as lived in Austrasia, a province subject to the 
Merovingian kings, shared the same fate as their 
brethren in Prance. According to a chronicle, the 
most ancient Jews in the Rhine district are said to 


have been the descendants of the legionaries who 
took part in the destruction of the Temple. From 
the vast horde of Jewish prisoners, the Vangioni 
had chosen the most beautiful women, had brought 
them back to their stations on the shores of the 
Rhine and the Main, and had compelled them to 
minister to the satisfaction of their desires. The 
children thus begotten of Jewish and Germanic 
parents were brought up by their mothers in the 
Jewish faith, their fathers not troubling themselves 
about them. It is these children who are said to 
have been the founders of the first Jewish communi- 
ties between Worms and Mayence. It is certain 
that a Jewish congregation existed in the Roman 
colony, the city of Cologne, long before Christianity 
had been raised to power by Constantine. The 
heads of the community and its most respected 
members had obtained from the heathen emperors 
the privilege of exemption from the onerous munici- 
pal offices. The first Christian emperor, however, 
narrowed the limits of this immunity, exempting only 
two or three families. The Jews of Cologne en- 
joyed also the privilege of exercising their own 
jurisdiction, which they were allowed to retain until 
the Middle Ages. A non-Jewish plaintiff, even 
though he were a priest, was obliged to bring his 
suit against a Jew before the Jewish judge (bishop of 
the Jews). 

While the history of the Jews in Byzantium, Italy, 
and France possesses interest for special students, 
that of their brethren in the Pyrenean peninsula 
rises to the height of universal importance. The 
Jewish inhabitants of this happy peninsula contri- 
buted by their hearty interest to the greatness of 
the country, which they loved as only a fatherland 
can be loved, and in so doing achieved world-wide 
reputation. Jewish Spain contributed almost as 
much to the development of Judaism as Judsea and 
Babylonia, and as in these countries, so every spot 


in this new home has become classic for the Jewish 
race. Cordova, Granada, and Toledo are as fa- 
miliar to the Jews as Jerusalem and Tiberias, and 
almost more so than Nahardea and Sora. When 
Judaism had come to a standstill in the East, and 
had grown weak with age, it acquired new vigor in 
Spain, and extended its fruitful influence over a 
wide sphere. Spain seemed to be destined by 
Providence to become a new center for the mem- 
bers of the dispersed race, where their spirit could 
revive, and to which they could point with pride. 

The first settlement of the Jews in beautiful Hes- 
peria is buried in dim obscurity. It is certain that 
they went thither as early as the time of the Roman 
Republic, as free men, to take advantage of the 
rich resources of this country. 

The victims of the unhappy insurrections under 
Vespasian, Titus, and Hadrian were also dispersed 
to the extreme west, and an exaggerated account 
relates that 80,000 of them were carried off to Spain 
as prisoners. They probably did not remain long 
in slavery ; the sympathy of their free brethren un- 
doubtedly hastened to ransom them, and thus fulfil 
the most important of the duties prescribed by Tal- 
mudical Judaism to its adherents. How numerously 
the Jews had settled in some parts of Spain is shown 
by the names which they conferred upon these locali- 
ties. The city of Granada was called the city of the 
Jews in former times, on account of its being entirely 
inhabited by them : the same name was also borne 
by the ancient town of Tarragona (Tarracona), before 
its conquest by the Arabs. In Cordova there existed 
a Jewish gateway of ancient date, and near Sara- 
gossa there was a fortress which at the time of the 
Arabs was called Ruta al Jahud. In the neighbor- 
hood of Tortosa a gravestone was found with both 
a Hebrew and a national name. This memorial 
was inscribed in three languages — Hebrew, Greek, 
and Latin ; the Jews must, therefore, have emi- 


grated at an early period from a Greek district to 
the north of Spain, and acquired the Latin language, 
without forgetting that of the Holy Writings. 

Pride of ancestry, which was a characteristic of the 
Jews of this country as of the other Spaniards, was 
not content with the fact that the Jewish colony in 
Spain had possessed the right of citizenship long 
before the Visigoths and other Germanic tribes had 
set their tyrannous iron foot in the land, but desired 
to lay claim to even higher antiquity for it. The 
Spanish Jews maintained that they had been trans- 
ported hither after the destruction of the Temple by 
the Babylonian conqueror, Nebuchadnezzar. Cer- 
tain Jewish families, the Ibn-Dauds and the Abraba- 
nels, boasted descent from the royal house of David, 
and maintained that their ancestors had been settled 
since time immemorial partly in the district of 
Lucena, and partly in the environs of Toledo and 
Seville. The numerous Spanish-Jewish family of 
Nasi also traced back its pedigree to King David, 
and proved it by means of a genealogical table and 
seals. The family of the Ibn-Albalias was more 
modest, and dated its immigration only from the 
destruction of the Second Temple. A family tradi- 
tion runs to the effect that the Roman governor of 
Spain begged the conqueror of Jerusalem to send 
him some noble families from the capital of Judaea, 
and that Titus complied with his request. Among 
those thus transported was a man named Baruch, 
who excelled in the art of weaving curtains for the 
Temple. This Baruch, who settled in Merida, was 
the ancestor of the Ibn-Albalias. 

Christianity had early taken root in Spain. In 
fact a council of bishops, priests, and the subordi- 
nate clergy met at Illiberis (Elvira, near Granada) 
some time before Constantine's conversion. The 
Jews were nevertheless held in high esteem by the- 
Christian population as well as by the heathens. 
The Iberians and Romans who had been converted 


to Christianity had not yet discovered in the Jews a 
race repudiated by God, a people whose presence 
was to be shunned. They associated with their 
Jewish neighbors in perfect freedom. The newly- 
converted inhabitants of the country, who often 
heard their apostle preach about Jews and Judaism, 
had no conception of the wide gulf dividing Judaism 
from Christianity, and as often had the produce of 
their fields blessed by pious Jews as by their own 
clergy. Intermarriages between Jews and Chris- 
tians occurred quite as frequently in Spain as in 

The higher Catholic clergy, however, could not 
suffer this friendly intercourse between Jews and 
Christians to continue ; they perceived it to be 
dangerous to the newly-established Church. To 
the representatives of the Church in Spain is due 
the honor— if honor it be — of first having raised a 
barrier between Jew and Christian. The Council 
of Illiberis (about 320), at whose head was Osius, 
Bishop of Cordova, forbade the Christians, under 
pain of excommunication, to hold friendly inter- 
course with the Jews, to contract marriages with 
them, or to allow thern to bless the produce of 
their fields. The seed of malignant hatred of the 
Jews, which was thus first sown by the Synod of 
Illiberis, did not, however, produce its poisonous 
fruit until much later. When the migrating Ger- 
manic hordes of the Suevi, Vandals, and Visigoths 
first laid waste this beautiful country, and then 
chose it for their home, the Catholics of the land 
were obliged to bear the yoke of political and 
religious dependence, for the Visigoths, who had 
taken lasting possession of the peninsula, happened 
to have been converted to the Arian faith.. On the 
whole, the Visigothic Arians were tolerably indif- 
ferent to the controversy of the creeds, as to whether 
the Son of God was the same as, or similar to, the- 
Father, and whether Bishop Arius ought to be 


regarded as orthodox or heretical. But they 
thoroughly hated the Catholic inhabitants of the 
country, because in every Catholic they saw a 
Roman, and consequently an enemy. The Jews, 
on the other hand, were unmolested under the 
Arian kings, and besides enjoying civil and political 
equality, were admitted to the public ofifices. Their 
skill and knowledge, which gave them the advan- 
tage over the uncivilized Visigoths, specially fitted 
them for these .posts. The favorable condition of 
the Jews in Spain continued for more than a century, 
beginning with the time when this country first 
became a province of the Toletanic-Visigothic 
empire, and extending over the later period, when, 
under Theudes (531), it became the center of the 
same. The Jews who dwelt in the province of 
Narbonne, and in that district of Africa which 
formed part of the Visigothic empire, also enjoyed 
civil and political equality ; some of them rendered 
material service to the Visigothic kings. The Jews 
that lived at the foot of the Pyrenees defended 
the passes leading from Gaul" into Spain against 
the invasions of the Franks and Burgundians, who 
longed to possess the country. They were regarded 
as the most trusty guardians of the frontier, and 
their martial courage gained for them special dis- 
tinction. The Visigothic Jews must have remained 
in communication, either through Italy or through 
Africa, with Judaea or Babylonia, from which coun- 
tries they probably received their religious teachers. 
They adhered strictly to the precepts of the Talmud, 
abstained from wine made by non-Jews, and admitted 
their heathen and Christian slaves into the covenant 
of Abraham, as ordained by the Talmud. While 
their brethren on the other side of the Pyrenees 
were greatly oppressed, and forcibly converted to 
Christianity, or compelled to emigrate, they enjoyed 
complete liberty of religion, and were further 
granted the privilege, which was denied the Jews in 


all the other countries of Europe, of initiating their 
slaves into their religion. 

But as soon as the Catholic Church obtained the 
supremacy in Spain, and Arianism began to be 
persecuted, the affairs of the Jews of this country 
assumed an unfavorable aspect. King Reccared, 
who had abjured the Arian creed at the Council of 
Toledo, was the first to unite with the Synod in 
imposing restrictions on the Jews. They were 
prohibited from contracting marriages with the 
Christians, from acquiring Christian slaves, and 
from holding public offices ; such of their children 
as were born of intermarriages were to be forcibly 
baptized (589). They were thus made to assume 
an isolated position, which pained them all the more 
as they were animated by a sense of honor, and 
until now had lived upon equal terms with their 
fellow-citizens, having, in fact, been privileged more 
than the Catholics. Most oppressive of all was the 
restraint touching the possession of slaves. Hence- 
forward the Jews were neither to purchase Christian 
slaves nor to accept them as presents, and if they 
transgressed the order and initiated the slaves into 
Judaism, they were to lose all rights in them. The 
whole fortune of him that circumcised a slave was 
forfeited to the state. All well-to-do people in the 
country possessed slaves and serfs, who cultivated 
their land and provided for the wants of the house ; 
the Jews alone were to be deprived of this advan- 
tage. It is conceivable that the wealthy Jews who 
owned slaves exerted themselves to obtain the 
repeal of Reccared's law, and to this end they 
proffered a considerable sum of money to the king. 
Reccared, however, refused their offer, and for this 
deed was commended beyond measure by Pope 
Gregory, whose heart's desire was fufilled by this law 
(599). Gregory compared the Visigothic monarch to 
David, king of Israel, " who refused to accept the 
water which his warriors had brought him at the 


risk of their lives, and poured it out before the 
Lord." In the same manner, he contended, Rec- 
cared had sacrificed to God the gold which had been 
offered to him. At the same time Reccared con- 
firmed a decision of the Council of Narbonne, 
forbidding the Jews to sing Psalms at their funeral 
services, — a custom which they had probably adopted 
from the Church. 

Although Reccared desired to enforce these 
restrictive laws against the Jews, it was never- 
theless not very difficult for the latter to evade 
them. The peculiar constitution of Visigothic Spain 
afforded them the means of escaping their pressure. 
According to this constitution the king was not an 
all-powerful ruler, for the Visigothic nobles, who 
possessed the right of electing him, were absolutely 
independent in their own provinces. Neither they 
nor the people at large shared the fanaticism of the 
Church against the Jews. They accorded them, as 
in the past, the right of purchasing slaves, and 
probably also bestowed offices upon them. In twenty 
years Reccared's laws against the Jews had fallen 
into complete disuse. His successors paid but 
little attention to the matter, and were on the 
whole not unfavorably disposed towards the Jews. 

At this period, however, a king of the Visigoths 
was elected, who, liberal in other respects, and 
not uncultured, was a scourge for the Jews 
of his dominions, and, m consequence, prepared 
a grievous destiny for his empire. Sisebut, a con- 
temporary of the Emperor Heraclius, was, like the 
latter, a fanatical persecutor of the Jews. But 
while some excuse may be found for Heraclius's 
conduct in the revolt of the Jews of Palestine, and 
in the fact that he was compelled to adopt this 
course by the blind fury of the monks, Sisebut 
acted thus without any provocation, of his own 
free will, and almost contrary to the wish of the 
Catholic clergy. At the very commencement of 


his reign (612), the Jews engaged his attention. 
His conscience was troubled by the fact, that in 
spite of Reccared's laws, Christian slaves still 
served Jewish masters, and were initiated into 
Judaism, to which faith they willingly adhered. He 
therefore renewed these laws, and commanded the 
ecclesiastics and the judges, as well as the entire 
population of the country, to see that in future no 
Christians stood in servile relations to the Jews, but 
he went further in this direction than Reccared ; the 
Jews were not only prohibited from acquiring any 
slaves, but were forbidden to retain those whom 
they possessed. Only those Jews who embraced 
Christianity were permitted to own slaves, and they 
alone were allowed to advance a claim to the 
slaves left by their Jewish relatives. Sisebut sol- 
emnly exhorted his successors to maintain this law. 
" May the king who dares abolish this law " — thus 
ran the formula of Sisebut's curse — "incur the 
deepest disgrace in this world, and eternal 
torments in the flames of hell." In spite of this 
severity and of Sisebut's earnest exhortations, 
this law appears to have been as little en- 
forced at that period as under Reccared. The 
independent nobles of the country extended their 
protection to the Jews, either for their own interest 
or out of defiance to the king. Even many of the 
priests and bishops seem to have supported the 
Jews, and to have concerned themselves but little 
about the king's command. Sisebut therefore 
enacted a still severer decree. Within a certain 
period all the Jews of the land were either to 
receive baptism or to quit the territory of the Visi- 
gothic empire. This order was strictly executed. 
The weak, who clung to their property or loved the 
land which their fathers. had inhabited time out of 
mind, allowed themselves to be baptized. The 
stronger-minded, on the other hand, whose con- 
science could approve of no compromise, emigrated 


to France or to the neighboring continent of Africa 
(612-613). The clergy, however, were by no 
means satisfied with this forced conversion, and one 
of their principal representatives reproached the 
king with having indeed "exhibited zeal for the 
faith, but not conscientious zeal." With this fana- 
tical persecution Sisebut paved the way for the 
dissolution of the Visigothic empire. 

Sisebut's rigorous laws against the Jews lasted 
no longer than his reign. They were repealed by 
his successor, Swintila, a just and liberal monarch, 
whom the oppressed named the "father of his 
country." The exiled Jews returned to their native 
land, and the proselytes reverted to Judaism (621- 
631). In spite of their baptism the Jewish converts 
had not abandoned their religion. The act of 
baptism was deemed sufficient at this period^ and 
no one inquired whether the converts still retained 
their former customs and usages. The noble king 
Swintila was, however, dethroned by a conspiracy 
of nobles and the clergy, and a docile tool, Sisenand 
by name, raised to his place. Under this monarch 
the clergy again acquired the ascendancy. Once 
again, at the Council of Toledo (633), the Jews 
became the object of synodal attention. At the 
head of this council stood Isidore, archbishop 
of Hispalis (Seville), a well-informfed and equitable 
prelate, but infected with the prejudices of his time. 
The synod proclaimed the principle that the Jews 
ought not to be made to embrace Christianity by 
violence and threats of punishment; nevertheless 
Reccared's laws against them were re-enacted. 
The full severity of the ecclesiastical legislation was, 
however, directed against the Jews who had been 
forcibly converted under Sisebut, and had reverted 
to their religion. Although the clergy themselves 
had criticized the method of their conversion, they 
nevertheless considered it a duty to keep within 
the paFe of Christianity the Jews that had once 


received the holy sacrament, " in order that the 
faith may not be dishonored." Religion was 
regarded at this period merely as a lip-confession. 
The synod which sat under Sisenand decided, there- 
fore, that the Jews who had been baptized should be 
forcibly restrained from the observance of their 
religion, and withdrawn from the society of their 
co-religionists, and that the children of both sexes 
should be torn from their parents and thrust into 
monasteries. Those discovered observing the Sab- 
bath and the Jewish festivals, contracting marriages 
according to the Jewish rites, practising circum- 
cision, or abstaining from certain foods, in obedience 
to the precepts of Judaism, were to expiate their 
offenses by forfeiting their freedom. They were to 
be reduced to slavery, and presented to orthodox 
Christians chosen by the king. According to this 
canonical legislation, the forcibly converted Jews 
and their descendants were not to be admitted as 
witnesses, because "those that have been untrue 
to God cannot be sincere to man"; this was the 
conclusion reached by ignorance in session. In 
comparison with this severity, the treatment of the 
Jews that had remained steadfast to their faith 
appears quite merciful. 

Even these, however, the clergy exerted them- 
selves to alienate from Judaism. Isidore of Seville 
wrote two books against the Jews, wherein he 
attempted to prove the doctrines of Christianity by 
means of passages from the Old Testament, natur- 
ally in that tasteless, senseless manner which had 
been employed since the commencement of the 
polemic warfare against Judaism by the Fathers. 
The Spanish Jews, in order to confirm themselves in 
their ancestral faith, were induced to take up the 
controversy, and to refute this specious proof. 
The learned men among them replied with counter 
treatises, written probably in Latin. Their superior 
knowledge of the Biblical records made their 

CH. II. CHINTILA. - 5 1 

victory easy. In answer to the principal rejoinder, 
that the scepter had departed from Judah, and that 
the Christians, who possessed kings, thus formed 
the true people of Israel, the Jews pointed to a 
Jewish kingdom in the extreme East, which they 
asserted was ruled over by a descendant of David. 
They alluded to the Jewish- Himyarite empire in 
southern Arabia, but this was governed by a 
dynasty which had been converted to Judaism. 

These resolutions of the fourth Council of Toledo 
and Sisenand's persecution of the Jewish converts 
do not appear to have been carried out with all the 
proposed severity. The Visigothic-Spanish nobles 
took the Jews more and more under their patronage, 
and against them the royal authority was powerless. 
At this period, however, a king resembling Sisebut 
ascended the Visigothic throne. Chintila assembled 
a general council, and not only did he obtain from 
them a confirmation of all anti-Jewish clauses 
contained in the existing laws, but enacted that no 
one should be allowed to remain in the Visigothic 
empire who did not embrace the Catholic religion. 
The ecclesiastical assembly adopted these propo- 
sitions with joy, and exulted over the fact that " by 
the piety of the king, the unyielding infidelity of the 
Jews would at last be destroyed." They appended 
the canonical law, that in future every king, be- 
fore his accession, should be compelled to take a 
solemn oath not to allow the converted Jews to 
violate the Catholic faith, nor to favor their unbelief, 
but strictly to enforce the ecclesiastical decisions 
against them (638). 

A second time the Jews were obliged to emigrate, 
and the converts, who still clung to Judaism in 
their secret hearts, were compelled to sign a con- 
fession to the effect that they would observe and 
obey the Catholic religion without reserve. But the 
confession thus signed by men whose sacred con- 
victions were outraged, was not and could not be 


sincere. They hoped steadfastly for better times, 
when they might be able to throw off the mask, 
and the elective constitution of the Visigothic em- 
pire soon made this possible. The present situation 
lasted only during the four years of Chintila's reign 



Happy condition of the Jews in Arabia— Traditions as to their 
original settlements— Yathrib and Chaibar— The Jewish- Arabic 
tribes— The Benu-Nadhir. the Benu-Kuraiza, and Benu-Bachdal 
— The Benu-Kainukaa — The Jews of Yemen— Their power and 
influence — Conversion of Arabian tribes to Judaism — Abu-Kariba 
the first Jewish-Himyarite king — Zorah Dhu-Nowas — Samuel 
Ibn-Adija — Mahomet — His indebtedness to Judaism — Mahomet's 
early friendliness to the Jews and subsequent breach with them 
— His attacks on the Jewish tribes — The War of the Fosse— The 
position of the Jews under the Caliphs. 

500—662 c. E. 

Wearied with- contemplating the miserable plight 
of the Jews in their ancient home and in the coun- 
tries of Europe, and fatigued by the constant sight 
of fanatical oppression, the eyes of the observer 
rest with gladness upon their situation in the 
Arabian peninsula. Here the sons of Judah were 
free to raise their heads, and did not need to look 
about them with fear and humiliation, lest the eccle- 
siastical wrath be discharged upon them, or the 
secular power overwhelm them. Here they were 
not shut out from the paths of honor, nor excluded 
from the privileges of the state, but, untrammeled, 
were allowed to develop their powers in the midst 
of a free, simple, and talented .people, to show their 
manly courage, to compete for the gifts of fame, 
and with practised hand to measure swords with 
their antagonists. Instead of bearing the yoke, 
the Jews were, not infrequently the leaders of the 
Arabian tribes. Their intellectual superiority con- 
stituted them a power, and they concluded offensive 
and defensive alliances, and carried on feuds. 
Besides the sword and the lance, however, they 
handled the ploughshare and the lyre, and in 


the end became the teachers of the Arabian nation. 
The history of the Jews of Arabia in the century 
which precedes Mahomet's appearance, and during 
the period of his activity, forms a glorious page in 
the annals of the Jews. 

The first immigration of Jewish families into the 
free peninsula is buried in misty tradition. Accord- 
ing to one account, the Israelites sent by Joshua to 
fight the Amalekites settled in the city of Yathrib 
(afterwards Medina), and in the province of Chaibar ; 
according to another, the Israelite warriors, under 
Saul, who had spared the beautiful young son of the 
Amalekite king, and had been repudiated by the 
nation for their disobedience, returned to the Hejas 
(northern Arabia), and settled there. An Israelite 
colony is also supposed to have been formed in 
northern Arabia during the reign of David. It is 
possible that under the powerful kings of Judah, sea- 
faring Israelites, who navigated the Red Sea on 
their way to Ophir — the land of gold — established 
trading stations, for the trade with India, in Mariba 
and Sanaa (Usal), the most important commercial 
towns of southern Arabia (Yemen, Himyara, Sabea), 
and planted Jewish colonies there. The later Arab- 
ian Jews said, however, that they had heard from 
their forefathers that many Jewish fugitives had 
escaped to northern Arabia on the destruction of the 
First Temple by Nebuchadnezzar. But there can 
be no doubt that the persecution of the Jews by the 
Romans was the means of establishing a Jewish 
population in the Arabian peninsula. The death- 
defying zealots who, after the destruction of the 
Second Temple, fled in part to Egypt and to 
Cyrene, in order to continue there the desperate 
struggle against the thraldom of Rome, also passed 
in straggling bands into Arabia, where they were 
not compelled to hide their love of freedom or to 
abandon their warlike bearing. 

From these fugitives sprang three Jewish-Arabic 


tribes — the Benu-Nadhir, the Benu-Kuraiza, and 
the Benu-Bachdal, the first two of which were des- 
cended from Aaron, and therefore called themselves 
Cohanim (Al-kahinani). Another Jewish family — 
the Benu-Kainukaa — were established in northern 
Arabia, and their mode of living was different 
from that of the Nadhir and Kuraiza. These tribes 
had their center in the city of Yathrib, which was 
situated in a fruitful district, planted with palms and 
rice, and watered by small streams. As the Jews 
were often molested by Bedouins, they built castles 
on the elevated places in the city and the surround- 
ing country, whereby they guarded their independ- 
ence. Although originally the sole rulers of this 
district, they were afterwards obliged to share their 
power and the possession of the soil with the Arabs, 
for, about the year 300, two related families, the 
Benu-Aus and the Chazraj (together forming the 
tribe of Kaila), settled in the same neighborhood, 
and sometimes stood in friendly, sometimes in hos- 
tile relations to the Jews. 

To the north of Yathrib was situated the district 
of .Chaibar, which was entirely inhabited by Jews, 
who constituted a separate commonwealth. The 
Jews of Chaibar are supposed to have been des- 
cendants of the Rechabites, who, in accordance with 
the command of their progenitor, Jonadab, the son 
of Rechab, led a nomadic and Nazarite life ; after 
the destruction of the First Temple, they are said to 
have wandered as far as the district of Chaibar, 
attracted by its abundance of palms and grain. The 
Jews of Chaibar constructed a line of castles or for- 
tresses, like the castles of the Christian knights ; 
the strongest of them was Kamus, built upon a hill 
difficult of access. These castles protected them 
from the predatory incursions of the warlike Be- 
douins, and enabled them to offer an asylum to 
many a persecuted fugitive. Wadil-Kora (the val- 
ley of the villages), a fertile plain a day's journey 


from Chaibar, was also inhabited exclusively by 
Jews. In Mecca, where stood the sanctuary of the 
Arabs, there probably lived but few Jews. 

They were numerously represented, however, in 
southern Arabia (Yemen), "the land," its inhabi- 
tants boasted, "the very dust of which was gold, 
which produced the healthiest men, and whose 
women brought forth without pain." But unlike 
their brethren in Hejas, the Jews of Arabia Felix 
lived without racial or political cohesion, scattered 
among the Arabs. They nevertheless in time ob- 
tained so great an influence over the Arab tribes 
and the kings of Yemen (Himyara), that they were 
able to prevent the propagation of Christianity in 
this region. The Byzantine Christian emperors had 
their desires fixed upon these markets for Indian 
produce. Without actually meditating the subjec- 
tion of the brave Himyarites (Homerites), they 
desired to gain their friendship by converting them 
to Christianity ; the cross was to be the means of 
effecting a commercial connection. It was not until 
the end of the fifth or the beginning of the sixth 
century that the Christian envoys succeeded in con- 
verting to Christianity an Arab prince and his tribe, 
whose capital was the commercial town of Najara. — 
Arabia owned only half the island of Yotabe (now 
Jijban), in the Red Sea (60 miles to the south of the 
capital, Aila) ; a small Jewish free state had existed 
there since time immemorial. 

In consequence of their Semitic descent, the Jews 
of Arabia possessed many points of similarity with 
the primitive inhabitants of the country. Their lan- 
guage was closely related to Arabic, and their cus- 
toms, except those that had been produced by their, 
religion, were not different from those of the sons of 
Arabia. The Jews became, therefore, so thoroughly 
Arabic that they were distinguished from the natives 
of the country only by their religious belief. Inter- 
marriage between the two nations tended to heighten 


the similarity of their characters. Like the Him- 
yarites, the Jews of southern Arabia applied them- 
selves more particularly to the trade between India, 
the Byzantine empire, and Persia. The Jews of 
northern Arabia, on the contrary, led the life of Be- 
douins ; they occupied themselves with agriculture, 
cattle breeding, transport by caravan, traffic in wea- 
pons, and probably also the calling of robbers. The 
Arabian Jews likewise possessed a patriarchal, tribal 
constitution. Several families were united under 
one name, and led by a chieftain (shaich), who in 
times of peace settled controversies and pronounced 
judgment, and in war commanded all the men able 
to bear arms, and concluded alliances with neighbor- 
ing tribes. Like the Arabs, the Jews of the penin- 
sula extended their hospitality to every one who 
entered their tents, and held inviolable faith with 
their allies ; but they shared also the faults of the 
original inhabitants of the peninsula, avenging the 
death of one of their number with rigorous inflexi- 
bility, and hiding in ambush in order to surprise and 
annihilate their enemy. It would sometimes happen 
that a Jewish tribe, having entered into an alliance 
with an Arabian clan, would find itself opposed to a 
kindred tribe which had espoused another cause. 
But even though Jews were at feud with each other, 
their innate qualities moderated in them Bedouin 
ferocity, which never extended mercy to a foe. 
They ransomed the prisoners of a kindred tribe 
with which they happened to be at war, from the 
hands of their own allies, being unwilling to abandon 
them as slaves to heathens, "because," said they, 
" the redemption of such of our co-religionists as 
are prisoners is a religious duty." Besides being 
equal to the Arabs in bravery, the Jews also con- 
tended with them for the palm in poetry. For in 
addition to manliness and courage, poetry was culti- 
vated among the Arab nobles ; it was fostered by 
the chieftains, and richly rewarded by the Arab 


kings. Next to the warrior, the poet was the man 
most honored in Arabia ; for him all hearts and 
tents opened wide. The Jews of Arabia were like- 
wise able to speak with elegance the Arabic lan- 
guage, and to adorn their poetry with rhymes. 

The knowledge of their religion, which the Ara- 
bian Jews had brought with them in their flight from 
Judaea, and that which afterwards came to them 
from the academies, conferred upon them superi- 
ority over the heathen tribes, and soon made them 
their masters. While but few Arabs, before the 
latter part of the seventh century, were familiar 
with the art of writing, it was universally understood 
by the Jews, who made use, however, of the square, 
the so-called Assyrian characters. As the few 
Arabs that succeeded in learning to write generally 
employed the Hebrew characters, it would appear 
that they first acquired the are of writing from the 
Jews. Every Jew in Arabia was probably able to 
read the Holy Scriptures, for which reason the 
Arabs called the Jews the " nation of writing " (Ahl' 
ul kitab). 

In the form in which it was transmitted to them, 
that is to say, with the character impressed upon 
it by the Tanaim and the Amoraim, Judaism was 
most holy to the Arabian Jews. They strictly ob- 
served the dietary laws, and solemnized the festi- 
vals, and the fast of Yom-Kippur, which they called 
Ashura. They celebrated the Sabbath with such 
rigor that in spite of their delight in war, and the 
opportunity for enjoying it, their sword remained in 
its scabbard on that day. Although they had noth- 
ing to complain of in this hospitable country, which 
they were able to regard and love as their father- 
land, they yearned nevertheless to return to the 
holy land of their fathers, and daily awaited the 
coming of the Messiah. Like all the Jews of the 
globe, therefore, they turned their face in prayer 
towards Jerusalem. They were in communication 


with the Jews of Palestine, and even after the fall 
of the Patriarchate, willingly subordinated them- 
selves to the authorities in Tiberias, whence they 
received, as also from the Babylonian academies 
probably, religious instruction and interpretation of 
the Bible. Yathrib was the seat of Jewish learning, 
and possessed teachers of the Law(Achbar, Chabar) 
who expounded the Scriptures in an academy (Mi- 
dras). But the knowledge of the Bible which the 
Arabian Jews possessed was not considerable. 
They were acquainted with it only through the me- 
dium of the Agadic exegesis, which had become 
familiar to them in their travels or had been brought 
to them by immigrants. For them the glorious his- 
tory of the past coalesced so completely with the 
Agadic additions that they were no longer able to 
separate the gold from the dross. Endowed with 
poetical fancy, the Arabian Jews on their side 
embellished the Biblical history with interesting 
legends, which were afterwards circulated as actual 

The Jews of Arabia, enjoying complete liberty, 
and being subjected to no restraint, were able to 
defend their religious opinions without fear, and to 
communicate them with impunity to their heathen 
neighbors. The Arab mind, susceptible to intel- 
lectual promptings, was delighted with the simple, 
sublime contents of the Bible, and by degrees cer- 
tain Jewish conceptions and religious ideas became 
familiar and current in Arabia. The Arabian Jews 
made their neighbors acquainted with a calendar- 
system, without which the latter were completely at 
sea in the arrangement of their holy seasons ; 
learned Jews from Yathrib taught the Arabs to 
insert another month in their lunar year, which was 
far in arrear of the solar year. The Arabs adopted 
the nineteen-years cycle of the Jews (about 420), 
and called the intercalary month Nasi, doubtless 
from the circumstance that the Jews were accus- 


tomed to receive their calendar for the festivals from 
their Nasi (Patriarch). 

The Jews even succeeded in instructing the 
Arabs in regard to their historical origin, concern- 
ing which their memories were void, and in their 
credulity the latter accepted this genealogy as the 
true one. It was of great consequence to the Jews 
to be regarded and acknowledged by the Arabs as 
their kinsmen, and too many points of social interest 
were bound up with this relationship for them to 
allow it to escape their attention. The holy city of 
Mecca (Alcharam), the chief city of the country, was 
built round an ancient temple (Kaaba, the Square), 
or more properly, round a black stone ; for all 
Arabs it was an asylum, in which the sword durst 
not quit the sheath. The five fairs, the most im- 
portant of which was at Okaz, could be frequented 
only in the four holy months of the year, when the 
truce of God prevailed. Whoever desired to take 
advantage of these periods and to enjoy security of 
life in the midst of a warlike people, not over-scru- 
pulous in the matter of shedding blood, was obliged 
to establish his relationship to the Arabs, otherwise 
he was excluded from these privileges. 

Happily, the Arabian Jews bethought them of the 
genealogy of the Arabs as set forth in the first 
book of the Pentateuch, and seized upon it as the 
instrument by which to prove their kinship with 
them. The Jews were convinced that they were 
related to the Arabs on two sides, through Yoktan 
and through Ishmael. Under their instruction, 
therefore, the two principal Arabian tribes traced 
back the line of their ancestors to these two pro- 
genitors, the real Arabs (the Himyaritcs) supposing 
themselves to be descended from Yoktan ; the 
pseudo-Arabs in the north, on the other hand, de- 
riving their origin from Ishmael. These points of 
contact granted, the Jews had ample opportunity to 
multiply the proofs of their relationship. The Arabs 


loved genealogical tables, and were delighted to be 
able to follow their descent and history so far into 
hoary antiquity ; accordingly, all this appeared to 
them both evident and flattering. They conse- 
quently exerted themselves to bring their genealogi- 
cal records and traditions into unison with the Bibli- 
cal accounts. Although their traditions extended 
over less than six centuries on the one side to their 
progenitor Yarob and his sons or grandsons Himyar 
and Kachtan, and on the other, to Adnan, yet in 
their utter disregard of historical accuracy, this fact 
constituted no obstacle. Without a scruple, the 
southern Arabians called themselves Kachtanites, 
and the northern Arabians Ishmaelites. They 
readily accorded to the Jews the rights of relation- 
ship, that is to say, equality and all the advantages 
attending it. 

The Arabs were thus in intiinate intercourse 
with the Jews, and the sons of the desert, whose 
unpoetical mythology afforded them no matter for 
inspiration, derived much instruction from Judaism. 
Under these circumstances many Arabs could not 
fail to develop peculiar affection for Judaism, and 
some embraced this religion, though their conver- 
sion had not been thought of by the Jews. As they 
had practised circumcision while heathen, their con- 
version to Judaism was particularly easy. The mem- 
bers of a family among the Arabs were indissolubly 
bound to one another, and, according to their phyl- 
archic constitution, the individuals identified them- 
selves with the tribe. This brought about, that 
when a chieftain became a Jew, his whole clan at 
once followed him, the wisest, into the fold of 
Judaism. It is expressly recorded about several 
Arabian tribes that they were converted to Judaism ; 
such were the Benu-Kinanah, a warlike, quarrelsome 
clan, related to the most respected Koraishites of 
Mecca, and several other families of the tribes Aus 
and Chazraj in Yathrib. 


Especially memorable, however, in the history of 
the Arabs is the conversion to Judaism of a power- 
ful king of Yemen. The princes or kings of Yemen 
bore the name of Tobba, and at times ruled over 
the whole of Arabia ; they traced their historical 
origin back to Himyar, their legendary origin to 
Kachtan. One of these kings, who went by the 
name of Abu-Kariba Assad-Tobban, was a man of 
judgment, knowledge, poetical endowments, and of 
valor which incited him to conquest. Abu-Kariba 
therefore undertook (about 500) an expedition 
against Persia and the Arabian provinces of the 
Byzantine empire. On his march he passed through 
Yathrib, the capital of northern Arabia, and not 
expecting treachery from the inhabitants of the 
town, left his son there as governor. Hardly, how- 
ever, had he proceeded further, when he received 
the sad intelligence that the people of Yathrib had 
killed his son. Smitten with grief, he turned back 
in order to wreak bloody vengeance on the per- 
fidious city, and after cutting down the palm trees, 
from which the inhabitants derived their principal 
sustenance, laid siege to it with his numerous band 
of warriors. A Jewish poet composed an elegy on 
the ruined palm trees, which the Arabs loved like 
living beings, and the destruction of which they 
bewailed like the death of dear relatives. The 
Jews rivaled the Chazraj Arabs in bravery in 
resisting Abu-Kariba's attack, and finally succeeded 
in tiring out his troops. During the siege, the 
Himyarite king was seized with a severe illness, 
and no fresh water could be discovered in the 
neighborhood to quench his burning thirst. Two 
Jewish teachers of the Law from Yathrib, Kaab 
and Assad by name, took advantage of Abu-Kariba's 
exhaustion to betake themselves to his tent, and 
persuade him to pardon the inhabitants of Yathrib 
and raise the siege. The Arabs have woven a 
tissue of legend about this interview, but it is certain 


that the Jewish sages found opportunity to dis- 
course to Abu-Kariba of Judaism, and succeeded 
in inspiring him with a lively interest for it. The 
exhortations of Kaab and Assad raised his sym- 
pathy to so high a pitch that he determined to 
embrace the Jewish faith, and induced the Him- 
yarite army to do likewise. 

At his desire the two Jewish sages of Yathrib 
accompanied him to Yemen, in order to convert his 
people to Judaism. This conversion, however, was 
not easy, for a nation does not cast off its opinions, 
usages and bad habits at will. There remained as 
many heathens as Jews in the land ; they retained 
their temples, and were allowed to profess their 
religion unmolested. Altogether the Judaism which 
the king of Yemen professed must have been very 
superficial, and cannot have influenced to an appre- 
ciable extent the customs or the mode of living of 
the people. A prince of the noble tribe of the 
Kendites, a nephew of the king of Yemen, Harith 
Ibn-Amru by name, also embraced the Jewish faith. 
Abu-Kariba appointed him as viceroy of the Maad- 
dites on the Red Sea, and also gave him the gov- 
ernment of Mecca and Yathrib. With Harith a 
number of the Kendites went over to Judaism. 
The news of a Jewish king and a Jewish empire in 
the most beautiful and fertile part of Arabia was 
spread abroad by the numerous foreigners who 
visited the country for the purpose of trade, and 
reached the Jews of the most distant lands. It 
was asserted that they had settled there before the 
destruction of the First Temple and the fall of the 
Israelite kingdom. 

Abu-Kariba's reign did not last long after his 
adoption of Judaism. His warlike nature prevented 
him from maintaining peace, and prompted him to 
engage in bold enterprises. It is said that in one 
of these campaigns he was slain by his own soldiers, 
who were worn out with fatigue and weary marches. 


He left three sons, Hassan, Amru, and Zorah, all 
of whom were minors. 

Zorah, the youngest (520-530), was nicknamed 
Dhu-Nowas (curly-locks) on account of his fine head 
of hair. He was a zealous disciple of Judaism, and 
for that reason gave himself the Hebrew name 
Yussuf. But his zeal for the religion of which his 
father had also been an enthusiastic advocate con- 
tinually involved him in difficulties, and brought 
misfortune to him, his kingdom, and the Jews of 
Himyara. King Zorah Yussuf Dhu-Nowas had 
heard how his co-religionists in the Byzantine king- 
dom suffered from daily persecution. He felt 
deeply for them, and wished therefore by retalia- 
tion to force the Byzantine emperors to render 
justice to the Jews. When some Roman (Byzan- 
tine) merchants were traveling on business through 
Himyara, the king had them seized and put to 
death. This spread terror among the Christian 
merchants who traded with the country whence come 
the sweet perfumes and the wealth of India. It 
also caused the Indian and Arabian trade to decline. 
In consequence of this, Dhu-Nowas involved his 
people in an exhausting war. 

A neighboring king, Aidug, who still adhered to 
heathenism, reproached the Jewish king for his im- 
politic step in destroying the trade with Europe. 
The excuse Dhu-Nowas made was that many nota- 
ble Jews in Byzantium were innocently put to death 
every year. This, however, made no impression 
upon Aidug. He declared war against Dhu-Nowas 
and defeated him in battle (521). As the outcome 
of his victory, Aidug is said to have embraced Chris- 
tianity. Dhu-Nowas was not killed in this battle, as 
the Christian authorities relate, but made another 
effort, and through his impetuosity entangled him- 
self in new difficulties. Najaran, in Yemen, was 
inhabited chiefly by Christians ; it had, too, a Chris- 
tian chief, Harith (Aretas) Ibn-Kaleb, who -was a 


feudatory of the Jewish-Himyaritic kingdom. Harilh 
probably did not perform his feudal duties in the 
war against Aidug, or he may have committed other 
acts of insubordination. One account relates that 
two young Jews were murdered in Najaran, and 
that the chief Harith was cognizant thereof. The 
Jewish king was therefore much displeased ; at 
any rate, .Dhu-Nowas had a pretext for chastising 
the ruler of Najaran as a rebel. He besieged the 
town, and reduced the inhabitants to such straits 
that they were forced to capitulate. Three hundred 
and forty chosen men, with Harith at their head, 
repaired to Dhu-Nowas's camp to sign the terms of 
peace (523). There, it is said, the king of Himyara, 
although he had assured the men of immunity from 
punishment, determined either to force them to 
accept Judaism or to put them to death. As they 
refused to renounce their faith, it is reported that 
they were executed, and their bodies thrown into 
the river. The entire account is so completely 
legendary that it is impossible to discover any his- 
torical fact. This much is certain : Dhu-Nowas 
levied a heavy tribute on the Christians in the king- 
dom of Himyara as a reprisal for the persecution of 
his co-religionists in Christian countries. 

The news of the events in Najaran spread like 
wildfire ; the number of the victims was exaggerated, 
and the punishment of the rebels was stigmatized 
as a persecution of the Christians on the part of a 
Jewish king. An elegy was composed on the 
martyrs. Simeon, a Syrian bishop, who was travel- 
ing to northern Arabia, did his utmost to rouse up 
enemies against Dhu-Nowas. Simeon believed the 
exaggerated account which had been circulated. 
He sent an incisive letter to another bishop who 
lived near Arabia, imploring him to set the Chris- 
tians against the Jewish king, and to incite the 
Nejus (king) of Ethiopia to war against him. _He 
also proposed to imprison the teachers of Judaism 


in Tiberias, and to compel them to write to Dhu- 
Nowas to put a stop for their sake to the persecution 
of the Christians. The Emperor Justin the First, a 
weak and fooHsh old man, was also asked to make 
war on the Jewish king. But his people were en- 
gaged in a war against the Persians, and he there- 
fore replied, " Himyara is too far from us, and I 
cannot allow my army to march through a sandy 
desert for so great a distance. But I will write 
to the king of Ethiopia to send troops to Himyara." 
Thus, many enemies conspired to ruin one who 
had attempted to assist his co-religionists in every 
way. Dhu-Nowas's most formidable enemy was 
Elesbaa (Atzbaha), the Nejus of Ethiopia, a monarch 
full of religious zeal. He beheld with jealousy the 
crown on the head of a Jew, and required no per- 
suasion to fight, for the Jewish kingdom had long 
been a thorn in his side. Elesbaa equipped a 
powerful fleet, which the Byzantine Emperor, or 
rather young Justinian, his co-regent, re-inforced with 
ships from Egypt. A numerous army crossed the 
narrow strait of the Red Sea to Yemen. The Chris- 
tian soldiers were united with this army. Dhu- 
Nowas, it is true, took measures to prevent the 
landing of the Ethiopian army by barring the landing- 
places with chains, and gathering an army on his 
side. The army of Himyara, however, was inferior 
in numbers to that of Ethiopia, but the king relied 
on his faithful and courageous cavalry. The first 
engagement terminated disastrously for Dhu-Nowas. 
The town of Zafara (Thafar) fell into the hands of 
the enemy, and with it the queen and the treasures. 
The Himyaran soldiers lost all courage. Yussuf 
Dhu-Nowas, who saw that there was no escape, and 
who was unwilling to fall into the hands of his arro- 
gant foe, plunged, with his steed, from a rock into 
the sea, his body being carried far away (530). The 
victorious Ethiopians raged in Himyara with fire 
and sword, plundering, massacring, and taking the 


unarmed prisoners. They were so enraged at the 
Jews in Himyara that they massacred thousands as 
an atoning sacrifice for the supposed Christian 
martyrs of Najaran. Such was the end of the 
Jewish kingdom of Himyara, which arose in a night 
and disappeared in a night. 

About this time the Jews of Yathrib fell into 
strife with the neighboring tribes of Arabia. The 
Jews in Yathrib, on account of their intimate relation 
with the king of Himyara, whose authority extended 
over the province, ruled over the heathen, and a 
Jewish chief was governor. The Arabians of the 
Kailan race (Aus and Chazraj) hated the rule of 
the Jews, and seized the opportunity of rebelling 
when the Jews could not rely on assistance from 
Himyara. An Arabian chief of the Ghassanid race, 
Harith Ibn Abu Shammir, who was closely related to 
the Kailan race, was invited to lead his troops to- 
wards Yathrib. This brave and adventurous prince 
of Arabia, who was attached to the Byzantine court, 
accepted the invitation. In order not to arouse the 
suspicions of the Jews, Ibn Abu Shammir gave out 
that he intended going to Himyara. He encamped 
near Yathrib, and invited the Jewish chiefs to visit 
him. Many of them came, expecting to be wel- 
comed with the prince's usual generosity, and to be 
loaded with presents. But as they entered the 
tent of the Ghassanid prince, they were one by one 
murdered. Thereupon Ibn Abu Shammir exclaimed 
to the Arabs of Yathrib : "I have freed you from 
a great part of your enemies ; now it will be easy 
for you to master the rest, if you have strength and 
courage." He then departed. The Arabs, how- 
ever, did not venture to engage openly with the 
Jews, but had recourse to a stratagem. During a 
banquet, all the Jewish chiefs were killed, as well as 
Alghitjun or Sherif, the Jewish prince. Deprived 
of their leaders, the Jews of Yathrib were easily 
conquered by the Arabians, and they were obliged 


to give up their strongholds to them (530-535). 
It was a long time before they could get over the 
loss of their power and the sense of defeat. The 
insecurity of their lives taught them dissimulation, 
and they gradually placed themselves under the 
protection of one or another tribe, and so became 
dependents (Mawali) of Aus and Chazraj. They 
hoped for the coming of the Messiah to crush their 

Harith Ibn Abu Shammir, the Ghassanid prince, 
on his return from Yathrib, commenced a feud with 
a Jewish poet, who thereby became renowned 
throughout Arabia. Samuel Ibn-Adiya (born about 
500 and died about 560), whose martial spirit was 
shown in the attacks of the Ghassanids, won immor- 
tality through his friendship with the most cele- 
brated poet of Arabia in the time before Mahomet. 
His biography gives an insight into the life of the 
Jews of Arabia of that time. According to some, 
Samuel was descended from the heathen race of the 
Ghassanids ; according to others, he was of Jewish 
origin, or to be more correct, he had an Arabian 
mother and a Jewish father. Adiya, his father, had 
lived in Yathrib until he built a castle in the neigh- 
borhood of Taima, which, from its many colors, was 
called Al-ablak, and has been immortalized in 
Arabic poetry. Samuel, the chief of a small tribe, 
was so respected in Hejas that the weaker tribes 
placed themselves under his protection. Ablak was 
a refuge for the persecuted and exiled, and the 
owner of the castle defended those under his roof 
at the risk of his life. 

Imrulkais Ibn Hojr, the adventurous son of the 
Kendite prince, and at the same time the most dis- 
tinguished poet of Arabia, was hemmed in on all 
sides by secret and open enemies, and could find 
shelter nowhere except in Samuel's safe retreat. 
The Jewish poet, the lord of the castle, was proud 
to afford a refuge to Arabia's most celebrated writer, 


whose fame and adventures were known through- 
out the peninsula. Imrulkais took his daughter and 
what remained of his retinue to Ablak, and Hved 
there for some time. As the Kendite prince had no 
prospect of obtaining the assistance of the Arabs 
to avenge the murder of his father, and to regain 
his paternal inheritance, he endeavored to win over 
Justinian, the Byzantine Emperor. Before starting 
on his journey, he charged Samuel with the care of 
his daughter, his cousin, and of five valuable coats 
of mail and other arms. Samuel promised to guard 
the persons and the goods entrusted to him as he 
would the apple of his eye. But these arms brought 
misfortune on him. When the Ghassanid prince 
was in Hejas he went to Ablak, Samuel's castle, 
and demanded the surrender of Imrulkais' arms. 
Samuel refused to surrender them according to his 
promise. Harith then laid siege to the castle. 
Finding it impregnable, however,- the tyrant had re- 
course to a barbarous expedient to compel Samuel 
to submit. One of Samuel's sons was taken out- 
side the citadel by his nurse, and Harith captured 
him, and threatened to kill him unless Samuel 
acceded to his request. The unfortunate father 
hesitated for only a moment between duty to his 
guest and affection for his son ; his sense of duty 
prevailed, and he said to the Ghassanid prince : 
" Do what you will ; time always avenges treachery, 
and my son has brothers." Unmoved by such 
magnanimity, the despot slew the son before his 
father's eyes. Nevertheless, Harith had to with- 
draw from Ablak without accomplishing his object. 
The Arab proverb, " Faithful as Samuel," used to 
express undying faith, originated from this circum- 

Many blamed him for the sacrifice of his son ; but 
he defended himself in a poem, full of noble senti- 
ments, courage and chivalrous ideas : — 


Oh, ye censurers, cease to blame the man 

Who so oft has defied your censure. 

You should, when erring, have guided me aright. 

Instead of leading me astray with empty words. 

I have preserved the Kendite coats of mail ; 

Another may betray the trust confided him ! 

Thus did Adiya, my father, counsel me in by-gone days : 

" O Samuel, destroy not what I have built up !" 

For me he built a strong and safe place, where 

I ne'er feared to give defiance to my oppressor. 

Before his death (about 560) Samuel could look 
back with pride on his chivalrous life and on the 
protection he had afforded the weak. His swan^ 
song runs : — 

Oh, would that I knew, the day my loss is lamented. 

What testimony my mourners would afford me ; 

Whether they will say " Stay with us ! For 

In many a trouble you have comforted us ; 

The rights you had you ne'er resigned. 

Yet needed no reminder to give theirs to others." 

Shoraich, his son, followed in his father's foot- 
steps. He was a brave and noble man. On one 
occasion Maimun Asha, the celebrated Arabic poet, 
whose ungovernable temper raised many enemies 
against him, was pursued by an adversary, and hav- 
ing been captured, he was, by chance and without 
being recognized, taken with other prisoners to 
Taima, the castle of Shoraich. Hero, in order to 
obtain his release, he sang a poem in praise of 
Samuel : — 

Be like Samuel, when the fierce warrior 

Pressed heavily around him with his array ; 

" Choose between the loss of a child and faithlessness ! " 

Oh, evil choice which thou hadst to make ! 

But quickly and calmly did he reply : 

" Kill thy captive, I fulfil my pledges." 

Towards the end of the sixth century, the Jews of 
Yathrib had nearly recovered from the oppressive 
blows dealt them by their neighbors in Arabia. 
Their rulers, the Aus and Chazraj, had exhausted 
themselves in bloody feuds which lasted twenty 


years, whilst their alHes suffered less. In conse- 
quence of another war between the same tribes, the 
Jews again rose to importance in Yathrib. 

Judaism not only won over to its side many tribes 
in Arabia, and taught the sons of the desert certain 
indispensable arts, but it also inspired the founder 
of a religion, who played an important part in the 
great drama of the world's history, and whose influ- 
ence survives to this day. Mahomet, the prophet 
of Mecca and Yathrib, was, it is true, not a loyal 
son of Judaism, but he appreciated its highest aims, 
and was induced by it to give to the world a new 
faith, known as Islam, founded on a lofty basis. 
This religion has exercised a wonderful influence 
on the course of Jewish history and on the evolution 
of Judaism. In the peaceful meetings in Mecca, 
his birthplace, at the public markets, and on his 
travels, Abdallah's son heard much spoken of the 
religion which acknowledges the belief in one God, 
who rules the M/^orld. He heard much of Abraham, 
who devoted himself to the service of God, and 
of religion and morality, which gave the disciples of 
Judaism the advantage over infidels. Mahomet's 
mind, at once original and receptive, was power- 
fully impressed by all this. Waraka Ibn-Naufal, a 
celebrated Meccan, and a descendant of the noble 
Khoraish race, was a cousin of Chadija, Mahomet's 
wife, and he had embraced Judaism and knew 
Hebrew well. He certainly imbued Mahomet with 
a love for the religion of Abraham. 

Mahomet's first doctrines were strongly tinged 
with Jewish coloring. He first conceived them when 
suffering from epilepsy, and he communicated them 
to his friends, pretending that they were revealed 
to him by the angel Gabriel. First and foremost 
he proclaimed the simple but fundamental principle 
of Judaism: "There is no God but Allah"; later 
his pride led him to add as an integral part of the 
confession of faith, " and Mahomet is his prophet." 


Judaism may justly consider his teachings a victory 
of its own truths and a fulfilment of the prophecy 
that " one day every knee will bend to the only God, 
and every tongue will worship Him," for Mahomet 
taught the unity of God, that there are no gods 
beside Him (anti-trinity), and that He may not be 
represented by any image. He preached against 
the dissolute idolatry which was practised with 300 
idols in the Kaaba ; he declaimed against the 
immorality which was openly and shamelessly 
practised amongst the Arabs ; he condemned the 
revolting practice of parents who from fear or in 
order to be rid of them drowned their newborn 
daughters, and he declared that there was nothing 
new in all these changes, but that they were com- 
manded by the faith of the ancient religion of Abra- 
ham. A similar thing had happened at the time 
when Paul of Tarsus first made known to the Hel- 
lenes the history and principles of Judaism. 

The best teachings in the Koran are borrowed 
from the Bible or the Talmud. In consequence of 
the difficulties which Mahomet for several years 
(612-633) had to encounter in Mecca on account of 
these purified doctrines, there grew around the 
sound kernel a loathsome husk. Mahomet's con- 
nection with the Jews of Arabia assisted not a little 
in determining and modifying the teachings of 
Islam. Portions of the Koran are devoted to them, 
at times in a friendly, at times in a hostile spirit. 

When Mahomet failed in obtaining a hearing in 
Mecca, the seat of idolatrous worship in Arabia, 
and even ran the risk of losing his life there, he 
addressed himself to some men from Yathrib, and 
urged them to accept his doctrines. These men 
were more familiar with Jewish doctrines than the 
Meccans ; they found in Mahomet's revelations a 
close analogy to what they had often heard from 
their Jewish neighbors. They, therefore, showed 
themselves inclined to follow him, and caused him 


to be invited to Yathrib, where his teachings were 
likely to be favorably received on account of the 
numerous Jews residing there. As soon as he 
came there (622, the year of expatriation — Hejira), 
Mahomet took care to win over the Jews, of Yathrib 
and to set forth his aims, as though he desired to 
bring about the universal recognition of Judaism 
in Arabia. When he saw the Jews fasting on the 
day of Atonement, he said, " It becomes us more 
than Jews to fast on this day," and he established a 
fast-day (Ashura). Mahomet entered into a formal 
alliance for mutual defense with the Jewish tribes, 
and instituted the custom of turning towards 
Jerusalem in prayer (Kiblah). In the disputes 
between the Jews and his disciples (Moslems), 
which were submitted to his judgment, he behaved 
leniently to the Jews. For this reason Mahomet's 
disciples preferred to bring the matters in dispute 
before a Jewish chief, because they expected more 
impartiality from him than from Mahomet. Mahomet 
for a long time employed a Jewish scribe to do his 
correspondence, he himself being unable to write. 
These advances on the part of a man of so much 
promise were very flattering to the Jews of Medina. 
They looked upon him to some extent as a Jewish 
proselyte, and expected to see Judaism through him 
attain to power in Arabia. Some of them followed 
him devotedly and were his faithful allies (Ansar) ; 
amongst them was a learned youth, Abdallah Ibn- 
Salam, of the race of Kainukaa. Abdallah and 
other Jews assisted Mahomet, in propagating the 
Koran. The unbelieving Arabs frequently re- 
proached him, saying that he was an ear (accepted 
anything as truth), that it was not the angel 
Gabriel who was teaching him, but a mortal man. 
Nevertheless, though Abdallah Ibn-Salam and other 
Jewish Ansars supported him, they were far from 
abandoning Judaism on this account, and continued 
to observe the Jewish commandments, and Mahomet 
was at first not offended by this conduct. 


But only a small number of the Jews of Medina 
joined the band of believers, particularly when they 
perceived his selfish efforts, his haughtiness, and his 
insatiable love of women. They bore in their hearts 
too high an ideal of their ancient prophets to 
place this enthusiast, who longed after every beauti- 
ful woman, on an equal footing with them. " See 
him," said the Jews, " he is not satisfied with food, 
and has no other desire than that of being surrounded 
by women. If he is a prophet, he should confine 
himself to his duties as a prophet, and not turn to 
women." Other Jews said : " If Mahomet is a 
prophet, he should appear in Palestine, for only in 
that place God appears unto his elect." The Jews 
also objected to him, saying, " You pride yourself 
on being of Abraham's faith, but Abraham did not 
use the flesh and milk of camels." Mahomet's 
chief opponents on the Jewish side were Pinehas 
Ibn-Azura, a man of caustic wit, who seized every 
opportunity to make Mahomet appear ridiculous ; 
furthermore, the far-famed Kaab Ibn-Asharaf, the 
offspring of an Arab father and a Jewish mother ; 
a poet, Abu-Afak, an old man more than a hundred 
years old, who endeavored to arouse hate against 
Mahomet amongst the ignorant Arabs ; and Abdal- 
lah, the son of Saura, who was looked upon as the 
most learned Jew in Hejas. Pinehas is the author 
of a witty answer to Mahomet's invitation *to 
the Jewish tribe of Benu-Kainukaa to accept 
Islam. Mahomet, in his epistle, had used the 
words : " Lend yourselves unto God as a beautiful 
pledge." Pinehas answered, " God is so poor that 
He borrows from us ! " Thus the Jewish opponents 
of Mahomet placed a ridiculous meaning on his 
sayings and revelations, and treated him contemp- 
tuously, not anticipating that the fugitive from 
Mecca, who had come to M'idina for assistance, 
would shortly humble and in part destroy their 
tribes, and that he would control the destiny of 


many of their co-religionists in times to come. 
They relied too much on their own courage and 
strength, and forgot that the most dangerous enemy 
is he whom one disregards too much. Mahomet, 
indeed, with sly dissimulation, at first accepted the 
contempt bestowed on him by the Jews with appar- 
ent equanimity. He advised his disciples, " Fight 
only in a becoming manner with the people who 
believe in the Holy Writ (Jews), and say : We- 
believe in that which has been revealed to us 
and to you. Our God is the same as yours, and 
we are faithful to Him." But the mutual dis- 
content made it difficult to maintain peace perma- 
nently. On the one side, the Jews did their best 
to alienate Mahomet's followers. They succeeded 
in prejudicing the first man in Medina, the Chazra- 
jite Abdallah Ibn-Ubey, against Mahomet, so that 
he remained antagonistic to Mahomet to the end 
of his days. This man was about to be elected 
king of his town, but through the arrival of Mahomet 
he had been cast into the shade. On the other 
side, his followers urged him to declare to what 
extent he held to Judaism. They saw that his 
disciples amongst the Jews still continued to observe 
the Jewish laws, and to abstain from camel's flesh, 
and they said to him, " If the Torah be a divine 
book, then let us follow its teachings." Since 
Mahomet was thoroughly an Arab, he could not 
join Judaism, and he perceived that the Arabs would 
not conform to religious customs which were quite 
strange to them. So it only remained for him to 
break with the Jews definitely. He thereupon 
published a long Sura (called the Sura of the Cow), 
full of invectives against the Jews. He altered the 
position assumed in prayer, and decreed that the 
believers should no longer turn their faces towards 
Jerusalem, but towards Mecca and the Kaaba. He 
discarded fasting on the day of Atonement (Ashura), 
and instituted instead the holy month Ramadhan, 


as had been customary among- the Arabs from very- 
ancient times. He was obliged to withdraw much 
of what he had in the beginning given out as God's 
revelation. Mahomet now asserted that the Torah 
had contained many allusions to his appearance 
and calling as a prophet, but that the Jews had ex- 
punged the passages. At first he declared that the 
Jews were possessed of the true faith ; later on he 
said that they honored Ezra (Ozair) as the son of 
God, just as the Christians did Jesus, and that 
the Jews were consequently to be regarded as 
infidels. His hatred against the Jews, who refused to 
accept his prophecies, and saw through his designs, 
continually widened the breach between them and 

Although he hated the Jews in his innermost 
heart, yet he did not venture to provoke them by 
acts of violence, because his authority was not suffi- 
ciently great, and the Jews outnumbered his follow- 
ers. But after the battle at Bedr (in the winter of 
624), when the small body of Mahometans gained a 
victory over the numerous Koraishites, the situation 
changed. Mahomet, whose power was greatly in- 
creased through this victory, exchanged the attitude 
of a humble prophet for that of a fanatical tyrant, 
to whom any measure, even assassination, was a 
justifiable means of freeing himself from his ene- 
mies. However, he was prudent enough to avoid 
becoming involved in disputes with the powerful 
Jewish tribes ; he began with the weak and defense- 
less. A poetess, Asma, daughter of Merwan, who 
was of Jewish descent, and married to an Arab, was 
murdered at night whilst asleep (because she had 
composed satires against the false prophet), and he 
commended the murderer. Thereupon the Jewish 
tribe Kainukaa experienced his religious wrath. It 
was the weakest of the Jewish- Arabian tribes, and 
to it belonged that Pinehas Ibn-Azura, whose sar- 
castic wit had made Mahomet appear in a ridiculous 


light. The pretext was of the slightest kind. A Ma- 
hometan had killed a Jew on account of a poor prac- 
tical joke, and the Kainukaa avenged his death. 
Mahomet thereupon challenged them to profess 
Islam, or to accept war as the alternative. They 
replied : " We are, it is true, for peace, and would 
gladly maintain our alliance with you ; but since you 
desire to make war upon us, we will show that we 
have no fear." They reckoned upon the assistance 
of the tribes of Nadhir and Kuraiza, who were their 
co-religionists, and withdrew to their fortresses at 
Medina. Mahomet collected his troops, and be- 
sieged the Kainukaa. Had the numerous Jews 
of northern Arabia, Nadhir, Kuraiza, and those of 
Chaibar, who, like the Kainukaa, were threatened, 
come to their assistance, and had they, before it was 
too late, made an offensive and defensive alliance, 
they would have been able to crush Mahomet and his 
straggling followers, on whose fidelity, moreover, he 
could not entirely rely. But the Jews, like the Arabs, 
were divided, and each tribe had only its own inter- 
ests in view. The Kainukaa fought desperately for 
fifteen days, expecting re-inforcements from their 
co-religionists. But as these did not come, they sur- 
rendered to the enemy. Mahomet had all the Jews 
of Kainukaa put in chains with the intention of 
killing them ; but a word from Abdallah Ibn-Ubey, 
their ally, made him draw back with alarm from his 
purpose. Abdallah laid hold of his shirt of mail, 
and said : " I will not let you go until you promise 
me to spare the captives ; for they constitute my 
strength ; they have defended me against the black 
people and the red people." To which Mahomet 
replied : " Let them be free ; may God condemn 
them, and Abdallah with them ! " The Jews of 
Kainukaa, 700 in number, were obliged to leave their 
possessions behind, and they set out for Palestine in 
a most destitute condition (February, 624). They 
settled in Batanea, whose chief town was Adraat, 


where they were probably received in a fraternal 
manner by their co-religionists, who, at this time, 
were free from the Byzantine yoke. 

After the victory over the Kainukaa, Mahomet 
communicated to the Moslems a revelation against 
the Jews, which deprived them of every protection : 
" O ye believers, choose ye not Jews and Christians 
as allies ; they may protect themselves. He who 
befriends them is one of them ; God tolerates no 
sinful people." This exclusion was less harmful to 
the Christians, as they were not numerously repre- 
sented in northern Arabia, and generally kept them- 
selves neutral. The Jews, on the contrary, who 
were accustomed to independence, and who were 
full of warlike courage, became involved in numer- 
ous disputes by this act of outlawry. Their former 
allies for the most part renounced them, and at 
Mahomet's bidding, took spiteful vengeance on 

With this mutual, deadly hatred existing be- 
tween Mahomet and the Jews, it is said that the 
Benu-Nadhir invited him one day to their castle of 
Zuhara with the intention of hurling him from the 
terraces and thus ending his life. At that time their 
chief was Hujej Ibn-Achtab. Mahomet accepted 
the invitation, but watched the movements of the 
Jews. Suspecting that they desired his death, he 
stole away and hastened to Medina. The Jews of 
Nadhir paid dearly, it is said, for this treacherous 
project. Mahomet gave them the choice of quitting 
their homes within ten days, or of preparing for 
death. The Nadhir were resolved at first to avoid 
war and to emigrate, but encouraged by Abdallah, 
who promised them assistance, they accepted the 
challenge which had been thrown down. They, 
however, waited in vain for the assistance promised 
to them. Mahomet commenced operations against 
them, and uprooted and burnt the date-trees which 
supplied them with food. His own people rebelled 


at this proceeding, for to these unscrupulous war- 
riors a palm was holier than a man's life. After 
several days of siege, the Nadhir were obliged to 
capitulate, and the terms were that they should 
depart without arms, and that they should take only 
a certain portion of their possessions — as much as a 
camel could carry. 

They thereupon emigrated to the number of six 
hundred, some of them going to their countrymen 
in Chaibar, and some settling in Jericho and Adraat 
(June-July, 625). The war against the Nadhirites 
was, later on, justified by Mahomet through a reve- 
lation of the Koran, which read : "All in the heavens 
and earth praise God ; He is the most honored, the 
most wise. ■ He it is who drove out the unbelievers 
amongst the people of the Book from their dwelling 
places (Kainukaa) , to send them to those who had 
already emigrated. You thought not that they 
would go forth, they themselves thought that their 
strong places would protect them from God himself, 
but God attacked them unexpectedly, and threw 
terror into their hearts, so that their houses were 
destroyed with their own hands, as well as laid 
waste by believers." The exiled Benu-Nadhir, who 
had remained in Arabia, did not accept their misfor- 
tune quietly, but exerted themselves to form a 
coalition with the enemies of Mahomet in order to 
attack him with combined forces. Three respected 
Nadhirites, Hujej, Kinanah Ibn-ol-Rabia, and Sallam 
Ibn Mishkam, incited the Koraishites in Mecca, in 
alliance with the mighty tribe of the Ghatafan and 
others, to make war against the haughty tyrannical 
prophet, who was daily becoming more powerful 
and more cruel. The enemies of Mahomet in 
Mecca, though filled with rage against him, were 
first incited by the Jews to join battle with him. 

Through the activity of the Nadhirites the 
Arabian tribes were induced to join in the war. They 
found it more difficult, however, to induce their co- 


religionists, the Benu-Kuraiza, to take part. Kaab- 
Ibn-Assad, the governor of Kuraiza, at first would 
not receive the Nadhirite Hujej, who had desired 
his protection, because his tribe had made an 
alliance with Mahomet and the Moslems, and he 
was so guileless as to rely on Mahomet's word. 
Hujej managed to convince him of the danger 
which threatened the Jews, and to persuade him 
that the victory of so many allies over the less 
numerous Moslems was certain. The Benu-Kuraiza 
yielded to his arguments. Ten thousand of the 
allied troops took the field, and intended to surprise 
Medina. Mahomet, forewarned by a deserter, 
would not allow his army, which was inferior in 
numbers, to fight a pitched battle. He fortified 
Medina by surrounding it with a deep ditch and 
other defenses. The Arabs, accustomed to fight 
in single combat, vainly discharged their arrows 
against the fortifications. Mahomet succeeded 
finally in sowing the seeds of mutual distrust among 
the chief allies, viz., the Koraishites, the Ghatafan 
and the Jews. 

The " War of the Fosse " terminated favorably 
for Mahomet, and very unhappily for the Jews, 
upon whom the whole of his wrath now fell. On 
the day after the departure of the allies, Mahomet, 
with 3000 men, took the field against Kuraiza, 
announcing that he was thus obeying an express 
revelation. His next step was to arouse the enthu- 
siasm of his followers in the cause of the war. 
" Let him that is obedient offer up his prayers in 
the neighborhood of Kuraiza," was the formula 
with which he exhorted them. The Jews, unable to 
resist in a battle, retired to their fortresses, which 
they put into a state of defense. Here they were 
besieged by Mahomet and his troops for twenty- 
five days (February-March, 627). Food then began 
to fail the besieged, and it became necessary to 
think of capitulation. They besought Mahomet to 


treat them as he had treated their brethren, the 
Nadhirites, viz., allow them to withdraw with their 
wives, their children, and a portion of their property. 
The vindictive prophet, however, refused their 
request, and demanded unconditional surrender. 

Nearly 700 Jews, amongst them the chiefs Kaab 
and Hujej, were ruthlessly slaughtered in the 
market-place, and their bodies thrown into a com- 
mon grave. The market-place was thenceforth 
called the Kuraiza Place. And all this was done in 
the name of God ! The Koran makes reference 
to it in the following verse : " God drove out of 
their fortresses those of the people of the Book 
[the Jews] who assisted the allies, and he cast into 
their hearts terror and dismay. Some of them you 
put to flight, some you took captive ; he has caused 
you to inherit their land, their houses, and their 
wealth, and a land which you have not trodden ; 
for God is almighty." The women were bartered 
for weapons and horses. Mahomet wished to retain 
one of the captives, a beautiful girl, Rihana by name, 
as his concubine ; she, however, proudly rejected 
his advances. Only one of the Kuraiza remained 
alive, a certain Zabir Ibn-Bata, and he only by the 
intercession of Thabit, one of his friends. Full of 
joy, the latter hastened to the aged Zabir, to tell 
him of his fortune. " I thank thee," said the Jewish 
sage, who lay in fetters ; " but tell me what has 
become of our leader Kaab ? " " He is dead," 
answered Thabit. "And Hujej Ibn-Achtab, the 
prince of the Jews?" "He is dead," he again 
replied. "And Azzel Ibn-Samuel, the fearless 
warrior ? " " He, too, is dead," was his answer 
again. "Then I do not care to live," said Zabir. 
The old man begged that he might die by the 
hands of his friend. His wish was granted. 

A year later came the turn of the Jews in the 
district of Chaibar, a confederacy of small Jewish 
states. This war, however, was protracted into a 


long campaign, because the province had a number 
of fortresses which were in a good state of repair, 
and were well defended. The exiled Nadhirites in 
Chaibar roused their comrades to vigorous resist- 
ance. The Arab races of Ghatafan and Fezara 
had promised assistance. The leading spirit of the 
Chaibarites was the exiled Nadhirite, Kinanah 
Ibn Rabia, a man who possessed indomitable 
firmness and courage. He was called the King of 
the Jews, and was abetted by Marhab, a giant of 
Himyarite extraction. Mahomet, before the begin- 
ning of the war, turned in prayer to God, beseeching 
him to grant a victory over the Jews of Chaibar. 
The war, in which Mahomet employed 14,000 
warriors, lasted almost two months (Spring 628). 

The war against Chaibar assumed the same 
character as that which was waged against the other 
Jewish tribes. It was begun by the cutting down 
of the palm trees, and the siege of the small 
fortresses, which surrendered after a short resist- 
ance. Mahomet met the most vigorous resistance 
at the fortress Kamus, which was built on a steep 
rock. The Mahometans were several times beaten 
back by the Jews. Abu-Bekr and Omar, Mahomet's 
two bravest generals, lost their distinction as 
unconquered heroes before the walls of Kamus. 
Marhab performed wonderful feats of valor, to 
avenge the death of his brother, who had fallen 
earlier in the war. 

When Mahomet sent his third general, Ali, 
against him, the Jewish hero addressed him thus : 
" Chaibar knows my valor, I am Marhab the hero, 
well armed and tried in the field." He then chal- 
lenged Ali to single combat. But his time had 
come. He fell at the hands of his peer. After 
many attempts, the enemy succeeded in effecting an 
entrance into the fortress. How the captives fared 
is not known. Kinanah was captured and put on 
the rack in order to force him to discover his hidden 


treasures. But he bore pain and even death with- 
out uttering a word. After the fortress had fallen, 
the Jews lost courage, and the other fortresses 
surrendered on condition that the garrisons should 
be allowed to withdraw. They were subsequently 
allowed to take possession of their lands, and only 
had to pay as an annual tribute one half of their 
produce. The Mahometan conquerors took pos- 
session of all the movable property, and returned 
home laden with the spoils of the Jews. Fadak, 
Wadil-Kora and Taima also submitted. Their 
inhabitants, according to agreement, were allowed 
to remain in their land. The year 628 everywhere 
was distinguished by fatalities for the Jews. It 
marks the victory of Mahomet over the Jews of 
Chaibar, the decay of the last independent Jewish 
tribes, and the persecution of the Jews of Palestine 
by the Emperor Heraclius, who had, for a short 
time, again taken up arms. The sword which the 
Hasmoneans had wielded in defense of their reli- 
gion, and which was in turn used by the Zealots 
and the Arabian Jews, was wrung from the hands 
of the last Jewish heroes of Chaibar, and hence- 
forth the Jews had to make use of another weapon 
for the protection of their sanctuary. 

Mahomet had brought two pretty Jewish women 
with him from the war at Chaibar : Safia, the 
daughter of his inveterate enemy, the Nadhirite 
Hujej, and Zainab, the sister of Marhab. This 
courageous woman bethought herself of an artifice, 
whereby she might avenge the murder of her co- 
religionists and relatives. She pretended to be 
friendly towards him, and prepared a repast for 
him. Mahomet unsuspectingly ate of a poisoned 
dish which she had set before him and his com- 
panions. One of them died from the effects. But 
Mahomet, who, not having found the dish to 
his taste, had scarcely tasted it, was saved alive, 
but suffered for a long time, and felt the effects of 


the poison to the hour of his death. Questioned 
as to the reason of her action, Zainab coolly replied, 
" You have persecuted my people with " untold 
afflictions ; I therefore thought that if you were 
simply a warrior, I could procure rest for them 
through poison, but if you were really a prophet, 
God would warn you in time, and you would come 
to no harm." 

Mahomet thereupon ordered her to be put to 
death, and commanded his troops to use none of the 
cooking utensils of the Jews before they had been 
scalded. The rest of the Jews did not even now 
give up the hope of freeing themselves of their 
arch-enemy. They intrigued against him, and made 
common cause with some ill-disposed Arabs. The 
house of a Jew, Suwailim, in Medina was the ap- 
pointed meeting-place for the malcontents, whom 
Mahomet and his fanatic followers named " the 
hypocrites " (Munafikun). A traitor betrayed them, 
and Suwailim's house was burnt to the ground. The 
Jews in Arabia felt real joy at Mahomet's death 
(632), because they, like others, believed that the 
Arabs would be cured of their false belief that he 
was a higher being endowed with immortality. But 
fanaticism, together with the love of war and con- 
quest, had already taken possession of the Arabians, 
and they accepted the Koran as a whole, alike its 
revolting features and the truths borrowed from 
Judaism, as the irrefragable Word of God. Juda- 
ism had reared in Islam a second unnatural child. 
The Koran became the book of faith of a great 
part of humanity in three parts of the world, and, 
being full of hostile expressions against the Jews, 
it naturally urged on the Mahometans to acts of 
hostility against the Jews. This is paralleled by 
the effect which the Apostles and the Evangel- 
ists produced upon the Christians. So great was 
the fanaticism of the second Caliph, Omar, a man of 
a wild and energetic nature, that he broke the 


treaty made by Mahomet with the Jews of Chaibar 
and Wadil Kora. He drove them from their lands, 
as he did also the Christians of Najaran, in order 
that the holy ground of Arabia might not be dese- 
crated by Jews and Christians. 

Omar assigned the landed property of the Jews 
to the Mahometan warriors, and a strip of land near 
the town of Kufa, on the Euphrates, was given them 
in return (about 640). But as no evil in history is 
quite devoid of good consequences, the dominion of 
Islam furthered the elevation of Judaism from its 
deepest degradation. 



The Conquests of Islam — Omar's Intolerance — Condition of the Jews 
in Babylonia — Bostanai--The Princes of the Captivity and the 
Geonim — Dignity and Revenues of the Prince — Communal 
Organization — Excommunication — Julian of Toledo and the 
Jews — The Moslems in Spain — The Jews and Arabic Litera- 
ture — The Assyrian Vowel-system — The Neo-Hebraic Poetry : 
Jos6 ben Jos6 — Simon ben Kaipha — Employment of Rhyme — 
Jannaif — Eleazar Kaliri — Opposition to the Study of the Talmud 
— The Jews in the Crimea and the Land of the Chazars — The 
False Messiah Obadia Abu-Isa — SolomoUj the Prince of the 


640 — 760 c. E. 

Scarcely ten years after Mahomet's death the 
fairest lands in the north of Arabia and the north- 
west of Africa acknowledged the supremacy of the 
Arabs, who, with the sword in one hand and the 
Koran in the other, swept across the borders of 
Arabia with the cry : " There is no God but Allah, 
and Mahomet is his prophet." Although there was 
no distinguished man at the head of the Arab 
troops, they conquered the world with far greater 
speed than the hosts of Alexander of Macedon. 
The kingdom of Persia, weakened by old age and 
dissension, succumbed to the first blow, and the 
Byzantine provinces, Palestine, Syria, and Egypt, 
whose inhabitants had but little sympathy with the 
intriguing court of Constantinople, did not offer the 
slightest resistance to the Arabs. 

Medina, an oasis in the great desert, a spot un- 
known to the different nations, became the lawgiver 
for millions, just as Rome had been in olden times. 
The various peoples that had been conquered, had 
no choice but to recognize Mahomet as a prophet 
and be converted to Islam, or to pay tribute. The 



Emperor Heraclius had taken Palestine from the 
Persians only ten years before it was again lost. 
Jews and Samaritans both helped the Arabs to cap- 
ture the land, in order that they might be freed from 
the heavy yoke of the malignant Byzantine rule. A 
Jew put into the hands of the Mussulmans the 
strongly-fortified town of Csesarea, the political 
capital of the kingdom, which is said to have con- 
tained 700,000 fighting men, amongst whom were 
20,000 Jews. He showed them a subterranean 
passage, which led the besiegers into the heart of 
the town. The Holy City, too, after a short siege, 
had to yield to the Mahometan arms. The second 
successor of Mahomet, the Caliph Omar, took per- 
sonal possession of Jerusalem (about 638), and laid 
the foundation-stone of a mosque on the site of the 
Temple. Bishop Sophronius, who had handed over 
the keys of Jerusalem to Omar, untaught by the 
change of fate which he had himself experienced, is 
said to have made arrangements with the Caliph, 
in capitulating, that the Jews be forbidden to settle 
in the Holy City. It is true that Jerusalem was 
looked upon by the Mussulmans as a holy place, 
and pilgrimages were made thither by them. It was 
also called the Holy City (Alkuds) by them, but it 
was to remain inaccessible to its sons. Omar is 
said to have driven out both Jews and Christians 
from Tiberias. Thus ceased the literary activity 
of the school of that place. They, however, received 
permission to settle there again under the succeed- 
ing Caliphs. 

Rising Islam was as intolerant as Christianity. 
When Omar had driven the Jews out of Chaibar 
and the Christians out of Najaran, he gave instruc- 
tions to his generals against the Jews and Chris- 
tians. These orders were called " the covenant of 
Omar," and contained many restrictions against the 
" peoples of the Book" (Jews and Christians). They 
were not allowed to build new houses of worship, 


nor to restore those that were in ruins. They had 
to sing in subdued tones in the synagogues and 
churches, and were compelled to pray silently for 
the dead. 

They dared not hinder their followers from ac- 
cepting Islam, and were compelled to show marks 
of respect to Mussulmans whenever they met them. 
Further, they were not allowed to fill judicial or 
administrative offices. They were forbidden to ride 
on horses, and had to wear marks whereby they 
could easily be distinguished from the Moslems. 
Jews and Christians were not allowed to make use 
of a signet-ring, which was considered a mark of 
honor. Whilst the Mahometans were exempt from 
taxes, and at most only had to pay a slight contri- 
bution for the poor, Jews and Christians had to pay 
a poll-tax and ground-rent. 

In spite of this fact, the Jews felt themselves freer 
under the new rule of Islam than they did in the 
Christian lands. The restrictive laws of Omar 
were not carried out even during Omar's lifetime, 
and though the fanatic Mussulmans scorned the 
Jews for their religion, they did not despise them as 
citizens, but showed great honor to worthy Jews. 
The first Mahometans treated the Jews as their 
equals ; they respected them as friends and allies, 
and took an interest in them even as enemies. The 
Asiatic and Egyptian Jews consequently treated 
the Mahometans as their liberators from the yoke 
of the Christians. A mystical apocalypse makes a 
distinct reference to the joy experienced at the 
victory of Islam. Simeon bar Yocha'i, who was 
looked upon as a mystic, foretells the rise of Islam, 
and bewails the same in the prayer which runs as 
follows : " Have we not suffered enough through 
the dominion of the wicked Edom (the Roman- 
Christian dominion), that the dominion of Ishmael 
should now rise over us ? " Metatoron, one of the 
chief angels, answers him : " Fear not, son of man ! 


God sets up the kingdom of Ishmael only in order 
that it may free you from the dominion of the 
wicked Edom. He raises up a prophet for them, 
he will conquer countries for them, and there will 
be great hatred between them and the sons of 
Esau" (the Christians). Such were the sentiments 
of the Jews with regard to the conquests of the 

The Jews in the ancient Babylonian district (called 
Irak by the Arabs) attained a great measure of 
freedom through the victories of the Mahometans. 
During their campaigns against the last Persian 
kings, the Jews and the Nestorian Christians, who 
had been persecuted under the last Sassanian 
princes, had rendered them much assistance. The 
Jews and the Chaldean Christians formed, the bulk 
of the population near the Euphrates and the Tigris. 
Their assistance must have been opportune, as we 
find even the fanatical Caliph Omar bestowing 
rewards and privileges upon them. It was, doubt- 
less, in consequence of the services which they had 
rendered that the Mahometan generals recognized 
Bostanai, the descendant of the Exilarch of the 
house of David, as the chief of the Jews. Omar 
respected Bostanai so highly that he gave him a 
daughter of the Persian king Chosru in marriage. 
She had been taken prisoner, together with her 
sisters (642) — a singular turn of fate ! The grand- 
son of a race that boasted descent from the house 
of David married a princess whose ancestors traced 
their descent from Darius, the founder of the Per- 
sian dynasty. Bostanai was the first Exilarch who 
was the vassal of the Mahometans. 

The Exilarch exercised both civil and judicial 
functions, and all the Jews of Babylonia formed a 
separate community under him. Bostanai also ob- 
tained the exceptional permission to wear a signet- 
ring (Gushpanka). By this means he was able to 
give his documents and decrees an official charac- 


ter. The seal, in reference to some unknown his- 
torical allusion, bore the impress of a fly. Bostanai 
must have been an important personage in other 
respects, since legends cluster about him, and would 
make his birth itself appear a miraculous event. 
The Judseo-Babylonian community, which had ac- 
quired some importance through Bostanai, obtained 
its real strength under Ali, the fourth Caliph, Ma- 
homet's comrade and son-in-law, the hero of 

Omar had died at the hands of an assassin (644), 
and his successor, Othman, had been killed in an 
insurrection (655). Ali was nominated Caliph by 
the conspirators, but he had to struggle against 
many bitter opponents. Islam was divided into two 
camps. The one declared for Ali, who resided in the 
newly-built town of Kufa ; the other for Moawiyah, 
a relative of the murdered Caliph Othman. 

The Babylonian Jews and Nestorian Christians 
sided with AH, and rendered him assistance. A Jew, 
Abdallah Ibn-Saba, was a spirited partisan of Ali. 
He asserted that the succession to the Caliphate was 
his by right, and that the divine spirit of Mahomet 
had passed to him, as it had from Moses to Joshua. 
It is said that when Ali took the town of Firuz-Shabur 
or Anbar, 90,000 Jews, under Mar-Isaac, the head 
of a college, assembled to do homage to the Caliph, 
who was but indifferently supported by his own fol- 
lowers (658). The unhappy Ali valued this homage, 
and, doubtless, accorded privileges to the Jewish 
principal. It is quite probable that from this time 
the head of the school of Sora was invested with a cer- 
tain dignity, and took the title of Gaon. There were 
certain privileges connected with the Gaonate, upon 
which even the Exilarch did not venture to encroach. 
Thus a peculiar relation, leading to subsequent 
quarrels, grew up between the rival offices — the 
Exilarchate and the Gaonate. With Bostanai and 
Mar-Isaac, the Jewish officials recognized by the 


Caliph, there begins a new period in Jewish history — 
the Epoch of the Geonim. After Bostanai's death 
dissension arose among his sons. Bostanaii had left 
several sons by various wives, one of them the 
daughter of the Persian king. Perhaps her son 
was his father's favorite, because royal blood flowed 
in his veins, and he was probably destined to be his 
successor. His brothers by the Jewish wives were 
consequently jealous of him, and treated him as a 
slave, i.e., as one that had been born of a captive 
non-Jewess, who, according to Talmudic law, was 
looked upon as a slave, so long as he could not 
furnish proof that either his mother or himself had 
been formally emancipated. This, however, he could 
not do. The brothers then determined to sell the 
favorite, their own brother, as a slave. Revolting 
as this proceeding was, it was approved by several 
members of the college of Pumbeditha, partly from 
religious scruples, partly from the desire to render 
a friendly service to Bostanai's legitimate sons. 
Other authorities, however, maintained that Bos- 
tanai, who was a pious man, would not have married 
the king's daughter before he had legally freed her, 
and made her a proselyte. In order to protect her 
son from humiliation, one of the chief judges, Clia- 
ninai, hastened to execute a document attesting her 
emancipation, and thus the wicked design of the 
brothers was frustrated ; but the stain of illegitimacy 
still attached to the son, and his descendants were 
never admitted to the rank of the descendants of the 
Exilarch Bostanai, 

Bostanai's descendants in the Exilarchate arbi- 
trarily deposed the presidents of the colleges, and 
appointed their own partisans to the vacant places. 
The religious leaders of the people thus bore Bos- 
tonai's descendants a grudge. Even in later times, 
an authority amongst the Jews had to defend himself 
with the words : "I am a member of the house of the 
Exilarch, but not a descendant of the sons of Bostanai, 


who were proud and oppressive." The vehement 
quarrels about the Caliphate, between the house of 
Ali and the Ommiyyades, were repeated on a small 
scale in Jewish Babylonia. The half-century from 
Bostonai and the rise of the Gaonate till the Exil- 
archate of Chasdai (670 to 730) is in consequence 
involved in obscurity. Few also of the Geonim who 
held office and of the presidents of the colleges 
during this period are known, and their chronological 
order cannot be ascertained. After Mar-Isaac, 
probably the first Gaon of Sora, Hunai held office, 
contemporaneously with Mar-Raba in Pumbeditha 
(670 to 680). These presidents issued an important 
decree with respect to the law of divorce, whereby a 
Talmudical law was set aside. According to the 
Talmud, the wife can seek a divorce only in very 
rare cases, e.g., if the husband suffers from an 
incurable disease. Even if the wife were seized 
with an unconquerable aversion to her husband, she 
could be compelled by law to live with him, and to 
fulfil her duties, on penalty of losing her marriage 
settlement, and even her dowry, in case she insisted 
upon the separation. Through the domination of 
Islam circumstances were now changed. The Koran 
had somewhat raised the position of women, and 
empowered the wife to sue for a divorce. This led 
many unhappy wives to appeal to the Mahometan 
courts, and they compelled their husbands to give 
them a divorce without the aforesaid penalties. It 
was in consequence of the events just related that 
Hunai and Mar-Raba introduced a complete reform 
of the divorce laws. They entirely abrogated the 
Talmudical law, and empowered the wife to sue for 
a divorce without suffering any loss of her property- 
rights. Thus the law established equality between 
husband and wife. For the space of forty years 
(680 to 720), only the names of the Geonim and 
Exilarchs are known to us ; historical details, how- 
ever, are entirely wanting. During this time, as a 


result of quarrels and concessions, there arose 
peculiar relations of the officials of the Jewish- 
Persian kingdom towards one another, which de- 
veloped into a kind of constitution, 

The Jewish community in Babylonia (Persia), 
which had the appearance of a state, had a peculiar 
constitution. The Exilarch and the Gaon were of 
equal rank. The Exilarch's office was political. 
He represented Babylpnian-Persian Judaism under 
the Caliphs. He collected the taxes from the 
various communities, and paid them into the treasury. 
The Exilarchs, both in bearing and mode of life, were 
princes. They drove about in a state carriage ; they 
had outriders and a kind of body-guard, and re- 
ceived princely homage. 

The religious unity of Judaism, on the other hand, 
was embodied in the Gaonate of Sora and Pumbe- 
ditha. The Geonim expounded the Talmud, with a 
view to a practical application of its provisions ; they 
made new laws and regulations ; administered them, 
and meted out punishment to those that transgressed 
them. The Exilarch shared the judicial power with 
the Gaon of Sora and the head of the college of 

The Exilarch had the right of nomination to 
offices, though not without the acquiescence of the 
college. The head of the college of Sora, however, 
was alone privileged to be styled "Gaon"; the 
head of the college of Pumbeditha did not bear the 
title officially. The Goan of Sora together with his 
college, as a rule, was paid greater deference than 
his colleague of Pumbeditha, partly out of respect 
to the memory of its great founders, Rab and Ashi, 
partly on account of its proximity to Kufa, the cap- 
ital of Irak and of the kingdom of Islam in the East. 
On festive occasions, the head of the college of 
Sora sat at the right side of the Exilarch. He 
obtained two-thirds of certain revenues for his 
school, and performed the duties of the Exilarch 


when the office was vacant. For a long time, too, only 
a member of the school of Sora was elected president 
of the school of Pumbeditha, this school not being 
permitted to elect one from its own ranks. 

Now that the Exilarch everywhere met with the 
respect due a prince, he was installed with a degree 
of ceremony and pomp. Although the office was 
hereditary in the house of Bostanai, the acquiescence 
of both colleges was required for the nomination of 
a new Exilarch, and thus there came to be a fixed 
installation service. The officials of both the col- 
leges, together with their fellow-collegians, and the 
most respected men in the land, betook themselves 
to the residence of the designated Exilarch. In a 
large open place, which was lavishly adorned, seats 
were erected for him and the presidents of the two 
schools. The Gaon of Sora delivered an address to 
the future Exilarch, in which he was reminded of the 
duties of his high office, and was warned against 
haughty conduct toward his brethren. The installa- 
tion always took place in the synagogue, and on a 
Thursday. Both officials put their hands upon the 
head of the nominee, and declared amidst the clang 
of trumpets, " Long live our lord, the Prince of the 

The people, who were always present in great 
numbers on the occasion, vociferously repeated the 
wish. All present then accompanied the new 
Exilarch home from the synagogue, and presents 
flowed in from all sides. On the following Saturday 
evening there was a special festive service for the 
new prince. There was a platform in the shape of 
a tower erected for him in the synagogue. This was 
decked with costly ornaments that he might appear 
like the kings of the house of David in the Temple, 
on a raised seat, apart from the people. He was 
conducted to divine service by a numerous and 
honorable suite. The reader chanted the prayers 
with the assistance of a well-appointed choir. 


When the Exilarch was seated on his high seat, 
the Gaon of Sora approached the Exilarch, bent the 
knee before him, and sat at his right hand. His 
colleague of Pumbeditha having made a similar 
obeisance, took his seat on the left. When the 
Law was read, they brought the scroll to the 
Exilarch, which was looked upon as a royal prerog- 
ative. He was also the first one called to the read- 
ing of the Law, which on ordinary occasions was the 
prerogative of the descendants of the house of Aaron. 
In order to honor him, the president of the college 
of ' Sora acted as interpreter (Meturgeman), ex- 
pounding the passage that had been read. 

After the Law was read, it was customary for the 
Prince of the Exile to deliver an address. But if 
the Exilarch was not learned, he delegated this 
duty to the Gaon of Sora. In the final prayer for 
the glorification of God's name (Kadish, Gloria), the 
name of the Exilarch was mentioned: "May this 
happen in the lifetime of the Prince." Thereupon 
followed a special blessing for him, the heads of the 
colleges and its members (Yekum Purkan), and the 
names of the countries, places and persons, far and 
near, that had advanced the welfare of the colleges 
by their contributions. A festive procession from 
the synagogue to the house or palace of the Exilarch, 
and a sumptuous repast for the officials and promi- 
nent personages, which often included state officers, 
formed the conclusion of this peculiar act of homage 
to the Exilarch. 

Once a year, in the third week after the Feast of 
Tabernacles, a kind of court was held at the house 
of the Exilarch. The heads of the college, together 
with their colleagues, the presidents of the commu- 
nity, and many people besides, came to see him at 
Sora, probably with presents. On the following 
Sabbath the same ceremonial took place as at the 
nomination. Lectures were delivered during this 
court week, which was afterwards known as "the 
Great Assembly," or the " Feast of the Exilarch." 


The Exilarch derived his income partly from 
certain districts and towns, and partly from irreg- 
ular receipts. The districts Naharowan (east of the 
Tigris), Farsistan, Holwan — as far as the jurisdiction 
of the Exilarch extended — even during the period of 
decadence, brought him an income of 700 golden 
denarii (5^1700). We can easily imagine how great 
his revenue must have been in palmy days. The 
Exilarch also had the right of imposing a compulsory 
tax upon the communities under his jurisdiction, and 
the officials of the Caliph supported him in this be- 
cause they themselves had an interest in it. 

The president of the college of Sora was the 
second in rank in the Judseo-Babylonian commu- 
nity. He was the only one who held the title of 
Gaon officially, and he had the precedence over 
his colleague of Pumbeditha on all occasions, even 
though the former were a young man and the latter 
an aged one. Meanwhile, the school of Pumbe- 
ditha enjoyed perfect equality and independence 
with respect to its internal affairs, except when one 
or another Exilarch, according to Oriental custom, 
made illegal encroachments upon it. 

Next to the president came the chief judge, who 
discharged the judicial duties, and was, as a rule, 
his successor in office. Below these were seven 
presidents of the Assembly of Teachers, and three 
others who bore the title of Associate or scholar, 
and who together seem to have composed the 
Senate in a restricted sense. Then came a college 
of a hundred members, which was divided into two 
unequal bodies, one of seventy members represent- 
ing the "great Synhedrion," the other of thirty 
forming the " smaller Synhedrion." The seventy 
were ordained, and consequently qualified for pro- 
motion ; they bore the title of Teacher. The thirty 
or "smaller Synhedrion" do not seem to have been 
entitled to a seat and vote, they were simply candi- 
dates for the higher dignity. The members of the 


college generally bequeathed their offices to their 
sons, but the office of president was not hereditary. 

This peculiarly organized council of the two col- 
leges by degrees lost its strictly collegiate character, 
and acquired that of a deliberative and legislative 
Parliament. Twice a year, in March and September 
(Adar and Elul), in accordance with ancient usage, 
the college held a general meeting, and sat for a 
whole month. During this period the members 
occupied themselves also with theoretical questions, 
discussing and explaining some portion of the Tal- 
mud, which had been given out beforehand as the 
theme. But the attention of the meeting was prin- 
cipally directed to practical matters. New laws 
and regulations were considered and decreed, and 
points which had formed the subject of inquiry by 
foreign communities, during the preceding months, 
were discussed and answered. Little by little the 
replies to the numerous inquiries addressed to them 
by foreign communities on points of religion, morals, 
and civil law, came to occupy the greater part of 
the session. At the end of the session all opinions 
expressed by the meeting on the points submitted 
for their consideration were read over, signed by 
the president, in the name of the whole council, con- 
firmed with the seal of the college (Chumrata), and 
forwarded by messenger to each community with a 
ceremonious form of greeting from the college. It 
was customary for the various congregations to 
accompany their inquiries with valuable presents in 
money. If these presents were sent specially to 
one of the two colleges, the other received no share ; 
but if they were remitted without any precise direc- 
tions, the Soranian school, being the more important, 
received two-thirds, and the remainder went to the 
sister-college. These presents were divided by the 
president among the members of the college and 
the students of the Talmud. 

Over and above such irregular receipts, the two 


colleges derived a regular income from the districts 
which were under their jurisdiction. To Sora 
belonged the south of Irak, with the two important 
cities Wasit and Bassora, and its jurisdiction 
extended as far as Ophir (India or Yemen ?). In 
later times the revenues of these countries still 
amounted to 1500 gold denars (about 1^3700). 
The northern communities belonged to Pumbeditha, 
whose jurisdiction extended as far as Khorasan. 

The appointment of the judges of a district was, 
in all probability, the duty of the principal of the 
college, in conjunction with the chief judge and the 
seven members of the Senate-council. Each of 
these three heads of the Babylonian-Jewish com- 
monwealth accordingly possessed the power of 
appointing the judges of his province, and the 
communities were thus either under the Prince of 
the Captivity or the Soranian Gaonate, or were 
dependent on the college of Pumbeditha. When a 
judge was appointed over a certain community he 
received a commission from the authorities over him. 
He bore the title of Dayan, and had to decide not 
only in civil but also in religious cases, and was 
therefore at the same time a rabbi. He chose 
from amongst the members of the community two 
associates (Zekenim), together with whom he formed 
a judicial and rabbinical tribunal. All valid deeds, 
marriage contracts, letters of divorce, bills of ex- 
change, bills of sale, and deeds of gift, were also 
confirmed by this rabbi-judge. He was, at the 
same time, the notary of the community. For these 
various functions he received — first, a certain contri- 
bution from every independent member of the 
community ; secondly, fees for drawing up deeds ; 
and,, thirdly, a weekly salary from the vendors of 
meat. The children's schools, which were in con- 
nection with the synagogue, were probably also 
under the supervision of this rabbi-judge. 

The communal constitution in Jewish Babylonia 


has served as a model for the whole Jewish people, 
partly until the present time. At the head of the 
community stood a commission entrusted with the 
public interests, and composed of seven members, 
who were called Parnese-ha-Keneset (Maintainers 
of the Community). A delegate of a Prince of the 
Captivity, or of one of the principals of the colleges, 
was charged with the supervision of public business, 
and also possessed the power of punishing refractory 
members. The punishments inflicted were flogging 
and excommunication. The latter, the invisible 
weapon of the Middle Ages, which changed its vic- 
tims to living corpses, was, however, neither so often 
nor so arbitrarily exercised by the Jews as by the 
Christians ; but even among them it fell with terrible 
force. Those who refused to comply with religious 
or official regulations, were punished with the lesser 
excommunication. It was mild in form, and did not 
entail the total isolation of the person excommuni- 
cated, and affected the members of his own family 
still less. But whosoever failed to repent within the 
given respite of thirty days, and to make application 
to have the excommunication annulled, incurred the 
punishment of the greater ban. This punishment 
scared away a man's most intimate friends, isolated 
him in the midst of society, and caused him to be 
treated as an outcast from Judaism. No one was 
allowed to hold social intercourse with him, under 
penalty of incurring similar punishments. His 
children were expelled from school, and his wife 
from the synagogue. All were forbidden to bury 
his dead, or even to receive his new-born son into 
the covenant of Abraham. Every distinctive mark 
of Judaism was denied him, and he was left branded 
as one accursed of God. The proclamation of the 
ban w^s posted up outside the court of justice, and 
communicated to the congregation. Although this 
punishment of excommunication and its conse- 
quences were extremely horrible, it was neverthe- 


less, at a time when the multitude was not open to 
rational conviction, the only means of preserving 
religious unity intact, of administering justice, and 
of maintaining social order. 

The Jewish commonwealth of Babylonia, not- 
withstanding its dependence on the humors of a 
Mahometan governor and the caprice of its own 
leaders, seemed nevertheless to those at a distance 
surrounded with a halo of power and greatness. 
The Prince of the Captivity appeared to the Jews of 
distant lands, who heard only confused rumors, to 
have regained the scepter of David ; for them the 
Geonim of the two colleges were the living uphold- 
ers and the representatives of the ideal times of the 
Talmud. The further the dominion of the Caliphate 
of the house of Ommiyyah was extended, to the 
north beyond the Oxus, to the east to India, in the 
west and the south to Africa and the Pyrenees, the 
more adherents were gained for the Babylonian 
Jewish chiefs. Every conquest of the Mahometan 
generals enlarged the boundaries of the dominion 
under the rule of the Prince of the Captivity and 
the Geonim. Even Palestine, deprived of its center, 
subordinated itself to Babylonia. The hearts of all 
Jews turned towards the potentates on the Euphrates, 
and their presents flowed in freely, to enable the 
house of David to make a worthy appearance, 
and the Talmudical colleges to continue to exist in 
splendor. The grief for their dispersion to all cor- 
ners of the earth was mitigated by the knowledge 
that by the rivers of Babylon, where the flower of the 
Jewish nation in its full vigor had settled, and where 
the great Amoraim had lived and worked, a Jewish 
commonwealth still existed. It was universally be- 
lieved by the Jews that in the original seat of Jewish 
greatness the primitive spring of ancient Jewish 
wisdom was still flowing. "God permitted the 
colleges of Sora and Pumbeditha to come into 
existence twelve years before the destruction of the 


Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, and vouchsafed them 
His special protection. They never suffered perse- 
cution at the hands of the Romans or the Byzan- 
tines, and have knovi^n neither coercion nor bondage. 
From thence will proceed the deliverance of Israel, 
and the dwellers in this happy corner of the earth 
will be spared the sufferings that are to usher in the 
age of the Messiah." Such was the view held by 
all who had not seen the Babylonian settlement 
with their own eyes. 

It was accounted an honor for a dead person to 
be mentioned at a memorial service at the colleges. 
For this purpose a special day was set apart in each 
month of assembly, during which no business was 
transacted by the colleges ; the members mourned 
for the benefactors of the colleges that had died 
during the past year, and prayed for the peace of 
their souls (Ashkaba). Later on it became custom- 
ary to forward lists of the dead, even from France 
and Spain, in order that they might also be thus 

The Jews of Spain, to whom so brilliant a part is 
allotted in Jewish history, drained the cup of misery 
to the dregs, at the very time when their brethren 
in Irak obtained almost perfect freedom and in- 
dependence. Some of them had been obliged to 
emigrate ; others were compelled to embrace Chris- 
tianity, and were required by the king Chintila, 
solemnly to declare in writing their sincere adherence 
to the Catholic faith and their entire repudiation of 
Judaism. But although they had been forcibly con- 
verted, the Jews of Visigothic Spain nevertheless 
clung steadfastly to their prohibited religion. The 
independent Visigothic nobles, to a certain extent, 
protected them from the king's severity, and no 
sooner were the eyes of the fanatical Chintila closed 
in death than the Jews openly reverted to Judaism 
under Chindaswinth, his successor (642-652). This 
monarch was at open enmity with the clergy, who 


desired to restrain the power of the throne in favor 
of the Church, but was well affected towards the Jews. 
His son, Receswinth, however, who was altogether 
unlike him, adopted an entirely different policy. 
Either from fanaticism, or in order to ingratiate 
himself with the clergy, at that time hostile to the 
throne, he proposed in an ecclesiastical council 
(which was at the same time a parliament) to deal 
rigorously with the Jews, more especially with such 
of them as had formerly feigned to be Christians. 
In his speech from the throne, Receswinth made the 
following appeal to the members of the council : "It 
is because I hav^ learnt that my kingdom is polluted 
by them as by an epidemic that I denounce the life 
and the behavior of the Jews. For while the Almighty 
has entirely freed the country from heresy, a dis- 
graceful desecration of the churches still continues. 
This shall either be reformed by our piety or rooted 
out by our severity. I mean that many of the Jews 
still persist in their old unbelief, while others, 
although purified by baptism, have relapsed so 
deeply into the errors of apostasy that their blas- 
phemy seems even more abominable than the sin 
of those who have not been baptized. I adjure you, 
therefore, to decree against the Jews, without favor 
or respect of persons, some measure which shall be 
agreeable to God and to our faith." The Council 
of Toledo (the eighth), however, passed no new law 
against the Jews, but simply confirmed the canonical 
decisions of the fourth Council of Toledo. The 
Jews were, it is true, allowed to remain in the 
country, but could neither possess slaves, nor hold 
any office, nor appear as witnesses against Chris- 
tians. But far harder was the fate of those who, 
during the persecutions, had pretended to embrace 
Christianity. They were compelled to remain within 
the pale of the Church, and to abjure Judaism once 
again. Flight was impossible, for severe punish- 
ments were decreed against all who renounced 


Christianity, or hid themselves anywhere, or attempt- 
ed to leave the country. Even the abettors of, or 
accessories to, the flight of converts incurred heavy 
punishment. Those, however, who desired to con- 
tinue outwardly in their pretended faith, but who 
still clung to Judaism in their inmost hearts, were 
required to subscribe anew to a renunciation of their 
religion (placitum Judaeorum). 

On February i8th, 654, the Jews of the capital 
Toletum (Toledo) signed a confession of the purport 
that they had already promised, it was true, under 
king Chintlla, to remain steadfast to the Catholic 
faith, but that their unbelief and the erroneous 
opinions which they had inherited from their fathers 
had prevented them from acknowledging Christ as 
their Master. Now, however, they voluntarily 
promised for themselves, their wives, and their 
children that, in future, they would not observe 
the rites and ceremonies of Judaism. They would 
no longer hold culpable intercourse with unconverted 
Jews, neither would they intermarry with near 
relations (children of brothers and sisters), nor take 
Jewish wives, nor observe Jewish marriage-customs, 
nor practice circumcision, nor keep the Passover, 
the Sabbath, nor any other Jewish festivals ; they 
would no longer observe the dietary laws — in a 
word, they would henceforward disregard the laws 
of the Jews and their abominable customs. On the 
other hand, they would honestly and devoutly profess 
a religion in conformity with the gospel and the 
apostolic traditions, and observe the precepts of the 
Church without deceit or pretense.- One thing, 
however, was impossible, namely, that they should 
partake of pork ; they were entirely unable to over- 
come their abhorrence of it. They promised, how- 
ever, to partake freely of anything which might have 
been cooked with pork. Whoever among them 
should be guilty of a violation of this promise was 
to be put to death by fire or by stoning at the hands 


of their companions or their sons. To all of this 
they swore " by the Trinity." It is probable that the 
forced converts in the other cities of the Visigothic- 
Spanish empire were obliged to give similar written 
assurances. At the same time they were still com- 
pelled to pay the tax levied on the Jews, for the 
Treasury could not afford to lose by their change 
of faith. 

As king Receswinth was well aware, however, 
that the independent nobles of the country afforded 
the Jews their protection, and allowed such of them 
as had been converted by force to live according to 
their convictions, he issued a decree forbidding all 
Christians to befriend the secret Jews, under pen- 
alty of excommunication and exclusion from the 
pale of the Church. But these measures and pre- 
cautions by no means accomplished the intended 

The secret Jews, or as they were officially termed, 
the Judaizing Christians, could not tear Judaism out 
of their hearts. The Spanish Jews, surrounded as 
they were by perils of death, early learnt the art of 
remaining true in their inmost soul to their religion, 
and of escaping their Argus-eyed foe. They con- 
tinued to celebrate the Jewish festivals in their 
homes, and to disregard the holy-days instituted by 
the Church. Desirous of putting an end to such a 
state of things, the representatives of the Church 
issued a decree, which aimed at depriving this un- 
fortunate people of their home life ; they were 
henceforward compelled to spend the Jewish and 
Christian holy-days under the eyes of the clergy, in 
order that they might thereby be obliged to dis- 
regard the former and to observe the latter (655). 

When, after a long reign, Receswinth died, the 
tormented Jewish converts took part in a revolt 
against his successor, Wamba (672-680). Count 
Hilderic, Governor of Septimania, a province of 
Spain, having refused to recognize the newly-elected 



king, raised the standard of revolt. In order to 
gain adherents and means, he promised the con- 
verted Jews a safe refuge and religious liberty in 
his province, and they, taking advantage of the 
mvitation, emigrated in numbers. The insurrection 
of Hilderic of Nismes assumed greater proportions, 
and at first gave hopes of a successful issue, but the 
insurgents were eventually defeated. Wamba ap- 
peared with an army before Narbonne, and expelled 
the Jews from this city. At the council which he 
convened (the eleventh) the Jews did not form the 
subject of any legislation; they seem, on the 
contrary, to have enjoyed a certain amount of free- 
dom during his reign, and to have made some efforts 
towards their self-preservation. 

In order, on the one hand, to prove that, although 
they were unable to reconcile themselves to Chris- 
tianity, they were not entirely bereft of reason, as' 
their enemies had declared at the councils and also 
in their writings ; and, on the other hand, in order 
to keep their ancestral belief alive both in them- 
selves and in such of their brethren as only partly 
belonged to the Christian faith, certain talented 
Jews set themselves to compose anti- Christian 
treatises, probably in Latin. One point alone is 
known of the arguments advanced in these polemical 
writings. The authors referred to a tradition re- 
lating that the Messiah would not appear before the 
seventh cycle of a thousand years, counting from the 
creation of the world ; the first six cycles correspond- 
ed to the six days of the creation, and the seventh 
would be the universal Sabbath, the reign of the 
Messiah. But as, according to their method of 
reckoning, hardly five thousand years had elapsed 
from the creation to the birth of Jesus, it was im- 
possible, they maintained, that the Messiah had 
appeared. This objection must have been forcibly 
urged by the Jewish writers, for many Christians 
were thereby made to waver in their faith. 


This partial liberty of religion, thought, and 
speech, was suppressed by Wamba's successor, 
who gained possession of the throne by treacherous 
means. Erwig, who was of Byzantine origin, and 
who possessed to the full the deceitfulness and 
unscrupulousness of the degenerate Greeks, caused 
Wamba to assume the cowl, and proclaimed him- 
self king. In order to have his usurpation recog- 
nized as lawful succession, Erwig found himself 
obliged to make some concessions to the clergy, 
and accordingly he handed the Jews over to them 
as victims. With assumed earnestness, he ad- 
dressed the council which was assembled to crown 
him, and in a fanatical speech, submitted for confir- 
mation a series of laws against the Jews. The 
portion of the royal speech which was directed 
against the Jews ran as follows : " With tears 
streaming from my eyes, I implore this honorable 
assembly to manifest its zeal, and free the land 
from this plague of degeneracy. Arise, arise, I 
cry unto you ; put to the test the laws against the 
apostasy of the Jews which we have just promul- 

Of the seven-and-twenty paragraphs which Erwig 
submitted to the council for ratification, one alone 
related to the Jews ; the rest were leveled at those 
forced converts who, despite their promises to per- 
sist in the Christian faith, and the severe punish- 
ment that followed in case of detection, were still 
unable to abandon Judaism. Erwig's edict made but 
short work of the Jews. They were commanded to 
offer themselves, their children, and all persons 
under their control, for baptism within the space of 
a year, otherwise their property would be confis- 
cated, one hundred lashes would be inflicted on 
them, the skin torn off their head and forehead to 
their everlasting shame, and they themselves driven 
out of the country. On the converted Jews, fresh 
hardships were imposed. They were now not only 


obliged to spend the Christian and Jewish holy-days 
under the eyes of the clergy, but were further sub- 
jected to clerical control in all their movements. 
Whenever they set out upon a journey, they had 
to present themselves before the ecclesiastical 
authorities of the place, and obtain a certificate from 
them, setting forth the time they had lived there, 
and attesting that their conduct had been in rigor- 
ous conformity with Church law during that period. 
At the same time, unless they could prove that they 
had led a blameless, Christian life, they were incom- 
petent to hold any office, even to act as village 
bailiff (vilicus, actor) over Christian slaves. They 
always had to carry about with them a copy of the 
laws which had been passed against them, so that 
they might never be able to plead ignorance in 
excuse. The ecclesiastical and royal judges were 
instructed to watch strictly over the execution of 
these orders, and all Christians were forbidden to 
accept any presents from converted Jews. 

The council, at the head of which was Julian, the 
Metropolitan of Toledo, a man of Jewish descent, 
passed all Erwig's proposals, and enacted that these 
laws, as ratified by the decision of the synod, were 
by general acknowledgment inviolable for all time. 
Two days after the prorogation of this council, the 
Jews, both those that had remained true to their 
religion and those that had been converted, were 
called together, the laws were read to them and 
their rigid observance strictly enjoined (January 
25th, 681). A third time the converted Jews were 
compelled to abjure Judaism and to draw up a con- 
fession of faith — with the same sincerity, of course, 
as under Chintila and Receswinth. 

But the Visigothic-Spanish Jews fared still worse 
under Erwig's successor, Egica. He did not drive 
them out of the country, it is true, but he did what 
was worse, he restricted their rights. He prohibited 
the Jews and the Judaizing Christians from possess- 


ing landed property and houses ; moreover, they 
were forbidden to repair to Africa, or to trade with 
that continent, or to transact business with any 
Christians whatever. They were compelled to sur- 
render all their real estate to the Treasury, and 
were indemnified, probably not too liberally, for the 
same (693). Only those that were really converted 
were left unfettered by these restrictions. 

The Jews were driven to despair by this new 
law, which it was impossible to evade, as their real 
estate was actually confiscated ; they accordingly 
united in a perilous conspiracy against their unre- 
lenting foe. They entered into an alliance with 
their more fortunate brethren in Africa, with the 
intention of overthrowing the Visigothic empire, 
and were probably aided by the boldly-advancing 
Mahometans and the malcontent nobles of the 
country (694). The attempt might easily have 
succeeded, for, owing to dissension, unnatural vices 
and weakness, the country was far advanced in a 
state of ruin and dissolution. But the conspiracy 
of the Jews was discovered before it had matured, 
and severe punishment was inflicted not only on 
the culprits, but on the whole Jewish population of 
Spain, including that of the province of Septimania 
(together with Narbonne). They were all sen- 
tenced to slavery, presented to various masters, and 
distributed throughout the country, their owners 
being prohibited from setting them free again; 
Children of seven years of age and upwards were 
torn from their parents and given to Christians to 
be educated. The only exception made was in 
favor of the Jewish warriors of the narrow passes 
of the Gallic province, who formed a bulwark 
against invasion. They were indispensable, and 
their bravery protected them from degradation and 
slavery, but even they were compelled to change 
their religion. 

The Spanish Jews continued in this state of 


degradation until Egica's death. When his son 
Witiga followed him to the grave, the last hours of 
this empire were evidently at hand. The Jews of 
Africa, who at various times had emigrated thither 
from Spain, and their unlucky co-religionists of the 
Peninsula, made common cause with the Mahome- 
tan conqueror, Tarik, who brought over from Africa 
into Andalusia an army eager for the fray. After 
the battle of Xeres (July, 711), and the death of 
Roderic, the last of the Visigothic kings, the victo- 
rious Arabs pushed onward, and were everywhere 
supported by the Jews. In every city that they 
conquered the Moslem generals were able to leave 
but a small garrison of their own troops, as they 
had need of every man for the subjection of the 
country ; they therefore confided them to the safe- 
keeping of the Jews. In this manner the Jews, who 
but lately had been serfs, now became the masters of 
the towns of Cordova, Granada, Malaga, and many 
others. When Tarik appeared before the capital, 
Toledo, he found it occupied by a small garrison 
only, the nobles and clergy having found safety in 
flight. While the Christians were in church, pray- 
ing for the safety of their country and religion, the 
Jews flung open the gates to the victorious Arabs 
(Palm- Sunday, 712), receiving them with acclama- 
tions, and thus avenged themselves for the many 
miseries which had befallen them in the course of a 
century since the time of Reccared and Sisebut. 
The capital also was entrusted by Tarik to the cus- 
tody of the Jews, while he pushed on in pursuit of 
the cowardly Visigoths, who had sought safety in 
flight, for the purpose of recovering from them the 
treasure which they had carried off. 

Finally, when Muza Ibn-Nosair, the Governor of 
Africa, brought a second army into Spain and con- 
quered other cities, he also delivered them into the 
custody of the Jews. It was under these favorable 
conditions that the Spanish Jews came under the 


rule of the Mahometans, and Uke their co-religion- 
ists in Babylonia and Persia, they were esteemed 
the allies of their rulers. They were kindly treated, 
obtained religious liberty, of which they had so long 
been deprived, were permitted to exercise jurisdic- 
tion over their co-religionists, and were obliged, like 
the conquered Christians, to pay only a poll-tax 
(Dsimma). Thus were they received into that 
great alliance, which, to a certain extent, united all 
the Jews of the Islamite empire into one common- 

As the Mahometan empire grew in size, the 
activity of its Jewish inhabitants increased in 
proportion. The first Caliphs of the house of 
Ommiyyah, by reason of their continual wars with 
the descendants and comrades of Mahomet, with 
the fanatical upholders of the letter of the Koran, 
and with the partisans of the spiritual Imamate 
(high-priesthood), had become entirely free from 
that narrow-mindedness and mania for persecution 
which characterized the founder and the first two 
Caliphs. The following rulers of the Mahometans, 
Moawiyah, Yezid I., Abdul-Malik, Walid I., and 
Suliman (656-717), were far more worldly than 
spiritual ; their political horizon was extensive, and 
they fettered themselves but little with the narrow 
precepts of the Koran and the traditions (Sunna). 
They loved Arabic poetry (Abdul-Malik was him- 
self a poet), held knowledge in esteem, and re- 
warded the author quite as liberally as the soldier 
who fought for them. The Jewish inhabitants of 
Mahometan countries soon adopted the Arabic lan- 
guage. It is closely related, in many of its roots 
and forms, to Hebrew, with which language all of 
them were more or less familiar, and they needed a 
knowledge thereof, as it was the indispensable 
medium of communication. The enthusiasm which 
the Arabs felt for their language and its poetry, 
the care which they took to keep it pure, accurate 


and sonorous, had their effect upon the Jews, and 
taught them to employ correct forms of speech. 
During the six hundred years which had elapsed 
since the fall of the Jewish nation, the Jews had 
lost the sense of beauty and grace of expression ; 
they were negligent in their speech, careless of 
purity of form, and indifferent to the clothing of 
their thoughts and emotions in suitable terms. A 
people possessed of an imperfect delivery, using a 
medley of Hebrew, Chaldee, and corrupt Greek, 
was not in a position to create a literature, much 
less to enchain the wayward muse of poetry. But, 
as already mentioned, the Jews of Arabia formed 
an exception. They acquired from their neighbors 
correct taste, and the art of framing their speech 
pleasantly and impressively. The Jewish tribes of 
Kainukaa and Nadhir, which had emigrated to 
Palestine and Syria, the "Jews of Chaibar and Wadil- 
Kora, who had been transplanted to the region of 
Kufa and the center of the Gaonate, brought with 
them to their new home this love and taste for the 
poetical Arabic tongue, and gradually instilled them 
into their co-religionists. Hardly half a century 
after the occupation of Palestine and Persia by the 
Arabs, a Babylonian Jew was able to handle the 
Arabic language for literary purposes : the Jewish 
physician, Messer-Jawaih of Bassorah, translated a 
medical work from the Syriac into Arabic. Hence- 
forward the Jews, together with the Syrian Christians, 
were the channels through which scientific literature 
reached the Arabs. 

The enthusiasm of the Arabs for their language 
and the Koran evoked in the hearts of the Jews a 
similar sentiment for the Hebrew tongue and its 
holy records. Besides this, the Jews were now 
obliged to make closer acquaintance with the Scrip- 
tures, in order that they might not be put to the 
blush in their controversies with the Mahometans. 
Until now the talented men among them had turned 


their attention exclusively to the Talmud and the 
Agadic exposition, but necessity at last compelled 
them to return to the source, the Bible. 

As soon, however, as it was desired to recover 
what had been lost for centuries, and to return with 
ardor to the study of Biblical literature, a need 
manifested itself which first had to be supplied. In 
supplying the Biblical text with the vowel signs 
invented in Babylonia or in Tiberias, it was neces- 
sary to proceed in such passages, as had not become 
familiar by frequent reading in public, according to 
grammatical rules. The Punctuators were obliged 
to be guided partly by tradition and partly by their 
sense of language. In this manner there arose the 
rudiments of two branches of knowledge : one 
treating of the above-mentioned rules of the Hebrew 
language, the other of the science of orthography, 
together with the exceptions as handed down by 
tradition (Massora). This apparently unimportant 
invention of adding certain strokes and points to 
the consonants thus led to the comprehension of the 
Holy Scriptures by the general public and the 
initiation of a more general knowledge of Judaism. 
By its help the holy language could now celebrate 
its revival ; it was no longer a dead language em- 
ployed only by scholars, but might become a means 
of educating the people. The auxiliary signs tended 
to break down the barrier between the learned 
(Chacham) and the unlearned (Am-ha-Arez). 

An immediate consequence of contact with the 
Arabs and the study of the Holy Writ was the birth 
of neo-Hebraic poetry. Poetical natures naturally 
felt themselves impelled to make use of the copious 
Hebrew vocabulary in metrical compositions and 
polished verse, in the same manner as the Arabs 
had done with their language. But while the Arabic 
bards sang of the sword, of chivalry, of unbridled 
love, bewailed the loss of worldly possessions, ancj 
attacked with their satire such of their enemies as 


they could not reach with the sword, the newly- 
awakened Hebrew poetry knew of but one subject 
worthy of enthusiasm and adoration, God and His 
providence, of but one subject worthy of lament, 
the destitution and sorrows of the Jewish nation. 
The new-born Hebrew poetry, however different in 
form and matter from that of the Bible, had a 
religious foundation in common with it. The psalm 
of praise and the soul-afflicting dirge of lamentation 
were taken by the neo-Hebraic poets as their 
models. But a third element also claimed atten- 
tion. Since the state had lost its independence, 
learning had become the soul of Judaism ; religious 
deeds, if not accompanied by knowledge of the 
Law, were accounted of no worth. The main 
feature of the Sabbath and festival services was 
the reading of portions of the Law and the Prophets, 
the interpretation thereof by the Targumists and 
the explanation of the text by the" Agadists 
(preachers of homilies). Neo-Hebraic poetry, if it 
was to reach the hearts of the people, could not be 
entirely devoid of a didactic element. The poet's 
only scene of action was the synagogue, his only 
audience, the congregation assembled for prayer 
and instruction, and his poetry, therefore, neces- 
sarily assumed a synagogical or liturgical character. 
The poetical impulse was strengthened by prac^ 
tical necessity. The original divine service with its 
short and simple prayers was no longer sufficient. 
It was extended, it is true, by the recitation of 
psalms and appropriate liturgical compositions, but 
even this did not fill up the time which the congre- 
gation would gladly have spent in the house of God. 
This was especially felt on the New Year's festival 
and on the Day of Atonement, which were dedi- 
cated to deep devotion, and during the greater part 
of which the congregation remained in the house of 
prayer, contrite, and imploring forgiveness and 
redemption. It was evident that the divine service 


must be amplified, and more matter for meditation 
provided. In this manner arose the synagogical, 
or, as it was also called, the poetanic composition. 
At the head of the succession of neo-Hebraic poets 
stands Jose bar Jose Hayathom (or Haithom), 
whose works are not without true poetic ring, 
although devoid of artistic form. The date and 
nationality of this poet are entirely unknown, but it 
appears probable that he was a native of Palestine, 
and that he lived not earlier than the first Gaonic 

Jose b. Jose took as the subject of his poems the 
emotions and memories which move a Jewish con- 
gregation on New Year's Day. On this occasion, 
the birthday of a new division of time, on which, 
according to Jewish ideas, the fate that the year has 
in store for men and communities is decided, God is 
extolled in a sublime poem as the mighty Master, 
the Creator of the world, the just Judge and the 
Redeemer of Israel. This poem, which was at- 
tached to the old prayers for the prescribed blowing 
of the cornet, and was intended to interpret them, 
embraces in a small compass the story of Israel's 
glorious past, its oppressed present, and promised 
future. Jose's poem is at once a psalm of triumph 
and of lamentation, interwoven with penitential 
prayers and words of hope. The resurrection is 
described in a few striking, picturesque lines. 

Another and longer of Jose's poems has for its 
theme the ancient worship in the Temple on the 
Day of Atonement, which an attentive nation had 
once followed in devotional mood, and the descrip- 
tion of which was well calculated to awaken the 
great memories of the glorious times of national 
independence (Abodah). It is a sort of liturgical 
epic, which describes simply, and without any lyrical 
strain, the creation of the universe and of man, the 
ungodliness of the first generation, Abraham's rec- 
ognition of God, the election of his posterity as 


God's peculiar people, and the calling of Aaron's 
family to the service of the Temple. Arrived at 
the priesthood of Aaron, the poet, following the 
account of the Mishna, goes on to describe the 
duties of the high-priest in the Temple on the Day 
of Atonement, and concludes with the moment when 
the high-priest, accompanied by the whole nation, 
joyful and assured by visible signs of forgiveness, 
leaves the Temple for his home, — a beautiful frag- 
ment of the past, which has always awakened a 
powerful echo in the hearts of the Jewish people. 

Elevation of thought and beauty of language are 
the characteristics of Jose b. Jose's poetry. His 
New Year's sonnets and Temple epic have become 
parts of the divine service of certain congregations, 
and have served as models for others. His verses 
are unrhymed and without meter, a proof of their 
great antiquity. The only artificial feature of his 
poetical, works is the alphabetical or acrostic com- 
mencement of verses, for which several of the 
Psalms, Jeremiah's Lamentations, and the post- 
talmudical prayers served as models. In the first 
fruits of the new Hebraic poetry, form is completely 
subservient to the subject-matter. There has been 
preserved from ancient times another Abodah, 
ascribed to a poet named Simon ben Caipha. It 
appears to have been written in imitation of that 
of Jose b. Jose, but is greatly inferior t.o its mt)del. 
However, it was honored by being adopted by the 
synagogue of the Gaonate. To the name of Simon 
Caipha, which sounds like the Jewish name of the 
apostle Peter, a peculiar legend is attached : The 
apostle, who supports the foundation of the Catholic 
Church, is represented as having written this Abodah 
in order to declare in the opening part his truly 
Jewish acknowledgment of God's unity, and to re- 
nounce his adherence to Jesus, as though the dis- 
ciple who three times denied his Master had 
desired in this liturgical poem to attest his unbelief. 

ii6 History of the jews. ' ch. iv. 

It was impossible that Jewish liturgical _ poetry 
could long remain satisfied with this simplicity of 
form. Little by little the Jews became acquainted 
with the poetry of the Arabs, the agreeable sound 
of its rhymes captivated them, and they were led to 
regard rhyme as the perfection of poetry. The 
poetanists, therefore, if they would be well received, 
could not afford to neglect this artistic device, and 
they assiduously devoted themselves to its cultiva- 
tion. As far as is known, the first poet who intro- 
duced rhyme into the neo-Hebraic poetry was a 
certain Jannai, probably an inhabitant of Palestine. 
He composed versified prayers for those special 
Sabbaths which, either by reason of historical events 
connected with them, or of being a time of prepara- 
tion for the approaching festivals, were possessed 
of particular importance. The Agadic discourses, 
which had been introduced on these Sabbaths, do 
not seem to have pleased the congregations any 
longer, because the preachers were unable to find 
new and attractive matter ; they seem, indeed, to 
have read out the same discourses in a given order 
from year to year. 

The poems of Jannai and his fellow-workers 
aimed at giving the substance of these Agadic 
expositions in the form of agreeable verse. Hence, 
Jannai's productions are versified Agadas. But as he 
was not enough of a poet to reproduce the elevated 
and striking passages of Agadic literature, as his 
rhymes were heavy and labored, and as he also 
burdened himself with the task of commencing his 
verses with consecutive letters of the alphabet, and 
of interweaving his name into them, his poems are 
dull, clumsy, and unwieldy. 

Altogether neo-Hebraic poetry gained nothing 
during its earlier years by the introduction of rhyme. 
Eleazar ben Kalir or Kaliri (of Kiriat-Sepher), one 
of the first and most prolific of th&poetanic writers, 
and a disciple of Jannai, was just as clumsy and 


harsh as his master, and his style was even more 
obscure. He wrote over 150 liturgical pieces, in- 
cluding hymns for the festivals, penitential prayers 
for the holy-days, songs of lamentation for the prin- 
cipal fasts, and various other compositions which 
cannot be classed under distinct heads. Kaliri put 
into most artificial verses a large portion of the 
Agadic literature, but only a few of his compositions 
have any poetical value, and none possesses beauty. 
In order to overcome the difficulties which were 
presented by the allusions to the Agada, by the use 
of rhyme, of the alphabetically arranged initial words 
and the interweaving of his name, Kaliri was obliged 
to do violence to the Hebrew language, to set at 
defiance the fixed rules which govern the use of 
words, and to create unprecedented combinations. 
In place of word-pictures, he often presents to his 
reader obscure riddles, which it is impossible to 
solve without a thorough acquaintance with the 
Agadic writings. Nevertheless, Kaliri's poetic com- 
positions made their way into the liturgies of the 
Babylonian, Italian, German, and French Jews ; the 
Spaniards alone, guided by delicate feeling for 
language, refused to adopt them. Kaliri was hon- 
ored as the greatest of the poetanic writers, and 
tradition has glorified his name. 

By the introduction of these compositions, the 
liturgy acquired an altered character. The transla- 
tion of the portions of the Law which were read out 
to the congregation, and the Agadic expositions 
thereof, which, as the Jews of the Islamic empire 
adopted the Arabic language, had become unfa- 
miliar to the multitude, gradually disappeared from 
the divine service, and their places were filled by met- 
rical compositions (Piyutim) which answered the same 
purpose, and at the same time possessed the advan- 
tage of a poetical character. By this means con- 
siderable extension was given to the divine service. 
The reader supplanted the preacher. Singing was 


introduced into the synagogue, as the poetical 
prayers were not recited, but chanted (Chazanuth). 
Special tunes were introduced for the various 
prayers. But the poetanic compositions were not 
adopted by all congregations as part of their divine 
service. The Talmudical authorities were at first 
opposed to their adoption, for the reason that they 
were usually interpolated between the various divi- 
sions of the principal prayer, and in this manner 
destroyed the continuity and coherence of its sepa- 
rate parts. 

The return to the source of the Bible had the 
result of kindling a poetic flame in artistic natures ; 
but, at the sanie time, it fanned into existence a 
wild spirit which at first brought trouble, schism, 
and malediction in its train, although afterwards it 
became a source of purification, vigor, and blessing 
to the Jews. The origin of this movement, which 
divided the Jewish commonwealth of the east and 
west into two camps, dates from the first Gaonic 

The Babylonian Talmud held sway over the 
Jewish community in Babylonia ; it was not only 
a code, but also the constitution for the community 
of which the Prince of the Captivity and the two 
presidents of the Talmudical colleges were the 
chief dignitaries. By the expansion of the Islamic 
dominion from India to Spain, from the Caucasus 
far down into Africa, the authority of the Talmud 
was extended far beyond its original bounds ; for 
the most distant congregations placed themselves 
into communication with the Geonim, submitted 
points of religion, morals, and civil law to them for 
advice, and accepted in full faith their decisions, 
which were based on the Talmud. The Babylonian- 
Persian communities felt themselves in nowise 
hampered by the Talmudical ordinances, which were 
of their own creation, and had sprung up in their 
midst, the outcome of their views, morals, and 


customs, the work of their authorities. The African 
and European communities were too unlearned in 
the Bible and the Talmud to be able to express an 
opinion on the matter. They accepted the decisions 
of the Geonini as law, without greatly troubling 
themselves as to their agreement with the Bible. 

Not so, however, with the Arabian Jews who had 
emigrated from Arabia to Palestine, Syria and Irak, 
the Benu-Kainukaa, the Benu-Nadhir, and the 
Chaibarites. They were sons of the desert, men 
of the sword, soldiers and warriors, accustomed 
from their childhood to a free life and to the devel- 
opment of their strength ; men who cultivated social 
intercourse with their former Arabic allies and 
fellow-soldiers, in whose midst they again settled 
after the conquest of Persia and Syria. Judaism 
was indeed dear to them, for they had sacrificed 
liberty, country, fame and wealth in its cause, and 
had resisted Mahomet's importunities, and had 
not allowed themselves to be converted to Islam. 
But between the Judaism which they practised in 
Arabia, and the Judaism taught by the Talmud, and 
set up as a standard by the colleges, there lay a 
deep gulf. To conform to Talmudical precepts, it 
would have been necessary for them to renounce 
their genial familiarity with their former comrades, 
and to give up their drinking-bouts with the Arabs 
which, despite their interdiction by the Koran, the 
latter greatly loved. In a word, they felt them- 
selves hampered by the Talmud. 

The Jews of Arabia, who came into close con- 
tact with the Mahometans, and were, therefore, 
frequently involved in controversy as to whether 
Judaism was still possessed of authority or had been 
superseded by Islam, were obliged, so as not to be 
at a loss in such discussions, to familiarize them- 
selves with the Bible. They in that way probably 
discovered that much of what the Talmud and the 
colleges declared to be religious precept, was not 


confirmed by the Bible. But from whatever cause 
this aversion to Talmudical precepts may have arisen, 
it is certain that it first had its origin in the Arabian 
Jewish colony in Syria or Irak. It is related, in an 
authentic source, that during the first part of the 
eighth century, many Jews allowed themselves to 
be persuaded to abandon Talmudical Judaism and 
to conform only to the precepts of the Bible. 

The leader of this movement was a Syrian, 
Serene (Serenus) by name, who called himself the 
Messiah (about 720). He promised the Jews to 
put them into possession of the Holy Land, having 
first, of course, expelled the Mahometans. This 
attempt to regain their long-lost independence was 
perhaps occasioned by the fanatical Caliph Omar II 
(717-720). That bigoted prince, who had been 
raised to the throne by the intrigues of a zealous 
reader of the Koran, had re-enacted the restrictive 
laws of his predecessor, Omar I (the covenant of 
Omar), which had fallen into oblivion under the 
politic Ommiyyades. After his accession to the 
throne, he wrote to his governors as follows : " Do 
not pull down a church or a synagogue, but do not 
allow new ones to be built within your provinces." 
Omar devoted himself to making proselytes, hold- 
ing out attractive promises to the new converts, or 
unceremoniously compelling both Jews and Chris- 
tians to embrace Islam. It was probably for this 
reason that the Jews were disposed to support the 
false Messiah, and to lend credence to his repre- 
sentations that he would make them free again in 
the land of their fathers, and exterminate their 
enemies. Upon his banner Serene inscribed the 
release from Talmudical ordinances ; he abolished 
the second day's celebration of the festivals, the pre- 
scribed forms of prayer, and the laws of the Tal- 
mud relating to food : he permitted the use of wine 
obtained from non-Jews, and sanctioned marriage 
between persons of nearer relationship than was 


allowed by the Talmud, as also celebration of mar- 
riages without a marriage-contract. It is probable 
that this hostility towards the Talmud gained him 
many adherents. 

Serene's fame spread as far as Spain, and the 
Jews of that country resolved to abandon their 
property and to place themselves under the leader- 
ship of the pseudo-Messiah. Hardly ten years 
after the Jews of Spain had been delivered from 
the yoke of the Visigoths by the conquests of the 
Mahometans, they, or at least many of them, were 
desirous of again abandoning their newly-acquired 
fatherland. It appears that they were dissatisfied 
with the rule and administration of the Mahometan 
governors. As they had rendered signal services 
to the Arabs in the conquest of the Peninsula, they 
probably expected particular consideration and 
distinction, and instead of this they were impover- 
ished equally with the Christians. Serene's fate was 
miserable, as indeed he deserved. He was cap- 
tured and brought before the Caliph Yezid, Omar II's 
successor, who put an end to his Messianic preten- 
sions by propounding insidious questions to him, 
which he was unable to answer. Serene is said, 
however, to have denied before the Caliph that he 
had had any serious designs, but that he only 
intended to make game of the Jews ; whereupon 
the Caliph handed him over to the Jews for pun- 
ishment. Many of his adherents, repenting of their 
easy credulity, desired to rejoin the communities 
from which they had severed themselves by infringe- 
ment of the Talmudical ordinances. The Syrian 
communities were doubtful, however, whether they 
ought to re-admit their repentant brethren into 
their midst, or whether they ought not to be treated 
as proselytes. They referred the matter, therefore, 
to Natronai ben Nehemiah, surnamed Mar-Yanka, 
the principal of the college at Pumbeditha, and suc- 
cessor of Mar-Raba (719-730). Natronai's de- 


cision concerning the reception of Serene's adhe- 
rents was conceived in a liberal spirit, and ran as 
follows : According to the laws of the Talmud, there 
is nothing to prevent them from being re-admit- 
ted by the communities and being treated as Jews ; 
but they are to declare openly in the synagogues 
their sorrow and repentance, and to promise that 
their future conduct shall be pious and in accord- 
ance with the precepts of the Talmud, and in addi- 
tion they are to suffer the punishment of flogging. 
At that time there were also other apostates, who 
went so far as to disregard the Biblical precepts 
concerning the Sabbath, the ritual for slaughtering 
cattle, the eating of blood, and the intermarrying of 
near relations. It is not known, however, in what 
country these people lived. Without declaring 
either for Christianity or Islam, they had entirely 
severed their connection with Judaism. When 
some of these sought re-admission into the fold of 
Judaism, Natronai was again asked for his opinion. 
He said, " It is better to take them under the 
wings of God than to cast them out." 

At about this time the Jews of the Byzantine em- 
pire were subjected to severe persecution, from the 
effects of which they did not for a long time recover, 
and this, too, at the hands of a monarch from whom 
they had least expected hostile treatment. Leo, 
the Isaurian, the son of rude peasant parents, hav- 
ing had his attention drawn by the Jews and the 
Arabs to the idolatrous character of the image- 
worship which obtained in the churches, had 
undertaken a campaign with the intention of 
destroying these images. Being denounced, how- 
ever, before the uncultivated mob as a heretic 
and a Jew by the image-worshiping clergy, Leo 
proceeded to vindicate his orthodoxy by persecuting 
the heretics and the Jews. He issued a decree 
commanding all the Jews of the Byzantine empire 
and the remnant of the Montanists in Asia Minor 


to embrace the Christianity of the Greek Church, 
under pain of severe punishment (723). Many 
Jews submitted to this decree, and reluctantly re- 
ceived baptism ; they were thus less steadfast than 
the Montanists, who, in order to remain faithful to 
their convictions, assembled in their house of prayer, 
set fire to it, and perished in the flames. Such of 
the Jews as had allowed themselves to be baptized 
were of the opinion that the storm would soon blow 
over, and that they would be permitted to return to 
Judaism. It was, therefore, only outwardly that 
they embraced Christianity ; for they observed the 
Jewish rites in secret, thereby subjecting themselves 
to fresh persecutions. Thus the Jews of the Byzan- 
tine empire pined away under unceasing petty per- 
secution, and for a time they are hidden from the 
view of history. 

Many Jews of the Byzantine empire, however, 
escaped compulsory baptism by emigration. They 
quitted a country in which their forefathers had 
settled long before the rise of that Church which 
had so persistently persecuted them. The Jews of 
Asia Minor chose as their home the neighboring 
Cimmerian or Tauric peninsula (the Crimea), whose 
uncivilized inhabitants, of Scythian, Finnish and 
Sclavonian origin, practised idolatry. These Alani, 
Bulgarians and Chazars were, however, not jealous 
of men of other race and of a different belief who 
settled in their vicinity. Thus, side by side with 
the Jewish comm.unities which had existed from 
early times, there arose new communities on the 
shores of the Black Sea and the Straits of Theodo- 
sia (Kaffa), and in the interior, in Sulchat (Solgat, 
now Eski-Crimea), in Phanagoria (now Taman), 
and on the Bosporus (Kertch), which lies opposite. 
From the Crimea the Greek Jews spread towards 
the Caucasus, and the hospitable countries of the 
Chazars on the west coast of the Caspian Sea and 
at the mouth of the Volga (Atel). Jewish commu- 


nities settled in Berdaa (Derbend), at- the Albanian 
Gates, in Semender (Tarki), and finally in Balanyiar, 
the capital of the land of the Chazars. By their 
energy, ability and intelligence, the Greek-Jewish 
emigrants speedily acquired power in the midst of 
these barbarian nations, and prepared the way for 
an important historical event. 

Hardly thirty years after the fall of the false 
Messiah, Serene, an anti-Talmudical movement, 
coupled with Messianic enthusiasm, was again set 
on foot, but this time on a different scene. The 
prime mover was a fantastic and warlike inhabitant 
of the Persian town of Ispahan, one Obaiah Abu- 
Isa ben Ishak. He was not an ignorant man ; he 
understood the Bible and the Talmud, and was 
capable of expressing his thoughts in writing. It is 
said that he was made aware of his call to an exalted 
vocation by a sudden cure from leprosy. Abu-Isa 
did not proclaim himself to be the Messiah, but 
asserted that he was the forerunner and awakener 
(Dai) who was to prepare for the coming of the 
Messiah. His views concerning the office of pre- 
cursor of the Messiah were, indeed, altogether pecu- 
liar. He taught that five forerunners would precede 
the Messiah, and that each one would be more per- 
fect than his predecessor. He considered himself 
the last and most perfect of the five, and of equal 
merit with the Messiah. He assumed his vocation 
in good earnest, and announced that God had called 
him to free the Jewish race from the yoke of the 
nations and of unjust rulers. 

The Messianic precursor of Ispahan found many 
partisans, 10,000 Jews, it is said, gathering around 
him for the purpose of aiding him in his work of 
deliverance. To them Abu-Isa expounded a form 
of Judaism diftering in some respects from that 
accepted at the time ; the points of difference, how- 
ever, are not known. He entirely abolished divorce, 
even in the case of adultery. He augmented the 

CH. IV. ABU-ISA. 125 

three daily periods for prayer by four new periods, 
citing- in support of this innovation the verse of a 
psalm : " Seven times a day do I praise thee." 
Abu-Isa retained the forms of prayer as prescribed 
by the Talmud, and in no way disturbed the exist- 
ing order of the calendar. He explained his own 
peculiar system of religion in one of his works, in 
which he prohibits the use of meat and wine by his 
followers, but pronounces the abrogation of sacrifi- 
cial worship. 

Abu-Isa desired to accomplish his Messianic task 
of liberation with sword in hand. He accordingly 
made soldiers of his followers, and rode at their 
head like a general. There could have been no 
more favorable moment for an attempt to regain 
liberty by open force. In all the provinces of the 
Mahometan empire the spirit of rebellion against 
Mervan II, the last Caliph of the Ommiyyad dynasty, 
was aroused. Ambitious governors, dissatisfit^d 
partisans, the Abassides, who laid claim to the 
supreme power, all these antagonistic elements 
conspired to overthrow the house of Ommiyyah, 
and turned the wide dominions of the empire into a 
battlefield of fierce passions. During this period of 
rebellion, Abu-Isa and his band seem to have begun 
their work of deliverance in the neighborhood of 
Ispahan. They probably strengthened their posi- 
tion during the disturbances consequent upon the 
severe defeat sustained by Mervan's general on the 
Euphrates (at Kerbella, August, 749). 

Finally, Abu-Isa fell in battle ; his followers dis- 
persed, and the Jews of Ispahan had to suffer for 
his revolt. His adherents, however, loyally cher- 
ished his memory ; under the name of Isavites or 
Ispahanites they continued to exist until the tenth 
century, forming the first religious sect to which 
Judaism had given birth since the fall of the Jewish 
state. The Isavites lived in accordance with their 
master's teaching, observing some points of Tal- 
mudical Judaism, while disregarding many others. 


During this time, however, no extraordinary 
movement occurred in the center of Jewish- reli- 
gious life ; everything continued on the old lines, 
the principals of the colleges and the Geonim suc- 
ceeded each other without leaving any perceptible 
traces behind them. They had no suspicion that a 
new spirit was abroad in Judaism, which would 
shake it to its very foundations. 



Anan ben David, the founder of Karaism — His life, writings, and in- 
fluence — Hostility to the Talmud — Anan's innovations — Karaite 
reverence of Anan — The Exilarchate becomes elective —Adoption 
of Judaism by the Chazars — King Bulan and Isaac Sinjari — 
Bulan's Jewish successors— Charlemagne and the Empire of the 
Franks — The Jews and Commerce— Jewish Envoy sent to the 
Caliph Haroun Alrashid — Spread of the Jews in Europe— The 
Caliphs and the Jews — The study of philosophy — Sahal — The 
Kalam — Mutazilists and Anthropomorphists — judah Judghan — 
The Shiur Komah — The Akbarites — Moses the Persian. 

761—840 C. E. 

It is as little possible for an historical event to be 
evolved, as for a natural birth to occur without labor. 
For a new historical phenomenon to struggle into 
existence, the comfortable aspect of things must be 
destroyed, indolent repose in cherished custom dis- 
turbed, and the power of habit broken. This destruc- 
tive activity, although at first painful, is eventually 
favorable to the growth of healthy institutions, for 
thereby all vagueness is dissipated, all pretense de- 
stroyed, and dim reality brought more clearly to light. 
Opposition, the salt of history, which prevents corrup- 
tion, had been wanting in Jewish history for several 
centuries, and religious life had been molded in set 
forms, and had there become petrified. Pauline and 
post-apostolic Christianity in its day supplied just 
the opposition required. It abrogated the standard 
of the Law, did away with knowledge, substituted 
faith, and thus produced in the evolution of Judaism 
a disposition to cling firmly to the Law, and to de- 
velop a system of religious teachings which should 
deal with the minutest details. The Talmud resulted 
from this movement of opposition ; it was the sole 


prevailing authority in Judaism, and succeeded in 
supplanting the Bible in the estimation of the people. 
Even the study of the Talmud, which had possessed 
a refreshing and enlightening influence in the time 
of the Amoraim, had degenerated in the following 
century and in the first Gaonic period into a mere 
matter of memory, entirely devoid of any power of 
intellectual fructification. A free current of air 
was wanting to clear the heavy atmosphere. Oppo- 
sition to the Talmud, the password of the two 
heralds of the Messiah, Serene and Abu-Isa, had 
left no lasting impression, partly because the move- 
ment, accompanied by fanatical agitation in favor of 
a pretended Messiah, led to no other result than the 
undeceiving of its partisans, and partly because it 
had been set on foot by obscure persons, possessed 
of neither importance nor authority. If this one- 
sidedness was to be overcome, if the Bible was to 
be re-instated in its rights, and religious life to re- 
gain its spirituality, it was necessary that opposition 
to it, which up till then had been manifested only 
in narrow circles, should be imparted to a more 
extended public by some moderate reformer in- 
vested with official character. Until this movement 
proceeded, not from some out-of-the-way corner, 
but from the region which at that time formed the 
center of Jewish life, it was impossible for it to be 
taken up by the multitude, or to produce any regen- 
erative effects. The required agitation was set on 
foot by a son of the Prince of the Captivity, of the 
house of Bostanai, and produced lasting effects. 

It appears that the Exilarch Solomon died (761- 
762) without issue, and that the office ought to have 
been conferred on his nephew, Anan ben David. 
The biography of this man, who exercised so pro- 
found an influence upon Jewish history, and whose 
adherents exist at the present day, is quite unknown, 
and the facts have been entirely distorted in conse- 
quence of the schism which occurred later on. While 



his disciples honor him as a pious and holy man, 
who, " if he had lived at the time when the Temple 
was still standing, would have been vouchsafed the 
gift of prophecy," his opponents cannot sufficiently 
disparage him. But even they admit that Anan 
was exceedingly well read in the Talmud, and that 
he employed its style with great ability. It is also 
certain that the son of the Exilarch held that cer- 
tain decisions of the Talmud possessed no religious 
authority, and that his anti-Talmudical tendency 
was known, at all events, to the representatives of 
the two academies, who directed the election of the 
Exilarch. The Gaonic office was at that time held 
by two brothers, sons of Nachman : that of Sora by 
Judah the BHnd (759-762), and that of Pumbeditha 
by Duda'i (761-764). These two brothers united 
with their colleges to prevent Anan froni succeed- 
ing to the dignity of Exilarch, and to choose in his 
stead his younger brother Chananya (or Achunai). 
But Anan did not stand entirely alone ; of elevated 
rank, he naturally had friends. His expectation of 
succeeding to a position of authority, whose sway 
was acknowledged by all the Jewish communities of 
the East at least, had doubtless attracted many 
ambitious, greedy and parasitical followers. But he 
also possessed adherents among those who refused 
more or less openly to regard the Judaism of the 
Talmud as true Judaism, and who welcomed Anan 
as a powerful champion. The Ananite party were 
not sparing in their efforts to obtain the nomination 
of their chief by the Caliph Abu Jafar Almansur, 
who, they supposed, was favorably disposed towards 
them ; but their opponents gained the day. They 
art said to have attempted the life of Anan, and to 
have accused him of planning a rebellion against 
the Caliph, who thereupon threw him into prison, 
where, the legend goes on to relate, a Mahometan 
was incarcerated. Both of them were to have been 
hanged, but Anan's companion in misfortune advised 


him to explain to the Caliph that he did not belong to 
the same sect as his brother Chananya. Thereupon 
Almansur is said to have liberated him, because, 
according to Anan's adherents, he regarded him 
with kindness, according to his adversaries, in con- 
sequence of handsome presents of money, and 
permitted him to emigrate with his followers to 

One thing only among all these doubtful state- 
ments is certain, namely, that Anan was obliged to 
leave his country and settle in Palestine. In Jeru- 
salem he built his own synagogue, which was still 
standing at the time of the first crusade. It is like- 
wise certain that, in consequence of the mortifying 
slight cast upon him by the Gaons, Anan became 
hostile to the-Gaonate, and directed all his animosity 
against the Talmud, the principal source of its im- 
portance. He displayed, in fact, a fierce hostility 
to the Talmud and its supporters. He is reported 
to have said that he wished that all the adherents 
of the Talmud were in his body, so that by killing 
himself he might at the same time make away with 
them. He considered everything in the Talmud 
reprehensible, and was desirous of returning to the 
Bible in the ordering of religious life. He re- 
proached the Talmudists with having corrupted 
Judaism, and accused them at the same time, not 
only of adding many things to the Torah, but also 
of disregarding many of its commandments, which 
they declared to be no longer obligatory. Many 
things which, according to the text of the Bible, 
ought to have been binding for all time, they set 
aside. The advice which he impressed on his fol- 
lowers was "to seek industriously in the Scripture." 
On account of this return to the letter of the Bible 
(Mikra), the system of religion which Anan founded 
received the name of the Religion of the Text, or 

Anan expounded his views concerning religious 


commandments and prohibitions in three works, one 
of which was a commentary on the Pentateuch, 
certainly the very first of all productions of this 
class. Anan's works have not survived the lapse . 
of time ; the original character of Karaism is 
thus enveloped in complete obscurity. This only 
is clear, that in his hostility to the Talmud the 
founder of the Karaite sect increased rather than 
lessened the religious duties of life, enforced many 
observances which time and custom had long 
abolished, and in his blind eagerness to change 
the Talmudical exposition of the Law, often fell 
into ridiculous exaggerations. He made use of the 
Talmudical, or more properly the Mishnaic rules of 
interpretation, and with their help considered him- 
self entitled, equally with the old teachers (of the 
Mishna), to deduce new laws of religion. The most 
important alterations were those made in the dates 
of the festivals, the Sabbath, in the laws of mar- 
riage, and the dietary regulations. Anan abolished 
the fixed calendar, which had been established in 
the middle of the fourth century ; but finding no 
grounds in the Bible for this innovation, he was 
obliged to refer back to the time of the Second 
Temple and the Tanaites. As in former times, the 
beginning of every month was to be fixed by obser- 
vation of the new moon. The leap years were not to 
follow in a regular series, according to the nineteen- 
years cycle, but were to be determined by repeated 
examination of the condition of the crops, especially 
at the time of the ripening of the barley. This was 
not so much an absolute innovation as a renewal of 
a method of regulating the festivals, the untenable- 
ness of which in the state of dispersion of the Jewish 
nation is evident. This variability of the calendar 
offered but little difficulty to Anan and his followers 
in Palestine, but it shows little foresight for the 
future. As had been formerly done by the Sad- 
ducees, Anan fixed the Feast of Pentecost fifty days 
after the Sabbath following the Passover. 


In the strict observance of the Sabbath, Anan far 
outstripped the Talmud. He pronounced it unlawful 
to administer any medicines on the Sabbath, even 
in the case of dangerous illness, or to perform the 
operation of circumcision, or to leave the house in 
those cities where the Jews did not live separate 
from the non-Jewish population ; he did not allow 
any warm food to be eaten, nor even a light or fire 
to be kindled on the eve of the Sabbath by the Jews 
themselves, or by others for their use. Anan intro- 
duced the custom among the Karaites of spending 
the Sabbath-eve in entire darkness. All these alter- 
ations and many others he pretended to deduce 
from the letter of the Bible. He made the laws 
relating to food severe beyond all measure, and he 
extended the prohibition of marriage to relatives 
who, according to the Talmud, were allowed to 
intermarry, so that the marriage of uncle and niece 
and of step-brothers and sisters, who were abso- 
lutely unrelated to one another, was regarded by 
him as incest. Compared with this exaggerated 
severity, of what importance was the abolition of 
the phylacteries (Tephillin), of the festal plants at 
the Feast of Tabernacles, and of the festival of 
Dedication, instituted in remembrance of the time 
of the Hasmoneans, and of other trifles ? As his 
opponents rightly affirmed, he set up a new and 
much stricter Talmud. Religious life was thus in- 
vested by Anan with a gloomy and unpoetical 
character. The forms of prayer, which had been 
employed during many centuries, some of which had 
been in use in the Temple, were forbidden by the 
founder of this sect to be used in the synagogue, 
and they were banished, together with the prayers 
of the poetanim. Instead of them, only Biblical 
selections, made without taste, were to be read out 
in the mannerof alitany in the Karaite synagogues. 
As the Jews of the Islamic empire were possessed 
of their own jurisdiction, Anan's innovations dealt 


also with points of civil law. In opposition to the 
text of the Bible, he placed the female heirs on an 
equal footing with the males with reference to prop- 
erty inherited from parents, while on the other hand 
he denied to the husband the right of succeeding to 
the property of his deceased wife. 

But although Anan gave great impetus to the 
study of the Bible, the system of vowel points 
having been already introduced, thus enabling 
all men to read the Scriptures, nevertheless the 
age in which he lived was neither ripe enough 
nor his mind sufficiently comprehensive to enable 
him to produce a healthy, independent exposition 
of the text. He himself was obliged, in order to 
establish his innovations, to have recourse to forced 
interpretations, such as would hardly have been 
proposed by the Talmudists whom he reviled. In 
rejecting the Talmud, he broke the bridge con- 
necting the Biblical past with the present. The 
religion of the Karaites is thus no natural growth, 
but an entirely artificial and labored creation. Anan 
had no regard for the customs and sentiments of 
the people. As his system of religion depended on 
the interpretation of the Scripture, Karaism natur- 
ally was unsettled in character. A new explanation 
of the text might threaten the very foundations of 
religious life, for what had been lawful might become 
unlawful, and vice versa. Anan was as devoid of 
the power of appreciating poetry as of understand- 
ing history. The sacred prophetic and poetic lit- 
erature was of no further use to him than to prove 
the existence of some law or some religious com- 
mand. He closed the gates of the sanctuary on the 
newly-awakened poetical impulse. 

It is singular that Anan and his followers justified 
their opposition to the Talmud by the example of 
the founder of Christianity. According to their 
idea, Jesus was a God-fearing, holy man, who had 
not desired to be recognized as a prophet, nor to 


set up a new religion in opposition to Judaism, but 
simply to confirm the precepts of the Torah and to 
abrogate laws imposed by human authority. Besides 
acknowledging the founder of Christianity, Anan 
also recognized Mahomet as the prophet of the 
Arabs. But he did not admit that the Torah had 
been repealed either by Jesus or by Mahomet, but 
held it to be binding for all time. 

It is impossible to ascertain the number of Anan's 
adherents who followed him into exile. His dis- 
ciples called themselves, after him, Ananites and 
Karaites (Karaim, Bene Mikra), while to their ad- 
versaries they gave the nickname of Rabbanites, 
which is equivalent to " Partisans of Authority." 
At first the irritation existing between the two 
parties was extremely violent. It is hardly neces- 
sary to say that the representatives of the colleges 
placed the chief of the party and his adherents 
under a ban of excommunication, and excluded 
them from the pale of Judaism. But on their side, 
the Karaites renounced all connection with the 
Rabbanites, entered into no marriage with them, 
refused to eat at their table, and even abstained 
from visiting the house of a Rabbanite on the Sab- 
bath, because they considered that the holy day 
was desecrated there. The Rabbanites pronounced 
the Karaites heretics, preached against them from 
the pulpit, especially against their custom of spend- 
ing the Sabbath-eve in darkness, and refused to 
allow the followers of Anan to take part in the 
prayers. The Karaites, on the other hand, could 
not sufficiently abuse the two colleges and their 
representatives. They applied to them the alle- 
gory of the prophet Zachariah, of the two women 
who carried Sin in a bushel to Babylon, and there 
founded a dwelling-place for her. " The two women 
are the Geonim in Sora and Anbar (Pumbeditha)." 
This satire, which probably originated with Anan, 
became current among the Karaites, and they 


never called the two colleges otherwise than " the 
two women." 

Thus, for the third time, the Jewish race was 
divided into two hostile camps. Like Israel and 
Judah, during the first period, and the Pharisees 
and Sadducees in the time of the Second Temple, 
the Rabbanites and Karaites were now in opposi- 
tion to each other. Jerusalem, the holy mother, 
who had witnessed so many wars between her 
sons, again became the scene of a fratricidal 
struggle. The Karaite community, which had 
withdrawn from the general union, acknowledged 
Anan as the legitimate Prince of the Captivity, and 
conferred this honorable title on him and his de- 
scendants. Both parties exerted themselves as 
much as possible to widen the breach. 

After Anan's death, his followers, out of rever- 
ence, introduced memorial prayers for him into the 
Sabbath service. They prayed for him thus : " May 
God be merciful to the Prince Anan, the man of 
God, who opened the way to the Torah, and opened 
the eyes of the Karaites ; who redeemed many from 
sin, and showed us the way to righteousness. May 
God grant him a good place among' the seven 
classes who enter into Paradise." This service, in 
memory of Anan, is still in use with the Karaites 
of the present day. 

It is impossible, however, for impartial judgftient 
to endorse this encomium, for it is impossible to 
discern in Anan any greatness of mind. He was 
not a profound thinker, and was entirely devoid 
of philosophical knowledge. He had so mean a 
conception of the soul that, in painful adherence to 
the letter of the Bible, he designated the blood as 
its seat. But he was also inconsistent in his oppo- 
sition to Talmudical Judaism, for he allowed not a 
few religious laws to continue in force that could no 
more be traced to a Biblical origin than the institu- 
tions which he rejected. 


After Anan's death the Karaite community con- 
ferred the leadership on his son, Saul. Anan's dis- 
ciples, who called themselves Ananites, differed 
on various points with their master, especially with 
regard to the prescribed mode of killing birds. 
Thus, immediately after Anan's death, the enduring 
character which he had desired to impart to reli- 
gious life was destroyed, and there arose divisions 
which increased with every generation. This schism 
caused the Karaites to study the Bible more closely, 
and to support and strengthen their position against 
one another, and against the Rabbanites, frorh Holy 
Writ. It was for this reason that the study of the 
Bible was carried on by the Karaites with great 
ardor. With this study went hand in hand the 
knowledge of Hebrew grammar and of the Mas- 
sora, the determination of the manner of reading 
the Holy Scripture. There sprang up many com- 
mentators on the Bible, and altogether a luxuriant 
literature was produced, as each party, thinking it 
had discovered something new in the Bible, desired 
to have its authority generally acknowledged. 

While the Karaites thus were extremely active, 
the Rabbanites were most unfruitful in literary pro- 
ductions. A single work is all that is known to 
have appeared in those times. Judah, the blind 
Gaon of Sora, who has already been mentioned, 
and who had done much to oppose Anan's claim, 
composed a Talmudical Compendium, under the 
title " Short and Established Practice " (Halachoth 
Ketuoth). In this work Judah collected and ar- 
ranged, in an orderly manner, the subjects which 
were scattered through the Talmud, and indicated 
briefly, omitting all discussions, what still held good 
in practice. To judge from a few fragments, 
Judah's Halachoth were written in Hebrew, by which 
means he rendered the Talmud popular and intel- 
ligible. For this reason the work penetrated to 
the most distant Jewish communities, and became 


the model for later compositions of a similar de- 

The Karaite disturbances also contributed to 
lessen the authority of the Exilarch. Until the 
time of Anan the academies and their colleges had 
been subordinate to the Prince of the Captivity, and 
to the principals of the schools chosen or confirmed 
by him ; at the same time, however, they had no 
direct influence over the appointment to this office 
when it became vacant. But having once suc- 
ceeded in dispossessing Anan of the Exilarchate, 
the Gaons determined that this power should not 
be wrested from their hands, and accordingly from 
this time exercised it on the ground that they could 
not allow princes of Karaite opinions to be at the 
head of the Jewish commonwealth. The Exil- 
archate, which had been hereditary since the time 
of Bostanai, became elective after Anan, and the 
presidents of the academies directed the election. 
On the death of Chananya (Achuna'i), and hardly 
ten years after Anan's defection from Rabbanism, 
a struggle for the Exilarchate broke out afresh 
between two pretenders, Zaccai ben Achunai and 
Natrona'i ben Chabibai. The latter was a member 
of the college under Judah. The two heads of the 
schools at this period, Malka bar Acha, of Pumbe- 
ditha (771-773), and Chaninai Kahana ben Huna, of 
Sora (765-775), united to bring about the overthrow 
of Natronai, and succeeded in procuring, through 
the Caliph's attendants, his banishment from Baby- 
lonia. He emigrated to Maghreb (Kairuan), in 
which city there had existed ever since its founda- 
tion a numerous Jewish population. Zaccai was 
confirmed in the office of Exilarch. The Exilarchate 
continued to become more and more dependent on 
the Gaonate, which often deposed obnoxious princes, 
and not infrequently banished them. But as the 
Exilarchs, when they arrived at power, attempted 
to free themselves from this state of dependence, 


there occurred collisions which exerted an evil influ- 
ence on the Babylonian commonwealth. 

At about the same time as Karaism sprang into 
existence, an event occurred which only slightly 
affected the development of Jewish history, but 
which roused the spirits of the scattered race and 
restored their courage. The heathen king of a 
barbarian people, living in the north, together with 
all his court, adopted the Jewish religion. The 
Chazars, or Khozars, a nation of Finnish origin, 
related to the Bulgars, Avars, Ugurs or Hunga- 
rians, had settled, after the dissolution of the empire 
of the Huns, on the frontier between Europe and 
Asia. They had founded a kingdom on the Volga 
(which they called the Itll or Atel) at the place near 
which it runs into the Caspian Sea, in the neighbor- 
hood of Astrakhan, now the home of the Kalmucks. 
Their kings, who bore the title of Chakan or Cha- 
gan, had led these warlike sons of the steppe from 
victory to victory. The Chazars inspired the Persians 
with so great a dread that Chosroes, one of their 
kings, found no other way of protecting his dominions 
against their violent invasions than by building a 
strong wall which blocked up the passes between the 
Caucasus and the sea. But this "gate of gates" (Bab 
al abwab, near Derbend) did not long serve as a 
barrier against the warlike courage of the Chazars. 
After the fall of the Persian empire, they crossed 
the Caucasus, invaded Armenia, and conquered the 
Crimean peninsula, which bore the name Chazaria 
foi some time. The Byzantine emperors trembled 
at the name of the Chazars, flattered them, and paid 
them a tribute, in order to restrain their lust after 
the booty of Constantinople. The Bulgarians, and 
other tribes, were the vassals of the Chazars, and 
the people of Kiev (Russians) on the Dnieper were 
obliged to pay them as an annual tax a sword and 
a fine skin for every household. With the Arabs, 
whose near neighbors they gradually became, they 
carried on terrible wars. 



Like their neighbors, the Bulgarians and the 
Russians, the Chazars professed a coarse religion, 
which was combined with sensuality and lewdness. 
The Chazars became acquainted with Islam and 
Christianity through the Arabs and Greeks, who 
came to the capital, Balanyiar, on matters of busi- 
ness, in order to exchange the products of their 
countries for fine furs. There were also Jews in the 
land of the Chazars ; they were some of the fugi- 
tives that had escaped (723) from the mania for 
conversion which possessed the Byzantine Emperor 
Leo. It was through these Greek Jews that the 
Chazars became acquainted with Judaism. As in- 
terpreters or merchants, physicians or counselors, 
the Jews were known and beloved by the Chazar 
court, and they inspired the warlike king Bulan 
with a love of Judaism. 

In subsequent times, however, the Chazars had 
but a vague knowledge of the motive which in- 
duced their forefathers to embrace Judaism. One 
of their later Chagans gives the following account 
of their conversion : The king Bulan conceived a 
horror of the foul idolatry of his ancestors, and pro- 
hibited its exercise within his dominions, without, 
however, adopting any other form of religion. He 
was encouraged by a dream in his endeavors to 
discover the proper manner of worshiping God. 
Having gained a great victory over the Arabs, and 
conquered the Armenian fortress of Ardebil, Bulan 
determined to adopt the Jewish religion openly. 
The Caliph and the Byzantine emperor desired, 
however, to induce the king of the Chazars to 
embrace their respective religions, and with this 
intention sent to Bulan deputations with letters 
and valuable presents, and men well versed in 
religious matters. The king thereupon arranged 
for a religious discussion to take place before him be- 
tween a Byzantine ecclesiastic, a Mahometan sage, 
and a learned Jew. The champions of the three 


religions disputed the whole question, however, 
without being able to convince one another or the 
king of the superior excellence of their respective 
religions as compared with the other two. But as 
Bulan had remarked that the representatives of the 
religion of Christ and of Islam both referred to 
Judaism as the foundation and point of departure 
of their faiths, he declared to the ambassadors of 
the Caliph and the Emperor that, as he had heard 
from the opponents of Judaism themselves an im- 
partial avowal of the excellence of that religion, he 
would carry out his intention of professing Judaism 
as his religion. He thereupon imme_diately offered 
himself for circumcision. The Jewish sage who was 
the means of obtaining Bulan's conversion is sup- 
posed to have been Isaac Sanjari or Sinjari. 

It is possible that the circumstances under which 
the Chazars embraced Judaism have been embel- 
lished by legend, but the fact itself is too definitely 
proved on all sides to allow any doubt as to its 
reality. Besides Bulan, the nobles of his kingdom, 
numbering nearly four thousand, adopted the Jewish 
religion. Little by little it made its way among the 
people, so that most of the inhabitants of the towns 
of the Chazar kingdom were Jews ; the army, how- 
ever, was composed of Mahometan mercenaries. 
At first the Judaism of the Chazars must have been 
rather superficial, and could have had but little 
influence on their mind and manners. A successor 
of Bulan, who bore the Hebrew name of Obadiah, 
was the first to make serious efforts to further the 
Jewish religion. He invited Jewish sages to settle 
in his dominions, rewarded them royally, founded 
synagogues and schools, caused instruction to be 
given to himself and his people in the Bible and 
the Talmud, and Introduced a divine service mod- 
eled on that of the ancient communities. So great 
was the influence which Judaism exercised on the 
character of this uncivilized race, that while the 


Chazars that remained heathens, without a twinge of 
conscience sold their children as slaves, those of 
them that had become Jews abandoned this bar- 
barous custom. After Obadiah came a long series 
of Jewish Chagans, for according to a fundamental 
law of the state only Jewish rulers were permitted 
to ascend the throne. Neither Obadiah nor his 
successors showed any intolerance towards the non- 
Jewish population of the country ; on the contrary, 
the non-Jews were placed on a footing of complete 
equality with the other inhabitants. There was a 
supreme court of justice, composed of seven 
judges, of whom two were Jews for the Jewish 
population, two Mahometans and two Christians for 
those who were of these religions, and one heathen 
for the Russians and Bulgarians. For some time 
the Jews of other countries had no knowledge of the 
conversion of this powerfuhkingdom to Judaism, and 
when at last a vague rumor to this effect reached 
them, they were of opinion that Chazaria was 
peopled by the remnant of the former ten tribes. 
The legend runs thus : Far, far beyond the gloomy 
mountains, beyond the Cimmerian darkness of the 
Caucasus, there live true worshipers of God, holy 
men, descendants of Abraham, of the tribes of 
Simeon and the half-tribe of Manasseh, who are so 
powerful that five-and-twenty nations pay them 

At about this time — in the second half of the eighth 
century — the Jews of Europe also emerged a little 
from the darkness which had covered them for 
centuries. Favored by the rulers, or at least 
neither ill-treated nor persecuted by them, they 
raised themselves to a certain degree of culture. 
Charlemagne, the founder of the empire of the 
Franks, to whom Europe owes its regeneration and 
partial emancipation from barbarism, also con- 
tributed to the spiritual and social advancement of 
the Jews in France and Germany. By the creation 


of the German- Prankish empire — which extended 
from the ocean to the further side of the Elbe, and 
from the Mediterranean to the North Sea — Charle- 
magne transferred the focus of history to Western 
Europe, whereas hitherto it had been at Constan- 
tinople, on the borderland between Eastern Europe 
and Asia. Although Charlemagne was a protector 
of the Church, and helped to found the supremacy 
of the papacy, and Hadrian, the contemporary 
Pope, was anything but friendly to the Jews, and 
repeatedly exhorted the Spanish bishops to prevent 
the Christians from associating with Jews and 
heathens (Arabs), Charlemagne was too far-seeing 
to share the prejudices of the clergy with respect 
to the Jews. In opposition to all the precepts of 
the Church and decisions of the councils, the first 
Prankish emperor favored the Jews of his empire, 
and turned to account the knowledge of a learned 
man of this race, who journeyed to Syria for him, 
and brought back to Prance the products of the 
East. While other monarchs punished the Jews for 
purchasing Church vessels or taking them as pledges 
from the clergy or the servants of the Church, 
Charlemagne adopted the opposite course ; he in- 
flicted heavy punishment on the sacrilegious eccles- 
iastics, and absolved the Jews from all penalties. 

The Jews were at this period the principal rep- 
resentatives of the commerce of the world. While 
the nobles devoted themselves to the business of 
war, the commoners to trades, and the peasants 
and serfs to .agriculture, the Jews, who were not 
liable to be called upon to perform military service, 
and possessed no feudal lands, turned their atten- 
tion to the exportation and importation of goods 
and slaves, so that the favor extended to them by 
Charlemagne was, to a certain extent, a privilege 
accorded to a commercial company. They experi- 
enced only the restraint put upon all merchants in 
the corn and wine trade ; the Emperor considered 


it dishonest to make a profit on the necessaries of 
Hfe. This somewhat materialistic value set upon 
the Jews marks, however, great progress from the 
narrow-mindedness of the Merovingian monarchs, 
the Gunthrams and the Dagoberts, who saw nothing 
in the Jews but murderers of God. But Charle- 
magne also manifested deep interest in the spir- 
itual advancement of the Jewish inhabitants of his 
empire. In the same way as he had cared for the 
education of the Germans and the French by in- 
viting learned men from Italy, so also he earnestly 
desired to place a higher culture within the reach of 
the German and the French Jews. With this intention 
he removed a learned family, consisting of Kalony- 
mos, his son Moses, and his nephew, from Lucca to 
Mayence (787), hoping besides to make the Jews 
independent of the academies of the Levant. 

Charlemagne's embassy to the powerful Caliph 
Haroun Alrashid, to which was attached a Jew 
named Isaac, is familiar to every student of history 
(797). first probably Isaac accompanied 
the two nobles, Landfried and Sigismund, only in 
the character of interpreter, he was nevertheless 
admitted into Charlemagne's diplomatic secrets. 
Thus, when the two principal ambassadors died on 
the journey, the Caliph's reply and the valuable 
presents which he had forwarded, fell into Isaac's sole 
charge, and he was received in solemn audience by 
the Emperor at Aix. The Emperor is also said 
to have requested the Caliph, through his embassy, 
to send him from Babylonia a learned Jew for his 
country, and Haroun is reported to have sent him 
a man answering his requirements. This man was 
a certain Machir, whom Charlemagne placed at the 
head of the Jewish congregation of Narbonne. 
Machir, who, like Kalonymos of Lucca, became the 
ancestor of a learned posterity, founded a Tal- 
mudical school at Narbonne. 

Owing to their favorable position in the Prankish- 


German Empire, in which they held land, the 
Jews were permitted to undertake voyages and 
carry on business, and were harassed neither by 
the people nor by the really religious German eccle- 
siastics ; they were also enabled to abandon them- 
selves to their inclination for travel, and thus spread 
through many of the provinces of Germany. In 
the ninth century, numbers of them dwelt in the 
towns of Magdeburg, Merseburg, and Ratisbon. 
From these points, they penetrated further and 
further into the countries inhabited by the Slavo- 
nians on the further side of the Oder as far as 
Bohemia and Poland. Meanwhile, in spite of the 
favor which Charlemagne extended to them, he, 
like the best men of the Middle Ages, found it 
difficult to treat them on an entirely equal footing 
with the Christians. The chasm, which the Fathers 
of the Church had placed between Christianity and 
Judaism, and which had been widened by individual 
ecclesiastics and the synods, was far too deep to 
be overleapt by an emperor who was devotedly 
attached to the Church. Charlemagne himself 
maintained, on one point, a difference between Jew 
and Christian, and perpetuated it in the peculiar 
form of the oath which was imposed on the Jews 
who werfe witnesses against, or accusers of, a Chris- 
tian. They were required, in taking an oath against 
a Christian, to surround themselves with thorns, to 
take the Torah in their right hand, and to call down 
upon themselves Naaman's leprosy and the punish- 
ment of Korah's faction in witness of the truth of 
their statement. If there was not a Hebrew copy 
of the Torah at hand, a Latin Bible was held to be 
sufficient. It is impossible not to admit, however, 
that to allow the Jews to testify against a Christian 
was in itself a deviation from the ordinances of the 

In the East, at the beginning of the ninth century, 
the Jews were also reminded, in a disagreeable 


manner, that they had to expect scorn and oppres- 
sion even from the best rulers. The reigns of the 
Abassid Caliphs, Haroun Alrashid and his sons, are 
regarded as the most flourishing period of the 
Caliphate of the East, but it is at this very time that 
Jewish complaints of oppression rise loudest. It is 
possible that in re-enacting Omar's law against the 
Christians (807), Haroun also made it applicable to 
the Jews ; for they were compelled to wear a dis- 
tinctive badge of yellow on their dress, in the same 
way as the Christians were obliged to wear blue, 
and they had to use a rope instead of a girdle. 
When, after his death (809), his two sons, Mahomet 
Alemin and Abdallah Almamun, for whom their 
father had divided the Caliphate into two parts, 
engaged in a destructive civil war, throughout the 
whole extent of the great empire, the Jews, especi- 
ally those in Palestine, experienced severe persecu- 
tion. The Christians, however, were their com- 
panions in misfortune. During the four years 
(809-8 1 3) of this fratricidal struggle, robbery and 
massacre seem to have been the order of the day. 
The sufferings were so terrible, it seems, that a 
preacher of those times declared them to be a sign 
of the speedy coming of the Messiah. " Israel can 
only be redeemed by means of penitence, and true 
penitence can only be evoked by suffering, afflic- 
tion, wandering, and want," declared this orator by 
way of consolation of his afflicted congregation. In 
the civil war raging between the two Caliphs, he 
fancied he saw the approaching destruction of the 
Ishmaelite rule and the approach of the Messianic 
empire. "Two brothers will finally rule over the 
Ishmaelites (Mahometans) ; there will then arise a 
descendant of David, and in the days of this king 
the Lord of Heaven will found a kingdom which 
shall never perish." "God will exterminate the 
sons of Esau (Byzantium), Israel's enemies, and 
also the sons of Ishmael, its adversaries." But; 


these, like many others, were delusive hopes. The 
civil war, indeed, shook the Caliphate to its founda- 
tions, but did not destroy it. Alemin was killed, 
and Almamun became the sole ruler of this exten- 
sive empire. 

It was during Almamun's reign (813-833) that 
the Caliphate of the East flourished most luxu- 
riantly. As he was imbued with tolerance, it 
was possible for the sciences and a certain form 
of philosophy to develop. Bagdad, Kairuan in 
northern Africa, and Merv in Khorasan, became 
the centers of science, such as Europe did not pos- 
sess until many centuries later. The genius of the 
Greeks celebrated its resurrection in Arabic garb. 
Statesmen competed with men of leisure for the 
palm of erudition. The Jews did not remain unaf- 
fected by this enthusiasm for science. Investigation 
and subtle inquiry are indeed part of their innermost 
nature. They took earnest interest in these intel- 
lectual activities, and many of their achievements 
gained the approbation of the Arabs. The history 
of Arab civilization has several Jewish names re- 
corded in its annals. Sahal, surnamed Rabban 
(the Rabbanite, the authority on the Talmud), of 
Taberistan on the Caspian Sea (about the year 
800), was celebrated as a physician and a mathe- 
matician. He translated into Arabic the Almagest 
of the Greek astronomer Ptolemy, the text-book of 
astronomy during the Middle Ages, and was the 
first to note the refraction of light. His son Abu- 
Sahal AH (835-853) is placed among those that 
advanced the study of medicine, and was the teacher 
of two Arabic medical authorities, Razi and Anzarbi. 

With even more ardor than that with which they 
had applied themselves to medicine, mathematics 
and astronomy, the Mussulmans prosecuted the 
study of the science of religion, a sort of philosophy 
of religion (Kalam). It was invested with as much 
importance as the affairs of state, and exercised a 


certain influence on politics. The expounders of 
the Koran, in trying to explain away the grossly 
sensual references to God, and to reconcile the con- 
tradictions contained in that work, developed ideas 
which projected far beyond the restricted horizon 
of Islam. Many commentators, by reason of their 
rationalistic explanations, came into conflict with 
the champions of the text, and were branded by 
them as heretics. The Mutazilists (heretics) laid 
great stress upon the unity of God, and desired 
that no definite attributes should be ascribed to 
him ; for thereby the essence of God appeared to 
them to be divided into parts, and several beings 
to be included in the idea of God, whose unity was 
thus negatived. They further asserted the freedorn 
of the human will, because the unconditional pre- 
determination by God, which the Oriental mind 
believes, and the Koran confirms, was incompatible 
with divine justice, which rewards the good and 
punishes the bad. They believed, however, that 
they still stood on the same ground as the Koran, 
although, of course, going far beyond it, and in 
order to bring their doctrine into harmony with the 
blunt sayings of their religious book, they employed 
the same method as the Alexandrian-Jewish philo- 
sophers of religion had used to reconcile the Bible 
with Greek philosophy ; they adopted an allegor- 
ical interpretation of the text. This interpretation 
was employed for the purpose of bridging over 
the gulf existing between the rationalistic idea of 
God and the irrational idea as taught by the Koran. 
The rationalistic Mutazilist theology of the Maho- 
metans, although denounced at first as heretical, 
steadily gained ascendancy ; the schools of Bagdad 
and Bassora rang with its doctrines. The Caliph 
Almamun exalted it into the theology of the court, 
and condemned the old simple views of religion. 

The adherents of orthodoxy were horrified by 
this license of interpretation, for the text of the 


Koran, in an underhand way, was forced into con- 
veying an opposite meaning, and simple faith lost 
all support. They, therefore, adhered strictly to 
the letter and to the natural meaning of the text. 
Some of them went still further. They took, in 
their literal meaning, all the expressipns concerning 
God, however gross they might be, which occurred 
in the Koran, or were used by tradition, and con- 
structed a most vile theology. Mahomet expressed 
a revelation thus : " My Lord came to meet me, 
gave me his hand in greeting, looked into my face, 
laid his hand between my shoulders, so that I felt 
his cold finger-tips," and the orthodox school ac- 
cepted all this in revolting literalness. This school 
(Anthropomorphists) did not hesitate to declare 
that God was a body possessed of members and a 
definite form ; that he was seven spans high, meas- 
ured by his own span ; that he was in a particular 
spot — upon his throne ; that it was permissible to 
affirm of him that he moves, mounts his throne and 
descends from it, stops and rests. These and still 
more blasphemous descriptions of the Supreme 
Being, in the same grossly materialistic strain, were 
given by the orthodox Mahometan teachers of 
religion, in order to show their adherence to the 
letter of the Koran in contradistinction to the 

The Jews of the East lived in so close a connec- 
tion with the Mussulmans that they could not fail 
to be affected by these tendencies. The same 
phenomena were repeated, therefore, in Jewish 
circles, and the variance between Karaites and 
Rabbanites assisted in transferring the Islamic 
controversies to Judaism. The official supporters 
of Judaism, however, the colleges of Sora and Pum- 
beditha, held aloof from them. Entirely absorbed 
in the Talmud, and its exposition, they either took 
no notice at first of the violent agitation of mind 
prevailing, or else refused to yield to it. But out- 


side of the colleges men were actively interested in 
these new methods, and Judaism was pushed through 
another process of purification. 

The faint ray of philosophy which fell into this 
world of simple blind faith, ignorant of its own 
beliefs, produced a dazzling illumination. The Kara- 
ites for the most part were of Mutazilist (ration- 
alistic) tendency, while the Rabbanites, on the con- 
trary, having to defend the strange Agadic state- 
ments concerning God, were antagonistic to science. 
But as the religious edifice of Karaism was not 
finished, there arose new sects within its pale, with 
peculiar theories and varying religious practices. 

The first person known to have imparted the 
Mutazilist tendency of Islamic theology to Judaism 
was Judah Judghan, the Persian, of the town of 
Hamadan (about 800). His adversaries relate of 
him that he was originally a camel-herd. He him- 
self pretended to be the herald of the Messiah, 
and when he had gained adherents, unfolded to 
them a peculiar doctrine, which he asserted had 
been made known to him in a vision. 

In opposition to the ancient traditional views, in 
accordance with which the Biblical account of God's 
deeds and thoughts must be taken literally, Judah 
Judghan asserted that we ought not to represent 
God with material attributes or anthropomorphically, 
for he is elevated above all created things. The 
expressions which the Torah employs in this con- 
nection are to be taken in a wholly metaphorical 
sense. Nor may we take for granted that, by 
virtue of His omnipotence and omniscience, God 
predetermines the acts of man. Much rather ought 
we to proceed from God's justice, and assume that 
man is master of his actions, and possessed of 
free will, and that reward and punishment are 
meted out to us according to our merit. While 
Judah of Hamadan was possessed of liberal views 
concerning theoretical questions, he recommended 


the severest asceticism in practice. His adherents 
abstained from meat and wine, fasted and prayed 
frequently, but were less strict with respect to the 
festivals. His followers, who long maintained them- 
selves as a peculiar sect under the name of Jud- 
ghanites, believed so firmly in him that they asserted 
that he was not dead, but would appear again, in 
order to bring a new doctrine with him, as the 
Shiites believed of Ali. One of his disciples, 
named Mushka, was desirous of imposing the doc- 
trine of his master on the Jews by force. He 
marched out of Hamadan with a troop of comrades 
of similar sentiments, but, together with nineteen 
of his followers, ^vas killed, in the neighborhood of 
Koom (east of Hamadan, southwest of Teheran), 
most probably by the Mussulmans. 

Judah Judghan attached more importance to an 
ascetic mode of living than to the establishing of 
the philosophical basis of Judaism, and was therefore 
rather the founder of a sect than a religious philo- 
sopher. A contemporary Karaite, Benjamin ben 
Moses of Nahavend (about 800-820), spread the 
Mutazilist philosophy among the Karaites. Ben- 
jamin Nahavendi is regarded by his fellow- Karaites 
as an authority, and is honored by them as greatly 
as Anan, their founder, although he differed from 
the latter on many points. Benjamin was entirely 
permeated with the conceptions of the Mutazilists. 
He was scandalized, not only by the physical and 
human characteristics of God contained in the Scrip- 
ture, but also by the revelation and the creation. 
He could not rest satisfied with the idea that the 
spiritual Being had created this earthly world, had 
come into contact with it, had circumscribed himself 
in space for the purpose of the revelation on Sinai, 
and uttered articulate sounds. In order not to 
abandon his elevated idea of God, and at the same 
time to preserve the revelation of the Torah, he 
adopted the following notion, as others had done 


before him : God had himself created only the spir- 
itual world and the angels ; the terrestrial universe, 
on the other hand, had been created by the angels, 
so that God ought to be regarded only as the 
mediate creator of the world. In the same way the 
revelation, the giving of the Law on Sinai, and the 
inspiration of the prophets were all the work of an 
angel only. Certain disciples adopted Benjamin's 
views, and formed a peculiar sect, called (it is not 
known for what reason) the Makariyites or Mag- 

While Benjamin Nahavendi, as is generally 
acknowledged, deviated widely from the Jewish 
system with respect to religious philosophy, he ap- 
proached the Rabbanites on the subject of morals ; 
he adopted many Talmudical ordinances, and left it 
to the free choice of the Karaites to reject or adopt 
them as their standard. In order to enforce obedi- 
ence to the laws, Benjamin Nahavendi introduced a 
species of excommunication, which differed only 
slightly from the excommunication of the Rabba- 
nites. When an accused person refused to obey 
the summons served on him, and attempted to 
evade judgment, he was to be cursed on each of 
seven successive days, and then excommunication 
■pronounced on him. The excommunication con- 
sisted in the prohibition of intercourse with all the 
members of the community, who also were forbidden 
to greet him, or to accept anything from him ; he 
was to be treated in all respects like one deceased, 
until he submitted. If he obstinately disregarded 
the decree, it was lawful to hand him over to tem- 
poral justice. Although Benjamin Nahavendi in- 
clined to Rabbanism on certain points, he adhered 
firmly, nevertheless, to the Karaite principle of un- 
restrained research in the Bible. One ought not to 
tie one's self down to the authorities, but to follow 
one's own conviction ; the son may differ from the 
father, the disciple from the master, as soon as they 


have reasons for their different views. " Inquiry is 
a duty, and errors occasioned by inquiry do not 
constitute a sin." ' 

In the same manner as the orthodox Mahometan 
teachers of rehgion worked counter to the unre- 
strained subtlety of the Mutazilists, and, falling into 
the opposite extreme, conceived the divinity as pos- 
sessed of a bodily form, so also did the Jewish 
adherents of the orthodox doctrine go astray, and, 
regarding the rationalistic innovation as a defection 
from Judaism, they conceived the most absurd ideas 
concerning the materiality of God. They even de- 
sired to accept in their most literal sense the Biblical 
expressions, " God's hand, God's foot, his sitting 
down, or walking about." The Agadic exposition 
of the Scripture, which occasionally made use of 
material, tangible figures, adapted to the compre- 
hension of the people, promoted the acceptance of 
this anti-Jewish theory. This theory, the creation 
of an imbecile, gained adherents by reason of its 
mysterious nature. It gives a minute, corporeal 
description of the Deity, measures his height from 
head to foot by the parasang-scale, speaks in blas- 
phemous detail of God's right and left eye, of his 
upper and lower lip, of his beard and of other mem- 
bers, which it would be sacrilegious even to mention. 
In order, however, not to prejudice the sublimity 
and majesty of God, this theory enlarges each organ 
to enormous proportions, and considers that justice 
has been done to the case when it adds that the 
scale by which the members are measured con- 
siderably exceeds the whole world (Shiur-Komah). 
To this God, whom it thus dissected and measured, 
the theory assigned a special house in heaven with 
seven halls (Hechaloth). In the uppermost hall, 
God is seated upon an elevated throne, the propor- 
tions of which are measured by the same enormous 
scale. The halls are populated by this materialistic 
theory with myriads of angels, to some of whom are 


assigned names formed by the arbitrary combination 
of Hebrew and foreign words into barbarous sounds. 
The chief angel, however, is a certain Metatoron, 
and the theory adds, after the example of the Chris- 
tian and Mahometan authors, that he was Enoch or 
Henoch, originally a man, but transported by God 
into heaven, and converted into flames of fire. 
With evident pleasure the theory dwells upon the 
description of this abortion of a morbid fancy. It 
even dared place him at the side of the Divinity, and 
call him the " little God." 

This theory, which was a compound of misun- 
derstood Agadas, and of Jewish, Christian, and 
Mahometan fantastic notions, clothed itself in mys- 
terious obscurity, and pretended to be a revelation. 
In order to answer the inquiry whence it had ac- 
quired this wisdom which enabled it to scoff at 
Judaism, in other words, at the Bible and the 
Talmud, it quotes alleged divine instructions. As 
there is no nonsense, however apparent, which 
cannot find adherents when earnestly and impres- 
sively enunciated, this doctrine of mystery, which 
was based upon a grossly material conception of 
God, found many followers. Its adepts called them- 
selves " Men of Faith." They boasted of possessing 
the means of obtaining a view of the divine house- 
hold. By virtue of certain incantations, invocations 
of the names of God and the angels, and the recita- 
tion of certain prayer-like chants, combined with fast- 
ing and an ascetic mode of living, they pretended 
to be able to perform supernatural deeds. For this 
purpose they made use of amulets and cameos 
(Kameoth), and wrote upon them the names of 
God or the angels with certain signs. Miracle- 
working was a trifle to these mystics. They asserted 
that every pious man had -the power of performing 
miracles, if he only employed the proper means. 
To this end they wrote a number of works on the 
theory and practice of the esoteric doctrine ; for the 


most part they contained downright nonsense, but 
here and there they rose to poetry. But this 
mystical literature only gave hints ; the adepts 
would surrender the real key to a knowledge of the 
divine secrets and to the power of performing 
miracles only to certain persons, in whose hand and 
forehead they pretended to discover lines that 
proved them to be worthy of this favor. 

This mystical doctrine flourished chiefly in Pales- 
tine, where the real study of the Talmud was lan- 
guishing ; little by little it made its way into 
Babylonia. This became apparent on the occasion 
of the election of a principal of the Pumbeditha 
academy (814). The best claim to this office was 
that advanced by a certain Mar- Aaron (ben Samuel), 
by reason of his erudition and on account of his 
having acted up till then as chief judge. Never- 
theless, preference was given to the claim of a 
rival, the aged Joseph bar Abba, who was far in- 
ferior to him in learning ; the reason of this pref- 
erence being that the latter was an adept in 
mysticism, and was believed to be favored with the 
intimacy of the prophet Elijah. One day when this 
same Joseph bar Abba was presiding at a public 
meeting, he exclaimed with rapture, " Make room 
for the old man who is just coming in." The eyes 
of all present were immediately turned to the en- 
trance, and those to the right of the principal 
respectfully stepped aside. They saw no one enter, 
however, and were therefore all the more positively 
convinced that the prophet Elijah had entered invi- 
sible, had seated himself on the right of his friend 
Joseph, and had been present during the whole of 
his discourse. After that time no one dared occupy 
the place at the side of the principal of the Pumbe- 
ditha academy, for it had been honored and hallowed 
by Elijah, and it became the custom to leave it 

Joseph's successor, Mar-Abraham ben Sherira 


(816-828), was likewise a mystic. It was said that 
he could foresee the future from the rustling of 
palm leaves on a calm day. 

More liberal views, and even Karaism, found a 
way into the halls of learning, just as mysticism 
had done before. Through these opposed views 
quarrels naturally arose, which came to light when 
the office of Exilarch was to be filled. In the year 
825 there was to be the election of a new Prince 
of the Exile. For this office there were two can- 
didates, David ben Judah and Daniel. The latter 
was inclined to Karaism, and perhaps just on this 
account found in southern Babylonia many sup- 
porters who gave him their votes. The Baby- 
lonians in the north, who belonged to Pumbeditha 
(Anbar), decided in favor of David, as he doubtless 
belonged to the orthodox party. The quarrel was 
carried on with much virulence. The mystic Abra- 
ham ben Sherira was deposed in consequence, and 
Joseph ben Chiya appointed in his place. It is not 
known by which party this was brought about. 
But Abraham had followers in Pumbeditha, who 
gave him their support, and refused allegiance to 
the rival Gaon. The quarrel could not be decided 
by their own authorities, and both parties appealed 
to the Caliph Almamun to confirm the Exilarch of 
their choice. Almamun, however, at that time was 
engaged in a dispute about the Eastern Church. 
He had been called upon to decide between two 
claimants for the Chaldaeo-Christian Patriarchate, 
and wanted to rid himself of such litigation. He 
therefore declined to interfere in the internal affairs 
of the Jews and Christians, and decreed that in 
future .each party should be empowered to elect its 
own religious chief. If ten Jews wished to elect an 
Exilarch, ten Christians an Archbishop, or ten Fire- 
worshipers a Chief Priest, they had the power to 
do so. This decree was unsatisfactory to both 
parties, inasmuch as it left the quarrel undecided ; 


it is not certain how it ended. So much, however, 
is known : David ben Judah asserted his authority, 
and filled the post for about ten years (till 840). 

In the school of Sora also quarrels broke out 
(827). The quarrel between the chiefs lasted for a 
long time in the school of Pumbeditha. Eventu- 
ally a compromise was effected. There were to be 
two Gaons holding office together, who should 
share equally the title and the revenue. Abraham, 
however, was to have the privilege of delivering the 
address at the general assemblies. 

One day both heads of the school at Pumbeditha 
met in Bagdad at an installation ceremony, at which 
it was customary to give an address. The capital 
of the Caliphate had at this time a numerous Jewish 
community and several synagogues. Bagdad, which 
was nearer to Pumbeditha than to Sora, belonged 
to the district of the School of Pumbeditha. Its 
president was there given the preference to him of 

When the lecture was to begin, and it was pro- 
claimed aloud, " Hear what the heads of the schools 
are about to say," those present burst into tears on 
account of the disunion in their midst. The tears 
of the multitude had so mighty an effect upon 
Joseph ben Chiya that he arose, and publicly ten- 
dered his resignation in favor of his opponent. 

He received an insulting blessing as the reward 
of his noble resolve. " May God give you a share 
in the world to come," said his opponent, who now 
assumed his position. It was only after Abraham's 
death (828), that the noble Joseph was re-installed 
as Gaon of Pumbeditha (828-833). 

All disputes had ceased in the school of Sora, 
but they soon broke out again, and created such 
confusion, that Sora was without a Gaon for two 
years (837-839). We are in the dark as to the 
true reason of all this discord, but it is probable 
that the rise of Kar^ism had something to dg 


with it. However much the Rabbanites hated the 
Karaite sect, and though they declared it heretical, 
and kept away from it, yet they adopted several of 
its teachings, and imitated it in others. 

But if Anan's sect had sown the seeds of dissen- 
sion amongst the followers of the more ancient 
sect, it was itself not by any means free there- 
from. The principal dogma of Karaism was un- 
limited freedom in exegesis, and the regulation of 
religion according to the result of honest inquiry. 
The result was that every Karaite constructed his 
Judaism according to his own interpretation of 
the text. Religious practice was regulated according 
to the clever or silly ideas of the expositor. More- 
over, exegesis was yet in its infancy. The knowl- 
edge of the Hebrew language, the basis of a healthy, 
rational exegesis, was still scanty, and arbitrariness 
had every opportunity of asserting itself. Every 
one believed himself to be in possession of the 
truth, and when he did not condemn them, pitied 
those who did not share his views. We have a sad 
picture of the condition of Karaism scarcely a cen- 
tury after Anan's death. New sects, too, arose 
from it, the founders of which had strange ideas 
about some customs of Judaism. Musa (or Mesvi) 
and Ishmael, from the town of Akbara (seven miles 
east of Bagdad), are said to have held peculiar views 
about the observance of the Sabbath. What these 
views were we do not now know, but they ap- 
proached the doctrines of the Samaritans. The 
two Akbarites further declared that the Pentateuchal 
prohibition against eating certain parts of the fat of 
an animal only referred to the sacrifices, and that it 
was permissible to use them otherwise. Musa and 
Ishmael found followers who lived according to their 
doctrines. These formed a sect within Karaism, 
and called themselves Akbarites. 

Simultaneously with these there arose another 
false teacher, Abu-Amran Moses, a Persian from 


the little town of Safran (near Kerman-Shah in 
Persia), who had emigrated to the town of Tiflis in 
Armenia. Abu Amran Altiflisi propounded other 
views, which he believed were based upon the text 
of the Bible. He, like the other Karaites, wished 
to have the marriage of an uncle with his niece 
considered among the prohibited unions. He had 
peculiar views about the calendar, differing both 
from those of the Karaites and those of the Rab- 
banites. There was to be no fixed calendar, nor 
was the month to commence when the new moon 
became visible, but at the moment of its eclipse. 
Moses, the Persian, denied bodily resurrection, and 
introduced other innovations which are not known 
in detail. His followers formed themselves into a 
peculiar sect, under the name of Abu-Amranites or 
Tiflisites, and continued to exist for several cen- 

Another Moses (or Mesvi), from Baalbek in Syria, 
continued the schism, and departed still more from 
Karaism. He affirmed that the Feast of Passover 
must always happen on Thursday, and the Day of 
Atonement on the Sabbath, because this day is 
designated in the Bible as " the Sabbath of Sab- 
baths." In many points, Moses of Baalbek differed 
from both the Karaites and the Rabbanites. He 
enacted amongst his sect that in praying they 
should always turn to the west, instead of turning 
in the direction of the Temple. He, too, formed 
a sect called by his name, which continued to exist 
for a long time. 

As Karaism had no religious center, and no spir- 
itual court to represent its unity, it is quite natural 
that there could be no sympathy between one 
Karaite community and another. And so it hap- 
pened that the people of Khorasan observed the 
festivals in a manner different from that of the other 

In the principles which the Karaites by and by 


were forced to lay down, in order, in a measure, to 
put a stop to the individualistic tendencies of their 
adherents, who were always forming new sects, 
they recognized the authority of tradition. They 
accepted the laws for slaughtering and the manner 
of fixing the beginning of each month, under their 
rule that a great many customs, not prescribed in 
either the Law, the Prophets or the Hagiographa, 
yet universally observed among the members of the 
Jewish race, were obligatory as religious practices. 
This rule of agreement or analogy was later called 
by them tradition (Haatakah) or hereditary teaching 
(Sebel ha Yerusha). In practice, however, they were 
arbitrary, inasmuch as they retained one custom as 
traditional, while they rejected others possessed of 
equal claims to be considered traditional. The rule 
of analogy led Karaism into new difficulties, espe- 
cially as regards the marriage of certain blood-rela- 
tions. They fell from one difficulty into another. 
They held that the affinity between a man and his 
wife was, according to the Bible, continuous. Con- 
sequently step-cnildren should not be allowed to 
intermarry. But they went still further. The 
affinity between a man and his wife continues, they 
said, even if the marriage is dissolved. If in such 
a case the husband or the wife marries again, the 
affinity extends to the new families, although they are 
unknown to each other. Hence the members of 
the family of the first husband cannot intermarry 
with the members of the second husband's family. 
This affinity continues to the third and fourth gen- 
erations. Thus the circle of affinity was consider- 
ably enlarged. The authors of this system of arti- 
ficial relationship called it "handing over" (Rikkub, 
Tarkib). Why they should have stopped at the 
fourth generation it is difficult to see, but it appears 
that they feared the ultimate consequences. Such 
was the confusion in which Karaism had enveloped 
itself in its endeavor to break with the past. 



The Jews under Louis le Dfibonnaire — The Empress Judith and her 
Veneration for Judaism — Agobard, Bishop ot Lyons — Conversion 
of Bishop Bodo — Amolo's efiort against the Jews — Charles the 
Bald — Troubles in BSziers and Toulouse — Decree against the 
Jews in Italy — Boso oi Burgundy — Basilius — Leo the Philosopher 
— Decline of the Exilarchate — The Geonim acquire Additional 
Influence — The Prayer Book of Amram — Mar-Zemach — Literary 
and Scientific Activity of the Jews— Decay of Karaisra — Dissen- 
sions at Pumbeditha. 

814 — 920 c. E. 

The Jews of Europe had no knowledge of the split 
in Judaism in the East, of the struggle between the 
Exilarchate and the Gaonate, or of the rivalry 
of the heads of the schools. Babylonia, the seat of 
the Gaonic schools, was looked upon by them 
almost in the light of a heaven upon earth, as a 
place of eternal peace, and of the knowledge of 
God. A decision from Pumbeditha was considered 
an important event, and was read with the greatest 
respect. Such a decision was obeyed more will- 
ingly than a papal bull among the Catholics, be- 
cause it was given without the assumption of 
authority. The western nations, as yet in their 
childhood with respect to literature, were under 
guardianship as regards religion — the Christians 
under the papal throne, the Jews under the Gaonic 

It is true, some prominent Jews in France and 
Italy occupied themselves with the study of mys- 
ticism and the Agada, but they regarded them- 
selves as dependent upon the Eastern authorities. 


The favorable condition of the Jews in the 
Prankish dominions, under Charles the Great, con- 
tinued under his son Louis (814-840), and, under 
these advantageous circumstances, an impulse to- 
wards intellectual activity manifested itself. They 
showed so much zeal in the cause of Judaism that 
they even inspired Christians with love for it. The 
successor of Charles the Great, the generous but 
weak Louis, in spite of his religious inclination, 
which obtained for him the name of " the Pious," 
showed extraordinary favor to the Jews. He took 
them under his special protection, shielding them 
from injustice, both on the part of the barons and of 
the clergy. They enjoyed the right of settling in 
any part of the kingdom. In spite of numerous 
decrees to the contrary, they were not only allowed 
to employ Christian workmen, but they might even 
import slaves. The clergy were forbidden to bap- 
tize the slaves of Jews to enable them to regain 
their freedom. Out of regard for them the market 
day was changed from the Sabbath day to Sunday. 
The Jews were freed from the punishment' of 
scourging, and had the jurisdiction over Jewish 
offenders in their own hands. They were, more- 
over, not subject to the barbarous ordeals of fire 
and water. They were allowed to carry on their 
trades without let or hindrance, but they had to pay 
a tax to the treasury, and to render account period- 
ically of their income. Jews also farmed the taxes, 
and obtained through this privilege a certain power 
over the Christians, although tnis was distinctly 
contrary to the provisions of canonic law. 

An officer (Magister Judaeorum) was appointed 
whose duty it was to watch over the rights of the 
Jews, and not permit them to be encroached upon. 
In the time of Louis this office was filled by a man 
named Eberard. One is almost tempted to believe 
that the remarkable favor shown to the Jews by 
the pious emperor was mainly due to commercial 


motives. The international commerce which Charle- 
magne had established, and which the. counselors of 
Louis wished to develop, was mostly in the hands 
of Jews, because they could more easily enter into 
commercial relations with their brethren in other 
lands, as they were not hampered by military 
service. But there was a deeper reason for the 
extraordinary favor shown to the Jews, not only to 
the Jewish merchants, but also to the Jews as such 
— the bearers of the purified knowledge of God. 

The empress Judith, Louis' second consort, was 
most friendly to Judaism. This beautiful and clever 
queen, the admiration of whose friends was equaled 
only by the hostility of her foes, had great respect 
for the Jewish heroes of antiquity. When the 
learned abbot of Fulda, Rhabanus Maurus, wished 
to win her favor, he could find no more effectual 
means than to dedicate to her his work on the 
books of Esther and Judith, and to compare her 
to both these Jewish heroines. The empress 
and her friends, and probably also the treasurer 
Bernhard, the real ruler of the kingdom, became 
patrons of the Jews, because of their descent from 
the patriarchs and the prophets. " They ought to 
be honored on this account," said their friends at 
court, and their view was shared by the emperor. 
Cultured Christians refreshed themselves with the 
writings of the Jewish historian Josephus and the 
Jewish philosopher Philo, and read their works in 
preference to those of the apostles. Educated 
ladies and courtiers openly confessed that they 
esteemed the Jewish lawgiver more highly than 
they did their own. They even went so far as to 
ask the Jews for their blessing. The Jews had free 
access to court, and held direct intercourse with 
the emperor and those near him. Relatives of the 
emperor presented Jewish ladies with costly gar- 
ments in order to show their appreciation and 


As such favor was shown them in higher circles, 
it was only natural that the Jews of the Prankish 
dominions (which also included Germany and Italy) 
should enjoy wide toleration, perhaps more than at 
any other period of their history. The hateful 
canonical laws were tacitly annulled. The Jews 
were allowed to build synagogues, to speak freely 
about the meaning of Judaism in the hearing 
of Christians, and even to say that they were 
"descendants of the patriarchs," "the race of the 
just," " the children of the prophets." They could 
fearlessly give their candid opinion about Chris- 
tianity, the miracles of the saints, the relics, and 
image worship. Christians visited the synagogues, 
and were edified by the Jewish method of con- 
ducting divine service, and, strangely enough, were 
better pleased with the lectures of the Jewish 
preachers (Darshanim) than with those of their 
own clergy, although the Darshanim could hardly 
have been able to reveal the deep tenor of Judaism. 
So much, however, is certain : the Jewish preachers 
delivered their sermons in the vernacular. Clergy- 
men in high station were not ashamed to adopt 
their expositions of Holy Writ from the Jews. The 
abbot Rhabanus Maurus of Fulda confessed that 
he had learnt several things from the Jews which 
he made use of in his commentary to the Bible, 
dedicated to Louis of Germany, who afterwards 
became emperor. 

In consequence of the favor shown to the Jews at 
court, some Christians conceived a liking for Judaism, 
looked upon Judaism as the true religion, found it 
more convincing than Christianity, respected the 
Sabbath, and wo^-ked on Sunday. In short, the 
reign of Emperor Louis the Pious was a golden era 
for the Jews of his kingdom, such as they had never 
enjoyed, and were destined never again to enjoy 
in Europe, But as the Jewish race has had enemies 
at all times, these were not lacking to the Prench 


Jews of this epoch, especially as they were in favor 
at court, were beloved by the people, and could 
openly declare their religious views. The followers 
of strict Church discipHne saw in the violation of 
the canonical laws, in the favoj shown to the Jews 
and in the liberty which was then being vouchsafed 
to them, the ruin of Christendom. Envy and 
hatred were concealed under the cloak of ortho- 
doxy. The patrons of the Jews at court, with the 
empress at their head, were hated by the clerical 
party, which strove to rule the emperor, and which 
now transferred its anger against the liberal court 
party to the Jews. 

The exponent of clerical orthodoxy and of hatred 
against the Jews at this time, was Agobard, Bishop 
of Lyons, whom the Church has canonized. A 
restless and passionate man, he calumniated the 
empress Judith, rebelled against the emperor, and 
incited the princes to revolt. He supported the 
disloyal sons of the emperor, especially Lothaire, 
against their father. He was called the Ahitho- 
phel who incited Absalom against his father David. 
This bishop wished to limit the liberty of the Jews, 
and to reduce them to the low position they had 
held under the Merovingian kings. 

An insignificant occurrence gave him the desired 
opportunity. The female slave of a respected Jew 
of Lyons ran away from her master, and to regain 
her freedom she allowed herself to be baptized 
(about 827). The Jews, who saw in this act an 
encroachment on their chartered rights and on their 
property, demanded the surrender of the runaway 
slave. On Agobard's refusal to grant this, the 
Jews turned to Eberard, the Magister Judaeorum, 
who threatened to punish the bishop, if he persisted 
in his refusal to restore her to her master. 

This was the beginning of a contest between 
Agobard and the Jews which lasted for several 
years. It gave rise to many quarrels, and ended 


in the deposition of Agobard. He did not care so 
much about this slave, as about the maintenance 
and assertion of the canonical laws against the 
Jews. But he now encountered a serious difficulty. 
Incited, on the one hand, by his hatred of the Jews, 
restrained, on the other, by his fear of punishment, 
he did not know how to act. Perplexed, he turned 
to the representatives of the Church party at court, 
whom he knew to be enemies of the empress and 
her favorites, the Jews. He urged them to induce 
the emperor to restrict the liberty of the Jews. 
They appear to have proposed something of the 
sort to the emperor. The friends of the Jews at 
court, in the meantime, sought to frustrate the plans 
of the clergy. The emperor summoned the bishops 
and the representatives of Judaism to settle the 
points in dispute. Agobard, however, was so full 
of rage at the meeting that, as he himself says, 
" he roared rather than spoke." He then had an 
audience with the emperor. When the bishop 
appeared before Louis, the latter looked at him so 
fiercely that he could not utter a word, and heard 
nothing but the order to withdraw. Ashamed and 
confused, the bishop returned to his diocese. How- 
ever, he soon recovered from his confusion, and 
plotted anew against the Jews. Agobard delivered 
anti-Jewish speeches, and urged his parishioners to 
break off all intercourse with the Jews, to do no 
business with them, and to decline entering their 
service. Fortunately, their patrons at court were 
active on their behalf, and did their best to frustrate 
the designs of the fanatic priest. As soon as they 
were informed of his action they obtained letters of 
protection [indiculi) from the emperor, sealed with 
his seal, and these they sent to the Jews of Lyons. 

A letter was likewise sent to the bishop com- 
manding him, under a severe penalty, to discon- 
tinue his anti-Jewish sermons. Another_ letter was 
sent to the governor of the Lyons district, bidding 


him render the Jews all assistance (828), Agobard 
took no notice of these letters, and spitefully alleged 
that the imperial decree was spurious — in fact, 
could not possibly be genuine. Thereupon Eberard, 
the Magister Judseorum, sent to him, telling him 
of the emperor's displeasure on account of his 
disobedience. But he remained so obstinate, that 
the emperor had to send two commissioners, Ger- 
rick and. Frederick, men in high standing at court, 
armed with full power to bring this stubborn and 
seditious bishop to reason. What means they were 
empowered to employ against him we do not know, 
but they must have been severe, because the few 
priests who had taken part in Agobard's agitation 
did not venture to show themselves. It is signifi- 
cant that the people of Lyons did not at all side 
with their bishop against the Jews. 

The Jew-hater Agobard did not rest in his efforts 
against the Jews. He determined to oppose the 
court party which favored the Jews, and to win over 
the emperor by an appeal to his conscience. Per- 
haps he was acquainted with the plans of the 
conspirators, Wala, Helisachar, and Hilduin, who 
desired to incite the sons of the emperor's first 
marriage against the empress and the chief chan- 
cellor Bernhard, because these had induced the 
emperor to effect a new division of the kingdom in 
favor of Judith's son. Agobard henceforth divested 
himself of all timidity, and became quite resolute, 
as though he anticipated the speedy downfall of the 
party that favored the Jews. He first appealed to 
the bishops, and entreated them to reproach the 
king with his sin, and persuade him to reduce the 
Jews to the humble position they had occupied at 
the time of the Merovingians. Only one of Ago- 
bard's letters to the prelates is extant, the one 
to Bishop Nibridius of Narbonne. It is full of 
bitterness against the Jews, and is interesting on 
account of the fanaticism of the writer, and the 


confession he makes therein. Amongst other things 
he complains that the Christians, despite their efforts, 
could not succeed in winning over to Christianity 
a single Jewish soul, whilst the Christians, joining 
Jews at their meals, partook also of their spiritual 
food. Although Agobard's bitter hatred of the 
Jews is chiefly to be considered a manifestation 
of his own feelings, it cannot be denied that it 
was in entire harmony with the teachings of the 
Church. He justly appeals to the sayings of the 
apostles and to the canonic laws. The inviolable 
decrees of the councils, too, were on his side. 
Agobard, with his gloomy hatred, was strictly 
orthodox, whilst Emperor Louis with his mildness 
was inclined to heresy. But Agobard did not 
venture to spread this opinion openly. He rather 
suggested it in his statement that he could not 
believe it to be possible that the emperor had 
betrayed the Church to the Jews. His complaint 
was echoed In the hearts of the princes of the 

A number of bishops assembled at Lyons for the 
purpose of discussing the best method of humbling 
the Jews, and disturbing their hitherto peaceful 
existence. They also considered how the emperor 
might best be influenced to adopt their resolutions. 
It was resolved at the meeting that a letter should 
be handed to the emperor, setting forth the wicked- 
ness and the danger of favoring the Jews, and 
specifying the privileges which ought to be with- 
drawn (829). The letter of the synod, as we have 
it now, is signed by three bishops, and is entitled, 
" Concerning the Superstitions of the Jews." Ago- 
bard wrote the preface, in which he explains his 
position in the quarrel. In it, after accusing the 
Jews, he blamed their friends as being the cause of 
all the evil. The Jews, he said, had become bold 
through the support of the commissioners, who had 
given out that the Jews were not so bad after all. 


but were very dear to the emperor. From the 
standpoint of faith and of the canonic laws the 
argument of Agobard and the other bishops was 
Irrefutable, and had Emperor Louis the Pious set 
store by this logic, he would have had to extirpate 
the Jews, root and branch. Fortunately, however, 
he took no notice of It. This happened either 
because he knew Agobard's character, or because 
the letter containing the accusations against the 
Jews never reached him. Agobard's fear that the 
letter would be intercepted by the friends of the 
Jews at court may have proved well founded. The 
Jew-hating bishop of Lyons, .however, had his re- 
venge. In the following year (830), he took part 
in the conspiracy against the empress Judith, by 
joining the sons, who nearly succeeded in dethroning 
their father. Agobard was thereupon deprived of 
his office, and had to seek safety In Italy, but Louis 
soon restored him to his office, after which Agobard 
left the Jews unmolested. 

Till the end. of his life Louis remained well dis- 
posed toward the Jews. This is the more surprising 
as he felt very much hurt when one of his favorites 
became a convert to Judaism, which might easily 
have embittered him against them. The conversion 
of Bishop Bodo, who had hitherto occupied a high 
position, created a great sensation In Its time. The 
chronicles speak of this event as they would of some 
extraordinary natural phenomenon. The event, in- 
deed, was accompanied by peculiar circumstances, 
and was a great shock to pious Christians. Bodo, 
or Puoto, descended from an old Alemannlc race, a 
man as well Informed In temporal as In spiritual 
affairs, had become an ecclesiastic, and occupied the 
rank of a deacon. The emperor favored him, and 
in order to have him constantly near him, made him 
his spiritual adviser. Entertaining strict Catholic 
opinions, Bodo desired to go to Rome In order to 
receive the blessing of the Pope, and to make a 


pilgrimage to the graves of the apostles and the 
martyrs. He was given leave of absence, but in 
Rome, the stronghold of Christianity, Bodo con- 
ceived a strong liking for Judaism. Perhaps the 
favor shown to the Jews and Judaism at Louis' 
court had suggested to' him a comparison of the two 
faiths,, and his investigation may have led him to 
recognize the merits of Judaism. Besides, the im- 
moral life of the clergy in the Christian capital, 
which had given rise to the satire about Pope Joan, 
who had defiled the chair of Peter, filled him with 
disgust, and attracted him to the purer religion of 

He himself wrote later, that he, in company with 
other divines, had used the churches for grossly 
immoral purposes. Christian orthodoxy, without 
inquiring into the true reason for Bodo's change of 
faith, had a ready answer, viz., that Satan, the enemy 
of mankind and of the Church, had led him to it. 
Bodo, without stopping at the court or in France, 
journeyed from Rome to Spain, and there formally 
became a Jew, giving up for the new faith his father- 
land, his position, and his friends. He was circum- 
cised in Saragossa, assumed the name of Eleazar, 
and let his beard grow (August, 938). He married 
a Jewess in Saragossa, and appears to have entered 
the military service of an Arab prince. He now 
conceived such hatred against his former co-relig- 
ionists, that he persuaded the Mahometan conqueror 
not to tolerate Christians in his dominions, but to 
compel them to adopt either Islam or Judaism. 
Thereupon the Spanish Christians are said to have 
appealed to the emperor of the Prankish empire and 
to the bishops to use their utmost endeavors to get this 
dangerous apostate into their power. The emperor 
Louis was deeply moved by Bodo's conversion. 
He did not, however, allow the Jews to suffer on 
account of his grief, but continued to protect them 
against injustice. Of this we have a clear proof in 


his action in reference to a lawsuit which came 
under his notice some months after Bodo's conver- 
sion. It is probable that with Louis the Pious 
originated the theory, current throughout the later 
period of the Middle Ages, and doubtless inspired 
by benevolent desires, that the emperor is the 
natural patron of the Jews, and that they, being his 
wards, are inviolable. 

With the death of the emperor Louis, the golden 
age of the Jews in the Prankish dominions came to 
an end, and their good fortunes were not renewed 
for a considerable time. Southern Europe, dis- 
turbed by anarchy, and ruled by a fanatic clergy, 
did not offer a favorable field for the development 
of Judaism. It is true that Charles the Bald, the 
son of Louis by Judith, who caused so much confu- 
sion in the Prankish dominions, that the subsequent 
division of the kingdom into France, Germany, 
Lorraine, and Italy ensued, was not hostile to the 
Jews (843). He appears, indeed, to have inherited 
from his mother a certain preference for Judaism. 
He had a Jewish physician, *Zedekiah, to whom he 
was much attached, but whose skill in medicine was 
regarded, by the ignorant and superstitious people, 
as magic and the work of the devil, and also a 
Jewish favorite, whose political services won from 
his royal master the praise, " My faithful Judah." 

Under Charles the Bald, as under his predecessor, 
the Jews enjoyed equal rights with the Christians. 
They were allowed to carry on their business unhin- 
dered, and also to possess landed property. Some 
of them controlled the tolls. But they had impla- 
cable enemies among the higher clergy. They had 
angered the dignitaries of the Church too much by 
their humiliation of Agobard, and the clergy, though 
they spoke constantly of love and kindness, would 
not allow the Jews to enjoy their advantages. 

The bitterest enemy of the Jews was Agobard's 
disciple and successor, Bishop Amolo of Lyons. 


He had imbibed hatred of the Jews from his master ; 
and he was not alone in this, for Hinkmar, the 
bishop of Rheims, a favorite of Emperor Charles, 
the archbishop of Sens, the archbishop of Bourges, 
and others of the clergy shared his anti-Jewish 
sentiments. At a council held by these prelates at 
Meaux (not far from Paris) in 849, for the purpose 
of exalting the spiritual power at the expense of the 
royal authority, and of repressing the riotous living 
of many clergymen, it was resolved to re-enact the 
old canonical laws and anti-Jewish restrictions, and 
to have them confirmed by Charles. The members 
of the council did not mark the limit of the revival 
of old restrictions, but on the list, similar to Ago- 
bard's, containing the spiteful ordinances from 
which the king was to select those to be enforced 
anew, were included some that dated from the time 
of the first Christian emperor Constantine. It also 
mentioned the decree of Emperor Theodosius II, 
according to which no Jew was allowed to occupy 
any office or position of honor. The decrees of the 
various councils and the edict of the Merovingian 
king Childebert, were also cited, by which the Jews 
were not permitted to occupy the positions of judges 
and farmers of taxes, nor show themselves on the 
streets during Easter week, and were required to pay 
the utmost respect to the clergy. They even cited 
synodal decrees which had been passed outside 
of France, and therefore had never been invested 
with the force of law, and also the inhuman Visi- 
gothic synod decrees, which had been directed 
more especially against baptized Jews who still 
clung to Judaism. The members of the council also 
mentioned the Visigothic synodal decrees, which 
prescribed that the children of converted Jews 
should be torn from their parents and placed 
amongst Christians. In conclusion, they laid stress 
upon the point that Jewish and Christian slave 
dealers should be compelled to sell heathen slaves 


within Christian territory, so that they might be 
converted to Christianity. 

The prelates thought that they could cajole Charles 
into yielding to their wishes by representing to him 
that the Northmen's invasion was divine chastise- 
ment for his sinfulness. But Charles was not so 
humbled by state troubles as to allow laws to be 
dictated to him by a fanatic and ambitious clergy. 
Although his favorite, Hinkmar, took part in the 
council, he had the meeting dissolved. Later on, 
however, he summoned the members again for a 
new session, under his own supervision, at Paris (14 
Feb., 846). The improvement of Church affairs was 
to be considered. They had to omit three quarters 
of the eighty decrees of the council of Meaux, 
amongst them the proposed anti-Jewish regulations. 
Thus neither under the Carlovingians nor under 
later rulers, was the degradation of the Jews in 
France decreed by law. Charles imposed upon 
the Jewish merchants a tax of eleven per cent, on 
the value of all merchandise sold, whilst the Chris- 
tians had to pay only ten per cent. 

Amolo and his colleagues could not forget the 
defeat they had suffered at the council of Meaux, 
where their plan to humble the Jews had been frus- 
trated. Agobard's successor sent a letter to the spir 
itual authorities, reminding them that they ought' to 
use their influence with the princes to deprive the 
Jews of all their privileges. Amolo's letter, full of 
virulence and calumny against the Jewish race, is a 
worthy appendix to Agobard's letter to Emperor 
Louis on the same subject. Much therein is bor- 
rowed from the latter. Towards the end of his 
letter, Amolo expresses his deep regret that the 
Jews in France were enjoying the rights of free 
speech, and that many Christians were well dis- 
posed toward them. The Jews were even allowed 
to have Christian servants to work in their houses 
and fields. He complains, too, that many Chris^ 


tians openly declare that the sermons of the Jewish 
preachers please them better than those of the 
Christian clergy, making it seem the fault of the 
Jews that the Christian clergy could not attract 
audiences. He also reproached the Jews with the 
fact that a noble Church official had gone over to 
Judaism, and now thoroughly hated Christianity. 
Amolo invited all the bishops of the country to do 
their utmost to re-introduce the old canonic restric- 
tions against the Jews. He enumerated a number 
of anti-Jewish princes and councils that had insisted 
on the legal humiliation of the Jews, just as Agobard 
and the members of the council of Meaux had done 
before. Amolo, above all, reminded them of the 
pious Visigothic king, Sisebut, who had forced the 
Tews to adopt Christianity. "We dare not," ends 
his malignant letter, " either by our suavity, flattery, 
or defense, encourage the complacency of the Jews, 
who are accursed, and yet blind to their own damna- 

At the time, Amolo's virulent letter had as little 
effect as Agobard's letter and the decree of the 
council of Meaux. But gradually the poison spread 
from the clergy to the people and the princes. The 
division of France into small independent states, 
which refused allegiance to the king, was another 
unfavorable circumstance. Its effect was to leave 
the }ews at the mercy of the fanatical clergy and 
the tyranny of petty princes. 

How malicious was the spirit animating the 
French clergy, can be judged from the fact that 
the successive bishops of Beziers were in the habit 
of preaching vehement sermons from Palm Sunday 
until Easter Monday, exhorting the Christians to 
avenge themselves on the Jews of the town, because 
they had crucified Jesus. The fanatical mob thus 
incited armed themselves with stones to attack the 
Jews. The mischief was repeated year after year 
for centuries. The Jews of Beziers often defended 


themselves, and on these occasions much damage 
was inflicted on both sides. The Jews of Toulouse, 
too, for a long time had to suffer numerous indig- 
nities. The counts of this town had the privilege 
of publicly giving the president of the Jewish com- 
munity a box on the ears on Good Friday. This 
was no doubt meant as vengeance upon the Jews 
for Jesus' death ; no doubt too in fulfilment of the 
precept, " Thou shalt love thine enemies." There 
is a story which tells of a chaplain called Hugh, who 
begged that he might be allowed to perform the 
office, and he dealt the victim so violent a blow, 
that he fell lifeless to the ground. Those who 
wished to find a justification for this barbarity 
alleged that the Jews on one occasion either had 
betrayed, or had intended to betray the town of 
Toulouse to the Mahometans. Later, the box on 
the ears was commuted to an annual money pay- 
ment by the Jews. The great grandson of Louis 
the Pious, Louis II, son of Lothaire, was so in- 
fluenced by the clergy, that as soon as he had the 
government of Italy in his own hands (855), he 
decreed that all the Italian Jews should quit the 
land where their ancestors had lived long before 
the arrival of the Germans and Longobards. No 
Jew should dare show himself after the ist of 
October of that year. Any Jew that appeared in 
the street might be seized, and peremptorily handed 
over for punishment. Fortunately for the Jews 
this decree could not be carried out ; for Italy was 
then divided into small districts, whose rulers, for 
the most part, refused obedience to the emperor of 
Italy. Mahometans made frequent irruptions into 
the land, and were often called in to help the Chris- 
tian princes against each other, or against the king. 
This anarchy was the safeguard of the Jews, and 
the decree remained in abeyance. 

Under Charles' successors, when the power of 
the king decreased greatly, and the bigotry of the 


princes increased, things came to such a pass that 
Charles the Simple granted all the lands and vine- 
yards of the Jews in the Duchy of Narbopne to the 
Church, in order to show his great zeal for his 
religion (899-914). The French princes gradually 
accustomed themselves to think that the protection 
which the emperors Charles the Great and his son 
Louis had afforded the Jews, involved the inference 
that the wards and their property belonged abso- 
lutely to the guardian. This thought, at least, 
underlies the act by which the usurper Boso, king 
of Burgundy and Provence, who was greatly influ- 
enced by the clergy, presented the Jews as a gift 
to the Church, i. e., he considered them in every 
respect as his bondmen. This arbitrary treatment 
of the Jews came to an end only with the rule of the 

Like their brethren in Western Europe, the Jews 
in the East, in the Byzantine dominion, had to 
suffer sad persecution. Despite forced baptism, 
and the oppression of the Emperor Leo the Isau- 
rian, the Jews again spread over the whole Byzan- 
tine Empire, more especially over Asia Minor and 
Greece. Many Greek Jews occupied themselves 
with the cultivation of mulberry trees and with silk 
spinning. The Greek Jews in other respects were 
subject to all the restrictions imposed by the former 
rulers, and like the heathen and heretics, were not 
permitted to hold office. They were, however, 
granted religious freedom. Basilius, who ascended 
the throne in about 850, was comparatively a just 
and mild ruler. Yet he was resolved to bring the 
Jews over to Christianity. He therefore arranged 
that religious discussions should take place between 
Jewish and Christian clergymen, and decreed that 
the Jews should either prove by irrefutable argu- 
ments that their religion was the true one, or con- 
fess that " Jesus was the culmination of the Law and 
the Prophets." 

176 History of the jews. cm. vi. 

Basilius, foreseeing that these discussions would 
probably lead to no results, promised appointments 
of honor, to those who should prove themselves 
open to conversion. It is not known what punish- 
ment was inflicted on those unwilling to be con- 
verted, but they doubtless had to suffer severe 
persecution. Many Jews accepted or pretended to 
accept Christianity. Scarcely was Basilius dead 
(886), when they threw off the mask as they had 
done in Spain, France, and in other countries where 
they had been oppressed, and returned to the reli- 
gion to which in reality they had never for a 
moment been unfaithful. But they had made a 
mistake. Basilius' son and successor, Leo the 
Philosopher — a title cheaply purchased in those 
times — excelled his father in intolerance. He de- 
creed that those who "had re-adopted the Jewish 
customs should be treated as apostates, that is, 
punished with death (about 900). Nevertheless, 
after the death of this emperor, the Jews returned 
to live in the Byzantine Empire, as they had done 
after the death of Leo the Isaurian. 

In the lands of the Caliphate, especially in Baby- 
lonia (Irak) at that time the center of Jewish life, 
the Jews gradually lost the favorable position which 
they had hitherto enjoyed, although the intolerance 
of the Mahometan rulers was mild compared with 
that of the Christian princes. In the East, too, 
they were the prey of caprice, for the Caliphs 
resigned their power in favor of the vizirs, and thus 
deprived themselves of all power. The Caliphs 
after Al-Mamun became more and more the tools 
of ambitious and greedy ministers and generals, 
and the Oriental Jews frequently had to buy the 
favor of these ephemeral lords at a high price. 
The Caliph Al-Mutavakkil, Al-Mamun's third suc- 
cessor, renewed the laws of Omar against the Jews, 
Christians, and Magi, and compelled them to wear 
a characteristic dress, a yellow scarf over their 


dress, and a thick cord instead of a girdle. He, 
moreover, changed the synagogues and churches 
into mosques, and forbade the Mahometans to 
teach Jews and Christians, or to admit them to 
offices (849-856). A tenth part of their property 
had to be given to the Caliph ; they were forbidden 
to ride upon horses, and were allowed to make use 
only of asses and mules (853-854). The Exilarchs 
had lost a part of their power, when Al-Mamun 
decreed that they should no longer be officially 
recognized and supported, and they lost still more 
through the fanaticism of Al-Mutavakkil. By and 
by they ceased to be officials of the state, invested 
with certain powers, and had to content themselves 
with the position which the Jewish communities 
gave them out of respect for old and dear memories. 
As the Exilarchate declined, the respect increased 
for the school of Pumbeditha, because it was near 
the capital of the Bagdad Caliphate, whose Jewish 
community of influential men came under its. juris- 
diction. Pumbeditha now rose from the subord- 
inate position into which it had been forced. It 
put itself on an equal footing with the sister 
academy of Sora, and its presidents likewise as- 
sumed the title of Gaon. It next made itself 
independent of the Exilarchate. Formerly the 
head of the school and the faculty of Pumbeditha 
had to go once a year to pay homage to the 
Exilarch, but now, if the Exilarch wished to hold 
a public assembly, he had to repair to Pumbe- 
ditha. This was probably brought about by the 
chief of the school, Paltoi ben Abayi (842-858), who 
heads the list of important Geonim, and who was 
noted for his free use of the Cherem (Excommuni- 
cation). Dissensions about the succession to the 
Gaonate were not wanting during this period, 
although the Exilarchs could not make their influ- 
ence felt. 


A Gaon of Sora, Natronai II, son of Hillai 
(859-869), kept up a prolific correspondence with 
foreign communities in the Arabic language. His 
predecessors had employed a mixture of Hebrew 
and Chaldee as the medium of their communications. 
Natronai II also corresponded with the Jewish- 
Spanish community at Lucena, whose members 
doubtless understood Arabic better than Hebrew. 
He opposed the Karaites as bitterly as the Geonim 
had done at the time of the rise of this sect, 
" because they despised the words of the sages of 
the Talmud, and set up for themselves an arbitrary 
Talmud of their own." His pupil and successor, 
Mar-Amram ben Sheshna (869-881), was the com- 
piler of the liturgical order of prayers in use amongst 
European Jews. At the request of a Spanish com- 
munity, preferred by their religious leader, Isaac 
ben Simeon, he collected everything that the Tal- 
mud and the custom of the schools had ratified 
concerning prayer and divine service (Siddur Rab 
Amram). The form which the prayers had assumed 
in the course of time was by him declared to have 
the force of fixed law. Every one that deviated from 
it was considered a heretic, and excluded from the 
community of Israel. The poetical compositions 
for the festivals were not yet in general use at this 
time, and Mar-Amram left the selection to the taste 
of the individual. 

During Mar-Amram's Gaonate, there were two 
successive heads of the schools in Pumbeditha, 
Rabba ben Ami (869-872), of whom nothing is 
known, and Mar-Zemach I. ben Paltoi (872-890), 
who heads the list of literary Geonim. Hitherto, 
the leaders of the school had occupied themselves 
with the exposition of the Talmud, with the regula- 
tion of the internal affairs of the communities, and 
with answering questions which were submitted to 
them. The one or the other of them, it is true> 
made a collection of Agadic sayings, but for literary 


activity, they either had no leisure, or opportunity, 
or inclination. But when the zeal for the study 
of the Talmud increased in the different commu- 
nities in Egypt, Africa, Spain and France, and 
students of the Talmud spent their time in study- 
ing obscure and difficult passages, they often had 
to appeal to the schools for the solution of their 
difficulties. Their questions soon concerned only 
theoretical points, and the Geonim found it neces- 
sary to write treatises on certain portions of the 
Talmud, instead of simple and short answers. 
■ These books were used by students as Talmudical 
handbooks. The Gaon Zemach ben Paltoi, of Pum- 
beditha, arranged an alphabetical index of difficult 
words in the Talmud, under the title of " Aruch." 
In it he shows acquaintance with the Persian lan- 
guage. This dictionary forms the first contribution 
to the constantly growing department of Talmu- 
dical lexicography. The second literary Gaon was 
Nachshon ben Zadok of Sora (881-889), Zemach's 
contemporary. He, too, wrote a book giving ex- 
planations of difficult words in the Talmud. Nach- 
shon made himself famous through his discovery of 
a key to the Jewish calendar. He found that the 
order of the years and festivals repeat themselves 
after a cycle of two hundred and forty-seven years, 
and that the forms of the years can be arranged 
in fourteen tables. This key bears his name ; it is 
known as the cycle of Rabbi Nachshon. 

The third author of this time was Rabbi Simon 
of Cairo, or Misr, in Egypt, who, although not an 
official of the Babylonian school, was in a position 
to compose a code embracing all religious and 
ceremonial laws (about 900). This work, directed 
against the Karaites, bears the title "The Great 
Halachas " (Halachoth gedoloth), and forms a sup- 
plement to Jehudai's work of a similar nature. The 
history of the post-exilic period till the destruction 
of the Temple was also written at this time ; its 


author is unknown. It is written in Arabic, and 
is based partly upon Josephus, partly upon the 
Apocrypha, and partly upon tradition. It is called 
"The History of the Maccabees" or "Joseph ben 
Gorion." In later times an Italian translated it into 
Hebrew, and in its expanded form it bears the title 
Josippon (Pseudo-Josephus), and this work served 
to awaken in the Jews, who were ignorant of the 
original sources of Jewish history, interest in their 
glorious past. 

The literary activity of the official heads of 
Judaism in the tv/o schools confined itself to Tal- 
mudical subjects. They had no idea of scientific 
research, would have condemned it, in fact, as 
a leaning to Karaite doctrine. Outside of the 
Gaonate, in Egypt and Kairuan, there was a scien- 
tific movement among the Rabbanites, weak at 
first, but increasing in strength every year. The 
Rabbanite thinkers must have felt that so long as 
Talmudic Judaism maintained a hostile position 
towards science, it could not hold its own against 
the Karaites. Biblical exegesis and Hebrew phil- 
ology formed the special studies of the Karaites, 
and in connection with these was developed a kind 
of philosophy, though only as an auxiliary science. 
It was in this branch that, towards the end of the 
ninth century, several Rabbanites emulated them. 
Famous amongst these was Isaac ben Suleiman 
Israeli (845-940). He was a physician, philoso- 
pher, and Hebrew philologist. He was an Egyp- 
tian, and was called to Kairuan about the year 904 
as physician to the last Aghlabite prince, Ziadeth- 
AUah, When the founder of the Fatimide dynasty, 
Ubaid- Allah, the Messianic Imam (Al-Mahdi, who 
is said to have been the son of a Jewess), conquered 
the Aghlabite prince, and founded a great kingdom 
in Africa (909-933), Isaac Israeli entered his service, 
and enjoyed his full favor. Israeli had a great 
reputation as a physician, and had many pupils. 


At the request of the Caliph Ubaid- Allah, he wrote 
eight medical works, the best of which is said to be 
that on fever. His medical writings were trans- 
lated into Hebrew, Latin, and part of them into 
Spanish, and were zealously studied by physicians. 
A Christian physician, the founder of the Salerno 
school of medicine, made use of his researches, 
and even republished some of his works without 
giving credit to Israeli for them. He was thus an 
important contributor to the development of medical 
science, but as a philosopher he did not do much. 
His work on " Definitions and Descriptions " shows 
scarcely the rudiments of philosophical knowledge. 

His lectures must have made a greater impres- 
sion than his writings. He instructed two dis- 
ciples, a Mahometan, Abu-Jafar Ibn-Aljezzar, who 
is recognized as an authority in medicine ; and a 
Jew, Dunash ben Tamim, who continued the work 
of his master. Isaac Israeli lived to be more than 
one hundred years old, and survived his patron the 
Caliph Ubaid-Allah, whose death was hastened by 
his disregard of the advice of his Jewish physician. 
When Isaac Israeli died, about 940, his example 
had made a place in the Rabbanite studies for the 
scientific method that shaped the activity of suc- 
ceeding generations. 

Whilst the Rabbanites were making the first 
attempt to follow a scientific method, the Karaites 
were disporting on the broad beaten path of Muta- 
zilist philosophy. Although young in years, Kara- 
ism showed signs of advanced old age. All its 
strength was given to Biblical exposition, combined 
with philology, but even here it made no progress. 
In the central community of the Karaites, in Jeru- 
salem, it assumed an ascetic character. Sixty 
Karaites agreed to leave their homes, their prop- 
erty and their families, live together, abstain from 
wine and meat, go poorly clad, and spend their 
time in fasting and prayer. They adopted this 


mode of living, as they said, with the object of pro- 
moting Israel's redemption. They called them- 
selves the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem (Abele 
Zion), and every one of them added to his signature 
the term "The Mourner." It was through them 
that the religious life of the Karaites took on an 
ascetic tinge. They not only observed the Levitical 
laws of purity in the strictest manner, but they 
shunned intercourse with non-Jews. They would 
not buy bread from them, nor eat anything they had 
touched. The more rigorous the Karaites became, 
the more they looked upon the Rabbanites as 
reprobates and sinners, whose houses it was a sin 
to visit. The Karaites gradually spread from 
Babylonia and Judaea to Egypt on the one side 
and to Syria on the other, and northwards as far 
as the Crimea. There were large Karaite com- 
munities in Alexandria and Cairo, and also in the 
Crimea, on the Bosporus (Kertch), Sulch'at and 
Kaffa (Theodosia). The zeal of individuals con- 
tributed much to spread Karaism. By means of 
disputations, sermons, and letters, they endeavored 
to secure followers amongst the Rabbanites. Like 
every other essentially weak sect the Karaites re- 
lied upon propaganda, as though numbers could 
atone for lack of real strength. There was amongst 
them a certain proselytizer, a cunning man, Eldad 
by name, who related wonderful adventures, and 
made a great stir in his day. Eldad's romantic 
travels throw a lurid light upon the Jewish history 
of the time. He belongs to that class of deceivers 
who have a pious end in view, know how to profit 
by the credulity of the masses, and can easily catch 
men in a web of falsehood. The Geonim them- 
selves were almost deceived into believing his pre- 
tended traditions, which he affirmed had been re- 
ceived direct from Moses. 

Meanwhile, the institution to which the memories 
of the former political independence of Judaism 

CH. VI. HAI GAON. 1 83 

were attached was rapidly approaching dissolution. 
The Exilarchate fell into disregard through the 
rivalry of the school of Pumbeditha, and also lost 
the revenue which was its mainstay. Even though 
questions from abroad continued to be directed to 
the Geonim of Sora, the sister academy was con- 
sidered even in Babylonia to be the chief authority, 
and to have most influence. This influence was 
increased still more through the choice as Gaon of 
Pumbeditha of Hai ben David (890-897), who had 
hitherto held the post of rabbi and judge in the 
capital of the Caliphate. It was just at this time, 
at the end of the 9th century, that the Jews again 
enjoyed a high position in the Caliphate, under the 
Caliph Al-Mutadhid (892-902). His vizir and re- 
gent Ubaid-Allah Ibn-Suleiman appointed Jews and 
Christians alike to state offices. 

The community of Bagdad gained most through 
the favor shown to the Jews by the vizir. As Hai 
had occupied his post in the capital for a long time, 
and had made himself popular in the community, 
he was elected Gaon of Pumbeditha by the influ- 
ential members. Their object was to make the 
school of Pumbeditha of greater importance, and 
the academy at Sora declined more and more. 
Hai's successors, who, like himself, had commenced 
their career with the rabbinate of Bagdad, worked 
in the same spirit, and were assisted by the power- 
ful members of the community in the effort to make 
Pumbeditha the center of the Babylonian community 
and of Judaism generally, and to put an end to the 
Exilarchate as well as to the school of Sora. One 
of them was Mar Kohen-Zedek II. b. Joseph (held 
office 917-936). He was passionate and energetic, 
and was one of those who are, indeed, free from 
personal selfishness, but seek an increase of power 
for the community, regardless of every other con- 
sideration. As soon as he entered upon his oflice, 
Kohen-Zedek demanded that the school of Pumbe- 


ditha should have the greater share of the revenue 
which was contributed by the various communities. 
He based his demand upon the fact, that the pupils 
of the college at Pumbeditha were more numerous 
than those at Sora, and therefore deserved greater 
consideration. So many quarrels arose between 
the two schools in consequence of this demand 
that several important people found it necessary to 
interfere. A compromise was made, and it was 
agreed that in future the money should be equally 
divided, whereby the academy at Sora lost the 
last trace of its superiority. Kohen-Zedek then 
endeavored to deprive the Exilarchate of its little 
remnant of power. The Exilarch at the time was 
Ukba, a man of Arabic culture, who wrote poems 
in Arabic. Kohen-Zedek demanded that the ap- 
pointment of judges in the communities of Kho- 
rasan should be vested in, and the revenues derived 
from the same, should be devoted to, the school of 
Pumbeditha. Ukba would not give up any portion 
of his dignity, and appealed to the Caliph. But 
Kohen-Zedek had friends at Bagdad, who had in- 
fluence at court, and these succeeded in inducing 
the Caliph Al-Muktadir (908-932), or rather the 
vizir Ibn Furat, since the Caliph spent his time in 
riotous living, to deprive Mar-Ukba of his post, and 
banish him from Bagdad. The Exilarch went to 
Karmisin (Kermanshah, east of Bagdad), and 
Kohen-Zedek rejoiced that the Exilarchate was 
now destroyed. The weak president of Sora, 
Jacob ben Natronai, permitted all these usurpa- 
tions without interfering. 

Meanwhile matters took a favorable turn for the 
banished Exilarch, by which he was able to frus- 
trate the plans of Kohen-Zedek. Just at this time 
there came to Kermanshah the young and pleasure- 
seeking Caliph. The banished Exilarch Ukba fre- 
quently met him, and greeted and praised him in 
well-measured Arabic verses. His verses pleased 


Al-Muktadir's secretary so well that he had them 
copied, and called to the attention of the Caliph 
the many changes rung by the Jewish poet upon 
the one simple theme, allegiance. 

Poetry was prized so much amongst the Arabs, 
that no conqueror, however uncouth, was insensible 
to it. Al-Muktadir sent for the poetical Exilarch, 
was pleased with him, and finally asked him what 
favor he could confer upon him. Ukba wished for 
nothing more eagerly than to be restored to his 
office. This the Caliph granted him. He now 
returned, after a year's absence, to Bagdad, to 
the astonishment of his opponent, and re-assumed 
his high position (918). Poetry had saved him. 
Kohen-Zedek and his party, however, did not allow 
him to enjoy his triumph long. Through bribery 
and intrigue they again effected his deposition, and 
he was banished. In order that he might not again 
be restored to favor, he was exiled beyond the 
limits of the Eastern Caliphate to the recently 
founded kingdom of- the Fatimides — to Kairuan in 
Africa. Here, where the physician and philosopher, 
Isaac Israeli, was greatly respected, he was received 
with open arms, and held in high esteem. The 
community of Kairuan treated him as the Exilarch, 
set up a raised place for him in the synagogue, and 
caused him to forget the troubles he had suffered in 
the land of his fathers (919). 

Kohen-Zedek had opposed the Exilarchate rather 
than Ukba personally ; he now took care that no 
successor should be appointed to the Exilarchate, 
which he desired to extinguish. His contemporary 
Gaon in Sora, Jacob ben Natronai, was either too 
weak or too much hampered to interfere. So the 
office of Exilarch was left vacant for a year or two. 
However, hated as the Exilarchate was by the rep- 
resentatives of the Pumbeditha college, the people 
were warmly attached to the house of David, about 
which traditions and memories clustered. They 


clamored for the restoration of the office. There- 
upon the Gaon of Sora took courage, and refused 
any longer to be a weak tool in the hands of 
Kohen-Zedek. The people vehemently demanded 
that David ben Zaccai, a relative of Ukba, be made 
Exilarch, and the whole college of the school of 
Sora paid homage to him in Kasr, where he lived 
(921). Kohen-Zedek and the college of Pumbe- 
ditha refused to recognize him. David ben Zaccai 
was as resolute and ambitious as his opponent, and 
determined to assert his authority. By virtue of 
his power, he deposed Kohen-Zedek, and named 
his successor. Once more complications arose, 
this time dividing the school of Pumbeditha against 
itself. This bickering deeply pained the better 
class of the people ; however, the disputes between 
the Exilarchate and the Gaonate, affecting the 
whole of the Jewish-Babylonian community, lasted 
nearly two years. 

Nissi Naharvani, a blind man, who was respected 
by everybody for his piety, and who felt regret at 
this state of affairs, undertook to effect a reconcilia- 
tion. Late one night he groped about till he found 
his way to the room of Kohen-Zedek, who was 
astonished at the sudden appearance of the ven- 
erable blind man at such an hour, and was persuaded 
by him to come to terms. Nissi then also induced 
the Exilarch to yield. David and Kohen-Zedek 
met, with their respective followers, in Sarsar (half- 
a-day's journey south of Bagdad), made peace, and 
Kohen-Zedek accompanied the Exilarch as far as 
Bagdad (Spring, 921). David in turn recognized 
Kohen-Zedek as the legitimate Gaon of Pumbe- 
ditha. Kohen-Zedek, who had not succeeded in his 
plan to extinguish the Exilarchate, lived to see the 
school of Sora, which had been humbled by him, 
rise again from its low position, and have fresh 
splendor shed upon it by a stranger from a foreign 
land, so that for several years it cast the school of 
Pumbeditha into the shade. 



Judaism in the Tenth Century — Saadiah, the Founder of Religious 
Philosophy — Translation of the Bible into Arabic — Saadiah 
opposes Karaism — The Karaite Solomon ben Yerucham — 
Saadiah and the School at Sora — Saadiah retires from Sora — 
His Literary Activity — Extinction of the Exilarchate — Sahal and 
other Karaite writers — Jews in Spain — The School at Cordova — 
Dunash ben Tamim — Chasdal — His services to Judaism — Mena- 
chem ben Saruk — Chasdal' and the King of the Chazars. 

928 — 970 c. E. 

With the decay of the Carlovingian rule, the last 
spark of spiritual life was extinguished in Christian 
Europe. The darkness of the Middle Ages became 
thicker and thicker, but the spiritual light of Judaism 
shone forth in all its splendor. 

The Church was the seat of monastic ignorance 
and barbarity, the Synagogue was the place of 
science and civilization. In Christianity every scien- 
tific effort was condemned by the officials of the 
Church as well as by the people, as the work of 
Satan ; . in Judaism the leaders and teachers of 
religion themselves promoted science, and endeav- 
ored to elevate the people. Far from condemning 
knowledge, the Geonim considered it as an aid and 
supplement to religion. For three centuries the 
teachers of Judaism were for the most part devotees 
of science, and this position was first assumed 
during this epoch. Two men especially, one in the 
east and the other in the west, made science a 
principle of Judaism. They were the Gaon Saadiah 
and the statesman Chasdai. 

With them begins a new period of Jewish history, 
which we may confidently call the scientific epoch. 
The spring-time of Israel's history returned, and in 


its pure atmosphere the sweet voice of poetry again 
made itself heard. Contemporary writers scarcely 
noticed that a remnant of Jewish antiquity, the Exil- 
archate, was now at an end. It was soon forgotten 
in the new life that had just made itself visible. 
Just as the religious life had freed itself from the 
Temple of sacrifice, so now it gradually withdrew 
from the influence of the temple of learning on the 
banks of the Euphrates, and established a new 
center for itself. The first half of the tenth century 
became, through the concurrence of favorable cir- 
cumstances, a turning-point in the progress of 
Jewish history. 

Jewish history was gradually transferred to 
European ground. Judaism assumed, so to speak, 
a European character, and deviated more and more 
from its Oriental form. Saadiah was the last im- 
portant link in Its development in the East ; Chasdai 
and the scientific men whom he influenced became 
the first representatives of a Judseo-European culture. 

Saadiah (Arabic, Said) ben Joseph, from the town 
Fayum in Upper Egypt (892-942), was the founder 
of scientific Judaism amongst the Rabbanites, and 
the creator of religious philosophy in the Middle 
Ages. He was a man of extensive knowledge who 
had absorbed the learning of the Mahometans and 
Karaites, and Impregnated it with Talmudic ele- 
ments. More remarkable even than his knowledge 
was his personality. His was a religious spirit and 
deep moral earnestness. He had a decided charac- 
ter, and belonged to those who know how to render 
account of their actions, and who persevere in 
carrying out what they think right. Little is known 
of his youth. There were few. If any, great Tal- 
mudical scholars in Egypt at that time, and the fact 
that Saadiah became famous in this branch of litera- 
ture speaks well for his mental power. He was 
more at home In the Karaite literature than previous 
Rabbanites had been. In his twenty-third year 


(913) he made a fierce attack upon the Karaites, 
which was felt by them for centuries afterwards. 
He wrote a book " In Refutation of Anan." The 
contents of this book are unknown, but it is probable 
that Saadiah attempted to prove in it the necessity 
of tradition, and also to expose Anan's inconsist- 
encies. He adduced seven arguments in proof of 
the necessity of tradition, which, weak as they are, 
were afterwards accepted for the most part by the 
Karaites. He wrote another book in which he 
showed the absurdity of the boundless extension of 
relationship in the Karaite law. He characterized 
Anan as " an ambitious man, who possessed too 
much boldness and too little fear of God," and who 
rejected Talmudic Judaism only in order to avenge 
a personal slight. 

Before he had arrived at maturity, he undertook 
a more difficult task, fraught with important conse- 
quences for Judaism. Hitherto, the Karaites had 
devoted special attention to the Scriptural text, 
whereas the Rabbanite teachers had, to a certain 
extent, neglected It, because the Talmud satisfied 
all the needs of their religious life. 

The Karaites had composed numerous exposi- 
tions of the Bible, the Rabbanites but few. Saadiah, 
who felt this want, undertook to translate the Bible 
into Arabic, the language understood, at this time, 
from the extreme West to India. To this transla- 
tion he added notes, for three reasons. He wished 
to make the Bible accessible to the people. He 
thought that thereby the influence of Karaism, 
which sought to refute Talmudic Judaism through 
Its exegesis, would be counteracted. Finally, he 
wished to remove the misconceptions of the people, 
and conquer the perversity of the mystics, who 
rendered the words of the Bible literally, and thus 
gave an unworthy description of the Godhead. 
He favored the philosophical Idea which conceives 
God in His exaltedness and holiness to be a spirit. 


His translation was to satisfy both reason and Tal- 
mudical tradition. This was the basis of his view 
of Judaism. Teachings of the Talmud are as divine 
as those of the Bible, and neither the Bible nor 
tradition may be contrary to reason. According 
to Saadiah, the contradictions are only on the sur- 
face, and he sought by his translation and exposi- 
tion to remove this illusion. To carry out this aim, 
he adopted interpretations of the text which are 
arbitrary and forced. 

Out of deference to his Mahometan readers, 
Saadiah made use of Arabic characters, which were 
seldom employed by the Jews who wrote Arabic. 
Although Saadiah shows great mental power and 
independence in his translation, his renderings can- 
not be highly praised. The very fact that he does 
not allow the text to speak its own language, and 
that he wished to find at one time the Talmudical 
tradition, at another a philosophical mearling in the 
words and the context, necessarily prevented him 
from giving a true exposition. He impressed the 
exegesis of Scripture into the service of tradition 
and of the philosophy of the time, and made the text 
imply more than the meaning of the words allowed. 
At the same time that he wrote his translation, 
Saadiah composed a kind of Hebrew grammar in 
the Arabic language. He also composed a Hebrew 
lexicon (in Hebrew, Iggaron). Even here he often 
missed the truth as to the grammar and etymology 
of the words. His exegetical and grammatical 
works are of impbrtance in so far as they broke 
fresh ground in Rabbanite studies, and introduced 
exegesis and philology as new departments. Even 
his mistakes proved instructive in later times. 

In his exposition of the first book of the Penta- 
teuch, Saadiah again challenged the Karaites. The 
dispute arose out of his endeavor to prove that the 
Karaite calendar was not in accordance with Scrip- 
ture. In attacking Karaism, he had disturbed a 


hornets' nest, and aroused a host of opponents. 
The Karaites had hitherto waged war against Tal- 
mudic Judaism without meeting with opposition. 
They were, therefore, greatly disturbed when a 
Rabbanite, endowed with intellect and knowledge, 
entered the lists against them. A lively contest 
arose, which served its purpose in awakening scien- 
tific interest." Saadiah's chief opponent was the 
Karaite Solomon ben Yerucham (Ruchaim). This 
Karaite (born in Fostat in 885, died in 960), who 
lived in Palestine, and was only a few years older 
than Saadiah, did not rise above mediocrity. He 
was of a violent and acrid nature, and imagined 
that he could settle scientific questions by scofifing 
and abuse. When he returned from Palestine to 
Egypt, and perceived the impression that Saadiah's 
written and oral attacks upon Karaism had made 
even in Karaite circles, he was filled with rage 
against the young and spirited Rabbanite author, 
and determined to write a double refutation — in 
Hebrew for the educated, and in Arabic for the 
masses generally. In his Hebrew reply, which 
consists of eighteen doggerel verses alphabetically 
arranged (Milchamoth), he treats Saadiah like a 
child. The whole work, breathes nothing but slander 
and coarseness. In fact, the Karaite polemic writ- 
ings generally deserve consideration more on ac- 
count of the method by means of which they seek 
to cover up their mistakes, than on account of their 
contents or their form Ben-Yerucham's compo- 
sition took the shape of a letter to the Karaite 
communities in Egypt 

Ben-Yerucham was not the only Karaite who 
sought to defend the sect against Saadiah's at- 
tacks. The various writers vied with one another 
in the fierceness of their attacks upon the young 
Rabbanite by whom their anti-Talmudic creed was 
threatened with destruction. If the Karaite authors 
expected to silence Saadiah by means of abuse 


they were mistaken. He refuted their arguments, 
substantiated his assertions, and was always on the 
alert to take up arms. He wrote two other polemic 
treatises against Karaism in Arabic, the one " Dis- 
tinction" (Tamgiz), and one against Ibn Sakviyah, 
who had entered the lists in defense of the Karaites. 
Saadiah's works carried his fame to the communities 
of the African and Eastern Caliphate. The vener- 
able Isaac Israeli read his writings with avidity, and 
his pupil, Dunash ben Tamim, fairly devoured them. 
At the seat of the Gaonate, too, he was favorably 
known, and the attention of the leaders was directed 
to him. 

The school of Sora was in a sad state of decad- 
ence, and was so deficient in learned men, that the 
Exilarch David ben Zacca'i found it necessary to 
invest a weaver named Yom-Tob Kahana ben Jacob, 
with the honor of the Gaonate, but he died in his 
second year of office (926-928). The Gaon of Pum- 
beditha, Kohen-Zedek, who did his best to establish 
his college as the exclusive authority, made an agree- 
ment with the Exilarch, to whom he had become 
reconciled, to close the school of Sora, to transplant 
the members to Pumbeditha, and to appoint a titular 
Gaon of Sora, who should have his seat in Pumbe- 
ditha. The son of a Gaon, named Nathan ben 
Yehuda'i, was invested with this titular dignity, but 
he died suddenly. His sudden death seems to have 
been taken as a condemnation of the intention to 
abolish the old college at Sora. The Exilarch 
David then determined to fill up the vacancy and 
to restore the ancient school of Sora. He had 
two candidates in view: Saadiah, and Zemach ben 
Shahin, an obscure member of the ■ old nobility. 
The Exilarch appealed to the blind Nissi Naharvani 
to assist him in his choice. His advice was the 
more disinterested as he himself had declined the 
honor. Nissi voted for Zemach, but not because 
he had any personal dislike to Saadiah ; on the 


■contrary, he manifested much love for him. " Saa- 
diah surpasses all his contemporaries in wisdom, 
piety, and eloquence," he said of him, " but he is 
very independent, and shrinks from nothing." Nissi 
justly feared that Saadiah's inflexible spirit w^ould be 
the cause of disputes and dissensions between him 
and the Exilarch. Nevertheless, David decided for 
Saadiah. He was called from Egypt to Sora, and 
formally installed as Gaon (May, 928). It was an 
exceptional circumstance that a foreigner who had 
not studied in the Talmudic schools, and had not 
passed step by step through the various offices 
should, at a bound, attain to the highest honor next 
to the Exilarchate. Besides, Saadiah was more 
known for his scientific work than for his Talmudic 
scholarship. With his call to office. Babylonia in 
a sense resigned the supremacy which for seven 
centuries it had held over all other lands. This 
supremacy was now enjoyed by another country, 
and philosophy was placed on a level with the 
Talmud. The spirit of inquiry that had been ban- 
ished from the halls of the schools with Anan, the 
founder of Karaism, made a solemn return into 
those halls with Saadiah. 

Saadiah invested the college of Sora with new 
splendor by his character and fame. During 
his presidency Pumbeditha was thrown into the 
shade. He sought to fill up the gaps that had 
arisen in the academy. He appointed worthy 
young men to academic offices, and was faithful to 
the duties of his position. What must have been 
his feelings when he entered for the first time the 
halls of learning where the great authorities, the 
Amoraim, had taught before him ! Soon, however, 
he no doubt became conscious of the fact that there 
existed but the smallest remnant of that former 
greatness, and that the high-sounding titles and 
dignities were mere semblances of things long since 
sunk into oblivion. The Exilarchate, the head of 


the Judseo-Babylonian community, was without in- 
trinsic excellence, and was constantly at variance 
with the schools. Not being ofificially recognized 
at court, the Exilarchate had to purchase its exist- 
ence from courtiers and ephemeral rulers, and was 
threatened with extinction, whenever its opponents 
should offer a larger sum. The money needed to 
maintain the Exilarchate was forcibly exacted from 
the people. Alike in the Exilarchate and in the 
academic colleges, corruption and oppression were 
the order of the day, the only object in view being 
to maintain the authority of the chiefs. Eloquence, 
virtue, piety, were wanting in the hearts of the 
leaders. The Exilarch David once sent his sons 
to levy an extraordinary contribution from the 
different communities ; and when the congregation 
at Ears (Hamadan?) refused it, David excommu- 
nicated them, denounced them to the vizir, who 
accused them before the Caliph, when a heavy fine 
was imposed upon them. The Geonim had not a 
word to say against all this ! Saadiah himself had 
to be silent ; he had not been in office long enough 
to protest. His eminence had raised him many 
enemies who were eager for his downfall. Not 
alone Kohen-Zedek was jealous of him, because 
Pumbeditha was thrown into the shade, but a young 
man from Bagdad, Aaron (Caleb) Ibn-Sarjadu, 
learned, rich, and influential, distrusted and opposed 
him. Saadiah observed the great defects in the 
Jewish communal life in Babylonia in silence. He 
wished first to be on firmer footing. His sense of 
justice was, however, too deeply wounded, when he 
was expected to take part in the iniquities of the 
representative of the Jewish community. He could 
no longer restrain himself, and now revealed his 
inflexible character. 

An unimportant circumstance revealed the moral 
corruption of the Jewish Babylonian chiefs. There 
was a lawsuit about a large inheritance, which had 


not been conscientiously decided by the Exilarch 
David. His decision was influenced by the prospect 
of great gain. To make his decree legal and un- 
impeachable, David demanded the signatures of 
the two Geonim to the document prepared by him. 
Kohen-Zedek signed without objection ; Saadiah, 
however, would not countenance the injustice. On 
being pressed by the parties, he gave the reason 
for his refusal. The Exilarch David, who now was 
doubly interested in obtaining his signature, sent 
his son Judah to ask him to sign the document 
without delay. Saadiah calmly replied that the 
Law forbade him to do such things, as it is said, 
"Ye shall not respect persons in judgment." Once 
more David sent his son to Saadiah to threaten 
him with deposition in case he still refused. Judah 
at first assumed a quiet ' demeanor, and begged 
Saadiah not to be- the cause of quarrels in the com- 
munity. When, however, he found him determined, 
he raised his hand against Saadiah, and vehemently 
demanded his signature. Saadiah's servants soon 
removed Judah, and locked the door of the meeting 
hall. David ben Zacca'i, who felt himself insulted, 
deprived the Gaon of his office. He excommuni- 
cated him and appointed a young man, Joseph ben 
Jacob ben Satia, as his successor. Saadiah, how- 
ever, was not the man to be terrified by force. He, 
in turn, declared David to be no longer Exilarch, 
and named Josiah Hassan as Prince of the Captivity 
(930). Two factions immediately arose in Baby- 
lonia, the one for Saadiah, the other for David. 
On Saadiah's side were ranged the members of 
the academy of Sora and many respected and 
learned men of Bagdad, amongst whom were the 
sons of Netira. Opposed to him were Aaron Ibn- 
Sarjadu and his party, and probably also Kohen- 
Zedek and the members of the college of Pumbe- 
ditha. Both parties appealed to the Caliph Al- 
Muktadir, and bribed his favorites and courtiers 


to gain him over to their side. Ibn-Sarjadu spent 
10,000 ducats to effect Saadiah's deposition. The 
Caliph wished to hear both parties, and ordered a 
formal trial to take place in Bagdad under the 
presidency of the vizir, who was assisted by many 
important men. The dispute was not settled. 
This was proba;bly owing to the fact that the Caliph 
Al-Muktadir was constantly changing his vizirs 
during the last two years of his reign, and to the 
disturbed state of the capital during this time 
(930-932). Saadiah asserted his authority as 
Gaon, though there was a rival Gaon in the person 
of Joseph ben Satia. There were likewise rival 
Exilarchs, David and his brother Josiah Hassan. 

It was only when Al-Muktadir was killed in a 
rebellion (October, 932), and Kahir, who was so 
poor that he was obliged to borrow clothes for 
the ceremony of installation, became Caliph, that 
David's party, which could pour more money into the 
empty treasury, gained the victory. In order to 
bring about the downfall of his opponent, the Exil- 
arch squandered the money that had been extorted 
from the various communities. Saadiah was soon 
forbidden by the Caliph to continue in office, per- 
haps also to stay in Sora (commencement of 933). 
The rival Exilarch Hassan was banished to Khora- 
san, where he died. Saadiah now lived in retire- 
ment in Bagdad for four years (933-937). His 
health had suffered severely through the constant 
quarrels and the annoyance he had received, and 
he became melancholy. But this did not interfere 
with his intellectual activity. It was during his 
retirement that his best works, bearing the stamp 
of freshness and originality, were written. 

He wrote Talmudic treatises, composed poetical 
pieces and prayers in prose, full of religious fervor. 
He also arranged a prayer book (Siddur), after the 
manner of Amram, collected the rules of the calen- 
dar (Ibbur), wrote a polemic against the Massoret, 


Aaron ben Asher, of Tiberias, and was in general 
particularly prolific in literary composition during 
this period. The greatest of his works, however, 
are his two philosophical writings, the one a com- 
mentary on the '.'Book of the Creation" (Sefer 
Yezirah), the other his magnuv^ opus on Faith and 
Creed. Both these works are in Arabic. Saadiah 
was the first to set up a tolerably complete system 
of religious philosophy. The Karaite teachers, it is 
true, were fond of lengthy philosophical disputa- 
tions, which they frequently introduced on most 
unsuitable occasions, but they were never able to 
develop a complete and perfect religious system, 
and the Arabs, too, had as yet no systematic philo- 
sophy. Saadiah, by his own unaided intellectual 
power, built up a Jewish philosophy of religion, 
although he borrowed his method of treatment and 
his philosophical themes from the Arabic Mutazilist 
school. His composition on the Ten Command- 
ments, in which he strove to bring them into rela- 
tion with the Ten Categories of the Aristotelian 
philosophy, belongs to his earlier and less excellent 

He wrote his work on the philosophy of religion, 
Emunoth we-Deoth, in 934. Its object was to 
oppose and correct the erroneous views of his con- 
temporaries as to the meaning of Judaism ; on the 
one hand were the opinions of the unbelievers, who 
degraded it ; and on the other, those of the ignorant 
people, who condemned al! speculating on religious 
subjects as involving a denial of God. " My heart 
is sad," he writes in the introduction, "by reason 
of my people, who have an impure belief and a con- 
fused idea of their religion. Some deny the truth, 
clear as daylight though it be, and boast of their 
unbelief dthers are sunk in the sea of doubt, and 
the waves of error close over their heads, and there 
is no swimmer strong enough to stem the tide and 
rescue them. As God has given me the capacity 


of being useful to them, I consider it my duty to 
lead them to the right path. Should any one object 
and ask, ' How can we attain a true belief through 
philosophic thought, when many consider this as 
heresy and unbeHef?' I would reply, 'Only the 
stupid do so, such as believe that every one who 
goes to India will become rich, or that the eclipse 
of the moon is caused by a dragon's swallowing the 
disc of the moon, and similar things.' Such people 
need not trouble us. Suppose, however, that one 
were to quote the warning of the Talmud against 
philosophical speculation, ' If any one searches into 
the mystery of eternity and space, such a person 
does not deserve to live,' we should reply that the 
Talmud could not have discouraged right thinking, 
since Scripture encourages us to it. The warning 
of the sages was intended to keep us only from 
that one-sided speculation which does not take into 
account the truth of Scripture. Limitless specula- 
tion can give rise only to error, and should it even 
eventually lead to truth, it has no firm foundation, 
because it rejects revelation, and puts doubt into 
its place. But when philosophy works hand in 
hand with faith, it cannot mislead us. It confirms 
revelation, and is in a position to refute the objec- 
tions that are made by unbelievers. The truth of 
revealed Judaism maybe premised, since it was con- 
firmed through visible signs and miracles. Should, 
however, some one object that if speculation arrives 
at the same conviction as revelation, the latter is 
superfluous, since human reason could arrive at the 
truth without divine interposition, I should reply 
that revelation is necessary, inasmuch. as, without 
it, men would have to go a long way round to reach 
clearness through their own thought. A thousand 
accidents and doubts might hinder their progress. 
God, therefore, sent His messengers to us in order 
to save us all this trouble. We thus have a knowl- 
edge of Him direct, confirmed by miracles." 


Unbelief had already made such progress in the 
Eastern Caliphate, in consequence of the teachings 
of the Mutazilist school of philosophy, that an Arabic 
poet, Abul- Ala, a contemporary of Saadiah, who had 
rebuked the weaknesses of his time, said, " Moslems, 
Jews, Christians and Magi are steeped in error and 
superstition. The world is divided into two classes, 
those that have intelligence but no belief, and those 
that believe but have no understanding." In Jewish 
circles, many began to criticise the responses of the 
Geonim, and no longer looked upon them as oracular 
utterances. This criticism was not restricted to the 
decisions of the Geonim or the Talmud, but went so 
far as to doubt the trustworthiness of the Bible, and 
the very fact of revelation. 

The unbelief of this time was best illustrated by 
the Rabbanite Chivi Albalchi, from the town of 
Balch in ancient Bactria. Chivi wrote a work 
against the Bible and revelation, in which he pro- 
pounded two hundred objections against them. 
Some of these objections are of the same kind as 
those used even now by opponents of the Bible. 
Chivi was the first thoroughly consistent, rational- 
istic critic of the Bible. He had followers in his 
time ; and teachers of the young spread his heretical 
views in the schools. In combating Chivi's unor- 
thodox opinions, the two opponents, Saadiah and 
Solomon ben Yerucham, met on common ground. 
Saadiah, whilst yet in Egypt, had written a book in 
refutation of Chivi's doctrines. In his philosophy 
of religion he especially kept in view this tendency, 
hostile to revelation, and sought to expose its weak- 
ness. He likewise did not lose sight of the objec- 
tions made against Judaism by Christianity and 

Whilst Saadiah was developing thoughts for the 
elevation of future generations, he was still under 
the ban of excommunication. He had, therefore, 
no sphere of action but that of an author. But 


circumstances had changed meanwhile. The just 
CaHph Abradhi was now on the throne, in the place 
of the cruel and avaricious Kahir, who had decreed 
Saadiah's deposition. His vizir Ali Ibn-Isa was 
favorably inclined towards Saadiah. The Gaon 
Kohen-Zedek, who had made common cause with 
the Exilarch, had died in 936. His successor, 
Zemach ben Kafnai, was a harmless man. So 
David had only Aaron Ibn-Sarjadu to assist him in 
his quarrel ; the people, however, in increasing 
numbers, sided with Saadiah. It happened that an 
important lawsuit had to be decided ; one party 
proposed the banished and deposed Gaon as judge, 
whilst the opposite party proposed the Exilarch. 
David, in his rage, had personal violence done to 
the man that had appealed to Saadiah. This act of 
violence caused the more ill-feeling, as the person 
so maltreated was not under the jurisdiction of the 
Exilarch, and had a perfect right to choose his 
judge without interference from the Exilarch. 

Respected members of the community now took 
counsel as to the best means of putting an end to 
the contention between the Prince of the Exile and 
the Gaon. The peacemakers met at the house of 
an influential man in Bagdad, Kasser ben Aaron, 
the father-in-law of Ibn-Sarjadu, and impressed 
upon him the fact that the quarrel had already 
exceeded all bounds, that the community had been 
split into two camps, and that these things had 
been followed by the saddest consequences. Kasser 
assured them of his co-operation in restoring peace, 
and succeeded in overcoming the hostility of his 
son-in-law towards Saadiah. The peacemakers 
thereupon went to David, and argued with him till 
he yielded. When Kasser was sure that the Exil- 
arch was inclined to reconciliation, he hastened to 
inform Saadiah of it. The whole community of 
Bagdad joined in the rejoicing. Some accompanied 
David, others Saadiah, until they met. The enemies 


embraced each other, and henceforward were the 
firmest of friends. The reconciHation was so com- 
plete that Saadlah accepted David's hospitality for 
several days. The latter restored him to his office, 
with many marks of honor. 

The academy of Sora regained some of its former 
glory through Saadiah, and threw its sister academy 
into the shade. In the latter, two men, otherwise 
unknown, successively filled the post of Gaon. 
The questions from home and foreign communities 
were again sent to Sora, and Saadiah answered 
them without delay, although his health was severely 
impaired, and he was suffering from incurable mel- 
ancholy. The responses which have been preserved 
are numerous ; they were probably composed in the 
last year of his Gaonate. Many of them are in 
Hebrew, though most of them are in Arabic. His 
magnanimity was displayed in his conduct toward 
the family of his opponent, David. When the latter 
died, in 940, his son Judah, through Saadiah's influ- 
ence, was elected in his stead, though he filled the 
post for only seven months, leaving a son twelve 
years old, whom Saadiah appointed his successor. 
He received the grandson of his former enemy 
into his house, and adopted him. Meanwhile a 
distant relative, a rhember of the Bene-Haiman 
family, from Nisibis, was to fill the office. He 
had scarcely been appointed before he had a 
quarrel with a Moslem. Witnesses testified that 
he had spoken disparagingly of Mahomet. For 
this offense he was put to death. When the last 
representative of the house of the Exilarch, who 
had been brought up by Saadiah, was raised to the 
princedom, Moslem fanaticism raged also against 
him. It was determined to assassinate him whilst he 
was riding in his state carriage, because the mere 
shadow of princely power among the Jews was dis- 
liked. The Caliph tried to prevent his murder, but 
in vain. Thus died the last of the Exilarchs, and 


the representatives of Judaism, in order to allay this 
fanatical hatred, determined to leave the office 

Thus, after an existence of seven centuries, ended 
the Exilarchate, which had been the sign of political 
independence for Judaism. Just as the dignity of 
the Patriarchate had ceased in Judaea through the 
intolerance of the Christian emperors, so the Exil- 
archate now ceased through the fanaticism, of the 
Mahometans. The two schools alone remained to 
represent the unity of the Jews, but even these 
were soon to vanish. With Saadiah's death (942), 
darkness settled upon the academy of Sora. It is 
true that he left a ison, Dossa, who was learned both 
in the Talmud and in philosophy — the authoi of 
several works — but he was not appointed his father's 
successor. Joseph ben Satia, who had been de- 
posed, was again made the chief of the school. He, 
however, was not able to maintain its superiority 
over the sister academy, which having at its head 
Aaron Ibn Sarjadu, the former opponent of Saadiah, 
again rose to importance. 

Ibn Sarjadu, a rich merchant of Bagdad, had not 
gone through a regular course of academic instruc- 
tion. He was chosen on account of his riches, as 
well as for his knowledge and energy. He occupied 
his position for eighteen years (943-960). He pos- 
sessed a good philosophical education, wrote a 
philosophical work, and a commentary to the Penta- 
teuch. Like Kohen-Zedek, Ibn Sarjadu endeavored 
to exalt the school of Pumbeditha at the expense of 
that of Sora. Questions were addressed to him 
from foreign countries. The school of Sora conse- 
quently, neglected and impoverished, received none 
of the revenue, and therefore could not train new 
pupils, who turned to richer Pumbeditha. This 
decline and decay of the school induced its chief, 
Joseph ben Satia, to abandon it, and to emigrate to 
Bassora (about -948). The. school that had been 


founded by Rab was now closed, after it had con- 
tinued in existence for seven hundred years. The 
people of Sora felt this so much that they made 
an energetic attempt to restore it. Four young 
men were sent abroad to awaken interest in the 
school, and to get contributions for it. But they 
did not attain their object. _ It seemed that fate was 
against them. They were captured at Bari, on the 
coast of Italy, by a Moorish-Spanish admiral, Ibn- 
Rumahis. They were transported, one to Egypt, 
another to Africa, a third to Cordova, and the fourth 
to Narbonne. Instead of assisting to raise the 
school of Sora, these four Talmudists unwittingly 
contributed to the downfall of the Gaonate. 

The copies of the Talmud in Sora, which were 
now no longer used, were, later on, transferred to 
Spain. Babylonia, so long the center of Judaism, 
had to yield its supremacy in favor of a foreign 
place. The decay of one of the Babylonian schools, 
and the decline of interest that followed upon it, 
were utilized by the Karaites to make converts 
amongst the Rabbanites. They did this with such 
zeal that they thought they were about to strike the 
death-blow to Rabbanism. As long as Saadiah, 
the mighty champion of Rabbanism, lived, they did 
not venture to do anything to expose themselves to 
his criticism. But after his death, when they per- 
ceived that there was no man of any importance to 
stand in the breach, they hoped to obtain an easy 
victory. Saadiah's opponent, Solomon ben Yeru- 
cham, immediately hastened from Palestine to 
Babylonia, in order to prove to the followers of 
Saadiah, that he had misrepresented facts in his 
defense of the Talmudists. Thus he expected to 
bring over the Rabbanites to Karaism. 

But a more vehement, zealous and cunning prose- 
lytizer was Abulsari Sahal ben Mazliach Kohen, an 
inhabitant of Jerusalem, who belonged to the ascetic 
section of the Karaite community. Abulsari Sahal 


had a thorough knowledge of Arabic and Hebrew, 
and wrote in a much more elegant style than any 
of his contemporaries. He compiled a Hebrew 
grammar, commentaries to several books of the 
Bible, and also a compendium of religious duties 
under the title " Mizvoth." However, he did not 
write anything of great consequence. The Karaites 
seem to have had no "ability to get beyond begin- 
nings ; certainly not Sahal, who was possessed 
by sombre, monkish piety. To his co-religionists, 
nevertheless, he appeared in the light of a great 
teacher. Sahal also wrote a refutation of Saadiah's 
attacks upon Karaism. It was, doubtless, consid- 
ered an honorable thing amongst the Karaites, to 
win one's spurs in combat with this great champion. 
Sahal appears to have delivered his lectures against 
the Rabbanites in Bagdad. He called upon the 
people to renounce tradition, and to refuse obedi- 
ence to the schools, " which were the two women 
of whom the prophet Zechariah speaks, and who 
carried sin and left it in Babylon." Sahal implored 
his hearers to renounce the indulgences that their 
Rabbanite teachers allowed them, such as keeping 
oil in camel-skins, purchasing bread from Christians 
and Mahometans, and leaving their houses on a 

Sahal's attacks upon the Rabbanites were too 
offensive to remain unanswered. An influential 
Rabbanite seems to have forced him into silence 
by aid of the government. Saadiah's pupil, Jacob 
ben Samuel, stung to the quick by the abuse which 
Sahal and other Karaites had heaped upon his 
master, took up the cudgels in his behalf. He 
delivered speeches in the streets and in the public 
places against Karaism and the proselytizer Sahal. 
The latter, however, did not remain silent. In a 
passionate letter to Jacob, written in beautiful 
Hebrew, he continued his attacks, and gave a 
faithful picture of the state of Karaism and Rab- 


banism in his time, leaving out neither the light nor 
the shade of both sides. After the versified attack 
and the reproaches for Jacob's incorrect Hebrew 
and the injury done to Judaism by the Rabbanites, 
Sahal proceeds : 

I am come from Jerusalem in order to warn the people, and to bring 
them back to the fear of God. Would that I had the power of going 
from town to town to awaken the people of the Lord. You think 
that I came here for the sake of gain, as others come who grind the 
faces of the poor; but I came in the name of God, in order to bring 
back the thoughts of the people to true piety, and to warn them not 
to rely on human institutions, nor to listen to the sayings of the two 
evil women (the Gaonic schools). How shall I not do it, since my 
heart is moved by the irreligion of my brethren, who are walking in 
the wrong path, who impose a heavy yoke upon the ignorant people, 
who oppress them and rule over them through excommunication and 
persecution, who call to their aid the power of the Mahometan 
officials, who compel the poor to borrow money on interest, in order 
to benefit by it and to be able to bribe the officials ? They feed 
themselves, but not their flocks, and they do not teach the word 
of God in the proper way. If any one asks them the reason for any- 
thing they do, they antagonize him. Far be it from me that I should 
be silent, when I see that the leaders of the community, who say that 
they constitute the Synhedrion, eat without compunction with non- 
Jews. How shall I be silent, when I perceive that many of my people 
make use of idolatrous practices ? They sit on the graves of the 
departed and invoke the dead, and pray to Rabbi JosS the Galilean, 
saying, "O heal me, and make me fruitful." They make pilgrimages 
to the shrines of the pious dead, light candles there, and burn incense. 
They also make vows that they may be cured of their diseases. 
O that I had the power to go everywhere and to proclaim it aloud, to 
admonish men in the name of the Lord, and to deter them from their 
evil course. And now, O House of Israel, have mercy on your souls, 
and choose the right path. Do not object and say that the Karaites, 
too, differ among themselves as regards religious duties, and that you 
are in doubt with whom to find truth. Know, therefore, that the 
Karaites do not wish to exercise authority ; they only desire to stimu- 
late research. You ask. What should the ignorant do who is unable 
to search the Holy Scriptures ? I tell you that such a one has to rely 
upon the results arrived at by the investigator and the expounder of 
Holy Writ. 

At the end, Sahal prophesied that God virould 
destroy the yoke of the two women, as it is written 
in the prophets : " Then and then only will the sons 
of Israel be reconciled and united, and the Messiah 

Another prolific Karaite author from Bassorah, 
Jephet Ibn-Ali Halevi (950-990), wrote polemics 


against the same Jacob ben Samuel. Jephet was 
considered a great teacher by the Karaites. He 
was a grammarian, commentator and expounder of 
the Law, but he was not free from the errors of the 
members of his creed. His style was bombastic 
and diffuse, and like them, he was superficial and 
literal-minded. The want of Talmudic dialectics is 
severely missed in the Karaite authors, for it rend- 
ered them tedious talkers. Jephet' s absurd polemic 
against Saadiah's pupil bears this stamp. of super- 
ficiality and insipidity, and it never displays the 
beautiful Hebrew style of his contemporary and 
friend Sahal. 

Solomon ben Yerucham, who continued to write 
till a very old age (certainly till 957), composed 
commentaries to the Pentateuch and the Hagio- 
grapha, and other works no longer known. He 
was a sworn enemy to philosophical research. In 
his commentary on the Psalms, he bitterly com- 
plains that Jews occupy themselves with heretical 
writings, whose authors and teachers he curses 

" Woe to him," he cries, "who leaves the Book of God and seeks 
others ! Woe to him who passes his time with strange sciences, and 
who turns his back upon the pure truth of God ! The wisdom of 
philosophy is vain and worthless, for we do not find two who agree 
upon a single point. They propound doctrines which directly con- 
tradict the Law. Amongst them there are some who study Arabic 
literature instead of always having the word of God in their mouths." 

What a contrast there is between Saadiah and 
his Karaite opponent ! The one studied philo- 
sophy, and took it into the service of Judaism ; the 
other (without any knowledge of it) declared it 
heretical, and allowed his Judaism to become petri- 
fied. The Rabbanites entered into the temple of 
philosophy, and the Karaites shunned it as an in- 
fected house. 

The zeal with which the Karaites sought to exalt 
their creed over Rabbanism had the desired effect 
of spreading it widely about the middle of the tenth 


century. They penetrated to Spain, and attained 
influence in Africa and Asia. We know that the 
Egyptian Rabbanites accepted much from the 
Karaites. Moses and Aaron ben Asher, a father 
and son of Tiberias, exercised a powerful influence 
at this period (890-950). They were grammarians 
and Massorets. They wrote on the Hebrew ac- 
cents and Biblical orthography, but in so clumsy a 
style and such miserable verse, that their observa- 
tions are for the most part incomprehensible. But 
these insignificant works were of no importance, 
while considerable value attached to the copies of 
the Bible, which were corrected by them with the 
greatest care and exactness according to the Masso- 
retic rules, which they had mastered completely. 
The Ben-Asher copies of the Bible were looked 
upon as models both by the Karaites and the 
Rabbanites, and treated as sacred. New copies 
were afterwards made from these in Jerusalem and 
Egypt. The Massoretic texts of the Bible now in 
use are largely derived from Ben-Asher's original 
copies, because the Rabbanites afterwards over- 
looked the fact that the scribe was a Karaite. 

Saadiah, on the contrary, who had known Ben- 
Asher, the son, was dissatisfied with these Masso- 
retic works, and wrote a very keen polemic against 
him. In addition to Saadiah, Ben-Naphtali raised 
objections against the results of Ben-Asher's Mas- 
soretic investigations, though mostly on insignificant 
points. Nevertheless, the text of the Bible accord- 
ing to the Massorets of Tiberias maintained its 
superiority. The old Eastern signs for vowels and 
accents to the Bible text were changed, extended 
and improved, by the Massoretic school of Ben- 

With the decay of the Exilarchate and of the 
school of Sora, Asia lost the leadership of Judaism. 
If Pumbeditha, under Aaron Ibn-Sarjadu, flattered 
itself that it possessed the supremacy, it was de- 


ceived. After Ibn Sarjadu's death, internal quarrels 
prepared for its destruction. Nehemiah, the son of 
Kohen-Zedek, who had been the rival of Ibn-Sar- 
jadu, but had not met with success, obtained the 
post of head of the school through cunning (960). 
The college, however, led by the chief Judge Sherira 
ben Chananya, opposed him. There were a few 
members and rich laymen who supported Nehemiah, 
but his opponents refused to recognize him during 
the whole period of his office (960-968). During 
the time that the two parties were contending for 
the Gaonate of Pumbeditha, and with it for the 
religious authority over the Jews, the four men who 
had been sent from Sora to collect contributions 
from the various communities, and who had been 
taken captive, had founded new schools in Egypt, 
Africa (Kairuan), Spain and France, and thereby 
separated these communities from the Gaonate. 
These four men who caused the seeds of the Tal- 
mudic spirit to blossom in various places were : 
Shemaria ben Elchanan, who was sold by the 
admiral Ibn-Rumahis in Alexandria, and then 
being ransomed by the Jewish community, finally 
reached Misr (Cairo). The second was Chushiel, 
who was sold on the coast of Africa, and came 
to Kairuan. The third was probably Nathan ben 
Isaac Kohen, the Babylonian, who perhaps reached 
Narbonne. The fourth was Moses ben Chanoch, 
who underwent more dangers than the other three. 
He was the only one of the four who was married. 
His beautiful and pious wife and his young son had 
accompanied him on his journey, and were taken 
prisoners together with him. Ibn-Rumahis had set 
eyes upon the beautiful woman, and designed to 
violate her. The wife, however, asked her husband 
in Hebrew whether those that were drowned could 
hope for resurrection, and when he answered in the 
affirmative, and confirmed his answer by a verse 
from the Bible, she threw herself into the sea and 

CH. vii. Moses ben chanoch. 209 

was drowned. In deep sorrow and in the garb of 
the slave, Moses ben Chanoch with his Httle son 
was carried to Cordova, where he was ransomed 
by the Jewish community. They did not imagine 
that with him Spain obtained the supremacy over the 
Jews of all other countries. Moses did not betray 
his deep knowledge of the Talmud to the commu- 
nity into whose midst he had been cast, so that he 
might not derive any advantage from his knowledge 
of the Law. He, therefore, at first behaved like 
any ordinary captive. Moses soon made his way 
to the school of Cordova, the president of which 
was Nathan. He was a rabbi and also judge, 
and possessed but slight Talmudical knowledge, 
but was regarded as a shining light in Spain. 
Moses sat near the door in the corner like an 
ignorant listener. But when he perceived that 
Nathan, in expounding a passage in the Talmud, 
made a childish mistake, he modestly ventured to 
make some objections, in which he betrayed his 
scholarship. The audience in the school was 
astounded to find so thorough a Talmudist in the 
ill-clad captive who had just recovered his freedom. 
Moses was called upon to explain the passage 
in question, and also to solve other difficulties. 
He did this in a thorough manner, to the intense 
delight of all present. On that very day Nathan 
declared before those who were under his jurisdic- 
tion, " I can no longer be your judge and rabbi. 
That stranger, who is now so miserably clothed, 
must henceforth take my place." The rich com- 
munity of Cordova immediately chose Moses for 
their rabbinical chief, gave him rich presents and a 
salary, and placed a carriage at his disposal. When 
the admiral Ibn-Rumahis heard that his prisoner 
was so precious to the community of Cordova, he 
wished to retract the sale in order to get a higher 
ransom. The Jews appealed to the just Caliph, 
Abdul-Rahman III, through the Jewish statesman 


Chasdai, and represented to him that they would 
be able, through Rabbi Moses, to sever themselves 
from the Gaonate of the eastern Caliphate. Abdul- 
Rahman, who, to his intense regret, had seen con- 
siderable sums of money yearly taken out of his land 
for the Gaonate, i. e., to the land which was hostile 
to him, was glad that a place would now be founded 
in his own kingdom for the study of the Talmud, 
and signified to the admiral the wish that he desist 
from his demand. Thus Cordova became the seat 
of an important school that was independent of 
the Gaonate. Moses' former fellow-prisoners also 
were recognized by the communities of Kahira 
and Kairuan as eminent scholars, and founded 
important Talmudical schools in Egypt and in the 
land of the Fatimide Caliphate. These men un- 
designedly severed the communities of Spain and 
of Mahometan Andalusia from the Gaonate. The 
state of politics and culture eminently fitted Spain 
or Mahometan (Moorish) Andalusia to become 
the center of united Judaism, and to take the 
leadership which Babylon had lost. Egypt was no 
longer an independent kingdom, but only a province 
of the Fatimide Caliphate, which had conquered it 
through the policy of a Jewish renegade. In addi- 
tion to this, Egypt did not offer a favorable field 
for higher civilization, but continued to be what 
nature had made it, the granary of the world. The 
empire of the Fatimides in north Africa, whose, 
chief town was Kairuan (afterwards Mahadia), at 
least afforded the principal conditions for the de- 
velopment of Judaism, and might well have become 
one of its chief centers. The rich community of 
Kairuan took the liveliest interest in the study of 
the Talmud, as well as in scientific efforts. Even 
before Chushiel's arrival they had had schools, 
and a chief who bore the title of Resh-Kalla or 
Rosh. Just as they had befriended and honored 
the banished Exilarch Ukba, they now bestowed 


the title Rosh on Chushiel, and enabled him to give 
a stronger impulse to the study of the Talmud. 
The latter educated two pupils during his office 
(950-980), and they were afterwards recognized as 
authorities. These were his son Chananel and a 
native, Jacob ben Nissim Ibn-Shahin. The phy- 
sician and favorite of the first two Caliphs, Isaac 
Israeli, had sown the seeds of Jewish science, which 
was developed by a pupil of his who likewise 
obtained court favor. 

This pupil, Abusahal Dunash ben Tamim (900- 
960), the head of Jewish science in the Fatimide 
dominions, was physician to the third Fatimide 
Caliph, Ishmael Almansur Ibnul' Kaim, perhaps also 
to his father. Dunash was held in such favor by 
this ruler that he dedicated to him one of his works 
on astronomy. Dunash ben Tamim came from Irak, 
perfected himself in his youth under Isaac Israeli in 
Kairuan, learning from him medicine, languages, 
and metaphysics. Dunash ben Tamim was accom- 
plished in the whole circle of sciences then known, 
and wrote books on medicine, astronomy and 
mathematics. He also classified the sciences ; in 
his opinion, mathematics, astronomy, and music 
rank lowest ; next come physics and medicine ; 
highest of all is metaphysics, the knowledge of God 
and the soul. The Arabs thought so highly of 
Dunash that they said that he had became a convert 
to Islam, doubtless in order that they might count 
him amongst their own, but he certainly remained 
faithful to Judaism to the end of his life. He corre- 
sponded with the Jewish statesman Chasdai, for 
whom he composed an astronomical work on the 
Jewish calendar. 

Meanwhile, though Dunash was not a genius, he 
was able to give the community of Kairuan, and 
through them to a wider circle, a more scientific 
understanding of Judaism. The Fatimide Caliphate, 
however, was not calculated to become a seat of 


culture for the Jews. The fanatic Fatimide dynasty 
— raised to power through an enthusiastic mis- 
sionary, who saw in the CaHph of the house of Ali 
a kind of embodied divinity, and founded by a 
deluded deceiver who considered himself the true 
Imam and Mahdi (priest) — could not logically toler- 
ate Judaism. The successors of the first Fatimide 
Caliph used, just as the successors of the first 
Christian Emperor had done, the sword as the 
means of spreading religion. Soon there came to 
the throne a Fatimide who repaired what his ances- 
tors had in their indulgence neglected, and preached 
the doctrines of the divine Imamate with bloody 
fanaticism. In such surroundings Judaism could not 
flourish ; it required a more favorable situation. 

The European Christian countries were still less 
fit to become the center of Judaism than were the 
Mahometan kingdoms of Egypt and northern Africa. 
At that time the greatest barbarity prevailed there, 
and circumstances were not at all favorable to the 
development of science and literature. The literary 
status of the Jews was very low, and the historical 
reports are therefore silent on the Jewish commu- 
nities of Europe. Here and there in Italy appeared 
Talmudical scholars, as in Oria (near Otranto), 
but scarcely any of them rose above mediocrity. 
Though the Italian Jews never attained superiority, 
they were diligent and faithful disciples of foreign 
teachers. In Babylonia they laughed at " the wise 
men " of Rome or Italy. Even Sabbatai Donnolo, 
the head of Jewish science in Italy at the time of 
Saadiah, could scarcely be described as a moderate 
scholar. This man is known rather through his 
career than through his works. Sabbatai Donnolo 
(913-970) of Oria was taken prisoner when the 
Mahometans of the Fatimide kingdom pressed for- 
ward across the straits of Sicily, invaded Apulia and 
Calabria, plundered the town of Oria, and either 
murdered the inhabitants or took them away as 



captives (9th of Tammuz — 4th July, 925). Donnolo 
was twelve years old at this time. Ten of the chief 
citizens were put to death, and Donnolo's par- 
ents and relations were transported to Palermo 
and Africa. He himself was ransomed in Trani. 
Orphaned and without friends, the young Donnolo 
was thrown upon his own resources. He studied 
medicine and astrology, in both of which he made 
himself proficient. He now became physician to 
the Byzantine viceroy (Basilicus) Eupraxios, who 
ruled Calabria in the name of the emperor. He 
became rich through his medical practice, and spent 
his money in buying up works on astrology and in 
traveling. In his journeys Donnolo went as far as 
Bagdad. He embodied the result of his researches 
in a work published in 946. But little wisdom was 
contained in this book, if we are to judge by the 
fragments that still remain t"o us. The author, 
however, put so high a value upon it, that he 
thought that through it the name Sabbata'i Donnolo 
of Oria would be handed down to posterity. 

Meanwhile, unimportant though Donnolo was 
compared with his contemporaries Saadiah and 
others, he appears to have been far superior to 
the head of the Catholics at this time. This was his 
countryman, Nilus the Younger, whom the Church 
has canonized. The relations of the two Italians — 
the Jewish physician and the abbot of Rossana and 
Grotto Ferrata — serve as a standard by which we 
can estimate the condition of Judaism and Chris- 
tianity in Italy in the middle of the tenth century. 

Donnolo had known Nilus from his youth ; per- 
haps they had suffered together when southern Italy 
was plundered. The Jewish physician once noticed 
that the Christian ascetic was very ill, owing to 
excessive mortification. He generously offered him 
a remedy. The holy Nilus, however, declined his 
offer, remarking that he would not take the medi- 
cine of a Jew, lest it be said that a Jew had cured 


him — the holy one, the worker of miracles — for that 
would lead the simple-minded Christians to place 
more confidence in the Jews. 

Judaism ever strove towards the light, whilst 
monastic Christianity remained in the darkness. 
Thus in the tenth century there was only one 
country that offered suitable soil for the develop- 
ment of Judaism, where it could blossom and flourish 
— it was Mahometan Spain, which comprised the 
greater part of the peninsula of the Pyrenees. 

Whilst Christian Europe sank into a state of bar- 
barism, from which the Carlovingians endeavored 
to free it, and the Eastern Caliphate was in the final 
stage of its decay, the Spanish Caliphate, under the 
sons of Ommiyya, was in so flourishing a condition, 
that it almost makes us forget the Middle Ages. 
Under Abdul-Rahman III (An-Nasir), who was the 
first to enjoy the full title of the Caliphs, " Prince 
of the Faithful " (Emir-Al-Mumenin), Spain was 
the exclusive seat of science and art, which were 
everywhere else proscribed or neglected. With 
him began the classical period of Moslem culture, a 
period of prosperity and vigor, which could be 
attained only under the rule of noble princes free 
from prejudice against the votaries of other religions. 

Specially honored in Spain were the favorites of 
the Muses — the poets. A successful poem was 
celebrated more than a victorious battle, which itself 
became the subject of poetry. Every nobleman, 
from the Caliph down to the lowest provincial Emir, 
was anxious and proud to number learned men and 
poets among his friends, for whom he furnished the 
means of a livelihood. Scientific men and poets 
were appointed to high offices, and entrusted with 
the most important state affairs. 

This spiritual atmosphere could not fail to have 
its effect upon the Jews, with their naturally emo- 
tional and responsive natures. Enthusiasm for 
science and poetry seized them, and Jewish Spain 


became " the home of civilization and of spiritual 
activity — a fragrant garden of joyous, gay poetry, 
as well as the seat of earnest research and clear 
thought." Like the Mozarabs, the Christians who 
lived amongst the Mahometans, the Jews made 
themselves acquainted with the language and litera- 
ture of the people of the land, and often surpassed 
them in knowledge. But whilst the Mozarabs gave 
up their own individuality, forgot their own language 
— Gothic Latin — could not even read the creeds, 
and were ashamed of Christianity, the Jews of Spain, 
through this contact with Arabs, only increased 
their love and enthusiasm for their mother-tongue, 
their holy law, and their religion. Through favor- 
able circumstances Jewish Spain was in a position 
at first to rival Babylonia, then to supersede it, and 
finally to maintain its superiority for nearly five 
hundred years. Three men were the founders of 
the Judaeo-Spanish culture: (i) Moses benChanoch, 
the Talmudical scholar, who had been carried cap- 
tive to Cordova ; (2) The first Andalusian gram- 
marian, Menachem ben Saruk ; (3) and the creator 
of the artistic form of Jewish poetry, Dunash Ibn- 
Labrat. This culture, however, unfolded through 
one man, who by means of his high endowments, his 
pure character and prominent position, was enabled 
to give it the proper impulse. This man was Abu- 
Yussuf Chasdai ben Isaac Ibn-Shaprut (915-970), a 
member of the noble family of Ibn-Ezra. He was 
the first of a long succession of high-minded persons 
who made the protection and furthering of Judaism 
the task of their lives. 

Chasdai was quite modern in his character, 
entirely different from the type of his predecessors. 
His easy, pliant, and genial nature was free both 
from the heaviness of the Orientals and the gloomy 
earnestness of the Jews. His actions and ex- 
pressions make us look upon him as a European, 
and through him, so to speak, Jewish history 


receives a European character. His ancestors 
came from Jaen ; his father Isaac, who probably 
lived at Cordova, was wealthy, liberal, and in a 
measure, a Maecenas. The son inherited from him 
a love of science, and the worthy application of 
riches. He attained only a theoretical knowledge 
of medicine, but in literature, as well as in diplo- 
macy, he was a master. Not only did he know 
Hebrew and Arabic well, but he also knew Latin, 
then understood only by the clergy amongst the 
Spanish Christians. 

The Caliph Abdul-Rahman III, who stood in 
diplomatic relations with the small Christian courts 
of northern Spain, perceived Chasdai's value and 
usefulness, and appointed him as interpreter and 
diplomatist (940). At first Chasdai only had to 
accompany the principal ambassadors to the Spanish 
Christian courts. But the more able he proved 
himself, the rriore was he honored and advanced. 
On one occasion Chasdai's diplomacy proved very 
useful. He once induced a king of Leon (Sancho 
Ramirez) and a queen of Navarra (Toda), together 
with the clergy and other great people, to visit 
Cordova, in order to conclude a lasting treaty of 
peace with Abdul-Rahman. The Caliph rewarded 
his services by appointing him to various offices. 
Chasdai was, in a certain sense, minister of foreign 
affairs. He had to receive foreign ambassadors 
and their presents, and to give them presents from 
the Caliph in return. He was, at the same time, 
the minister of trade and finance, and the revenue 
that arose from the various taxes and tolls that 
went to the treasury, passed through his hands. 
In spite of all this Chasdai had no official title. 
He was neither vizir (the Hagib of the Spanish 
Arabs) nor the secretary of state (Katib). For the 
Arabs at first also had a strong prejudice against 
the Jews, in consequence of which they did not 
allow them to be included amongst the state 


officials. The dawning culture of Mahometan Spain 
was not yet sufficiently advanced to overcome the 
anti-Jewish sentiments of the Koran. 

Even the just and noble prince who in his time 
was the greatest ornament of the throne, dared not 
throw off these inborn prejudices. It remained for 
the Jews themselves to overcome them gradually 
through their spiritual superiority. Chasdai in- 
spired a favorable opinion of his co-religionists 
amongst the Andalusian Moslems, and was able, 
through his personal intercourse with the Caliphs, 
to shield them from misrepresentation. And so a 
Jewish poet was able to say of him : 

" From off his people's neck he struck the heavy yoke ; 
To them his soul was given, he drew them to his heart ; 
The scourge that wounded them, he destroyed. 
Drove from them in terror the cruel oppressor.- 
The Incomparable vouchsajEed through him 
Crumbs of comfort and salvation," 

This praise is by no means exaggerated. Chasdai 
was indeed a comforter and deliverer to all the 
communities far and near. His high position and 
wealth rendered him useful to his brethren. His 
deep religious feeling . caused him to see that he 
must thank God for the high estimation in which he 
was held, and that it was not due to his own 
deserts ; he therefore felt a call to be "active in the 
cause of his religion and his race. He was, to some 
extent, the legal and political head of the Jewish 
community of Cordova. The Babylonian school, 
which received many contributions from him, gave 
him the title " Head of the School " (Resh-Kallah), 
although he knew less of the Talmud than the 
Nathan who had resigned his position in favor 
of Moses. He corresponded with Dunash ben 
Tamim, whom he asked to work out some astro- 
nomical calculations on the Jewish calendar. He 
also corresponded with Saadiah's son Dossa, and 
requested him to send him a biography of his 


father. The ambassadors of many nations, who 
either sought the favor or the protection of the 
CaHph, brought him presents in order to secure his 
interest in their cause. From them he always 
asked particulars as to the condition of the Jews, 
and obtained favors for his brethren. 

Chasdai played an important part in two embas- 
sies from the mightiest courts of Europe. The 
Byzantine empire, oppressed on all sides, had re- 
mained lifeless for several centuries, and was now 
in need of foreign assistance. The weak and 
pedantic Emperor Constantine VIII, the son and 
brother of the emperors who had caused the Jews 
so much trouble, sought a diplomatic alliance with 
the mighty Moslem conqueror of Spain, in order to 
gain an ally against the Eastern Caliphate. He 
therefore sent a magnificent embassy to Cordova 
(944-949) with rich presents, amongst which was 
a beautiful copy of a Greek medical work by Dios- 
corides on simple remedies, which the Caliph and 
his medical college greatly desired to obtain. The 
ambassadors from the most anti-Jewish court were 
received by the Jewish statesman and introduced 
to the Caliph. But the work upon which the 
Arabic physicians and naturalists had set so high a 
value was a sealed book to them. Abdul-Rahman, 
therefore, begged the Byzantine emperor to send 
him a scholar who understood both Greek and 
Latin. Constantine, who wished to show his good- 
will to the Mahometan court, sent a monk named 
Nicholas as interpreter. Amongst all the physicians 
of Cordova, Chasdai was the only one who under- 
stood Latin, and he was, therefore, requested by 
the Caliph to take part in the translation. Nicholas 
translated the original Greek into Latin, and Chas- 
dai re-translated it into Arabic. Abdul-Rahman 
was pleased with the completion of a work which, 
according to his thinking, lent great splendor to 
his reign. Chasdai also had a peculiar role to play 


in the embassy which was sent by the powerful 
German emperor Otto I to the court of Cordova. 
Abdul-Rahman had previously sent a messenger 
to Otto, and in a letter had made use of certain 
unseemly expressions against Christianity. The 
Andalusian ambassadors had to wait several years 
before they were admitted to an audience with the 
emperor. After they had been received, the Ger- 
man emperor sent an embassy, at whose head was 
the abbot" John of Gorze (Jean de Vendieres), and 
a letter, in which there were harsh expressions 
against Islam. The Caliph, who suspected some- 
thing of the kind, asked Chasdai to find out for him 
the contents of the diplomatic letter. Chasdai 
treated with John of Gorze for several days, and 
although the latter was very clever, Chasdai out- 
witted him, and learnt from him the purport of the 
letter. Thereupon Abdul-Rahman kept the Ger- 
man envoys waiting for a whole year before ad- 
mitting them to an audience. He would have kept 
them waiting still longer, had not Chasdai and the 
Mozarab Bishop of Cordova induced John of Gorze 
to procure a new and unobjectionable document 
from the emperor (956-959). 

Chasdai, who, from his elevated position, was 
accustomed to deal with public affairs on a large 
scale, was deeply grieved when he thought of the 
state of the Jews, of their dependent and suffering 
position, their dispersion, and their want of unity. 
How often must he have heard Mahometans and 
Christians pronounce that most powerful argu- 
ment against Judaism, " Inasmuch as the scepter 
hath departed from Judah, God hath rejected it!" 
Even Chasdai shared the restricted view of the 
time, viz., that a religion and a people without a 
country, a king, a court, sovereignty, and subjects, 
has neither stableness nor vitality. 

The rumor of the existence of an independent 
Jewish community in the land of the Chazars, which 


had penetrated to Spain, roused his interest. Eldad's 
appearance in Spain, several decades before Chas- 
dai's birth, had given probability to the vague tradi- 
tion, but, on the other hand, rendered it improbable 
through the exaggeration that the ten tribes were 
still in existence in all their strength. Chasdai 
never failed to make inquiries about a Jewish king- 
dom or a Jewish ruler when embassies came to him 
from far or near. The news of a Jewish community 
in the land of the Chazars, which he received from 
ambassadors from Khorasan, was very welcome to 
him, especially when he learnt that a Jewish king 
was on the throne there. He now heartily wished 
to enter into communication with this king. He* 
rejoiced when the news was confirmed by the By- 
zantine ambassadors, who gave him the additional 
information that the reigning king of the Chazars 
was called Joseph, and that they were a powerful 
and warlike nation. This information served only 
to increase his desire to enter into close communi- 
cation with the Jewish kingdom and its ruler. He 
therefore sought a trustworthy messenger who 
could take charge of his letter of homage, and at 
the same time bring back further particulars. After 
several vain attempts, he succeeded in effecting 
the desired communication. In an embassy of the 
Slavonic king from the Lower Danube there were 
two Jews who had to act as interpreters in Cordova. 
Chasdai gave the Slavonic ambassadors a letter to 
the king of the Chazars. This letter, in beautiful 
Hebrew prose, with introductory verses, written by 
Menachem ben Saruk, is a priceless document for 
the history of the time. The author, in his pious 
wishes and in his humble bearing, skilfully per- 
mitted his statesmanship and a sense of his own 
worth to be seen. Chasdai's letter fortunately 
reached the hands of King Joseph, through the in- 
strumentality of a man Jacob' ben Eleazar from the 
land of Names (Germany). Joseph was the eleventh 


Jewish prince since the time of Obadiah, the founder 
of Judaism in that country. The country of the 
Chazars even at that time (960) still possessed 
great power, although it had already lost several 
districts or feudatory lands. The residence of King 
Joseph was situated on an island in the Volga, 
and included a golden tent-like palace having a 
golden gate. The kings had to oppose the Rus- 
sians, who had become more powerful since the 
immigration of the Waragi, and who had always 
coveted the fruitful country of the Chazars. They 
found it necessary to keep a standing army so as 
to be able to attack the enemy at a moment's 
notice. In the tenth century there were 12,000 
regular soldiers, partly cavalry, provided with hel- 
mets and coats of mail, and partly infantry armed 
only with spears. The decaying Byzantine em- 
pire was forced to respect the kingdom of the 
Chazars as a great power, and to recognize the 
Jewish ruler as "the noble and illustrious king." 
Whilst the Byzantine emperors used to seal their- 
diplomatic letters to the Pope and to the Prankish 
emperors with a golden bull of light weight (two 
solidi), they made it one-third heavier when they 
wrote to the kings of the Chazars. Whoever 
is acquainted with the pedantic etiquette of this 
unstable court will at once recognize how much of 
fear was expressed by this mark of honor. The 
Chazar kings took great interest in their foreign 
co-religionists, and made reprisals for wrong done 
to the Jews. The king expressed his joy at re- 
ceiving Chasdai's letter, and corrected the false 
impression that the land of the Chazars had always 
been inhabited by Jews. "The Chazars were 
rather of heathen origin," he wrote in his answer, 
and narrated how his great ancestor Bulan had 
been converted to Judaism. He went on to 
enumerate the successors of Bulan, all of whom 
had Jewish names. He then describes the extent 


of his dominions, and the various peoples that were 
subject to him. As regards the hopes of a Messi- 
anic redemption which he also cherished, he re- 
marks that neither he nor his people knew any- 
thing definite. "We set our eyes upon Jerusalem," 
he says, " and also upon the Babylonian schools. 
May- God speedily bring about the redemption." 
"You write," he says, "that you long to see me. 
I have the same longing to make the acquaintance 
of yourself and your wisdom. If this wish could be 
fulfilled, and I might speak to you face to face, you 
should be my father and I would be your son, and I 
would entrust the government of my state to your 

When Joseph wrote this letter, he could boast 
of the peaceful state of his kingdom. But circum- 
stances changed in the course of a few years. One 
of Rurik's descendants, the Russian Prince Sviatislav 
of Kief, formerly almost a subject of the Chazars, 
made a formidable attack upon the country, and 
captured the fortress of Sarkel (965). The con- 
queror grew more powerful, and, a few years later, 
in 969, the same Sviatislav took the capital, Itil 
(Atel), and also captured Semender, the second 
town of the Chazars. The Chazars took to flight, 
some going to an island in the Caspian Sea, others 
to Derbehd, and yet others to the Crimea, in which 
many members of the same race lived, and which 
henceforth received the name of " the Land of 
the Chazars." Its capital was Bosporus (Kertch). 
Thus did the kingdom of the Chazars decline, and 
Joseph was its last king who possessed any power. 
When Chasdai received his letter, his patron, Abdul- 
Rahman, had died. His son Alhakem, a more 
zealous patron of science and poetry even than his 
father, now sat upon the throne. More peacefully 
disposed than his father, he honored Chasdai, whom 
he made an important state official, and whose 
superior talents he employed as freely as his father 
had done. 


Imitating the example of two Caliphs, who re- 
spected genius, Chasdai protected the Jews, and to 
him is credit due for having given the impulse to 
the Jewish-Andalusian culture. He gathered around 
him at Cordova a band of talented philosophers and 
poets, who in turn immortalized him in their works 
and poems. "In Spain far and wide, wisdom was 
cherished in Chasdai's time. His praise was sung 
by eloquent tongues." Only two of the philoso- 
phers and poets of this time became famous, Mena- 
chem ben Saruk and Dunash ben Labrat. Both of 
these made the Hebrew language, which they con- 
siderably enriched, the object of deep research. 
They went far beyond all their predecessors that 
had worked at philology, the Karaites and even 

Dunash ben Labrat in his works developed a 
symmetry and harmony of expression in the holy 
language such as was scarcely conceivable by his 
predecessors. He was the first to employ meter in 
Hebrew poesy, which he made melodious through 
the introduction of the strophe. Dunash was 
blamed by Saadiah for this as though he had made 
an unheard-of innovation. Saadiah thought that 
violence was done to the Hebrew language thereby. 
However, the new Hebrew poetry was enriched 
through the efforts of the Jewish-Andalusian writers. 
Hitherto, poetical compositions had been of a syna- 
gogal character, always gloomy, and never assuming 
a joyful tone. Even hymnal poetry was not devoid 
of this characteristic, and continued halting and 
rugged like Kaliri's. In didactic and controversial 
poems a miserable doggerel was used, as in the 
verses of Solomon ben Yerucham, of Abu-Ali 
Jephet, of Ben-Asher and Sabbata'i Donnolo. 
Chasdai, however, gave the poets an opportunity 
of changing their subjects. His imposing person, 
his high position, his deeds, and his princely liber- 
ality had an inspiring influence upon the poets, and 

224 History of' the jews. ch. vii. 

whilst they sang his praises in animated strains, 
they breathed new life into the apparently dead 
Hebrew language, rendering it harmonious and 
capable of development. Of course, the Jewish- 
Andalusian poets took the Arabs as their model. 
They in truth do not deny that "Arab became the 
teacher of Eber." But Dunash and others, who 
imitated him, did not slavishly adhere to their Arab 
pattern, nor adopt its unnatural meter, but they 
selected its beauties and imitated them. The verses 
at the beginning of this flourishing period of poetry 
were brisk and lively in their measure, and yet the 
Hebrew poetry of the epoch of Chasda'i did not 
entirely cast off its fetters, nor change its high-flown 
style. " The poets in Chasdai's time first began 
to chirp," as the inimitable critic of a later time 
remarks. The favorite themes of the new Hebrew 
poesy now became panegyric and satire, but It did 
not lose sight of liturgical poetry, which it also 
adorned with the beauty of meter. 

Little is known of the life and character of the 
first two founders of the Andalusian-Jewish culture. 
As far as can be gathered from existing sources, 
Menachem ben Saruk, of Tortosa (born 910, died 
970), was in needy circumstances from his earliest 
years ; at any rate, his patrimony was too small to 
maintain him. Chasdai's father Isaac was inter- 
ested in him, and took care that pecuniary difficul- 
ties should not destroy the germ of poetry which 
was latent in him. His favorite occupation was the 
study of the Hebrew language ; he made use of the 
works of his predecessors, but he did not acquire 
his noble Hebrew style from them — that was inborn. 

When Chasdai attained his high position, he 
Invited the favorite of his father, with flattering 
words and glowing promises, to come to Cordova. 
Menachem became Chasdai's court poet, and was 
warmly attached to him, praising him in every kind 
of verse, and, as he himself afifirms, " exhausted 


poetry in singing Chasdai's praises." Chasdai 
encouraged him to write on the philology of the 
Hebrew language, and to endeavor to ascertain its 
various forms, and to investigate the meanings of 
words. Menachem in consequence wrote a com- 
plete Hebrew dictionary (Machbereth), with some 
grammatical rules, in which he corrected his prede- 
cessors in many respects. Brought up amidst sur- 
roundings by which harmonious and impressive 
speech was prized, the grammarian of Tortosa 
valued language in general very highly, and the 
Hebrew language in particular, and it was the aim 
of his work to discover the peculiar refinements of 
this language. Menachem ben Saruk was the first 
to distinguish clearly the pure roots in the Hebrew 
language, and to separate them from the formative 
prefixes and suffixes — a theory which now appeared 
for the first time, and which had been misappre- 
hended by previous grammarians. This misappre- 
hension, indeed, had led them into using malformed 
and ill-sounding words in their verses. Menachem, 
in his lexicographical work, puts the various forms 
under each root, and often expounds their meanings 
with surprising clearness and nicety. In cases 
where he gives a peculiar explanation according to 
his understanding of the Biblical verse, he often 
shows healthy thought and refined taste, and there 
is a marked step forward in exegesis from Saadiah 
to Menachem. Now and again he gave explana- 
tions which were opposed to Talmudic tradition 
and the ideas of the time. His lexicographical 
work was much read and used, because it was 
written in Hebrew. It found its way into France 
and Italy, supplanted the works of Saadiah and the 
Karaites, and, for a long time, was the guide-book 
for Bible expositors. But grand and flowing as 
Menachem's Hebrew prose is, his verse is unattrac- 
tive and awkward ; he did not understand how to 
handle Hebrew meter. He was, however, supple- 
mented by his rival, Dunash ben Labrat. 


This poet (also called Adonim) came from Bag- 
dad, and was younger than Menachem (born 920, 
died 970). He afterwards lived in Fez, and was 
likewise invited to Cordova by Chasdai. Dunash 
appears to have been wealthy, and was thus able to 
be freer and more independent than the gram- 
marian of Tortosa. He was a man of spirited and 
reckless disposition, who did not weigh his words, 
and was well qualified for ' literary controversy. 
He, too, possessed a deep knowledge of the Hebrew 
language, and was a far more successful poet than 
Menachem. As has been mentioned, he was the 
first of the Rabbanite circle in Spain to introduce 
meter into the new Hebrew poetry, to which he 
thereby gave a fresh charm. He was, however, 
bold and venturesome. He criticised Saadiah's 
exegetical and grammatical works in a polemic 
(Teshuboth), assuming rather a harsh tone, although 
he was personally acquainted with the author, and 
was perhaps his pupil. As soon as Menachem's 
dictionary reached him, Dunash determined to write 
an unsparing criticism of it, and to bring its' mis- 
takes to light. His review was witty but scornful. 
Dunash did not keep within the limits of scientific 
discussion, but used it to promote his own interests. 
He dedicated his critical works against Menachem 
to the Jewish statesman, whom he flattered so 
abjectly in some prefatory verses, that we can 
hardly fail to see that his object was to gain over 
the Jewish Maecenas to his side, and to injure Mena- 
chem in the eyes of the latter. 

Dunash's flattery of the Jewish statesman and 
his coarse polemic against Menachem are not 
wanting in power. The admiration of Chasdai 
for Ben-Saruk was diminished when he perceived 
that Dunash was a better poet, and at least as 
good a philologist. When various calumniators 
who wished to ingratiate themselves with the Jewish 
prince, traduced Menachem before him, Chasdai's 


favor was virithdrawn from the latter, and changed 
into direct hostility. In what their defamations con- 
sisted is not known. 

Menachem appears to have died before his rival 
Dunash, and his pupils undertook to justify him. 
Jehuda ben Daud, Isaac Ibn G'ikatilia, and Ben- 
Kafren (Ephraim) were the most important of 
these. They, too, dedicated their polemical writ- 
ings to the Jewish minister, and sent him a pane- 
gj'^ric and a satire against Dunash. Chasdai seems 
to have just returned from a diplomatic victory 
which he had won for the Caliph Alhakem. The 
followers of Menachem celebrated his triumph: 
"The mountains greet the protector of learning, 
the prince of Judah. All the world rejoices at his 
return, for whenever he is absent, darkness sets in, 
the haughty rule and fall upon Judah's sons. But 
Chasdai brings back peace and order. God has 
appointed him prince, and granted him the king's 
favor, whereby He exalted him above all the 

Menachem's defenders endeavored to appeal to 
Chasda'i's love of truth, and to make him the 
arbiter against Dunash, "who set himself up as 
the chief of commentators, who knows neither law 
nor limit of change, and who desecrates and spoils 
the holy language through his foreign meter." The 
study of the Hebrew language was carried on in 
Spain by means of severe contention and virulent 
satire. The pupils of Dunash continued the quarrel. 
The followers of Menachem and Dunash hurled 
witty lampoons against each other, which fact con- 
tributed largely towards making the Hebrew lan- 
guage at once pliant and rich. 

As Chasdai Ibn-Shaprut had given an impulse to 
various poets and writers by means of encourage- 
ments and rewards, so also he founded a home in 
Spain for the study of the Talmud. Jewish science 
in Europe had not yet attained a sufficiently firm 


footing to enable it to dispense with the fostering 
care of a protector. Moses ben Chanoch, too, who 
had been chosen to collect contributions for the 
school of Sora, and who had been brought as a 
slave to Cordova and there redeemed, found a 
patron in Chasdai, and the two Caliphs who were 
friendly to science beheld with pleasure the study 
of the Talmud springing up in their realms, because 
it would tend to sever their Jewish subjects from 
the Caliphate of Bagdad. Moses could have come 
to Spain at no more favorable time for establishing 
firmly the study of the Talmud, without which the 
literary activity just springing up could not have 
made progress. Just as the Spanish Moors had 
busied themselves with the task of casting' the 
Caliphate of Bagdad into the shade, in the hope of 
monopolizing all political and literary distinctions, 
so the Spanish Jews longed to obscure the Baby- 
lonian schools, and to transfer to the school which 
Moses had opened in Cordova the supremacy which 
the former had hitherto enjoyed, owing to the deeper 
knowledge of the Talmud there. 

They consequently treated Moses with great 
deference, surrounded him with splendor, and recog- 
nized him as their head. Religious questions which 
had hitherto been sent to th(i Babylonian schools, 
henceforth were directed to Moses. From all parts 
of Africa, eager students flocked to his school. 
There now arose a strong desire for thorough Tal- 
mudical knowledge, which would enable them to 
dispense with the Babylonian teachers. Chasdai 
gave orders for copies of the Talmud to be bought 
at his expense in Sora, where many lay idle and 
unused. These he distributed amongst the pupils, 
whom he doubtless furnished with means of subsist- 
ence. Thus Cordova became the Andalusian Sora, 
and the founder of the school there had the same 
significance for Spain as Rab had for Babylon. 
Although he bore the modest title of judge 


(Dayan), he yet performed the various functions of 
a Gaon. He ordained rabbis for the various com- 
munities, as it appears, by the ceremony of laying 
on the hands (Semicha) ; he expounded the Law, 
the highest appeal was made to him in legal cases, 
and he could excommunicate rebellious members 
of the community. All these functions devolved 
upon the rabbis in later times. 

Thus Spain became in many ways the center of 
Judaism. Several apparently accidental events 
contributed to this result, and the aroused self- 
importance of the Spanish Jews did not allow this 
supremacy to depart from their midst ; in fact, they 
took the greatest pains to assert and to deserve it. 
The prosperity of the Cordova Jewish community 
made it possible for them to make the Andalusian 
capital the center of all undertakings. Cordova 
numbered several thousand rich families, well able 
to vie with the Arabs in display. They clothed 
themselves in silk, wore costly turbans, and drove 
in splendid carriages. They rode on horses, and 
adopted the manners of chivalrous society, which 
distinguished them from the Jews of other lands. 
It cannot be denied, however, that some of them 
owed their wealth to their trade in Slavonian slaves. 
These they sold to the Caliphs, who gradually 
formed their body-guard from them. 

After Moses' death (965) the community of Cor- 
dova was threatened with a division on account of 
the succession. On the one side was Moses' son 
Chanoch, who, when a child, had shared his parent's 
captivity, and had seen his mother throw herself 
into the sea. His rival was Joseph ben Isaac Ibn- 
Abitur, who was the distinguished pupil of Moses. 
He possessed sound knowledge of Arabic literature, 
was a tolerable poet, and a native of Spain. But 
Chanoch possessed no attainments except knowl- 
edge of the Talmud, and the advantage of being the 
son of a man who had been highly esteemed. 


The two rivals were equally distinguished for 
their piety and their character. There were con- 
sequently two parties — the one siding with the 
native, who was the representative of culture, the 
other with Moses' son. Meanwhile, before the 
strife had taken a serious turn, Chasdai exerted his 
powerful influence in favor of Chanoch. The latter 
thus became rabbi of Cordova and the authority for 
the Jewish-Spanish communities. As long as the 
Jewish minister of Alhakem lived, Chanoch's right 
to the rabbinate remained unchallenged. Chasdai 
Ibn-Shaprut died during the lifetime of the noble 
Caliph (970), and left behind him an illustrious name, 
and both Jews and Mahometans vied with each 
other in perpetuating it for posterity. 



The Gaon Sherira and his son Hal — Sherira's Historical Letter — 
The Jewish Congregations in Spain — Jewish Culture in Anda- 
lusia — The Disciples of Menachem and Dunash — Jehuda Chayuj 
— Contest between Chanoch and Ibn Abitur— Jacob Ibn Jau — 
The Jews of France — Nathan the Babylonian and Leontin — The 
Jews of Germany — Gershom and his Ordinances — The Emperor 
Henry II. — The Caliph Hakem — The Jewish Chagan David and 
the Russians — Destruction of the Jewish-Chazar Kingdom — The 
Karaites — Joseph Allcarlcassani and Levi Halevi — Hal Gaon — His 
Character and Importance — Samuel bar Chofni — Chiskiya, the 
last Gaon — Samuel Ibn-Nagrela — Jonah Ibn-Janach. 

970 — 1050 c. E. 

When an institution of historic origin is doomed to 
sink into oblivion, the most strenuous exertions of 
men cannot save it ; and though they succeed by 
generous sacrifices in deferring the time of its 
extinction, its continuance is at best like that of a 
man in a trance. 

So it happened to the Babylonian Gaonate, once 
so full of life. After the most cultured communities 
of Spain and Africa had withdrawn their support, 
and had made themselves independent of it, its fate 
was sealed. It was in vain that the two men who 
successively adorned the school of Pumbeditha by 
their virtue and knowledge, made a strenuous effort 
to give it new life. They only succeeded in staying 
the death of the Gaonate for somewhat more than 
half a century, but they were unable to restore its 
vitality. These two men — father and son, the last 
distinguished presidents of the school of Pumbe- 
ditha — were Sherira and Hai (Haaja), to whom 
later generations gave the name of " the fathers and 
teachers of Israel." 


Sherira, son of the Gaon Chanina (born 920, died 
1000), was of distinguished parentage both on his 
father's and his mother's side, several members of 
both famiUes having filled the office of Gaon. He 
boasted that he could trace his descent to the line 
of the Exilarchs before Bostana'i. The seal of the 
Sherira family bore the impress of a lion, which is 
said to have been the coat-of-arms of the Jewish 

Sherira was a Gaon of the old school, who valued 
the Talmud above everything, and steered clear of 
philosophical ideas. He was sufficiently acquainted 
with the Arabic language to use it in answering 
questions which were directed to him by the Jewish 
communities in. Moslem countries. He preferred, 
however, to make use of the Hebrew and Chaldee 
languages, and had no taste for Arabic literature. 
His literary activity was entirely devoted to the 
Talmud and cognate subjects. He did not trouble 
himself much about Biblical exegesis, but his moral 
earnestness makes us overlook his lack of higher 
culture. As a judge, he always endeavored to elicit 
the truth and to decide accordingly. As head of 
the school, he spared no pains to spread instruc- 
tion far and near, hence his decisions are voluminous. 
But Sherira kept most conscientiously to Talmudic 
precedents in framing his decisions ; and on one 
occasion severely criticised a master who taught his 
young slave the Bible, and when he had grown up, 
allowed him to contract an illegal marriage with 
another slave, because this was contrary to the 
decision of several Talmudical teachers. Sherira 
was versed in theosophy, which had but few followers 
at his time. 

Sherira is especially distinguished on account of 
his " Letter," which is the main authority for the 
history of the Talmudical, post-Talmudical, and 
Gaonic periods of Jewish history. Jacob ben Nissim 
(Ibn-Shahin), a pupil of the Chushiel who had been 

CH. VIII. sherira's letter. 233 

taken captive to Africa, and who taught the Talmud 
in Kairuan, sent a letter of inquiry in the name of 
the community of Kairuan to Sherira. In it the 
following questions were propounded : "In what 
way was the Mishna written down ? If the tradi- 
tional law is of remote origin, how does it happen 
that only authorities of a comparatively recent 
period are known to us as bearers of the same ? 
In what order were the various books of the Mishna 
compiled ? " Jacob also asked about the order of 
the Saboraim and the Geonim, and about their 
respective terms of ofifice. Sherira wrote an an- 
swer (987) half in Hebrew and half in Chaldee, in 
which he threw light upon several dark portions of 
Jewish history. The chronicle of the Saboraim and 
Geonim as given by him is our guide for this epoch. 
Sherira in this "Letter" answers the questions put 
to him with the simple straightforwardness of the 
chronicler. But his opinions about the Exilarchs of 
the line of Bostanai, and about some of his contem- 
poraries, e. g., about Aaron Ibn-Sarjadu, are not 
altogether unbiased. We have to thank the Gaon 
Sherira for the preservation of the facts of Jewish 
history from the period of the conclusion of the 
Talmud till his own time. It was not in his power 
to produce an historical work of a critical character, 
nor, indeed, was this possible for the genius of the 
Middle Ages. 

In spite of his incessant activity as head of the 
school, he was unable to prevent the decay of the 
school of Pumbeditha. The zeal for the study of 
the Talmud and scientific activity had cooled in the 
Babylonian countries. The academy had so few 
scholars at this time that Sherira was compelled to 
promote his young son Hai, when only sixteen 
years old, to the high office of chief judge. The 
respect for thie Gaon had vanished. Malicious 
persons had Sherira arraigned before the Caliph 
Alkadir on some unknown charge, probably growing 


out of the rigor of his administration (997). In con- 
sequence of this, father and son were deprived of 
their Hberty, all their property was confiscated, and 
there was not enough left to them for a bare liveli- 
hood. They were, however, liberated at the inter- 
cession of an influential man, and restored to their 
dignity. Sherira soon after, on account of old age, 
abdicated in favor of his son (998), and died a few 
years later. 

His son Hai, although he was only 30 years old, 
was so popular that to the reading of the Law on 
Sabbath, as a mark of honor to him, the portion 
of the Pentateuch was added in which Moses prays 
for a worthy successor, and instead of the usual 
prophetic lesson, the story of David anointing his 
successor was read, and in conclusion the words, 
" And Hai sat on the throne of Sherira his father, 
and his kingdom was firmly established." 

We turn gladly from the decay of the internal 
organization of the Jews in the East to the vitality 
of the communities on the Guadalquiver and the 
Guadiana. Vigorous forces and spiritual currents 
of most varied character asserted themselves every- 
where, and produced the brilliant efflorescence of 
Jewish culture. There arose in the Jewish com- 
munities of Andalusia intense zeal for the various 
branches of knowledge, and an eager desire for 
creative activity. 

The seed which had been sown by Chasdai, the 
Jewish Maecenas, by the study of the Talmud under 
Moses the Babylonian, and by the poetical and 
philological works of Menachem and Dunash, pro- 
duced the fairest fruit. Many-sided knowledge was 
considered among the Spanish Jews, as well as 
among the Andalusian Moslems, a man's most 
beautiful ornament, and brought its possessor honor 
and riches. Following the example of Abdul-Rah- 
man the Great, the Moslems admitted Jews to state 
offices, owing to their superior insight and business 


capacity ; thus we find both Jewish consuls and 
Jewish ministers at Mahometan and Christian 
courts. These emulated the conduct of Chasdai in 
encouraging learning and poetry. The knowledge 
of the period was neither one-sided nor barren ; on 
the contrary, it was full of healthy life, useful and 
productive. The cultured Jews of Andalusia spoke 
and wrote the language of the country as fluently 
as their Arab fellow-citizens, who were as proud of 
the Jewish poets as the Jews themselves. 

The Andalusian Jews were equally active in Bible 
exegesis and grammar, in the study of the Talmud, 
in philosophy and in poetry. But the students in 
any one of these departments were not narrow 
specialists. Those who studied the Talmud were 
indifferent neither to Biblical lore nor to poetry, 
and if not poets themselves, they found pleasure 
in the rhythmic compositions of the new Hebrew 
poesy. The philosophers strove to become thor- 
oughly versed in the Talmud, and in many instances 
rabbis were at the same time teachers of philosophy. 

Nor were science and art looked upon by the 
Spanish Jews as mere ornaments, but they exalted 
and ennobled their lives. Many of them were 
filled with that enthusiasm and ideality which does 
not allow the approach of any kind of meanness. 
The prominent men, who, either through their 
political position or their merits stood at the head 
of Jewish affairs in Spain, were for the most part 
noble characters imbued with the highest senti- 
ments. They were as chivalrous as the Andalusian 
Arabs, and excelled them in magnanimity, a charac- 
teristic which they retained long after the Arabs 
had become degenerate. Like their neighbors, they 
had a keen appreciation of their own value, which 
showed itself in -a long string of names, but this 
self-consciousness rested on a firm moral basis. 
They took great pride in their ancestry, and certain 
families, as those of Ibn-Ezra, Alfachar, Alnakvah, 


Ibn-Falyaj, Ibn-Giat, Benveniste, Ibn-Migash, Abu- 
lafia, and others formed the nobility. They did not 
use their birth as a means to obtain privileges, but 
saw therein an obligation to excel in knowledge 
and nobility, so as to be worthy of their ancestors. 
The height of culture which the nations of modern 
times are striving to attain, was reached by the 
Jews of Spain in their most flourishing period. 
Their religious life was elevated and idealized 
through this higher culture. They loved their re- 
ligion with all the fervor of conviction and enthu- 
siasm. Every ordinance of Judaism, as prescribed 
in the Bible and as explained in the Talmud, was 
considered holy and inviolable by them ; but they 
were equally opposed to stolid bigotry and to sense- 
less mysticism. Although they often carried their 
investigation to the borders of unbelief, yet there is 
scarcely one of the Jewish-Spanish thinkers who 
crossed these bounds, nor did extravagant mysti- 
cism find favor with them during the flourishing 
period. No wonder, then, that the Jews of Spain 
were looked upon as superior beings by their un- 
cultured brethren in other lands — in France, Ger- 
many, and Italy — and that they gladly yielded them 
the precedence which had formerly been enjoyed 
by the Babylonian academies. Cordova, Lucena, 
and Granada soon took the place of Sora and 
Pumbeditha. The official chief of the Jews in 
Andalusia was Chanoch, of whom we have already 
spoken (940-1014). He succeeded his father in 
the rabbinate. His rival, Joseph ben Isaac Ibn- 
Abitur (Ibn-Satanas or Santas), a member of a 
respected Andalusian family, was as learned in the 
Talmud, and excelled him in the extent of his secular 
knowledge. Ibn-Abitur wrote in verse. Among other 
things he composed synagogue poetry for the Day 
of Atonement, but his verse is harsh, awkward, and 
altogether devoid of poetic charm. He had not 
profited by the poetry of Dunash. Joseph Ibn- 


Abitur understood the Arabic language so well that 
he was able to translate the Mishna into that lan- 
guage. The Caliph Alhakem had expressed a wish 
to possess a translation of the work containing the 
sources of Jewish tradition, and Ibn- Abitur gratified 
that wish to his satisfaction. The refined Caliph 
probably only desired to increase his library (which 
was of such proportions that the catalogue took up 
twenty-four volumes) by the addition of the Mishna, 
which was so highly valued by the Jews. The men 
most distinguished in philology and Hebrew poetry 
during the period after Chasdai were the pupils of 
Menachem and Dunash. They carried on a con- 
troversy in epigrams, in prose and verse. Of these, 
Isaac Ibn-G'ikatilia was a poet, and Jehuda Ibn- 
Daud a Hebrew grammarian. The latter, whose 
Arabic name was Ibn-Zachariah Yachya Chayuj, 
descended from a family which came from Fez, 
was the first to place Hebrew philology on a firm 
basis, and may be regarded as the first scientific 
grammarian. Chayuj, too, was the first to recog- 
nize that Biblical Hebrew roots consist of three 
letters, and that several consonants (the liquids, 
semi-vowels, and the sounds produced by the 
same organ) become assimilated and change into 
vowels. He thereby made it possible to know the 
different forms and their changes, and to apply 
this knowledge to poetry. Chayuj thus brought 
about a complete reform in the Hebrew language, 
and illumined the darkness wherein his predeces- 
sors, amongst them Saadiah, Menachem, and 
Dunash, and to a greater extent the Karaites, 
had been lost. Chayuj wrote his grammatical 
works in Arabic ; on this account they remained 
unknown to the Jews out of Spain, who retained 
the imperfect systems of Menachem and Dunash in 
their philological studies. 

Although the rabbinate of Cordova was merely 
an honorary office, and Chanoch derived no income 


from it, nevertheless it gave rise to contention after 
Chasda'i's death. The followers of Joseph Ibn- 
Abitur, amongst whom were the numerous Ibn- 
Abitur family, and the brothers Ibn-Jau, silk manu- 
facturers, who were employed at court, endeavored 
to put their favorite at the head of affairs. The 
greater portion of the Jews of Cordova clung to 
Chanoch. The quarrel became too serious to be 
peaceably settled, and each party appealed to the 
Caliph on behalf of its favorite. Seven hundred 
influential men, partisans of Chanoch, betook them- 
selves, in festive apparel, several days in succession 
to Az-Zahra, Alhakem's residence, not far from 
Cordova, in order to obtain the Caliph's favor for 
their rabbi. 

The opposition party made up in zeal what it 
lacked in number. Alhakem decided in favor of 
the majority, and confirmed Chanoch in his rab- 
binate. But as Ibn-Abitur would not relinquish his 
claim, he was excommunicated by the victorious 
party. In spite of this he did not abandon hope. 
He appealed in person to the Caliph. He hoped 
to gain him over through his knowledge of Arabic 
literature, and through his service in translating the 
Mishna, and so effect a reversal of the decree. 
But his hopes were vain. The Caliph addressed 
him in the words : " If my subjects scorned me, as 
the community of Cordova scorns you, I would ab- 
dicate my kingdom. My only advice to you is to 
emigrate." The wish of the Caliph appeared to 
Ibn-Abitur a command, and he left Cordova (975). 
When he saw that he could not gain any followers 
in Spain, he set sail for Africa, traversed Maghreb, 
the Fatimide dominion, and probably also Egypt, 
without finding favor anywhere. Meanwhile, how- 
ever, affairs suddenly took a favorable turn for 
Ibn-Abitur. One of his chief supporters was raised 
to a high position, and used his influence on his 
behalf. This was the silk manufacturer, Jacob Ibn- 


Jau, whose checkered career bears witness to the 
arbitrariness dominant in the Spanish CaHphate 
after the death of the last just and cultured Caliph, 
Alhakem (976). 

The title of Caliph appears to have descended to 
his son Hisham, a sickly youth, but the chief power 
lay in the hands of Mahomet Almansur, the terror 
of the Christians in the mountains of northern 
Spain and of the Africans in their fortresses. 
Under this Mahometan "Major Domus," Jacob 
Ibn-Jau, the supporter of Ibn-Abitur, obtained great 
respect and considerable power over the Jewish- 
Spanish community. The circumstances of his 
good fortune are rather extraordinary. Jacob Ibn- 
Jau and his brother Joseph supplied the court with 
costly embroidered silk. Their goods were ad- 
mired and sought after. Their business brought 
them into contact with Almansur, and on one occa- 
sion they found a considerable sum of money in the 
court of his palace, which had been lost by some 
provincials who had been ill-treated. The brothers 
Ibn-Jau spent the money in presents for the young 
Caliph and Almansur, so as to obtain their favor, 
and procure the recall of the banished Ibn-Abitur. 
Their attempt succeeded. In 985, Almansur ap- 
pointed the elder brother Jacob as prince and chief 
judge of the various Jewish communities in the 
kingdom of the Andalusian Caliphate on both sides 
of the strait, from Segelmessa in Africa as far as 
the Douro. He had the sole right to appoint judges 
and rabbis in the communities, and to determine the 
taxes for state purposes and for communal wants. 
Jacob Ibn-Jau held court, as it were, had eighteen 
pages in his retinue, and drove about in a state 
carriage. The community of Cordova, proud of 
the distinction shown to one of its own members, 
recognized him as its chief, paid homage to him, 
made his office hereditary, and the poets sang his 


As soon as Ibn-Jau was appointed chief of the 
Jews of the Andalusian Caliphate, he tried to 
realize the purposes for which he had sought the 
favor of the court. He gave Chanoch notice to 
discontinue his rabbinical functions, threatening 
that, in case he disobeyed, he would be set adrift 
at sea in a ship without a rudder, thus returning 
to the place whence he had come. Ibn-Jau next 
made preparations to recall his favorite, Ibn-Abitur, 
and to invest him with the dignity of the rabbi- 
nate. But before he could do that, the ban of 
excommunication had to be removed, and for this 
act the consent and approval of the whole com- 
munity were required. Out of regard for Ibn-Jau, 
who was respected at court, all the members of the 
community, amongst whom were his former oppo- 
nents, sent a flattering letter to Ibn-Abitur, inviting 
him to accept the rabbinate of Cordova. Chanoch 
was deposed. When the community of Cordova, 
and especially his friends, had made preparations to 
meet Ibn-Abitur in a worthy manner, they received 
a letter from him which speedily undeceived them. 
He inveighed, in harsh terms, against their reckless 
treatment of his opponent. He praised Chanoch 
in unmeasured terms, saying that in all his wander- 
ings he had never met with a man like him in virtue 
and piety, and at the same time he advised the 
community of Cordova to re-instate him in his office. 

Meanwhile Ibn-Jau could not maintain his au- 
thority. His patron, Almansur, deposed him, and 
cast him into prison, the reason of his condemna- 
tion being his probity and disinterestedness. The 
regent (Hajib) had believed that the Jewish prince 
would use his power over the communities of the 
western Caliphate for the purpose of extorting 
money, and would make him the recipient of rich 
presents ; but Ibn-Jau did not burden the com- 
munity, and, consequently, could not satisfy Alman- 
sur's avarice. For this he was deprived of his 


liberty. After he had been imprisoned for a year 
he was set free by the Caliph Hisham, and restored 
to his former dignity (987). Since, however, 
Almansur was unfavorable to him, he was prac- 
tically powerless. When Ibn-Jau died, one of 
Chanoch's relatives hastened to convey the news 
to him, thinking that he would receive it with joy. 
But this noble rabbi wept at the death of his enemy, 
and said, " Who will now care for the wants of the 
poor like him who has just departed ? I cannot 
take his place, for I myself am poor." 

Chanoch lived to see the beginning of the deca- 
dence of Cordova, and the first general persecution 
of his co-religionists in Germany, Africa, and in the 
East. He was killed by the fall of the reading-desk 
in the synagogue on the last day of the Feast of 
Tabernacles (September, 1014). 

The condition of the Jews in France and Ger- 
many at this time shows how dependent their 
spiritual life was upon external circumstances. 

During the feeble rule of the last Carlovingians, 
and even under the first Capets in France, when 
the temporal and spiritual vassals became more 
powerful than the kings, and also under the Saxon 
emperors, the Jews were oppressed, and their 
literary activity almost entirely checked. The 
canonical laws had long before this debarred them 
from filling offices. They did not seek honor, but 
only, desired to be allowed to live quietly, and to 
observe their religion. But the chiefs of the Church 
disturbed their peaceful condition without any profit 
to themselves. In the French territory, the chief 
power lay in the hands of the barons and the clergy. 
The power of the kings was as yet limited on all 
sides, and could not protect the Jews from tyran- 
nical caprice. Only the fanatical clergy had enter- 
tained prejudices of a theological nature against the 
Jews, but their zeal aroused the hatred of the people 
against the Jews. The people, uncouth, brutish. 



and slaves to superstition, looked upon the sons of 
Israel as a cursed race, unworthy of compassion. 
They accused the Jews of employing evil spells 
against Christians. When the king, Hugh Capet, 
died of a dangerous illness (996), after having been 
treated by a Jewish physician, the people gave 
credence to the report that the Jews had murdered 
him. The chroniclers, too, looked upon this as a 
fact, and entered it upon their annals. 

The Jews, it is true, had fields and vineyards, but 
they lacked personal safety, which could be granted 
only by a strong government. In the south of 
France, in Provence and Languedoc, where the 
king's power was insignificant, the fate of the Jews 
was still more dependent upon the caprice of the 
counts and viscounts. In one place they possessed 
landed property and salt mines, and were even 
allowed to become bailiffs (Bailli) ; in another they 
had to submit to be treated as bondmen. The 
chief community was that of Narbonne. There 
had been a Talmudical school there since the time 
of Charles the Great, but it does not seem to have 
been well supported. There suddenly appeared 
on the scene a Talmudist from the school of Sora, 
who instilled true zeal for the study of the Talmud 
into the Jews of southern France. This may have 
been Nathan bar Isaac, the Babylonian, but more 
probably it was his pupil Leon or Leontin (Jehuda 
ben Meir), who, although he left no works behind 
him, was yet the first founder of the scientific study 
of the Talmud, which henceforth flourished in France 
and Germany. His famous pupil, Gershom, con- 
fessed that he owed all his knowledge to Leon. 

The Jews in Germany at this time of the Saxon 
emperors did not suffer oppression, though they 
were not specially favored. The feudal system 
which existed in Germany forbade them to possess 
landed property, and thus compelled them to be 
tradesmen. Jew and merchant were synonymous 


in Germany. The rich were bankers, those of 
moderate means borrowed money in order to visit 
the fair at Cologne, for which loan they had to pay 
a low, reasonable interest. The German emperors 
continued the custom, which had been introduced 
by the first Carlovingians, of exacting a fixed tribute 
from the Jews. When Otto the Great wished to 
grant a subsidy to the newly-built church at Magde- 
burg, he made it a present of the revenue he derived 
from "the Jews and other merchants" (965). Otto 
II likewise presented " the Jews of Merseburg " to 
the bishop of that town in 981. In the retinue of 
this emperor was an Italian Jew, Kalonymos, who 
was greatly attached to him, and on one occasion 
assisted him at the risk of his own life (982). But the 
much praisea rule of the Ottos gave the Jews sub- 
ject to them no chance of raising themselves from 
their lowly position. The Christian peoples had 
learnt much from the Arabs, but they had not learnt 
to encourage science amongst members of religions 
different from their own. The German Jews in 
consequence, although they led more moral and 
industrious lives than their Christian brethren, were 
not more cultured. They had not even any Tal- 
mudical teachers of note of their own, but got them 
from abroad. Their first Talmudical authority was 
Gershom. He, together with his brother Machir, 
spread the seeds of Talmudic knowledge from the 
south of France to the Rhine, and gave it an im- 
portance that it had not obtained even in the Gaonic 

Gershom ben Jehuda (born 960, died 1028) was 
born in France, and emigrated for some unknown 
reason to Maj^ence. As was mentioned, he was a 
pupil of Leon. In Mayence, Gershom founded a 
school which soon attracted numerous pupils from 
Germany and Italy. The respect for Gershom was 
so great that he was named "The Light of the 
Exile." He expounded the Talmud to his pupils 


with a lucidity unattained by any of his predecessors, 
and his commentaries to the Talmud are also dis- 
tinguished for clearness and directness. 

Gershom was the first commentator of the vast 
Talmud, and he who knows the difficulty of such a 
work will appreciate how much energy, devotion, 
and patience were required for it. He was at once 
recognized as an authority by the German, French, 
and Italian communities. Questions were sub- 
mitted to him, and unwittingly he became the 
rival of the last Gaon Hai, although he looked upon 
him with the reverence of a disciple. Through a 
peculiar combination of circumstances those who 
respected the Gaonate most, contributed to its 
decay. Gershom's commentaries on the Talmud, 
written iii Hebrew, had the result that the Gaonic 
school could be dispensed with, and thus severed 
the German communities and those of northern 
France from it. Any one who chose to do so 
could obtain a deep knowledge of the Talmud with- 
out first seeking aid from Babylonia. Gershom 
also busied himself with the Massora, and made 
a place for its study, which until then had been 
pursued only in Mahometan countries, in Germany 
and in France. 

Gershom became even more famous through his 
decrees than through his commentaries. They 
produced a very wholesome effect upon German 
and French Judaism. Amongst other things he 
forbade polygamy, practiced even among European 
Jews, allowing it in extreme cases only. He decreed 
further that the consent of the wife was necessary 
for a divorce, whilst, according to the Talmud, the 
husband could give her a bill of divorce against her 
wish. He also made an important rule about the 
carrying of letters, viz., that the bearer must not 
read a letter, even though it be not sealed. In 
those times intercourse with one's friends was 
carried on by means of travelers who happened 


to be going in the direction required. Hence this 
regulation was of the utmost importance. Those 
who transgressed this decree were to be laid under 
the ban of excommunication. Although these and 
other institutions were without synodal formality, 
and the author of them was in no way invested with 
official authority, yet, so great was the respect felt 
for Gershom, that they were received by the Ger- 
man and French communities like the decrees of a 
synhedrion, and scrupulously obeyed. 

Contemporary with this authority of the German- 
French communities, there lived in Mayence a man 
whose merits were, until recently, unappreciated. 
This man was Simon ben Isaac ben Abun, of 
French descent, from Le Mans. He was learned 
in the Talmud, and wrote an original work (Yessod) 
on it. He was, besides, a versatile and prolific 
Hebrew poet (Poetan), and wrote a number of litur- 
gical compositions in the style of Kaliri, as heavy 
and ungraceful as his, in which he introduced the 
Agadic literature, often in an enigmatical way. 
Simon ben Isaac was wealthy, and was thus able 
to avert the storm which had gathered, and was 
threatening to break over the Jews of Germany. 

In the eleventh century occurred the first perse- 
cutions of the Jews in Germany. It is possible that 
the conversion of a churchman to Judaism, which 
the chroniclers mentioned in their annals as an un- 
lucky event, roused the anger of the clergy against 
the Jews. The convert, whose name was Wecelinus, 
was chaplain to Duke Conrad, a relative of the 
emperor. After his conversion to Judaism (1005), 
Wecelinus wrote a lampoon on his former religion, 
bearing witness to his own great hatred of Christi- 
anity, and to the coarseness of the taste of the time. 
The emperor Henry, however, was so angry at the 
conversion of the chaplain, that he commissioned 
one of his clergy to write a reply. This he did, and 
it was couched in equally coarse and undignified 


language. Some years later (1012), the emperor 
decreed that the Jews should be expelled from 
Mayence, as a punishment for their refusal to be 
baptized. The decree was probably not confined 
to Mayence, but applied to other communities. 
The poet, Simon ben Isaac, composed dirges, 
lamenting the expulsion, as though it were a terrible 
persecution, intended to uproot Judaism from the 
hearts of its followers. 

Gershom, too, though by no means a poet, gave 
utterance to his grief at the severe persecution of 
Henry II in penitential hymns. "Thou hast made 
those who despise Thy Law," he says, " to have 
dominion over Thy people ; they bow down to 
senseless images, and would compel us, too, to 
worship them. They urge Thine inheritance to 
change Thee for a God of their own making. 
They are determined no longer to call Thee God, 
and to overthrow Thy word. If I say, ' Far be it 
from me to forsake the God of my fathers,' they 
gnash their teeth, put forth their hand for plunder, 
and open their mouth in scoffing. Thy people are 
driven from their homes, they raise their eyes in 
longing to Thee." During this persecution many 
Jews became Christians, either to save their lives 
or their possessions. Among them was Gershom's 
son. When the latter died a Christian, his hapless 
father observed the mourning ceremonials for him 
as for one who had died a Jew. 

Simon ben Isaac, by his zeal, and probably by brib- 
ing the officials with large sums of money, suc- 
ceeded in staying the persecution, and even in 
obtaining permission for the Jews to settle again 
in Mayence. Those Jews who had been compelled 
to submit to baptism now gladly returned to their 
religion, and Gershom protected them from the 
scorn of their brethren on account of their tempo- 
rary apostasy, by threatening to excommunicate 
any one who reproached them. 


The grateful community was anxious to perpet- 
uate the memory of Simon. It was done by men- 
tioning his name in the synagogue every Sabbath, 
and adding, " that he had exerted himself on behalf 
of his brethren, and that through him persecutions 
had ceased." The name of Gershom was likewise 
perpetuated, because " he had enlightened those in 
exile through his decrees." 

The school that had been founded by Gershom 
in Mayence flourished for more than eighty years, 
and became the center of Talmudic activity for 
Germany, France and Italy. At the same time, 
about the end of the fourth century of the Hejira, 
when the Karaites expected the coming of the 
Messiah, persecution broke out against the Jews 
in the East and in Egypt, and lasted longer than 
that in Germany. The German Jews had been 
persecuted because they did not believe in Christ 
and the saints ; the Eastern Jews were now op- 
pressed because they would not believe in Mahomet 
and the immaculate Imam, in the heavenly guide 

This persecution was originated by the mad 
Egyptian Caliph Hakim, a Mahometan Caius Cali- 
gula, who believed that he was the incarnation of 
the divine power, and the vicegerent of God on 
earth. Hakim persecuted all who dared doubt his 
divinity — Mahometans, Jews, and Christians, with- 
out distinction. At first he decreed that if the 
Jews of his dominion did not become converts to the 
Shiitic Islam, they would have to wear round their 
necks the picture of a calf in commemoration of the 
golden calf of their ancestors in the wilderness. 
In addition, they were to be distinguished from the 
believers by their external appearance, as ordained 
by Omar. Those who transgressed were to be 
punished by exile, and by the loss of all their pos- 
sessions (1008). A similar regulation was enacted 
against the Christians. When Hakim heard that 


the Jews evaded his decree by w^earing a golden 
image of a calf, he added a further clause, viz., that 
they should wear in addition a block of wood six 
pounds in weight, and have little bells attached to 
their garments that they might be known at a dis- 
tance as unbelievers (loio). He afterwards ordered 
the churches and synagogues to be destroyed, and 
drove both Jews and Christians out of his kingdom 
(1014). The Fatimide dominions at that time were 
very extensive. They embraced Egypt, northern 
Africa, Palestine and Syria, and since Hakim had 
adherents also in the Caliphate of Bagdad, there 
were but few places of refuge open to the Jews. 
Many, therefore, outwardly conformed to Islam, 
while waiting for better times to come. The perse- 
cution lasted till the Mahometans themselves grew 
tired of the half-witted Caliph, and assassinated him 

Northern Africa, too, which had enjoyed a brief 
efflorescence under Isaac Israeli, Dunash ben Ta- 
mim, and the alien R. Chushiel, produced its last 
set of great men in the latter part of the eleventh 
century, and then sank into oblivion. Its two great 
authorities were Chananel, the son of Chushiel, the 
immigrant, and Nissim bar Jacob Ibn-Shahin (1015- 
1055). They lived in the same place, and are 
usually named together, but they do not appear to 
have been on friendly terms with each other. On 
the contrary, there appears to have been the same 
rivalry between them as there had been between 
Chanoch and Ibn-Abitur, Nissim, like the latter, 
being a native, and Chananel, like the former, the 
son of an alien. We are not even certain which of 
the two was the official rabbi of Kairuan ; both of 
them, however, presided over the school. Chana- 
nel, in addition, had a large business ; whilst Nissim 
was so poor that he had to be supported by the 
Jewish minister in Granada. They, however, showed 
remarkable similarity in their ideas ; they pursued 


the same studies, and wrote works on the same 
subjects, but Chananel made use of the Hebrew 
language, and Nissim of Arabic. 

A new element in the study of the Talmud, which 
established it on a firmer basis than that on which 
the Geonim had been able to place it, was added 
by the labors of these two men. The Jerusalem 
Talmud, although more ancient than the Babylo- 
nian, had suffered considerably by the fate to which 
books as well as men are exposed. Whilst the 
Babylonian Talmud was known and studied in the 
East to the boundaries of Khorasan and India, and 
in the West to the end of the ancient world, its com- 
panion remained for a long time unknown outside 
of its birthplace. The former had commentators, 
who explained and expounded it thoroughly; the 
latter was for a long time neglected. In conse- 
quence of the connection of northern Africa with 
Palestine, brought about through its conquest by 
the Fatimide Caliphs, the Jewish teachers of the 
two lands came into contact with each other, and 
the Talmud of the Holy Land (as it was called) 
became known in Kairuan. The two great Tal- 
mudists, Chananel and Nissim, were the first in 
Talmudic circles to busy themselves with it. In 
their Talmudical writings, which consisted partly of 
commentaries, explanations of separate words and 
the subject-matter, and partly of practical decisions, 
they gave prominence to the Jerusalem Talmud. 
Both wrote commentaries to the Pentateuch, in 
which they followed the path marked out by Saadiah 
for rational exposition of difficult passages in the 

They were both in constant communication with 
Babylonia on the one hand and with Spain on the 
other, and formed, so to speak, the link between the 
two lands. They lived to see the utter extinction 
of the Gaonate, but after their death the school of 
Kairuan sank into complete insignificance. One 


of its pupils, who afterwards became famous as a 
rabbinical authority, owed his fame solely to his 
emigration to Spain. 

The institutions, too, and the traditions of Baby- 
lonian-Persian Judaism showed manifest signs of 
decay at this time. • They possessed, it is true, two 
men of extraordinary ability, viz. Ha'i and Samuel 
ben Chofni, but these were not in a position to stay 
its dissolution, and could only throw a dim light 
upon the dying Gaonate. 

.Ha'i (or Haya, born 969, died 1038), who had in 
his eighteenth year been raised to the highest office 
next to the Gaon, at the age of thirty years suc- 
ceeded his father Sherira in the Gaonate of Pumbe- 
ditha. At his installation the high honor was 
accorded him of having his name mentioned when 
a portion from the Prophets was publicly read, and 
he was compared to King Solomon. Foreign com- 
munities, as well as the Babylonians, showed him 
the highest respect. His character was noble, and 
he was a man of independent thought. He was 
versed in all branches of science as they were then 
taught, and displayed great literary activity. Hai 
reminds one of Saadiah, whom he took as his model, 
and whom he defended from attacks, but he was 
essentially a Talmudist, whereas Saadiah was a reli- 
gious philosopher. Like him Ha'i was a thorough 
Arabic scholar, and made use of that language in 
many of his letters, and-in numerous scientific treat- 
ises. Like the Gaon of Fayum he was free from 
that narrow-minded exclusiveness which permits 
men to see the truth only in their own religion, and 
causes them to look upon everything outside as 
untrue. He was on friendly terms with the head of 
the Eastern Christians of Bagdad, and on one occa- 
sion, when in his exegetical lectures he chanced 
upon a difficult passage, he did not hesitate to con- 
sult the Patriarch (Mar-Elia I.). 

CH. VIII. HA'i GAON. 25 1 

In his explanation of rare and archaic words in 
the Bible, Hai boldly sought assistance from the 
Koran and the old traditions of the Mahometans 
in order to confirm their meaning. He was an 
unprejudiced sage, who loved the light and avoided 
darkness. He often had disputations with Ma- 
hometan theologians about the relation between 
Judaism and Islam, and is said often to have silenced 
them by his eloquence. His main study, however, 
was the Talmud. In this he resembled his father 
Sherira, but his study was productive of better 
results. He wrote a terse commentary, in which 
he explained the words in the most difficult portions 
of the Mishna and the Talmud. 

Hai treated of the civil law of the Talmud, of 
contracts, loans, boundaries and oaths, with sys- 
tematic precision. He did this as no one before 
him had done, and he therefore became the model 
and authority for later generations. He did not 
enter upon the field of metaphysics, but although 
he was not a philosopher, he had sound opinions 
on mysticism. Surrounded with a halo of religion, 
a mystic belief often appears reasonable to those of 
weak reasoning powers, but Hai perceived its decep- 
tive character. 

The belief in miracles has, in every country, at 
all times, and in all creeds, befogged the intellect 
of unthinking men, and robbed them of the ability 
to form a rational view of divine wisdom and of life. 
This belief was fostered by the Jews in many ways, 
and took as firm a hold on them, as it had on the 
Christian and the Mahometan world. It was espe- 
cially prevalent in Palestine and Italy. Its devotees 
believed that any one who is truly pious can perform 
at will miracles as great and surprising as those of 
the prophets of old. They thought, however, that 
for this purpose it is necessary to pronounce certain 
magical formulae, consisting of various combinations 
of the letters in the name of God. Hai's true 


religious insight prompted him to write indignantly 
against this belief, which, despite the fact that his 
father was not free from it, he considered a dese- 
cration of religion. A pupil of Jacob ben Nissim of 
Kairuan once asked Hai what he thought of the 
magical power of the names of God, which, many 
boasted, they could use. Ha'i answered briefly and 
sensibly : — " If any one by the mere use of formulae 
could perform miracles, and thereby alter the 
course of nature, wherein lay the distinction of the 
prophets ? " God gave the prophets the power of 
temporarily altering the laws of nature that they 
might prove themselves His true- messengers. 
Now, if pious persons could do the same, and if 
there happened to be many of them, miracles would 
become daily occurrences, and the motion of the 
sun from west to east would appear no more extra- 
ordinary than its common motion in the opposite 
direction — in short, miracles would cease to be 
miracles. " It is wrong," said Hai, " to make use 
of the name of God for such purposes," and he 
warned the people against this practice, in which 
there is much doubt and little truth ; and a man 
must be indeed foolish who believes everything. 

Ha'i was universally acknowledged as an au- 
thority, and through his influence the school of 
Pumbeditha somewhat recovered its prestige. The 
great scholars Nissim and Chananel of Kairuan, the 
community of Fez, the vizir Samuel Nagid, Ger- 
shom of Mayence, the authority of the German 
Jews, and the other authorities of the communities 
of three parts of the world, submitted questions to 
him, and honored him as the chief representative of 
Judaism. He was called " the father of Israel." 
The Exilarchate had been practically extinct since 
the death of the grandson of David ben Zaccai, and 
Hai stood at the head of Judaism. No fitter man 
could have been found to represent it. Unlike 
the former Geonim of Pumbeditha, who all looked 


askance at the sister academy, unlike his father, who 
felt a keen delight when Sera was without a chief, 
Hai did his best to give it a leader in the person 
of Samuel ben Chofni, who filled his office during 
Hai's Gaonate. Samuel was his father-in-law, and 
his equal in learning and character. He wrote sev- 
eral systematic works on the ritual, and a com- 
mentary on the Pentateuch, in which he set forth 
the same philosophical views about the unity of 
God as the followers of the Mutazilist school. His 
commentary on the Pentateuch, indeed, is not very 
much praised. It was, like the Karaite commen- 
taries, diffuse, and contained discussions on irrele- 
vant questions. But although his exegetical works 
mark no distinct progress, yet they show the impor- 
tant fact that the Geonim followed the scientific lines 
laid down by Saadiah. Samuel ben Chofni's inter- 
pretations of the Bible are all rationalistic. He 
always endeavors to explain the miraculous events 
narrated in the Bible as if they were natural. He 
explained the story of the witch of Endor, and of 
Balaam, as dreams. Like Saadiah, he attacked 
Karaism, the occasion being a keen controversy 
which broke out at that time between the Karaites 
and the Rabbanites. Samuel ben Chofni died four 
years before his son-in-law Hai (1034), and thus 
ended the line of the Geonim of Sora. 

This school does not appear to have made any 
effort to continue after his death. The times were 
in every way unfavorable to the Gaonate, and it 
was impossible for it to regain its pristine vigor. 
When Hai died, in 1038, mourned by all the Jews, 
and eulogized by the greatest poet of the time, Ibn- 
Gebirol, and by his admirer Chananel, in Africa, the 
time for the dissolution of the school of Pumbe- 
ditha had also come. It is true that the college 
immediately chose a successor, who acted at once 
as Gaon and as Exilarch, it seems only in order to 
have the two offices buried together in the same 
grave with his person. 


Chiskiya, the great grandson of the quarrelsome 
Exilarch David ben Zaccai, was appointed head of 
the school. But the glory which it was thought he 
would shed upon the school could not make itself 
visible. Chiskiya had many implacable enemies 
who were jealous of his elevation. They slandered 
him at court, for what reason or under what pretext 
is unknown. The political power of the Eastern 
Caliphate was at that time in the hands of Jelal 
Addaulah. He had wrested from the phantom 
caliph the title of " King of kings," -and exacted 
tribute from both Jews and Christians. The great 
Sultan may have made use of the just or unjust 
complaint against Chiskiya for his own profit. The 
last Gaon was imprisoned, tortured probably, that 
he might discover his treasures, robbed of all his 
property, and then executed (1040). Thus the 
Gaonate came to an end through the oppression of 
the weak Caliphate. Babylonia had played its part 
in Jewish history, and for a long time it sank into 
complete oblivion. Chiskiya's two sons were also 
in danger of arrest, but they escaped, and after 
traveling about for a long time, settled in Spain, 
where they were respected as the last members of 
the House of David, and under the name Ibn- 
Daudi, devoted themselves to the cultivation of the 

Jewish Spain thus became the heir of Judaea, 
Babylonia, and northern Africa, and greatly in- 
creased its inheritance for succeeding generations. 
There the exiled sons of the Jewish-Chazar princes, 
and of the Exilarchs, found a refuge. At the head 
of the community of Andalusia was Samuel Ibn- 
Nagrela (or Nagdela), a man distinguished for 
wisdom, virtue and position, the first of the succes- 
sion of Jewish teachers coming after the Geonim. 
He united in his person all the virtues of the three 
men who had made Jewish Spain famous. He was 
like Chasda'i, a generous chief and a patron of 


learning, like Moses ben Chanoch, a thorough Tal- 
mudist, and like Dunash ben Labrat, a poet and 

The life of Samuel (Ishmael) Halevi Ibn-Nagrela 
was remarkable. He was born in Cordova (in 993), 
whither his father had emigrated from Merida, and 
studied the Talmud in the school of Chanoch. Je- 
huda Chayuj, the father of Hebrew philology, in- 
structed him in the subtleties of the Hebrew lan- 
guage, and the Andalusian capital,' which was then 
the center of culture, offered him sufficient oppor- 
tunity to make himself master of Arabic. When 
he was 20 years old, in consequence of civil war, 
he and many others were obliged to quit Cordova. 
The Barbary chieftain, Suleiman, having defeated 
the Arabs and the Sclavonian body-guard of the 
Caliphs in battle, destroyed the beautiful buildings 
of the capital with African fury, permitted the 
women to be- violated, and reduced the richest 
families to beggary (April, 1013). 

The noble J ewish families emigrated to Granada, 
Toledo, and even to Saragossa, to escape this per- 
secution. Samuel Ibn-Nagrela settled in the port 
of Malaga. 

He had a small business, and at the same time 
pursued Talmudic and linguistic studies. Besides 
Hebrew, Arabic and Chaldee, he understood four 
languages, including Latin, Castilian and the Berber 
tongue. Unlike most other Jews, who wrote Arabic 
in Hebrew characters, Ibn-Nagrela was a master of 
Arabic calligraphy, an art highly esteemed among 
the Arabs. To his knowledge of languages and 
calligraphy he owed the high position which he 
held, and which had not been attained by any Jew 
since the destruction of the Jewish state. 

Civil wars and the ambition of the Emirs had 
broken up the empire of the Ommiyyade Caliphs 
into small principalities. Andalusia, after the fall 
of the last Ommiyyades, was subdivided like Ger- 


many and Italy of the past. The Arab historians 
call the regents of this period the " Kings of 
Anarchy." One race of Berbers, the Sinhajas, 
founded a kingdom of their own in the south of 
Spain, under .a leader named Maksen (1020). 
Granada, largely populated by Jews, became the 
capital of this kingdom, and Malaga was also a 
part of it. In Malaga, Abulkasim Ibn-Alarif, the 
vizir of Habus, the second king of Granada, had a 
palace next to Samuel's little shop. This brought 
good fortune to the poor scholar, and raised him 
above want, and ultimately exalted him to a height 
worthy of his greatness. 

A slave of the vizir who frequently furnished 
information to her master, regularly had her letters 
written by the poor Jew. These letters displayed so 
much linguistic and calligraphic skill that the vizir 
Ibn-Alarif became anxious to know the writer. He 
had Ibn-Nagrela called into his presence, and took 
him into his service as his private secretary (1025). 
The vizir soon discovered that Samuel possessed 
great political insight, and consulted him on all 
important affairs of state, and as his advice was 
always sound, the vizir at length undertook nothing 
without Samuel's approval. 

When Ibn-Alarif fell ill, King Habus was in 
despair as to what to do about his complicated 
relations with neighboring states. The dying vizir 
referred him to his Jewish secretary, confessed that 
his successful undertakings had been mainly due to 
Samuel's wise suggestions, and advised Habus to 
employ him as a counselor. The Berber king of 
Granada,, who had fewer prejudices against the 
Jews than the Arab Mussulmans, raised Samuel 
Ibn-Nagrela to the dignity of minister (Katib), and 
put him in charge of the diplomatic and military 
affairs (1027). Thus the shopkeeper of Malaga 
lived in the king's palace, and had a voice in all 
matters concerning the Pyrenean peninsula. For 


a Mahometan who chose a vizir ruled, but did not 
govern. This was the affair of the chief minister, 
who was answerable to the king with his life. 
Habus had no reason to regret his choice. His 
kingdom flourished under the rule of the wise and 
active Jewish vizir. Samuel knew how to occupy 
the king, and how to please him. He composed a 
poem of praise to Habus in seven different lan- 
guages. Diplomatic, wise, and always master of 
himself Ibn-Nagrela knew how to employ circum- 
stances, and had the art of disarming his opponents 
He drew a masterly picture of a worthy governor, 
which seems to have been his own guide : "He 
whose counsel is as pure as sunlight, who is free 
from base desires, whose eyes do not close in sleep, 
whose thoughts are firm as towers, whom dignity 
encompasses like shining armor, who knows how to 
subdue the will of others, and keeps aloof from 
what brings disgrace, is worthy to rule." His 
wisdom and piety preserved him from the pride 
peculiar to those that have risen from low estate, 
making them hateful. The gentleness with which 
he opposed his enemies is shown by an anecdote. 
Near the palace of Habus there lived a Mussulman 
seller of spices, who no sooner beheld the Jewish 
minister in the company of the king, than he over- 
whelmed him with curses and reproaches. Habus, 
indignant at such conduct, commanded Samuel to 
punish this fanatic by cutting out his tongue. The 
Jewish vizir, however, knew how to silence him who 
cursed. He gave him money, and converted the 
curses into blessings. When Habus again noticed 
the seller of spices, he was astonished at the change, 
and questioned Samuel about it. He replied, "I 
have torn out his angry tongue, and given him 
instead a kind one." The seller of spices, how- 
ever, was not his only enemy ; there were several 
others, and very dangerous ones. The fanatical 
Mahometans beheld in the elevation of an unbe- 


liever to so high a rank a mockery of their rehgion. 
It aroused their displeasure to see the numerous 
Jews of the kingdom of Granada hold their heads 
aloft as though on an equality with the Moslems. 
Two officers of state, Ibn- Abbas and Ibn-Abi Musa, 
plotted to depose him. But their plots failed, and 
they were condemned to death. Fortune ever 
smiled on this Jewish vizir, although he was at one 
time in danger of losing his position and his life. 
When King Habus died in 1037 there arose two 
parties in Granada, who rallied round two princes. 
Most of the Barbary grandees, and some of the 
influential Jews, Joseph Ibn-Migash, Isaac ben 
Leon, and Nehemia Ashkafa, sided with the younger 
son, Balkin (or Bologgin) ; a smaller party (amongst 
them Samuel) desired that the elder son, named 
Badis, should be the successor. The influential 
party were ready to hail Balkin as king, when he 
abdicated in favor of his brother. Badis became 
king (October, 1037), and Samuel not only retained 
his former position, but became the actual king of 
Granada, as the pleasure-loving Badis gave but 
little attention to affairs of government. Later on 
Balkin repented of his generosity to his brother, 
and put obstacles In the way of his government. 
Badis therefore hinted to the physician of Balkin to 
refrain from giving him medicine during an illness, 
and this led to his death. After his death the gov- 
ernment of Badis and the position of Ibn-Nagrela 
remained undisturbed. Balkin's partisans were 
forced to leave Granada, and amongst them the 
three Jews mentioned above. They emigrated to 
Seville, and were there received in a friendly man- 
ner by the king of that country, Mahomet Aljafer, 
who was an opponent of the king of Granada. One 
of the fugitives, Joseph Ibn-Migash, was raised by 
the king of Seville to a high position, and became 
the "ancestor of a prominent personage. It is 
interesting to see in the writings of a contemporary 


historian the form used by the Jewish minister in 
the royal decrees addressed to the Mahometan 
people. Samuel, or as he was called, Ismael Ibn- 
Nagrela, did not shrink from using the formulae 
of Moslem rulers. He opened with the words, 
Chamdu-1-Illahi (praised be God), and added, when 
mentioning the name of Mahomet, the sentence, 
"May God pray over him and bless him." He 
exhorted those to whom the circulars were ad- 
dressed to live according to the principles of Islam ; 
and in general his ordinances were couched in the 
Mahometan style. 

Without doubt both Habus and Badis permitted 
the Jewish vizir to exercise authority over the Jewish 
congregations of Granada, similar to that which 
Chasdai and Ibn-Jau had possessed in Cordova. 
Samuel was named chief and prince (Nagid) of the 
Jews, and this title is used by Jewish authors. The 
minister of state was also the rabbi ; he presided 
over the school, where he delivered lectures on the 
Talmud to his disciples. He gave judicial decisions 
on religious questions, and in fact completely filled 
the functions of a rabbi of the time. The same pen 
which wrote the decrees of the government was 
used for treatises and discourses on the Talmud. 
Samuel Nagid compiled a methodology of the 
Talmud (Mebo ha-Talmud), in which he clearly 
explained the technical expressions of the Talmud. 
As an introduction, he added a list of the bearers 
of tradition from the men of the Great Assembly 
through the successive authorities of the Tanaite, 
Amoraite, Saburaite, and Gaonic schools down to 
Moses and Chanoch, his teachers. He afterwards 
composed a commentary to the whole Talmud for 
religious practices, which was afterwards highly 
prized, and was recognized as the standard authority 
(Hilchetha Gabriatha). Samuel Ibn-Nagrela was also 
a neo-Hebraic poet, and employed both rhyme and 
meter skilfully. He composed prayers in the form 


of psalms, full of religious depth and submission, 
and called the collection the Young Psalter (Ben 
Tehillim). He wrote thoughtful aphorisms and 
parables, the fruit of his deep observation of men 
and manners, and called this composition the 
younger book of Proverbs (Ben Mishle). Last he 
compiled a book of philosophy modeled on that 
of the Preacher (Ben Kohelet). The latter, written 
when he had attained an advanced age, was the 
most successful of his works, and is full of deep 
thought and eloquence. He also composed epi- 
grams and songs of praise, but his poetic compo- 
sitions, both secular and spiritual, are heavy and 
dull, full of thought, but devoid of beauty of form. 
It became proverbial to say, " Cold as the snow of 
Hermon, or as the songs of the Levite Samuel." 

It is not remarkable that a man of such pure 
integrity and deep appreciation of wisdom and 
religion should spread blessings around him, should 
advance science and poetry, and should support 
learning with princely generosity. Samuel was in 
communication with the most prominent men of his 
time, in Irak, Syria, Egypt, and Africa, especially 
with the last of the great Geonim, Ha'i and with 
Nissim. He gave rich gifts to the learned, he had 
copies of books made to be presented to poor stu- 
dents, arousing dormant talents and becoming the 
protector of his countrymen, far and near. The 
greatest poet of the time, Ibn-Gebirol, he comforted 
in his distress. A writer of the following genera- 
tion aptly describes him in the words, " In Samuel's 
time the kingdom of science was raised from its 
lowliness, and the star of knowledge once more 
shone forth ; God gave unto him a great mind 
which reached to the spheres and touched the 
heavens, so that he might love knowledge and those 
that pursued her, and that he might glorify religion 
and her followers." 


The position of the Jews in a country in which 
one of them held the reins of government was 
naturally high. In no country of the world did they 
enjoy so complete an equality as in the city of 
Granada. It was as a ray of sunshine after days 
of gloom. They were, in fact, more highly favored 
by the ruling race, the Berbers, than the Arab 
population, who bore the yoke of the Sinhajas with 
silent anger, and whose glances were always directed 
to the neighboring city of Seville, in which a king of 
pure Arab race wore the crown. 

The minister of state and rabbi, Ibn-Nagrela, 
also occupied himself with researches into the struc- 
ture of the holy language, but this was his weak 
point. He did not get beyond the rules laid down 
by Chayuj. He was so partial to this master that 
he could not appreciate new efforts. Samuel com- 
posed twenty- two theses on Hebrew grammar. 
Only one, however, Sefer-ha Osher, the " Book of 
Riches," is worthy of mention. The rest were only 
polemic treatises directed against the great Hebrew 
linguist, Ibn Janach, towards whom Samuel was 
unfriendly. Ibn Janach, the greatest Hebraist of 
his time — no less an ornament of Spanish Judaism 
than the vizir Ibn-Nagrela — deserves a special page 
in Jewish history, more especially because for a 
long time he was unknown and then misunderstood. 
Jonah Marinus (in Arabic, Abulvalid Mervan Ibn- 
Janach, born about 995, died 1050), was educated 
in Cordova, where after the death of Chasda'i all 
hearts were filled with enthusiasm for knowledge 
and a devoted love for the holy language. Isaac 
Ibn-G'ikatilia, of the school of Menachem, taught 
him Hebrew grammar, and Isaac Ibn-Sahal was his 
teacher in prosody. He studied medicine in the 
high school of Cordova, founded by the Caliph 
Alhakem. In his youth Ibn-Janach, like everybody 
at that period, made verses, which even later on, 
when his taste was developed, did not appear to 


him entirely bad. But he gave up versifying in 
order-to devote himself entirely to the study of the 
Hebrew language in all its ramifications. He lived 
entirely for this study, and obtained such mastery 
of it that up to the present day he has not been 
surpassed. Posterity has learnt much from Ibn- 
Janach, but students of the Hebrew language can 
yet learn much more. Like his opponent Ibn- 
Nagrela, he also was compelled to leave Cordova 
after its destruction by Suleiman of Barbary (1013), 
when he settled in Saragossa. The Jews of Sara- 
gossa were for the most part still laboring under 
the delusion that rabbinical Judaism would be in- 
jured by research, and especially by grammatical 
investigations. Ibn-Janach nevertheless devoted 
himself to the study of the structure of the Hebrew 
language and to the explanation of the text of the 
Bible. He also pursued the study of medicine both 
theoretically and practically ; but his chief attention 
was directed to a thorough exegesis of the Bible, 
and grammatical research with him was not an end 
in itself, but simply the means for a better compre- 
hension of Holy Writ. Ibn-Janach, in his researches, 
reached conclusions not discovered by Chayuj. The 
alterations which on this account he necessarily had 
to make in the grammatical system of Chayuj, were 
made modestly and with due recognition of its 
merits. He had the greatest admiration for the 
founder of Hebrew philology, but like Aristotle, 
" his love of truth was greater than his love of 
Plato." This independence of Chayuj's teaching 
aroused the anger of the latter's followers, chief 
amongst whom was Samuel Ibn-Nagrela, and the 
disputes that arose ended in bitter personalities 
The two chief exponents of the Jewish culture of 
this period, the noble-minded prince and the master 
of the Hebrew language, thus became bitter, irre- 
concilable enemies. 


Feeling the approach of old age, which with 
Plato he calls " the mother of forgetfulness," Ibn- 
Janach devoted himself to his greatest work, wherein 
he summed up his researches, and deposited the 
treasures of his soul life. Ibn-Janach was not only 
the creator of the science of Hebrew syntax, but he 
also developed it almost to perfection. None before 
him, and but few since his time, have entered into 
all the niceties of the holy language with so much 
discrimination as Ibn-Janach. He first drew atten- 
tion to the ellipses, and to the misplacement of 
letters and verses in the Holy Scriptures, and he 
was sufficiently daring to explain that various dark 
and apparently inexplicable expressions were due 
to the change of a letter or a syllable. He ex- 
plained over two hundred obscure passages by 
means of the supposition that the writer had substi- 
tuted an inappropriate word for a more fitting one. 
By the insertion of the correct word, Ibn-Janach 
often gives the intended meaning to a number of 
verses which up to his time had been interpreted 
in a childish way. He was the first rational Bible 
critic. Although convinced of the divinity of Holy 
Writ, he did not, like others, rate the language so 
highly as to accept sheer nonsense ; but he assumed 
that, even though inspired, words addressed to 
mankind must be interpreted according to the rules 
of human language. Ibn-Janach did not, indeed, 
assert that the copyists and punctuators had altered 
or corrupted the holy literature from want of under- 
standing, but that being human they had erred. He 
justly called his chief work (which with five others 
he wrote in Arabic) " Critique " (Al Tanchik), and 
divided it into two parts — into grammar with exe- 
gesis ("Al-Luma', Rikmah"), and lexicon ("Kitab 
Al-Assval "). 

Although Ibn-Janach had many enemies amongst 
those who belittled him, and amongst those who 
condemned him as a heretic on account of his 


scientific treatment of the Bible, yet in his work he 
never mentions them in anger, and, in fact, had he 
been the only one concerned, the world would never 
have known of the enmity of Samuel Ibn-Nagrela 
towards him. Ibn-Janach was not unacquainted 
with philosophy. He refers to Plato and Aristotle 
in a scholarly manner. He also wrote a book on 
logic in the Aristotelian spirit. But he was opposed 
to metaphysical researches into the relation of God 
to the world, and first principles, speculations with 
which his countrymen, and especially Ibn-Gebirol, 
concerned themselves, because he considered that 
such matters did not lead to any definite knowledge, 
and that they undermine belief. Ibn-Janach was a 
clear thinker, and opposed to any extravagant or 
eccentric tendency. He was the opposite of the 
third of the triumvirate of this period, his townsman 
Ibn-Gebirol, with whom his relations apparently 
were not of the pleasantest kind. 



Solomon Ibn-Gebirol— His early life— His poems— The statesman 
Yekutiel Ibn-Hassan befriends him— Murder of Yekutiel— 
Bachya Ibn-Pakuda and his moral philosophy — The Biblical 
critic Yizchaki ben Yasus — Joseph ben Chasdai, the Poet— Death 
of Samuel Ibn-Nagrela — Character of his son Joseph and his 
tragic fate — Death of Ibn-Gebirol — The French and German 
communities — Alfassi — Life and works of Rashi — Jewish scholars 
in Spain — King Alfonso. 

1027 — 1070 c. E. 

An ideal personage, richly endowed, a poet, and at 
the same time a great thinker, was Solomon Ibn- 
Gebirol (Jebirol), in Arabic, Abu Ayub Sulaiman 
Ibn-Yachya (born 102 1, died 1070). His father, 
Judah, who lived in Cordova, appears to have 
emigrated with Ibn-Nagrela, during the disturb- 
ances that befell the city, to Malaga. In this place 
was born and bred the Jewish Plato, by whom 
many hearts have been warmed, and from whom 
many minds have gained light. It appears that 
Ibn-Gebirol lost his parents early, and that they 
left him without means. His tender, poetical soul 
grew sad in his loneliness ; he withdrew from the 
outer world, and became absorbed in self-contem- 
plation. Poetry and a faith resting upon a philo- 
sophical basis seem, like two angels, to have 
shadowed him with their wings, and to have saved 
him from despair. But they could not bring joy 
to his heart ; his thoughts remained serious, and 
his songs have a mournful strain. 

At an age when other men still indulge in the 

frivolities of youth, Ibn-Gebirol was a finished poet, 

outshining all his predecessors. His poems show 

that words and rhymes, thoughts and metaphors, 




readily and exuberantly came to him. He im- 
proved the Hebrew meter and softened its tones. . 
The poetic muse, which had been personified neither 
in Biblical nor in neo- Hebraic poetry, he depicted as 
a dove with golden wings and a sweet voice. In his 
desolation and distress the young poet found a 
comforter and protector in a man whom his poems 
have immortalized. Yekutiel Ibn- Hassan or Alhas- 
san appears to have had a high position in Sara- 
gossa, under King Yachya Ibn-Mondhir, similar to 
that held by Samuel Ibn-Nagrela in Granada. This 
distinguished man kindly protected the desolate 
poet, supported him and soothed him with his 
friendship. Ibn-Gebirol poured forth the praises 
of his patron, under whose protection his heart was 
taught a more cheerful philosophy of life. At this 
time his muse sang the praises of his patrons and 
friends, and his pictures of nature are bright, 
graphic and spirited. 

But fate did not long permit him to enjoy these 
privileges, and before he had begun to feel the joy 
of living, his protector was snatched away from 
him. Abdallah Ibn-Hakam plotted against the 
king, his cousin, attacked and murdered him in his 
palace, and took possession of the treasures. The 
king's favorites were not spared by the conspira- 
tors, and Yekutiel Ibn- Alhassan was imprisoned and 
afterwards killed. Northern Spain was plunged 
into grief over the tragic end of the well-beloved 
Yekutiel. Ibn-Gebirol's grief was without bounds, 
and his elegy- on his benefactor is touching, withal 
a model of lofty poetry. The poem numbers 
more than two hundred verses, and is a memorial 
both of the departed and of the poet. Ibn-Gebirol 
again fell a prey to melancholy after this incident, 
and his poetry henceforth reflects the gloom in 
which his mind was shrouded. But what would 
have borne down another, stimulated him to fresh 
flights, and he now approached the summit of his 


poetic and literary greatness. Versifying was so 
easy to him that in his nineteenth year (1040) he 
wrote a Hebrew grammar with all its dry rules in 
four hundred verses, hampering himself, moreover, 
by acrostic tricks, and the repetition of the same 
rhyme throughout (Anak). In the introduction to 
this poem Ibn-Gebirol describes the holy language 
as one favored by God, "in which the angel choirs 
daily praise their Creator, in which God revealed 
the Sinaitic Law, the prophets prophesied and the 
psalmists sung." He blamed his countrymen, the 
men of Saragossa, the blind community, for their 
indifference to pure Hebrew. " Some speak Idu- 
msean (Romance), and some the language of 
Kedar" (Arabic). His versified Hebrew Gram- 
mar was intended to awaken love for the language 
of the Bible, and at the same time to teach the 
laws of the language. 

In Saragossa, Ibn-Gebirol composed a work on 
moral philosophy (1045), which, without possessing 
the depth of his later philosophical works, is remark- 
able for the peculiar spirit which pervades it, and 
for the intimate acquaintance with the masters of 
philosophy evinced by this young man. By the 
side of the sayings of Holy "Writ and ethical sen- 
tences from the Talmud, Ibn-Gebirol put the favorite 
sayings of the "divine Socrates," of his disciple Plato, 
of Aristotle, of Arabic philosophers, and more espe- 
cially those of a Jewish philosopher, Alkuti (perhaps 
Chepez Alkuti). It is surprising how so young a 
writer could have had so deep an insight into the 
condition of the human soul and into worldly affairs. 
Ibn-Gebirol's writings contained scornful criticism 
of various personages in the community of Sara- 
gossa, whom he no doubt desired to offend. They 
must have felt his castigation the more keenly, as 
he said, " I need not mention names, for they are 
sufficiently well known." He describes the haughty, 
who look down upon their fellow-citizens, and 



always consider their own counsel the best, and 
those who, filled with hate, bear words of love on 
their lips. The pamphlet seems, in fact, to have 
been a challenge to his opponents in Saragossa. 
Ibn-Gebirol, in consequence of its publication, was 
turned out of Saragossa (in 1045) by the influential 
men whom he had embittered. 

In return, he describes the town as a second 
Gomorrha in a mournful, heart-rending lamenta- 
tion, the beautifully rhythmical cry of distress 
uttered by despair. Whither he next went is not 
known. The unfortunate young poet was so incon- 
solable that he determined, in his indignation, to 
leave Spain altogether, and to go to Egypt, Pales- 
tine and Babylonia. In a poem he encourages his 
soul in the resolve to shake off the dust of Spain. 
He calls to memory the example of the patriarchs 
and of the greatest prophet, who left their native 
lands and went to foreign climes. He thus apos- 
trophizes Spain : 

" Woe to thee, land of my foes, 
In thee I have no portion, 
Whether joy or sorrow be thy lot." 

He did not, however, carry out his determination 
to emigrate, but wandered about in Spain, meeting 
with real or imaginary misfortunes. He complained 
of the inconstancy of the times and of his friends, 
and poured forth his plaints in beautiful verses : 

"Blame me not for my heavy-flowing tears, 
But for them were my heart consumed, 
My wanderings have bereft me of all strength, 
A fly could now with ease bear me up." 

The tutelary genius of the Spanish Jews, Samuel 
Ibn-Nagrela, appears to have taken an interest in 
Ibn-Gebirol, and to have found a refuge for him. 
For this kindness Ibn-Gebirol extolled Nagrela in 
melodious lines. Under the powerful protection 
of the Jewish minister he occupied himself with 

CH. IX. gebirol's philosophy. 269 

philosophical studies, which held the place next to 
poetry in his heart. If poetry was his beloved, 
philosophy was a mother to him. He thus sings : 

" How shall Iforsake wisdom ? 
I have made a covenant with her. 
She is my mother, I her dearest child ; 
She hath clasped her jewel about my neck. 
Shall I cast aside the glorious ornament ? 
While life is mine, my spirit shall aspire 
Unto her heavenly heights. 
I will not rest until I find her source." 

As Ibn-Gebirol, whilst yet a child, created the 
most difficult artistic forms of Hebrew poetry, and 
handled them with sportive ease ; so while still a 
youth, he built up a system attempting to solve the 
deepest problems which concern the human under- 
standing. What is the highest aim of man ? What 
is the nature and origin of the soul, and whither 
does it go when it leaves its earthly dwelling? 
How is the highest Being to be conceived, and how 
did He, being One and perfect, bring forth the 
manifold, corrupt and defective things of a visible 
world? These and many other questions Ibn- 
Gebirol attempted to answer, to satisfy not the 
believing heart, but the critical human mind, to show 
it its true place in the universe, to direct its at- 
tention to the invisible spirit-world above, and to 
the world of matter beneath, and induce it to seek 
the link binding them together. In the exposition 
of his system Ibn-Gebirol reveals a superabundant 
wealth of ideas, and a depth of subtle thought, so 
that the thinker must concentrate all his attention 
in order to be able to follow out his reasoning. To 
him, however, these extremely complicated thoughts, 
encircling the whole world from its very origin, 
and the whole range of beings down to lifeless 
stone, were so comprehensible that for everything 
he found the most fitting word and the most suitable 
image. Indeed, one portion of these thoughts he 
poured forth in a poem in the form of a prayer 


(Kether Malchuth), which for sublimity, elevated 
tone, and truth has no equal. It is true that the 
leading ideas of Ibn-Gebirol's system had been 
expressed by earlier philosophers, but he formed 
into one organic whole a confused mass of scat- 
tered thoughts. He developed his system in a 
work entitled, "The Fountain of Life" (Mekor 
Chayim, Fons Vitse), written in Arabic, which he 
handled with as much ease as Hebrew. A Chris- 
tian emperor destroyed the temple of philosophy in 
Athens, and exiled its last priests. Since that time 
philosophy had been outlawed in Europe ; at least, 
it was little known there, and had been compelled 
to find a home in Asia. The Jewish thinker, Ibn- 
Gebirol, was the first to transplant it again to 
Europe, and he built an altar to it in Spain, where 
it found a permanent habitation. 

Like Plato of a poetical nature, Ibn-Gebirol bor- 
rowed the dialogue form of composition from the 
Greek philosopher. His system is developed in the 
course of a lively conversation between a master 
and his disciple. He thereby avoided the usual 
dryness of metaphysical studies, which makes them 
linenjoyable. He paid so little attention,to Judaism 
in his system, that unless the reader knows that 
he was a sincere Jew, thoroughly devoted to his 
faith, he cannot discover it in his writings. The 
philosophy of Ibn-Gebirol, therefore, found little 
favor in Jewish circles, and exercised very little 
influence. Jewish thinkers found the tenor of his 
philosophy foreign to their own mode of thinking, 
and the form of demonstration too involved, the 
explanations too fitful, the method of presentation 
too lacking in system, and the whole not satisfying. 
Ibn-Gebirol's system aroused all the more attention 
among the Arabs and the Christian schoolmen. A 
century after its appearance, his chief work was 
.translated into Latin by the combined labor of a 
Christian priest and a baptized Jew. Several promi- 


nent scholastic writers subscribed to the views of 
Ibn-Gebirol, whom they called Avicebrol or Avice- 
bron. Others opposed them, but all considered 
them. In later times, the Kabbala borrowed some 
formulae from him. 

Another Jewish philosopher of this time, which 
was so rich in great men, pursued a course different 
from Ibn-Gebirol's. He stood entirely upon Jewish 
ground, but he also introduced foreign elements 
into his system. Bachya (Bechaya) ben Joseph 
Ibn-Pakuda (Bakuda) was a model of earnest piety 
and altruistic morality. He established an entirely 
original moral theology of Judaism. Bachya was 
one of those natures whose energy of spirit and 
powerful moral force, if favored by the circum- 
stances of the time, effect reformations. Of the 
details of the life of this moral philosopher abso- 
lutely nothing is known, not even the part of Spain 
in which he lived. We identify him wholly with his 
work, " Guide to the Duties of the Heart," which 
he wrote in Arabic. The sum and substance of its 
teachings is that nothing is of so much importance 
as that our conduct be ruled entirely by most 
serious religious convictions and godlike holiness 
of purpose. Biblical exegesis, grammar, poetry, 
speculative philosophy, all the pursuits with which 
the scholars of the age busied themselves are, 
according to Bachya, subordinate branches, hardly 
worthy of serious attention. The study of the 
Talmud even has no very great merit in his eyes. 
Bachya Ibn-Pakuda's aim was the spiritualization 
of Judaism. The duties which conscience demands 
are of infinitely greater importance to him than the 
ritual duties prescribed by the legal code. Like the 
Christian teachers of the first century, he distin- 
guished in Judaism between the purely religious 
and moral injunctions and the ceremonial laws, 
attaching greater importance to the first than to 
the second. 


The complete surrender to the demands of a 
godly, self-denying, holy life, which is the summum 
bonum of Bachya, remained no abstract theory with 
him, but was exemplified in his whole being, chang- 
ing conscientiousness in him to overscrupulousness. 
Too subtle spiritualization of religion led Bachya to 
practise rigid asceticism, which appeared to him to 
be the highest degree of wisdom attainable by man. 
Judaism, according to his view, inculcates frugality 
and abstemiousness. The patriarchs, from Enoch to 
Jacob, received no laws setting limits to their pleasure, 
as they were unnecessary, their souls being able to 
overcome the lusts of the flesh. But their de- 
scendants, the Jewish nation, were commanded to 
be abstemious, because they had become corrupt by 
their intercourse with the Egyptians, and conceived 
a desire for luxury, when they obtained an accession 
of wealth at the time of the capture of the land of 
Canaan. For this reason the law of the Nazarite 
was instituted. The more degenerate the Jewish 
nation became, the more certain individuals, espe- 
cially the prophets, felt themselves impelled to 
withdraw from communion with society and from 
worldly aflairs, and to retire into seclusion and lead 
a contemplative life. This example men ought to 
follow. It is indeed impossible that all men should 
relinquish the world and its activity, because utter 
desolation would ensue, which was never intended 
by God. There must, however, be a class of ex- 
emplary persons, who shall deny themselves inter- 
course with the world (Perushim), and who shall 
serve as patterns to mankind to show how the 
passions can be curbed and controlled. Bachya 
came near extolling monasticism, toward which the 
Middle Ages, both in the Mahometan and in the 
Christian world, markedly inclined. Although well 
versed in philosophy, he would have passed his 
days, a Jewish hermit, in retirement from the world 
and in a contemplative life of meditation, like his 


younger contemporary, the Mahometan philosopher 
Algazali, or he would have imitated the " Mourners 
for Zion " among the Karaites, were it not that the 
basis for such extravagant excesses was wanting in 
rabbinical Judaism. 

The first rabbinical epoch was fertile in original 
minds, also producing a character whose course 
tended to shake violently the firm basis of Judaism. 
Abu Ibraham Isaac Ibn-Kastar (or Saktar) ben 
Yasus, with the literary title Yizchaki, was a man 
whose profound knowledge of philosophy and medi- 
cine was also celebrated among the Arabs. Born 
at Toledo (982, died 1057), he was appointed phy- 
sician to Mujahid, the Prince of Denia, and his son 
Ali Ikbal Addanla. Ben Yasus composed a Hebrew 
grammar, under the name of "Compositions," and 
another work with the title of " Sefer Yizchaki," in 
which he displayed remarkable boldness in his 
Biblical explanations. He asserted especially that 
the portion of the Pentateuch in Genesis which 
treats of the kings of Edom was not written by 
Moses, but was interpolated some centuries later, 
a critical statement unique in the Middle Ages, 
and not advanced until very recently. 

It would be wrong to pass over in silence a poet, 
who, for flight of fancy, depth of thought, and beauty 
of expression, may claim equality with Solomon 
Ibn-Gebirol, but of whose poems only a single one 
is extant, " an orphaned song," as he himself called 
it. Abu Amr Joseph ben Chasdai was probably 
born in Cordova. His two brothers, who were 
compelled by the troubles of the wars in Spain to 
leave home, dwelt under the protection of the 
statesman, Samuel Ibn-Nagrela. Respect and 
thankfulness towards their noble patron induced 
Joseph ben Chasdai to write an elevated, artistic, 
and highly imaginative poem, in which he eulogized 
Samuel and his young son Joseph with enthusiastic 
warmth (about 1044-1046). Samuel, who would 


never accept anything, not even a gift of praise, 
without making some return, wrote, in praise of 
Joseph ben Chasda'i, a similar poem in the same 
meter, but not possessing the same poetical beauty. 
Joseph ben Chasdai left a son, who later obtained 
in Saragossa a position ' similar to that of Ibn- 
Nagrela in Granada. 

Samuel, the pride of the Spanish Jews, who, as 
his biographer says, bore four crowns, the crown 
of the Law, of the priesthood, of renown, and pre- 
eminently that of magnanimity, was the soul of the 
Jewish congregation for over a quarter of a century, 
and died deeply lamented by his contemporaries 
(1055). Hfe was buried at the gate of Elvira, in 
Granada, and his son erected a magnificent monu- 
ment to him. A still finer monument was built for 
him by Solomon Ibn-Gebirol in a few pregnant 
lines : 

" Thy home is now within my heart, 
Whence ne'er shall thy firm tent depart. 
There I seek thee, there I find thee, 
Near as my soul art thou to me." 

Samuel's noble son, Abu Hussain Joseph Ibn- 
Nagrela (born 103 1), was a worthy successor to all 
the honors and titles of his father. King Badis 
appointed him bis vizir, and the Jewish community 
in Granada acknowledged him, although but twenty- 
four years of age, as their rabbi and chief (Nagid). 
His father had placed him under learned tutors 
from different countries, and in his youth he dis- 
played extraordinary maturity of mind. Joseph, 
who, like his father, was well acquainted with Arabic 
literature, became during his father's lifetime secre- 
tary to the heir-apparent Balkin. When he was 
eighteen years old, his father chose a wife for him, 
and he did not seek her among the wealthy and 
noble families of Andalusia. She was the learned 
and virtuous daughter of the poor Nissim of Kairuan. 
Joseph was heir to all the greatness of his father, 


and though rich and surpassingly handsome, he 
lived, in the prime of his youth, with a moderation 
that presented a marked contrast to the debauchery 
of the Mahometan nobles. In his capacity as min- 
ister, Joseph worked for the welfare of the state, 
and ruled as independently as his father. He sup- 
ported science and its votaries, and so great was 
his liberality and so lofty his nobility of soul, that 
even Arab poets sang his praises. " Greet his 
countenance," said a Mahometan of him, " for in it 
wilt thou find happiness and hope. Never has a 
friend found a flaw in him." When the sons of the 
last Gaon, descended from the Prince of the Cap- 
tivity, fled to Spain, Joseph Ibn-Nagrela received 
them hospitably, and assisted them in finding a new 
home in Granada. The young Jewish vizir, like his 
father, was the head of a college, and delivered lec- 
tures on the Talmud. 

In two things only did Joseph's conduct differ 
from his father's ; he promoted his co-religionists 
too conspicuously to positions of state, and behaved 
haughtily to his subordinates. A near kinsman of 
his was installed in the office next beneath his own. 
By these acts Joseph aroused the hatred of the 
Berbers, the ruling population in Granada, against 
himself and the Jews. They envied his truly 
princely splendor. He had a palace which was 
paved with marble. Certain occurrences during 
his administration transformed the hatred into 
fierce anger. Between the heir-apparent Balkin 
and his former secretary Joseph there was mutual 
antipathy. Suddenly Balkin died, it was thought 
by poisoning. King Badis thereupon had some of 
the servants and wives of the prince executed as 
guilty of his death. The remainder fled in fear of 
a similar punishment (1064). It was popularly be- 
lieved, however, that Joseph had administered the 
poison to the prince. An incident, in which Joseph 
revealed himself at once as a humane man, and as 


a diplomatist devoted to his master, appears to have 
lost him the favor of Badis. Between the Berbers 
who held the sovereign power in Granada and other 
places in Spain and the original Arabs, there raged 
so fierce a racial hatred that every town of mixed 
population was divided into two camps. On one 
occasion King Badis learnt that the Berber ruler in 
Ronda had been slain in consequence of a con- 
spiracy of the Arabs organized by the king of 
Seville, and on this account he w^as filled with mis- 
trust towards the Arabs of his capital. He feared at 
every moment that he, like his kinsman, would fall a 
victim to a conspiracy. He thereupon concocted a 
fiendish plot ; he ordered his army to massacre all 
the Arabs, of his capital during divine service on a 
Friday. This plan he communicated to his Jewish 
minister, without whose advice he did nothing, 
adding that his determination was so firmly made 
that no objections would avail to cause him to desist 
from his purpose, and that he expected Joseph to 
maintain the deepest silence about his project. 
Joseph, however, considered this murderous plan as 
a baleful political mistake, and omitted nothing 
whereby he might persuade the bloodthirsty mon- 
arch to abandon his design. He asked the king to 
consider that the plot might miscarry, and the Arabs 
of the town and of the suburbs might rush to arms 
in self-defense, and that, even if the whole Arab 
population were destroyed without resistance, the 
danger would not disappear, but rather become 
magnified ; for the neighboring states, which, like 
Seville, were wholly Arab, would be excited to 
deadly fury, and enter upon a war of revenge 
against the murderers of their kinsmen. " I see 
them even now," said Joseph with energy ; " even 
now do I behold them hurrying towards us, burning 
with rage, each one brandishing his sword over thy 
head, O king. Foes, countless as the waves of the 
sea, hurl themselves against thee, and thou and 


thine army are powerless." Thus spake the Jewish 

Badis, nevertheless, persisted in his resolve, and 
issued his commands to the generals of his army. 
Joseph alone deemed it his duty to abstain from 
taking part in the mischievous design of the king 
against his Arab subjects, and determined to frus- 
trate the plot even at the risk of his own life. 
Through the medium of certain women, on whom 
he could rely, he sent secret instructions to the 
chief Arabs of the capital, warning them not to 
attend the mosque on the following Friday, but to 
keep themselves concealed. They understood the 
hint and obeyed it. On the appointed Friday the 
troops were drawn up in readiness near the palace. 
The spies of Badis found in the mosque only Ber- 
bers and a few Arabs of the lower classes. Badis 
was thus obliged to abandon his plan ; but his 
anger turned against his minister, whom he sus- 
pected of betraying his trust, and he reproached 
him bitterly for it. Joseph denied the charge of 
having warned the Arabs, and maintained that the 
plan had been revealed by the mysterious, unnec- 
essary military preparations. Finally, he remarked 
that the king ought to thank God that he had pro- 
tected him from impending danger. " The time 
will come when thou wilt approve of my view of the 
matter, and wilt readily follow the advice I give 
thee." A Berber sheik came to the support of 
the vizir, and Badis was appeased. But dislike 
lingered in his heart against his Jewish minister, 
and he was full of suspicion of him. Joseph could 
maintain his position only by the aid of spies, who 
reported to him every utterance of the king. The 
Berber population, however, noticed that the Jewish 
vizir was now no longer in high favor with their 
sovereign, and dared enter into plots against him, 
and follow the dictates of their hatred against him 
and the Jews. Damaging rumors were continually 


circulated about him. His enemies gained the 
upper hand. A fanatical Mahometan poet, Abu 
Ishak al-Elviri, in an inflammatory poem, stimulated 
the fierce enmity of the Mahometans of Granada 
against the Jews into energetic action. A passage 
in it ran as follows : — " Say unto the Sinhajas, to 
the mighty men of the time, and the lions of the 
desert, ' Your lord has committed a disgraceful deed, 
he has given honor to the infidels. He appointed 
as minister (Katib) a Jew, when he was well able to 
find one among the Faithful. The Jews buoy them- 
selves up with fooHsh hopes, make themselves lords, 
and treat the Moslems with haughtiness. When I 
entered Granada, I perceived that the Jews pos- 
sessed the sole authority, and divided the capital 
and the provinces among themselves. Everywhere 
one of this accursed tribe is in power.' " This 
seditious poem was soon in the mouth of all Ma- 
hometans ; it was the raven's croaking for Joseph's 

At length, a certain incident unchained the fury 
of his opponents. The troops of a neighboring 
prince, Almotassem of Almeria, had invaded the 
territory of Granada, and they declared that Joseph 
was in league with their king, and that the army 
had appeared because he intended to surrender 
the country to Almotassem. The truth of the 
matter cannot be discovered now. As soon as the 
statements of the Almerian soldiery had spread 
abroad, the Berbers, accompanied by a crowd of 
the common rabble, hastened on the same day, on 
a Saturday, to the palace of Joseph. On receiving 
news of the rising, he concealed himself, and black- 
ened his face, so as to escape recognition. His 
furious enemies nevertheless recognized him, slew 
him, and crucified him at the gates of Granada. 
The young minister met his sad end in the thirty- 
fifth year of his life (9 Tebet, 30 December, 1066). 
The rage of the infuriated assassins also spent 


itself on all the Jews in Granada that had not saved 
themselves by flight. Over one thousand five hun- 
dred Jewish families were massacred on that day, 
and their houses destroyed. Only a few escaped 
the slaughter, among whom were Joseph's wife, 
with her young son, Azaria. They fled to Lucena, 
but so little of their enormous wealth had they been 
able to save that they were compelled to rely for 
their support on the congregation of Lucena. 
Joseph's valuable library was partly destroyed and- 
partly sold. Great was the mourning for the 
Jewish martyrs of Granada and for the noble 
Jewish prince. Even an Arabic poet, Ibn-Alfara, 
who had celebrated Joseph during his lifetime, 
dedicated an elegy to him, in which these words 
occur : " Faithfulness is my religion, and this bids 
me shed a tear for the Jew." His sympathy caused 
calumnies to be spread against the Mahometan 
poet at the court of the king of Almeria, who was 
admonished against extending the hand of friend- 
ship to him. The prince, however, replied, " This 
poet must have a noble heart, since he laments a 
Jew after his death. I know Moslems who pay no 
attention to their living co-religionists." 

The revolt against Joseph Ibn-Nagrela in Granada 
was the first persecution of the Jews in the Pyrenean 
peninsula since its conquest by Islam. It appears 
to have lasted some time, for the Jews throughout 
the kingdom of Granada were exiled, and compelled 
to sell their landed property. It had no effect, how- 
ever, upon the Jewish inhabitants of other parts 
of Spain. The princes or kings of each district, 
who had made themselves independent on the 
downfall of the caliphate of Cordova, were so 
hostile towards each other, that the people who 
were persecuted by one prince were protected by 
his enemy. The three distinguished Jews who had 
been banished from Granada were received in a 
friendly spirit by Almuthadid, king of Seville, and 


Joseph Ibn-Migash I was given a high office. The 
king of Saragossa, Al-muktadir Billah, a patron of 
science and poetry, also had a Jewish vizir, Abu 
Fadhl, a son of the poet Joseph Ibn-Chasdai who 
contended with Ibn-Gebirol for the laurels of poetry. 
This Abu Fadhl Chasdai (born about 1040) was 
likewise a poet, but, although acquainted with He- 
brew, he wrote only in Arabic verse. The following 
opinion of him was expressed by an Arabic critic : 
■ " When Abu Fadhl wrote poetry one was ready to 
believe in witchcraft ; he did not compose verses, 
but miracles." Abu Fadhl was also distinguished 
in other "branches of science. He understood the 
theory and practice of music, but his favorite study 
appears to have been speculative philosophy. The 
remarkable qualities of his mind attracted the at- 
tention of the king of Saragossa, who made him his 
vizir (1066). 

Not long after these events, Solomon Ibn-Gebirol, 
the noble philosopher-poet, ended his days on earth. 
His gloomy spirit appears to have become still 
more somber through the tragic events in Granada. 
His last poems were therefore elegiac laments over 
the cruel fate of Israel : " Wherefore does the slave 
rule over the sons of princes ? My exile has lasted 
a thousand years, and I am like the howling bird of 
the desert. Where is the high-priest who will show 
me the end of all this ? " (1068). In the last year of 
his life, Solomon Ibn-Gebirol complained similarly : 
" Our years pass in distress and misery ; we look 
for the light, but darkness and humiliation overtake 
us : slaves rule over us. Till she fell, Babylon held 
sway over me ; Rome, Javan, and Persia then 
hemmed me in, and scattered me far and wide ; 
and these 461 years (from the time of Hejira) doth 
Ishmael despoil me." This probably was Ibn- 
Gebirol's last poem. He spent the last years of 
his life, after many wanderings, in Valencia, and 
there he died, not yet fifty years old (1069 or 1070). ' 


A legend relates that an Arab poet slew him from 
envy of his masterly powers of song, and buried his 
body beneath a fig-tree. The tree produced extra- 
ordinary blossoms, the attention of passers-by was 
drawn to it, and thus the murder of the noble poet 
was discovered. 

At the time when Spain showed such an abund- 
ance of distinguished men, France and Germany 
were lacking in great creative minds, and the his- 
tory of the Jews of these countries presents few 
interesting features. They lived entirely undis- 
turbed, were landowners, cultivated the vine, occu- 
pied themselves with handicrafts and trade, and 
only had to pay to the prince, in whose territory 
they dwelt, a kind of Jew-tax. 

The French and German Jews doubtless lacked 
energy and chivalry, but theirs was not a lower 
grade of culture than that of their Christian com- 
patriots. Their chief occupation on both sides of 
the Rhine was the study of the Talmud, into which 
Gershom had initiated them. " They drive away 
sleep to absorb themselves in the Talmud." 

The first Jewish persecution on Andalusian soil 
by the Mahometan fanatics of Granada alarmed all 
the communities of Spain, but it did not have the 
effect of discouraging them, or producing stagna- 
tion. The pursuit of science and poetry had be- 
come second nature to the Jews of southern Spain, 
and only frequent and crushing disasters could 
repress their love. The persecution was neither 
repeated nor imitated. The people of Granada 
had murdered the Jewish vizir and several of his 
nation, which, however, did not hinder other kings 
or emirs from attracting gifted Jews to their courts, 
entrusting them with important affairs, and placing 
the Jews on an equality with the ruling population 
of the state. 

An Arab historian complained that the princes 
of the Faithful abandoned themselves to sensual 


enjoyments, placed their power In the hands of the 
Jews, and made them Hayibs, vizirs and private 
secretaries. The example of the Mahometan courts 
was followed even by Christian states. They also 
began to employ Jews in affairs of state, and their 
ability and faithfulness added greatly to the growth 
of their power. Thus the position of the Spanish 
Jews remained for a time wholly unaffected by the 
success of Christian arms and the gradual dissolu- 
tion of the Mahometan principalities. They felt as 
much at home under the dominion of the Cross in 
Spain, as under that of the Crescent, and were able, 
unfettered, to satisfy their love of investigation. 
Their ardor in the domain of science and of poetry, 
far from cooling, increased, if possible, more and 
more, and the number of students grew from year 
to year. Yet it appears that in the period after 
Ibn-Nagrela and Ibn-Gebirol, poetry, philology, 
exegesis, and philosophy, although eagerly fol- 
lowed, were superseded by the study of the Talmud, 
which became, as it were, the central study. The 
dialectics of the Talmud were revived and cultivated 
simultaneously in Spain, Africa, and France. The 
study of the Talmud was so thoroughly prosecuted 
that the achievements of the Geonim were thrown 
into the shade. Six men, of whom five bear the 
name of Isaac, and the other, that of Yizchaki, may 
be regarded as the principal figures of the seconci 
rabbinical age : Isaac Ibn-Albalia, distinguished also 
for his political position ; Isaac Ibn-GIat and Isaac 
ben Reuben, who were at once Talmudists and 
writers of liturgical poems ; Isaac Ibn-Sakni ; Isaac 
Alfassi and Solomon Yizchaki, the two creators of 
an independent method of Talmudic study, far sur- 
passing that used by the Geonim. 

Isaac ben Baruch Albalia, by means of documents, 
traced his origin to Baruch, a noble exile from Jeru- 
salem, who is supposed to have been sent by Titus 
to a proconsul at Merida, in order to carry on in 


Spain the silk culture, in which his family was 
skilled. Later the Albalias removed to Cordova, 
and became one of the most distinguished families 
of the Andalusian capital. Isaac (born 1035, died 
T094) early betrayed a gifted mind and a burning 
thirst for knowledge. His inclinations led him 
equally to astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, and 
the Talmud. Samuel Ibn-Nagrela encouraged him 
in his studies by gifts and books, and his son Joseph 
endowed him with abundant means. Isaac Ibn- 
Albalia lived alternately in Cordova and with his 
•noble patron in Granada. He only trifled with 
poetry, and turned his mind to deeper studies. 
Isaac Ibn-Albalia had scarcely attained his thirtieth 
year, when he began a commentary to elucidate the 
most difficult portions of the Talmud. At the same 
time (1065) he was writing an astronomical work 
called Ibbur, on the principles of the Jewish cal- 
endar, which he dedicated to his patron, Joseph 
Ibn-Nagrela. Isaac Ibn-Albalia, who was at the 
time visiting his friend Joseph, luckily was not 
injured in the massacre at Granada (1066), and he 
afterwards made Cordova his permanent abode. 
Here he became acquainted with -the noble prince, 
Abulkassim Mahomet, a lover of science and poetry. 
When the latter ascended the throne of Seville, 
under the name of Al-Mutamed (May, io6g), he 
summoned Ibn-Albalia to his court at Seville, and 
made him his astronomer, whose duty it was not so 
much to observe the motions of the stars as to fore- 
tell future events from the position of the constella- 
tions. He also appointed Isaac Albalia as chief 
over all the Jewish • communities of his kingdom, 
which fortunate conquests had made the mightiest 
in Mahometan Spain. It extended northward as 
far as Cordova, and eastward to Murcia. Isaac, 
therefore, like Ibn-Chasda'i, Ibn-Jau, and Ibn-Na- 
grela, took the rank of prince (Nassi). He was at 
the same time rabbi over the communities of the 


realm of Seville, and his authority was acknowl- 
edged abroad. As his master, Al-Mutamed, was 
the most illustrious prince in Spain, so Isaac was 
the most illustrious and learned man among the 
Spanish Jews. Beautiful Seville became through 
him the center of Jewish Spain, as Cordova and 
Granada had been in the past. Al-Mutamed, the 
last noble ruler of the Arab race in Spain, had 
another Jewish functionary at his court, Ibn-Misha'l, 
whom he employed on diplomatic missions. 

Of Albalia's contemporary, Isaac ben Jehuda Ibn- 
Giat (b. 1030, d. 1089), little is known. He be- 
longed to a rich and illustrious family of Lucena 
(not far from Cordova). Both the Ibn-Nagrelas 
gave him in his youth many proofs of their respect, 
and he was devoted to them heart and soul. After 
the tragic end of Joseph Ibn-Nagrela, Ibn-Giat gave 
himself much trouble to raise Joseph's son, Abu- 
nassar Azaria, to the rank of rabbi of Lucena. But 
death deprived this noble house of its last scion. 
The community selected Isaac Ibn-Giat as its 
spiritual chief, on account of his learning and virtues. 
Liturgical poetry, philosophy, and the Talmud were 
the three domains sedulously cultivated by him. 

Isaac ben Reuben Albergeloni, in his old age, 
compiled an original work treating of the civil juris- 
prudence of the Talmud in a systematic way. He 
also was an earnest religious poet. He composed 
new "Azharoth" in pithy but awkward language, 
and adorned his verses with Biblical quotations 
aptly applied. Isaac Albergeloni is the first Hebrew 
writer to make use of this mosaic of Biblical verses, 
which are not quoted for their usual meaning, but 
woven together in ingenious and unexpected com- 

Albergeloni in early youth had gone from Bar- 
celona to Denia ; at the same time the fourth Isaac 
(ben Moses) Ibn-Sakni was departing thence, prob- 
ably because a slight had been put upon him. He 


wended his way to the Orient, and in Pumbeditha 
was made a teacher of the Law under the title of 
Gaon. So greatly had the times changed ! Whilst 
the Occident had formerly lent a willing ear to the 
utterances of the Geonim in the Orient, it was now, 
scarcely half a century after the death of Gaon Hai, 
able to send teachers to the country in which had 
stood the cradle of the Talmud, and a man who 
found no recognition in Spain was considered an 
authority by the once proud Pumbeditha. 

In knowledge and sharp-witted understanding of 
the Talmud, these four Isaacs wei-e outstripped by 
the fifth, Isaac ben Jacob Alfassi, or Alkalai. Born 
in Kala-Ibn-Hammad, in the neighborhood of Fez 
(1013), he was instructed by the last African author- 
ities, Nissim and Chananel, and after their death 
in 1056 he became the representative of Talmud 
studies in western Africa. Indifferent to the scien- 
tific pursuits which their taste as well as considera- 
tion for their material advancement prompted the 
gifted Jews of Spain and Africa to cultivate, Alfassi 
devoted all his acumen to a profound study of the 
Talmud. His was a deeply earnest, independent 
nature, not content to keep to the beaten track of 
time-honored customs, but desirous of striking out 
into new paths. It had hithe;-to been the custom 
to follow in practice the rulings of the Geonim, 
whenever, as frequently occurs, the Talmud records 
conflicting opinions on a given subject, and to 
accept their explanations and decisions as norms. 
Alfassi, however, proceeded from the commentaries 
to the text itself, and sought with his peculiar acute- 
ness to distinguish all that was incontestable and 
durable, and of real import, in the Talmud, from 
that which was doubtful, superficial, and expedient. 
The opinions of the Gaonic authorities were not 
final for him. In this spirit he compiled a work, 
which, in spite of the attacks leveled at it at the 
time, became a standard book for the entire Jewish 


community. His " Halachoth " abstract from the 
Talmud only whatever affects conduct, but fix the 
practical bearings of the laws thus classified with 
absolute certainty. Alfassi's work consigned to 
oblivion all similar works compiled in the course of 
three centuries, since Jehudai Gaon's time. His 
name was borne by tliis work far beyond the straits 
into Spain where he counted still more admirers 
than in his native land. 

A complete match for Alfassi, however, in knowl- 
edge of the Talmud was the Frenchman, Solomon 
Yizchaki, a man as acute and independent as him- 
self, only less bold and impetuous, but more versatile. 

Solomon Yizchaki, known under the name of 
Rashi, was born in 1040 (died in 1105), at Troyes, 
in Champagne, in the year in which the last Gaon 
suffered martyrdom, as if to intimate that the new 
spirit infused by Rashi would fully compensate for 
the downfall of the old institution. Rashi's mother 
was the sister of Simon ben Isaac, highly respected 
on account of his services to the community of 
Mayence and his liturgic poetry, and his father was 
well versed in the Talmud. Thus Rashi had, as it 
were, drawn his nourishment from the Talmud, and 
in it he lived and had his being. In order to perfect 
himself in the study of the Talmud, he frequented 
the Talmudical school of Mayence, but also attended 
the lectures of the Talmud teachers in Worms, and 
of Eliakim in Speyer. Like Akiba hp left his home 
and his wife to devote himself to the study of the 
Law in foreign parts. He tells in what needy cir- 
cumstances he pursued this study, " in want of bread, 
denuded of ctothing and fettered by matrimony." 
Now and then, probably on the festivals, he visited 
his wife, but he always returned to the German, or 
as they were then called, Lotharingian centers of 
learning. At the age of twenty -five (1064) he 
settled permanently at Troyes. 

In his modesty he did not suspect that at that 
early time he was honored as a master of Talmudic 

CH. IX. RASHI. 287 

lore. In Rashi's earliest decisions which he. deliv- 
ered when a youth, there is no trace of the groping 
novice, they reveal the hand of the skilful adept, 
the master of his subject. His teachers, in their 
letters, lavished on him the most flattering praise. 
Isaac Halevi, of Worms, wrote to Rashi, " We owe 
it to you that this age is riot orphaned, and may 
many like unto you arise in Israel." 

Undoubtedly the community of Troyes and its 
vicinity selected him as their rabbi, though we have 
no proof thereof ; but he drew no emoluments from 
the office. In a time, about which a dispassionate 
author, in speaking of the prelates under Pope 
Hildebrand, can say, " No one could become a 
bishop or an abbot of the empire unless he either 
was rich or addicted to vice ; amongst the priests, 
he was praised most highly who had the most 
splendid garments, the most sumptuous table, and 
the handsomest concubines " — in that time, and also 
for a long while afterwards, it was considered in 
Jewish circles a sin and a disgrace for rabbis to 
accept remuneration for the performance of their 
duties. The rabbinate in Christian and Moslem 
countries was an honorary office to be given only to 
the most worthy ; and the rabbi was to be a shining 
light to the community, not only intellectually, but 
also in moral character. Sobriety, frugality, indif- 
ference to Mammon, were as a matter of course 
expected of every rabbi. Rashi was the most per- 
fect embodiment of this conception of a rabbi, and 
Jewish posterity has beheld in him a spotless per- 
sonification of its ideal. His contemporaries also 
revered him as the highest authority. From all 
parts of France and Germany doubtful cases were 
sent to him to be decided, and his answers testified 
to his profound knowledge and to his mildness of 

After the death of the Talmudical scholars in 
Lorraine, about 1070,- the German and French stu- 


dents flocked to Rashi's lecture-room at Troyes ; 
he was looked upon as their worthy successor. He 
lectured on the Bible and the Talmud. Rashi was 
so imbued with the spirit of the Talmud that for 
him it contained nothing obscure. In its elucida- 
tion he surpassed all his predecessors, so that it was 
rightly said that without him the Babylonian Talmud 
would have been neglected like that of Jerusalem. 
His explanations of a large number of the Talmudic 
tractates, which he called " Commentary" (conteros), 
are models of their kind, simple, concise and lucid. 
He wrote in the clear idiom of the Talmud, and 
neither used an unnecessary, nor omitted a neces- 
sary word. The explanations of words and things 
are intended for the beginner as well as for the 
learned specialist. Rashi gave clearness to the text 
by placing himself in the position of the reader ; by 
a skilfully chosen expression, he prevented misunder- 
standing, met objections and anticipated questions. 
Rashi, as commentator, may be called an artist. 
He soon supplanted the commentaries of Gershom 
and his own masters. Rashi also wrote a com- 
mentary of equal originality on most of the books 
of Holy Writ. His tact and his love of truth led 
him to seize the true meaning of words and pas- 
sages. But he allowed himself frequently to be 
guided by the Agadic opinions, on the supposition 
that the elucidation of verses occurring in the 
Talmud and in Agadic works was to be taken 
seriously. Yet he was, to a certain extent, con- 
scious that the simple text (peshat) was opposed to 
the Agadic mode of explanation (the derasha). In 
his old age this consciousness deepened, and he 
told his learned grandson (Rashbam) that he meant 
to revise his commentaries of the Bible in the spirit 
of a sober and literal explanation of the text. Rashi 
towered above the contemporaneous Christian ex- 
positors of the Bible, who all believed that Holy 
Writ contained a fourfold meaning. Rashi's skill 


in exposition appears the more surprising as he 
was not acquainted with the important achieve- 
ments of the Spanish school. He was acquainted 
only with the first part of the Hebrew grammar by 
Menachem ben Saruk and that by Dunash, and 
these he took as his guides. Chayuj's and Ibn- 
Janach's works, however, being written in Arabic, 
remained unknown to him. Therefore, his gram- 
matical nomenclature is clumsy and frequently 
obscure. Nevertheless, no commentary of Holy 
Writ has been so popular as Rashi's, so that at one 
time many considered his commentary part and 
parcel of the text, and every one of his words was 
in turn commented upon and expounded. His 
mantle fell upon his grandsons and sons-in-law, 
who were his greatest disciples. For he had no 
sons, only three daughters, of whom the one was 
so deeply versed in the Talmud that during her 
father's illness she read to him all the questions 
concerning the Talmud that had been sent to him, 
and wrote down the answers dictated to her. His 
three daughters were married to men of learning, 
and gave birth to sons worthy of their ancestry. 
One of these sons-in-law, Meir of Rameru, not far 
from Troyes, was the father of three distinguished 
sons. Through Rashi and his school, the north of 
France, Champagne, became the home of Talmudic 
lore as Babylonia had been of old. It laid down the 
law for the rest of Europe. The French Talmudical 
students were in request even in Spain, and were 
liberally remunerated for their instruction. The 
leadership, which Jewish Spain had taken from 
Babylonia, from Rashi's time had to be shared with 
France. Whilst Spain remained classic ground 
with respect to Hebrew poetry, linguistic attain- 
ments, exegesis and philosophy, it had to yield the 
palm to France in the study of the Talmud. 

At this time there were two men in Spain who 
occupied themselves exclusively with grammar and 

29<-> HiStORY Of THE JEWS. CH. IX. 

the study of the Bible, and although they did not 
particularly enrich these studies, yet they undoubt- 
edly imbued them with fresh vitality. They were 
Moses ben Samuel Ibn-G'ikatilia, of Cordova, and 
Jehuda Ibn-Balam, of Toledo (about 1070 to iigq). 
The former, the disciple of Ibn-Janach, in his expo- 
sition of Holy Writ occupied his master's liberal 
point of view. Some of the Psalms were attributed 
by Ibn-G'ikatilia to a later period, whilst the com- 
mon opinion prevailed amongst Jews as well as 
Christians that the whole psalter was the work of 
the royal bard. He did not think well of the divi- 
sion of verses by the Massora, and contrary to its 
directions, joined consecutive verses. 

The representatives of the Spanish Jews thus 
distinguished themselves in science and poetry, 
while in France great impetus was given to the 
study of the Talmud. The Jews of the Italian 
peninsula, however, occupy a very low position in 
the history of culture at this period. Their poetic 
effusions, in harsh and barbaric language, whether 
liturgical or secular in character, lack the true charm 
of poetry, and their Talmud lore was obtained from 
foreign parts. Nathan ben Yechiel, of Rome, is the 
only Italian of that time whose name figures in 
Jewish literature. He compiled a Talmudic lexicon, 
under the title of "Aruch," in about looi or 1002 ; it 
was more complete than the earlier works of similar 
purpose, but was compiled, with little originality, 
from these older works, principally from the writings 
of Chananel, of Kairuan. This lexicon became the 
key to the Talmud. Kalonymos, of Rome, is also 
mentioned as a Talmudic authority. Rashi spoke 
of him with great respect ; the community of Worms 
elected him as rabbi after the year 1096. However, 
he has left nothing in writing, and seems to have 
exerted no influence. The historical workb of this 
period are silent respecting the political position of 
the Italian Jews, a proof that it was not unfavorable. 


Events of world-wide importance in western 
Europe, the extensive invasion by Christians of 
Mahometan Spain, and the first crusade against 
the Mahometans in the East, brought about im- 
portant changes for the Jews of western Europe. 
The changes were chiefly of a deplorable kind, and 
interrupted their peaceful occupation with the Law. 
In the fortunes of Spain the Jews played no insig- 
nificant part, although their active interference is 
not conspicuously visible. They were helpful in 
digging the pit into which their great grandsons 
were to fall. The first powerful blow at the Islam 
dominion in the peninsula south of the Pyrenees 
was dealt by the Castilian king Alfonso VI, who 
was as brave in combat as he was clever in state 
affairs, and who placed more reliance on the sword 
and on diplomatic art, than on the cross and prayer. 
His purpose, to conquer the Mahometan kingdoms 
and principalities, was only attainable by fomenting 
dissensions among the rulers, stimulating rivalry 
between them, and playing off one against the 
other, thus weakening them all. To that end he 
required clever diplomatists, and among his sub- 
jects the Jews were the ones best prepared for the 
work. His knights were too clumsy, and his citi- 
zens too ignorant to be fitted for missions of a 
delicate nature. At the Mahometan courts of 
Toledo, Seville, Granada, there reigned a refined, 
cultured, intellectual tone, and frequent allusions 
were made in conversation to the brilliant history 
and literature of the Arabs. If an ambassador at 
these courts wanted to accomplish anything, he was 
obliged, not only to be acquainted with all the 
niceties of the Arabic language, but also to be 
familiar with its literature and the manners of the 
court. In these respects the Jews were particularly 
useful. Therefore Alfonso employed Jews on diplo- 
matic missions to the courts of the Mahometan 
princes. One of them, the Jewish diplomatist at 


the court of King Alfonso, was Amram ben Isaac 
Ibn-Shalbib, originally Alfonso's private physician. 
As Ibn-Shalbib was well versed in Arabic, and 
possessed insight into the political circumstances 
of that period, the king of Castile appointed him 
private secretary, and entrusted him with important 
affairs. Alfonso had another Jewish adviser, Cidel- 
lus, who was on such intimate terms with the king, 
that the latter's reserve was overcome, and he per- 
mitted him to speak more freely than any of the 
Spanish noblemen and grandees of the empire. 
Alfonso, who was far from being a religious bigot, 
and who had acquired liberal views from his contact 
with the Mahometan princes, not only conferred 
distinctions on certain individuals among the Jews, 
but cleared the way to dignities and honors for all 
the sons of Jacob dwelling in his dominions. Al- 
fonso had, indeed, found a certain equality in citizen- 
ship existing in many parts of Christian Spain, where 
custom had superseded the old Visigothic laws. 
According to the Visigothic code, the Jews were to 
be treated as outcasts, to be subjected to regula- 
tions applying to them alone, and were not to be 
allowed to act as witnesses. On the other hand, 
according to the law of custom (fueros). Christians, 
Jews, and Mahometans of the same town and the 
same country came under the same law. The Jew 
had to testify against the Christian on the " Torah." 
If Jews and Christians had a lawsuit, they had 
to select a Christian and a Jew as arbitrators (Al- 
kalde). If a man wished to sell his house, two 
Christians and the same number of Jews had to 
appraise it. According to another law established 
by custom (fuero de Najera), the Jews were treated 
on an equality with the nobles and the clergy ; the 
same sum was fixed as compensation for the murder 
of a Jew, a nobleman, and a priest. Down to the 
smallest details of daily life, the equality between 
Jews and Christians before the law, was made 


manifest. As Alfonso now confirmed these muni- 
cipal laws, the civil equality of the Jews was legally 
acknowledged, and the ignominy of the Visigothic 
legislation against the Jews was effaced. Jews, 
under certain circumstances, were permitted to 
enjoy the privilege of duelling, and admitted into 
military service. Light seemed to be dawning upon 
the Middle Ages, and Roman-Christian narrow- 
mindedness, emanating from Theodosius II, seemed 
about to vanish. 

However, the Church, whose foundation was in- 
tolerance, was not likely to countenance the pro- 
motion of Jews to honorable offices in a Chris- 
tian land. The head of the Church, Pope Hilda- 
brand, who, under the name of Gregory VII, through 
his legates and the shafts of excommunication 
plunged Europe into a condition of ferment and 
disruption, protested against this state of things. 
He, the mightiest of the mighty, before whom kings 
and nations groveled in the dust, wished also to 
humble the defenseless Jews, and to rob them of 
the respect and honors which they had acquired by 
their merit. 

Emperor Henry IV had granted the same privi- 
Jeges to the Jews of Worms as to the other 
citizens of that town. When princes and priests, 
towns and villages, unmindful of their oath, and 
excited by the Pope, broke faith with him, and 
treated him as one under the ban, the town of 
Worms remained faithful to him. A year later, 
when Pope Gregory had treated the emperor as a 
boy, making him do penance in his shirt, he also 
became eager to humble the Jews. At the Church 
congress in Rome, in 1078, when the Pope issued 
for the second time his interdict against the enemies 
of the papacy, he promulgated a canonical law to 
the effect that the Jews should hold no office in 
Christendom, and exercise no supremacy whatever 
over the Christians. This canonical decision was 


directed principally against Spain, where, owing to 
the peculiar position caused by continual strife with 
the Arabs, the Roman Church had asserted a degree 
of independence. As Gregory wished to force 
upon King Alfonso foreign bishops, pliant tools in 
the execution of his will, so he endeavored to arrest 
the influence of the Jews at the court of Castile. 
He therefore addressed a vigorous epistle to Alfonso 
in 1080, in which the following words occur: 

"As we feel impelled to congratulate you on the progress of your 
fame, so at the same time must we deprecate the harm you do. We 
admonish your Highness that you must cease to suSer the Jews to 
rule over the Christians and exercise authority over them. For to 
allow the Christians to be subordinate to the Jews, and to subject 
them to their judgment, is the same as oppressing God's Church and 
exalting Satan's synagogue. To wish to please Christ's enemies 
means to treat Christ himself with contumely." 

On the other hand, the Pope was well satisfied 
with William the Conqueror, King of England and 
Duke of Normandy, who ratified the decision of the 
congress in Rouen, that the Jews were ■ not only 
prohibited from keeping Christian bondmen, but 
also from having Christian nurses. 

But Alfonso had to give his attention to other 
affairs besides the intolerance of the Church. He 
troubled himself but little about the decision of the 
great council in Rome and the autograph letter of 
the Pope, and retained his Jewish advisers. He 
was just then revolving in his mind a plan of invading 
the kingdom of Toledo. In order to accomplish 
this he had to isolate its governor from the neigh- 
boring princes of his faith and race, and to be 
assured of their neutrality or their co-operation with 
himself. For that, however, he required. his Jewish 
diplomatists, and could not entertain the idea of 
satisfying the importunities of the Pope. By an 
alliance with the noble and valiant king of Seville, 
Al-Mutamed Ibn-Abbad, in all probabihty effected 
by Jewish agents, Alfonso conquered the old and 
important town of Toledo (1085), the first bulwark 


of the Spanish Mahometans against the aggressive 
power of the Christians. The victor of Toledo 
assured to the Jews of this town and the territory 
appertaining to it, all the liberties which they had 
enjoyed under the Mahometan rulers. The last 
unfortunate Mahometan king of Toledo, Yachya 
Alkader, who had to take refuge in Valencia, had a 
Jewish confidant in his suite, who remained faithful 
to him long after his death, whilst his nearest friends 
betrayed him. 

Alfonso did not rest satisfied with the possession 
of Toledo, which was again elevated to the rank of 
capital, but wished to make use of the disagree- 
ments and petty jealousies of the Mahometan 
princes for the purpose of making fresh conquests. 
First of all he determined to attack the territory of 
the king of Seville, who also ruled over Cordova. 
He therefore suddenly dropped the mask of friend- 
ship, and made demands of Al-Mutamed, such as 
this noble prince could not in honor concede. With 
the perilous mission of revealing the true state of 
affairs to the king of Seville, and of facing him in a, 
firm and defiant attitude, Alfonso entrusted his 
Jewish councillor of state, Isaac Ibn-Shalbib, in- 
structing him not to pay any regard to the require- 
ments of courtesy. Five hundred Christian knights 
accompanied Alfonso's Jewish messenger to the 
court of Seville, in order to lend dignity to his 
embassy. This commission cost Ibn-Shalbib his 
life. Acting in the spirit of his master, he spoke 
in terms so positive, and insisted so unflinchingly on 
the fulfilment of the demand he was charged to 
make, that Al-Mutamed fell into a violent passion, 
and transgressed the law protecting the person of 
an ambassador, had Ibn-Shalbib killed, nailed to a 
gibbet, and his followers imprisoned. 

The breach which in consequence occurred be- 
tween Alfonso and the king of Seville induced the 
latter to join the league of the rest of the Mahometan 


princes, and send for the conqueror of northern 
Africa, the Almoravide Prince Yussuf Ibn-Teshufin, 
to aid them against Alfonso. Al-Mutamed spoke 
the deciding word in favor of this plan. The African 
hero appeared in response to the invitation, and 
his presence eventually caused the servitude and 
downfall of the Andalusian princes. 



The position of the Jews in Germany previous to the Crusades — The 
community of Speyer and Henry IV — The Martyrs of Treves 
and Speyer — Emmerich of Leining-en and the Martyrs of May- 
ence — Cruel persecutions at Cologne — Suffering of the Jews 
in Bohemia — Pitiful death of the Jews of Jerusalem — Emperor 
Henry's justice towards the Jews — Return of Converts to Judaism 
— Death of Alfassi and Rashi. 

1096 — 1 105 c. E. 

Towards the end of the eleventh century tnere 
arose the first contest between Christianity and 
Islam on other ground than that of Spain. This 
contest turned the history of the world into new 
paths, and inserted in the history of the Jews pages 
dripping with blood. Peter of Amiens' lament 
about the ill-treatment of pilgrims in Jerusalem, 
which found a thousandfold echo at the Church con- 
gress in Clermont, had aroused piety, chivalry, 
ambition, and a number of other noble and ignoble 
passions, expressing themselves in a crusade. A 
terrible time ensued ; but the greatest suffering fell 
on the German Jews, who had to seal their confes- 
sion of faith with blood. Before the crusades, the 
Jews of Germany had dwelt in peace ; they were 
not excluded from the possession of land, nor 
were they despised and humiliated. When Bishop 
Riidiger Huozmann, of Speyer, extended the limits 
of the town by including the village Old Speyer, he 
knew no better way of improving the new portion 
than by allowing the Jews to have privileges and 
dwellings therein. He allowed the Jews to live 
under their own laws, and their secular head or 
their rabbin (Archisynagogus), like the burgomas- 


ters, decided lawsuits. The Jews could buy slaves, 
and hire male and female servants from Christians, 
in opposition to the canonical laws and against the 
will of Pope Gregory VII. In order to protect 
them from the mob, Riidiger gave them a special 
quarter surrounded by a wall, which they might 
fortify and defend. These privileges, for which they 
annually paid 2,% lbs. of gold, were guaranteed to 
them for all time. Riidiger adds in the charter 
that he was granting to the Jews the same favorable 
conditions that they enjoyed in other German towns. 
Emperor Henry IV confirmed these privileges, 
and added other more favorable clauses. This 
emperor, who, in spite of his thoughtlessness and 
fickleness, was never unjust, issued a decree (6th 
February, 1095) i" favor of the Jews. No one was 
permitted to compel either the Jews or their slaves 
to be baptized. In a lawsuit between Jews and 
Christians, the process was to be conducted and the 
oaths administered according to Jewish law, and 
Jews could not be compelled to undergo ordeals by 
fire and water. Yet, not long after this, they were 
mocked at by the holy combatants in the sacred 
war. The German Jews and those of northern 
France were just then full of the hope of the coming 
of the Messiah. A mystic had calculated that the 
son of David would appear towards the end of the 
250th cycle of the moon, between the years 1096 
and 1 104, and would lead back the sons of Judah to 
the Holy Land. But instead of the trumpet-blast 
of the Messianic redemption they heard only the 
wild cries of the crusaders : " The Jews have cruci- 
fied our Saviour, therefore they must acknowledge 
him or die." 

The first armies of the crusaders, one led by the 
pious Peter of Amiens and his eight knights, the 
other by Gottschalk, did no special harm to the 
Jews ; they plundered Christians and Jews alike. 
But the hordes that followed, the scum of the 


French, English, and Flemish, in the absence of 
Mahometans, began the holy work of plundering 
and murdering with the Jews. It was a shameless 
mob of men and women, who indulged in every sort 
of excess. But these blasphemous crusaders were 
sanctified warriors ; their sins, past and future, had 
been absolved. A monk threw out the inflamma- 
tory suggestion that the Jews should be brought to 
Christianity by force, an inscription, found on the 
grave of Jesus, having made their conversion the 
duty of all believers. This plan seemed to the wild 
crusaders alike profitable, easy to fulfil, and pleasing 
to God. They reasoned that the Jews were infidels 
like the Saracens, both deadly enemies of Chris- 
tianity, and that the crusade could begin on the 
spot, if the beginning were m.ade with the Jews. 
When the troops assembled in France and Ger- 
many, they were marked by the cross on their gar- 
ments and by the blood of the Jews. The mas- 
sacres in France, however, were few in number, 
although the first gathering of crusaders occurred 
there. In Germany security reigned at that time, 
and the Jews of the Rhine district had no suspicion 
of the sad fate which was about to befall them. How- 
ever, at the bidding of the head of their congrega- 
tion, they assembled to pray for their imperiled 
brethren in France. But these fortunately escaped 
with but little damage, because the princes and 
priests energetically took the part of the Jews. 
Only in Rouen, which belonged to England, the 
crusaders drove the Jews into a church, and, placing 
their swords at their breasts, gave them the choice 
between death and baptism. The persecutions first 
received a tragic character on German ground. 

The hordes which moved through France and 
Flanders into German territory were led by a 
French knight, named William the Carpenter, who 
had begun by plundering his peasants in order to 
fit out his soldiers. The spirit animating William's 


troops is shown by one instance. They placed a 
goose and a herd of goats in the van, firmly be- 
lieving that they would show them tbe way to 
Jerusalem. To such the Jewish communities of the 
Moselle and the Rhine were given over. The 
emperor Henry was at that time occupied in war 
with Italy, and the wildest anarchy prevailed in 
Germany. At the first news of the approach of 
William, the congregation of Treves was seized 
with such terror that some of its members killed 
their own children. Women and girls loaded them- 
selves with stones, and threw themselves into the 
Moselle in order to escape baptism or disgrace at 
the hands of the holy murderers. The rest of the 
community entreated the bishop, Egilbert, for his 
protection. But this hard-hearted prince of the 
Church, who perhaps sought to cancel by zeal the 
imputation of heresy resting upon him, replied : " If 
you apostatize, I will give you peace and the enjoy- 
ment of your property. If you remain hardened, 
your soul and body shall be destroyed together." 
The Jews thereupon assembled in council, and de- 
termined, on the advice of Micah, one of the learned 
members of the congregation, to conform outwardly 
to Christianity. He said to the bishop : " Tell us 
quickly what to believe, and deliver us from the 
men that watch at the gate, ready to kill us." The 
priest recited the Catholic confession of faith, which 
the Jews repeated, and then baptized them. It was 
a disgraceful victory which Christianity celebrated 
over the congregation of Treves, but it did not last 
long. Thereupon the crusaders went to Speyer, 
where the congregation had lately had documentary 
promises of liberty and security. Here some Jews 
were dragged to the church, and commanded to 
undergo baptism. They resolutely refused, and 
were murdered (8th lyar — 3d May, 1096). The 
remaining Jews fled to the palace of the bishop 
Johannsen and to the emperor's castle. The 


bishop, more humane and pious than Egilbert, 
would not countenance such baptism by main 
force, and opposed the furious mob. The Jews 
also defended themselves vigorously, and no more 
of them fell victims to fanaticism. Johannsen 
caused some of the crusaders to be executed, an 
act strongly reproved by the monkish chroniclers. 
They asserted that he was bribed by the Jews. It 
is not to be wondered at that the Jews shuddered 
at baptism, and held themselves disgraced if they 
were borne off unconscious to the font. The 
Christianity of the eleventh century they could re- 
gard only as a terrible form of paganism. The 
worship of relics and pictures ; the conduct of the 
head of the Church, who absolved nations from a 
sacred oath, and incited them to regicide ; the im- 
moral, dissipated life of the priesthood ; the horrible 
practices of the crusaders — all these things re- 
minded them much more of the practices of idola- 
ters than of the followers of a holy God. As in 
the days of the Maccabees their ancestors had re- 
volted against the enforced worship of Zeus and 
its attendant practices, so the German Jews felt 
towards the Christianity of the times. 

The mob which undertook the attack on the con- 
gregation of Speyer does not appear to have been 
very powerful, and could therefore be repulsed. It 
now awaited re-inforcements, and two weeks later a 
large body of crusaders — " wolves of the forest," 
as the Jewish chronicler calls them — entered Worms. 
The Bishop Allebrandus could not, or would not, 
give the Jews sufficient protection. It seems, how- 
ever, that he disapproved of the massacre of the 
Jews, for he sheltered a part of the community, 
probably its richest and most respected members, 
in the palace. The others, left to themselves, at 
first attempted to resist, but, overcome by numbers, 
they fell under the blows of their murderers, crying, 
" The Lord our God is one." Only a few submitted 


to baptism, but the greater number committed 
suicide. Women killed their tender babes. The 
fanatics destroyed the houses of the Jews, plundered 
their goods, and burnt the Scriptures found in the 
synagogues and houses (on Sunday, 23d lyar — i8th 
May). Seven days later those that had found pro- 
tection in the bishop's palace were also attacked. 
The fanatics either made a raid on the palace, and 
demanded the surrender of their victims, or Alle- 
brandus himself had offered to the Jews an asylum 
only in order to convert them through kindness. 
At any rate, the bishop informed the Jews that he 
would not shelter them any longer, unless they con- 
sented to be baptized. The chief amongst theni 
begged for a short interval for consideration. The 
fanatics remained outside the palace, ready to lead 
the Jews to the font or to death. After the appointed 
time the bishop caused the door to be opened, and 
found the Jews in their own blood ; they had pre- 
ferred death at the hands of their brethren. On hear- 
ing this, the furious mob fell on the survivors, and 
murdered them, dragging the corpses through the 
streets. Only a few saved themselves by osten- 
sible conversion to Christianity (Sunday, ist Sivan 
— 25th May). A youth, Simcha Cohen, whose 
father and seven brothers had been murdered, 
desired to avenge himself. He was taken to the 
church, and when about to receive the sacrament 
he drew forth a knife, and stabbed the nephew of 
the bishop. As he had expected, he was murdered 
in the church. It was only when the crusaders had 
left the town that the Jewish martyrs, who numbered 
nearly 800, were buried by Jewish hands. The con- 
gregation, which was formed later on, cherished 
their memory as of martyrs, or saints (Kedoshim), 
to be venerated and held up as patterns of stead- 
fast faith. 

The day after the massacre of the remnant in 
Worms, the crusaders arrived in Mayence. Here 


their leader was a Count Emmerich, or Emicho, of 
Leiningen, a close relation of Archbishop Ruthard, 
an unprincipled, bloodthirsty man. He desired the 
riches of the Jews of Mayence as much as their 
blood, and together with the archbishop, an oppo- 
nent of Henry IV, devised a fiendish plan of ex- 
termination. The archbishop invited all the Jews 
to take shelter in his palace, until the danger had 
passed. Over 1 300 Jews took refuge in the cellars 
of the building, with anxious hearts and prayers on 
their lips. But at break of day (Tuesday, Sivan 3d 
— 27th May), Emmerich of Leiningen led the cru- 
saders to the bishop's palace, and demanded the 
surrender of the Jews. The archbishop had indeed 
appointed a guard, but the soldiers refused to bear 
arms against the fanatical pilgrims, who easily pene- 
trated into the palace, and the terrible scene of 
Worms was repeated. Men, young and old, women 
and children, fell by the sword of their brethren 
or their foes. The corpses of thirteen hundred 
martyrs were eventually conveyed from the palace. 
The treasures of the Jews were divided between 
the archbishop and Emmerich. Ruthard had kept 
sixty Jews hidden in the church, and they were con- 
veyed to the Rhine district ; but on the way they 
also were seized and murdered. Only a few were 
baptized ; two men and two girls — Uriah and Isaac, 
with his two daughters — were induced by fear to 
accept baptism, but their repentance drove them to 
a terrible act of heroism. Isaac killed his two 
daughters on the eve of Pentecost, in his own 
house, and then set fire to the dwelling ; then he 
and his friend Uriah went to the synagogue, set 
fire, and died in the flames. A great part of 
Mayence was destroyed by this fire. 

Meanwhile, crusaders, under Hermann the Car- 
penter, assembled at Cologne on the eve of Pente- 
cost. The members of this oldest congregation 
of Germany prepared for the worst ; but they en- 


treated the protection of the citizens and the bishop. 
Touched with pity for their Jewish fellow-citizens, 
humane burghers of Cologne received the Jews 
into their houses. When the furious mob, at break 
of day on Pentecost (Friday, May 30th), entered 
the houses of the Jews, they found them empty, and 
had to spend their fury on stones and wood. They 
destroyed the dwellings, pillaging the contents and 
crushing the scrolls of the Law on the very day 
when the giving of the Law was celebrated. An 
earthquake which occurred on the day incited the 
madmen to fresh fury ; they considered it as a sign 
of heaven's approval. One man and his wife fell 
victims to their rage on this day. The pious man, 
Mar-Isaac, willingly accepted a martyr's death. He 
did not desire to escape, and remained in his house, 
engaged in prayer. He was dragged to the church, 
and spitting on the crucifix that was held up before 
him, was killed. The rest of the Jews of Cologne 
remained unhurt in the houses of the citizens and 
in the bishop's palace. The noble bishop, Her- 
mann III, whose name deserves to be immortalized, 
assisted the Jews to depart secretly from the city, 
and to be safely housed in seven neighboring towns 
and villages belonging to his diocese. Here they 
passed three weeks in anxiety, praying and fasting 
day after day, and when they heard that the pil- 
grims had come to Neus, one of their cities of 
refuge, for the feast of St. John (ist Tamuz, 24th 
June), they fasted on two days in succession. The 
pilgrims had prepared themselves for renewed 
massacres by a mass on the day of St. John, and 
killed all the Jews who had taken refuge in Neus, 
according to one authority, not indeed very reliable, 
two hundred in number. One Samuel ben Asher, 
who had exhorted his brethren to remain firm, and 
his two sons, were brutally murdered, and their 
bodies hung to the door of their house. 

The pilgrims had at last discovered the refuge of 


the Jews of Cologne, and now hunted them out of 
their hiding-places. Many ended their lives in the 
Icikes and bogs, following the example of Samuel 
ben Yechiel, a learned and pious man. Standing 
in the water, and pronouncing a blessing, he killed 
his son, a handsome and strong youth, and as the 
victim said "Amen," all those looking on intoned 
their " Hear, O Israel," and threw themselves into 
the water. 

The pilgrims continued their work of destruction, 
and in two months (May-July) twelve thousand 
Jews are said to have been killed in the Rhenish 
towns. The rest outwardly accepted Christianity, 
in the expectation that the just emperor, on his 
return from Italy, would listen to their complaints. 
Wherever the savage pilgrims met with Jews the 
tragic scenes were repeated. The large commu- 
nity of the town of Ratisbon suffered greatly. In 
connection with the crusades the Jews of Bohemia 
enter into history ; until then they had not felt the 
pressure of the yoke, Christianity not having as 
yet attained to power in Slavonic countries. Many 
amongst them were wealthy, and occupied them- 
selves in the slave-trade, chiefly dealing in Slavs, 
who were exported to the west of Europe and to 
Spain. In this way the Jews came into conflict with 
the priesthood, and Bishop Adalbert of Prague 
strove against this practice, and collected large 
sums of money in order to buy the slaves from the 
Jews. Then the crusades commenced, and trans- 
planted into Bohemian soil the poisonous seed of 
fanaticism. When the crusaders traversed Bohemia, 
its powerful duke, Wratislaw II, was occupied in a 
foreign war, and could do nothing to stem the evil. 
The miscreant crusaders were, therefore, at liberty 
to gratify their fanaticism, and drag off the Jews 
of Prague to baptism or death. Bishop Cos- 
mas preached in vain against such excesses ; the 
crusaders understood Christianity better than the 
prince of the Church. 


Fortunately for the Jews of western Europe, and 
especially of Germany, those filled with this blood- 
thirsty fanaticism were the mere scum of the people.' 
The princes and citizens were horrified at such 
deeds of crime^ and the higher priesthood, with the 
exception of Archbishops Ruthard of Mayence and 
Egilbert of Treves, were on the side of the Jews. 
The time had not yet arrived when the three 
powers — the nobility, priesthood, and people — 
were united in their hatred and persecution of the 
Jews. When the news came that 200,000 crusaders, 
under Emmerich and Hermann, had met with a dis- 
graceful end — most of them having been killed in 
Hungary, whilst a miserable remnant only had 
returned to Germany — both Jews and Christians 
felt it to be a judgment of God. Meanwhile 
Emperor Henry IV had returned from Italy, and at 
the news of the atrocities perpetrated against the 
Jews by the crusaders, he gave public expression 
to his horror, and at the request of the head of the 
congregation of Speyer, Moses ben Guthiel, he 
permitted those that had been forcibly baptized to 
return to Judaism. This was a gleam of joy for the 
Jews of Germany. The converts did not fail to 
make use of their liberty to throw off the mask of 
Christianity (1097). The representatives of the 
Church, however, were by no means pleased at 
this proceeding. Even Pope Clement III, who 
was upheld by the emperor, declaimed against his 
humanity, which was contrary to the teachings of 
the Church. "We have heard," he wrote to Henry 
IV, " that the baptized Jews have been permitted 
to leave the Church. This is unexampled and sin- 
ful ; and we demand of all our brethren that they 
take care that the sacrament of the Church be not 
desecrated by the Jews." The emperor cared but 
little about the unholy zeal of the priesthood. Far 
from forbidding the Jews to return to their religion, 
he even permitted proceedings to be instituted 


against the kinsmen of Archbishop Ruthard, of 
Mayence, on account of the theft of the property 
of the Jewish congregation. The Jews of Mayence 
in a petition had informed the emperor that Emmer- 
ich of Leiningen and his kinsmen, together with 
the archbishop, had appropriated the treasures 
deposited by 'the Jews in the archbishop's palace. 
None of the accused appeared in answer to this 
citation to defend himself. Ruthard, whose con- 
science was not clear, feared the disgrace of ex- 
posure, and, as he was in disfavor with the emperor, 
he fled to Erfurt. Thereupon the emperor con- 
fiscated the revenues of the archbishopric (1098). 
Ruthard revenged himself by joining the enemies 
of the emperor, who plotted to humiliate him. 

The Jews of Bohemia were very unfortunate in 
this year. Hearing that the emperor had permitted 
return to Judaism, they abandoned their pretended 
faith, but feared to remain in a country where they 
could not obtain justice. They gathered together 
their property and possessions in order to send 
them on to a place of safety, and determined to 
emigrate to Poland or to Pannonia (Austria and 
Hungary). Wratislaw, the ruler of Bohemia, now 
returned from his campaign, and heard that the 
Jews intended sending their riches out of the coun- 
try. Thereupon he placed them under military 
surveillance. The elders were called together, and 
the duke's treasurer announced to them in his 
lord's name that everything they possessed be- 
longed to him, and that they were endeavoring to 
rob him : " Ye brought none of Jerusalem's treas- 
ures to Bohemia. Conquered by Vespasian, and 
sold for a mere nothing, ye have been scattered 
over the globe. Naked ye have entered the land, 
and naked ye can depart. For your secession from 
the Church, Bishop Cosmas may judge you." There 
was nothing to be said against this logic ; it was 
the argument of brutality. The Bohemian Jews 


were plundered, only enough being left to them to 
stay for the moment the cravings of hunger. With 
malicious pleasure a contemporary chronicler re- 
lates that the Jews were despoiled of more gold 
than the Greeks had taken from Troy. Still more 
dreadful was the fate of the Jews of Jerusalem. 
When the crusading army, under Godfrey of Bouil- 
lon, after many attempts had taken the city by 
storm, and massacred the Mahometans, they drove 
the Jews, Rabbanites and Karaites, into a syna- 
gogue, set fire to it, and burnt all within its walls 
(Jul- 15, 1099). 

Emperor Henry, however, seriously desired to 
protect the Jews of his empire. Having heard of 
the horrible scenes of murder in Mayence which 
had occurred during his absence, he caused his 
princes and citizens to swear an oath that they 
would keep the peace with the Jews, and that 
they would not ill-treat them (1103). The pro- 
tection thus granted by the emperor to the Jews 
was of temporary benefit to them, but brought evil 
results after awhile. They thus became dependent 
upon the ruler of the land, almost his slaves. 

This circumstance was not the only evil result of 
the first crusade for the German Jews. On the one 
hand Pope Clement III claimed the converts who 
had joined the Church to save themselves from 
death, forgetting that their whole being turned 
against the Church, and that they regarded their 
enforced Christianity with contempt and hate. On 
the other hand, those that had remained Jews kept 
aloof from the renegades, and would not intermarry 
nor associate with them, although they had shown 
their attachment to Judaism by a prompt return to 
it. These unhappy people were thus regarded as 
renegades by both sides. When, however, Rashi 
heard of this narrowness, his true piety protested 
against it. " Far be it from us," he said, " to reject 
those that have returned. They acted through fear 


of the sword, and lost no time in returning to 

Other results of the first crusade were still worse. 
The German Jews, already inclined to extravagant 
piety, became yet more bigoted in consequence of 
their unexampled sufferings. All merriment died 
out amongst them, and they clothed themselves 
only in sackcloth and ashes. Though they hated 
the Catholic Church, they adopted its custom of 
visiting the graves of martyrs, whom they also 
called saints (Kedoshim), offered up prayers for the 
dead, and entreated their intercession with heaven. 
The Judaism of Germany from that time on as- 
sumed a gloomy aspect. The so-called poets, in 
their penitential prayers and lamentations, rang the 
changes on only one theme, the fearful troubles and 
the desolation of Israel. The study of the Talmud 
formed a counterpoise to the growing tendency of 
the German Jews to give a penitential character to 
their religion. This study, as pursued by Rashi, 
was a protection against unthinking, brooding 
monasticism. He who desired to find his way 
through the intricate mazes of the Talmud had to 
keep his eyes open to facts, and could not permit 
his mind to grow rusty. The study of the Talmud 
became balm for the wounds inflicted by the cru- 
sading mob on the communities of the Rhine dis- 
trict. The pleasure resulting from creative thought 
ruled in the schools, and subdued sorrow and 
despair ; and the House of Learning became the 
refuge of the unfortunate oppressed. The two 
men who gave the great impulse to Talmudical 
studies died at the commencement of the twelfth 
century. They were Isaac Alfassi (died 1103), and 
Rashi, who died two years later (i 105, 29th Tamuz — 
13th July). Both left a large number of disciples, 
who spread the study of the Talmud, and both were 
highly honored by their contemporaries and by 
posterity. The admiration of the Spaniards for 


Alfassi was expressed, as befitted their high culture, 
in verses, whilst the German Jews and those of 
northern France, who occupied a lower stage of 
culture, commemorated Rashi by extravagant le- 
gends. Two young poets, Moses Ibn-Ezra and 
Jehuda Halevi, composed touching elegies on the 
death of Alfassi. 



The Jews under the Almoravides — Joseph Ibn-Sahal, Baruch Ibn- 
Albalia, Joseph Ibn-Zadik— Joseph lbn-Migash--The Poets Ibn- 
Tabben, Ibn-Sakbel and Ibn-Ezra— Abulhassan Jehuda Halevi— 
His Poems and Philosophy — The Chozari— Incidents of his Life — 
Prince Samuel Almansur — Jehuda Halevi's Pilgrimage to Jeru- 
salem — His Death. 

1 105 — 1 148 c. E. 

The Jews of Spain, even those of Andalusia, could 
still consider this land of culture as their home. 
Even under the barbarous Almoravides, who had 
become masters of the south, they lived in security 
and peace, for these people were no fanatics. Only 
on one occasion did a prince of the Almoravides, 
named Yussuf Ibn-Teshufin, attempt to compel the 
Jews of his district to accept Islam. He was travel- 
ing through Lucena, and noted the populous Jewish 
community, which through Alfassi had become the 
most influential in Spain. The prince called to- 
gether the representatives of the Jews, and an- 
nounced to them that he had read that Mahomet 
had bestowed religious liberty on the Jews on con- 
dition that their expected Messiah should arrive 
within 500 years, and that if this space of time after 
the Hejira passed without his appearance, the Jews 
must, without opposition, accept Mahometanism ; 
that the Jews of Mahomet's age had accepted the 
condition, and the time having now elapsed, he 
(Yussuf Ibn-Teshufin), the leader of the Faithful, 
expected them to fulfil the condition, or his protec- 
tion would be withdrawn from them, and they would 
be outlawed. The Jews of Lucena, however, by 
gifts of money and through the intercession of his 



wise vizir, Abdallah Ibn-Allah, induced Yussuf to 
alter his intention. 

Under the second ruler of the Almoravide 
dynasty, Ali (i 106-1 143), the Jews not only lived in 
peace, but some of them were entrusted with the 
collection of the poll-tax from Jewish and Chris- 
tian inhabitants, and distinguished men received 
posts of honor at the court. Science and poetry 
were the qualifications for high dignities. A Jewish 
physician and poet, Abu Ayub (Solomon Ibn- 
Almuallem), of Seville, was the court-physician of 
the Caliph Ali, and bore the titles of prince and 
vizir. Alcharizi says that his verses rendered 
eloquent the lips of the dumb, and illuminated the 
eyes of the blind. The physician Abulhassan Abra- 
ham ben Me'ir Ibn-Kamnial, of Saragossa, likewise 
occupied a high post at Ali's court, and also bore 
the title of vizir. The greatest poets of the time 
celebrated his nobility of soul, his generosity and 
his interest in the welfare of his co-religionists : 
" A prince who treads the earth, but whose aim is in 
the stars. He hastens like the lightning to do 
good, whilst others only creep along. The gates 
of his generosity are open to his compatriots and 
to strangers. Through his fortune he saved those 
doomed to death, and rescued the lives of those 
doomed to destruction. The prince (Ibn-Kamnial) 
is a protection and a guard unto his people ; he 
dwells in Spain, but his loving-kindness reaches 
unto Babylon and Egypt." Abu Ishak Ibn-Mohajar 
also bore the title of vizir, and was similarly immor- 
talized by the poets. The prince Solomon Ibn- 
Farussal, likewise praised by his contemporaries, 
appears to have been in the service of a Christian 
prince, and was entrusted with an embassy to the 
court of Murcia. Shortly before the battle of Ucles, 
at which the Mahometan forces obtained a signal 
victory over those of the Christians, Ibn-Farussal 
was murdered (1108, 20th lyar — 2nd May). The 


young Jehuda Halevi, who had composed a song of 
praise for the reception of the vizir, had to change 
it into an elegy on the mournful news of the vizir's 

An astronomical writer, Abraham ben Chiya 
Albargeloni (b. 1065, d. 1136), occupied a high 
position under another Mahometan prince. He 
was a sort of minister of police (Zachib as-Schorta), 
and bore the title of prince. He was held in high 
consideration by several rulers on account of his 
astronomical knowledge, and he debated with 
learned priests, to whom he demonstrated the accu- 
racy of the Jewish calendar. But he also practised 
the pseudo-science of astrology, and drew a horo- 
scope of favorable and unfavorable hours of the 
day. He calculated in the same way that the Mes- 
siah would appear in the . year 5 1 1 8 of the world 
(1358 c. E.). 

Thus men of influence and knowledge were not 

wanting at this period in Spain, but none of them 

acted as a center, like Chasda'i Ibn-Shaprut and 

Samuel Ibn-Nagrela, from which might go forth the 

impetus that would rouse to activity slumbering 

talents, or mark out the road for literary efforts. 

The first half of the twelfth century produced a vast 

number of clever men in Jewish circles, poets, 

philosophers, Talmudists, and almost all their labors 

bore the stamp of perfection. The Jewish culture 

of this period resembled a garden, rich in odorous 

blossoms and luscious fruits, whose productions, 

though varied in color and taste, have their root in 

the same earth. The petty jealousy that rendered 

Menachem ben Saruk and Ibn-Gebirol unhappy, 

the inimical feelings existing between Ibn-Janach 

and Samuel Ibn-Nagrela, between Alfassi and Ibn- 

Albalia, were banished from this circle. The poets 

eulogized each other, and cordially praised the men 

that devoted their powers to other intellectual 

work. They took the greatest interest in one 


another's successes, consoled one another in mis- 
fortune, and regarded one another as members of 
one family. The cordial feeling which Jewish poets 
and men of learning entertained for one another is 
the completest testimony to their nobility of mind. 

It is difficult in a history of these times to 
record and describe all the important personages. 
There were seven distinguished rabbis in this 
period, almost all disciples of Alfassi, who, besides 
studying Talmud, showed taste for poetry and 
science, and in part devoted themselves to these 
pursuits. In Cordova, Joseph ben Jacob Ibn-Sahal 
(born 1070, died 11 24), a disciple of Ibn-Giat, was 
the rabbi. He appears to have met with trouble in 
his youth, and in his verses he complains that his 
own efforts have lacked appreciation, and that 
poetry in general is not honored. To Moses Ibn- 
Ezra, who was his bosom friend, he wrote a versified 
letter of lamentation. Ibn-Ezra, who also craved 
sympathy, consoled him in a poem written in the 
same rhyme and meter as Ibn-Sahal's. The verses 
are easy, flowing and smooth, though without much 

His successor in the rabbinate of Cordova, 
Abu-Amr Joseph ben Zadik Ibn-Zadik (born in 
1080, died 1148-49), was even more celebrated. 
Although Ibn-Zadik is known as an expert Tal- 
mudist, his works are not Talmudic, but consist of 
philosophical treatises in the Arabic language. 
Ibn Zadik dedicated his religio-philosophical work 
(Microcosmos) to a disciple who had asked to be in- 
structed about the greatest good for which man can 
strive. The thoughts developed by Ibn-Zadik are 
by no means new, they were current in the Arabic 
philosophy of the times, but were modified by him 
so as to fit into the system of Judaism. Knowledge 
of self leads to knowledge of God, to a pure con- 
ception of the God-idea, and to the recognition that 
the world was created out of nothing by the divine 


will. This will is contained in Revelation, in the 
Torah ; God revealed it to man, not on His own 
account, for He is rich, sufficient unto Himself, and 
without wants, but to promote man's happiness in 
the world beyond. The first duty of man, of the 
Jew, the servant of God, is to cultivate his mind and 
acquire wisdom and understanding, so that he may 
honor God in a worthy and spiritual manner, and 
gain the bliss of future happiness. Ibn-Zadik also 
remarks that the rites of Judaism, such as the 
observance of the Sabbath, are consonant with 
sense and divine wisdom. Man having free will, 
it is natural that God should mete out to him reward 
and punishment for his actions. The reward of the 
soul is its return to its source, the universal soul, 
and the only conceivable punishment is the sinful 
soul's failure to attain this end. The soul of the 
sinner, stained with earthly failings, cannot wing its 
flight to heaven, but flutters without rest about the 
world ; and this is its punishment. Ibn-Zadik's 
philosophical work, bearing the stamp of mediocrity, 
was but little noticed by his contemporaries and 
successors. His fame as a poet was not great, 
although his liturgical and other verses are light 
and pleasing. They are not the outpourings of a 
poetic soul, but are to some extent a tribute to 

Joseph ben Meir Ibn-Migash Halevi (born 1077, 
died 1 141) surpassed his contemporaries in mastery 
of the Talmud. Grandson of an important man at 
the court of the Abbadides in Seville, and son of a 
learned father, he became in his twelfth year a dis- 
ciple of the school of Alfassi, whose lectures he 
attended uninterruptedly for fourteei? years. When 
Ibn-Migash married (in iioo), Jehuda Halevi com- ' 
posed a glowing epithalamium for the young couple. 
Before his death Alfassi chose him as his successor, 
and by that act showed the nobility of his character ; 
for although he left behind him a learned son, he 


preferred as his successor his gifted disciple. The 
wisdom of choosing a young man of six-and-twenty 
seems to have been questioned by some of the 
members of the congregation (Sivan, May, 1103). 
Joseph Ibn-Migash deserved the praise lavished on 
him for his intellectual and moral qualities. His 
descent from an ancient and noble family, his high 
position as chief of the most respected community, 
did not affect his modesty, nor did the dignity of his 
important office strip him of his humility. Mild, 
however, as was his character, he employed the 
utmost severity when the welfare of Judaism was in 

Spain was at this time in an excited state, and 
split up into parties. In Andalusia the native 
Arabs were opposed to the victorious Almoravide 
Berbers, and they attacked each other in secret and 
in open war ; the Christians (the Mozarabs) settled 
in the neighborhood of Granada conspired secretly 
against their Mahometan landlords, and summoning 
the conqueror of Saragossa, Alfonso of Aragon, 
promised to hand Granada over to him. Christian 
Spain was no less divided, though Castile and 
Aragon ought to have been united through the 
marriage of Alfonso of Aragon and Urraca, Queen 
of Castile. This unhappy marriage was the cause 
of anarchy. One party sided with the king, another 
with the queen, and a third with the young prince 
Alfonso VII, whose teacher had incited him against 
his mother and stepfather. Christians and Ma- 
hometans were frequently seen fighting under one 
standard, sometimes against a Christian prince, 
sometimes against a Mahometan emir. The making 
and breaking of treaties followed each other in 
quick succession . Deception and treachery occurred 
continually, and even the clergy of high position 
passed from party to party, and fought their former 
allies, or assisted their former enemies. 


The Jews of Spain did not remain neutral, and 
either willingly or perforce joined the one or the 
other party, as their interests or political opinions 
dictated. When Mahometans or Christians con- 
spired, they could, in case of discovery, take refuge 
with their powerful co-religionists. The Jews, how- 
ever, did not enjoy such protection, and could 
only hold together for safety. Treachery in their 
midst was, therefore, most disastrous for them, as 
the anger of the enraged rulers not only struck 
the conspirators or .their congregation, but the 
entire Jewish population of the country. When, 
therefore, a member of the congregation of Lucena 
on one occasion threatened to betray his co-re- 
ligionists, the rabbi and judge, Joseph Ibn-Migash, 
determined to make an example of him. He con- 
demned the traitor to be stoned to death at ' twi- 
light on the Day of Atonement. Joseph Ibn-Migash 
left a learned son, Meir (1144), and a large circle 
of disciples, amongst whom was Maimun of Cor- 
dova, whose son was destined to begin a new era 
in Jewish history. 

In the measure in which the study of the Talmud 
in Spain grew, Bible exegesis and the study of 
Hebrew grammar declined. These branches were 
arrested in their development. But on the other 
hand, this period was rich in poets. The Hebrew 
language, during the two centuries since Ben-Labrat, 
had become smooth and pliable, so that it was 
no difficult matter to make verses, and employ 
rhyme and meter. The involved forms developed 
especially by Solomon Ibn-Gebirol found many imi- 
tators. The Arabic custom of writing letters of 
friendship in verses, adopted by the Spanish Jews, 
made a knowledge of prosody a necessity : he who 
did not desire to appear illiterate had to learn how 
to versify. The number of poems which at this 
period saw the light of day was legion. Amongst 
poets worthy of record, who also occupied them- 


selves with matters other than poetry, were Judah 
Ibn-Giat, Judah Ibn-Abbas, Solomon Ibn-Sakbel, 
and the brothers Ibn-Ezra. They were all sur- 
passed by the prince of poets', Jehuda Halevi, 
recognized even by his contemporaries as a master 
of song. 

Solomon ben Sakbel, a relative of Rabbi Joseph 
Ibn-Sahal, unlike Ibn-Giat and Ibn-Abbas, whose 
muse was serious, used the Hebrew language for 
light love-verses. The new form of poetry intro- 
duced by the Arabic poet, Hariri of Basra, induced 
Ibn-Sakbel to make a similar attempt in the Hebrew 
language ; he wrote a kind of satirical romance, 
called Tachkemoni, the hero of which, Asher ben 
Jehuda, is exposed to disappointments and vicissi- 
tudes. The hero tells his adventures in rhymed 
prose, interspersed with verses ; he relates how, 
together with his love, he had passed a long time 
in the forest depths, until, tired of the monotony, 
he longed to join a circle of friends who passed 
their time in feasting. Attracted by the letter of 
some unknown fair one, he set out to find her, and 
was introduced into a harem, the master of which, 
with grim "Berber mien," threatened him with 
death. This, however, was only a mask assumed 
by the maid of -his lady-love in order to frighten 
him. At length he had hopes of attaining his end, 
but when he meets the supposed mistress, he finds 
the entire affair to have been the joke of a friend. 
This poem has no artistic merit, and is only an 
imitation of his Arab model. The ease with which 
Ibn-Sakbel employs the Hebrew language, and the 
skill with which he combines profoundly serious re- 
flections with the lightest banter, are the only features 
to be admired. 

The four brothers Ibn-Ezra, of Granada, were 
richly endowed ; they were noble, learned, and 
wealthy. Their names were Abu-Ibrahim Isaac, 
Abu-Harun Moses, Abulhassan Jehuda, and Abu- 


hajaj Joseph, the youngest. Their father Jacob had 
occupied an office under King Habus, or rather 
under his vizir, Ibn-Nagrela. One might know by 
their noble character, said a contemporary historian, 
that these four princely sons of Ibn-Ezra were of 
David's blood and of ancient lineage. The most 
celebrated amongst them was Abu-Harun Moses 
(born 1070, died 1139), who boasted that he was 
the pupil of his eldest brother. He was the most 
prolific poet of his time. 

A misfortune seems to have aroused his muse. 
He loved his niece, by whom he was loved in 
return. The brother, however, refused to give 
him his daughter, and the other brothers approved 
the decision. Moses fled from his father's house, 
and wandered to Portugal and Castile (iioo). He 
was tortured by pangs of love, and time did not 
heal his wounds. False friends seem to have 
widened the breach between him and his brothers. 
His love found expression in verses, and the muse 
became his comforter. He sought to drown his 
sorrow in earnest study and to find in knowledge 
a solace for the loss of his brothers and his beloved. 
He indeed won friends and admirers who remained 
true to him until death. A man of high position in 
Christian Spain, who is represented as a benefactor 
of the Jews, took an interest in the unhappy Moses, 
pn whom he bestowed his friendship. Moses Ibn- 
Ezra in many respects resembled Solomon Ibn- 
Gebirol. He also complained of deception and 
jealousy and of the hardships and faithlessness of 
the times. Like the poet of Malaga, his own emo- 
tions inspire him ; there is no great aim in his 
poetic effusions. But Moses Ibn-Ezra was neither 
so tender nor so impressionable as Ibn-Gebirol, nor 
was he so sad or complaining, but at times sang 
lively songs, and dallied with the muse. He was 
far behind Ibn-Gebirol as a poet. His poetry was 
labored and stilted, his verses often hard, with- 


out sweetness and freshness, and neither rhythmical 
nor harmonious. Moses Ibn-Ezra was especially 
fond of using words of the same sound, with 
different and often opposite meaning, a habit which 
he had adopted from the Arabic poets. His com- 
mand of the Hebrew language, the abundance of his 
poetical works, and the variety of meters with which 
he enriched Hebrew poetry are alike admirable. 
He composed a song-cycle, which he called a 
string of pearls, composed of 1210 verses in ten 
divisions ; they were dedicated to his patron Ibn- 
Kamnial. These verses are as varied in form as 
in contents. The poet in this collection alternately 
sings the praise of wine, love, and joy, of voluptuous 
life amidst leafy bowers and the song of birds, com- 
plains of the separation from friends, of faithless- 
ness and the approach of old age, incidentally 
recommends trust in God, and lastly, praises the art 
of poetry. Moses Ibn-Ezra also composed three 
hundred poems, in more than ten thousand verses, 
for special occasions, and also two hundred prayers 
for New Year and the Day of Atonement, portions 
of which were incorporated in the ritual of many 
congregations (of the communities of Spain, Mont- 
pellier, Avignon, and of the Romagnoles). But few 
of his religious poems have true poetic fervor ; they 
are all composed according to the rules of the art, but 
true beauty is wanting. Moses Ibn-Ezra wrote, in 
Arabic, a dissertation on the rules of the poetic art, 
called " Conversations and Recollections," which at 
the same time is a sort of history of Spanish-Jewish 
poetry from its first beginnings. This work, deal- 
ing also with Arabic and Castilian poetry, is a 
treasure for the literary history of Spain. The 
poorest work of Moses ' Ibn-Ezra is his so-called 
philosophical treatise, written in Hebrew, wherein 
he expounds the barren philosophy of the times 
according to Arabic models. 


Notwithstanding his comparative insignificance 
as a philosopher and his mediocrity as a poet, 
Moses Ibn-Ezra was held in high honor by his con- 
temporaries on account of his facility in writing. 
He stood on a friendly footing with all important 
personages of the time, and they praised him in 
prose and verse, and he likewise praised them. 
He became reconciled to his brothers, when the 
love of his youth died in giving birth to a boy 
(1114). On her deathbed she spoke of him, and 
her words, which became a holy remembrance to 
him, inspired him to write an elegy which, imbued 
with true feeling, was far more poetical than his 
other works. This elegy Moses Ibn-Ezra sent to 
his eldest brother, and it was the first step toward 
their reconciliation. As his brothers departed this 
earth one by one, the survivor was overwhelmed 
with grief, and dedicated to their memory verses 
full of feeling. Moses Ibn-Ezra retained his poetic 
gift until a great age. Jehuda Halevi wrote a 
touching tribute to his memory. 

The brilliant luminary of this period and its chief 
exponent was Abulhassan Jehuda ben Samuel 
Halevi (Ibn-Allevi), born in Old Castile in 1086. 
In the annals of mankind his name deserves a 
separate page with a golden border. To describe 
him worthily, history would need to borrow from 
poetry her most glowing colors and her sweetest 
tones. Jehuda Halevi was one of the chosen, to 
whom the expression, "an image of God," may 
be applied without exaggeration. He was a perfect 
poet, a perfect thinker, a worthy son of Judaism, 
which, through his poetry and thought, was ennobled 
and idealized. 

When Spain shall have discarded its prejudices, 
and shall no longer estimate the greatness of its 
historical personages by the standard of the Church, 
then Jehuda Halevi will occupy a place of honor in 
its Pantheon. The Jewish nation has long since 


crowned him with the laurel-wreath of poetry, and 
recognized the wealth of piety and pure morality 
that he possessed. 

" Pure and faithful, even spotless 
Was his song, e'en as his soul was : 
Soul, that when the Maker fashioned. 
With his handiwork delighted. 

Straight he kissed the beauteous spirit ; 
And that kiss, in sweetes't music 
Echoing, thrills through all the singing 
Of the poet consecrated."' 

His deep moral Earnestness was closely united 
with a cheerful, serene philosophy of life. The 
admiration which was showered upon him did not 
destroy his modesty, and despite his devotion to his 
friends, he still preserved his own peculiar charac- 
teristics and the independence of his views. His 
rich store of knowledge clustered about one center, 
and however great a poet, in the best sense of the 
word, he may have been, he was keenly conscious 
of his own feelings, thoughts, and actions. He pre- 
scribed rules for himself, and remained true to 
them. Deep as were his sentiments, he was far 
from excess of feeling, or sentimentality. 

Jehuda Halevi's biography contains little that is 
extraordinary. Born in Christian Spain, he attended 
the college of Alfassi at Lucena, because Castile 
and the north of Spain were still wanting in Tal- 
mudical scholars. When but a youth, as in the 
case of Ibn-Gebirol, the muse aroused him ; not, 
however, as the latter, with mournful tones, but 
with pure, joyous strains. He celebrated in song 
the happy experiences of his friends and comrades, 
the nuptials of Ibn-Migash, the birth of the first- 
born in the house of Baruch Ibn-Alb^lia (about 
I loo). Fortune smiled upon this favorite of the 
muses from his youth, and no harsh discord ever 
issued from his poetical heart. In the south of 

' Translation by Solomon Solis Cohen, to whom thanks are due for 
the translation of most of the poetic passages in this volume. — [Ed.] 


Spain he became acquainted with the noble and 
cultured family of Ibn-Ezra. When he learnt that 
Moses Ibn-Ezra had met with a disappointment in 
love, and had exiled himself, the young poet sought 
out his older brother-poet to comfort and soothe 
him with his songs. The latter, struck with surprise 
at Jehuda's beautiful verses and overflowing senti- 
ments, answered him in poetic productions. 

Jehuda Halevi appears to have been in Lucena 
when Alfassi died, and Joseph Ibn-Migash succeeded 
him in the office of rabbi (1103). On the occasion 
of his death Halevi composed a beautiful elegy, and 
celebrated the accession of his successor in a poem 
expressing his homage and deep respect. The 
young man also experienced the pleasure and the 
pain of love ; he sang of the gazelle-like eyes of 
his beloved, her rosy lips, her raven hair. He com- 
plained of her unfaithfulness and of the wounds 
which rent his heart. His amatory poems breathe 
the fire of youth, and display rash impetuousness. 
The southern skies were portrayed in his verses, 
the green meadows and the blue streams. His 
early poetry even bears the stamp of artistic polish, 
of rich fancy and beautiful symmetry, of warmth and 
loveliness. There is no mere jingle of words, no 
thoughtless utterance — all manifests harmony and 
firmness of touch. Jehuda Halevi appears to have 
completely suppressed the pangs of love, for no 
traces whatever are to be found thereof in his later 
life and poems. 

Jehuda Halevi not only completely mastered the 
Hebrew language and the artistic forms of the neo- 
Hebraic poetry, but he also obtained a thorough 
knowledge of the Talmud, studied the natural 
sciences, penetrated even to the depths of meta- 
physics, and was skilled in all branches of learning. 
He wrote Arabic elegantly, and was conversant 
with the new-born Castilian poetry. He obtained 
a livelihood as a physician, practising medicine on 


his return to his native place. He appears to 
have been highly esteemed for his medical skill, for 
on one occasion he wrote to a friend that, living in 
a large town, he was busily engaged in the practice 
of his art. But, in spite of his constant care for the 
bodies of the sick and the dying, he did not forget 
his own soul, but ever maintained the ideals of his 
life. The following letter which, when advanced 
in years (about 1 1 30), he wrote to a friend, is 
interesting : 

" I occupy myself in the hours which belong neither to the day nor 
to the night, with the vanity of medical science, although I am unable 
to heal. The city in which I dwell is large, the inhabitants are 
giants, but they are cruel rulers. Wherewith could I conciliate them 
better than by spending my days in curing their illness ! I physic 
Babel, but it continues infirm. I cry to God that He may quickly 
send deliverance unto me, and give me freedom, to enjoy rest, that 1 
may repair to some place of living knowledge, to the fountain of 

The city of which Jehuda here speaks is Toledo, 
where he passed the years of his manhood. He 
longed, however, to depart thence, as Toledo had 
not yet become a center of Jewish learning. 

The whole power of his creative genius was 
bestowed upon the art of poetry and a thoughtful 
investigation of Judaism. He had a more correct 
conception of poetry, which he valued as something 
holy and God-given, than had his Arab and Jewish 
contemporaries. He distinctly enunciated the view 
that the faculty for composing poetry must be 
innate, original, not acquired. He mocked at those 
who laid down laws about meter and rhyme, and 
were very precise on those points. The truly in- 
spired poet carries the laws within him, and will 
never be guilty of any blunders or inaccuracies. 
As long as he was young, he dissipated the gold 
of his rich poetry on light, flimsy themes, and fol- 
lowing the example of others, wrote sparkling 
lyrics, in which he glorified his numerous friends. 
He sang of wine and pleasure, and composed rid- 


dies. When his friends rebuked him for this con- 
duct (about 1 1 10), he retorted in youthful insolence, 

" Shall he, who four-and-twenty years has not seen run, 
Relinquish all his joys, and the wine-barrel shun ? " 

In these poetic trifles, it delighted him to display his 
skill in overcoming the difficulties of elaborate and 
involved meters. Very often he concluded a poem 
with an Arabic or a Castilian verse. One recognizes 
in the words and the structure the great master 
who had the power of presenting a complete picture 
by a few bold strokes of the pen. His delineations 
of nature may be placed side by side with the best 
poetical productions of all languages. We see the 
flowers bursting forth and blooming ; we inhale in 
deep draughts the balm with which his verse is 
impregnated. The boughs bend beneath the burden 
of their golden fruit ; we hear the songsters of the 
air pouring forth their sweet strains of love ; he 
paints sunshine and the pure air with a masterly 
hand. When he is describing the turbulence of a 
tempest-tossed sea, he communicates to the reader 
all the emotions of sublimity and anxiety which he 
himself felt. But in all this the working of his great 
soul is not revealed ; it was, in a measure, only the 
tribute which he paid to its human part and to the 
fashion of the time. Not even his religious poems, 
which in number were not exceeded by those of his 
older fellow-poet, Moses Ibn-Ezra, for they amount 
to three hundred, but which in depth, heartfelt 
fervor and polish, surpass his as well as those of 
other predecessors, disclose the true greatness of 
his poetical genius. 

The importance of Jehuda Halevi as a poet lies 
in those poems that breathe a national-religious 
spirit. In these his ideas burst from the depths of 
his heart, his whole being rises upwards in ecstasy, 
and when he sings of Zion and its past and future 
glory, when he veils his head in mourning over its 


present slavery, we find the true spirit of his poetry, 
nothing artificial or simulated, but all pervaded by 
strong feeling. In all neo-Hebraic poetry Jehuda 
Halevi's songs of Zion may best be compared with 
the Psalms. When he is breathing forth his laments 
for Zion's widowhood, or dreaming of her future 
splendor, and depicts how she will again be united 
to her God and her children, we fancy that we 
are listening to one of the sons of Korah. The 
muse of Jehuda Halevi, in her maturity, had a lofty 
purpose ; it was to sing of Israel, his God and the 
sanctuary, his past and his future, and to lament his 
humiliation. He was a national poet, and hence it 
is that his songs seize upon the reader with irre- 
sistible force. The complaints of Ibn-Gebirol about 
his own deserted condition can arouse only faint 
interest ; the sufferings of Moses Ibn-Ezra on 
account of his unfortunate love leave us unaffected ; 
but the afiliction of Jehuda Halevi on account of 
his dearly beloved Zion cannot fail to move every 
susceptible heart. 

The national poetry of Jehuda Halevi is of higher 
value, since it has its source not in mere poetical 
sentiments, but in earnest and impassioned convic- 
tion. He was not only the perfect poet, he was 
also the brilliant thinker ; in him feeling and thought 
were completely blended. Poetry and philosophy 
were intimately united within him, neither being 
strange, borrowed, or artificially acquired, but each 
being an innate possession. Just as he gave expres- 
sion to the national feelings of Israel in his songs 
of Zion, so he interpreted, if one may say so, the 
national thoughts of Judaism in an ingenious and 
spiritual manner. Poetry and philosophy were em- 
ployed by him only to glorify and spiritualize the 
inheritance of Israel. He propounded original ideas 
on the relation of God and the world, of man to his 
Creator, on the value of metaphysical speculation, 
of its connection with Judaism, and on the import- 


ance of this religion as contrasted with Christianity 
and Islam. All these problems he solved not in a 
dry, scholastic fashion, but in a lively, interesting, 
and convincing manner. If in his lyrics we may 
liken him to a son of Korah, in the development of 
his thoughts he resembles the author of Job, but he 
is richer in matter, more profound, more compre- 
hensive. From Job or from Plato, Jehuda Halevi 
borrowed the form in which his religious philo- 
sophical system is presented. He expounds his 
thoughts in the form of a dialogue, and like the 
author of Job, combines them with an historic fact, 
thus giving more intense interest to the theme, and 
conveying a lasting impression. When certain of 
his disciples asked him how he could defend rab- 
binical Judaism, and how reply to the objections 
hurled against it by philosophy, Christianity, Islam 
and the Karaites, he produced his answer in a com- 
prehensive, erudite work in the form of a dialogue 
written in elegant Arabic. As its title denotes, 
the book was intended to demonstrate the truth of 
Judaism and to justify the despised religion. 

A heathen, who knew nothing of the wisdom of 
the schoolmen, nor of the three existing religions, 
but who felt the necessity of uniting himself in a 
spiritual, affectionate union with his Creator, be- 
comes convinced of the truth of Judaism. This 
heathen is Bulan, the king of the Chazars, who 
himself embraced the Jewish faith. Him the Cas- 
tilian philosopher makes use of to give an historical 
character to his work, and hence it bears the name 
of Chozari (wrongly spelt Kusari). The clever 
preface, written in an appropriate style, stirs the 
interest of the reader. 

An angel repeatedly appeared in a dream to the 
king of the Chazars, who was a zealous adherent of 
his idolatrous cult, but a man of pious mind, and 
addressed him in these very significant words : 
" Thy intention is good, but not the manner in which 


thou servestGod." In order to ascertain with cer- 
tainty in what manner the Deity should be wor- 
shiped, the king applied to a philosopher. The 
sage, a follower partly of the Aristotelian and partly 
of the neo-Platonic system, fostered in the king 
more of disbelief than belief. He told him that 
God was too exalted to come into any relation 
whatsoever with man, or to demand any reveren- 
tial worship. 

The king of the Chazars did not feel at all satis- 
fied with this comfortless exposition. He felt that 
acts intended to honor God must be of absolute 
value in themselves, and without these, pious and 
moral thoughts could be of but little merit. It was 
impossible to understand why, if the form of wor- 
shiping God was to be an altogether indifferent 
matter, Christianity and Islam, which had divided 
the world between them, should war against each 
other, and even consider mutual slaughter as holy- 
work whereby paradise might be attained. Both 
religions, moreover, appeal to divine manifestations 
and wise prophets, through whose agency the Deity 
has worked miracles. God must then, in some way, 
be in relation to mankind. There must exist some- 
thing mysterious of which the philosophers have no 
notion. Thereupon the king determined to apply 
to a representative of the Christian faith and to a 
Mahometan, in order to learn from them the true 
religion. He did not think of asking the counsel 
of the Jews at first, because from their abject con- 
dition and the universal contempt in which they 
were held, the degraded state of their religion was 
sufficiently apparent. 

A priest acted as the exponent of the tenets of 
the Christian belief to the king. Christianity, he 
said, believes in the eternity of God and the crea- 
tion of the world out of nothing, and that all men 
are descended from Adam ; it accepts as true all 
that the Torah and the Scriptures of Judaism teach. 


but holds as its fundamental dogma, the incarnation 
of the Deity through a virgin of the Jewish royal 
house. The Son of God, the Father and the Holy 
Ghost form a unit. This trinity is venerated by 
the Christians as a unity, even though the phrase 
appears to indicate a threefold personality. Chris- 
tians are to be considered as the real Israelites, 
and the twelve apostles take the place of the 
twelve tribes. 

The mind of the king was as little gratified by 
the answer of the Christian as by that of the 
Philosopher, the reply not being in accordance with 
the dictates of reason. The Christian, he thought, 
should have adduced positive, incontrovertible 
proofs, which would satisfy the human intellect. 
He, therefore, felt it his duty to seek further for 
true religion. 

Thereupon he inquired of a Mahometan theo- 
logian as to the basis of the faith of Islam. The 
Moslem believe, as he affirmed, in the unity and 
eternity of God, and in the creatio ex nihilo ; but 
reject anthropomorphic conceptions. Mahomet was 
the last and most important among the prophets, 
who summoned all people to the faith, and promised 
to the faithful a paradise with all the delights of 
eating, drinking, and voluptuous love, but to the 
infidels, the eternal fire of damnation. The truth of 
Islam depends upon the fact that no man is capable 
of producing so remarkable a book as the Koran, 
or even a single one of its Suras. To him also the 
king replied that the fact of the intimate intercourse 
of God with mortals must rest upon undeniable 
proofs, which the internal evidence for the divine 
origin of the Koran does not afford, for even if its 
diction is able to convince an Arab, it has no power 
over those who are unacquainted with Arabic. 

As both the Christian and the Moslem had re- 
ferred their religions to Judaism in order to verify 
the historic basis of each, the truth-seeking king at 


length determined to overcome his prejudice against 
Judaism, and to make inquiries of a Jewish sage. 
The latter made the following statement of the 
tenets of his creed, in reply to the request of the 
king: "The Jews believe in the God of their 
ancestors, who delivered the Israelites from Egypt, 
performed miracles for their sake, led them into the 
Holy Land, and raised up prophets in their midst — 
in short, in all that is taught in the Holy Scriptures." 
Thereupon the king of the Chazars replied, " I was 
right, then, in not asking of the Jews, because their 
wretched, low condition has destroyed every reason- 
able idea in them. You, O Jew, should have pre- 
mised that you believe in the Creator and Ruler of 
the world, instead of giving me so dry and unattrac- 
tive a mass of facts, which are of significance only 
to you." The Jewish sage replied : " This notion 
that God is the Creator and Ruler of the universe 
requires a lengthy demonstration, and the philoso- 
phers have different opinions on the matter. The 
belief, however, that God performed miracles for us 
Israelites demands no proof, as it depends upon the 
evidence of undoubted eye-witnesses." Starting 
from this point, the religious philosopher, Jehuda 
Halevi, has an easy task to unfold proofs of the 
truth and divine character of Judaism. Philosophy 
discards God and religion entirely, not knowing 
what place to assign to them in the world. Chris- 
tianity and Islam turn their backs on reason, for 
they find reason in opposition to the cardinal doc- 
trines of their religions. Judaism, on the contrary, 
starts from a statement of observed facts, which 
reason cannot possibly explain away. It is quite 
compatible with reason, but assigns to reason its 
limits, and does not accept the conclusions of reason, 
often degenerating into sophistry, when certainty 
can be attained in another way. 

In his correct view of the value of speculative 
thought, Jehuda Halevi stood alone in his own time. 


and anticipated many centuries. The thinkers of 
his time, Jewish, Mahometan and Christian, Rabbi, 
Ulema and Churchman, bowed the knee to Aristotle, 
whose philosophical judgments upon God and His 
relation to the world they placed above Holy Writ, 
or at least they strained and subtilized the Biblical 
verses until they expressed a philosophical idea, 
and thus they became at once believers and scep- 
tics. Jehuda Kalevi alone had the courage to 
point out the limits set by nature to human thought, 
and to proclaim, " Thus far shalt thou go, and no 
further." Philosophy has no right to attack well- 
accredited facts, but must accept them as undeniable 
truths ; it must start with them for bases, bringing 
to bear its power of co-ordinating the facts and illu- 
minating them by the aid of reason. Just as in the 
realm of nature the intellect dare not deny actual 
phenomena when they present themselves, however 
striking and contrary to reason they may appear, 
but must strive to comprehend them, so must it act 
when touching on the question of the knowledge of 
God. This "excellent and irrefutable idea, which of 
late years, after many wanderings in the labyrinth 
of philosophy, has at length discovered a way for 
itself, was first enunciated by Jehuda Halevi. In a 
poem, which is as beautiful as its matter is true, he 
thus expresses his opinion of the Greek spirit which 
studious disciples of philosophy so eagerly affected : 

" Do not be enticed by the wisdom of the Greeks, 
Which only bears fair blossoms, but no fruit. 
What is its essence ? That God created not the world, 
Which, ever from the first, was enshrouded in myths. 
If to its words you lend a ready ear, you 
Return with chattering mouth, heart void, unsatisfied." 

Judaism cannot, according to this system, be as- 
sailed by philosophy at all, because it stands on a 
firm basis, which the thinker must respect, the basis 
of historical facts. The Jewish religion entered the 
world not gradually, little by little, but suddenly, 


like something newly created. It was revealed to 
a vast multitude — to millions of men — who had 
sufficient means of inquiring and investigating 
whether they were deceived by some trickery. 
Moreover, all the miracles that preceded the reve- 
lation on Sinai, and continued to occur during the 
wandering in the desert, took place in the presence 
of many people. Not only on one occasion, the 
beginning of Israel's nationality, was the evident 
interference of God manifested, but it revealed 
itself often, in the course of five hundred years, in 
the outpouring of the spirit of prophecy upon certain 
individuals and classes. By virtue of this character, 
of the confirmed authenticity of these facts, Judaism 
is invested with a certainty greater than that estab- 
lished by philosophy. The existence of God is 
demonstrated more powerfully by the revelation of 
Sinai than by the conclusions of the intellect. Je- 
huda Halevi believed that he had not only cut 
away the ground from beneath the philosophical 
views of his time, but that he had also undermined 
the foundations both of Christianity an'd Islam, and 
laid down the criterion by which the true could be 
distinguished from the false religion. Judaism does 
not feed its adherents with the hope of a future 
world full of bliss, but grants them here on earth 
a glimpse of the heavenly kingdom, and raises, 
through an enduring chain of indisputable facts, the 
hope of the immortality of the soul to the plane of 
absolute certainty. 

Whilst thus giving the general principles of 
Judaism, he had so far not justified it in all its 
details. In order to do this, Jehuda Halevi pro- 
pounded a view which is certainly original and in- 
genious. The truth of the creation, as related in 
the Torah, being pre-supposed, he starts from the 
fact that x\dam was in soul and body completely 
perfect when he came from the hand of the Creator, 
without any disturbing ancestral influences, and the 

CH. XI. god's people and god's land. 333 

ideal, after which man should strive, was set forth 
in all its purity. All truths which are accessible to 
the human soul might have been known to Adam 
without any wearisome study, by his innate con- 
sciousness, and he possessed, so to speak, a pro- 
phetic nature, and was therefore called the son of 
God. This perfection, this spiritual and moral 
endowment, he bequeathed to those of his descend- 
ants who, by virtue of their spiritual fitness, were 
capable of receiving it. Through a long chain of 
ancestors, with some slight interruptions, this innate 
virtue passed to Abraham, the founder of the family 
of the Israelites, and thence to the ancestors of the 
twelve tribes. The people of Israel thus forms the 
heart and kernel of the human race, and through 
divine grace, and especially through the gift of 
prophecy, it was peculiarly fitted for this position. 
This ideal nature elevates the possessor ; it may be 
said to constitute the intermediate step between 
man and the angels. In order to attain and pre- 
serve this divine gift, it is necessary to have some 
place which, by reason of the circumstances of the 
climate, is of help in promoting a higher spiritual 
life. For this purpose God selected the land of 
Canaan. Like Israel, so the Holy Land was 
specially dhosen ; it was selected because it lies at 
the center of the earth. There the rule of God was 
made manifest by the rise of prophets and by ex- 
traordinary blessings and curses, which were super- 
natural. The precepts and prohibitions which 
Judaism ordains are means whereby the divinely 
prophetic nature in the Israelite nation may be 
nurtured and preserved. To this end the priests 
of the house of Aaron were appointed, the Temple 
erected, the sacrificial laws and the whole code 
established. God alone, from whom all these laws 
emanated, knows in how far they aid in furthering 
this great aim. Human wisdom durst not find fault 
with or change them, because the most unimportant 


alteration might easily cause the grand end to be 
lost sight of, even as nature brings forth varied pro- 
ductions by slight changes of the soil and climate. 
The duties of morality, or the laws of reason, do 
not constitute the peculiarity of Judaism, as many 
imagine. These are rather the bases on which the 
commonwealth was established, as even a robber 
band cannot dispense with justice and fairness if it 
wishes to hold together. The religious duties are 
the true essentials of Judaism, and are intended to 
preserve in the people of Israel divine light and 
grace and permanent prophetic inspiration. 

Though the exact significance of the religious 
laws is rightly withheld from human understanding, 
the wisdom of their originator is yet reflected in 
them. Judaism involves neither the life of a hermit 
nor ascetic mortification ; and, the opponent of 
brooding melancholy, it desires to see in its fol- 
lowers a joyful disposition. It indicates the limits 
of the soul's activity and the promptings of the 
heart, and thus maintains the individual and com- 
munal life of the nation in harmonious equipoise. 
A man deserving to be called pious from a Jewish 
point of view, does not flee from the world, nor 
despise life, and desire death in order more quickly 
to obtain eternal life ; he does not deny himself the 
pleasures of life, but is an upright guardian of his 
own territory, that is, of his body and soul. He 
assigns to all the faculties of the body and the soul 
what is due to each, protects them against want 
and superfluity, thereby making them docile, and 
employs them as willing instruments, enabling him 
to rise to the higher life which emanates directly 
from the Deity. 

After Jehuda Halevi had discovered the great 
value of religious deeds, it was an easy task for him 
to prove the superiority of Talmudical Judaism over 
Karaism, and also to invest it with more resplendent 
virtues than those distinguishing Islam and Chris- 


tianity. The condition of slavery into which Israel 
had fallen, whilst scattered among the nations of 
the earth, is, according to the view of the poet- 
philosopher, no evidence of its decay, nor a reason 
for abandoning hope. In the same manner, the 
teiflporal power, on which Christians and Moslems 
equally pride themselves, is no proof of the divinity 
of their doctrines. Poverty and misery, despised 
in the eyes of man, are of higher merit with God 
than inflated pride and greatness. The Christians 
themselves are not so proud of their mighty princes 
as of humble men, such as Jesus, who commanded 
that " whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, 
turn to him the other also," and of their apostles 
who suffered the martyrdom of humiliation and con- 
tumely. The Moslems also take pride in the fol- 
lowers of their Prophet, who endured much sufifering 
on his account. The greatest sufferer, however, is 
Israel, since he is among men what the heart is in 
the human organism. Just as the heart sympa- 
thetically suffers with every part of the body, so 
the Jewish nation suffers most keenly for every 
wrongdoing among the nations, whether consciously 
or unconsciously perpetrated. The words which 
the great prophet represents the nations of the 
world as saying apply to Israel : " He hath borne 
our griefs, and carried our sorrows." The Jewish 
people, in spite of the unspeakable agonies it has 
gone through, has not perished ; it may be likened 
to a person who is dangerously ill, whom the skill 
of the physician has entirely given up, but who 
expects to be saved by some miracle. The picture 
of the scattered, lifeless bones, which at the word 
of the prophet unite, are clothed with flesh and 
skin, have new breath breathed into them, and 
again stand erect, also applies to Israel ; it is a 
complete description of Israel in its despoiled and 
low condition. The dispersion of Israel is a miracu- 
lous, divine plan, devised to impart to the nations of 


the earth the spirit with which Israel is endowed. 
The race of Israel resembles a grain of seed which, 
placed in the ground, apparently rots away, and 
appears to have been absorbed into the elements 
of its surroundings. But when it buds and blos- 
soms forth, it again assumes its original nature, and 
throws off the disfiguring husk which envelops it, 
and finally displays its own vital force according to 
its kind, till it, step by step, attains its highest de- 
velopment. As soon as mankind, prepared for it 
by Christianity and Islam, recognizes the true im- 
portance of the Jewish nation as the bearer of the 
divine light, it will also pay due honor to the root, 
hitherto looked upon with contempt. All mankind 
will adhere to Israel, and having developed into 
glorious fruit, will finally enter the Messianic king- 
dom, which is the true fruit of the tree. 

Certainly the exalted significance of Judaism and 
the people that confess it was never more elo- 
quently preached. Thought and feelings, philoso- 
phy and poetry, all combined in this original system 
of Jehuda of Castile, in order to set up a sublime 
ideal, the point of union between heaven and earth. 

Abulhassan Jehuda did not belong to that class 
of men who form noble conceptions, and lead a con- 
temptible Hfe. In him thought and deed were iden- 
tical. As soon as he had come to the conclusion 
that the Hebrew language and the land of Canaan 
possessed a peculiarly divine character, that they 
were consecrated means for a holy purpose, this 
conviction governed his conduct. The treasures 
of his poetical genius were left uncultivated for a 
long time, because he considered it a profanation 
to employ the Hebrew language in imitating the 
Arabic measures. The philosopher-poet was firmly 
convinced, moreover, that the Holy Land bore 
traces of the divine grace. His poetic soul was 
filled with the spiritual glory of Palestine. From 
the decayed splendor of its desolate condition there 


Still breathed a higher inspiration. The bitterest 
pangs of sorrow penetrated his heart at the thought 
of the sacred ruins. For him the gates of heaven 
were to be found now as ever at the doors of Jeru- 
salem, and thence poured forth that divine grace 
which enabled the appreciative mind to attain to 
happiness and a higher state of repose. Thither 
would he go, there live according to the dictates of 
his innermost heart, and there would he be ani- 
mated by the divine breath. When he began his 
work on the philosophy of religion, he spoke in 
mournful tones of the fact that he, like many others, 
was so insensible to the merits of the Holy Land, 
that, whilst with his lips he expressed a longing for 
it, he never attempted to realize this desire. The 
more, however, he meditated upon the importance 
of the Holy Land as a place where the divine gift ' 
of grace could be obtained, the stronger his deter- 
mination grew to journey thither and there spend 
his last days. 

This irresistible impulse towards Zion, the fav- 
ored city, gave birth to a series of deeply impas- 
sioned songs, which are as full of true feeling as 
they are beautiful in form. The songs of Zion, 
composed by Jehuda Halevi, represent the most 
excellent fruits of neo- Hebraic poetry, and they 
may well be compared with the Psalms : 

"O city of the world, with sacred splendor blest, 
My spirit yearns to thee from out the far-off West ; 
Had I an eagle's wings, straight would I fly to thee, 
Moisten thy holy dust with wet cheeks streaming free."' 

" In the East, in the East, is my heart, and I dwell at the end of 

the West ; 
How shall I join in your feasting, how shall I share in your jest, 
How shall my offerings be paid, my vows with performance be 

While Zion- pineth in Edom's bonds, and I am put in the Arab's 

bound ! 
All the beauties and treasures of Spain are worthless as dust, in 

mine eyes ; 
But the dust of the Lord's ruined house, as a treasure of beauty I 


' Translation by Emma Lazarus. — [Ed.] 


This is the keynote of all the songs of Zion. 
But in how many and in what various ways does 
the poet skilfully manipulate his subject ! What a 
wealth of sentiments, images and devices does he 
develop ! The ancient days of Israel are idealized 
in his verses ; the people of his own age at one 
time appear invested with the thorny crown of a 
thousand sufferings, and at another with the glitter- 
ing diadem of a glorious hope. The contents of 
his lyrics unwittingly penetrate into the soul of the 
reader, and hurry him to and fro, from pain and 
woe to hope and rejoicing, and for a long time the 
deep impression remains, intermingled with feelings 
of enthusiasm and conviction. 

The bard, who was thus inspired by the cause 
of his nation, busied himself in communicating to 
his brethren this deep longing for Jerusalem, and 
in arousing them to arrange some plan of return. 
One poem, in elevated and lovely strains, encour- 
aged the people, "The Distant Dove," to leave the 
fields of Edom and Arab (Christendom and Ma- 
hometan countries), and to seek its native nest in 
Zion. But no answering echo was awakened. It 
was a sublime, ideal conception that enabled the 
pious poet-philosopher even to dream of so daring 
a flight. 

The soul of Jehuda Halevi was drawn by invisible 
cords to Israel's ancient home, and he could not 
detach it from them. When he had concluded 
his immortal work, the dialogue of the Chozari 
(about 1 141), he entertained serious thoughts of 
starting on his holy journey. He made no slight 
sacrifices to this remarkable, if somewhat adven- 
turous, resolve. He exchanged a peaceful, com- 
fortable life for one of disquietude and uncertainty, 
and left behind his only daughter and his'grandsoni 
whom he loved most dearly. He gave up his 
college which he had established in Toledo, and 
parted from a circle of disciples whom he loved as 


sons, and who in tprn revered him as a father. 
He bade farew^ell to his numerous friends, who, 
without envy, praised him as a distinguished scholar. 
All this in his estimation was of little value in com- 
parison with his love of God and the Holy Land. 
He desired to bring his heart as an offering to the 
sacred place, and to find his grave in sanctified 

Provided with ample means, Jehuda Halevi started 
on his journey, and his passage through Spain re- 
sembled a triumph. His numerous admirers in the 
towns through which he passed outvied each other 
in attentions to him. With a few faithful com- 
panions he took passage on board a vessel bound 
for Egypt. Confined in the narrow wooden cabins, 
where there was no room either to sit or to lie 
down, a mark for the coarse jests of the rough 
mariners, sea-sick and in weak health, his soul yet 
lost none of its power to elevate itself into a 
brighter sphere. His ideals were his most trusty 
companions. The storm which tossed the ships 
about on the waves like a plaything, when "be- 
tween him and death there intervened only a 
board," unlocked the store of song within his 
breast. Of the sea he sang songs which for faith- 
fulness of description and depth of feeling have few 
equals : 

" The billows rage — exult, oh soul of mine, 
Soon shalt thou enter the Lord's sacred shrine ! "' 

Delayed by adverse winds, the ship arrived at 
Alexandria at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles 
(September), and Jehuda betook himself to his 
co-religionists, with the firm determination to spend 
but a short time with them, and never to forget the 
aim of his journey. But as soon as his name be- 
came known, all hearts were drawn towards him. 
The most distinguished man of the Alexandrian 

'Translation by Emma Lazarus. — [Ed.] 


Gongregation, the physician and rabbi Aaron Ben- 
Zion Ibn-Alamani, who was blessed with prosperity 
and children, and was himself a liturgical poet, 
hastened to receive him as a noble guest, showed 
him the highest honor, and placed his hospitable 
mansion at the disposal of Halevi and his comrades. 
Under the careful treatment of cordial friends, he 
recovered from the effects of his sea-voyage, and 
expressed his gratitude in beautiful Hebrew verses. 
The family of Ibn-Alamani were so urgent in their 
desire to keep him with them, that in spite of his 
great longing for Jerusalem, he remained for nearly 
three months at Alexandria, till the Feast of Dedi- 
cation. He tore himself away by force from such 
dear friends, and meant to go to the port of Dami- 
etta, where dwelt one of his best friends, Abu Said 
ben Chalfon Halevi, whose acquaintance he had 
made in Spain. He was, however, compelled to 
alter the course of his journey, for the Jewish prince 
Abu Mansur Samuel ben Chananya, who held a 
high post at the court of the Egyptian Caliph, sent 
him a pressing letter of invitation. 

Abu Mansur, who dwelt in the palace of the 
Caliph, appears to have been the head of the Jewish 
congregations in Egypt, bearing the title of Prince 
(Nagid). Jehuda Halevi was the less able to de- 
cline this flattering invitation, as it was important 
for him to obtain from the Jewish prince, whose 
fame was wide-spread, letters of recommendation, 
facilitating the continuance of his pilgrimage to 
Palestine. Abu Mansur's hint that he was willing 
to aid him with large supplies of money, he deli- 
cately put aside in a letter, saying, that " God had 
blessed him so munificently with benefits that he 
had brought much with him from home, and had 
still left plenty behind." Soon after, he traveled to 
Cairo in a Nile boat. The wonderful river awoke 
in him memories of the Jewish past, and reminded 
him of his vow. He immortalized his reminiscences 


in two beautiful poems. He was warmly received 
by the Prince Abu Mansur in Cairo, and basked in 
the sunshine of his splendor, and sang of his liber- 
ality, renown, and of his three noble sons. He 
made but a brief stay in Cairo, and hastened to the 
port of Damietta, which he reached on the Fast of 
Tebeth (December, about 1141, 1142). Here he 
was well received by many friends, and especially 
by his old friend Abu Said Chalfon Halevi, a man 
of great distinction. He dedicated some beautiful 
poems of thanks to him and his other friends. 
These friends also attempted to dissuade him from 
proceeding to Palestine ; they pictured to him the 
dangers which he would encounter, and reminded 
him that memories of the Divine grace in the 
early days of the history of the Jews were connected 
also with Egypt. He, however, replied, " In Egypt 
Providence manifested itself as if in haste, but it 
took up a permanent residence for the first time 
in the Holy Land." At length he parted from his 
friends and admirers, determined to carry his pro- 
ject into effect. It is not known at what place he 
next stopped. 

In Palestine, at this time. Christian kings and 
princes, the kinsmen of the hero Godfrey of 
Bouillon, were the rulers, and these permitted the 
Jews again to dwell in the Holy Land, and in the 
capital, which had now become Christian. The 
country, at the time of Jehuda's pilgrimage, was 
undisturbed by war ; for the Christians who had 
settled in Palestine a generation ago, the effeminate 
Pullani, loved peace, and purchased it at any price 
from their enemies, the Mahometan emirs. The 
Jews were also in favor at the petty courts of the 
Christian princes of Palestine, and a Christian 
bishop complained that owing to the influence of 
their wives, the princes placed greater confidence in 
Jewish, Samaritan, and Saracen physicians than in 
Latin (that is. Christian) ones. Probably the reason 
was because the latter were quacks. 


Jehuda HalevI appears to have reached the goal 
of his desire, and to have visited Jerusalern, but 
only for a short time. The Christian inhabitants 
of the Holy City seem to have been very hostile to 
him, and to have inspired him with disgust for life 
in the capital. It is to this, probably, that his 
earnest, religious poem refers, in the middle verses 
of which he laments as follows : 

" To see Thy glory long mine eye had yearned ; 
But when at last I sought Thy Holy Place, 
As though I were a thing unclean and base, 
Back from Thy threshold was I rudely spurned. 

The burden of my folk I, too, must bear, 

And meekly bow beneath oppression's rod, 

Because I will not worship a false god. 

Nor, save to Thee, stretch forth my hands in prayer.'' 

The closing adventures of his life, beyond the fact 
that he was at Tyre and at Damascus, are not known. 
The Jewish community at Tyre rendered great 
honor to him, and the memory of this treatment was 
impressed on his grateful heart. In a poem to his 
Tyrian friend he grieves over his faded hopes, his 
misspent youth, and his present wretchedness, in 
verses which cannot be read without stirring up 
emotions at the despondency of this valorous sol- 
dier. In Damascus he sang his swan-song, the 
glorious song of Zion, which, like the Psalms of 
Asaph, awake a longing for Jerusalem. The year 
of his death and the site of his grave are both un- 
known, A legend has it that a Mahometan horse- 
man rode over him as he was chanting his mournful 
Lay of Zion. Thus reads a short epitaph which an 
unknown admirer wrote for him : 

" Honor, Faith, and Gentleness, whither have ye flown ? 
Vainly do I seek' you ; Learning, too, is gone ! 
• Hither are we gathered,' they reply as one, 
' Here we rest with Judah." " 

This, however, does not convey the smallest portion 
of what this ethereal and yet powerful character 


was. Jehuda Halevi was the spiritualized image 
of the race of Israel, conscious of itself, seeking to 
display itself, in its past and in its future, in an in- 
tellectual and artistic form. 

In Spain Jewish culture had arrived at its zenith, 
and had reached its highest perfection in the great- 
est of the neo-Hebraic poets. In France the be- 
ginnings of culture now became manifest. The reigns 
of the two kings of the house of Capet, Louis VI 
and VII ( 1 108-1 180), were as favorable to the Jews as 
that of Louis the Pious. The congregations in the 
north of France lived in the comfort and prosperity 
that arouses envy, their granaries were filled with 
corn, their cellars with wine, their warehouses with 
merchandise, and their coffers with gold and silver. 
They owned houses and fields and vineyards, 
cultivated either by themselves or by Christian 
servants. It is said that half of Paris, which at that 
time was not yet a city of very great importance, 
belonged to Jews. The Jewish congregations were 
recognized as independent corporations, and had 
their own mayor, with the title of Provost (praeposi- 
tus), who was invested with authority to guard the 
interests of his people, and to arrest Christian 
debtors and compel them to pay their Jewish credi- 
tors. The Jewish provost was chosen by the com- 
munity, and his election was ratified by the king or 
the baron to whom the town was tributary ; Jews 
frequented the court, and held office. Jacob Tam, 
the greatest rabbinical authority of this time, was 
highly respected by the king. Jewish theologians 
freely disputed with the clergy upon religious ques- 
tions, and openly expressed their honest opinions 
about the Trinity, the Virgin Mary, the worship of 
saints, about auricular confession and the miracle- 
working powers of relics. 

Under these favorable circumstances of unre- 
stricted tolerance, the Jewish sages of the north of 
France were able to follow in the path which Rashi 


had marked out for them. To understand and ex- 
plain the Talmud in its entirety became a passion 
with the French Jews. Death had snatched away 
the commentator on the Talmud in the midst of his 
labors at Troyes ; his pupils exerted themselves to 
complete whatever had been left unfinished by him. 
He had bequeathed to his school a spirit of inde- 
fatigable research and close inquiry, of acute dialec- 
tics, and the art of fine discrimination, and they 
richly increased their inheritance. The correct and 
precise understanding of the Talmud was so sacred 
a matter to the pupils of Rashi, that they did not 
hesitate to subject the interpretations of their 
master to a' severe critical revision. But, on the 
other hand, their veneration for him was so great 
that they did not venture to offer their opinions inde- 
pendently, but attached them to the commentaries 
of Rashi as " Supplements" (Tossafoth). From this 
circumstance they were called the Tossafists. They 
supplied the omissions of Rashi, and also emended 
and expanded the explanations given by him. The 
chief characteristic of the method of the Tossafists 
is their independence of the authorities, they sub- 
jected all opinions to the scrutiny of their own 
reason. Their profound scholarship and great 
erudition comprehended the immense Talmudic 
literature and its maze of learned discussions and 
arguments with clearness and precision. Their 
penetrating intellect displayed remarkable ingenuity 
in resolving every argument and every idea into its 
original elements, distinguishing thoughts that ap- 
peared to be similar, and reconciling such as seemed 
to conflict. It is almost impossible to convey to the 
mind of the uninitiated any satisfactory notion of the 
critical acumen of the Tossafists. They solved the 
most difficult logical problems with the greatest ease, 
as if they were the simple examples set to children. 
The unyielding material of the Talmud became 
quite malleable under their hands, and they fash- 


ioned surprising Halachic (legal) shapes and sub- 
stances. For the circumstances of modern times 
they found numerous analogies on record, which a 
superficial examination would never have dis- 

The circle of the earliest Tossafists was composed 
chiefly of the relatives of Rashi, viz. : his two sons- 
in-law, Meir ben Samuel of Rameru, a small town 
near Troyes, and Jehuda ben Nathan (Riban) ; 
later, his three grandsons, Isaac, Samuel and Jacob 
Tam, the sons of Meir ; and finally a German, 
Isaac ben Asher Halevi (Riba) of Speyer, also con- 
nected with the family of Rashi. 

The school of the Tossafists divided the study of 
the Talmud into two branches : theoretical discus- 
sion leading to a thorough comprehension of the 
text of the Talmud (Chiddushim), and practical ap- 
plication of the results of such study in the civil 
laws, in the laws of marriage, and in the religious 
ritual (Pesakim, Responsa). This ingenious method 
revealed new legal ordinances. 

The study of the Talmud fully occupied the in- 
tellectual powers of the Jews of the north of France 
and the Rhine, and prevented the cultivation of 
other studies. Poetry did not thrive in a region 
where logic wielded the scepter, and where the 
imagination was brought into play only in order to 
invent new complications and hypothetical cases. 
The interpretation of Scripture was also treated in 
a Talmudical manner. Most of the Tossafists were 
Bible exegetes, but they did not pay much attention 
to the exact meaning of the text, studying it by 
means of Agadic interpretations. Tossafoth were 
written to elucidate the Pentateuch as well as the 
Talmud. Only two men can be recorded as famous 
exceptions, who returned from exegesis according 
to the Agadic method (Derush) to the strict and 
rational elucidation of the text (Peshat) ; these are 
Joseph Kara and Samuel ben Meir (about iioo- 


1 1 60). Both of these have the greater importance, 
since they were in opposition to their fathers, who 
adhered to the Midrashic system of interpretation. 
Joseph Kara was the son of Simon Kara, a compiler 
of Agadic pieces, the author of the Yalkut; and 
Samuel ben Meir had been taught by his grand- 
father Rashi to pay great respect to the Agada. 
Both of them forsook the old way, and sought an 
explanation of the text in strict accordance with 
rules of grammar. Samuel, who completed Rashi's 
commentary to Job and to some of the treatises of 
the Talmud, had so thoroughly convinced his grand- 
father of the correctness of rational exegesis, that 
he had declared that if strength were granted him, 
he would alter his commentary to the Pentateuch 
in accordance with other exegetical' principles. 
Samuel, called Rashbam, wrote, in this temperate 
style, a commentary to the- Pentateuch and the 
Five Megilloth ; and Joseph Kara wrote commenta- 
ries on the books of the Prophets and the Hagio- 
grapha. Samuel ben Meir, in his interpretation of 
Holy Writ, sought for the sense and the connection 
of the text, and did not shrink from explanations at 
variance with the Talmud, or in harmony with the 
views of the Karaites. 



Condition of the Jews in France — The Second Crusade — Peter the 
Venerable and the Monk Rudolph — Bernard of Clairvaux and 
the Emperor Conrad — Protectors of the Jews — Persecutions 
under the Almohades — Abdulmumen and his Edict — The Prince 
Jehuda Ibn-Ezra — The Karaites in Spain — Jehuda Hadassi — The 
historian Abraham Ibn-Daud and his Philosophy — Abraham 
Ibn-Ezra — Rabbenu Tam. 

1 143 — 1 1 70 c. E. 

When the greatest neo-Hebraic poet complained, 
" Have we a home in the West or in the East ?" his 
sensitive heart was probably filled with foreboding 
concerning the insecurity of his co-religionists. 
Only too soon was the Jewish race to realize the 
awful truth that it possessed no home on earth, and 
that it was only tolerated in the lands of its exile. 
As long as the intolerant religious principles of the 
Church and of the Mosque remained inoperative, 
either by reason of the indifference, or the inertia, 
or the selfish pursuits of their adherents, the Jews 
lived in comparative happiness ; but when religious 
hatred was aroused, torture and martyrdom fell 
upon Israel, and again he was compelled to grasp 
the wanderer's staff, and with bleeding heart depart 
from his dearly beloved home. Although the Jews 
in general, and especially their leaders, the rabbis 
and sages, were, as a rule, superior to the Christian 
and Mahometan peoples in devotion to God, in 
morality, in refinement and knowledge, yet those to 
whom the earth belonged imagined themselves on 
a higher level, and with lordly haughtiness looked 
down upon the Jews as common slaves. In Chris- 


tian countries they were declared outlaws, because 
they would not believe in the Son of God and many 
other things ; and in a Mahometan realm they were 
persecuted because they would not acknowledge 
Mahomet as the prophet. In one land they were 
expected to do violence to their reason and to 
accept fables as sober truths, and in another_ they 
were asked to renounce their faith and take in its 
stead dry formulae, tinged with philosophy. Both 
held out the cheerless choice between death and 
the renunciation of their ancient religion. The 
French and the Germans rivaled the savage Moors 
in the energy with which they strove to enfeeble 
still more the weakest of the peoples. On the 
banks of the Seine, the Rhine and the Danube, on 
the shores of Africa and in the south of Spain, 
there arose simultaneously, as though preconcerted, 
bloody persecutions against the Jews, in the name 
of religion, despite the fact that all that was good and 
divine in the oppressors' creeds owed its origin to 
this people. Hitherto persecutions of the Jews had 
been few and far between ; but from the year 1 146 
they became more frequent, more severe, and more 
persistent. It seemed as if the age in which the 
light of intelligence had begun to dawn upon man- 
kind desired to exceed in inhumanity the epochs of 
darkest barbarism. This period of suffering im- 
printed on the features of the Jewish race that air 
of suffering, that martyr's look, which even the 
present age of freedom has not effaced. " The 
meaning of the prophet," said Ibn-Ezra, " when he 
cries, ' He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet 
he opened not his mouth,' requires no commentary, 
for every Jew in exile illustrates it. When he is 
afflicted he does not open his mouth to protest that 
he is more righteous than his tormentor. He keeps 
his look directed only towards God, and neither 
prince nor noble assists him in his distress." 


The persecutions that spread simultaneously over 
Europe and Africa had their sources in catastro- 
phes that occurred in Asia and Africa. Whilst the 
Christian knights in the new kingdom of Jerusalem 
and in the neighboring princedoms were sinking 
into inactivity, the Turkish warrior, Nureddin, who 
had determined to drive the Christians from Asia, 
began his attacks upon them. The important city 
of Edessa fell into his hands, and the crusaders, 
now at their wits' end, were compelled to implore 
help from Europe. The second crusade was now 
preached in France and Germany, and bloodthirsty 
fanaticism was again aroused against the Jews. 

King Louis VII of France, conscience-stricken, 
took the cross, and with him went the young and 
frivolous Queen Eleonora, together with the dames 
of the court, who transformed the camp of the 
warriors of God into a court of gallantry. The 
Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux, a truly pious man, of 
apostolic simplicity of heart, and renowned for his 
powerful eloquence, energetically exhorted Chris- 
tians to take part in this crusade, and owing to his 
influence the troops of pilgrims marching against 
the infidels increased day by day. This time it was 
Pope Eugenius III who turned the attention of the 
crusaders towards the Jews. He issued a bull 
announcing that all those who joined in the holy 
war were absolved from the payment of interest 
on debts owing to Jews. This was an inducement 
for the numerous debtors of the Jews to participate 
in the crusade, and was in reality only a veiled per- 
mission to repudiate their indebtedness to the Jews. 
The Abbot Bernard, who at other times disdained 
to employ unholy means to compass a holy end, was 
obliged, at the command of the Pope, to preach this 
repudiation of debts. Another abbot, Peter the 
Venerable, of Clugny, desired to push the matter 
still further. He roused King Louis and the army 
of the crusaders directly against the Jews. He 


heaped charges upon them, exaggerating their 
offenses so as to incite the prejudiced monarch to 
persecute or at least plunder them. In a letter to 
Louis VII he repeated the sophistries and false- 
hoods which the marauding mobs of the first crusade 
had invented in order to palliate their plundering 
of the Jews in the name of religion. 

" Of what use is it," wrote Peter of Clugny, " to 
go forth to seek the enemies of Christendom in 
distant lands, if the blasphemous Jews, who are 
much worse than the Saracens, are permitted in our 
very midst to scoff with impunity at Christ and the 
sacrament ! The Saracen at least believes as we do 
that Christ was born of a virgin, and yet he is exe- 
crable, since he denies the incarnation. How much 
more these Jews who disbelieve everything, and mock 
at everything ! Yet I do not require you to put to 
death these accursed beings, because it is written, 
' Do not slay them.' God does not wish to annihi- 
late them, but like Cain, the fratricide, they must 
be made to suffer fearful torments, and be pre- 
served for greater ignominy, for an existence more 
bitter than death. They are dependent, miserable 
and terror-stricken, and must remain in that state 
until they are converted to the Saviour. You ought 
not to kill them, but to afflict them in a manner 
befitting their baseness." The holy man besought 
the king to deprive the Jews either altogether or 
in part of their possessions, since the crusading 
army, which was marching against the Saracens, did 
not spare its own property and lands, and certainly 
should not spare the ill-gotten treasures of the Jews. 
Only their bare life should be left to them, but their 
money forfeited, for the audacity of the Saracens 
would be more easily subdued if the hands of the 
Christians were strengthened by the wealth of the 
blasphemous Jews. This method of reasoning is 
certainly consistent ; it is the logic of the Middle 
Ages. King Louis, though well-disposed towards 


the Jews, could not do less in obedience to the 
papal bull than allow the crusaders to absolve 
themselves from their Jewish debts. For the 
moment the persecution limited itself to the plun- 
dering of the rich Jews, who were reduced to the 
state of their poorer brethren. The friendly mon- 
arch and his wise ministers, together with the 
Abbot Suger, and especially the pious Bernard, 
who knew how to control men's minds, would not 
permit a universal bloody persecution. 

Affairs took a different course in Germany, and 
particularly in the cities along the Rhine, whose 
congregations had scarcely recovered from the 
wounds of the first crusade. Emperor Conrad III 
was powerless ; the citizens who had as a rule 
taken the part of the Jews during the first crusade, 
and had afforded them protection, were now, at the 
beginning of the second crusade, prejudiced against 
them. A French monk, named Rudolph, left his 
monastery without the permission of his superior, 
and his fiery eloquence kindled the fanaticism of 
the German people against the Jews. He believed 
that he was accomplishing a holy work in securing 
the conversion or annihilation of the infidels. From 
town to town, from village to village, Rudolph 
traveled preaching the crusade, and he inserted in 
his addresses an exhortation that the crusade 
should begin with the Jews. Matters would have 
been much worse for the German Jews on this occa- 
sion, had not Emperor Conrad, who at first felt 
an antipathy to the extravagant feeling engendered 
by the crusade, looked after their safety. In the 
lands which were his by inheritance, he set aside 
the city of Nuremburg and certain other fortresses 
as cities of refuge for them, where the hand of the 
infuriated crusaders could not reach them. He had 
no jurisdiction over the territories of the princes 
and prelates, but he appears to have urged them 
all to extend their powerful protection to the Jews. 


But the word of the emperor had but little weight. 
In August, 1 1 46, were sacrificed the first victims of 
the persecution stirred up by Rudolph. Simon the 
Pious, of Treves, whilst on his way home from Eng- 
land, tarried in Cologne. He was seized by the 
crusaders as he was about to go on board a ship, 
and refusing to be baptized, he was murdered and 
his body mutilated. Also a woman named Minna, 
of Speyer, who had suffered the terrible tortures of 
the rack, remained steadfast to her faith. These 
occurrences prompted the Jews dwelling by the 
Rhine to look round for protection. They paid 
immense sums to the princes, to be permitted to 
live in the fortresses and castles for safety. The 
Cardinal Bishop Arnold of Cologne gave them 
the castle of Wolkenburg, near Konigswinter, and 
allowed them to defend themselves with arms. 
Wolkenburg became a refuge for many of the con- 
gregations of the district. As long as the Jews 
remained in their places of refuge they were safe ; 
but as soon as they ventured forth, the Christian 
pilgrims, who lay in ambush for them, dragged them 
away to be baptized, killing those that resisted, after 
subjecting them to inhuman treatment. The pre- 
lates of the Rhine were, however, disgusted with 
the preaching of the crusade as carried on by the 
monk Rudolph, nor did they approve of the mas- 
sacres of the Jews, particularly as these gave rise to 
dissensions and feuds, and Rudolph even embol- 
dened the populace to disobey the bishops. The 
Archbishop of Mayence, Henry I, who was at the 
same time chancellor and prime minister to the 
emperor, had admitted into his house some of the 
Jews who were pursued by the mob. The riotous 
crowd forced its way in, and murdered them before 
his very eyes. The archbishop then addressed 
himself to the most distinguished representative 
of Christianity of that time, Bernard of Clairvaux, 
who had more power than the Pope. He depicted 


to him the outrages that Rudolph had fomented in 
the Rhine country, and prayed him to exercise his 
authority. Bernard, who strongly disapproved of 
the doings of Rudolph, willingly gave the arch- 
bishop his support. He despatched a letter to the 
Archbishop of Mayence, intended to be' read in 
public. In this letter he energetically condemned 
the agitator ; he called Rudolph an outlawed son 
of the Church, who had fled from his cloister, 
had been faithless to the rules of his order, ma- 
ligned the bishops, and who, in opposition to the 
principles of the Church, preached to simple-minded 
Christians, murder and massacre of the Jews. The 
Jews ought, on the contrary, to be carefully spared. 
The Church hoped that at a certain time they 
would be converted eit masse, and a prayer for that 
especial purpose had been instituted for Good 
Friday. Could the hope of the Church be fulfilled 
if the Jews were altogether annihilated ? Bernard 
sent another letter written in the same spirit to the 
clergy and people of France and Bavaria, wherein 
he expressly admonished them to spare the Jews. 

But the letters of Bernard made no impression 
upon Rudolph and the misguided mob ; they were 
bent upon the complete destruction of the Jews, 
and on all sides lay in wait for them. The Abbot 
of Clairvaux accordingly found it necessary to pro- 
test in person against the slaughter of the Jews. 
When at about this time he made a journey into 
Germany in order to induce Emperor Conrad to 
take part in the crusade, he tarried in the towns 
on the Rhine in order to counteract the fiendish 
plans of Rudolph. He addressed him in very 
severe terms, and prevailed on him to desist from 
preaching the massacre of the Jews, and to return 
to his monastery. The deluded people murmured 
against the actions of Bernard, and had he not been 
protected by his sacred calling, they would have 
attacked him. Rudolph disappeared from the 


scene, but the poisonous seeds scattered abroad by 
him worked the destruction of the Jews. As the 
bulk of the people became inflamed by the sermons 
of Bernard on behalf of the crusade, its fury against 
the Jews increased. The people were more con- 
sistent than the saint of Clairvaux and the bishops, 
and their logic could not be shaken. They said, 
" If it is a godly deed to slay unbelieving Turks, it 
surely cannot be a sin to massacre unbelieving 
Jews." At about this time the lacerated limbs of a 
Christian were discovered at Wiirzburg, _ and the 
crusaders who were assembled there believed, or 
pretended to believe that the Jews had butchered 
the man. They took this pretext to attack the 
congregation at Wiirzburg. The Jews of this city 
were under the protection of Bishop Embicho, and 
dwelt in tranquillity in the city, not deeming it 
necessary to seek a place of refuge. The terror 
wliich seized them was therefore the greater, when 
they were suddenly attacked by a crowd of cru- 
saders (22 Adar, 24 Feb., 1 147). More than twenty 
met martyrs' deaths, among them the distinguished 
and gentle Rabbi Isaac ben Eliakim, who was slain 
whilst reading a holy book. Some were cruelly 
maltreated, and left as dead, but were afterwards 
restored to life, and carefully tended by compas- 
sionate Christians. The humane Bishop of Wiirz- 
burg assigned a burial-place in his own garden for 
the bodies of the martyrs, and sent the survivors 
into a castle near Wiirzburg. The lot of the Ger- 
man Jews became still more lamentable when the 
emperor Conrad with his knights and army joined 
the crusading expedition, and the mobs who were 
left behind, unchecked by the presence of the em- 
peror, were at liberty to commit fearful outrages 
(May, II 47). 

The savage spirit of murder in the name of piety 
was rapidly communicated from Germany to France, 
on the assembling of the crusaders in the spring. 


In Carenton (Department de la Manche) there was 
a determined battle between the Christian pilgrims 
and the Jews. The latter had gathered in a house, 
and defended themselves against invasion. Two 
brothers, with the true courage of Frenchmen, 
fought like heroes, dealing wounds right and left, 
and slew many crusaders, until their foes, infuriated 
by the loss of so many men, found an entrance into 
the court, attacked the Jews in the rear, and massa- 
cred them all. Among the martyrs of this time in 
France was a young scholar named Peter, a pupil 
of Samuel ben Meir and Tarn, who, in spite of his 
youth, had already distinguished himself among the 
Tossafists. At no great distance from the monas- 
tery of Clairvaux, under the eyes of the Abbot 
Bernard, the savage bands of the crusaders con- 
tinued undismayed to carry on their bloody work. 
They fell upon the Jewish congregation at Rameru 
on the second day of Pentecost, forced their way 
into the house of Jacob Tarn, who was the most dis- 
tinguished man among the European Jews on ac- 
count of his virtues and his learning, robbed him of 
all his possessions, tore to pieces a scroll of the 
Law, and dragged him into a field, intending to put 
him to death by torture. As Tam was the most 
famous man among the Jews, the crusaders desired 
to avenge on him the wounds and death of 
Jesus. They had already inflicted five wounds on 
his head, and he was about to succumb, when for- 
tunately a knight with whom he was acquainted 
happened to pass along the road. Tam still re- 
tained sufficient consciousness to implore his help, 
which the knight promised to afford, on condition 
that he receive a fine horse as a reward. The 
knight then told the band of assassins to hand the 
victim over to him, and he would either prevail on 
him to be baptized, or else return him to their 
hands. Thus was saved the man who was the 
leader and model of the German and French Jews 


(8 May, 1147). Through the influence of Bernard 
no Jew hunts took place in France, except at Caren- 
ton, Rameru and Sully. In England, where since 
the time of William the Conqueror many Jews had 
settled, who were in communication with the French 
congregations, there were no persecutions, as King 
Stephen vigorously protected them. The Jews of 
Bohemia, however, again suffered severely when 
the crusaders marched through their country, 150 
of them meeting with martyrs' deaths. . Directly 
the French army of the crusaders had marched 
through Germany, and had advanced beyond its 
borders, the Jews were able to leave their places of 
refuge in the castles, and were not molested. Even 
those Jews who had weakly submitted to forced 
baptism could now return to their ancient faith. A 
certain priest who was as pious as he was humane, 
but whose name unfortunately has been lost, gave 
them very great assistance. He. led those Jews 
who had been forcibly baptized into France and 
other countries, where they remained till their 
former adhesion to the Church was forgotten. They 
then returned to their homes and their religion. 

On the whole, the fanaticism of the second cru- 
sade claimed fewer Jewish victims than the first. 
This was partly owing to the protection afforded to 
the Jews by the spiritual and temporal dignitaries, 
and also because the participation of the German 
Emperor and the King of France did not permit 
such crowds of crusading marauders as had accom- 
panied the expedition of William the Carpenter 
and Emicho of Leiningen. But the Jews were 
compelled to pay a high price for the shelter which 
was granted them, the price being their whole fu- 
ture. The German Emperor from this time forward 
was regarded by the Jews as their protector, and 
he considered himself as such, demanding in return 
the fulfilment of certain duties. The German Jews, 
who had hitherto been as free as the Germans or 


Romans, henceforth became the "servants of the 
chamber" (servi camerse) of the Holy Roman 
empire. This hateful name at first only signified 
that the Jews enjoyed immunity from all attacks 
like the imperial servants, and had to pay a certain 
tax to the emperor for the protection thus granted 
to them, and that they had to perform extraordinary 
services. But in later times the word was employed 
in its original, odious sense, and the Jews were 
looked upon as bondmen and dependent slaves. 
The -German Jews who were on the point of raising 
themselves from a state of barbarism, were thus 
hurled into the depths of an abyss of degradation, 
from which they were enabled to raise themselves 
only after a lapse of six hundred years. For this 
reason, their intellectual efforts bore the stamp of 
degeneracy, their poems consisted only of elegies 
and lamentations, which, like their speech, were 
tasteless and barbaric, and even in the study of the 
Talmud very little work of note was accomplished. 
The German Jews were pariahs in history till the 
end of the eighteenth century. In France, on the 
other hand, where other political and social con- 
ditions prevailed, Jewish culture was vigorous 
enough to put forth blossoms. 

Whilst the Jews of France and Germany still 
stood in dread of the crusaders, a persecution broke 
out 'in the north of Africa, which was of longer 
duration, and produced different results. It was 
stirred up by a man who combined the characters 
of philosopher, reformer and conqueror, and mani- . 
fested a peculiar political and religious enthusiasm. 
Abdallah Ibn-Tumart, who came from the north- 
west of Africa, while living in Bagdad, was inspired 
by the moral enthusiasm of the mystic philosopher 
Alghazali. On his return home to Africa,' he 
preached to the simple Moorish tribes simplicity 
of living and dress, hatred of poetry, music and 
painting, and war against the Almoravide kings, 


who were devoted to a life of refinement. On the 
other hand., Ibn-Tumart rejected the Sunmte teach- 
ings of Mahometan orthodoxy, and the hteral 
interpretation of the verses of th^ Koran, which 
affirmed that God had the feelings of man, and was 
affected by the same emotions as man He ob- 
tained a large following among the Moors, and 
founded a sect, whose members, from the fact that 
they maintained the true unity of God without any 
corporeal representations (Tauchid), were termed 
Almovachides or Almohades (Unitarians). This 
sect acknowledged Ibn-Tumart as the Mahdi, the 
heaven-sent Imam of Islam. With the tocsin of 
rebellion and the sword of war against the reigning 
Almoravides, Ibn-Tumart spread his religious and 
moral reformation in the northwest of Africa. After 
his death, his disciple Abdulmumen succeeded to 
the leadership of the Almohades, and was recog- 
nized as the Prince of the Faithful (Emir al-Mume- 
nin). He achieved victory after victory, and in his 
onward progress he destroyed the dynasty of the 
Almoravides, and became monarch of the whole 
of northern Africa. Abdulmumen, however, was a 
fanatic, and as he had extirpated the Almoravides 
with fire and sword, not only for political reasons, 
but also because they professed another belief, he 
would not suffer any other religion in his kingdom. 
When the capital, Morocco, after a long and 
obstinate siege, fell into the hands of Abdulmumen, 
the new ruler summoned the numerous Jews of the 
.town, and addressed them in the following terms : 
" You do not believe in the mission of the prophet 
Mahomet, and you think that the Messiah, who has 
been announced to you, will confirm your law, and 
strengthen your religion. Your forefathers, how- 
ever, asserted that the Messiah would appear at the 
latest about half a century after the coming of 
Mahomet. Behold ! that half a century aas long 
passed, and no prophet has arisen in your midst. 


The patience with which you have been treated has 
come to an end. We can no longer permit you to 
continue in your state of unbelief. We no longer 
desire any tribute from you. You have only the 
choice between Islam and death." The despair of 
the Jews at this stern proclamation was very great. 
It was the second time, since they had come under 
Mahometan rule, that the mournful alternative was 
offered to them, either to surrender their life or 
their faith. Moved by the representations that 
were made to him, Abdulmumen modified the edict 
by allowing the Jews to emigrate. He also allowed 
them a certain time to dispose of such property as 
they could not take with them. Those who pre- 
ferred to remain in the African kingdom were 
obliged to accept Islam under penalty of death. 
Those, however, to whom Judaism was precious 
left Africa, and emigrated to Spain, Italy and other 
places. The majority of them, however, ostensibly 
yielded, and took the disguise of Islam whilst hoping 
for more favorable times (1146). 

The persecution was directed not only against 
the Jews of Morocco, but against all who lived in 
northern Africa, and as often as the Almohades 
captured a city, the same edict was promulgated. 
The Christians also suffered through this persecu- 
tion, but as Christian Spain stood open to receive 
them, and they might expect to be received with open 
arms by their co-religionists, they were more stead- 
fast, and departed from the country in large bodies. 
Synagogues and churches alike were destroyed 
throughout the land of the Almohades, which ex- 
tended by degrees from the Atlas mountains to the 
boundary of Egypt, and no traces remained of the 
former Jewish and Christian residents. 

Although many north-African Jews had accepted 
Islam, there were but few who became real con- 
verts. Nothing was demanded of them except to 
profess belief in the prophetic mission of Mahomet, 


and occasionally to attend the mosque. In private, 
however, they scrupulously practised the Jewish 
rites, for the Almohades employed no police spies 
to observe the actions of the converts. Not only 
the common people, but also pious rabbis main- 
tained this outward semblance of belief, soothing 
their conscience with the reflection that idolatry and 
denial of Judaism were not demanded of them, as 
they were simply required to utter the formula that 
Mahomet was a prophet, which in no way suggested 
idolatry. Some consoled themselves with the hope 
that this state would not long continue, and that 
the Messiah would soon appear, and deliver them 
from their misery: 

Under the disguise of Moslems, the Maghreb 
Jewish scholars even pursued the study of the Tal- 
mud with their usual zeal, and assembled at their 
colleges the studious youth, who at the same time 
were compelled to engage in the study of the 
Koran. But truly conscientious and pious men 
were unable to play this double part for any length 
of time. They threw off the hateful mask, and 
openly professing Judaism, suffered martyrdom, as 
happened in Fez, Segelmessa, Drai and other 

The victorious Abdulmumen was not content with 
the possession of all Barbary; he cast longing eyes 
upon the fair land of Andalusia, thinking it an easy 
task to wrest it from the power of the Almoravide 
and Christian rulers, and annex it to his realm. The 
conquest of the Mahometan territory in southern 
Spain proved easy on account of internal dissen- 
sions. Cordova, the capital of Andalusia, fell into 
the power of the fanatical Almohades in June, 1148, 
and before the end of a year the greater part of 
Andalusia was in their hands. The beautiful syna- 
gogues which the piety, the love of splendor, and 
the refined taste of the Andalusian Jews had built, 
fell a prey to the destructive frenzy of fanaticism. 


The aged rabbi of Cordova, the philosopher Joseph 
Ibn-Zadik, witnessed this sad downfall of the oldest 
and most distinguished congregation, but died soon 
after (at the end of 1148 or the commencement of 
1149). The renowned Jewish academies at Seville 
and Lucena were closed. Meir, the son and suc- 
cessor of Joseph Ibn-Migash, went from Lucena to 
Toledo, and with him all those able to escape. The 
remainder followed the example of the African 
Jews, yielding for the moment to coercion and pre- 
tending to acknowledge Islam, though in private 
they observed their ancient faith, till they found an 
opportunity of openly professing Judaism. W^omen 
and children, together with the property of the 
exiles, fell into the hands of the conquerors, who 
treated feeble captives as slaves. 

In this dark epoch, when the center of Judaism 
was destroyed, a favorable change of fortune 
created a new center. Christian Spain, which had 
developed great power under the emperor Alfonso 
Raimundez (11 26-1 157), became a refuge for the 
persecuted Andalusian Jews, and Toledo, which had 
been made the capital of the realm, became a new 
focus, whence the rays of Jewish science emanated. 
This favorable change was due to the work of a man 
who deserves to be ranked with Ibn-Shaprut and 
Ibn-Nagrela. The wise and philanthropic Emperor 
Alfonso Raimundez had a Jewish favorite in the 
person of the still youthful Jehuda Ibn-Ezra, the 
son of that Joseph Ibn-Ezra, who, together with his 
three brothers, is celebrated in Judseo-Spanish liter- 
ature. On taking possession of the border fortress 
of Calatrava, between Toledo and Cordova (1146), 
the emperor, probably as a reward for his bravery, 
appointed Ibn-Ezra commander of the place, and 
invested him with the dignity of a prince (Nasi). 

Jehuda Ibn-Ezra was the guardian-angel of his 
unfortunate co-religionists, who were fleeing before 
the fury of the victorious Almohades. He assisted 


them to find homes and employment in Christian 
Spain, and used his riches in ransoming captives, m 
clothing the naked and feeding the hungry. The 
congregation of Toledo was very much increased 
by the immigrant Jews. Meir Ibn-Migash opened 
an academy for the study of the Talmud, and 
numerous pupils attended it. Jewish learning 
under the protection of the Christian king, now 
flourished in Toledo after its expulsion from the 
Mahometan kingdom. 

Jehuda Ibn-Ezra rose still higher in the favor of 
the Spanish emperor, and was appointed steward 
of the imperial palace (about 1149). This Jewish 
prince, in his zeal for Rabbanism, hurried into a 
persecution which forms a blot on his fair fame. 
The Karaites who had settled in Christian Spain, 
and who towards the end of the eleventh century 
had suffered persecution at the hands of a Rab- 
banite, Joseph Al-Kabri, had since that time again 
become a numerous body, and strove to regain 
their ancient splendor. They brought the large 
literature of their Eastern and Egyptian leaders 
into Castile, and were thereby strengthened in their 
deep antipathy to Rabbinical Judaism. At this 
time a Karaite of Constantinople, Jehuda ben Elia 
Hadassi, who styled himself "a mourner for Zion " 
(ha-Abel), renewed the battle against the Rabban- 
ites, and wrote a comprehensive book under the 
name of " Eshkol ha-Kofer," in which he discussed 
with great warmth the oft-disputed differences 
between the two Jewish schools (1149), and re- 
kindled the flame of hostility. Jehuda Hadassi 
wrote with intense passion, but employed harsh 
language, alphabetical acrostics, and a wretched, 
monotonous rhyme. This hostile work was prob- 
ably introduced into Castile, and re-opened the 
conflict. Instead of having this polemical book 
confuted by some able Rabbanite, Jehuda Ibn-Ezra 
called in the aid of the secular arm, and besought 


the permission of the emperor Alfonso to perse- 
cute the Karaites. He did not consider that the 
dormant fire of persecution, if once rekindled, 
would sooner or later blaze around the head of 
the persecutors. With the emperor's permission, 
Jehuda Ibn-Ezra humbled the Karaites so sorely 
that they were never again able to raise their heads. 
Their fate is not known, but they were probably 
banished from the towns wherein Rabbanites dwelt 
(1150-1157). The favorable condition of the Jews 
in Castile did not last long. After the death of the 
emperor and of his eldest son, the King of Castile 
(11 58), Jehuda Ibn-Ezra lived to see troublous 
times. During the minority of the Infante Alfonso 
a bitter civil war broke out between the noble 
houses of De Castro and De Lara, in which the 
other Christian kings took part ; the fair land was 
devastated, and the capital, Toledo, became the 
scene of bloody fights. The Christian monarchs 
were not powerful enough to defend their borders 
against the continual irruptions of the Almohades,' 
and were obliged to leave this task to the fanatical 
orders of knights, which were now again called into 
active service. The Spanish Jews, unlike their Ger- 
man and French brethren, did not remain mere in- 
different spectators during these political struggles 
and wars, but took the liveliest interest in all that 
was going on, joining one or the other of the op- 
posing sides. 

Meanwhile Jewish learning was in nowise im- 
paired by the unfavorable conditions which existed 
in almost every land of the exile, but still took its 
place in the vanguard of culture. Two men, both 
from Toledo, added to its luster ; these were Abra- 
ham Ibn-Daud and Abraham Ibn-Ezra, who, dis- 
similar in character, aims, and in their life's history, 
were yet alike in their love for Judaism and for 
learning. Abraham Ibn-Daud Halevi (born about 
1 1 10, died a martyr 1180), who was a descendant 


on the maternal side of Prince Isaac Ibn-Albalia, 
was not only well versed in the Talmud, but was 
also conversant with all the branches of learning 
then cultivated. He also engaged in the study of 
history, both Jewish and general, as far as in its 
neglected state during the Middle Ages it was 
accessible to him. This branch of learning was but 
lightly esteemed by the Spanish Jews. He was a 
physician, and was a diligent explorer of the realm 
of science. Ibn-Daud possessed an intelligent, 
clear mind, which enabled him to penetrate with 
precision into the knowable, and to illumine the 
obscure. With brilliant perspicuity he gave ex- 
pression to the most difficult ideas, and made them 
comprehensible. He centered all his attention upon 
the highest problems of the human intellect, and 
was at a loss to conceive how any one could spend 
his life in trifling pursuits or in the study of phil- 
ology, mathematics, theoretical medicine, or law, 
instead of directing his mind to the holiest task of 
life. This task, according to the view of Ibn-Daud, 
consists in philosophical study, because its object 
is the knowledge of God, and herein lies man's 
superiority over the world of created things. He 
emphasized this point strongly in opposition to a 
certain class of his co-religionists in Spain who had 
a positive dislike for philosophy. Ibn-Daud was 
well acquainted with the reason for their mistrust 
of independent research. " There are many in our 
time," he remarked, " who have dabbled a little in 
science, and who are not able to hold both lights, 
the light of belief in their right hand and the light 
of knowledge in their left. Since in such men the 
light of investigation has extinguished the light of 
belief, the multitude think it dangerous, and shrink 
from it. In Judaism, however, knowledge is a duty, 
and it is wrong to reject it." 

The aim of all philosophical theory is the prac- 
tical realization of moral ideals. Such ideals Juda- 


ism presents. None of his predecessors had so 
definitely and dearly expressed this important 
thought. Morality produces positive virtues, a 
healthy family life, and based upon this, a sound 
constitution of the state. According to this view, 
all the religious duties of Judaism may be divided 
into five classes. The first class inculcates the 
true knowledge and the love of the One God 
and a purified belief in Him. The second class 
treats especially of justice and conscientiousness, 
the chief of all virtues, of forgiveness, kindness, 
and the love of enemies, all of which have their 
origin in humility. The third class of precepts 
treats of the relation of the head of the family to his 
wife, children, and servants, according to the prin- 
ciples of right and affection. The fourth division, 
which comprises a large group, prescribes the rela- 
, tion of the citizen to the state and to his fellow- 
citizens ; it inculcates the necessity of loving one's 
neighbor, of honesty in commerce, and care for the 
weak and suffering. There is, finally, a fifth class 
of laws, such as the sacrificial and dietary laws (laws 
of the ritual), whose purpose is not easily compre- 
hended. These five groups of duties are not equal 
in importance, faith taking the highest position and 
the ceremonial laws the lowest, and therefore the 
prophets also often gave greater prominence to the 
former. Starting from different premises, Ibn-Daud 
arrived at a conclusion differing from that of Jehuda 
Halevi. According to the latter, the pure ritual 
ordinances constitute the essence of Judaism, 
whereby the prophetic nature of man is to be kept 
alive, but for Ibn-Daud they are only of second-rate 

Abraham Ibn-Daud was, however, not only a 
religious philosopher, but also a conscientious his- 
torian, and his historical labors have proved of 
greater service to Jewish literature than his philo- 
sophical studies. The newly-aroused conflict with 


the Karaites of Spain led him to inquire into their 
history. After the death of the emperor Alfonso, 
and the subsequent downfall of his favorite, Jehuda 
Ibn-Ezra, these people again raised their heads, 
and re-commenced issuing their polemical writ- 
ings. Thereupon Ibn-Daud undertook to prove 
historically, that rabbinical Judaism was based on an 
unbroken chain of traditions which began with 
Moses, and extended to Joseph Ibn-Migash. To 
this end he compiled the history of Biblical, post- 
exilic, Talmudical, Saburaic, Gaonic, and rabbinical 
times in a chronological order (i 161). He entitled 
this work, which was written in Hebrew, " The 
Order of Tradition" (Seder ha-Kabbalah). The 
information which he imparts concerning the Spanish 
congregations is of the greatest value ; he obtained 
his knowledge from the original labors of Samuel 
Ibn-Nagrela, and from independent historical re- 
searches. His account is brief, but accurate and 
authentic, and much may be read between the lines. 
His Hebrew style is flowing, and not' altogether 
wanting in poetic coloring. 

A still more erudite, comprehensive, and pro- 
found mind was that of Abraham ben Meir Ibn- 
Ezra of Toledo (born about 1088, died 1167). He 
was a man of remarkable ability, conquering with 
equal skill the greatest and the smallest things in 
science ; he was energetic, ingenious, full of wit, but 
lacking in warmth of feeling. His extensive reading 
in all branches of divine and human knowledge was 
astonishing; he was also thoroughly acquainted 
with the literature of the Karaites. His, however, 
was not a symmetrically developed, strong person- 
ality, but was full of contradictions, and given to 
frivolity ; at one time he fought against the Karaites, 
at another, he made great concessions to them! 
His polemical method was merciless, and he aimed 
less at discovering the truth than at dealing a sharp 
blow to an antagonist. His was a spirit of negation 


and he forms the completest contrast to Jehuda 
Halevi, to whom he is said to have been closely 
related. Ibn-Ezra (as he is called) combined in his 
person irreconcilable. contrasts. His clear vision, his 
sharp, analytical perception, his bold research, which 
was so far advanced as almost to bring him to Pan- 
theism, existed side by side with a veneration for 
authority, which led him, with fanatical ardor, to 
accuse independent thinkers of heresy. His tem- 
perate mind, which examined into the origin of 
eyery phenomenon, did not prevent him from wan- 
dering . in the twilight of mysticism. Though filled 
with trust in God, into whose hands he quietly 
resigned his lot, he believed in the influence of 
the stars, from which no man could possibly with- 
draw. Thus Ibn-Ezra was at once an inexorable 
critic and a slave of the letter of the Law, a ration- 
alist and a mystic, a deeply religious man, and an 
astrologer. These contradictions did not mark 
successive stages in his life, but they controlled 
the whole course of his existence. In his youth he 
toyed with the muses, sang the praises of distin- 
guished persons, and feasted with Moses Ibn-Ezra. 
He was likewise acquainted with Jehuda Halevi ; 
they often conversed brilliantly upon philosophical 
problems, and it is clear that they did not agree in 
their methods of thought. 

Although Ibn-Ezra was acquainted with the 
artistic forms of Arabic and neo-Hebraic poetry, 
he was, nevertheless, no poet. His verses are 
artificial, pedantic, uninteresting, and devoid of 
feeling. His liturgical poetry, produced at all 
periods of his life, bears the same impress of sober 
contemplation. It consists of wise maxims or cen- 
sorious admonitions ; there is no outpouring of 
religious feelings which absorb the soul, and which 
characterize fervent prayer. In the religious poetry 
of Ibn-Ezra there is lacking what is so manifest in 
the compositions of Ibn-Gebirol and Jehuda Halevi, 


the spirit of sublime joyousness which expresses 
itself in inspired hymns, the exalted majesty which 
aspires to the highest, and attains it. He was, 
however, inimitable in wit and pointed epigrams, 
in riddles and satire. His prose is, moreover, 
exemplary, and it may even be said that he created 
it. He abstains from over-embellishment and 
empty phraseology. 

Though Ibn-Ezra holds no high place in poetry, 
he is entitled to the first rank as a thorough ex- 
positor of the Holy Scriptures. As such, he dis- 
played great tact, since he was guided by the 
strictly grammatical construing of the text. He 
was a born exegetist. He was able to bring to bear 
his wide knowledge and brilliant ideas upon the 
verses of Holy Writ without being compelled to con- 
nect them logically. His restless, inconstant mind 
was not capable of creating a complete and syste- 
matic whole. He had not the power of methodizing 
Hebrew philology, and of synoptically arranging 
his material. In Biblical exegesis, however, he was 
thoroughly' original. He raised it to the degree 
of a science, with fixed principles, so that he was 
for a long time without a rival in this department 
of learning. It is worthy of remark, that he never 
felt called upon to cultivate the field of Biblical in- 
terpretation whilst at home, although he possessed 
most remarkable talent for this work. As long as 
he remained in Spain he was only known as a 
clever mathematician and astronomer, not as an 
exegete. In general, he produced nothing of a 
literary character in his native land, except perhaps 
some Hebrew poems of a religious or satirical 

Ibn-Ezra was induced by straitened circumstances 
to leave the war-stricken and impoverished city of 
Toledo. He was never possessed of much wealth. 
In his epigrammatic way, he made merry over his 
misfortunes, which condemned him to poverty : " I 


Strive to become wealthy, but the stars are opposed 
to me. If I were to engage in shroud-making, men 
would cease dying ; or if I made candles, the sun 
would never set unto the hour of my death." 

As he was unable to earn his livelihood at home, 
he started on his travels (about ii 38-1 139) accom- 
panied by his adult son Isaac. He visited Africa, 
Egypt, and Palestine, and communed with the 
learned men of Tiberias, who prided themselves 
on the possession of carefully written copies of 
the Torah. As he could find no rest anywhere, he 
journeyed further, towards Babylonia, visiting the 
city of Bagdad, where a Prince of the Captivity, 
with the consent of the Caliph, again exercised a 
sort of supremacy over all Eastern congregations. 
During the course of this extensive journey, Ibn- 
Ezra made many careful observations, and enriched 
the vast stores of his mind. 

It is difficult to understand why, on his turning 
homewards from the East, he did not again visit his 
native land. In Rome, he at length found the long- 
desired rest (i 140). His appearance in Italy marks 
an epoch in the development of culture among the 
Italian Jews. Although they enjoyed freedom to 
such a degree that the Roman community was not 
bound to pay any taxes, the Jews of Italy still re- 
mained in a low condition of culture. They studied 
the Talmud in a mechanical, lifeless manner. They 
had no knowledge of Biblical exegesis, and neo- 
Hebraic poetry for them consisted of wretched 
rhymes. Their model of poetry was the clumsy 
verse of Eleazar Kalir, which they considered in- 
imitable. Their sluggish minds were prone to all 
the superstition of the Middle Ages. What a con- 
trast to them did the Spanish traveler present, 
with his refined taste for art, his healthy ideas, and 
his philosophical education ! The time of his arrival 
in Rome was favorable to the revival of the higher 
culture. Just at this time there arose a bold priest. 


Arnold of Brescia, who asserted that the popes did 
not rule according to the spirit of the Gospel : that 
they ought not to hold temporal sovereignty, but 
should live as true servants of the Church, and act 
with proper humility. 

An earnest spirit of inquiry and a striving after 
freedom arose in the home of the papacy. The 
people listened eagerly to the inspired words of 
the young reformer, threw off their allegiance to 
the papacy, and declared their state a republic 
(1139-1143). Just at this time, Ibn-Ezra lived at 
Rome. It is most probable that youths and men 
gathered in large numbers in order to hear the 
great traveler, the deeply learned Spanish scholar, 
who knew well how to enchant them by his terse, 
lively, striking, and witty conversation. 

In Rome the first production of Ibn-Ezra, who 
had now reached his fiftieth year, appeared, an 
exposition of the Five Megilloth. His exegetical 
principles were made evident in his earliest efforts. 
Everything that was obscure disappeared before his 
clear vision, unless he purposely shut his eyes so 
that he might not see what was right, or else pre- 
tended not to see at all. Was it the doubt that 
was agitating his mind, or was it his weakness of 
character which made him shrink from rudely dis- 
pelling the dreams of the multitude ? It cannot be 
gainsaid that Ibn-Ezra often denies the truth, or 
conceals it in such a manner that it is recognizable 
only by men of equal intellect. 

Great as were Ibn-Ezra's exegetical talents, they 
did not enable him to comprehend and thoroughly 
to analyze doubtful Biblical passages so as to bring 
them into some sort of connection as an organic 
whole, or as a beautifully constructed work of art. 
His mind was more directed to individual, detached 
questions, his restless thought was never concen- 
trated on one thing, but always had a tendency to 
digress to other subjects only slightly connected 


with the original matter. Ibn-Ezra was the first to 
convey to the Roman Jews a conception of the im- 
portance of Hebrew grammar, of which they were 
completely ignorant. He translated the grammat- 
ical works of Chayuj, from Arabic into Hebrew, 
and wrote a work under the title of "The Balance" 
(Moznaim), the only interesting part of which is the 
well-written historical introduction reviewing the 
labors of his predecessors in the sphere of Hebrew 

In the summer of 1145 he was at Mantua, and 
here he composed a new grammatical work upon 
the niceties of the Hebrew style (Zachot). In this 
book he charged those with heresy who deviated 
from the Massoretic authorities. This conduct ap- 
pears the more incongruous, since he himself, 
though secretly, took still greater liberties with the 
text of the Bible. He remarks of the grammatical 
works of Ibn-Janach, that they ought to be thrown 
into the fire, because the author suggests that more 
than a hundred words in the Bible ought to be read 
or understood in another than the accepted manner. 
His condemnatory judgment was of such effect that 
the important productions of Ibn-Janach remained 
unknown to the following generations, and inquirers 
were compelled to quench their thirst at broken 

He does not appear to have stayed long in Man- 
tua, but to have betaken himself thence to Lucca, 
where he dwelt for several years, and gathered a 
circle of disciples about him. Here he occupied 
himself very much with the study of astronomy, 
drew up astronomical tables, and paid great atten- 
tion also to the pseudo-science of astrology, which 
was diligently studied by Mahometans and Chris- 
tians. He wrote many books under different titles 
on this subject (1148). 

After recovering from a severe illness, he deter- 
mined to write a commentary on the Pentateuch, a 


self-appointed task from which he shranlc on account 
of its great difificulty. He was now in the sixty-fourth 
year of his age (1152-1153). But there are no 
signs of old age to be found in the work, which 
bears the stamp of freshness and youthful vigor. 
The exposition of the Pentateuch by Ibn-Ezra is an 
artistic piece of work, both in contents and in form. 
The language is vigorous, flowing and witty, the in- 
terpretation profound, temperate, and bearing the 
impress of devoted work. His rich store of knowl- 
edge, his extensive reading and experience enabled 
him to make the Book of books more intelligible, 
and to scatter the misty clouds in which ignorance 
and prejudice had enshrouded it. 

In his introduction he describes in a very striking 
and clever manner the four customary and unsuit- 
able methods of interpretation which he desires to 
avoid. Confident of success, he puts himself above 
his predecessors, and completes the task which he 
had set himself, to fix the natural meaning of the 
text. Ibn-Ezra, by means of his commentary to the 
Pentateuch, became the leader of the school of 
temperate, careful, and scientific expositors of the 
Bible, and held the first place among the few en- 
lightened minds opposed to the obscurity of Agadic 
explanation, of which Rashi was the leading expo- 
nent. For although he denounced as heretical 
every interpretation that differed from the Massora, 
yet rationalists considered him their leading au- 
thority, and even unbelief looked to him for sup- 
port. In fact, Ibn-Ezra gives us abundant reason 
for reckoning him among such men as Chivi Al- 
balchi, Yitzchaki, and others, who called the author- 
ity of the Pentateuch into question. In a vague 
and mysterious way, he suggested that several 
verses in the Torali had been added by a later 
hand, and that whole passages belonged to a later 
period. It is difficult to know whether he was in 
earnest in his scepticism or in his firm belief. In 


Lucca, Ibn-Ezra wrote his brilliant commentary on 
Isaiah (i 1 54-1 155), and other less important works. 
After the completion of his commentary on the 
Pentateuch (1155), Ibn-Ezra left Italy, and went to 
the south of France, which, on account of its con- 
nection with Catalonia, possessed more of the 
Spanish-Jewish culture than the north of France, 
Italy, or Germany. In Jewish history Provence 
forms the dividing line between two methods, the 
strictly Talmudical, and the scientific and artistic. 
The Jewish Provencals worked actively according 
to both methods, but did not attain any degree of 
excellence in either, merely remaining admirers and 
imitators. Ibn-Ezra introduced a new element into 
this circle. In the town of Rhodez he lived several 
years (11 55-1 1 57), and wrote his commentaries to 
the book of Daniel, the Psalms, and the Twelve 
Prophets. His fame became wide-spread, and at- 
tracted admirers. The greatest rabbinical author- 
ity of the time, Jacob Tam, sent him a poem of 
homage. Ibn-Ezra was very much surprised, and 
replied with an epigram, half complimentary, half 
insulting. His love of travel led him, now in his 
seventieth year, to foggy London, where he found a 
liberal Maecenas, who treated him with affection. 
Here he composed a kind of philosophy of religion, 
written, however, with such extreme carelessness and 
haste, that it is absolutely impossible to follow his 
train of thought. On the whole, Ibn-Ezra accomp- 
lished as little in this branch of learning as in gen- 
eral philosophy. 

After this work on the philosophy of religion, 
while still in London, he wrote a defense of the 
Sabbath, which is interesting on account of its in- 
troduction. He begins by telling a dream which 
he had had, and in which the Sabbath in person 
handed him a letter. Herein the Sabbath com- 
plains that a disciple of Ibn-Ezra had brought 
writings into his house in which the Biblical day 


was said to begin in the morning, and that con- 
sequently the evening before the Sabbath pos- 
sessed no sanctity. The apparition thereupon 
commanded him to take up the defense of the Sab- 
bath. He awoke from his dream, and by the light 
of the moon read the impious writings which had 
been brought to him, and, in truth, found therein 
an assertion that the Biblical day began in the 
morning and not in the evening. This unorthodox 
doctrine, which, it may be remarked, was pro- 
pounded by the grandson of Rashi, the pious 
Samuel ben Meir, aroused Ibn-Ezra ; and he felt 
himself in duty bound to controvert it with all his 
might, "lest Israel be led into error." In pious 
wrath he writes, " May the hand of him who wrote 
this wither, and may his eyes be darkened." The 
defense, which consists of the interpretation of 
Biblical verses and of astronomical explanations, 
bears the name of " The Sabbath Epistle." Al- 
though he was in prosperous circumstances whilst in 
London, and had many pupils, he left that city after 
a short stay. In the autumn of 1160 he visited 
Narbonne, and later on (1165 or 11 66) he was 
again at Rhodez, where in his old age he revised 
his commentary to the Pentateuch, and abridged 
it, retaining the most essential portions, and finally 
composed his last book, a grammatical work (Safah 
Berurah). His vigor and freshness of intellect, 
which he retained even to the end of his life, are 
wonderful ; his last productions, like his first, bear the 
imprint of vivacity, confidence, and youthful power. 
Besides his exegetical, grammatical, astronomical, 
and astrological writings, he was also the author of 
several works on mathematics. It appears that in 
his closing years Ibn-Ezra longed to return to his 
native land, and began his homeward journey. 
When, however, he reached Calahorra, on the 
borders of Navarre and Aragon, he died, and it is 
said that on his death-bed he wittily applied a Bible 


verse to himself : "Abraham was 78 years old when 
he escaped from the curse of this world." He died 
on Monday, ist Adar (226. January), 1167. He 
left many pupils and a talented son, who, however, 
did not add glory to his name. 

The Jewish community in France at this time 
also possessed a highly gifted man, who not only con- 
centrated within himself the chief characteristics of 
the French school, and thus became an authority for 
several centuries, but who also partook of the spirit 
of the Jewish-Spanish school. Jacob Tam of Rameru 
(born about iioo, died 1171) was the most dis- 
tinguished disciple of the school of Rashi. Being 
the youngest of the three learned grandchildren of 
the great teacher of Troyes, Tam could not have 
acquired anything from his grandfather, whom he 
knew only in the early years of his childhood. 
However, he attained so high a degree of excel- 
lence in the study of the Talmud that he outshone 
his contemporaries, and even his elder brothers, 
Isaac and Samuel (Rashbam). The interminable 
paths and the winding roads of the Talmudical 
labyrinth were familiar to him, and he had a rare 
knowledge of the whole region. He united clear- 
ness of intellect with acuteness in reasoning, and 
was the chief founder of the school of the Tossafists. 
None of his predecessors had revealed such pro- 
found knowledge and so marvelous a dialectical 
ingenuity in the sphere of the Talmud. Although 
not in office, and engaged in business, he was 
esteemed the most famous rabbi of his time, and 
his renown traveled as far as Spain and Italy. 
Questions upon difficult points were sent to him ex- 
clusively, not only from his own land, but also from 
southern France and Germany ; and all the rab- 
binical authorities of the period bowed to him with 
the deepest reverence. In his youth he was sur- 
rounded by pupils who regarded him with venera- 
tion as their ideal. He was so overwhelmed with 


the task of answering quest-ions sent to him that he 
sometimes succumbed. The fanatics of the second 
crusade, who almost deprived him of Hfe, robbed him 
of all his possessions, and left him nothing more 
than his life and his library. Nevertheless, he com- 
posed his commentary to the Talmud just at this 
troubled period. He was a man of thoroughly firm 
religious and moral character, in which there was 
only one blemish : he took usury from Christians. 
Indeed, he, to a certain extent, disregarded the 
rigid Talmudic laws on usury, in contravention of 
the practice of his grandfather. 

Jacob Tam is almost the only member of the 
school of northern France who overcame the par- 
tiality for Talmudical study, and displayed great 
taste for the diversified studies of the Spanish Jews. 
He studied their art of Hebrew versification, and 
wrote liturgical prayers and secular poems in a 
metrical form. He corresponded with Ibn-Ezra, 
the representative of Jewish-Spanish culture, and, 
as related above, exchanged poems with him. 
Poetry led Tam, who did nothing superficially, to a 
thorough course of inquiry into the Hebrew lan- 
guage, and he became so far advanced in the 
knowledge of grammar that he was able to act as 
arbiter in the grammatical controversy between 
Menachem ben Saruk and his opponent Dunash. 

The large numbers of learned rabbis in northern 
France and in Germany, and the universally ac- 
knowledged authority of Tam, brought about a new 
departure, which for the first time made its appear- 
ance in the post-Talmudical period. Under the 
presidency of the Rabbi of Rameru, the first rab- 
binical synod assembled for the purpose of decid- 
ing important questions of the day. Probably the 
councils which had been convened in France by the 
fugitive popes, Pascal, Innocent II, Calixtus, and 
Alexander III, gave this suggestion to the rabbis. 
The rabbinical synods were not attended with that 


pomp which transformed such councils into theaters 
in which vanity and ambition are fostered. Those 
who took part in the proceedings met at some 
appointed place frequented by Jews, such as Troyes 
and Rheims, without any splendor or ceremony, 
and without ulterior motives or political intrigue. 
The decisions of the rabbinical synods included 
not only religious and communal matters, but also 
questions of civil laws, as the Jews still possessed 
their own jurisdiction. 

' It is most probable that it was at one of these 
synods of the rabbis, in whose minds the persecution 
of the second crusade was still fresh, that it was 
decreed that no Jew should purchase a crucifix, 
church appurtenances, vestments of the mass, 
church ornaments or missals, because such an act 
might involve the whole community of Jews in great 
danger. At a great synod, in which took part one 
hundred and fifty rabbis from Troyes, Auxerre, 
Rheims, Paris, Sens, Drome, Lyon, Carpentras, 
from Normandy, Aquitania, Anjou, Poitou, and 
Lorraine, headed by the brothers Samuel and Tam, 
and by Menachem ben Perez of Joigny, Eleazer 
ben Nathan of Mayence, and Eleazer ben Samson 
of Cologne, the following resolutions were passed : 
(i) That no Jew should summon one of his co-reli- 
gionists before the courts of the country unless both 
parties agreed to it, or unless the accused refused 
to appear before a Jewish court of law. (2) Any 
damages which might accrue to the defendant 
through this ex parte litigation at a non-Jewish 
court of law should be paid by the complainant, 
according to the assessment of seven elders of the 
congregation. (3) That no person should apply to 
the secular authorities for the office of president 
or provost, or obtain the office by stealth, but that 
the president shall be elected in an open manner 
by the majority of the members of the congrega- 
tion. A ban of excommunication was pronounced 


against all who transgressed these and other deci- 
sions of the synod ; no Jew should hold intercourse 
with such transgressors, nor partake of their food, 
nor use their books or utensils, and not even accept 
alms from them. The edict of excommunication 
against informers and traitors was also revived at 
this synod. 

At a synod held in Troyes, over which Tam pre- 
sided, all those were threatened with excommunica- 
tion who dared find fault with any bill of divorce 
after it had been delivered to the wife. Hyper- 
critical or wicked men often criticised a bill of 
divorce after it had been granted, causing the 
divorced parties much annoyance. Other deci- 
sions were made by the synods, and these pos- 
sessed the force of law among the Fi-ench and 
German Jews. Thus it was decided that the ordi- 
nance of Gershom for the prevention of polygamy 
could only be abrogated by a hundred rabbis from 
three different provinces, such as Francia, Nor- 
mandy, and Anjou, and only for the most weighty 
motives. The rabbis did not, like the Catholic pre- 
lates, use this power of the synod against the 
people, but in accordance with the feeling of the 
nation and for the welfare of the community. Hence 
their decisions once made did not require frequent 

In his old age, Tam witnessed a bloody persecu- 
tion of the Jews in his vicinity, in Blois, which is 
memorable not only on account of the severity 
with which the martyrs were treated, but especially 
for the lying accusation, then for the first time 
brought against them, that they used the blood of 
Christians at the Passover. It was a base intrigue 
which kindled the fire at the stake for the innocent. 

A Jew of Blois was riding at dusk towards the 
Loire in order to water his horse. He there met 
a Christian groom, whose horse shied at a white 
fleece which the Jew wore beneath his cloak, and 


growing restive, refused to go to the water. The 
servant, who was well aware of the Jew-hating 
character of his master, the mayor of the town, 
concocted a story which served as ground for an 
accusation. He asserted that he had seen the 
Jewish horseman throw a murdered Christian child 
into the water. The mayor bore a grudge against 
an influential Jewish woman named Pulcelina, who 
was a favorite of his lord. Count Theobald, of Char- 
tres, and took this opportunity, of revenging him- 
self. He repeated the lie about the murder of a 
Christian child, and the charge read: "The Jews 
crucified it for the Passover, and then threw it into 
the Loire." Count Theobald thereupon commanded 
that all the Jews should be put into chains, and 
thrown into prison. Pulcelina alone, for whom 
Theobald entertained a particular affection, re- 
mained unharmed. Relying upon this, she quieted 
the fears of her suffering co-religionists with the 
assurance that she would prevail on the Count 
to release them. But soon the imprisoned Jews 
learned that there was no hope of human aid. 

Pulcelina, on account of the affection shown for 
her, had incurred the bitter enmity of Isabelle, the 
wife of the Count, and she planned the destruction 
of the Jews. She had a watch set over Pulcelina, 
and prevented her from meeting the Count. The 
Jews had but one glimmer of hope : an appeal to 
the notorious avarice of the Count. He had sent 
a Jew of Chartres to ask what sum they were 
willing to pay in order to be acquitted of this 
charge of murder. Thereupon they consulted with 
friendly Christians, and it was arranged that one 
hundred pounds of ready money, and one hundred 
and eighty pounds of outstanding debts — probably 
the whole wealth of the small community — would 
be sufficient. At this point, however, a priest took 
part in the proceedings, and addressing the Count 
with warmth, besought him not to treat the matter 


lightly, but, to punish the Jews severely in case the 
accusation against them was well founded. But how 
could any one ascertain the truth, seeing that the 
whole charge rested merely upon the statement of 
the groom, who could be said to have seen no more 
than a body thrown into the river ? In the Middle 
Ages such doubts were readily solved. The water 
test was applied. The servant was conveyed to 
the river in a boat filled with water, and as he did 
not sink, the Count- and the whole of the Christian 
population were firmly convinced that his state- 
ments were really true. Count Theobald issued 
an order condemning the entire Jewish congrega- 
tion at Blois to death by fire. When they were 
brought out to a wooden tower, and the fagots 
around them were about to be kindled, the priest 
begged them to acknowledge Christianity, and thus 
preserve their lives. They nevertheless remained 
steadfast to their faith, and were first tortured, and 
then dragged to the stake. Thirty-four men and 
seventeen women died amid the flames whilst chant- 
ing the prayer which contains the confession of 
faith in One God (Wednesday, 20 Sivan — 26 May, 
1 171), Pulcelina dying with them. A few Jews 
only, through fear of death, accepted Christianity. 
The Christians, relying on the water test, were 
firmly convinced that the Jews had rightly deserved 
death at the stake, and the chronicle narrates in 
terse fashion : " Theobald, Count of Chartres, caused 
several Jews of Blois to be burnt, because they had 
crucified a Christian child at the celebration of their 
Passover, and had thrown its body into the Loire." 
When the news of the martyrdom of the Jews 
reached Tam, he decreed that the day should be 
observed as a strict fast and a day of mourning. 
The congregations of France, Anjou, and the Rhine 
country, to whom the great teacher sent letters of 
request, willingly obeyed his decrees. This fast 
day, in memory of the martyrs of Blois, at the 


same time commemorates the beginning of the 
utterly false and groundless fabrication that the 
Jews use blood on their Passover, which in the 
course of half a century was the cause of the death 
of hecatombs of victims. This decree was the last 
public act of Tam, for a few days afterwards he 
died (Wednesday, 4th Tamuz — 9th June). One of 
his pupils, Chayim Cohen, remarked that if he had 
been at the burial, he would have assisted in the 
final disposition of the body in spite of the law that 
a descendant of Aaron may not touch a corpse, 
because for so holy a man the sanctity of a priest 
maybe laid aside. Rabbi Tam concludes the series 
of creative minds of the French school, just as Ibn- 
Ezra marks the end of the original element in the 
Spanish school. There now arose a personage 
who completely reconciled both schools, and with 
whom a clearly marked transformation in Jewish 
history commenced. 



The Jews of Toledo— Ibn-Shoshan, Ibn-Alfachar — The Poet Charisi 
— Sheshet Benveniste — Benjamin of Tudela— The Jews of Pro- 
vence — The Kimchis — The Communities of B&iers, Montpellier, 
Lunel, and Marseilles — Persecutions of Jews in Northern France 
—The Jews of England— Richard I — The Jews of York — The 
Jews of Germany — Judah the Pious, of Ratisbon — Petachya the 
Traveler— The Jews of Italy and of the Byzantine Empire- 
Communities in Syria and Palestine — The Jews of Bagdad — 
Mosul— The Pseudo-Messiah, David Alroy— The Jews of India 
— Conversion to Judaism of Tartars— The Jews of Egypt. 

1171 — 1205 c. E. 

Before the thick clouds of deadly hatred had begun 
to gather from all sides over the house of Jacob, 
darkening the horizon without leaving even one 
span of the blue heaven ; before the elements, 
pregnant with destruction, had been let loose on 
the head of the community of Israel, crushing it to 
the earth ; before evil in the name of the Deity 
roused princes and nations, freemen and slaves, 
great and small, against the weak sons of Judah, 
and urged men with all the weapons of murder and 
the stings of scorn against them, to destroy this 
small body of men ; before the haughty Popes, 
seated on the throne of God as judges over the 
living and the dead, fastened a badge of scorn upon 
the garments of Jewish men and women, and ex- 
posed them to persecution and mockery from all 
who encountered them ; before fanaticism prepared 
instruments of torture for the most innocent of men, 
who were accused of crimes at which they shud- 
dered more than their accusers, the charges being 
mere pretexts for torture and ill-treatment ; before 
the gross lies about murdered children, poisoned 
wells, and witchcraft, became generally accepted ; 


before all the nations of Christian Europe excelled 
the savage Mongolians in barbarity towards the 
Jews ; before their thousandfold sufferings drove 
the blood from their hearts, the marrow from their 
bones, and the spirit from their brains, enfeebling 
them and dragging down their aspirations to grovel 
upon the earth ; in short, before that life of hell 
began for the Jews, which, in the days of Pope Inno- 
cent III, reached its climax under Ferdinand the 
Catholic of Spain, it is well to glance around upon 
the circle of scattered Jewish congregations on the 
face of the globe, and to note their condition in 
different countries, in order to see what they still 
possessed, and of what this devilish fanaticism 
afterwards robbed them. The cruelty which, in the 
names of two religions, was preached against the 
Jews, had not yet succeeded in stamping them alto- 
gether as outcasts. Whilst in one place they were 
despised and hated and execrated, in another they 
were looked upon with respect as citizens and men ; 
whilst in one country they were servants of the 
imperial chamber, in another they were appointed 
by princes and municipalities to important offices ; 
whilst in one place they were reduced to the mis- 
erable position of bondmen, in another they still 
wielded the sword, and fought for their independence. 
The number of Jews in Asia far exceeded that in 
Europe, but the general standard of the latter 
made them superior, so that Europe must be re- 
garded as the chief seat of Judaism. Here true self- 
consciousness was aroused ; here Jewish thinkers 
strove to solve the' difficult problem connected with 
the position of Judaism and the Jews among the 
other religions and nations, and of the task allotted 
to each member of a community. The heart of 
Judaism still beat in the Pyrenean peninsula. 
Jewish Spain still held the highest rank, as the in- 
tellect had here reached its fullest development. 
Jews lived in all the five Christian kingdoms which 


had been formed in this prosperous peninsula, 
in Castile, Leon, Aragon, Portugal, and Navarre. 
Only In southern Spain, in Mahometan Andalusia, 
since its conquest by the intolerant Almohades, 
there were no Jews, at least none who openly pro- 
fessed their religion. The former seats of Jewish 
learning, Cordova, Seville, Granada, and Lucena 
had been devastated ; Toledo, the capital of Castile 
and of the whole country, had taken their place. 
The Toledo congregation at this time led the van ; 
it numbered more than twelve thousand Jews. The 
town, resplendent with magnificent buildings, pos- 
sessed also many splendid synagogues, " with whose 
beauty none other could compare." Among the 
Jews of Toledo there were wealthy and cultured 
men and brave warriors, who were skilled in the use 
of weapons. Jewish youths practised the art of 
war, that they might become distinguished knights. 
Under Alfonso VIII called the Noble (1166-1214), 
many talented Jews obtained high positions, were 
appointed officers of state, and worked for the 
greatness of their beloved fatherland. Joseph ben 
Solomon Ibn-Shoshan, called " the Prince," was a 
distinguished personage at the court of Alfonso 
(born about 1 1 35, died 1 204-1 205). Learned, pious, 
wealthy and charitable, Ibn-Shoshan enjoyed the 
favor of the king, and was probably active in 
affairs of state. " Favor was bestowed upon him, 
and goodwill manifested towards him by the king 
and the grandees." With great liberality he en- 
couraged the study of the Talmud, and erected, in 
princely magnificence, a new synagogue in Toledo. 
His son Solomon equaled him in many virtues. 

Another highly honored man at Alfonso's court 
was Abraham Ibn-Alfachar (born about 11 60, died 
after 1223), "crowned with noble qualities and 
magnanimous deeds. He was exalted in word and 
deed, an ornament to the king, and the pride of 
princes." Thoroughly proficient in the Arabic 

CH. xirr. Abraham ifeN-ALPAcSAR. 385 

language, Ibn-Alfachar wrote choice prose, and 
cojinposed well-sounding verses, whose high merit 
induced an Arab author to make a collection of 
them ; amongst them was a panegyric upon King 
Alfonso. This noble king once despatched Ibn- 
Alfachar on an embassy to the court of Morocco, 
where ruled the Prince of the Faithful, Abu Jacob 
Yussuff Almostansir. Although this prince of the 
Almohades continued the intolerant policy of his 
predecessors, did not permit any Jew to dwell in 
his kingdom, and even desired to distinguish the 
Jews who had embraced Islam from the native 
Mahometans by a prescribed dress; he was obliged 
to receive the Jewish ambassador of Alfonso with 
friendliness. When Ibn-Alfachar presented him- 
self for an audience before the vizir of Almostansir, 
in order to present his credentials, he was con- 
ducted through the charming gardens of the palace, 
the splendor and fragrancy of which delighted the 
senses. The gardener was, however, as ugly as 
the gardens were beautiful. To the inquiry of the 
vizir, how the garden pleased him, Ibn-Alfachar 
replied, " I would positively have thought it to be 
Paradise, were it not that I know that Paradise is 
guarded by a beautiful angel (Redvan), whilst this 
has as its guardian an ugly demon (Malek), showing 
the way to the gates of hell." The vizir laughed at 
this witty comparison, and thought it worthy of 
being imparted to Almostansir. The latter re- 
marked to the Jewish ambassador, " The ugly door- 
keeper was intentionally chosen, in order to facili- 
tate the entrance of a Jew into this Paradise, because 
a Redvan would certainly never have admitted an 

A kinsman of this favorite of Alfonso, named 
Juda ben Joseph Ibn-Alfachar, also bore the title of 
" Prince." 

Although the two patrons of Toledo at this 
period, Ibn-Shoshan and Ibn-Alfachar, were them- 


selves proficient in the Talmud, and encouraged 
Talmudical learning, yet this study did not flourish 
in the Spanish capital to the same degree as with 
Alfassi, his disciples, and in the school of Rashi. 
Toledo produced no Talmudists of renown. The 
congregation was compelled for several centuries 
to obtain its rabbis elsewhere. The Toledans had 
a greater inclination for science and poetry. They 
preferred philosophy, meditated deeply upon reli- 
gion, and defended their belief against doubt. They 
were the most enlightened of the Spanish Jews. 

The aged historian and religious philosopher, 
Abraham Ibn-Daud, was still alive, and was an 
ornament to the congregation of Toledo. At 
•length in the year ii 80 he fell a martyr in a riot 
against the Jews, the origin and extent of which are 
not quite ascertained. It is possible that the very 
warm friendship displayed by King Alfonso towards 
the Jews had caused the riot. This prince, who 
had married an English princess, had an open 
liaison with a beautiful Jewish maiden, Rachel, who 
on account of her beauty was called Formosa. 
This intimacy was not a passing fancy, but lasted 
for seven years. Concerning this love, a poet sang : 

" For her the king forgot his queen, 
His kingdom and his people." 

A band of conspirators attacked the fair Jewess on 
her richly decorated dais, and, in the presence of 
the king, slew both her and her companions, prob- 
ably at the instigation of the queen and the clergy. 
On this occasion, a riot may have broken out against 
the Jews, in which Abraham Ibn-Daud met his death. 
This did not prevent the Jews of Toledo, how- 
ever, from giving great assistance to Alfonso in 
his wars against the Moors. When he assembled 
his immense army in order to subdue the great 
power of the Almohades, who under Jacob Alman- 
sur were again trying to penetrate into the heart of 


Spain, the Jews poured forth their riches into the 
coffers of the impoverished monarch so as to enable 
him to equip his forces. In the battle of Alarcos 
(19th July, 1 195) he was defeated, and the flower 
of Christian chivalry lay upon the baftle-field. The 
Almohades ravaged fair Castile, and Alfonso was 
compelled to shut himself up in his capital, where 
the Jews fought with the other inhabitants, in order 
to repel the onslaughts of the enemy. They ren- 
dered material assistance in compelling the retreat 
of the foe. The Jews of Castile had a special 
interest in opposing the Almohades in their attempts 
to gain possession of the capital, lest they should 
become subjected to the fanaticism of Islam. They 
witnessed with joy the withdrawal of the Almohades 
before the kings of Castile and Aragon, who had 
entered into a confederacy against them. Through 
this union, however, the Jews of the kingdom of 
Leon suffered severely, when the allied forces, 
ravaging the land, marched through their territory. 
In this campaign, the oldest Hebrew copy of the 
Bible in Spain, which had hitherto", under the name 
Hillali, served as a model for copyists (said to 
have been written in about the year 600) fell into 
the hands of the enemy (9 Ab, 1197). 

In Aragon, of which Catalonia was a part since 
the time of Ramon Berengar IV, the Jews lived 
under favorable conditions, and were able to develop 
their minds. Alfonso II (1162-1196), a promoter 
and patron of the Provencal poetry, favored men 
gifted with word and thought, and amongst such the 
Jews at this time took a foremost place. Although 
Saragossa was the capital of Aragon, and since 
ancient times had a Jewish congregation, yet at 
this time the city of Barcelona was considered the 
center of northern Spain, owing to its favorable 
position by the sea, and the flourishing state of its 
commerce. Barcelona was pompously termed by 
the poet Charisi " the congregation of princes and 


nobles." At its head stood Sheshet Benveniste, 
philosopher, physician, diplomatist, Talmudist, and 
poet (b. 1 131, d. about 12 10). Well acquainted 
with the Arabic language, he was employed by. the 
king of Aragon in diplomatic services, obtained 
honors and wealth, and like Samuel Ibn-Nagrela, 
owed his prosperity to his pen. Like this Jewish 
prince, Sheshet Benveniste supported men of science 
and students of the Talmud. The poets laud his 
noble mind and his liberality in excessive terms. 
Sheshet Benveniste himself, when in his seventy- 
second year, composed a song of praise of one hun- 
dred and forty-two verses in honor of Joseph Ibn- 
Shoshan of Toledo. 

Next to him in importance in Barcelona stood 
Samuel ben Abraham Ibn-Chasdai Halevi (1165- 
12 16), "the fountain of wisdom and the sea of 
thought," as the poet Charisi extravagantly calls 
him. He had five learned sons, among whom was 
Abraham Ibn-Chasdai, who as the author of a 
moral romance, " The Prince and the Dervish," and 
as a translator of philosophical writings, has made a 
name in the history of literature. 

The community of Tudela, a small town on the 
Ebro, which was the bone of contention between 
the kings of Aragon and Navarre, had on two occa- 
sions courageously fought for equal privileges with 
the Christian and Mahometan inhabitants, and won 
them. They possessed a castle of their own for 
their security. Tudela produced a learned traveler, 
Benjamin ben Jonah, to whom, not alone Jewish 
history, but also general history, is indebted for his 
interesting and authentic information. He traveled 
through a great portion of southern Europe, Asia 
and Africa (11 65-1 173). The object of this journey 
is not quite known. He was either an itinerant 
merchant, or a pious man of an inquiring turn of 
mind in search of traces of a Messianic redemption. 
He made observations on the peculiarities of each 


town he visited, and his record of observations has 
been translated into many modern languages. 

Serachya Halevi Gerundi was born (i 125, died 
1 186) in the little town of Gerona in Catalonia. 
He appears to have possessed considerable knowl- 
edge of philosophy, and was probably one of the 
first in his country to occupy himself with this sub- 
ject. He devoted himself especially to the Talmud, 
and being acquainted with the labors of the French 
and Spanish schools, he united in himself the 
methods of Alfassi, Rashi, Joseph Ibn-Migash, and 
Tam. He was a thorough and critical scholar, his 
mind being at once analytic and synthetic. In his 
youth, at the age of nineteen, he composed Tal- 
mudical works, and annotated the commentaries 
of Alfassi. Serachya Gerundi appears to have suf- 
fered persecution at the hands of the community of 
Gerona, for which he avenged himself by a satire. 
He left Gerona, and settled in Liinel, where he pos- 
sessed many friends, and. where he was maintained 
by a patron of learning. Here he composed various 
writings against a Talmudical authority of the south 
of France — Abraham ben David — and here also, at 
an advanced age, he finished his acute annotations 
of Alfassi's work on the greater part of the Talmud. 
These he published under the name of Maor. In 
this critical work, Serachya displayed his inde- 
pendence of spirit, and everywhere he insists upon 
a thorough understanding of the Talmud. But this 
very independence was displeasing to his contem- 
poraries, who were accustomed to hedge them- 
selves in with the decisions of the old authorities. 
Serachya was far in advance of his age in his view 
of the Talmud, and accordingly his conclusions 
were strenuously opposed. Of his life and position 
nothing further is known. 

In the district on the other s'ide of the Pyrenees, 
in Languedoc or in Provence, the Jews towards the 
end of the twelfth century lived most happily. 


Southern France partook of the northern Spanish 
character in respect of culture and morals. The 
country was divided into a number of small states, 
a circumstance which brought out the versatility of 
its genius, and produced a period of literary excel- 
lence, which it never afterwards surpassed. The 
province belonged at first partly to the French 
crown and partly it was a fief of the German empire ; 
then it belonged to the King of Aragon as Count 
of Provence, and later to the Count of Toulouse 
and St. Gilles ; and, lastly, to ■ different vassals, 
counts, viscounts, and barons. 

These were nearly all actuated by broad views 
of life ; they were patrons of the flourishing Pro- 
vengal poetry, they encouraged learning, and were 
not bigoted servants of the Church. Besides the 
nobility, a free and wealthy middle class had arisen, 
which guarded its independence as its dearest 
treasure. The intimate relations between the in- 
habitants and the Moslems and Jews had weakened 
western prejudices against the Orientals. The 
breadth of mind of the Provencals, which prompted 
them to resist the Catholic Church, to disregard 
papal bulls, to condemn the arrogant clergy, to 
apply the scourge to the vices of the Roman court, 
and which gave rise to the sect of the Albigenses, 
also rendered them capable of appreciating Judaism, 
and the adherents of that religion. Among the 
Provencal free-thinkers whom the stern, unbending 
Catholic Church branded as heretics, there were 
many who secretly and openly acknowledged that 
the law of the Jews was better than that of the 
Christians. Many of the great and minor lords of 
southern France appointed Jewish officers, and 
entrusted them with the high office of Chief Bailiff 
(Bailli), with which, in the absence of the regent, 
were united the police and judicial powers. The 
Jews of this country, which was so highly blessed 
by nature, felt themselves favored, carried their 


heads high, took the most lively interest in the 
welfare of the country, and exerted themselves 
in spiritual concerns with untiring zeal. As the 
Christians showed themselves ready to adopt in- 
novations, so the Jews of southern France did not 
accept all tradition with unquestioning faith, but 
.sought to comprehend its import, and test it before 
the judgment-seat of reason. Although the Jews 
of Provence manifested great interest in science, 
they cannot be considered as independent thinkers, 
able to strike out into new lines of thought within 
the limits of Judaism. Jewish Provence did not 
produce a single original mind, not one profound 
thinker, not one genuine poet, not one distin- 
guished scholar in any branch of knowledge. The 
Jewish Proven9als were faithful disciples of foreign 
masters, whose conclusions they appropriated, and 
steadfastly maintained ; they were humble workers 
in science, translators and propagators of foreign 
intellectual productions. Judaism they loved with 
all their hearts, although ready to pursue the free 
investigation of truth. Jewish virtues flourished 
among them, their houses were hospitably opened 
to all strangers ; they secretly assisted the needy, 
and practised beneficence at all times. The rich 
assisted the children of poor parents to receive 
higher instruction, and gave them books, which 
were at that time very costly. Especially note- 
worthy is the loyalty with which the congregations 
stood by one another, and interested themselves in 
one another's most intimate concerns. When danger 
threatened any particular congregation, the others 
immediately took measures to assist, and avert the 
impending danger. Their general prosperity was 
attained partly by agriculture and partly by com- 
merce, which at that time was carried on with Spain, 
Italy, England, Egypt, and the East, and was in a 
most flourishing condition. 


The principal congregation of southern France 
was Narbonne ; at that time it contained 300 
members. Under the rule of the sensible and 
masculine Princess Ermengarde, the head of the 
congregation was Kalonymos ben Todros, of an 
old family, whose ancestor, Machir, was said to 
have immigrated in the time of Charlemagne. 
Kalonymos possessed many estates, which were 
secured to him by absolute grants. At the head 
of the college was Abraham ben Isaac, who was 
recognized as an authority, and bore the title of 
Chief Justice (Ab-beth-din, died, autumn, 11 72). 
He was a man of strictly Talmudical pursuits, and 
was scarcely affected by general culture. His 
Talmudical learning, moreover, was wide rather 
than deep ; his disciples, Serachya and Abraham 
ben David, excelled him even in his lifetime. In 
Narbonne there lived at this time the Kimchi family, 
whose achievements cannot be said to correspond 
to their fame, but who, directly for Narbonne and 
indirectly for posterity, effected more than the 
greatest masters. The founder of the family, 
Joseph ben Isaac Kimchi (flourished 11 50-1 170), 
had emigrated from southern Spain to Narbonne, 
probably on account of the religious persecution of 
the Almohades. Having a knowledge of Arabic, 
he translated Bachya's work on moral philosophy, 
and many others, into pure, fluent Hebrew ; com- 
posed a Hebrew grammar ; wrote a commentary 
on Holy Writ, the nature of the extant frag- 
ments of which precludes regret for the loss of the 
rest, and composed many liturgical poems, artistic 
in form, according to the models of neo-Hebraic 
poetry, then brought to perfection in Spain, but of 
little poetic value. Joseph Kimchi's merit consists 
solely in the fact that he introduced the Jewish 
culture of Spain into southern France, and perma- 
nently established the results of Ibn-Ezra's fugitive 
activity. A polemical work against Christianity, in 


the form of a dialogue between a believer and an 
apostate, is also ascribed to him. Whether this 
work be genuine or not, in any case it belongs to 
this time and country, and throws a favorable light 
on the state of morality among the Jews as con- 
trasted with that of the Christian population. The 
believer maintains that the true religion of the Jews 
is attested by the morality of its adherents. The 
Ten Commandments, at least, are observed with 
the utmost conscientiousness. They adore no 
being but God, and they take no false oaths. 
Among them are no murderers, adulterers, nor rob- 
bers ; whilst Christian highwaymen often rob the 
weak, hang, or blind them. Jewish children are 
brought up in purity and fear of God, and no im- 
proper word is allowed to escape them. Jewish 
girls sit modestly at home, while Christians are 
careless of their self-respect. A Jew practises 
hospitality towards his brother Jew, ransoms prison- 
ers, clothes the naked, and feeds the hungry. All 
these virtues of the Jews the Christian antagonist 
admits as generally known, and only blames the 
Jews for taking exorbitant interest from Chris- 
tians. This offense the Jewish speaker palliates by 
pointing out that Christians also take usury even 
from their co-religionists, whilst Jews lend to the 
members of their race without interest. 

Joseph's two sons, Moses and David Kimchi, 
followed in the footsteps of their father. The first, 
who flourished 1170-1190, was still more mediocre 
than his father, and this characterof insignificance is 
borne out by his grammatical and exegetieal works. 
The younger brother, David Kimchi (born 11 60, 
died about 1235), was, in truth, the teacher of the 
Hebrew language to the Jews and Christians of 
Europe ; but if any value is to be set on his gram- 
matical, lexicographical and exegetieal works, we 
must ignore the fact that Ibn-Janach, Moses Ibn- 
G'ikatilia and Ibn-Ezra lived before him, for with 


these he cannot bear comparison. David Kimchi 
did not establish one original point of view. In the 
introduction to his grammatical work (Michlol) he is 
honest enough to confess that he only sought to 
arrange the manifold and detailed results of the 
labors of his predecessors. At most, it can be said 
in his favor that he discovered the difference be- 
tween the long and the short vowels, and thereby 
threw light on the vowel changes, and, finally, that 
he preserved in Jewish circles a faint recollection 
of a simple, sober, literal exegesis in opposition 
to the extravagant, Agadic, pseudo-philosophical 
method of exposition. 

The old community of Beziers, which had re- 
ceived Ibn-Ezra so honorably, was at this time, 
under Viscount Raymond Trencaval and his son 
Roger, in a still more fortunate condition than that 
of Narbonne. The Jews and Christians of this city 
did homage to the spirit of free thought. Many of 
the citizens were Albigenses, and renounced their 
allegiance to the Pope and the Catholic Church. 
Nevertheless, following the old custom, the bishop, 
on Palm Sunday, incited the parishioners against 
the Jews as murderers of God, and the people, 
armed with stones, attacked the Jewish houses. But 
as the Jews, who lived together in one quarter, sur- 
rounded by a wall, always took precautions to defend 
themselves, there was usually a number of broken 
heads. The chiefs of the Jewish community now 
moved to abolish this custom, more discreditable to 
Christianity than to Judaism, and received the con- 
sent of the viscount. Bishop William, who was 
ashamed of so brutal a practice, also agreed that it 
should be discontinued. On May 2d, 1160, an 
agreement was concluded according to which every 
priest who stirred up the people against the Jews 
should be excommunicated. The Jews in return 
pledged themselves to pay four pounds of silver 
every year on Palm Sunday. The assassination of 


Raymond Trencaval by several conspirators in 
church on Sunday (5th Oct., 1167), involved the 
Jews of Beziers in trouble, probably on account of 
their known attachment to the viscount. Certain 
citizens preferred accusations against them, and the 
directors of the congregation were arrested. Not 
long after, terrible retribution overtook the mur- 
derers of the viscount and the accusers of the Jews. 
Roger procured auxiliary troops from Alfonso, the 
king of Aragon. These troops suddenly fell upon 
the citizens, put the men to death, and hanged the 
ringleaders. Roger spared the Jews on account of 
their faithful adherence to his father, and besides 
them only the women and children (Feb. 1170). 
The viscount Roger, who favored the Albigenses, 
had Jewish sheriffs, Moses de Cavarite and Nathan. 
Through this partiality towards the heretics and the 
Jews, he provoked the anger of the clergy and the 
Pope, and in consequence suffered a tragic end. 

An important Provencal congregation existed in 
the flourishing commercial city Montpellier, which 
was the capital of southern France ; it had very rich 
members whose beneficence was much extolled. 
Like their co-religionists in Beziers, they had a pre- 
dilection for learning, fostered by the existence of a 
medical academy in the town and the prevailing 
freedom of education. The lords of this city were 
by no means so friendly to the Jews as their neigh- 
bors of Beziers. WilKam VIII and his son expressly 
enjoined in their wills that no Jew should be ad- 
mitted to the office of sheriff (11 78-1 201), although 
the latter owed a Jew, Bonet, a large sum of money. 
It is not known who was then at the head of the 
congregation of Montpellier, which produced no 
men of celebrity, although it possessed learned 
Talmudists in such plentiful abundance, that people 
compared its rabbinical school with the Synhedrion 
of the Temple-Mount (Har). 


What is now the little town of Liinel, not far from 
Montpellier, was, under the lords De Gaucelin, an 
important city, and the Jewish congregation, con- 
sisting of nearly three hundred members, was con- 
sidered, together with Narbonne, the most impor- 
tant outpost of Jewish Provence. Its Talmudical 
school, which rivaled that in Narbonne, educated 
numerous foreign students, who, if needy, were pro- 
vided with all necessaries by the congregation. At 
the head of the congregation stood a man who was 
extravagantly praised by his contemporaries, Me- 
shullam ben Jacob (died 1 1 70), a scholar and wealthy 
man, whose opinion was held to be decisive in all mat- 
ters of learning and law. To win his approval was 
an incentive to an author. " His soul adhered to 
the religion of his God ; wisdom was his inheritance. 
He illumined our darkness, and showed us the right 
path." Thus, and still more extravagantly does an 
independent contemporary describe him. Meshul- 
1am encouraged learned men to turn their attention 
to various branches, especially to translating Arabic 
works of Jewish authors into Hebrew. He was the 
first to awaken, among the Jews of Provence, a 
taste for learning. He occupied the same influ- 
ential position in southern France that Chasdai 
Ibn-Shaprut had occupied in Spain. Meshullam 
had five learned sons, who illustrated within a small 
circle the two currents which were to meet in the 
next generation in keen conflict. One of the sons, 
Aaron, who flourished from 11 70 to 12 10, although 
conversant with the Talmud, had a special predilec- 
tion for viewing Judaism from its philosophical side ; 
two others, Jacob and Asher, on the other hand, 
paid homage to that teaching which abhorred the 
light of reason. Jacob, although rich, led an ascetic 
life, drank no wine, and on that account received 
the name of Nazarite. He is described as the first 
promoter of the new Kabbala. His brother, Asher 
of Liinel, lived, if possible, a life even more austere, 


and although equally affluent, he fasted much, and 
ate no meat. 

On the whole, the scientific tendency prevailed 
in the community of Liinel. It was represented 
by two men, who have made themselves famous 
in the history of Jewish literature, viz., the founder 
of the family of Tibbon, and Jonathan of Lunel. 
The latter was an important Talmudical authority, 
who wrote a commentary on Alfassi's Talmudical 
work. He was none the less fond of science, and 
was one of the first who insisted that it should take 
a high place in Jewish studies. Judah ben Saul 
Ibn-Tibbon (born about 1120, died about 1190) 
originally came from Granada, and had emigrated 
to southern France on account of the persecution 
of the Jews by the Almohades. In Liinel he pur- 
sued the profession of physician, and in that capacity 
made himself so popular, that his services were 
sought by princes, knights, and bishops, and he was 
even sent for from across the sea. He knew Arabic 
thoroughly, and he studied Hebrew with enthusiasm. 
His learning, however, made him a pedant, he care- 
fully measured every step, and cogitated deeply 
whether he should take it or abandon it. At reg- 
ular intervals he examined his important collection 
of books, which he kept in most perfect order, and 
was unhappy if he noticed any confusion in them. 
He set great value upon elegant handwriting and 
other unessential matters. Ibn-Tibbon was thus, 
as it were, created for translating. At the instiga- 
tion of friends, particularly Meshullam of Liinel — 
with whom, as with Serachya of Gerona and Abra- 
ham ben David, he lived on friendly terms — he 
translated in succession from Arabic into Hebrew, 
Bachya's " Duties of the Heart," Ibn-Gebirol's 
" Ethics " and " Necklace of Pearls," Jehuda Hal- 
evi's religious philosophical work, Ibn-Janach's im- 
portant grammatical and lexicographical work, and, 
lastly, Saadiah's "Religious Philosophy" (1161- 


1 1 86). His translations, however, show his pedantic 
character ; they are absolutely literal and clumsy ; 
they slavishly follow the Arabic original, and do 
violence to the Hebrew language. Jehuda Ibn- 
Tibbon, who knew perfectly well that a conscien- 
tious translator must thoroughly understand both 
languages, as well as the subject-matter of the 
work, pleaded as an excuse for the stiffness ot his 
translation, the poverty of the Hebrew language. 

The second Tibbonid, Samuel, son of Judah 
(i 160-1239), formed a strong contrast to the char- 
acter of his father ; though more gifted than the 
latter, he was thoughtless, prodigal, and of phleg- 
matic nonchalance. His father had spent the 
utmost care on his education, had himself instructed 
him, and put him under highly-salaried masters. 
Thus Samuel Ibn-Tibbon studied medicine, the 
Arabic language, the Talmud, and other cognate 
departments of knowledge. His fond father also 
provided him at an early age with a wife, and tried 
to subject his son to his guardianship and to the 
rule of his pedantic nature. The latter revolted 
against his father's despotic rule, cast his exhorta- 
tions and teachings to the winds, and having asserted 
his independence, became estranged from his father. 
He made foolhardy business speculations instead 
of applying himself to his profession, losing all his 
money, so that he was finally obliged to appeal to 
his father for means to keep himself and his family 
from starvation. His father thought that he was 
ruined, but Samuel quietly finished his education, 
and ultimately excelled his father both in skill of 
translating and in philosophical grasp. He ren- 
dered into Hebrew not only works of Jewish 
authors, but also some of the works of Aristotle ; he 
also wrote a philosophical exposition of Ecclesiastes 
and a treatise on portions of Genesis. Generally 
speaking, the chief claim of the Tibbonides to dis- 
tinction rests on their skill as translators, as that 
of the Kimchis on their grammatical acumen. 


Not far from Liinel, in Posquieres, there existed 
at that time a congregation of forty members. 
Here was born one of the greatest Talmudists, 
Abraham ben David (about 1125, died 1198), son- 
in-law of Abraham ben Isaac of Narbonne. Having 
been educated under excellent teachers,, and being 
very rich, Abraham (Rabed II) supported a college 
of his own, which attracted many students from far 
and near. He provided for the material as well 
as the intellectual needs of his disciples. Whilst 
still a youth, he composed Talmudical works of 
great importance, and at the instigation of Meshul- 
1am ben Jacob he wrote a commentary on a part 
of the Mishna. By nature inconsiderate, and having 
little respect for the rules of courtesy, he treated 
those whose writings he refuted in a contemptuous 
manner. He was a dangerous antagonist. Of the 
sciences he had no knowledge, nor did he seem 
capable of grasping the higher conception of Juda- 
ism ; he even boasted of his ignorance of such 
things ; it was quite sufficient in his eyes for one to 
be thoroughly conversant with the Talmud. Abra- 
ham ben David and Serachya Halevi were the pro- 
foundest Talmudists since the death of Tam. 

Bourg de St. Gilles, the second capital of Duke 
Raymond V of Toulouse, had a congregation of a 
hundred members. This congregation, as well as 
the others under Count Raymond, whom the trou- 
badours called the Good Duke, lived under most 
happy conditions, and were promoted to offices of 
state. Abba-Mari ben Isaac, of St. Gilles, better 
known through his learned son, was the sheriff of 
the town. This son, Isaac ben Abba-Mari, who 
was probably a pupil of Tam, had acquired, from the 
celebrated master of Rameru, a thorough rather 
than an ingenious method of studying the Talmud. 
In his seventeenth year he composed, at the in- 
stance of his father, a compendium of certain ritual 
laws, and later in life summed up all the results of 


his investigations in the Talmud in a work, entitled 
" Ittur," upon the rabbinical civil laws and rites. 

Raymond VI of Toulouse favored the Jews even 
more than his father, and promoted them to offices 
(i 192-1222). On this account, and for other like 
sins, he was virulently persecuted by Pope Innocent 
III, and ultimately had to take a solemn oath that 
he would deprive the Jews of their offices, and that 
he would never appoint any Jews, nor favor them 
in any way. 

Beaucaire (Belcaire), which belonged to the county 
of Toulouse, also had a large congregation, at the 
head of which stood Kalonymos, " the Prince." In 
the flourishing commercial town of Marseilles, which 
at that time formed an independent state, there 
lived three hundred Jewish families belonging to 
two congregations. The minor congregation, che 
members of which dwelt near the harbor, and 
probably carried on navigation, or at least engaged 
in foreign business, had at their head a noble man, 
Jacob Perpignano (died 11 70). The larger con- 
gregation had a Talmudical college, over which 
Simon ben Anatolio presided. In Marseilles also, 
the Jews were admitted to offices. 

The beginning of the last two decades of the 
twelfth century constituted the boundary line be- 
tween fortune and misfortune for the Jews of 
northern France, who were partly subject to the 
king and partly to the more or less dependent 
barons. As long as the friendly king, Louis VII, 
lived, they continued in their happy condition, and 
were protected from the malevolent attacks of the 
clergy. Louis would not enforce the resolution of 
the Lateran Council, that no Jew should keep any 
Christian nurses or domestics. He asked the Pope, 
at the request of the Jews, whether, this resolution 
must be strictly construed, and whether the Jews 
might be allowed to build synagogues. In spite of 
the papal decision, he exercised so little energy in 


enforcing this canonical law, that even his son Philip 
Augustus, in whose favor he abdicated (1169) on 
account of feebleness, did not feel bound by it. 
When the Archbishop of Sens insisted on its en- 
forcement, and endeavored to bring into effect 
several other decisions of the Church, which en- 
croached on the prerogatives of the crown, the 
young king sent him into banishment. By and by, 
however, other considerations, not different influ- 
ences, gained the ascendancy over the not very 
noble nature of Philip Augustus, at that time only 
twenty-five years old, prompting him to change his 
mind about the Jews, and transforming him into one 
of the greatest Jew-hating kings in history. 

Although lord of the whole of France, and feudal 
suzerain of the mighty king of England, the French 
king at that time had little land of his own. The 
small tract of land, Isle de France, with a few 
scattered provinces, constituted his only inherit- 
ance, and the rest of the land was under the 
dominion of powerful barons. The policy of Philip 
Augustus aimed at enriching the French crown by 
the acquisition of landed estates, and by trans- 
forming the ostensible vassalage of the barons into 
a reality. To accomplish this he needed money, 
above all things, in order to raise troops and to 
support them. The wealth of the French Jews 
appeared to him a ready resource, and prompted 
him to devise a scheme to appropriate it. He had 
no need for lengthy consideration, for he had only 
to give ear to the prejudice that prevailed 
against them, in order to obtain the right to plun- 
der and oppress them. Although the Jews of 
France were not the only persons who practised 
usury — for Christians also, in spite of canonical 
prohibitions, took exorbitant interest — and although 
it was perhaps only the rich Jews of that country 
that were usurers, Philip Augustus nevertheless 
made the Jews one and all responsible for the 


impoverishment of reckless debtors ; and although 
personally he did not believe that monstrous lie 
which somehow arose in the twelfth century — 
whence and on what ground we know not — that 
the Jews slaughtered Christian children on the 
Passover festival, and drank their blood, he never- 
theless acted as if they were incarnate murderers, 
so as to have a convenient pretext for exacting and 
extorting money from them. Even before the 
death of the old king, Philip Augustus caused all 
the Jews living on his estates to be seized whilst 
they were praying in their synagogues, and cast 
into prison (19th January, 1180). He calculated 
that the Jews would offer a large ransom for their 
liberation. When they had collected fifteen hun- 
dred marks of silver they were set at liberty. This 
extortion was only a prelude to further demands. 
Before the end of the year 1 180, the king declared 
all claims of Jews against Christians to be null and 
void ; but, nevertheless, took care to appropriate a 
fifth part of the debts of the Christians to the 
exchequer. A hermit of Vincennes encouraged 
him, by explaining to him that it was godly work to 
rob the Jews of their wealth. Philip Augustus was 
not yet satisfied that he had made the rich Jews 
beggars, and shortly afterwards published an edict 
commanding all the Jews in his province to leave it 
between April and St. John's Day (1181). They 
were allowed to sell their movable property. Their 
fields, vineyards, barns and wine-presses, which 
must have yielded a fine revenue, escheated to 
the king, and the deserted synagogues were used 
as churches. That it is untrue that the Jews of 
France were hated by the people on account of 
their usury, alleged child-slaying, and other crimes, 
is proved most decisively by the circumstance that 
counts, barons, and even bishops strenuously en- 
deavored to turn the king from his purpose, and to 
induce him to repeal the edict of banishment against 


the Jews. All their efforts, however, were in vain ; 
young Philip Augustus, who had much of Louis XIV 
in hini, was, in spite of his youth, so obstinate that 
(as his biographer says) a rock could be shaken 
more easily than his resolution. And so the Jews 
of Paris and its environs once more had to take the 
wanderer's staff, and leave the places where they 
had lived for many centuries. The offer that they 
might retain possession of their property if they 
would submit to baptism, they held as opposed to 
their profession of faith in the unity of God. Only 
a few went over to Christianity. 

Fortunately for the Jews, the hereditary estate 
of the king, as mentioned above, was at that time 
not very large, and the vassals were still inde- 
pendent enough to refuse obedience to the order 
to expel all Jews from their provinces. They 
dwelt in the greatest part of France, and even 
those who had been driven out of the territory of 
Philip Augustus were allowed to settle among 
them. The Talmudical College of Paris was 
closed, but those in the Champagne, where the Tos- 
safists pursued their work, still flourished. The small 
town of Rameru continued to be the center of 
study. Here Isaac ben Samuel, of Dampierre 
(Ri), a great-grandson of Rashi, held his school. 
He was the chief authority after the death of his 
uncle Tam. Learned and acute, like his ancestors, 
Isaac occupied himself with completing Rashi's 
commentary, with collecting and arranging his 
notes on the whole Talmud, and supplementing 
the questions on knotty Talmudic points pre- 
sented to the Tossafists, and their decisions. It 
required a profound knowledge of the enormous 
material of the Talmud to undertake this work, to 
adjust the most irreconcilable opinions, to discover 
an inconsistency here, and explain one away there. 
The story is told that in the college of Isaac the 
Elder there were sixty learned members, all of 


whom not only were proficient in the whole of the 
Talmud, but each one of whom knew by heart and 
could explain in a masterly manner one of its sixty 
treatises. Isaac's first collection of the glosses was 
called "the old Tossafoth." In consequence of the 
hostile spirit which began to prevail in northern 
France, through the persecution of Philip Augustus, 
Isaac's son, named Elchanan, who, although young, 
had gained renown among the Tossafists, fell a 
martyr to his religion, in the lifetime of his father 
(1 184). 

Some years later (1191) Philip Augustus sent 
fresh victims to the martyr's grave. In the little 
town of Bray (on the Seine, north of Sens), which 
belonged to the county of Champagne, a Christian 
subject of the king murdered a Jew. The relatives 
of the murdered man appealed to the countess, and 
obtained her permission, through rich presents of 
money, to hang the murderer. By design or acci- 
dent, the execution took place on the Purim festival, 
and this circumstance reminded the people of Ra- 
man's gallows, and perhaps of something else. As 
soon as the king had received news of the execution 
of his subject, in a distorted report, moreover, say- 
ing that the Jews had bound the hands of the 
murderer, crowned him with a crown of thorns, 
and dragged him through the streets, he hastened 
to Bray with a force of men, and surrounding the 
houses of the Jews with guards, offered them the 
alternative between death and conversion. The 
congregation did not hesitate a moment, its mem- 
bers bravely determined to kill one another rather 
than die by the hand of the executioner. Philip 
caused nearly one hundred to be burnt, and spared 
only the children under thirteen years. A few days 
later the king, with blood-imbrued hands, was con- 
secrated as champion of the Cross, and sailed to 
Syria, to the crusade. The so-called Holy War 
improved him but little. 


All efforts to dislodge that really great hero, 
Saladin, from Jerusalem and the district belonging 
to it, had hitherto proved fruitless. Richard the 
Lion-hearted was compelled to patch up a truce 
discreditable to the Christians, and the only favor 
that he obtained was that Christian pilgrims were 
to be allowed to visit at any time the Church of the 
Sepulchre in Jerusalem. 

A new crusade had to be preached ; the dying 
embers of fanaticism once more had to be rekindled, 
and naturally the Jews again were the first to suffer. 
Pope Innocent III, the most thoughtless and arbi- 
trary of all princes of the Church, took the cause in 
hand with frantic energy. He commissioned a 
preacher, Fulko de Neuilly, who had till then lived 
a reckless, sinful life, to. preach the crusade in 
towns and villages ; and this agent, a second Ru- 
dolph, used the unpopularity of the Jews and the 
prospect of plundering them as convenient means 
for enlisting soldiers for the armies of the Cross. 
He preached that Christian debtors, having taken 
the Cross, were absolved from their debts to their 
Jewish creditors. Many barons of northern France 
inspired, or pretending to be inspired by Fulko's 
fanatical harangues, enrolled themselves as cru- 
saders. Now that their hatred of the Jews was 
once more inflamed, they drove them out of their 
provinces ; for, having been impoverished by the 
canceling of their debts, the Jews had nothing left 
which the barons could extort from them. 

Contrary to all expectations, Philip Augustus, 
the arch-enemy of the Jews, received the exiles in 
his own territory, and allowed those who had 
formerly been expelled by him to return again to 
their hearths (July, 1198). This inconsistent and 
tolerant action of the king, who had been hitherto 
invariably severe, occasioned much surprise. It 
seems that Philip Augustus had taken this step for 
the purpose of mortifying the clergy and Pope 


Innocent III, because they had declared against his 
second marriage, he having divorced his first wife 
without the sanction of the Pope. 

At first glance it appears as if the French king 
and the barons were filled with solicitude for the 
Jews, as if the latter were so dear to them that they 
could not exist without them. They looked jealously 
at one another if Jews emigrated from one province 
to another ; they reclaimed them, and entered into 
compacts whereby any Jews who had changed their 
places of abode were to be delivered over to their 
original lord ; and they went so far as to place the 
Jews under oath not to pass beyond their borders. 
But behind this apparent solicitude there lurked 
the most contemptible greed for money* The 
Jews of northern France were considered by the 
kings and barons as convenient sources whence to 
obtain gold. As early as the year 1198, Philip 
Augustus entered into an agreement with Thibaut 
of Champagne, that neither should detain any Jews 
who had emigrated from the territory of the one, 
and settled in that of the other, but that the Jews 
should be sent back to the province whence they 
had come. Philip Augustus, however, like most of 
the kings of France, was not a man of his word ; he 
refused to give up the Jews who had, on account of 
excessive oppression, moved to Francia from Cham- 
pagne, which was thickly populated with Jews. 

Thus, from the time of Philip Augustus, the Jews 
of northern France lost one of the most precious 
privileges of mankind, freedom of motion. Whilst 
formerly they were able to move about at will from 
place to place, they were now compelled to remain 
in their native place like serfs. If they ventured to 
move from it, the lord of the land seized their real 
property, and confiscated it. At first the Jews did 
not know what to make of this state of affairs, and 
the rabbinical authority of the time, Isaac of Dam- 
pierre, decided that no Jew should buy property 


that had been confiscated ; and If he did buy such 
property, he was to return it to its original owner. 
Gradually this robbery became law. Not only 
freedom of motion, but even the right to possess 
property was denied them. " The property of the 
Jews belongs to the baron " was the leading prin- 
ciple of the legislation of northern France concern- 
ing the Jews. The king and the barons, indeed, 
allowed the Jews to take a high rate of interest (two 
deniers a week on a livre), because it served their 
purposes. The bonds had to be drawn up by a 
notary, sealed with the public seal, and witnessed 
by two notables. In this manner the lord of the 
province could obtain information of all money 
transactions. On every settled account the lord 
levied a large tax (cens). The Jews of northern 
France were valued, only for their possessions ; 
they were treated as revenue-producing bondmen. 
A nobleman sold to the Duchess of Champagne all 
his " chattels and Jews." The Jews were thus secure 
from expulsion and persecution, because they were 
needed, but they suffered from innumerable annoy- 
ances, and their moral sense was thereby blunted. 
They were restricted to the business of money 
getting, and they acquired as much as possible in 
order to be able to satisfy their tormentors. The 
clergy did not fail to add fuel to the fire of hatred 
against the Jews, and shut them out of the Chris- 
tian world like lepers. Bishop Odo, of Paris, who 
issued canonical constitutions (1197), forbade Chris- 
tians to buy meat of Jews, to hold discussions with 
them, and generally to have any intercourse with 
them. Those who disobeyed were subject to the 
sentence of excommunication. If the Jews of 
northern France had not then been possessed of a 
burning passion for the study of the Talmud, they 
would certainly have become as degenerate as their 
enemies pictured, and wished them to be. The 
Talmud alone saved them from brutalized selfish- 
ness and moral decay. 


After the death of Isaac, the compiler of the 
Tossafoth (about 1200), the study of the Talmud in 
northern France was furthered by three men of his 
school : Judah Sir Leon ben Isaac, the Pious (ha- 
Chasid), in Paris (born 1166, died 1224), Samson 
ben Abraham in Sens (died before 1226), and his 
own brother, Isaac the Younger (Rizba), in Dam- 
pierre. All three expounded the Talmud in their 
schools in the usual manner, decided religious ques- 
tions that were submitted to them,' and wrote Tos- 
safoth, those of Samson existing in a separate form 
under the name of Sens Tossafoth. 

These three rabbis of northern France did not 
lead the way to new developments in any branch 
of learning. They had no taste for science or 
poetry, and they studied Holy Writ, only in the 
light of the Agadic method of exposition. They 
were not destitute of acuteness, but they wanted 
breadth of view. Samson was so incapable of doing 
justice to the sincerity of religious feeling in the 
Karaites, who, if possible, were over-scrupulous in 
the discharge of their religious duties, that he not 
only held it illegal to intermarry with them, but 
wished them to be regarded as idolaters, whose 
wine a Rabbanite might not drink. Judah Sir Leon 
wrote a book in which he endeavors to hold up the 
higher ideals towards which the truly pious should 
strive. This work is, indeed, instinct with religious 
feeling, and of singularly pure morality; but it is 
also full of perverted ideas of the world, and of 
crass superstition. It .mirrors faithfully the spirit 
of that time : that religious scrupulousness which 
fearfully considers at every step whether it does not 
commit or occasion a sin ; that gloomy disposition 
which detects in every natural impulse the incite- 
ment of Satan ; that paltry spirit which treats every 
trifling occurrence as full of significance. Side by 
side with sentences of which philosophers need not 
be ashamed, in this " Book of the Pious," there occur 


absurdities which could have been produced only by 
the decline in all conditions of life, which the Jews 
had experienced since the reign of Philip Augustus. 

Judah Sir Leon, the Pious, became the master of 
many pupils, who afterwards acquired renown : 
Solomon of Montpellier, Moses of Coucy, Isaac of 
Vienna, and others became rabbis, and promoters 
of the study of the Talmud in Spain, France, and 
Germany. All were guided by his spirit, beheld 
Judaism only as through a thick layer of fog, and 
were opponents of free investigation. The dis- 
ciples of his school later on arrayed themselves 
against the Spanish exponents of a higher concep- 
tion of Judaism. 

In England, and in those French provinces which 
at that time belonged to England (Normandy, Bre- 
tagne, Anjou, Touraine, Maine, Guienne, Poitou 
and Gascony), the Jews lived under Henry II, for a 
long time, in undisturbed and happy quiet. They 
inhabited the large towns, and in London many of 
them attained to such wealth that their houses had 
the appearance of royal palaces. The summons to 
the first and second crusades found no response 
among the stolid islanders, and in consequence no 
martyrs were found among the Jews of England at 
that time. Many Englishmen had conceived such 
a predilection for Judaism that they entered into 
the covenant. There existed a congregation which 
consisted entirely of proselytes. Their communal 
and intellectual life was like that of France, which 
at that time stood in close connection with Eng- 
land. In London, Jacob of Orleans, a pupil of 
Tarn, a famous Tossafist, founded his school. Ben- 
jamin of Canterbury was likewise a disciple of the 
teacher of Rameru. The knightly son of Henry, 
Richard the Lion-hearted, was equally averse to 
persecution, and the Jewish community of England 
might have developed peacefully under him, had 
not the fanaticism kindled by Thomas a Becket in- 


eluded them among its victims. At Richard's 
coronation (3d September, 1189), the first persecu- 
tion broke out against the Jews, culminating a cen- 
tury later in their general expulsion. Richard's 
coronation ceremony was the first scene of a bloody 
drama for the Jews. 

When Richard had returned to. his palace from 
his coronation in the church, there entered, among 
others who came to do homage to the king, a depu- 
tation of the richest and most prominent members 
of the congregations of England to hand in their 
presents. On their appearance, Baldwin, Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury, a fanatical church dignitary, 
remarked fiercely, that no presents ought to be 
accepted from Jews, and that they ought to be dis- 
missed from the palace, for on account of their 
religion they had forfeited the privilege to rank 
among other nations. Richard, who did not think 
of the evil consequences that might follow, inno- 
cently obeyed the instruction of the archbishop. 
The palace menials, who showed the Jews out of 
the palace, thought themselves privileged to abuse 
them. The gaping crowd likewise fell to, and pur- 
sued the Jewish deputies with blows of the fist, 
with stones and clubs. Soon there spread about 
in all parts of London the false report that the 
king desired the humiliation and destruction of the 
Jews, and immediately the mob and the crusading 
rabble banded together to enrich themselves with 
the possessions of the Jews. The pillagers made 
an attack upon the houses in which the Jews had 
sought refuge, and set fire to them. Meanwhile 
night had come, and covered with her shadows the 
ghastly butchery of the Jews. It was in vain that 
the newly-crowned king sent one of his courtiers, 
Ranulph de Granville, to make inquiries about the 
uproar, and put a stop to it. At first he could not 
make himself heard, and was moreover assailed 
with jeers by the raging mob. Many Jews were 


murdered ; others killed themselves, because they 
were called upon to submit to baptism, among them 
Jacob of Orleans. Most of the Jewish houses were 
burnt, and the synagogues destroyed. The fire, 
which had been applied in order to destroy the 
records of the debts of Christians to Jews, spread, 
and consumed a part of the city. Only one Jew 
apostatized to Christianity, the wealthy Benedict of 
York, who with his fellow-deputy had been ejected 
from the palace, and dragged into a church, where 
he had pretended to submit to baptism. When 
Richard, however, learnt the real circumstances of 
the affair, he ordered those implicated to be exe- 
cuted. Richard was so careful of the welfare of the 
Jews of his realm that, fearing that the persecution 
in London might spread through England and his 
French dominions, he promulgated edicts that the 
Jews were to be inviolate, and even sent deputies 
to Normandy and Poitou to suppress any out- 
breaks against the Jews that might occur. He, 
moreover, allowed Benedict of York to return to 
Judaism, when he learnt that he had been baptized 
under compulsion, and heard from him the confes- 
sion that he had remained a Jew at heart, and 
wanted to die as such. The fanatical Archbishop 
of Canterbury, who was present at the interview, 
being asked his opinion, answered, " If he will 
not remain a son of God, let him be a son of the 
devil." As long as Richard remained in London, 
the Jews were at peace ;. but as soon as he crossed 
the Channel, in order to inaugurate a new crusade 
together with Philip Augustus, the scenes of London 
were repeated all over England. It was not only 
religious zeal which incited the Christians against 
the Jews of England, but rather envy of their pros- 
perity, and, above all, desire for their property. 
The first to suffer was the wealthy and notable 
congregation in the flourishing commercial city of 
Lynn. If we may believe Christian writers, it 


would appear that the Jews first provoked the fury 
of the Christians against themselves. They are 
said to have attacked a baptized Jew, and when he 
fled for refuge into a church, they captured it by 
storm. Thereupon the Christians are said to have 
been called to arms. At the time there happened 
to be crusaders in the city. The Jews, being de- 
feated by the latter, took refuge in their houses, 
and there were assaulted with fire and sword, but 
few escaping with their lives. It is impossible, 
however, that the Jews should have been the first 
to attack, for the citizens themselves, when called 
upon by royal commissioners to explain these dis- 
turbances, fixed the blame on the crusaders, who, 
in the meantime, had decamped with the booty of 
the Jews. A Jewish physician, who, by his modesty 
and skill, had won popularity even among the 
Christians, was murdered by these ruffians for 
mourning too much for his people, and invoking 
the justice of heaven upon their murderers. 

Soon after the Lynn massacre, the Jews of Nor- 
wich were surprised in their houses, and butchered 
(6th February, 1190). A month later (7th March), 
the Jews of Stamford were severely maltreated, 
because on the market day many crusaders and 
strangers happened to be in the city, who were 
sure to be in stronger force than their opponents, 
in case the Jews, assisted by the citizens, should 
offer them resistance. They believed that they were 
performing a godly act if they treated as enemies 
those whose property they were lusting after, and 
they hoped to extort from the Jews their traveling 
expenses for the crusade. Without the least pro- 
vocation, they fell upon the Jews, murdered some, 
forcing others to flee to the royal castle, broke into 
the houses, and carried away everything valuable. 
The robber crusaders absconded from the town 
with their booty, so that none of it might fall into 
the hands of the royal judges. One of these 


brigands was all but declared a saint ; he deposited 
his plunder at the house of a friend, who murdered 
him to get possession of his ill-gotten gains. The 
Jews of Lincoln nearly shared the fate of their 
brethren of Lynn, Norwich, and Stamford ; but on 
getting wind of the danger threatening them, they 
betook themselves with their property to the royal 
castle for protection. 

But most tragic of all was the lot of the Jews of 
York, because among them were two men, who 
enjoyed princely fortunes, had built magnificent 
palaces, and had accordingly aroused the envy 
of the Christian inhabitants. One of these was 
Joceus, the other was Benedict, who had been so 
brutally ill-treated at Richard's coronation. The 
latter, who had reverted to. Judaism after his com- 
pulsory baptism, died from the wounds which had 
been inflicted on him in London. Crusaders who 
wanted to obtain wealth, citizens who were cha- 
grined at the prosperity of the Jews, noblemen 
who owed money to them, and priests who were 
animated by a bloodthirsty fanaticism, all entered 
into a conspiracy to destroy the Jews of York. In 
the dead of night, during a conflagration which had 
either broken out by accident or been kindled by 
design, the conspirators broke into the house of 
Benedict, which was inhabited only by his wife and 
daughters, carried away all the valuables, and set 
the house on fire. Joceus, who had foreseen the 
danger threatening him, repaired with his family 
and most of the members of the congregation to 
the citadel, and demanded protection. But few. 
Jews remained in the town, and these were attacked 
by the conspirators, who appeared openly on the 
day following their successful experiment, and 
offered the Jews the choice between baptism and 
death. The Jews in the tower, however, were 
besieged by an immense multitude of people of 
all classes, and were called upon to embrace Chris- 


tianity. One day the governor of the citadel 
sauntered out of the fortress, and as the Jews 
feared that he would betray them, and hand them 
over to their enemies, they refused him re-admittance 
into the fortress. The latter made complaint before 
a high royal official, the lord-lieutenant of the pro- 
vince, who happened to be present at the time, that 
the Jews had had the audacity to shut him out of 
the fortress which had been entrusted to him. In- 
furiated in the highest degree, the lord-lieutenant 
gave orders to the besieging multitude to demolish 
the fortress, and take vengeance on the Jews. He 
even brought up re-inforcements in order to ensure 
victory. The siege lasted six days ; the Jews re- 
pulsed all attacks bravely. The governor was be- 
ginning to repent of having given orders to storm 
the place, and many noblemen and prudent citizens 
were withdrawing from an enterprise which prom- 
ised so many evil consequences to them, if it be- 
came known to the king, when up rose a monk in a 
white robe, who exhorted the besiegers by voice and 
example to continue their work. He held a special, 
solemn service, read mass, and took the Host to 
assure himself that divine assistance would be 
rendered them in conquering the weak little troop 
of Jews in the castle. He was nevertheless struck 
to the ground by a stone hurled by a Jewish hand, 
and yielded up his fanatical spirit. 

The Jews had, in the meantime, exhausted their 
provisions, and death stared them in the face. 
When the men were deliberating what to do, one 
learned in the Law, who had come over from 
France, Yom Tob, of Joigny, counseled them to 
slay one another, saying, " God, whose decisions are 
inscrutable, desires that we should die for our holy 
religion. Death is at hand, unless you prefer, for 
a short span of life, to be unfaithful to your religion. 
As we must prefer a glorious death to a shameful 
life, it is advisable that we take our choice of the 

CH. XIll. THEIR END. 415 

most honorable and the noblest mode of death. The 
life which our Creator has given us we will render 
back to Him with our own hands. This example 
many- pious men and congregations have given us 
in ancient and modern times." Many were of the 
same way of thinking ; the timid, however, would 
not abandon the hope of being able to save their 
lives. In the meantime, the heroic rabbi made 
preparations for the sacrifice. All valuables were 
burnt, fire was applied to the doors, and the men 
with the courage of zealots passed the knife across 
the throats of those dearest to them. Joceus, the 
leader of the congregation, first slew his beloved 
wife Anna, and to him was allotted the honor of 
being sacrificed by the rabbi. Thus most of them 
perished at one another's hands, on the day before 
that great Sabbath which forms the introductory 
festival in celebration of the redemption from Egyp- 
tian bondage, at about the same time when the 
last Zealots had put themselves to death in a similar 
manner after the destruction of the Temple, to 
avoid falling into the hands of the Romans. The 
few survivors had to contend during the night with 
the spreading fire, and secure for themselves some 
sheltered places. On the Sabbath (17 March, 
1 190), when the enemy advanced to the attack, 
the survivors declared their willingness to open the 
gate, and receive baptism ; and to convince their 
foes of the shocking sacrifice that had been made, 
they threw the corpses of the suicides from the 
wall. Scarcely were the gates opened, when the 
leader of the Christian conspirators, together with 
his guardsmen, cut down the Jews, who were begging 
with tears in their eyes to be baptized ; thus not a 
single member of the Jewish congregation of York 
survived ; altogether about 500 Jews perished. On 
the following day, Palm Sunday (i8th March), 750 
Jews were butchered by crusaders in Bury St. 
Edmunds. Throughout England, wherever Jews 

4t6 history of the jews. ch. xiii. 

were to be found, unless protected by the citizens, 
they met with the death of martyrs. A congrega- 
tion of twenty families, consisting only of Jewish 
proselytes, likewise suffered martyrdom. King 
Richard was greatly enraged at these cruelties, and 
commissioned his chancellor to institute inquiries, 
and punish the guilty. But the crusaders had 
decamped, the guilty citizens and noblemen fled 
to Scotland, and the rest escaped punishment. 
Only the governor of York was deposed from his 

But on the accession of Richard's brother, King 
John, who by his unprincipled conduct degraded 
England into a vassalage of the papal chair, the 
Jews were robbed even of the help of generous 
citizens. If John behaved ruthlessly towards all 
the world, the Jews certainly could not expect to be 
well treated by him. 

Somewhat more fortunately placed than their 
co-religionists in France and England were the 
Jews of the German empire, which at that time was 
very extensive. The German nations, by nature 
more religious, and therefore more fanatical than 
the French and the other Romance nations, often 
indeed made existence for the Jews a veritable hell 
upon earth ; but as emperors and princes protected 
them, the hatred against them could not produce 
any material effect. As Henry IV, during the 
first, and Conrad III, during the second crusade, 
protected the Jews, the notion arose that the 
German emperors had constituted themselves 
the guardians of the Jews, that any one who 
harmed them committed high treason, and that in 
return for his protection they became his " servi 
camerae," the serfs of the imperial chamber. Fred- 
erick Barbarossa, the most powerful German em- 
peror, who took Charlemagne for a model, was the 
first to begin the conversion of free Jews into 
" servi camerae." The legend is interesting which 


characterizes the connection of the German em- 
peror with the Jews in history. After the destruc- 
tion of Jerusalem by Titus, a third of the Jews is 
said to have been sold as slaves at the rate of thirty 
for a bad penny. These, scattered throughout the 
Roman empire, were the property of the Roman 
emperor, and became his " servi camerae." The 
emperor, however, had taken upon himself the duty 
of protecting them, as a reward for Josephus' ser- 
vice to Titus, whom he had cured of gout. The rights 
and obligations of the Roman emperors towards 
the Jews passed over, through Charlemagne, to the 
German emperors, and hence the latter were sim- 
ilarly constituted the protectors of the Jews, and 
the Jews became their " servi camerae." The Jews 
had, in all essentials, been " servi camerae " before, 
in France and England ; that is, they were half- 
and-half the property of the king or the barons, 
and under one or another title they constantly had 
to hold their purses in readiness to replenish the 
empty coffers of their lords. In Germany, how- 
ever, they had in return the protection of the 
emperor. It was certainly not to be expected that 
the successors of Vespasian, of the house of Teut, 
should fulfil this office of champion of the Jews quite 
disinterestedly. On the contrary, they needed more 
revenue than other princes, as they had no land, 
and received but little money from their vassals. 
It seemed, therefore, only right that the Jews should, 
in return for his imperial support, supply the em- 
peror with pocket-money. 

Although the Jews of Germany were " servi 
camerae," they were not robbed wholly of their 
personal rights in the twelfth century. They were 
allowed to carry weapons, and even to fight single 
combats. During the siege of Worms, Jews fought 
side by side with Christians, and the rabbi even 
permitted them to use weapons on the Sabbath for 
the purpose of defense. They had their own juris- 


diction, and were not compelled to appear before 
an alien judge. Now and again some of them 
attained a higher position. The brave Duke Leo- 
pold of Austria, renowned in history for his capture 
of King Richard of England, had a Jewish treas- 
urer, who, in spite of the canonical resolution of 
the Lateran council, was allowed to keep Christian 
servants. In Silesia, in the neighborhood of Breslau, 
Jews owned several villages with the bondmen 
appertaining to them. But as the prohibition to 
keep Christian domestics gained ground, the Jews 
were obliged to sell their landed estates, to remove 
to the towns, and there to engage in business and 
money-lending. In spite of the imperial protection, 
they were often exposed to ill-treatment. The in- 
famous invention that the Jews used Christian blood 
found credence also in Germany, and here more 
than in any other place, and wherever the dead 
body of a Christian was found, princes and people 
immediately laid the murder at the door of the 
Jews. A ship containing Jews was proceeding 
from Cologne to Boppard, and after it there sailed 
another with Christian passengers. The latter 
found the dead body of a Christian woman in Bop- 
pard, and forthwith they jumped to the conclusion 
that the Jews of the first ship had slain her ; the 
Christians immediately pursued and overtook them, 
and called upon them to submit to baptism, and on 
their refusal hurled them into the Rhine. In the 
general peace which the emperor decreed before 
his expedition to the Orient, the Jews were also 
included. He warned priest and monk not to stir 
up the people against them ; but they had to supply 
funds for the crusade. 

Under Frederick's successor, Henry VI, a hor- 
rible massacre of the Jews took place, the fanatics 
breaking loose upon them at different places from 
the district of the Rhine to Vienna. Under such 
afflicting circumstances, when they were not sure 


of their lives for one moment, it was impossible for 
them to advance to a high degree of culture. They 
were deeply religious and beneficent, and they 
assisted one another, and foreign immigrants, with 
everything that they possessed. Religion and the 
cohesion of the members of the community were the 
pillars on which they had to lean for support ; but 
they were without enthusiasm or taste for any 
branch of knowledge. The study of the Talmud 
continued to be the only occupation of the more 
intellectual among them ; but even in this they only 
followed the road marked out by Rashi and the 
Tossafists, without ever diverging from it. 'Those 
who desired to give spiritual nourishment to their 
mind, as well as acquire intellectual acuteness, 
absorbed themselves in a kind of mystic lore, the 
import and significance of which is lost to us. 

Ephraim ben Jacob, of Bonn (i 132-1200), made a 
name for himself at about this time. He was not, 
indeed, a rabbi by profession, but was none the less 
adept in Talmudical lore, and in addition was an 
extraordinary linguist. At the age of thirteen he 
was shut up with his relatives in the tower of Wol- 
kenburg during the persecution that attended the 
second crusade ; there he saw the suiTerings of his 
brethren in faith, and described them later on in an 
impartial, enthusiastic and vividly written martyr- 
ology, which he brought down to the year 1 196-97. 
Ephraim was also a skilful versifier, and he com- 
posed many liturgical poems, particularly lamenta- 
tions on the sufferings of his time. His verses 
possess no poetical beauty, but they are charac- 
terized by a certain wit, which is displayed in in- 
genious allusions to Biblical verses and Talmudical 

It seems scarcely credible that Germany, hostile 
as it was towards the Jews at that time, should have 
given birth to a Jewish poet who was able to sing in 
beautiful strains, knew how to handle rhyme, meter, 


Strophes in the vernacular, and was so warmly ap- 
preciated that he was received into the circle of 
poets. Slisskind (Suzkint) of Trimberg, a small 
town on the Saale in Franconia, adopted the poetic 
style of Walter von der Vogelweide and Wolfram 
of Eschenbach. He was probably a physician by 
profession, but nothing is known of the events of 
his life. In the castle of the . lords of Trimberg, 
which stood on the ridge of a vine-covered hill, and 
was reflected in the winding Saale, or in the neigh- 
boring castle, Bodenlaube, in the company of noble 
knights and beautiful dames, he poured forth, lute 
in hand, his melodious strains, and the largesses 
which were sliowered on him formed his sole means 
of support. Slisskind sang of the high worth of 
the pure woman, and pictured to the knights his 
ideal of a nobleman : " Who acts nobly, him will I 
account noble." He speaks of the freedom of 
thought, not yielding to force : 

" No man can bid a fool or sage from thought refrain, 
A thought can glide through stone, and steel, and iron chain." 

Slisskind also composed a German psalm. He 
describes the awesome thought of death and disso- 
lution, mocks at his own poverty, and prescribes a 
virtue-electuary. Once the noblemen, whose bread 
he ate, appear to have given him a bitter reminder 
that he, as a Jew, did not belong to their select 
circle. His despondency arising from this reminder 
he embodied in beautiful verses, wherein he bids fare- 
well to poetry. With the best of intentions, the 
Jews could not cultivate • German poetry, since the 
Jewish poets received kicks instead of the laurel 
crown, as their reward. Being shut up in their own 
circle, their sense for the euphony of language be- 
came blunted, and it is probable that German poetry 
has lost considerably by it. 

Bohemia also must be enumerated in the list of 
Talmudical centers, for it produced some men 


famous for Jewish knowledge. Isaac ben Jacob Hala- 
ban of Prague takes an important place among the 
Tossafists ; he wrote a profound commentary on 
several Talmudical treatises. His brother Petachya 
made distant journeys (about ii 75-11 90) through 
Poland, Russia, the land of the Chazars, Armenia, 
Media, Persia, Babylonia, and Palestine. His 
abridged description of his journeys gives interest- 
ing notices on the Jews in the East. Even the 
Jews living in Poland and Russia began to take part 
in Talmudical learning, which in later times they 
were to possess as a monopoly. 

It is remarkable that the Italian Jews of this 
period seem more destitute of intellectual produc- 
tions than the Bohemian or Polish Jews. They did 
not produce a single authority on the Talmud. 
When it was said in Tam's time, "The law goes 
forth from Bari, and the word of God from Otranto," 
it was meant ironically, for they did not advance the 
study of the Talmud in any way. The times were 
most favorable to them ; certainly as favorable as to 
the Jews of southern France. With the exception 
of a single case, the expulsion of the Jews from 
Bologna (11 71), the Jews in Italy were about this 
time remarkably free from persecution. The clever 
Pope Alexander III was well-disposed to them, and 
entrusted the management of his finances to a Jew, 
named Yechiel ben Abraham, a member of the 
family dei Mansi, and nephew of Nathan, the famous 
author of the Aruch. On the entrance of this pope 
into Rome, whence he had been banished for many 
years by a rival pope, the Jews among others came 
to meet him with a scroll of the Law and with ban- 
ners, an honor to the pope shown by Jews which the 
chronicles do not fail to record. They were treated 
with respect, and were not obliged to pay any im- 
posts or Jew-taxes. The favorable feeling of Alex- 
ander is proved in the resolutions of the great 
council in the Lateran Church (1179), at which 


more than three hundred princes of the Church 
were present. Several anti-Jewish prelates en- 
deavored to pass certain mischievous laws against 
the house of Jacob. The Jews, who received infor- 
mation of their hostile intentions, lived in torment- 
ing anxiety, and in many congregations a fast of 
three days and special prayers were ordained, that 
Heaven might frustrate the wickedness of men. 
History has not recorded the discussions of the 
great Church assembly, but the final decrees bear 
witness that the gentle spirit of tolerance prevailed 
over the mania for persecution. The council only 
forbade the Jews to keep Christian servants, or in 
other words, an old Church prohibition was re- 
newed. On the other hand, it was particularly 
insisted upon that they were not to be forcibly bap- 
tized, nor to be apprehended without a judicial war- 
rant, nor robbed, nor disturbed on their religious 
festivals. The limitation of a privilege of the Jews, 
that henceforth Christians were also to be compe- 
tent witnesses against Jews, was justly decreed. It 
was said in explanation that the evidence of a Jew 
was valid against Christians, and it was surely not 
equitable that the Jews, who in reality were subject 
to the Christians, and were tolerated only out of 
pure humanity, should in this respect enjoy an ad- 
vantage over the Christians. What a contrast to 
that old Byzantine law and the resolution of the 
Visigothic council, that Jews could not act as wit- 
nesses against Christians ! Not that the spirit of 
the Church had grown milder during these five cen- 
turies ; but the Jews had earned respect for them- 
selves, and accordingly the representatives of Chris- 
tianity durst not repeat that old charge, " He cannot 
be true to men who denies God," i. e., the Christian 

In southern Italy, in Naples, and the island of 
Sicily, under the Norman dominion, Jews were still 
less fettered. Roger II and William II expressly 


confirmed the privilege of trial according to their 
own laws, equally with the Greeks and Saracens. 
In Messina they enjoyed equal rights with the 
Christians, and were eligible to office. A favorite 
minister and admiral of King Roger of Sicily had a 
leaning towards Judaism, frequently visited the 
synagogues, donated oil for their illumination, and 
in general subscribed money to meet the require- 
ments of the community. Seeds of a higher culture 
were scattered in profusion at that time in Italy, in 
-consequence of its close intercourse with the East 
during the crusades, and of the immigration of the 
Greeks and Arabs into the kingdom of Naples. 
The Jews, who have special facility in mastering 
foreign languages, spoke Arabic and Greek, in 
addition to the vernacular and Hebrew. The 
versatile Ibn-Ezra, during his residence in Rome, 
Lucca, Mantua, and elsewhere, was the means of 
spreading among them a loftier conception of the 
holy Scriptures and of Judaism. His disciple, Solo- 
mon ben Abraham Parchon, of Calatayud, stayed in 
the university town of Salerno for a long time, and 
endeavored to make the Italians acquainted with 
the science of the Hebrew language and Bible 
exegesis, they being very ignorant in these depart- 
ments, and for this purpose he composed a Hebrew 
lexicon (1160). But all these incitements had no 
effect on the Italian Jews. They remained ignorant, 
and the history of Jewish literature is unable to 
mention even an insignificant literary production 
by an Italian till the second half of the thirteenth 
century. The land which in later times gave rise 
to a new style of Hebrew poetry, cannot at this 
period show one Hebrew poet. 

In the circumstance that the northern and central 
Italian cities were mostly engaged in trade, is to be 
found the true reason why they were not so numer- 
ously populated with Jews as the southern Italian 
cities. The great commercial houses, which had a 


determining voice in the municipal council, would 
not suffer the competition of the Jews. In Genoa 
there lived only two Jewish families, who had emi- 
grated to that place from Ceuta, on account of the 
oppression of the; Almohades. Pisa, Lucca, and 
Mantua had only small congregations. The two 
largest, which consisted of 1300 and 200 families, 
dwelt in Venice and Rome respectively. On the 
other hand there were 500 families in Naples, and 
300 in Capua, who were well treated and respected. 
The chief of the Neapolitan congregation was 
David, who bore the title of prince (principino). 
In Benevento there was a congregation of 200 
Jews, in Salerno 600, in Trani 200, in Tarentum 
300, and in Otranto 500. The Jewish congrega- 
tions in the island of Sicily were still more numer- 
ous. In Messina there lived 200 families, and in 
the capital, Palermo, 1500. This congregation had 
been strengthened by the arrival of Greek Jews, 
whom King Roger, after his conquests, had trans- 
planted to that place, in order to establish the 
breeding of silk-worms. 

If one sailed from Brundisium across the Adriatic 
Sea, he landed in the Byzantine empire. Here 
were numerous and populous Jewish communities, 
especially in Greece proper, Thessaly, Macedonia, 
and Thrace. In Arta (or Larta) there dwelt 100 
families, whose president, curiously enough, was 
named Hercules ; in Lepanto the same number ; 
in Crissa, at the foot of Mount Parnassus, 200, who 
pursued agriculture. In Corinth there were 300 
families, in Negropont 200, in Jabustrissa 100, in 
Saloniki 500, who had a Jewish mayor of their 
own (Ephoros), appointed by the Greek emperor. 
In Rodosto there lived 400 Jewish families, in Gal- 
lipoli 200, in the island of Mytilene there were 10 
congregations, in Chios 400 families, in Samos 300, 
in Rhodes the same number, and in Cyprus several 
congregations, among which was one that had the 


custom of commencing the Sabbath in the morning, 
not in the evening, and continuing it till Sunday 
morning. The most important congregations in 
the Graeco-Byzantine empire were those of Thebes 
and Constantinople, in both of which were nearly 
2000 families, the latter containing 500 Karaites 
besides. The Theban Jews were the most skilful 
manufacturers of silk and purple in the whole of 
Greece. They had among them also rich mer- 
chants, silk manufacturers, and learned Talmudists. 
A wall separated the rabbinical from the Karaite 
community in Constantinople. 

If the Byzantine empire in the time of its glory 
under Justinian and Alexius oppressed the Jews, 
we may be sure that it was not better disposed 
towards them in the time of its decline, when it lay 
in the throes of death. The principle that Jews and 
heretics were not to be admitted to any military 
post, or office, but were to be thoroughly despised, 
was, of all the enactments of this most erratic 
of states, the one most strictly and consistently 
adhered to. 

The rich and the poor, the good and the bad 
Jews were, without distinction, hated most bitterly 
by the Greeks. No Jew was allowed to ride on a 
horse, the privilege of freemen ; it was only by 
way of exception that the emperor Emanuel vouch- 
safed this privilege to Solomon, the Egyptian, his 
physician in ordinary. Any Greek might molest 
the Jews publicly, and in general treat them as 
slaves ; the law did not protect them. Byzantium, 
from time immemorial celebrated for its avarice, 
imposed burdensome taxes on them. They endured 
this insolent brutality with the resignation of mar- 
tyrs ; nar did it make them forget to practise virtue, 
and extend charity to the poor. But the Greek 
Jews were unable to pay any attention to the cul- 
tivation of their minds. Not one of their Tal- 
mudists has immortalized his name by a work. 


There were indeed many skilful Hebrew versifiers 
among them, but their poems are ungainly, "hard 
as granite, without taste and fragrance." Charisi 
concedes merit to the verse of only one Jewish 
poet, Michael ben Kaleb, of Thebes, and he ex- 
plains this circumstance by the fact that the poet 
had learned his art in Spain. In Asia Minor, Syria 
and Palestine, the size of the Jewish congregation 
at a given place might have been taken as the 
criterion by which to compare Christian with Ma- 
hometan tolerance. Where the cross was supreme, 
there were but few and poorly populated Jewish 
communities to be found, but where Islam had the 
ascendancy, there were many and populous Jewish 
communities. In Antioch, which belonged to a 
Christian prince, there lived only lo families, nearly 
all glass-workers. In Leda (Laodicea), 200 ; in 
Jebile, which belonged to the Genoese, 1 50 ; in 
Bairut (Berytus), 50 ; in Saida (Sidon), 10 ; only in 
Tyre was there a congregation containing 400 
members, and there the Jews possessed farms, and 
were even allowed to pursue navigation. At their 
head stood Ephraim of Cairo. On the other hand, 
in Haleb (Aleppo), which had been raised, through 
the great Mahometan prince, Nureddin, to the posi- 
tion of second capital after Bagdad, there lived 
1500 Jewish families, among whom were many 
opulent men, respected at court. Here dwelt the 
Hebrew poet, Jehuda ben Abbas, the friend of the 
prince of poets, Jehuda Halevi. He had emigrated 
to this place from Fez on account of the religious 
persecution. In the neighborhood of ancient Pal- 
myra there lived nearly 2000 Jewish families, whose 
men were warlike, and often carried on feuds with 
the Christians and Mahometans. The congregation 
of Damascus counted 3000 members, among whom 
were many learned Talmudists, one of them being 
the famous Joseph ben Pilat, who originally came 
from France. In Damascus there was also a 


Karaite congregation of some 200 families, and 
a Samaritan congregation of 400 families, who, 
although they did not intermarry, nevertheless 
carried on a peaceful intercourse with the Rab- 
banites. In the whole of that part of Palestine in 
the hands of the Christians, there lived scarcely 
more than 1000 families. The largest congrega- 
tions, each of 300 members, existed at that time in 
Toron de los Caballeros, in Jerusalem and Askalon ; 
in each of the most important towns of Judsea, on 
the other hand, there lived only about 200 Jews. 
The Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem were mostly 
dyers, having bought the exclusive right to exercise 
this trade from the Christian king ; they lived at 
the end of the town to the west of Mount Zion. 
Between the years 11 69 and 11 75 they were all, 
except one, expelled from that city (probably under 
the youthful and leprous phantom king, Baldwin 
IV), and he had to pay a high price for the privilege 
of carrying on the dyer's trade. The Christians, 
deeply sunk in vice, believed the holy city to be 
polluted by the continent Jews. In Askalon there 
lived, at about this time, 300 Samaritan and 40 
Karaite families. In Caesarea, which had before 
harbored many thousands of Jews, there lived then 
only 10 families and 200 Samaritans. Of this sect 
there were many also in their aboriginal seat, 
Samaria and Neapolis (Shechem), with not one 
Rabbanite Jew among them. Minor congregations 
of 50 there were in Tiberias and Ulamma, 20 in 
Gischala, 22 in Bethlehem, and in each of the other 
towns from one to three families. Thus was' the 
heritage of Israel given away to strangers. The 
Jewish inhabitants of Judaea vegetated rather than 
lived ; not even the study of the Talmud was culti- 
vated by them. Accho alone possessed Talmudists, 
one Zadok, and another Japhet ben Elia, and these 
were foreigners. About this time many emigrants 
from Europe, and particularly from southern France, 


settled in Palestine ; and these enjoyed such recog- 
nition among the Jewish natives, by reason of their 
intellectual superiority, that they were able to move 
them to celebrate the New Year's festival for two 
days, which, till then, and time immemorial, 
the Palestinians had been accustomed to solemnize, 
like the other festivals, for only one day. 

From the point of view of number and material 
importance, we must consider the district between 
the twin rivers, Euphrates and Tigris, as the chief 
seat of Judaisrn. Here there were congregations 
which numbered thousands. The former academ- 
ical cities, Nahardea, Sora, and Pumbeditha, had 
certainly disappeared ; but in their stead the con- 
gregations of Bagdad and Mosul (called New 
Nineveh) had gained an ascendancy over all Asia. 
The Bagdad congregation contained looo Jewish 
families with four synagogues, and lived in undis- 
turbed quiet as in the best days of the Caliphate. 
So free did the Jews of this part feel that they even 
dared try to hinder the Mahometan crier in his 
business in a mosque in Madain (near Bagdad), 
because he disturbed their service in the syna- 
gogue. The caliph, Mahomet Almuktafi, had con- 
ceived an affection for an estimable and wealthy 
Jew, Solomon (Chasdai ?), and bestowed on him 
the office of Exilarch, and created him prince over 
all the Jews in the caliphate. The Prince of the 
Captivity was once more allowed to be surrounded 
by a retinue, to ride on a horse, to wear silk clothes 
and a turban ; to be accompanied by a guard of 
honor, and to use an official seal. If he ap- 
peared in public, or repaired to court for an audi- 
ence, both Jews and Mahometans were bound to 
rise before him, on penalty of being bastinadoed ; 
a herald went before him, crying, " Make way for 
our lord, the son of David." The Exilarch appointed 
and confirmed rabbis, judges, and readers, in all 
parts of the caliphate, from Persia to Khorasan 


and the Caucasus, and as far as Yemen, India and 
Thibet. He appointed these officials by commis- 
sion, for which he expected gifts. Thus the exil- 
archate was once more raised to the splendor of 
the time of Bostanai. There also arose in Bagdad 
an important Talmudical college, whose principal 
assumed the title of Gaon. Isaac Ibn-Sakni, who 
had emigrated from Spain to the East towards the 
end of the eleventh century, appears to have once 
more awakened, in these circles, an interest for 
Talmudical learning. The Exilarch was himself a 
learned Talmudist. Ali Halevi was at that time 
the principal of the college, which was once more 
numerously attended by students. The city of 
Akbara, in the neighborhood of Bagdad, contained 
10,000 Jews, but it had no special importance. 

The congregation of Mosul was still more con- 
siderable than that of Bagdad. It numbered nearly 
7000 families. This city was elevated to the position 
of capital through the hero Zenki, father of the great 
Nureddin, and like him the terror of the Christians, 
and as Zenki was not ill-disposed to the Jews, they 
enjoyed extensive liberties under him. The Arabic 
historians relate the following story. Once he came 
with his army to the city Jesirat-ul-Amar (on the 
upper Tigris), where there dwelt 4000 Jewish 
families. They had a synagogue which they be- 
lieved had been built in the time of Ezra, and 
Zenki took up his quarters in the house of a Jew. 
His host complained to him of the impoverishment 
of the city through these constant military expedi- 
tions, and Zenki thereupon left the city, and ordered 
his army to encamp in tents before the gates. 
His successor, Saif-Eddin Ghasi (1146-1 149), ob- 
served the same friendly attitude towards the Jews. 
At the head of the Mosul congregation was a man 
named Zaccai, who also proclaimed himself to be a 
scion of the house of David, in consequence of 
which he bore the title of " Prince." He divided his 


authority with another, who was considered a dis- 
tinguished astronomer, and bore the honorable title 
" Profound Connoisseur of the Sphere of Heaven," 
and was in the service of the Prince of Mosul. 

The Jewish inhabitants of New Nineveh were 
regarded as the most ignorant among the Jews, and 
were not even conversant with the Talmud. North 
of Mosul, among the Carduchian mountains, or 
among the mountains of Chaftan, there were many 
large congregations, some of which were oppressed 
under the Sultans and the Persians, but others were 
free and wild as the mountains on which they dwelt. 
These free Jews in the land of Adher-Baijan (Aser- 
beidsan) used weapons, lived in friendly intercourse 
with the fanatical assassins who dwelt in that part, 
were the enemies of every one who was not one 
of their co-religionists or allies, and often made 
descents into the valley for booty. They were them- 
selves inaccessible, and lived in primitive ignorance, 
without knowledge of the sources of their religion. 
They accepted the rabbi whom the Exilarch sent to 
them, and acted according to his directions. There 
suddenly appeared amongst them (about 1160) an 
ambitious and versatile man, who thought to profit 
by the military ability, the bravery and ignorance 
of these Jews for a purpose which is now unknown. 
This man, named David Alrui (Alroy) or Ibn- 
Alruchi (Arruchi), achieved considerable notoriety 
in his time, and in bur own days became the hero 
of a brilliant novel. This young man, an inhabitant 
of Amadia, of handsome appearance, clear mind 
and high courage, had attained to deep knowledge 
of the Bible and the Talmud, as well as of Arabic 
literature. On his return to Amadia, which appears 
to have been his birthplace, the Jews were not the 
only persons who were amazed at his vast acquire- 
ments, but others also, among whom was the com- 
mander of the town, named Zain-Eddin. At this 
time violent tumults arose in consequence of the 


crusades, and of the weakness of the Caliphate, and 
made the whole of the country as far as Asia Minor 
a veritable pandemonium. The government was 
divided among the weak Caliph, his vizirs and 
generals, the Seljuk Sultan, and the Emirs, every 
one of whom played a distinct part, and sought only 
conquest and increase of power; and subordinate 
persons like Nureddin and Saladin obtained mighty 
conquests. All these circumstances combined in 
encouraging David Alrui to play a political part. He 
wanted, however, to gain as confederates his coun- 
trymen and co-religionists, many of whom were 
efficient warriors. This he could only accomplish 
if he were able to awaken their national sentiment. 
David Alrui, or as he was sometimes called, Mena- 
hem ben Solomon, accordingly issued a spirited 
appeal to the Jews of Asia, saying that he was 
appointed by God to deliver them from the yoke of 
the Mahometans, and to bring them back to Jeru- 
salem. For this purpose they were to assist him 
in waging war against the nations. The first place 
to which David Alrui turned his eyes was the strong 
castle of Amadia, which he thought would serve as 
an excellent base of operations for his enterprises. 
To get possession of it, he wrote to the Jews of 
Adher-Baijan, Mosul, and Bagdad, to come in great 
numbers to Amadia, and bring swords and other 
weapons under their cloaks. In response to this 
summons, many Jews who believed Alrui to be the 
promised Messiah, met in the town at an appointed 
time, with sharpened weapons concealed about their 
person, and the commandant at first entertained no 
suspicion, as he thought that this great crowd was 
attracted to the town by Alrui's fame as a scholar. 
At this point history abandons us, and we can 
only have recourse to legend, which continues the 
thread of the story as follows : At the invitation of 
the Persian Sultan, David Alrui is said to have 
appeared before him, unattended by his retinue ; he 


then boldly declared himself to be the Messiah, and 
was thrown into prison in Taberistan. Whilst the 
Sultan was deliberating what punishment he should 
mete out to him and his adherents, Alrui suddenly 
entered the council chamber, and informed him and 
his astonished counselors that he had set him- 
self free from prison by the aid of occult arts, 
adding that he feared neither the Sultan nor his 
ministers. The Sultan ordered Alrui to be seized, 
but the latter, it is said, made himself invisible, and 
in this manner crossed a river, defying capture, and 
traveled in one day to Amadia, a journey which 
ordinarily took ten days. When he suddenly made 
his appearance among his credulous followers, and 
related to them his adventures, the authorities were 
seized with a panic. The Sultan gave orders to 
the Caliph that he should inform the Jewish repre- 
sentatives in Bagdad, that, if they did not turn 
David Alrui from his purpose, he would put all the 
Jews of his empire to the sword. 

The enthusiasm for David Alrui had spread, 
especially among the Jews of Bagdad, and afforded 
two knaves an opportunity for defrauding the igno- 
rant populace of their property. They produced 
letters, which they gave out were written by the 
hero of Amadia, in which the redemption was fixed 
for a certain night. The two impostors now prac- 
tised on the credulity of the enthusiasts ; they were 
all to fly from Bagdad to Jerusalem on the appointed 
night, and for this purpose they were to mount their 
roofs, put on green robes, and await the hour. In 
their confidence that the hour of redemption was 
about to arrive, they committed their property into 
the hands of the two impostors for proper distribu- 
tion. The night came, the crowd was assembled 
on the roofs of their houses in eager expectation ; 
women wept, children shouted, every one was on 
tiptoe of anxiety to try to fly, until daybreak opened 
their eyes to the imposition practised on them. The 

Cii. Xltl. DAVID ALRUl's DEATH. 43^ 

rogues had decamped with the property entrusted 
to them. The people of Bagdad called this time 
" the year of flying," and thereafter reckoned time 
from this event. 

The Exilarch and the principal of the college in 
Bagdad conceived it their duty, partly on account 
of the enthusiasm, which was passing all bounds, 
and partly on account of the punishment with which 
they had been threatened, to address themselves to 
David Alrui, and try to turn him from his purpose 
by threats of excommunication. The representa- 
tives of the congregation of Mosul, Zaccai and 
Joseph Barihan Alfalach, wrote to him in the same 
strain ; until at last the Mahometan commandant of 
Amadia, who was most of all eager to be rid of him, 
persuaded the father-in-law of Alrui to put him out 
of the way. He killed his son-in-law whilst asleep, 
and thus put an end to the disturbance. The Sul- 
tan nevertheless decreed a persecution of the Jews 
of those provinces which had adhered to Alrui, and 
the Prince of the Captivity with difficulty appeased 
his wrath with a present of a hundred talents of 
gold. It is only after his death that a Messiah is 
actually believed in and revered ; many Jews of the 
congregations in Adher-Baijan continued to ven- 
erate the murdered Alrui for a considerable time ; 
they called themselves Menachemists, and swore by 
his name. 

There dwelt an independent, warlike Jewish 
tribe, at that time, east of Taberistan, in .the pro- 
vince of Khorasan, on the highlands by Nishabur. 
This tribe numbered 4000 families, and was gov- 
erned by a Jewish prince named Joseph Amarkala 
Halevi. These Jews around Nishabur believed 
that they were descendants of the tribes of Dan, 
Zebulon, Asher, and Naphtali. They bred cattle 
in the valleys and on the mountain slopes, were 
good archers, had in their midst learned Talmudists, 
and stood in friendly relation with the Turkish 


hordes called Ghuzz. The latter, who lived on the 
banks of the river Oxus, between .Balch and Bok- 
hara, were accustomed to make incursions in the 
surrounding countries, and were the terror of the 
civilized nations. Once, when the Ghuzz had been 
on a ravaging tour, the Seljuk-Sultan Sinjar Shahin- 
Shah undertook an expedition against them (1153). 
His army, however, lost its way in the desert, and 
many of the men perished through hunger and 
exhaustion. At length he came to the country of 
the free Jews, and demanded of them provisions 
and a free passage to the province of the Ghuzz. 
The Jews objected that they owed no one any 
allegiance beyond their own prince and his allies, 
adding that they would treat their friends' enemies 
as their own. Immediately they prepared for battle, 
but Sinjar sent them a message that, if they refused 
to satisfy his demands, he would on his return 
order the execution of all the Jews in his dominions. 
This threat had effect ; the leaders of the Jews met 
in council, and decided that they would consider the 
safety of their distant brethren, and give the Seljuk 
army provisions ; but at the same time they warned 
the Ghuzz of the danger menacing them, and bade 
them be prepared. In consequence, Sinjar's army, 
which pressed forward, was routed by the Turkish 
hordes, and their leaders were taken prisoners. 

The congregation of Ispahan in Persia numbered 
at that time 15,000 Jews, and at their head stood 
Sar Shalom, who had been appointed by the Exil- 
arch rabbi over all the congregations of Persia. In 
the second Persian town, Hamadan, there are said 
to have been 50,000 Jews, and in Shiraz 10,000. In 
the city of Tuster, formerly called Susa, there were 
still 7000 Jews, who lived on the banks of the river. 
The community had fourteen synagogues, and near 
one of them was supposed to be the grave of 
Daniel. As the markets of the town lay on one 
side of the river, and the Jews of the other side 


were thus shut out from all commerce, those on the 
one side were more affluent than the others. The 
latter ascribed their poverty to the circumstance 
that they had not Daniel's grave in their midst ; 
and they requested that the coffin should be allowed 
to be in their possession. The others, however, 
were not prepared to give it up, and the conse- 
quence was that feuds and bloody fights arose be- 
tween the two congregations, until they came to an 
agreement that each side of the town, in turn, 
should enjoy possession of the coffin each time for 
the space of one year. The removal of the coffin 
was effected every time with great pomp, and it 
was accompanied by crowds of Jews and Mahome- 
tans. When the Sultan Sinjar once came to Susa, 
and saw this procession in honor of the removal, he 
thought it shameful that the bones of the pious 
Daniel should be disturbed in this manner, and 
commanded that the coffin should be deposited at a 
spot midway between the two parts of the town. 
As the river was at an equal distance from both, 
the coffin was hung on chains over the river, and 
under it no one dared fish. The bier of Daniel 
nevertheless proved unable to protect the congre- 
gation. At the time when Petachya of Ratisbon 
was there (about 1180), only two Jews, who were 
dyers, lived in Susa. The cause of this decrease is 
not known. 

North of the Black Sea and in the Crimea there 
were only Karaite Jews ; these lived in the most 
primitive ignorance, and had no knowledge of their 
rival doctrine, the Rabbanite law ; they even cut 
their bread before the Sabbath, and on the evening 
of the Sabbath remained in total darkness. The 
Rabbanite Jews, however, had spread to Khiva, 
where there was a congregation of 8000 families, 
and to Samarkand, which had as many as 50,000 
Jews, at whose head was Obadiah. About the 
community in India, Petachya mentions that there 


existed Jews with dark skins, that they lived ac- 
cording to the precepts of their religion, but had 
very little knowledge of the Talmud. Many Jews 
knew nothing more of Judaism than the celebration 
of the Sabbath and the circumcision. In the island 
of Kandy (Ceylon) there are said to have been at 
this time 23,000 Jews, who stood on an equality 
with the rest of the inhabitants. The king of this 
island had sixteen vizirs, four of his own nation, 
and the same number of Jews, Mahometans, and 

In Aden, the key to the Arabian and Indian seas, 
there was a large Jewish congregation, which was 
independent, and had several castles ; it carried 
on war with the Christians of Nubia, and was in 
communication with Egypt and Persia. 

In Arabia there were likewise Jewish congrega- 
tions, although the first Caliph banished them from 
the country. It is true they were not allowed to 
dwell in Mecca and Medinah, cities sacred to the 
Mahometans, and it may be that there was nothing 
specially attractive for them in those cities, for they 
had become quite insignificant during the five hun- 
dred years since Mahomet. But in the fruitful and 
commercial city of Yemen, and in the desert tracts 
of northern Arabia, on the other hand, there were 
Jewish congregations. In Yemen there dwelt, it is 
true, only about 3000 Jews, who, on account of their 
busy commercial relations with the neighboring 
countries, were by no means uncultured, and num- 
bered learned Talmudists in their midst. The 
most learned among them was Jacob ben Nathaniel 
Ibn-Alfayumi. The Yemen Jews were known for 
their benevolence : " Their hand is stretched out 
towards every traveler, they keep open house for 
strangers,, and every weary person finds rest among 
them." The Jews of northern Arabia, on the other 
hand, were more numerous, and, as in the time be- 
fore Mahomet, they formed independent, warlike 


tribes, possessed castles, pursued agriculture, and 
to some extent also cattle-breeding, and journeyed 
in caravans to transport goods, or, after the fashion 
of Bedouins, to attack travelers and plunder them. 
Their number is said to have amounted to 300,000 
souls, but this is certainly exaggerated. A large 
portion dwelt in Taima, and had a Jewish prince 
named Chanan, who boasted of Davidic descent. 
They had among them ascetics, who had borrowed 
from the Karaites gloomy principles ; they refrained 
from wine and flesh, and generally fasted the whole 
week, with the exception of Sabbaths and festivals ; 
lived in caves or rickety houses, clothed themselves 
in black, and called themselves " the Mourners of 
Zion." The farmers and cattle-owners allotted to 
these pious men, and also to those who occupied 
themselves with the Talmud, a tenth part of their 
yearly produce. A second group of Arabian Jews 
lived in the neighborhood of Talmas, and likewise 
had a prince named Solomon, brother of Chanan, 
of Taima. This prince lived in the old capital 
Sanaa (Tana), in a strongly fortified castle. Among 
these, too, there were ascetics who fasted forty 
days every year, in order to bring about redemp- 
tion from the dispersion. A third group, some 
50,000, inhabited the province of Chaibar ; they 
were most warlike, but also possessed some Tal- 
mudical scholars. Even at that time the legend 
was spread about that the Chaibar Jews were 
remnants of ancient Iraelitish tribes, Gad, Reuben, 
and half Manasseh. The semi- Arabian cities Wasit, 
Bassra and Kufa, also had numerous Jewish in- 
habitants, the first 10,000, the second 2000, and the 
third 7000. 

As a large part of Asia, from the Mediterranean 
Sea to the Indus, acknowledged the supremacy of 
the Abbassid Caliphs of Bagdad, the Jews of this 
dominion were subject to the Exilarch of Bagdad. 
The second Prince of the Captivity, who was sur- 


rounded with pomp, was Daniel, the son of Solomon 
(Chasdai), who held office about ii 65-1 175. He 
was as much respected by the Caliphs Almustanjid 
and Almustadhi as his father had been by Almuk- 
tafi. Under Daniel, the Talmudical college of Bag- 
dad was raised to such a height that it recalled the 
old times of the Amoraim and Geonim. It owed 
its rise to a man who, at the end of the twelfth 
century, was called upon to play an important 
part. Samuel, son of Ali Halevi, the rabbi of 
Bagdad, who traced back his genealogy to the 
prophet Samuel, possessed profound knowledge 
of the Talmud, such as but few in Asia equaled. 
But as he was unacquainted with the advance of 
the study of the Talmud in Spain and France, he 
continued to maintain the letter of the Talmud, and 
had not the ability to form an independent opinion. 
Samuel ben Ali had also a thin varnish of philo- 
sophical culture, but in that branch he was three 
centuries behind his time, being a disciple of the 
school of the Mutazilites. He knew nothing of the 
new discoveries of Ibn-Sina and Alghazali, nor of the 
later development of the philosophy of his Spanish 
co-religionists, of Ibn-Gebirol, Jehuda Halevi, and 
Abraham Ibn-Daud. Despite his limited range of 
vision, he deemed his own attainments very con- 
siderable, and was .extremely proud of them. He 
was an arrogant and ambitious man. It appears 
that Samuel ben Ali assumed the pompous title of 
Gaon, that his college might obtain supremacy over 
the whole of Judaism. Two thousand students 
attended his Talmudical discourses ; but before 
they were admitted to his lectures, they had to 
complete a preparatory course under another Tal- 
mudist. Samuel ben Ali delivered his lectures 
from a kind of throne, and clothed in gold and 
embroidery ; he re-introduced the old custom of not 
personally addressing the audience, but of expound- 
ing the Law to an interpreter (Meturgeman), who 


repeated in a loud voice what he heard from the 
master. Besides him, there were nine men, who 
likewise delivered lectures, and decided questions 
of law. But Samuel ben Ali was regarded as 
judge of appeal, and every Monday he sat in court 
surrounded by the nine men who occupied sub- 
ordinate positions. 

When the Exilarch Daniel died (1175), Samuel 
thought the time propitious for obtaining the 
highest dignity and authority over the Asiatic con- 
gregations. Daniel left no male heir, and two of 
his nephews, David and Samuel, both of Mosul, 
were now contending for the Exilarchate. But 
whilst each of them was endeavoring to win over 
the political leaders and the congregations to his 
cause, Samuel ben Ali assumed all religious and 
judicial power. He appointed rabbis, judges, and 
other functionaries on his own authority, appro- 
priated the revenues of the congregation, and 
delivered the specified portion to the state. His 
seal was more respected than that of the pretenders 
for the Exilarchate ; his name was a protection to 
travelers, and through it they obtained access to all 
curiosities. The political and religious officials 
acknowledged only Samuel ben Ali, the principal 
of the college, and the Gaon of Bagdad. He, more- 
over, maintained his dignity by rigorous measures. 
Sixty slaves were continually' at his call to bastinado 
any one pointed out by their lord. He had a 
palatial mansion in Bagdad, and magnificent pleas- 
ure gardens in the neighborhood of the capital. 
Thus Samuel ben Ali ruled at that time over all the 
Asiatic congregations from Damascus to India, and 
from the Caspian Sea to Arabia. His daughter was 
looked upon as a marvel, being so learned in the 
Bible and Talmud that she used to deliver lectures 
to young men, but in such a manner that she could 
not be seen by her audience. Ambassadors from a 
heathen nation, from the Moshic hills in Armenia 


(Tartars ?), came to him to obtain Jewish religious 
teachers for their country, to instruct the people in 
the tenets of Judaism, seven of their chiefs having 
resolved to embrace that faith (about 1180-1185). 
The traveler Petachya, who has recorded these 
facts, and is a trustworthy witness, saw the ambas- 
sadors from the Caucasian hills with his own eyes. 
Many poor students from Babylonia and Egypt 
determined to repair to this remote nation of prose- 
lytes, and instruct them in the Bible and Talmud. 

The condition of Judaism in Asia was at that time 
very low indeed. Without higher knowledge, with- 
out spirit or enthusiasm, the Jews of Asia, learned 
as well as unlearned, discharged their religious 
duties in a perfunctory, mechanical way. Even Tal- 
mudical scholars thought of the divine essence as a 
bodily form, with limbs, eyes, and motion. The 
Agada had so far perverted their understanding 
.that they could not comprehend what was purely 
spiritual ; and so saturated were these literalists 
with these perverted notions, that they looked upon 
those who upheld the belief in a spiritual God as 
heretics and atheists. 

The Asiatic Jews had borrowed from the Maho- 
metans and Christians the custom of making pil- 
grimages to the graves of pious men. A chief 
resort of pilgrims was the grave of the prophet 
Ezekiel in the neighborhood of Kufa. Seventy 
thousand to eighty thousand Jews came annually 
from New Year till the Day of Atonement, or Feast 
of Tabernacles, to pray at the supposed grave of 
the prophet of the exiles, among them also the 
Exilarch and the principal of the college at Bagdad. 
The tomb was protected by a vault of cedar wood, 
overlaid with gold and adorned with beautiful 
tapestry. Thirty lamps burned there day and 
night. Beside the tomb there was a handsome 
synagogue, which was regarded as a temple in 
miniature, and alleged to have been built by King 


Joachin and the prophet. In this synagogue a 
scroll of the Law of considerable size was shown, 
which was believed to have been written by the 
hand of the prophet himself. A separate room 
(Ginze)- was set aside for books. Sepulcher and 
synagogue were enclosed by a turreted wall, the 
entrance to which was through a low narrow gate, 
which, however, according to popular belief, became 
higher and wider at the time of the pilgrimage. In 
the space inside the wall the pilgrims used to erect 
their booths for the Feast of Tabernacles. At this 
sepulcher they were not only devout, but also merry. 
The period after the Day of Atonement was dedi- 
cated to gaiety and feasting. As the Mahometans 
also reverenced the tomb, and even the wild Kar- 
mates, who lived near by, swore by the God of Ezekiel, 
the region became a peaceful asylum, and later on 
an annual market (Pera) was held there, and a city 
(Kabur Kesil) sprang up. The offerings for the 
maintenance of this mausoleum proved so rich 'that 
the surplus was used for the support of Talmudical 
students and marriageable orphans. 

Another resort of pilgrims was the supposed 
mausoleum of Ezra the scribe. Although this great 
regenerator of Judaism exercised his activity only in 
Judsea, legend nevertheless fixes his grave at Nahar- 
Samara, in the neighborhood of the Tigris. The 
Mahometans, as well as the Jews, reverenced this 
tomb, offered presents for its maintenance, and made 
pilgrimages to it. Like the Catholic Church, the 
Jews of Asia also showed sacred relics : the tree, 
separating into three parts, against which the angels 
who visited Abraham leaned, and the stone with 
which Abraham circumcised himself. AH- these 
mythical stories arose during the period of de- 
generation which followed the dissolution of the 

It is possible that it was owing in part to this 
decay that many educated Jews apostatized to 


Islam. One apostate was a celebrated physician 
of Bagdad — Nathaniel, with the Arabic name of 
Abul-Barkat Hibat-Allah ben Malka, one of the 
three leading medical men of like name, but different 
creeds. The Jewish Hibat-Allah was surnamed 
" The only one of his time " (Wachid-al-Zeman), on 
account of his extraordinary accomplishments. In 
addition to a knowledge of medicine, he was versed 
in philosophy and Hebrew philology, and, whilst 
still a Jew, wrote a commentary on Ecclesiastes. A 
son of the itinerant Ibn-Ezra, named Isaac, who had 
accompanied his father in his travels, and remained 
in Bagdad, was assisted by the rich Hibat-Allah, and 
wrote spirited verses in praise of his benefactor and 
his commentary. At the end of his poem, Isaac 
Ibn-Ezra expressed a wish that his life might extend 
to the time of the Messianic redemption, and that 
he might yet behold the majesty of new Jerusalem. 
Neither, however, waited for this time, but renounced 
Judaism, and embraced Islam (i 1 60-1 170). 

A third apostate of this time was Samuel Ibn- 
Abbas, son of the poet Jehuda, of Fez. A poet 
using beautiful Hebrew, a profound mathematician 
and philosopher, Samuel had emigrated to the East 
on account of the religious coercion exercised by 
the Almohades. His father settled at Haleb, and 
Samuel took up his residence in Adher-Baijan, 
entered into the service of the ruler of that place, 
and ultimately became a convert to Mahometanism. 
The old Jehuda Ibn- Abbas, on hearing of his son's 
change of religion, hastened to him full of grief, in 
the hope of bringing him back to his hereditary 
faith, but was suddenly seized with illness in Mosul, 
and died there. Samuel became a rancorous enemy 
of Judaism and his former co-religionists. He wrote 
a polemical work, " To the confusion of the Jews " 
(about 1165-1175), in which -he lays bare and 
exaggerates their faults, and affirms that the Jews 
had eliminated all passages alluding to Mahomet in 
their holy writings. 


If the Rabbanites in Asia were degenerate, the 
Karaites of this time were still more so. The 
Karaites, after an existence of 400 years, had failed 
to establish Judaism on a purely Biblical basis, but 
had of necessity been compelled to adopt many 
precepts of the Talmud, in spite of all their en- 
deavors to steer clear of Talmudical tradition. 

As the Mahometans of Egypt, under the dynasty 
of the Fatimides, were separated from those of the 
Abbasid Caliphate in Asia, the Egyptian Jewish 
community likewise had no connection with the 
Asiatic community. They had a chief of their own, 
recognized by the Caliph, who exercised spiritual 
and judicial functions, bore the title Nagid (Arabic, 
Reis), and was, in a sense, the Egyptian Exilarch. 
The Nagid had authority to appoint or confirm 
rabbis and precentors, and to impose fines, scourg- 
ings, and imprisonment, for transgressions and 
crimes. He received a regular salary from the 
congregations and fees for the drawing up of legal 
documents. There is a legend that the institution 
of the Nagid was introduced into Egypt at the 
instance _of a Bagdad Caliph's daughter, who was 
married to a Fatimide Caliph. About this time 
Nathaniel, succeeding Samuel Abu-Mansur, was 
invested with this dignity. His Arabic name was 
Hibat- Allah Ibn-Aljami, and he served as physician 
in ordinary to Aladhid, the last Fatimide Caliph of 
Egypt, and later on to Saladin. Ibn-Aljami was a 
man of considerable culture and learning. He 
spoke Arabic with great fluency, wrote several 
medical treatises, among others a guide for the soul 
and the body, and a treatise on the climatic char- 
acter of Alexandria. He was much praised for 
having cleverly discovered life in a man who was 
about to be interred. This accomplished man was 
also chief of the college in the Egyptian capital, but 
he had no reputation as a Talmudist. 


The chief congregation was in Cairo (New Misr), 
and it consisted of 2000 Jewish families, including 
many men of great wealth. The city had two syna- 
gogues, one following the Palestinian ritual and the 
other the Babylonian. According to the first the 
reading of the Pentateuch on Sabbaths extended 
over a cycle of three years. The adherents of the 
Babylonian system, on the other hand, completed it 
in a cycle of one year. Only on the Feast of Weeks 
and on the Festival of the Rejoicing of the Law the 
two congregations had a common service. In Cairo 
there existed also a Karaite congregation which is 
said to have been still more numerous than that of 
the Rabbanites. It also had a Chief Rabbi who 
possessed plenary power in religious and judicial 
matters, and bore- the title Prince (Nasi, Reis). 
About this time, Chiskiya and Solomon I, who be- 
lieved themselves to be descendants of Anan, suc- 
cessively held this ofifice (about 1 160-1200). Many 
Karaites in Egypt enjoyed favor at court, and were 
in general superior to the Rabbanites. 

The congregation next in importance was that of 
Alexandria, numbering 3000 families ; they had a 
rabbi from Provence, Phineas ben Meshullam. So 
poor were the Jews of Egypt in Talmudical authori- 
ties at this time that they were obliged to import a 
Talmud instructor from France. A Karaite con- 
gregation existed also in Alexandria. In Bilbeis 
(east of the Nile) there was a large congregation, 
consisting of 3000 members, which suffered much 
during the campaign of Amalrich, the Christian 
king of Jerusalem. In Fayum, the native city of 
Saadiah, there lived at that period only twenty 
Jewish families. 

The state of culture of the Egyptian Jews about 
this time was not more brilliant than that of their 
Asiatic brethren. They added nothing to the 
wealth of Jewish literature. The lower classes 
were so ignorant of the principles of their own 


religion that they borrowed customs from the 
neighboring Karaites, even such as stood in glaring 
contradiction to Talmudical Judaism. The Egyp- 
tian congregations also had a pilgrims' shrine of 
their own. In Dimuh, not far from Fostat, in the 
neighborhood of the Pyramids, they showed the 
synagogue of Moses, which they believed the 
greatest of the prophets had built ; they admitted 
that it had been rebuilt after the destruction of the 
Temple by Titus. Near this synagogue there was 
a tree of stupendous height, with evergreen leaves 
and slender stem. This tree, according to the 
belief of the Egyptian Jews, had shot up from the 
rod of Moses. On the Feast of Weeks the Jews of 
Egypt used to make a pilgrimage to Dimuh, and 
pray in the hallowed synagogue. And it was out 
of this land of ignorance that there went forth a 
second Moses for the deliverance of the Jewish race, 
whose mission it was to promulgate a more refined 
Judaism, to declare relentless war against super- 
stition, and put an end to ignorance. Egypt be- 
came, through Moses Maimuni, the center of 



Early years of Maimuni (Maimonides) — His journey to Fez — Letter 
of Consolation of Maimun (father of Maimonides) — Maimuni and 
the Jewish Coil*erts to Islam — The Maimun Family in Palestine 
and Egypt — Maimuni's Commentary on the Mishna — Saladin 
and the Jews — Letter of Maimonides to Yemen — The Mishne- 
Torah of Maimuni — Controversies with reference to this Work — 
Joseph Ibn-Aknin — Maimuni as a Physician — Jerusalem again 
populated by Jews — Maimuni and the Jews of Provence — The 
More Nebuchim and its importance — Death of Maimonides. 

1171 — 1205 c. E. 

In the last part of the twelfth century, Judaism 
appeared to have lost its center of gravity, to be 
about to fall into utter dissolution. On the decay 
of the Gaonate, the south of Spain, with the con- 
gregations of Cordova, Granada, Seville and Lu- 
cena, assumed the leadership ; but, through the 
intolerance of the Almohades, these places were 
now without any Jewish congregations, and at the 
utmost saw Jews under the mask of Mahometanism. 
The community of Toledo, the new capital of Chris- 
tian Spain, as well as those of the northern Spanish 
towns, had not yet succeeded in gaining any ex- 
tensive influence. The communities of southern 
France were still in the first stage of their infancy ; 
the northern French Jews were too exclusively 
absorbed in the Talmud, and oppressed by anxiety 
for what the morrow would bring. The German 
Jews were " servi camerae " of the Germano-Roman 
empire ; the Jews of the other countries of Europe 
had scarcely extricated themselves from barbarism. 
The restored Exilarchate, the offspring of the 
caprice of a Caliph, was not rooted firmly enough, 
even in Asia, to be able to exercise any ascendancy 
over the more highly endowed European Jews. 


Thus there was nowhere a center to which the 
widely dispersed nation might converge. More- 
over, since the death of Joseph Ibn-Migash and 
Jacob Tarn there had arisen no men of command- 
ing authority able to mark out a path, or even 
to stimulate inquiry. 

About this time, when dissolution seemed immi- 
nent, Maimuni appeared, and became the prop of 
the unity of Judaism, the focus for all the commu- 
nities in the East and the West, a man whose 
decisions as a rabbinical authority were final, 
although he was not invested with any official dig- 
nity. He was spiritual king of the Jews, to whom 
the most important leaders cheerfully submitted. 
So memorable did everything connected with this 
great personage appear in the eyes of his con- 
temporaries, that even the day and the hour of 
his birth have been recorded. 

Moses Ibn-Maimun (with the long Arabic name 
Abu-Amran Musa ben Maimun Obaid Allah) was 
born on the Eve of Passover (30th March, 1 135, at 
one o'clock p. m.), in Cordova. The early training 
of Maimonides (as he is often called), the man who 
was destined to bear the future of Judaism on his 
strong shoulders, was calculated to strengthen his 
character in a most emphatic manner. His father, 
Maimun ben Joseph, a pupil of Ibn-Migash, was, 
like his ancestors for eight generations back, as far 
as his progenitor Obadiah, a learned Talmudist 
and a member of the rabbinical college of Cordova. 
Maimun also took an interest in the sciences, knew 
mathematics and astronomy, and wrote books on 
those subjects, as well as on Talmudical topics. It 
was he who imbued his son with an enthusiastic love 
for learning, and awakened his feeling for an ideal 
life. Maimuni had scarcely passed his thirteenth 
year when great misfortune broke over the com- 
munity of Cordova. The city was captured by the 
Almohades (May or June, 1148), who forthwith pro- 


mulgated fanatical edicts against Jews and Chris- 
tians, giving them the alternatives of conversion to 
Islam, expulsion, or death. Maimun and his family 
went into exile with the great majority of the Cor- 
dovan congregation. They are said to have estab- 
lished themselves at Port Almeria, which a year 
before had been conquered by the Christians. In 
the year 1151, Almeria also fell into the power of 
the Almohades, whose fanatical king, of course, did 
not fail to impose on the Jewish and Christian in- 
habitants of the city a change of religion, as he had 
done in the other conquered cities of southern 
Spain. From that time the family of Maimun was 
obliged to lead a wandering life for many years, 
without being able to find a permanent residence 

From his father, Maimuni learnt the Bible, the 
Talmud, the Jewish branches of learning, mathe- 
matics and astronomy ; he attended lectures on 
science and medicine by Mahometan professors, 
and was introduced into the temple of philosophy. 
Through reading and intercourse, he obtained a 
fund of solid information, and his clear intellect, 
which ever sought to penetrate the phenomena of 
the visible and the invisible world, and to make 
them transparent, regulated his knowledge, how- 
ever various and diverse it was. Maimuni developed 
into one of those rare personalities, who cannot 
tolerate hidden, secret, and mystical things, who 
struggle everywhere for light and clearness, and 
will not yield to deception. His was a thoroughly 
logical and systematic mind, which had the power 
of grouping and arranging the greatest and smallest 
things, and he was a sworn enemy of disorder and 
chaotic confusion. In this respect he may justly 
be called the Jewish Aristotle, and his intellectual 
character made him capable of cherishing the 
greatest admiration for the* philosopher of Stagira. 
Aristotle had many disciples among Jews and . 


Mahometans. Christian thinkers of that time were 
still unable to scale the height of his mind ; but no 
one before Maimuni had so thoroughly absorbed 
and assimilated Aristotle's philosophical system. 
He made it a part of his own intellectual posses- 
sion, and thus also perceived its occasional defects. 
It was, however, not only his wide and deep 
knowledge, but his character, which constituted 
Maimuni's distinction. He was a perfect sage, in 
the most beautiful and venerable sense of the word. 
Well-digested knowledge, calm deliberation, ma- 
ture conviction, and mighty performance, were 
harmoniously combined in him. He was possessed 
of the deepest and most refined sense of religion, 
of the most conscientious morality, and of philo- 
sophical wisdom ; or rather these three elements, 
which are generally hostile to. one another, had in 
him come to a complete reconciliation. That which 
he recognized as truth was to him inviolable law ; 
from it he never lapsed for a moment, but sought 
to realize it by his actions throughout his whole 
life, unconcerned about the disadvantages that 
might accrue. From the point of view of learning, 
he occupied the first place of his time, in religion 
and morality he was rivaled by but few of his com- 
peers, but in his strongly-marked individuality he 
surpassed all his contemporaries. His actions cor- 
responded to his mind. Maimuni was imbued with 
a most profound earnestness, which considered life 
not as an opportunity for pleasure, but as a serious 
mission to labor nobly and to confirm by deeds the 
great truth, that man is an image of God. The 
mean, the false, and the impure were abhorred by 
him, and were not permitted to approach him. 
Hence he had no taste for poetry, for according to 
the view of the time, " the best of it is false," and 
rests on invention and untruth. He considered it 
a slothful killing of time to occupy one's self with it ; 
he would not tolerate at weddings any verse-making 


except of a religious character, and it made' no dif- 
ference to him whether it was composed in Hebrew 
or in a profane language. Every moment of his 
life was spent profitably, he never frittered away 
his time, even in his youth, like Jehuda Halevi, cer- 
tainly not all his life long, like Ibn-Ezra. With all 
his severity towards himself, he was of a most gentle 
amiability in dealing with and criticising others. 
Never did he allow a bitter word to escape him 
against his living opponents, and he certainly never 
imitated the practice of Ibn-Ezra, who mocked at 
guileless men, nor shrank from satirizing the dead ; 
only against false notions and theories did he pour 
out the vials of his scorn, but towards persons 
themselves, even when they had irritated him, he 
was indulgent and forbearing. Modesty and hu- 
mility were his chara,cteristics in a high degree, the 
characteristics of every divinely endowed nature. 

All these rare qualities of mind and heart were 
governed by an extraordinary determination to 
develop and promulgate the principles and convic- 
tions that lived within him, to counteract apathy 
and feeble reasoning, to cut the ground from under 
irreligion, and to force light through the opacity of 
ignorance. Adversity, physical sufferings, misrep- 
resentation, could not turn him from the purpose 
upon which he had set his mind. This purpose 
was nothing less than to exhibit Judaism, the whole 
of Judaism, both Biblical and Talmudical, the cere- 
monies as well as the dogmas, in such a light that 
professors of other creeds, and even philosophers', 
might be convinced of its truth. This design had 
hovered before his mind in his youth, and ripened 
in him with age. To this end he mastered 
thoroughly all those departments of learning which 
might serve him as a guide. He declared once 
that he had read all the writings on the religion and 
worship of idolatrous nations, which were accessible 
to him through Arabic translations, and we may 


well believe this statement, made unostentatiously, 
for a thorough knowledge of heathenism appeared 
to him indispensable to the proper understanding 
of Judaism. 

Although he was attracted by many branches of 
learning, which cohered in his mind as a united 
whole, still there were four special subjects on 
which he centered most of his attention : the whole 
range of Biblical and Talmudical writings, philo- 
sophy, medicine, and mathematics, together with 
astronomy. In his twenty-third year, he prepared 
in Hebrew for a friend a thesis on the Jewish 
calendar based on astronomical principles (1158). 
Although this little book has no special importance 
in itself, it is yet interesting, as it reveals to us that 
his love of methodical regularity, and his power of 
clear, systematic survey, dominated him even in his 
earliest youth. In the same year he commenced a 
work, the undertaking of which in itself gives evi- 
dence of greatness and boldness of intellect. He 
began to explain the Mishna independently and in 
a new light, at an age when most men have scarcely 
finished their college career — a gigantic task in 
which he had no model to guide him. He worked 
at it amidst continual wanderings and while battling 
with hardships ; but so thoroughly was the whole 
compass of the Talniud before him, that he could 
manage to dispense with books. A year or two 
later (i 159-1 160) his father emigrated with him, his 
younger brother, David, and his sister, from Spain 
to Fez. What led Maimun's family to remove to 
the land of the greatest intolerance is a matter that 
has not yet been cleared up. In Fez, as in the 
whole of northern Africa, wherever the bigoted 
Abdulmumen ruled, no Jews were allowed to pro- 
fess their faith, but had to declare their belief in the 
first article of the Mahometan faith, that Mahomet, 
its founder, was a prophet ; and even the family of 
Maimun had to assume the mask of Islam. As 


the religious persecution had now lasted for a 
decade, the African communities had begun to 
waver in their religious convictions. Only the 
strongest minds could continue to practise a reli- 
gion which was forced upon them, and still inwardly 
remain faithful to their hereditary religion. The 
thoughtless multitude gradually became accustomed 
to the enforced religion, saw in the merciless oppres- 
sion of Judaism its dissolution, and changing pre- 
tence into reality, came near to lending themselves 
to the notion that God had, through Mahomet, super- 
seded His revelation on Mount Sinai by another in 
Mecca, and almost believed that He had chosen 
the Arabs instead of the Jews. This self-abandon- 
ment and overwhelming despair filled Maimun the 
elder with pain, and he sought to counteract their 
apathy as much as lay in his power, and to confirm 
the belief in Judaism in the hearts of the pseudo- 
Mahometan Jews. With this object he wrote in 
Arabic an exhortation to the community (1160), 
which is full of mournfulness, and instinct with a 
deep sense of religion. It warns the community to 
reflect that their sufferings did not- arise from a 
feeling of revenge on the part of God, but from a 
desire to chasten the sinners. Moses in his Law 
had promised Israel a dazzling future which would 
assuredly not fail. It was accordingly the duty of 
the sons of his race to adhere firmly to their God 
and His Torah. The occupation with religion and 
the practice of what it enjoined were the ropes to 
which those who were sinking in the sea of trouble 
should cling. Every one should, as far as he was 
able, observe the religious precepts of Judaism, and 
turn himself in prayer to his God, and whoever was 
prevented from praying in the prescribed form 
should, at least, say a short prayer in Hebrew three 
times a day. Like the Jews who had been forced 
to baptism under the Spanish Visigothic kings, 
those who had been Converted under compulsion 

CH. XIV. maimun's "letter of consolation." 453 

to Islam now exhorted one another to remain faith- 
ful to their ancient religion. Soon Maimun's son 
found an opportunity to enter the arena, to give 
expression to his original views on Judaism, to 
offer encouragement to his comrades in affliction, 
and to point out to them the course which they 
should pursue. 

A Jewish writer of excessive piety had declared 
that all Jews who pretended to have adopted 
Mahometanism were to be treated as apostates 
and idolaters. He who publicly acknowledged 
Mahomet's mission as a prophet was to be regarded 
as a non-Jew, even though he privately fulfilled all 
the duties of Judaism, and he belonged to that class 
whose testimony had no validity in a Jewish court, 
particularly in affairs of marriage. He who visited a 
mosque, pretending to be a Mahometan, made him- 
self guilty of blasphemy, even though he did not take 
part in prayer ; and he only accentuated his offense, 
when, in the privacy of his own chamber, he recited 
the Jewish prayers. This zealot, in fine, asserted 
that every true Jew was bound to sacrifice his own 
life and that of his children rather than embrace the 
faith of Islam, even ostensibly. His theory rested 
on the assumption that Mahometanism is nothing 
more nor less than idolatry, for in Mecca, the holy 
city of the Mahometans, an idol was worshiped in 
the temple of the Kaaba. If Islam is so repre- 
hensible — so continued the zealot, whose name has 
not come down to us — then the Talmudical precept, 
that every Jew should suffer martyrdom rather than 
be forced to idolatry, would apply to that creed, and 
he who in such circumstances shrank from death 
was to be considered an apostate. 

This document appears to have produced con- 
siderable excitement among the secret Jews in 
Africa. The conscientious felt themselves crushed 
down by a burden of sin, the multitude became still 
more uncertain whether they should not secede to 


Islam altogether, since, however strictly they ob- 
served the ordinances of their religion, they were 
still considered idolaters and sinners, and could 
expect no pardon. 

Moses Maimuni, who felt the whole weight of the 
accusation against himself and his brethren in suffer- 
ing, and was apprehensive of evil consequences, 
thought that it behooved him to write a letter in 
refutation of the arguments of their assailant, and 
to justify the conduct of the pseudo-Mahometans. 
It was his first step into publicity, but this maiden 
effort bore the impress of his clear, comprehensive 
mind, which mastered a subject in all its aspects. 
He argued from new points of view, which had 
escaped the zealot, and the whole letter was so 
striking that it brought conviction to all minds. 
Maimuni, in this vindication, which he wrote in 
Arabic, that all men might be able to read it, took 
up a Talmudical standpoint, equally with the zea- 
lot, but he proved contrary results from the very 
passages adduced by his adversary. 

He first of all showed that partial transgression 
of the duties of Judaism did not constitute absolute 
departure from it. The idolatrous Israelites in the 
times of the prophets were always considered as 
members of the people of the Lord. Meir, a 
highly esteemed doctor of the Mishna, had feigned 
heathenism during a time of persecution, and when 
put to the test, had even partaken of forbidden food. 
" We, however," continues Maimuni, " in no wise 
pay homage to heathenism by our actions, but only 
repeat an empty formula, which the Mahometans 
themselves know is not uttered by us in sincerity, 
but only from a wish to circumvent the bigoted 
ruler." Then he enters deeper into the matter. 
The Talmud ordains that all Jews should suffer 
martyrdom rather than let themselves be compelled 
to commit three capital sins — idolatry, unchastity, 
and murder. It was indeed highly meritorious to 


suffer death rather than violate any commandment 
of the Lavir, so as to keep the name of God holy. 
But he who does not possess the resolution of a 
martyr, even in regard to committing the three 
capital sins, does not render himself liable to the 
punishment attached to idolatry, and moreover is in 
no wise regarded as a transgressor of the Law. 
For in the case of compulsion, the Torah has 
revoked all obligations. He, then, who lacks the 
courage to sacrifice himself for Judaism has tran- 
gressed only one precept, that of sanctifying the 
name of the Lord, but he still does not belong to 
those whose testimony has no validity in a law 
court. Even if any one should, by compulsion, 
actually worship an idol, he would by no means be 
exposed to punishment for idolatry, for how could 
the involuntary transgressor be compared with the 
wilful violator of his religion ? " Then there is some- 
thing else to consider," said Maimuni. " We must 
make a distinction between a transgression by mere 
word, and one by deed. The Mahometan authori- 
ties by no means demand of Jews a denial of 
Judaism, but a mere lip utterance of a profession 
of faith that Mahomet was a prophet, and this 
having been done, they do not offer much objection 
if the Jews conform to their own laws. Such com- 
pulsion, where nothing more than a word is de- 
manded, is, in reality, without parallel. He who 
sacrifices himself as a martyr, rather than acknowl- 
edge Mahomet as the messenger of God, certainly 
performs a most meritorious action. But if a per- 
son puts the question whether he is bound to give 
up his life in a case of that kind, then we must 
answer conscientiously according to the precepts of 
Judaism, ' No.' But we ought to and must advise 
him to leave a country where such religious coercion 
prevails. This advice I give also to myself and my 
friends, to remove to some place where there exists 
religious freedom. Those, however, who have been 


cpmpelled to stay, should consider themselves as 
exiles from whom God has turned His face, and 
should strive to discharge their religious duties ; but 
we should not despise those who, out of necessity, 
have been obliged to violate the Sabbath, but must 
gently admonish them not to forsake the Law. 
Those are in error who believe that they need not 
make any preparations for a departure on the ground 
that the Messiah will soon appear, and redeem them, 
and lead them back to Jerusalem. The coming of 
the Messiah has nothing to do with religious obli- 
gations ; his advent has no absolving power." 

This reply of Maimuni, which was in reality an 
apology for his conduct and that of his friends 
(written about 1160-1164), displays the germs of 
his original conception of Judaism. Moses Maimuni 
appears to have zealously endeavored to induce the 
Jewish pseudo-Mahometans to retain their ancient 
religion, to combat their lukewarmness, and to urge 
them to abandon their equivocal life. On this 
account he exposed himself to extreme danger, and 
might have been put to death, if a Mahometan 
theologian and poet, named Abul-Arab Ibn-Moisha, 
had not interceded for him, and saved him. The 
feeling of insecurity, together with the pricks of 
conscience, when compelled publicly to deny Ju- 
daism, which they held as their most precious 
treasure, induced the family of Maimun to leave 
Fez, and travel to Palestine. In the depth of night 
they embarked (4th lyar — i8th April, 1165). After 
they had sailed for six days on the Mediterranean, 
there arose a terrible storm, gigantic waves tossed 
the vessel about like a shuttlecock, and rescue 
seemed impossible. But the storm abated, and, 
after a journey of one month, the ship sailed into 
the harbor of Accho (3rd Sivan — i6th May). This 
day Maimun dedicated as a family festival, for 
having escaped religious intolerance and the dan- 
gers of the sea. • The emigrants from Spain were 


received in a friendly manner by the congregation 
of Accho. After a residence of nearly half a year 
in this town, the family traveled amid dangers to 
Jerusalem to pray at the ancient site of the Temple 
(4th Marcheshvan— 14th October). They remained 
in Jerusalem for three days, then journeyed to 
Hebron, and from that place to Egypt, which at 
that time bade fair, through the Ajubides, to become 
the center of Islam. Some months after their arrival 
in Egypt the head of the family died (beginning of 
1 166). So highly esteemed were both father and 
son by all who knew them, that letters of consola- 
tion were sent to the latter by his friends in Africa 
and Christian Spain. 

On the other hand, in Egypt, in old Cairo 
(Fostat), where the family of Maimun had settled, 
Maimuni's name had not as yet become famous. 
The two brothers lived quietly, and carried on the 
jewelry trade, the younger brother taking a far 
more active share, and traveling on business as far 
as India. Moses Maimuni, on the other hand, 
devoted himself to study. Severe misfortunes, 
which would have brought a mind less strong than 
his to despair, tore him from this quiet life. Physical 
sufferings threw him on a bed of sickness ; heavy 
losses diminished his fortune, and informers ap- 
peared against him, and brought him to the brink 
of death. Lastly, his brother David perished in the 
Indian Ocean, and with him not only their fortunes, 
but also the money which had been entrusted to 
them by others for business purposes. These accu- 
mulated misfortunes aggravated his sufferings, and 
filled him with melancholy. The death of his brother 
afflicted him most. His unbounded trust in God, 
his enthusiastic love for learning, and his anxiety 
for his family, and for the widow and daughters of 
his brother, roused his courage once more, and 
moved him to enter on an active life. Maimuni 
appears from this time to have gained a livelihood 


by the practice of medicine. Nevertheless, as he 
was still unknown, his practice at first did not prove 
very lucrative. About this time he also gave public 
lectures on philosophical subjects. His whole mind, 
however, was bent on the completion of the gigantic 
work with which he had been occupied since his 
twenty-third year, during all his travels, in Maho- 
metan disguises, on sea voyages, and in the midst 
of numerous adversities. He finished this his first 
great work in the year 1168, in Arabic, under the 
title of " Siraj " ("Illumination "). The object of 
this work was to facilitate the study of the Talmud, 
which had become difficult through its diffuse dis- 
cussions, through the interpolated explanations of 
the Geonim, and through the commentaries of his 
predecessors, which were not always pertinent to 
the subject ; to determine the right practice (Ha- 
lacha) from the confusion of diverse arguments, and 
to define his position by short but comprehensive 
explanations of words and things. 

Maimuni's commentary on the Mishna arose out 
of the author's mental organization, which ever 
strove for clearness, method and symmetry. It 
was the first scientific treatment of the Talmud, and 
only so clear and systematic a thinker as Maimuni 
could have originated it, for the construction of the 
Talmud seems to be directly opposed to an orderly 
arrangement. The luminous introductions to the 
several parts of the commentary especially give 
evidence of its scientific character. In them he 
reveals complete command over the material, as 
well as a logical conception of the method to be 

Maimuni treated, with special predilection, those 
points of the Mishna which have a scientific color- 
ing, and into the treatment of which the principles 
of mathematics, astronomy, physics, anatomy, ethics 
and philosophy could be introduced. Here he was 
in his element. In such parts he could show that 


the doctors of the Mishna, the upholders of tradi- 
tion, knew science also, and based their works upon 
it. ^ Especially did he aim at establishing that the 
Mishna contains a sound ethical and a deep philoso- 
phical conception of God. To this end he turned 
his attention with particular interest and thorough- 
ness to the Agadic elements in the Mishna, which 
till then had been little or only occasionally noticed. 
He further explained the nature of tradition, main- 
taining that not all that is contained in the Mishna 
is tradition. For a traditional doctrine must be 
positive, and ought not to be open to doubt or un- 
certainty. Unconsciously Maimuni by this theory 
put himself in opposition to the Talmud, and under- 
mined its firm position. 

The tractate of the Mishna, which combines, like 
a string of pearls, the sayings of the fathers 
(Aboth), appeared in the eyes of Maimuni a verit- 
able treasure-trove. In explaining these he could 
display the whole wealth of his world of thought, 
and he thus saturated Talmudical Judaism with 
philosophical ideas. But he thereby became the 
victim of self-delusion. It was important for the 
future that Maimuni, in his unconscious self-decep- 
tion, undertook for the first time to develop a Jewish 
system of belief Since Judaism, according to his 
views, was nothing more than revealed philosophy, 
it ought to dominate the beliefs and opinions of men 
as well as their religious and moral conduct ; ay, 
the one more than the other, as morality has no 
value in itself, and is only the fruit of right know- 
ledge. He, accordingly, assumed as certain and 
positive that Judaism defines for us not only what 
we must do, but what we must believe ; that it 
asserts certain ideas as irrefragable truth. Mai- 
monides drew up thirteen of such doctrines or 
articles of belief: — The belief in the existence of 
God ; in His indivisible unity ; in His incorporeality 
and insusceptibility of change ; in His eternity and 


existence before the world ; in His absolute claim 
to our adoration (Monotheism) ; in the prophetic 
inspiration of chosen men ; in Moses as the greatest 
prophet, with whom no other prophet can be com- 
pared ; in the divinity of the Torah ; in its unalter- 
ability ; in God's providence ; in His just reward 
and punishment ; in the future appearance of the 
Messiah; and, finally, in the resurrection of the 
dead. Although these articles of faith rest on 
investigation, and therefore cannot claim unques- 
tioning acceptance, yet, according to Maimuni, no 
one can be considered a true Israelite or Jew who 
does not acknowledge them all as true ; he who 
denies a single one of them is a heretic (Min, Epi- 
coros), he does not belong to the community of 
Judaism, and cuts himself off from the hope of future 

Maimuni thus, on the one hand, raised the Jewish 
creed to the height of rational knowledge, and, on 
the other, set bounds to the free development of 
thought. Hitherto religious action only was valued 
as the characteristic of Jewish life. Maimuni now 
called a halt to free thought, marked the boundary 
line between belief and heresy, not in the firm pro- 
vince of religious practice, but in the shifting ground 
of religious belief, and brought the ethereal element 
of thought under rigid formulae. 

Great as the work of Maimuni in his commentary 
on the Mishna undoubtedly is, although he applied 
to it infinite learning, wealth of intellect, and system- 
atic arrangement, yet he. did not obtain a reputa- 
tion corresponding to its merit. The reason of 
this was that among the Jews of Egypt and the 
East, to whom the work, being, in Arabic, was most 
of all accessible, there was but the faintest appre- 
ciation of scientific treatment. The great work was 
at first scarcely noticed in the East. His pupils, to 
whom he gave lectures on the same plan, and who 
revered him as the incarnation of wisdom, spread 


his reputation abroad. One of his earliest disciples, 
Solomon Kohen, who traveled to southern Arabia 
(Yemen), was full of his praise, and impressed on 
the congregation there that, in time of need, they 
should apply to Maimuni for consolation and sup- 

In Egypt far-reaching changes had crept in, 
which produced a favorable turn in the fortunes of 
the Jews of that empire and the neighboring coun- 
tries. The Fatimide Caliph died, or was deposed, 
and the great Saladin, the model of royal mag- 
nanimity and chivalry in that barbarous age, suc- 
ceeded to the government (September, 1171). At 
first the celebrated Ajublde only held the office 
of Vice-Field-Marshal of Nureddin ; gradually he 
acquired absolute supremacy over Egypt and a part 
.of Palestine, Syria, and even the districts about the 
Euphrates, and the Caliphate of Bagdad obeyed his 
rule. His empire became a safe asylum to the 
oppressed Jews. Saladin was just to the Jews, as 
indeed towards every one, even his bitterest ene- 
mies. Under him the Jews rose to great prosperity 
and distinction. 

At first the fall of the Fatimide Caliphate, and 
the subjection of the surrounding countries belong- 
ing to it, under the Abbasid and Fatimide Caliphs 
of Bagdad, set loose fanaticism which was felt by 
the Jewish congregations of Yemen. In that place 
two Shiites had seized upon the government, and 
they compelled the Jews to embrace Islam under 
threat of great suffering. Here also, as in Africa 
and southern Spain, the Jews outwardly pretended 
to adopt the Mahometan religion (about 11 72). 
But as the grossest ignorance prevailed among 
them, there was danger that the unthinking multi- 
tude would proceed from pretence to reality, and 
fall away from Judaism altogether. This fjear be- 
came real when a Jewish apostate preached to the 
congregation that Mahomet is mentioned in the 


Torah, and that Islam was a new, divinely an- 
nounced revelation, which was intended to super- 
sede Judaism. In addition, at just about this time, 
there appeared a Jewish enthusiast in Yemen, who 
proclaimed himself to be the forerunner of the 
Messiah, endeavored to instil in the Jews the belief 
that their affliction was the harbinger of the speedy 
approach of the Messianic empire, and bade them 
hold themselves in readiness for that event, and 
divide their property with the poor. This enthu- 
siastic hope, to which many clung as drowning men 
to a straw, threatened to bring the direst misfortune 
on the heads of the Yemen Jews. The pious aban- 
doned themselves to despair in the contemplation of 
these proceedings, altogether lost their heads, and 
knew not what plan they should adopt. At this 
point, Jacob Alfayumi, the most learned and most 
respected man among them, turned to Maimuni, of 
whom he had heard through his disciples, for coun- 
sel and consolation, described to him their suffer- 
ings and apprehensions, and begged him to send a 

Maimuni accordingly sent a letter of consolation, 
in Arabic, to the congregation of Yemen, directed 
personally to his correspondent, but having refer- 
ence to all the members (Iggeret Teman). In spite 
of its small compass, it contains valuable matter, 
and bears witness to the writer's lofty soul and 
spiritual refinement. He sought in it to elevate the 
sufferers to the height of spiritual consciousness, 
on which suffering for religion's sake loses its sting, 
and darkness appears as the inevitable antecedent 
of the break of day. He expressed himself on the 
relation of Judaism to Christianity and Islam with 
an acuteness and precision which reflect his pro- 
found conviction. It was certainly sad to reflect, 
remarks the sage of Cairo, that there should have 
occurred cruel persecutions of the Jews in two 
opposite directions ; in the West by the Almohades, 


and in the East by the Mahometans of Yemen. 
Nevertheless they were not unexpected, for the 
prophets had announced them quite distinctly. 
" Because God has specially distinguished us, sons 
of Israel, through His grace, and has appointed us 
the upholders of the true religion and the true 
creed, the nations hate us, not only on our own 
account, but on account of the divinity which lives 
in our midst, in order to thwart in some measure the 
divine will." Since the revelation on Sinai there 
had never been a time when Judaism and its pro- 
fessors had not been exposed to sufferings and per- 
secutions. The nations had manifested their hate 
in three different forms ; either with the sword, like 
Amalek, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Titus, and 
Hadrian, in order utterly to root out from the earth 
the nation that possessed the truth ; or with the 
false tricks of sophistical persuasion, like the Per- 
sians, Greeks, and Romans, with a view to refute 
and falsify the doctrines of Judaism ; or finally 
undqr the mask of revelation, as it were, in the 
garb of Judaism, in order to juggle it out of exist- 
ence. The principle inimical to Judaism had at 
length discovered that it was unable to annihilate 
the upholders of God's religion, or to tear it out of 
their hearts ; and now it hoped to destroy them by 
a crafty device. It pretended also to have received 
a revelation acknowledging that on Sinai to have 
been authorized for a time, but declared that it 
now had no further validity. This hostile principle, 
which sought the banishment of the divine from 
earth, attempted to substitute a stuffed figure for a 
godly child, and falsify Judaism. The new revela- 
tions of Nazareth and Mecca, compared with Ju- 
daism, were like well-executed statues of a man, 
compared with a real man full of life and energy. 
All this bitter enmity of the nations of the earth 
against Israel and its divine religion 'had been fore- 
seen by the prophets, especially by Daniel, who at 


the same time foretold the victory of Judaism over 
superstition. "And now, brethren," so Maimuni 
addressed the congregation of Yemen in his letter, 
" consider well these truths, and do not let your- 
selves be discouraged by the superabundance of 
your woe. Its purpose is to test you, and to show 
that the posterity of Jacob, the descendants of those 
who received the Law on Sinai, are in possession 
of the true Law." Furthermore, he pointed out 
that it was wrong to calculate the Messianic period, 
as the Yemen enthusiast thought he had succeeded 
in doing ; for it can never be exactly determined, it 
having been purposely concealed as a deep secret 
by the prophets. 

Lastly, Maimuni exhorted Jacob Alfayumi to 
circulate his letter among the congregations of 
Yemen, that it might strengthen them in their 
faith, but to take great precautions when reading 
it that no traitor might be given the opportunity of 
making it the pretext for an accusation. He him- 
self, said Maimuni, wrote in anxiety as to the. evil 
consequences which might ensue for him ; but he 
considered that he who wished to work for the 
general good must not be deterred by apprehen- 
sions of danger. This interesting letter of conso- 
lation, which was written with much warmth, made 
so favorable an impression on the Jews of southern 
Arabia, that they, far from growing indifferent to 
their religion, were strengthened in it, and were 
moved to take an energetic share in all the events 
affecting the welfare of the whole body of Jews. 
In later times, when Maimuni attained greater im- 
portance, he found the means of putting a stop to 
the political oppression and bigoted persecution 
suffered by the Jews. For this the congregation 
of Yemen clove to him with enthusiastic love and 
veneration. They included his name in their daily 
prayer, a demonstration of honor which had been 
accorded only to the Exilarchs at their zenith. 


Maimuiii's greatness only gradually obtained ac- 
knowledgment. As early as the year 1 1 75, he was 
looked upon as an authority in the determination 
of rabbinical laws ; and religious-legal questions 
were addressed to him from all parts, a circum- 
stance from which we may infer the universal 
recognition of his authority. Maimuni appears to 
have been officially recognized in 11 77 as rabbi of 
Cairo, on account of his profound knowledge of the 
Talmud, his character, and his fame. He, with nine 
colleagues, formed an ecclesiastical board. His 
office he regarded as a holy priesthood, and exer- 
cised it with characteristic conscientiousness and 
circumspection. Where he perceived any abuses, 
he placed himself boldly in the breach. Although 
Maimuni worked hard in eliminating from the rab- 
binical world all Karaite customs which had crept 
in, he, nevertheless, always showed great tolerance 
toward the followers of Anan. Being asked how 
Rabbanites should behave towards Karaites, he 
replied that as long as they kept within the bounds 
of decency, and did not scoff at the Talmud, they 
were to be treated respectfully, and to be ap- 
proached with friendliness, humility, and in a pacific 
spirit. Rabbanites might visit them in their houses, 
bury their dead, comfort their mourners, and initiate 
their children into the covenant of Abraham. The 
Talmud enjoins that we must observe a friendly 
demeanor towards heathens and idolaters, how 
much more so towards those who spring from the 
seed of Jacob, and acknowledge only one God. By 
virtue of his office, Maimuni tried hard to secure 
decorum in the synagogue, and also to remove 
many long-continued abuses. He noticed, for in- 
stance, that when the congregation had finished 
saying the silent prayer, thinking that they had 
performed their duty, they did not listen to its 
audible repetition by the reader, but chatted with. 
one another, and generally behaved in an un- 


becoming manner. The Mahometans mocked at 
them, and with justice too, for they were accustomed 
to conduct their own divine service with concen- 
trated devotion. Maimuni, who always felt deeply 
mortified when Judaism was exposed to ridicule, 
was anxious to put a stop to such offensive be- 
havior in the synagogues, and with this motive 
abrogated the silent prayer altogether, without con- 
sidering that it is expressly prescribed by the 
Talmud. Sincere prayer was to him of higher im- 
portance than mere mechanical fulfilment of pre- 
cept. This practice, instituted by Maimuni, ac- 
cording to which the reader alone said the chief 
prayer, was followed, not only in the whole of 
Egypt, but even in several congregations of Pales- 
tine, in Damascus, and Haleb, and was continued 
among the native congregations for three centuries. 
In the midst of his energetic activity in communal 
affairs, practising as a physician, and devoting him- 
self to the constant study of philosophy and science, 
Maimuni completed his second great work (8 Kislev 
— 7 November, ii8o), his epoch-making "Mishne- 
Torah," or Religious Code. If, as he states, he 
labored at it continuously for ten successive years, 
the time stands in no relation to the magnitude of 
the performance. It is impossible to give the un- 
initiated an idea of this gigantic work, in which he 
collected the most remote things from the vast 
mine of the Talmud, extracting the fine metal from 
the dross, classifying all details under their appro- 
priate heads, showing how the Talmud was based 
on the Bible, bringing its details under general 
rules, combining apparently unconnected parts into 
one organized whole, and cementing it into a work 
of art. He justly laid special emphasis, in the 
Mishne-Torah, on the necessity of skilful grouping, 
the difficulties of which can be estimated only by a 
specialist deeply versed in the subject. The Tal- 
mud resembles a Daedalian maze, in which one can 


scarcely find his way even with Ariadne's thread, 
but Maimuni designed a well-contrived ground- 
plan, with wings, halls, apartments, chambers, and 
closets, through which a stranger might easily pass 
without a guide, and thereby obtain a survey of all 
that is contained in the Talmud. Only a mind 
accustomed to think clearly and systematically, and 
filled with the genius of order, could have planned 
and built a structure like this. 

Apart from the technical excellences, and the 
incomparably well proportioned architecture, the 
work had, as far as the contents are concerned, a 
most important influence on the development of 
Jewish history. All the various lines which his 
predecessors had partially traced out on the ground 
of Judaism, Maimuni united in the greatest harmony. 
Nothing therein is given undue prominence, and 
nothing is neglected. The philosophical, the ethical 
and the ceremonial sides, and, so to speak, the emo- 
tional side of Judaism which the aspiration for a 
Messianic period of redemption expresses, are 
treated in this work as of equal worth and promi- 
nence. Maimuni united the divergent roads on 
which Judaism had been led, and made them meet 
together in one point. He worked out to final 
perfection all the efforts which, since Saadiah had 
tried to give a philosophical basis to Judaism, and 
to make clear its import, had been embodied in 
writing. His work was the necessary center of 
gravity of the tremendous intellectual structure of 
three centuries. 

It may almost be said that Maimuni created a 
new Talmud. The old elements are certainly 
there ; we know their source, their occurrence, and 
their original application, but under his treatment, 
grouping, and elaboration they assume a new shape. 
The rust is removed, the confusing non-essential 
matter is takein out, and everything appears newly 
cast, polished, fresh, and original. The Mishna, 


the groundwork of the Talmud, begins with the 
question, "At what time is tlie Shema to be 
said in the evening?" and concludes with a dis- 
cussion as to what things are unclean according to 
Levitical law. Maimuni, on the other hand, thus 
commences his Talmudical Code, " The foundation 
and pillar of all wisdom is to recognize that there is 
an original Being, who called all creatures into 
existence," and ends with the words, " The earth 
shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the 
waters cover the sea." This work breathes the 
spirit of true wisdom, calm reflection, and deep 
morality. Maimuni, so to speak, talmudized Phil- 
osophy, and philosophized the Talmud. He ad- 
mitted philosophy into his religious Code, and 
conceded it a place of equal importance with the 
Halacha. From the time of Philo" till Abraham 
Ibn-Daud, philosophy had always been treated as 
something secondary, which had nothing to do with 
practical Judaism, as it is daily and hourly practised. 
Maimuni, on the other hand, introduced it into the 
holiest place in Judaism, and as it were gave Aris- 
totle a place next to the doctors of the Law. A 
great portion of the first book of his work (Sepher 
Madda) is of a philosophical character. The object 
of his work was to simplify the knowledge of the 
whole of Judaism, both Biblical and Talmudical, 
which in his judgment were of equal value. He 
wanted to clear up the diffuseness and obscurity, 
which arise from .Talmudical idiom, the discussions, 
the incomplete explanations of the Geonini, and 
render the study of the Talmud so difficult; to 
illumine chaos, and put confusion into order. 
The rabbi who had to determine questions of a 
religious or legal character, the pious man who 
desired to discharge his religious duty of knowing 
the Law, the student who desired to obtain know- 
ledge of the Talmud, had no more need to struggle 
through the thorny underbrush of Halachic discus- 


sions, but in addition to Holy Writ had simply to 
refer to the Code of the Mishne-Torah, in order to 
acquire complete information. He hinted rather 
broadly that his work was intended to render 
the Talmud less necessary, if not to supersede it. 
For this reason he wrote it in the neo-Hebrew 
language (Mishna idiom), which was easily under- 
stood, so as to make it accessible to all people, and 
thus spread the knowledge of the Law, and the 
principles of Judaism generally. It is true that he 
came into collision with the views of his rabbinical 
contemporaries, who expected the Talmud to be 
treated with the same respect as the Holy Scrip- 
tures, wherein no word is superfluous, and which, 
therefore, must be studied in the original text. 

In consistently carrying out his principle that all 
details should be brought under comprehensive 
heads, and that nothing should be admitted without 
conclusive grounds, Maimuni could not help devia- 
ting occasionally in his decisions from the Talmud- 
ical method of determining the case, and striking 
out into a path peculiar to himself. In one par- 
ticular point he stepped beyond the bounds of the 
Talmud. The Talmud treats as Biblical many de- 
cisions which were inferred from verses of Scripture 
by an application of the accepted rules of interpre- 
tation. Maimuni, however, advanced the principle 
that only those laws were Biblical which the Tal- 
mud distinctly claimed to be so without recording 
any difference of opinion on the subject. 

In this bold view Maimuni was manifestly influ- 
enced by the objection of the Karaites against the 
Oral Law. Without being himself clearly aware of 
it, he conceded that a genuine tradition could not be 
amenable to differences of opinion, and must never, 
during its transmission from generation to genera- 
tion, be exposed to doubt. 

Although Maimuni's theory, consistently followed 
out, is calculated to undermine Talmudical Judaism, 


that Judaism, nevertheless, was in practice held by 
him in such estimation that he regarded nothing to 
be of higher importance. The Talmudical sages 
were, in his eyes, authorities who occupied a posi- 
tion only a step lower than the prophets. He 
regarded them as ideals, to emulate whom would 
lead to a virtuous, religious, and perfect life. The 
legal decisions proceeding from them, whether 
mandatory or prohibitory, could be abrogated only 
under circumstances specified in the Talmud itself. 
In practice, accordingly, it made no difference 
whether a law was Biblical or rabbinical ; both were 
to be observed with equal conscientiousness. 

Maimuni, through his religious Code, gave rab- 
binical Judaism a strong hold, and on the other 
hand he helped to ossify it. Much in the Talmud 
that was still unsettled and open to explanation he 
crystallized into unchangeable law. As he intro- 
duced into Judaism articles of belief, which were to 
limit thought by thought, so by his codified deter- 
minations of the laws, he robbed it of its mobility. 
Without considering the condition of the times in 
which the Talmudical decisions had arisen, he laid 
them down as binding for all times and circum- 
stances. In this respect he was much stricter than 
the Tossafist school, who took the sting out of a 
too burdensome law by proving after elaborate 
examination that it was not applicable to changed 
circumstances and times. If Maimuni's Code had 
acquired absolute supremacy, as it at first seemed 
likely to do, and had dislodged the Talmud from 
the schools, from the hands of the religious author- 
ities, and from the Jewish courts of law, Talmudical 
Judaism would have succumbed to petrifaction, not- 
withstanding the rich thought and the scientific 
treatment which Maimuni bestowed on it. 

However, as soon as the Jews obtained possession 
of Maimuni's Code, which was accessible to them by 
reason of its simple language and arrangement. 


they began to see clearly its high importance. .In 
Spain, it was said, every one copied it for himself ; 
the Jewish mind was absorbed in it, young and old 
gathered together in order to master its contents. 
There were now many doctors of the Law who could 
pass an original opinion on any controversial point 
of law, and check the decision of the judge. And 
as in Spain, so it was in all countries, even in the 
East, where the study of the Talmud was more 
energetically pursued. The reverence for the great 
master increased every day, especially when it be- 
came known that his private life corresponded to 
the ideal which he had delineated of a Jewish sage. 
His people lavished on him the most enthusiastic 
of praises. "The only one of his time," "The ban- 
nei* of the rabbis," " The enlightener of the eyes of 
Israel," were modest titles. It required all Mai- 
muni's moral force not to be overpowered by the 
incense burned before him. Maimuni's name rang 
from Spain to India, and from the sources of the 
Euphrates and the Tigris to southern Arabia, and 
eclipsed all contemporary celebrities. The most 
learned men subordinated themselves to his judg- 
ment, and solicited, his instruction in the most 
humble manner ; he was regarded as chief authority 
for the whole Jewish world, which revered him as 
its noblest representative. 

He did not escape the attack of petty opponents, 
who were jealous of his towering greatness, insig- 
nificant rabbis, who, being superficially familiar with 
the text of the Talmud, thought themselves in 
possession of all wisdom, and were unpleasantly 
awakened from their dream by Maimuni's work. In 
Cairo itself some Talmudists would not deign to 
bestow a glance on the Code, lest it might be said 
that they had learnt something out of it. Others 
argued that the College of Bagdad was the only 
seat of Talmudical knowledge, and that he who had 
not studied in this school could not be recognized 


as thoroughly initiated, and, consequently, Maimuni's 
decisions did not deserve unconditional acceptance. 
Such little minds persuaded themselves that it lay 
in their power to compose a like or even a better 
work on all the laws of Judaism. The head of this 
petty opposition was Samuel ben Ali, of Bagdad, 
who, on his richly embellished Gaonate throne, sur- 
rounded by his slaves armed with scourges, would 
not acknowledge any one his equal, much less his 
superior. Maimonides opposed a contemptuous 
silence to detractors of this class. However, he 
also had honorable adversaries, who feeling that 
Maimuni's conception of Talmudical Judaism was 
not flesh of their flesh, scented heresy in the Code, 
and perceived danger therein to the practice of the 
religion. But wherein the strange and inconsistent 
elements lay only the more learned understood ; 
the simple, on the other hand, lit upon secondary 
and quite unessential points, and excited themselves 
about them, as if the fundamental principles of the 
religion were in danger. 

Thus, in Alexandria, after the publication of Mai- 
muni's work, there broke out against it a popular 
insurrection, because it was taught therein that 
bathing before prayer, which the Eastern Jews had 
adopted from their Mahometan neighbors, was not 
essential. Members of the congregation combined, 
and threatened to lay information against it before 
the Mahometan authorities, on the ground that 
those who had adopted Maimuni's Code as law 
wished to introduce innovations into the religion. 

It was only after a residence in Egypt of more 
than twenty years that Maimuni obtained an ap- 
pointment as physician at the court of Saladin ; up 
to that time he had acquired only a slight practice. 
He was not Saladin's physician in ordinary, for the 
Sultan, on account of the constant wars with the 
adherents of Nureddin and with the Christians, 
could not visit his capital for a long time. But the 
favor of the noble vizir, the wise and mighty Alfad- 


hel, who was also a great promoter of learning, and 
of whom a contemporary said, " he was entirely 
head and heart," was of as much value as the dis- 
tinguished recognition of the sovereign. Alfadhel 
caused Maimuni to be placed on the list of physi- 
cians, settled upon him a yearly salary, and loaded 
him with favors. Inspired by his example, the great 
men of the country who Hved in Gairo likewise 
bestowed upon him their patronage, so that Mai- 
muni's time was so fully occupied that he was 
obliged to neglect his studies. Maimuni was 
indebted for his elevation more to his medical 
learning than to his skill as a physician ; for he 
pursued this profession as a learned science, and 
prescribed no recipe for whose efficacy he could 
not cite the judgment of medical authorities. He 
treated the facts of scientific medicine in the same 
spirit as he had treated the Talmud. In this manner 
he elaborated the writings of Galen, the medical 
oracle in the Middle Ages ; he abridged and arranged 
them, without permitting himself to deviate from the 
original in the slightest particular. The same char- 
acter is borne also by his medical aphorisms, which 
are nothing further than extracts from and classifica- 
tions of older theories. In spite of his almost abso- 
lute lack of originality in the province of medicine, 
Maimuni nevertheless enjoyed a wide reputation as 
a medical author. The celebrated Mahometan phy- 
sician and theologian, Abdel-latif, of Bagdad, who 
enjoyed the favor of Saladin in a high degree, con- 
fessed that his wish to visit Gairo was prompted by 
the desire to make the acquaintance of three men, 
among whom was Musa ben Maimun. The poet 
and kadhi, Alsaid Ibn-Sina Almulk, sang of Mai- 
muni's greatness as a physician in ecstatic verse : 

" Galen's art heals only the body, 
But Abu-Amran's (Maimuni's) the body and soul. 
With his wisdom he could heal the sickness of ignorance. 
If the moon would submit to his art, 

He would deliver her of her spots at the time of full moon, 
Cure her of her periodic defects, 
And at the time of her conjunction sav? her from waning. 


Maimuni's reputation was so great that the 
English king, Richard Coeur-de-Lion, the soul of 
the third crusade, wanted to appoint him his physi- 
cian in ordinary, but Maimuni refused the offer. 

His patron, the chief judge and vizir Alfadhel, 
acquitted him at about this time of a grave charge, for 
which, under a less mild Mahometan, or even a 
Christian judge, he would have incurred the penalty 
of death. The same Abulalarab Ibn-Moisha who 
had befriended Maimuni in Fez, had come from 
Maghreb to Egypt, and when he saw Maimuni, 
whom he had kno^yn as a Mahometan, at the 
head of the Jewish community as spiritual chief, he 
appeared against him as an accuser, and averred 
that Maimuni had for a long time professed the 
religion of Islam, and consequently ought to be 
punished as a renegade. Alfadhel, before whose 
tribunal the accusation was preferred, decided 
rightly that the compulsory adoption of a creed 
could have no value, and, therefore, could involve 
no penalties (about ii'Sy). In consequence of his 
favor with the vizir, Maimuni was appointed 
supreme head of all the Egyptian congregations, 
and this dignity descended in his family from father 
to son and grandson. It is certain that Maimuni 
drew no salary for this office, for nothing appeared 
to him more discreditable and sinful than to receive 
payment for the discharge of spiritual duties, or to 
degrade knowledge into a money-making business. 
He sought this prominent position not for himself, 
but for the sake of his co-religionists, in order to 
save them from injustice. It was through him that 
the heavy yoke of persecution was removed from 
the congregation of Yemen. When Saladin had 
once more wrested Jerusalem from the hands of the 
Christians, who had held it for nearly a century, he 
allowed the Jews to settle in the city of their fathers 
(October, 1187). And from all sides there came 
devoted sons to visit their mourning and forsaken 


mother. Possibly Maimuni was not unconnected 
with this act of noble-minded tolerance. Lastly, he 
endeavored to obtain for his brethren in faith prece- 
dence in the state over the Karaites, and gradually 
to oust the latter from their favorable position at 
court, so that many of them reverted to Rabbanism. 
This was accounted to Maimuni as a most meritori- 
ous deed in his time. 

The higher Maimuni advanced in the esteem of 
his contemporaries, the more his extraordinary 
ability was acknowledged, and the louder his fame 
resounded, the more did the arrogant Samuel ben 
Ali, of Bagdad, feel himself belittled, and the more 
did he become filled with envy. Samuel accord- 
ingly took every opportunity to depreciate Maimu- 
ni's merit, and. rob him of his fame. Samuel and 
his friends whispered to one another that Maimuni 
was by no means a strictly religious Jew, nor a true 
follower of the Talmud, and they spread many 
calumnies about him. Some mistakes which he had 
made in his youthful work, the Mishna Commen- 
tary, were used by these malevolent people with a 
view to brand him as ignorant of the Talmud, and 
without claim to authority in this province. Their 
idea of religion, as Maimuni said of them, consisted 
in -guarding against the violation of precepts ; but 
according to their view, good morals, humility, 
merely human virtues, in short, do not belong to 
religion. As the seed which Maimuni had scattered 
began to bear fruit, Samuel ben Ali and his allies 
took advantage thereof to lower the author in the 
eyes of his contemporaries. 

In Damascus and Yemen there appeared re- 
ligious teachers, who drew from Maimuni's writings 
logical conclusions which he himself did not care to 
deduce. As he strongly affirmed, and repeatedly 
insisted, that by the immortality of the soul a purely 
spiritual existence in another world was to be 
understood, whereas he passed over the resurrec 


tion of the dead as of only secondary importance, 
his disciples concluded that he was not thoroughly 
convinced of the resurrection, and forthwith began 
to teach that after death the body sinks into disso- 
lution and decay, and that only the soul becomes 
elevated to a purely spiritual life. This liberal view 
clashed with explicit declarations in the Talmud, 
and consequently aroused general opposition. 
Samuel ben Ali was requested by some one in 
Yemen to give his opinion on this question of the 
belief in the resurrection. Samuel wrote a whole 
treatise upon it, with philosophical flourishes, in order 
to appear a worthy rival of Maimuni, and seized 
the opportunity of criticising the latter's writings, 
hoping to heighten the effect of the criticism by ac- 
cording partial praise to Maimuni. On another 
occasion, Samuel ben Ali directed a letter to Mai- 
muni, in which, amid much flattery and fawning, he 
reproached him with having committed an error in 
interpreting the Talmud, which could scarcely have 
been made by a beginner, kindly adding that Mai- 
muni must not fret himself about it. At the same 
time, he did not forget to promise graciously to 
take him under his protection against the congre- 
gation in Yemen. Maimuni replied with a heated 
letter, in which he showed his malicious oppo- 
nent that it was he who had erred in the deeper 
conception of the Talmud. He also touched upon 
the secret attacks made against his great work 
from this quarter, some asserting that the book 
contained mistakes, others that it was superfluous, 
others, again, that it was dangerous. " You seem," 
Maimuni observed to him, " to reckon me among 
those who are sensitive to every word of blame. 
You make a mistake. God has protected me 
against this weakness, and I protest to you, in His 
name, that if the most insignificant scholar, whether 
friend or foe, would point out to me an error, I 
would be grateful for the correction and instruc-- 


tion." Although Samuel ben Ali was readily re- 
futed by Maimuni, he still continued to spread the 
report that the latter was no Talmudist, and that 
his codex did not deserve the respect which it 
enjoyed. From another side, from Haleb, Mar 
Sacharya, a man of limited range of vision, and with 
a superficial knowledge of the Talmud, thinking 
himself eclipsed by Maimuni's pupil, Joseph Ibn- 
Aknin, worked with equal hostility against master 
and disciple. But, as the sage of Fostat had warm 
and disinterested adherents everywhere, Samuel 
ben Ali and his ally of Haleb were constrained to 
act cautiously. They organized an intrigue against 
him, into which they drew one of the two Exilarchs. 
Towards this cabal, Maimuni assumed an attitude 
of contemptuous indifference and unconcern, which 
altogether disarmed his opponents. 

In spite of his collisions with the party of Samuel 
ben Ali, and his prodigious activity as a physician, 
which scarcely gave him time for study, he com- 
pleted his religious philosophical work, " Guide of 
the Perplexed " (Moreh Nebuchim, Dalalat al Hai- 
rin) in about 1190. This treatise became of extra- 
ordinary importance, not only for Judaism, but for 
the history of philosophy in the Middle Ages gen- 
erally. Maimuni appears at the summit of his 
intellectual power in this work, and it contains the 
vindication of his profoundest convictions. The 
questions which the human mind starts ever anew, 
about the existence of a higher world, the destiny 
of our being, and the imperfection and evil of the 
earthly world, Maimuni sought to answer in a 
manner which was at that time considered con- 
vincing. The doubts which the thinking Jew may 
conceive of the truth of his hereditary religion, he 
endeavored to remove in a persuasive manner. 
He, whose thoughts were ever directed to the 
loftiest subjects, could with justice assume the 
character of guide to the perplexed and wavering. 


The external form of this epoch-making work 
would make it appear that the author had elabo- 
rated, for his favorite disciple, Joseph Ibn-Aknin, of 
Fez, separate treatises on important points which 
had disquieted and tortured the latter. But it was 
actually dictated by the desire to express clearly 
his philosophical conception of the world, and his 
views of the place which Judaism finds in it, and 
thoroughly to analyze their mutual relation. 

Maimuni was, on the one hand, firmly convinced 
of the truth of the Aristotelian philosophy, as the 
Mahometan philosopher Ibn-Sina and others had 
formulated it. On the other hand, Judaism was to 
him a body of truths not less irrefragable. Both 
seemed to him to have the same conclusion and a 
common aim. Philosophy recognizes as the prin- 
cipal of all essences one indivisible God, the gov- 
ernor of the world. Judaism likewise teaches with 
emphatic asseveration the unity of God, and abhors 
nothing more thoroughly than polytheism. Meta- 
physics knows no higher aim for man than that he 
should perfect himself intellectually, and work his 
way up to the highest knowledge. Judaism also, 
even Talmudical Judaism, places understanding and 
knowledge, the understanding of God, at the head 
of its precepts. If the truth which the human mind 
in the fulness of its power evolves from itself, 
and the revelation which the Deity vouchsafed 
to the Israelitish nation on Sinai, resemble each 
other in beginning and end, then their separate 
parts must correspond with each other, and be 
as one and the same truth, arrived at in different 
ways. Judaism cannot be in contradiction with 
philosophy, as both are emanations from the divine 
spirit. The truth which God has revealed must 
also agree with that which lies in the human reason, 
since the latter is a power originating from God, 
and similarly all truths which metaphysical thinking 
can bring to light must exist in the revelation — 


that is, in Judaism. Hence, Maimuni believed that 
originally, besides the written revelation in the 
Pentateuch, there were also communicated to the 
greatest of prophets oral doctrines of a philosophical 
character, which were transmitted by tradition to 
posterity, and which were lost only in consequence 
of the troubles and afflictions which the Israelites 
experienced in the course of ages. Traces of this 
old Israelitish wisdom are found, according to Mai- 
muni, in the scattered utterances of the prophets, 
and in the reflections of the Agada. When, there- 
fore, the thinking Jew borrows the truths of Greek 
philosophy, and adopts the theories of Plato and 
Aristotle, they are not altogether strange elements 
to him, but only a reminder of his own forgotten 

The whole universe, which must be considered 
as a single organic whole, consisting of spheres 
suspended over one another working in harmony, is 
nothing more than the realized thoughts of God, or 
rather than the ideas of God ever tending to reali- 
zation. He continually imparts to it new forms 
and shapes, and implants order and regularity in 
the world. Everything is arranged therein in ac- 
cordance with a final purpose. The Greek phil- 
osophy, it is true, assumes that the universe shares 
in the eternity of God ; but it can neither irrefutably 
prove the eternity of the world, nor remove any of 
the difficulties which oppose the acceptation of the 
original existence of the universe. The doctrine 
of Judaism is much more reasonable, that the world 
had a positive beginning, and that time itself, which, 
indeed, is a form of the world and its motion, is not 
without beginning, but was called into being by the 
determining will of God. 

The organically formed universe, created and 
made to cohere by God, consists of a series of 
entities of different degrees. Next to the Deity 
are the pure spirits, which are simple, and not com- 


posed of matter and form, and consequently par- 
take most of the divine nature. Their necessary- 
existence is proved philosophically, because many 
phenomena in the universe best admit of explana- 
tion through them. These pure spirits, these 
" forms free of matter," Judaism and Holy Writ 
call " angels." Among them must be assumed a 
spirit or angel who is the originator of thoughts or 
ideas, the active world-spirit or creative reason 
(Sechel ha-Poel). 

In the degree next to the pure spirits are entities 
which must certainly be considered as composed of 
matter and form, whose matter, however, is not 
heavy and coarse, but of an ethereal nature. These 
ethereal entities are the heavens and the brilliant 
world of stars, which possess an ever uniform mo- 
tion, and are therefore not subject to the change of 
genesis and dissolution, but revolve in the firma- 
ment in constant brightness and with unbroken 
regularity. These form and influence the lower 
circle of entities. The stars are divided into four 
spheres — into the sphere of the fixed stars, of the 
moving stars (planets), of the sun and the moon. 
These spheres must be considered as endowed with 
life and intellectual power. Below the sphere of 
the moon there exists a grade of entities which are 
generated from coarser matter, but are susceptible 
of form, shape, and motion. This is the world of 
the four elements, which are in their turn fashioned 
into four spheres, one above the other. Within 
these spheres are formed, through manifold evolu- 
tions, influenced by the world of stars, lifeless 
minerals, plants, self-moving animals, and men 
capable of intelligence. 

But how is the influence of God upon this multi- 
form universe to be understood ? The changes 
cannot proceed immediately through Hirh. The 
animated orbs of stars, which are the cause of all 
transformations on earth, are not set in motion by 


God, but are impelled towards Him in longing and 
love, in order to partake of His perfection, His 
light, and His goodness. Through this ardent 
striving of the heavenly bodies to God comes their 
regular revolution, and in this manner they cause 
all changes in the world below the moon, in the 
circle of genesis and dissolution, through the recep- 
tion and loss of peculiar forms and shapes. This 
theory of God, of the universe, and the various 
motions of the different beings, Maimuni found 
indicated in Holy Writ and in many utterances of 
the Agada, but only in obscure allusions, as these 
writings, being designed for every one, not solely 
for the philosopher, could not and durst not, at the 
risk of occasioning gross misunderstanding, unveil 
the complete image of truth. 

More important than the analysis of this concep- 
tion of the world is Maimuni's presentation of his 
ideas on matters more nearly concerning mankind. 
Since God, the creator of the world, is perfect and 
all-good, the world cannot have been made other- 
wise than good, and in accordance with a purpose. 
" God saw that all was good," " From on high there 
comes no evil." The evils which exist in the world 
are not to be looked upon as the work of God, but 
merely as the absence of the good and the perfect, 
since gross matter is incapable of partaking of the 
good and the divine. God did not create sin, but sin 
arises from the nature of the coarse matter, which 
is defective in its constitution, and which can only 
receive and retain defectively that which is good. 
But this evil must be overcome. God has implanted 
in the soul of man, who is superior to all entities 
composed of gross matter, the capacity and instinct 
for knowledge. If the soul follows this instinct, it 
is assisted by the active reason which has been 
specially created for the purpose of opening up to 
the soul the source of the divine spirit, in order that 
it may understand the structure of the world and 


God's influence upon it, and that it may be enabled 
to lead a worthy life. Man can thereby raise him- 
self to the higher degree of the angels, and can 
conquer the frailties which arise out of his material 
body. Through this elevation to the higher abode 
of thought and to moral purity, and through mastery 
of his animal nature, man by his own will acquires a 
soul ; he makes himself a super>-earthly being, he 
wins for himself the immortality of the soul, and 
becomes united with the all-governing world-soul. 
The possibility of gaining this highest degree is 
vouchsafed to man with his freedom of will. 

And man can acquire and in a manner win God's 
special providence in the same way as he can 
acquire and win immortality through the action of 
his soul. For God's care extends only to what 
remains and endures. Even in the lower world of 
the four elements, this is felt in the preservation of 
the species, which by reason of their form and pur- 
pose are of a spiritual nature. If man raises him- 
self to the degree of a spirit, if he becomes master 
over matter, the providential eye of God will not 
pass him over. And as man can gain for himself, 
through moral and intellectual discipline, an immor- 
tal soul, so he incurs the highest penalty if his 
spiritual light is quenched through a sinful life, and 
is crushed by his material nature. 

Man has the power of acquiring still more ; he 
can, through an ideal life, come to possess the pro- 
phetic faculty, if he opens his mind by constant 
communion with God to the influences of the active 
reason. But it requires on the part of man cultiva- 
tion and concentration of the imagination, and on 
the part of God the emanation of His spirit. Since 
a lively, continually active imagination is the chief 
qualification for prophecy, it can develop only in a 
state similar to a dream, when the disturbing activity 
of the senses is relaxed, and the mind may freely 
resign itself to the influences from above. The pro- 


phesying of the prophets always occurred in a kind 
of dream. The Scriptural accounts of the actions and 
experiences of the prophets during their ecstatic con- 
dition, are not to be understood as being accounts 
of actual occurrences, but only of processes of the 
soul, as visions of the imagination. There are also 
different degrees of prophecy, according to the 
greater or less capacity requisite for them. Thus 
many miraculous tales in the Bible cease to appear 
supernatural and surprising, just as the hyperbolical 
style of the prophets is explicable on this theory. 
All this arises from the rule of the imagination and 
dream visions. Miracles are certainly not impossible. 
The same Creator who has established the laws of 
nature can also suspend them, but He does so only 
temporarily, that the old order may soon return, as 
when the waters of the Nile were changed into 
blood only for a short time, and the sea divided 
itself for the Israelites but for a few hours. The 
number of miracles in the Bible is, however, limited. 
Wonders are not, generally speaking, the means of 
verifying and confirming the declarations of the 
prophets ; they must be proved by the prophecies 
themselves, and the fulfilment of what they predict. 
Miracles do not prove them true. 

The most perfect of all prophets was that man 
of God with shining countenance, who brought to 
the world a religion which has exercised the pro- 
foundest sway over men's minds. The prophecy 
of Moses differed from that of later prophets in four 
essential points. He received the revelation with- 
out the mediation of another .spiritual being, that is, 
without the influence of the active reason or of an 
angel, but communed with the Deity " face to face 
and mouth to mouth." Secondly, Moses communed 
with God, not in a dream, when all activity of the 
senses ceases, but the higher teaching was granted 
to him whilst he was in an ordinary frame of mind. 
Moreover, his being was not disturbed or dissolved. 


by it, as in the case of other prophets when the 
spirit of God came upon them, but he could main- 
tain himself under it. Finally, Moses was continually 
in the prophetic mood, whereas this power came 
upon other men of God only after longer or shorter 
intervals, and then only after careful preparation. 
Moses possessed this prophetic perfection only 
because, through the elevation of his mind, he had 
liberated himself from the tyranny of his senses, 
from desire, and even from his imagination, and had 
won for himself the degree of an angel, or of a pure 
spirit. All coverings which blindfold the eye of the 
human mind, and disturb its view, he tore off, and 
penetrated to the fountain-head of truth. He 
attained to a degree such as no other mortal has 
reached, and therefore he was able also to recognize 
the Deity and His will with the undisturbed gaze 
of a pure spirit. The truth of the highest Being 
irradiated him without intermediation, and in trans- 
parent clearness, without word or speech. That 
which he perceived at such a height he brought to 
his people as a religion, as a revelation, and this 
truth, radiating immediately from the divinity, is the 

This revealed religion, originating from God, is 
unique, just as the mediator, through whom the 
truth was conveyed to man, is the only one of his 
kind. Being a divine doctrine it is perfect, and 
consequently there can be none which can abrogate 
its authority, and supersede it, just as there was 
none previous to it. 

The divinity of the Torah is proved by its- con- 
tents as by its origin. It contains not only laws 
and precepts, but also dogmas upon questions 
most important for man, and' this two-fold character 
is likewise a mark to distinguish it at once from 
other codes and from other religions. Besides, the 
laws of the Torah all aim at a higher purpose, so 
that there is nothing in it superfluous, nothing un- 


necessary, nothing gratuitous. The design of the 
revelation brought dovirn by Moses can be thus 
summarized : it was to promote the spiritual and 
physical welfare of those who received it, the one 
by inculcating correct ideas of God and His gov- 
ernment of the world, the other by enjoining prin- 
ciples of virtue and morality. Maimuni made an 
attempt to show that the six hundred and thirteen 
laws of the Torah, or of Judaism, tend to establish 
a true theory as to the Deity and His relation to 
the world, to oppose false and pernicious opinions, 
to uproot false ideas, to remove wrong and violence, 
to accustom- men to virtue, and finally to eliminate 
immorality and vice. Maimuni arranged all the 
obligations of Judaism under fourteen groups ac- 
cording to his scheme. 

Maimuni's ideal labor, to raise Judaism to the 
height of a philosophical system, was of the most 
wide-spread effect. For the thinkers of his time, 
Maimuni's religious philosophy was, indeed, a 
" Guide of the Perplexed." For to these men, who 
were dominated by the same principles, whose 
thinking, on the one hand, was Aristotelian, and 
whose feeling, on the other hand, was Jewish, but 
who, nevertheless, were conscious of a deep gulf 
between their thinking and their feeling, nothing 
could have been more welcome than the discovery 
of a bridge which led from the one to the other. 
Many things which had appeared to them offensive, 
or at least trivial, in the Bible, received through 
Maimuni's ingenious manner of interpretation a 
higher importance, a deeper sense, and became 
clear to their understanding. To posterity his 
philosophical work was both stimulating and sug- 
gestive. Judaism, viewed in the light of Maimuni's 
philosophy, no longer appeared to Jewish students 
as something strange, belonging to the past, an 
extinct and mere mechanical system, but as some- 
thing which belonged to themselves, a part of their 


consciousness, existing in the present, living in 
their thoughts and animating them. Jewish thinkers 
of all times after Maimuni have consequently had 
recourse to Maimuni's " Guide," have derived fruit- 
ful ideas from this source, and have even learnt 
from him to advance beyond his standpoint, and to 
combat him. And since in the end thinkers will 
always remain the guides and leaders of men, and 
the designers of their future, it can be said with 
justice, that Judaism is indebted to Maimuni for its 
rejuvenescence. So exclusively did he hold' sway 
over men of intellect, that for a long time his work 
completely supplanted the systems of his predeces- 
sors from Saadiah to Ibn-Daud. 

Maimuni's philosophical work, being written in 
Arabic, also exercised considerable influence be- 
yond the Jewish world. He had, it is true, com- 
posed it entirely for Jews, and it is said, moreover, 
that he strictly enjoined that it be copied entirely 
in Hebrew characters, so that it might not fall into 
the hands of the Mahometans, and provoke ani- 
mosity against his own people. ' He even cautioned 
his favorite disciple to use the utmost care in hand- 
ling the chapters sent to him, so that they might not 
be misused by Mahometans and wicked Jews ; but 
nevertheless this work became known to the Arabs, 
even in Maimuni's lifetime. A Mahometan wrote 
a profound exposition of the premises established 
by Maimuni to prove the existence of God. The 
chief founders of the Christian scholastic philosophy 
not only used Maimuni's work, which was translated 
into Latin at an early period, but for the first time 
learnt from it how to reconcile the diverging tend- 
encies of belief and philosophy. 

It ought scarcely to be urged against Maimuni, 
as a reproach, that, led by the philosophy of his 
time, he introduced strange and even incompatible 
elements into his system ; that he raised, instead 
of the God of Revelation, who is in complete sym- 


pathy with the human race, with the IsraeUtes, and 
with every individual, a metaphysical entity, who 
exists in cold seclusion and elevation, and who dare 
not concern Himself about His creatures, if His 
existence is not to evaporate as that of a mere 
phantasm. To this metaphysical God, he could 
attribute free-will only in a limited sense, whilst he 
practically denied Him altogether the possession 
of a complete personality. Judaism, however much 
Maimuni had its interests at heart, must be a loser 
by his system. As he could not accept the revela- 
tion of the Torah in the fullest sense as a commu- 
nication of the Deity to His people, he had to con- 
sider the greatest prophet in the light of a demi- 
god above mankind. The ideal of a perfectly pious 
man, according to Maimuni's conception, is attain- 
able by very few, and only by disciplined thinkers, 
who have the power of raising themselves to that 
rank through the long succession of degrees of 
knowledge, which are not within the grasp of every 
one. A merely moral and religious course of life 
is not sufficient, since God can be adored only by 
a soul endowed with philosophical intuition, and 
consequently only the few can arrive at immor- 
tality and future bliss, and have divine care vouch- 
safed them. Thus, according to Maimuni's theory, 
there 'are but very few elect. Lastly, Maimuni had 
to put a forced interpretation on verses of Scrip- 
ture, in order to make them harmonize with the 
results of philosophical thought. 

Maimuni's intelligent contemporaries, and even 
his favorite pupil, Joseph Ibn-Aknin, felt that his 
theory was not quite consistent with Judaism. This 
feeling made itself especially noticeable in regard 
to the belief in the resurrection. Maimuni had 
certainly reckoned it among the articles of belief, 
but he had laid no stress upon it ; there was no 
place for it in his philosophical system. From 
many sides, it was charged against him that, while 


he had made an exhaustive examination of the 
question of immortality, he had dismissed the doc- 
trine of resurrection with a few words. Maimuni 
now felt that he owed it to himself to compose a 
vindication in the form of a treatise on the resur- 
rection of the dead, which he wrote in Arabic in 
119 1. Therein he affirms that he firmly believes 
in the resurrection, and that it is a miracle whose 
possibility is assumed with the belief- in a creation 
in time. He complains in the book of being mis- , 
understood. This composition is written in an 
irritable mood, which contrasts greatly with the 
calmness of his former works. He was annoyed 
that he had to justify himself to " fools and women." 

Among the learned Mahometans, Maimuni's 
" Guide " made much stir, but was severely con- 
demned by them, partly on account of his covert 
attacks upon Islam and the barren but orthodox 
philosophy which reigned at that time, and partly 
on account of his broad views. Abdel-latif, the 
representative of orthodoxy in the Islam world of 
the East, who had been patronized by Saladin, and 
had come to Egypt in order to make the acquaint- 
ance of Maimuni (probably early in 1192), speaks 
of him, it is true, with respect, but animadverts 
strongly upon his work. He expressed himself 
about him in the following manner : " Moses, the 
son of Maimun, visited me, and I found him to be 
a man of very high merit, but governed by an 
ambition to take the first place, and to make him- 
self acceptable to men in power. Besides medical 
works, he has written a philosophical book for the 
Jews, which I have read ; I consider it a bad book, 
which is calculated to undermine the principles of 
religion through the very means which are appar- 
ently designed to strengthen them." 

Nowhere did Maimuni's ideas find more fruitful 
ground, and nowhere were they adopted with more 
readiness than in the Jewish congregations of 


southern France, where prosperity, the free form 
of government, and the agitation of the Albigenses 
against austere clericaHsm, had awakened a taste 
for scientific investigation, and where Ibn-Ezra, the 
Tibbon and the Kimchi families, had scattered seeds 
of Jewish cuhure. The less the men of southern 
France were able of themselves to reconcile Judaism 
with the results of science, the more did they occupy 
themselves with the writings of the sage who in so 
convincing a manner showed that pure and earnest 
devotion to religion was compatible with a taste for 
free research, and whose works revealed circum- 
spection, clearness, deliberation and depth. Not 
only laymen, but even profound Talmudists, like 
Jonathan Cohen, of Liinel, idolized him, eagerly 
absorbed his every word, and paid him profound 
homage. " Since the death of the last rabbis of the 
Talmud, there has not been such a man in Israel." 

Among the rules of health which Maimuni drew 
up for Alafdhal, who had become ruler of Egypt, 
he threw in the observation that the strengthening 
of the soul through moral living and philosophical 
reflection was requisite for the preservation of a 
strong body ; that immoderate enjoyment of wine 
and love destroyed vitality. He had the boldness 
to say to a wayward prince something that no 
courtier of the age had the courage to tell him. 
He was determined not to be unfaithful to his call- 
ing as a physician of the soul. Maimuni himself 
fell sick, and was much worn out by his medical 
practice, and much affected by political changes. 
As soon as he had recovered, and calm was restored, 
he answered certain questions which had some 
time before been directed to him from Liinel. In 
his missive he excuses himself on the ground that 
his senses were disturbed, his mental power weak- 
ened, and his capacities blunted, yet his arguments 
testify against him, for they display perfect clearness 
and freshness of mind. 


The great veneration which the congregations 
of southern France felt for Maimuni's writings, and 
especially for his code, aroused against him a violent 
antagonist in the person of Abraham ben David, 
of Posquieres, whose inconsiderate manner of deal- 
ing with those who represented an opposite line of 
thought to himself had been experienced by Serachya 
Halevi Gerundi. This profound Talmudist sub- 
jected Maimuni's Mishne-Torah to scathing criti- 
cism, and treated him in a contemptuous manner. 
He maintained that the author had not thoroughly 
grasped many Talmudical passages, had miscon- 
strued their sense, and had thus drawn many false 
conclusions. He reproached him for desiring to 
bring Talmudical authorities into oblivion by reduc- 
ing the Talmud to a code, and lastly for smuggling 
philosophical notions into Judaism. But he by no 
means treated Maimuni as an innovator and a 
heretic ; on the contrary, he did justice to his 
opinions and his noble aim. Abraham ben David's 
strictures (Hassagoth) upon Maimuni's work gave 
occasion to the Talmudists of a later time to indulge 
their casuistical tendencies, and gave a great im- 
pulse to the taste for disputation. The rich, learned, 
and impulsive rabbi of Posquieres also had his 
admirers. When he died (Friday, 26th Kislev — 
,27th Nov., 1 198), descendants of Aaron, who are 
not allowed to enter a cemetery, made his grave, 
since before such greatness as his the priesthood 
may sink its sacred character. 

The polemic of Abraham ben David against 
Maimuni in no way prejudiced the latter's consid- 
eration among the congregations of Provence ; he 
remained for them an infallible authority. The 
chief representative of Jewish-Provengal culture, 
Samuel Ibn-Tibbon, wrote to Maimuni that he was 
busying himself with the rendering of the " Guide " 
from Arabic .into Hebrew, and that he longed to 
see the greatest man in the Jewish world face to 


face. Ibn-Tibbon thereby anticipated a wish of 
Maimuni's, for the latter contemplated translat- 
ing his work into Hebrew. Full of joy he replied 
to Ibn-Tibbon, and gave him some advice how to 
handle so difficult a thence (8th Tishri — loth Sep- 
tember, 1 199). He dissuaded him, however, from 
making the perilous voyage from France to Egypt 
on his account, as he would scarcely be able to 
devote to him an hour of his time. He took the 
occasion to inform him of his manifold occupations, 
which allowed him scarcely a moment's rest : " The 
Sultan (Alafdhal) lives in Cairo, and I in Fostat ; the 
two towns lie at a distance of two Sabbath journeys 
(about a mile and a third) from each other. With 
the Sultan I have a hard time ; I must visit him 
daily in the morning, and when he, or any of his 
children, or one of the women of his harem is 
suffering, I may not leave Cairo. Even when 
nothing particular happens, I cannot come home 
till after mid-day. When I enter my house, dying 
of hunger, I find the hall thronged with people — 
Jews, Mahometans, illustrious and otherwise, friends 
and foes, a motley crowd — who await my advice as 
a physician. There scarcely remains time for me 
to alight from my horse, wash myself, and take 
some refreshment. Thus it continues till night, 
and then, worn out with weakness, I must retire to 
bed. Only on Sabbath have I time to occupy 
myself with the congregation and with the Law. 
I am accustomed on this day to dispose of the 
affairs of the community for the following week, and 
to hold a discourse. Thus my days glide away." 

It may be that the congregation of Liinel was not 
aware that Samuel Ibn-Tibbon was engaged with 
the translation of the " Guide," or did not give him 
credit for ability in that direction ; however it was, 
some of its members applied to Maimuni to trans- 
late this work for them into Hebrew. Maimuni 
pleaded want of time in excuse, and referred them 


to Ibn-Tibbon (about 1200). He seized the oppor- 
tunity also to exhort the Provencal Jews to grapple 
with the scientific treatment of the Talmud. " You, 
members of the congregation of Liinel and of the 
neighboring towns, are the only ones who raise 
aloft the banner of Moses. You apply yourselves 
to the study of the Talmud, and also cherish wis- 
dom. But in the East the Jews are dead to spiritual 
labors. In the whole of Syria only a few in Haleb 
occupy themselves with the study of the Torah, but 
even they have it not much at heart. In Irak there 
are only two or three grapes (men of insight) ; ift 
Yemen and the rest of Arabia they know little of 
the Talmud, and are acquainted only with the 
Agadic exposition. Only just lately have they 
purchased copies of my Code, and distributed them 
in a few circles. The Jews of India know little 
of the Bible, much less of the Talmud. Those who 
live among the Turks and Tartars have the Bible 
only, and live according to it alone. In Maghreb 
you know what is the position of the Jews (that 
they must affect the profession of Islam). Thus it 
remains with you alone to be a strong support to our 
religion. Therefore, be firm, and of good courage, 
and be united in your work." Maimuni felt that 
enlightened Judaism would have its chief advocacy 
in Provence. The congregation of Marseilles re- 
quested the poet Charisi to translate Maimuni's 
Commentary to the Mishna into Hebrew. The Pro- 
vencals took this great man and his writings as a 
guide in all their actions. 

When Maimuni despatched his last missive to 
the congregation of Liinel, he felt the decadence of 
his powers : " I feel old, not in years, but on account 
of feebleness." He died from weakness at the age 
of seventy years (20th Tebet — 13th Dec, 1204), 
mourned by many congregations in all lands. In 
Fostat, both Jews and Mahometans publicly 
mourned for him for three days. In Jerusalem 

CH. XIV. UEATH OF maimonides. 493 

the congregation held a special funeral service for 
him. A general fast was appointed, and the chap- 
ter containing the penalties for breaking God's 
commandments was read from the Torah, and from 
the Prophets the story of the capture of the Ark of 
the Covenant by the Philistines. His earthly re- 
mains were conveyed to Tiberias. Maimuni left 
only one son, Abulmeni Abraham, who inherited 
his father's character, his mildness, his sincere piety, 
his medical knowledge, his place as physician in 
ordinary, his dignity as chief (Nagid) of the Egyp- 
tian community, but not his intellect. His descend- 
ants, who can be traced till the fifteenth century, were 
distinguished for their piety and their knowledge 
of the Talmud. On the lips of all his reverers there 
hovered the brief but suggestive praise : " From 
Moses, the prophet, till Moses (Maimuni) there has 
not appeared his equal." An unknown person 
placed on his grave a short, almost idolatrous in- 
scription : 

" Here lies a man, and still no man ; 
If thou wert a man, angels of heaven 
Must have overshadowed thy mother." 

These lines were afterwards effaced, and the follow- 
ing substituted : 

" Here lies Moses Maimuni, the excommunicated heretic." 

These two inscriptions shadow forth the bitter dif- 
ferences which broke out after Maimuni's death, and 
divided Judaism Into two camps. 



Effects of the Death of Maimuni — Abraham Maimuni and Joseph 
Ibn-Aknin — Hostility of the Papacy against the Jews — Pope 
Innocent III — The Albigenses— Emigration of Rabbis to Pales- 
tine — The Lateran Council and the Jewish Badges— Synod of 
Rabbis at Mayence— The Dominicans and the Rise of the Inqui- 
sition — King Jayme of Aragon and his Physician Bachiel — 
Stephen Langton and the Jews of England — Gregory IX and 
Louis IX of France — The Jews of Hungary. 

1205—1232 c. E. 

Maimuni, the most intellectual rabbi and the deep 
religious philosopher, constitutes the zenith in 
mediaeval Jewish history, and soon after his death 
the shadows begin to incline. Gradually the sun- 
shine lessens, and gives way to disrnal gloom. His 
intellectual bequest produced a far-reaching cleavage, 
which divided Judaism, or its leaders, into two hos- 
tile camps, and aroused a weakening, factional spirit 
which presented points of attack to deadly foes.. 
The Church, whose arrogance was constantly gain- 
ing ground, interfered in the disputes of Judaism, 
and brought into play against the refractory Syna- 
gogue seductive allurements, terrifying punishments, 
secret poison, or blazing fire. Maimuni's death and 
the ascendancy of the papacy were two misfortunes 
for Judaism which removed it from its lofty position 
to the deepest degradation. 

Maimuni's death not only produced a gap and a 
standstill in the spiritual aspirations of the Jews, 
but deprived them of a dignified and mighty leader, 
who had been able to bring together under one 
standard a people scattered all over the world. To 
him the congregations in the East and West had 



freely submitted, he had had prudent counsel for 
every contingency ; but after his departure the Jews 
stood without a leader, and Judaism without a guide. 
His son, Abulmeni Abraham Maimuni (born 1185, 
died 1254), certainly inherited his deep sense of 
religion, his amiable, peace-loving character, his 
high dignity as supreme head (Nagid) of the Egyp- 
tian Jews, and his position as court physician to 
Saladin's successors ; but his intellect and energy 
were not transmitted to him. Abraham Maimuni 
was skilled in medicine, was physician in ordinary 
of the Sultan Alkamel — a brother of Saladin — and 
presided over the hospital at Cairo, together with 
the physician and Arabic historian Ibn-Abi Obsai- 
biya. He was likewise a Talmudical scholar, de- 
fended the learning of his father with Talmudical 
weapons, and delivered rabbinical judgments. He 
was also well versed in philosophy, and composed 
a work to reconcile the Agada with the philoso- 
phical ideas of the time. But Abraham Maimuni 
was a man of learning, not of original, intellectual 
power. He followed with slavish fidelity in the foot- 
steps of his great father, and appropriated his 
method of thought, surrendering his own intellect- 
ual independence. Abraham made the Maimunist 
system of teaching his own. Hence it happens, 
that what is striking originality in the father, ap- 
pears in the son as a copy and an insignificant com- 
monplace. Abraham Maimuni, it is true, enjoyed 
wide-spread esteem, but he was by no means 
an authority compelling attention and claiming sub- 

In Europe, too, there were no men of command- 
'ng influence after the death of Maimuni. There 
appeared local, but not generally recognized authori- 
ties. There existed no man who could step into 
the breach to pronounce the right v/ord at the 
proper moment, and point out the right way to 
wavering minds. If Maimuni had had a successor 

49^ HISTORY O^ fHfi JEWS. CH. XV. 

of his own spirit and character, the dissensions be- 
tween the faithful and those who interpreted the 
Bible literally would not have effected such great 
disasters, nor would mysticism have been able to 
lure men's minds into its web. 

Whilst Judaism was thus left without a leader, 
there sprang up against it, in the early part of the 
thirteenth century, a power, exercising ruthless, in- 
exorable oppression, such as had not been practised 
against it since the time of Hadrian. The pope 
Innocent III, who was the father of all the evils 
experienced by the European nations up to the 
time of the Lutheran reformation : the tyrannical 
domination of the Roman Church over princes and 
peoples, the enslaving and abasing of the human 
mind, the persecution of free thought, the institution 
of the Inquisition, the auto-da-fe against heretics, 
i. e., against those who dared doubt the infallibility of 
the Roman Bishop ; — he was also the pope Innocent 
III who was an embittered enemy of Jews and 
Judaism, and dealt severer blows against them than 
any of his predecessors. 

The little band of Jews was like a thorn in the 
side of the mighty potentate of the Church, who 
enthroned and dethroned kings, distributed crowns 
and countries, and who, through his army of papal 
legates, spies, Dominican and Franciscan monks, 
with their bloodthirsty piety, had subjugated the 
whole of Europe, from the Atlantic ocean to Con- 
stantinople, and from the Mediterranean to the 
Arctic regions. This handful of human beings, with 
their clear intellect, their purified faith, their moral 
force and their superior culture, was a silent protest 
against Roman arrogance. At the beginning of 
his reign. Innocent, although not exactly well-dis- 
posed to the Jews, was at least ready, like his pre- 
decessors, to protect them from unjust treatment. 
New crusades were now being preached against 
the Sultanate of Egypt, which had declined in power 


since the death of Saladin, in order to wrest from 
its control the Holy City. The crusaders, now that 
they had obtained a remission of sins, might say, 
"We -may commit offenses, since the taking up of 
the Cross has absolved us from all sins, ay, and 
even enables us to redeem the souls of sinners 
from purgatory." Jew-baiting, compulsory baptism, 
plundering and assassination, were once more the 
order of the day. The Jews, seeing that tbey 
needed special protection, appealed to Innocent to 
curb the violence of the crusaders. Most graciously 
did he vouchsafe them that which the leader of any 
respectably organized band of brigands would not 
have refused. The Jews were not to be dragged 
by force to be converted, neither were they to be 
robbed, injured, or killed without judicial sanction. 
They were not to be molested during their festivals 
by being whipped, and having stones thrown at 
them ; and, lastly, their cemeteries were to be 
respected, and their dead were neither to be dis- 
interred nor dishonored. So much had Christianity 
degenerated, that decrees like these, and a consti- 
tution (Constitutio Judaeorum) like this, had to be 
promulgated for the sake of the Jews. So deluded 
were its leaders, that the head of the Church passed 
these resolutions, not from the simple motive of 
humanity, but from a perverse notion that the Jews 
must be preserved, so that the miracle of their 
general conversion to Jesus might have an oppor- 
tunity of being accomplished. 

The Jews, who by the experience of a thousand 
years had learnt the art of recognizing foes and 
friends behind their masks, were by no means 
mistaken as to the real sentiments of Innocent 
towards them. When Don Pedro II, King of 
Aragon, returned home from his journey to Rome 
(Dec, 1204), where he had caused himself to be 
anointed and crowned by the Pope, receiving at 
the same time his territory as tributary to Peter's 


chair, the Aragonian congregations were in great 
anxiety as to what might befall them. Don Pedro 
had taken an oath, that he would persecute all 
heretics then in his country, defend the liberties 
and rights of the Church, and faithfully obey the 
Pope. What if the liberty of the Church should be 
interpreted thus : That the Jews were either to be 
driven out of the land, or degraded to the position 
of bondmen ! The Aragonian Jews, apprehending 
something of ihe sort, appealed to their God in 
fervent prayer, appointed a general fast, and, with 
a scroll of the Torah, assembled to meet the king 
on his return. Their fear on this occasion, how- 
ever, was groundless. Don Pedro, who .was not 
very warm in his allegiance to the Pope, and was 
intent only on strengthening his own power, had 
no thought of persecuting the Jews. Besides, 
owing to his periodic money difificulties, he could 
not do without them ; he had become their debtor. 
Innocent, however, watched the princes with a jealous 
eye, lest they should concede to the Jews anything 
beyond the bare right to live. The French king, 
Philip Augustus — the arch-enemy of the Jews, who, 
having tortured and plundered them, had driven 
them out of his country, and recalled them only 
because of his pecuniary embarrassments — was 
reprimanded by the Pope for favoring the Jews. 
The Pope wrote that it offended his sight that some 
princes should prefer the descendants of the cruci- 
fiers to the heirs of the crucified Christ, as if the 
son of the bond-woman could ever be the heir of 
the son of the free-woman ; that it had reached his 
ears that in France the Jews had obtained posses- 
sion, through usury, of the property of the Church 
and of the Christians, and that, in spite of the reso- 
lution of the Lateran Council, under Alexander III, 
they kept Christian servants and nurses in their 
houses ; and further, that Christians were not ad- 
mitted as witnesses against the Jews, which was 


also contrary to the resolution of that assembly ; 
and again, that the community of Sens had built a 
new synagogue which was situated higher than the 
church of that neighborhood, and in which prayers 
were read, not quietly, as before the expulsion, but 
so loudly as to interrupt the divine service in the 
church. Lastly, Innocent censured the king of 
France for allowing the Jews too much liberty. 
They had the audacity during the Easter week to 
appear in the streets and villages, scoffing at the 
faithful for worshiping a crucified God, and thus 
turning them away from their faith. He vehemently 
repeated the diabolical calumny that the Jews 
secretly assassinated Christians. As to the public 
and daily murders of Jews, the chief of the Church 
had little to say. He exhorted Philip Augustus to 
maintain true Christian zeal in oppressing the Jews, 
and did not fail to mention at the same time that 
the heretics in his country ought to be exterminated. 
The spiritual ruler of Europe could find no rest 
while Jews and heretics remained. In the same 
year (May, 1205), Innocent wrote a sharp pastoral 
letter to the king of Castile, Alfonso the Noble, a 
protector of the Jews, because he would not suffer 
the priests to deprive the Jews of their Mahometan 
slaves by causing them to be baptized, or to collect 
tithes from the farms of Jews and Mahometans. The 
Pope threatened the proud Spanish king with the 
displeasure of the Church, if he should continue to 
allow the Synagogue to thrive, and the Church to 
be reduced. Innocent insisted upon the Jews' pay- 
ing tithes to the clergy on all lands which they had 
acquired from the Christians, so that the Church, 
whose power depended so much on money, should 
suffer no loss. His plan of coercion, to give force 
to his directions, was indirect excommunication. 
As he could not punish Jews with excommunica- 
tion, he threatened to inflict that penalty on Chris- 
tians who carried on any intercourse with such 
Jews as would not humor his apostolic caprice. 


The deep prejudice of Innocent against the 
Jewish race was made still more evident by a de- 
nunciatory letter which he wrote to Count Nevers, 
who was favorably disposed to the Jews. Because 
this count did not embitter the lives of the latter, 
and abstained from molesting them, the Pope wrote 
to him thus (1208) : " The Jews, like the fratricide 
Cain, are doomed to wander about the earth as 
fugitives and vagabonds, and their faces must be 
covered with shame. They are under no circum- 
stances to be protected by Christian princes, but, 
on the contrary, to be condemned to serfdom. It 
is, therefore, discreditable for Christian princes to 
receive Jews into their towns and villages, and to 
employ them as usurers in order to extort money 
from Christians. They (the princes) arrest Chris- 
tians who are indebted to Jews, and allow the Jews 
to take Christian castles and villages in pledge ; 
and the worst of the matter is that the Church in 
this manner loses its tithes. It is scandalous that 
Christians should have their cattle slaughtered, and 
their grapes pressed by Jews, who are thus enabled 
to take their portion, prepared according to their 
religious precepts, and hand over the leavings to 
the Christians. A still greater sin is it that this 
wine prepared by Jews should be used in the 
church for the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. 
Whilst the Christians are excommunicated for 
favoring the Jews, and their land is laid under the 
ban, the Jews are all the time laughing in their 
sleeves at the fact that, on their account, the harps 
of the Church are hung on willows, and that the 
priests are deprived of their revenues." Innocent 
in his pastoral letter threatened Count de Nevers, 
as well as his supporters, with the severest 
punishment which the Church was capable of in- 
flicting in the event of their continuing to favor the 
Jews. He was the first pope who directed against 
the Jews the burning fury and inhuman severity of 


the Church. Everything provoked his wrath against 
them ; he begrudged them the very air and Hght, 
and only a delusive hope restrained him from openly 
preaching a crusade and a war of annihilation against 
them. Innocent was well aware why he so thor- 
oughly abhorred Jews and Judaism. He hated 
those among them who indirectly agitated against 
the rotten form of Christianity, upon which the 
papacy had built its power. The aversion of the 
truly God-fearing and moral Christians to the arro- 
gance, unchastity, and insatiable covetousness of 
the hierarchy had in some measure been prompted 
by the Jews. The Albigenses in southern France, 
who were branded as heretics, and who were the 
most resolute opponents of the papacy, had im- 
bibed their hostility from intercourse with educated 
Jews. Amongst the Albigenses there was a sect 
which unhesitatingly declared the Jewish Law pref- 
erable to that of the Christians. The eye of Inno- 
cent was, therefore, directed to the Jews of the 
south of France, as well as to the Albigenses, in 
order to check their influence on the minds of the 
Christians. Count Raymund VI of Toulouse and 
St. Gilles, styled by the troubadours and singers of 
that time " Raymund the Good," who was looked 
upon as a friend of the Albigenses, and conse- 
quently cruelly harassed, was also credited by the 
Pope with favoring the Jews. In the list of trans- 
gressions which he drew up against the count, 
Innocent charged him with the crime of employing 
Jewish officials in his state, and of generally favor- 
ing the Jews. In the bloody crusade which the 
Pope opened against him and the Albigenses, the 
Jewish communities of southern France necessarily 
came in for their share of suffering. Raymund was 
humbled, and had to submit to being dragged into 
the church naked, and scourged by the papal legate, 
Milo. He was also forced to confess that, amongst 
other sins, he had committed the gross crime of 


entrusting public offices to Jews., Thereupon the 
legate ordered him, under penalty of losing his 
dignity, to humbly take an oath that he would dis- 
charge all Jewish officials in his country, that he 
would never again appoint them, and never admit 
any Jews to either public or private offices. The 
unfortunate prince was compelled, the sword being 
pointed at his breast, to make and to repeat this 
declaration (June, 1209). Thirteen barons who 
were connected with Raymund, and were regarded 
as protectors of the Albigenses, were similarly 
forced by Milo to give an assurance on oath that 
they would depose their Jewish officers, and that 
they would never again place any public trust in 
their hands. In the meantime, a fanatical crusading 
army was organized against the Albigenses at the 
instigation of the Pope and the bloodthirsty monk, 
Arnold of Citeaux. It was led by the ambitious 
and rapacious Count Simon de Montfort, and it 
marched against the Viscount Raymund Roger and 
his capital Beziers. Roger was doubly hated by 
the Pope and his legate as the secret friend of the 
Albigensian heretics, and as the protector of the 
Jews. On the aad July (1209) the beautiful city of 
Beziers was stormed, and its inhabitants were mas- 
sacred in the name of God. " We spared neither 
dignity, nor sex, nor age," wrote Arnold, the man 
of blood, to the Pope, " nearly 20,000 human beings 
have perished by the sword. After the massacre 
the town was plundered and burnt, and the revenge 
of God seemed to rage upon it in a wonderful 
manner." Even orthodox Catholics were not 
spared, and to the question of the crusaders as 
to how the orthodox were to be distinguished from 
the heretics, Arnold answered, " Strike down ; Gcd 
will recognize His own." Under these circumstances, 
the flourishing and cultured Jewish communities of 
Beziers had still less reason to hope for any indul- 
gence. The result was that two hundred Jews were 


cut down, and a large number thrown into captivity. 
The Jews, on their side, marlced this year of the 
Albigensian crusade as a " year of mourning." 

In consequence of the diplomatic victory over 
Raymund of Toulouse, and the military victory over 
Raymund Roger of Beziers, the intolerant Church 
had acquired supremacy not only in the south of 
France, but everywhere else. The audacity of free- 
thinkers, who claimed the right to form their own 
opinion upon religion, the Holy Scripture, or upon 
the position of the clergy, was punished by blood- 
shed. In the Church language of that epoch, the 
Pope had to wield the spiritual and the secular 
sword. Those who thought rationally were killed, 
and independent thinking was branded as a crime. 
The disciples of the philosopher, Amalarlch of Bena, 
who maintained that Rome was licentious Babylon, 
and the Pope, the Antichrist ; that he dwelt on the 
Mount of Olives, i. e., in the luxury of power, and that 
intelligent men, who considered that to build altars 
for saints, and to worship the bones of martyrs 
was idolatry, were burnt as blasphemers in Paris. 
Philosophical writings which were brought over to 
France from Spain, and which might have enriched 
or fertilized Christian theology, amongst others the 
works of the great Jewish philosopher, Solomon 
Gebirol, which had been translated by order of an 
archbishop, were interdicted, and forbidden to be 
read by the Parisian synod. The light which was 
just dawning on the nations of Europe was extin- 
guished by the representatives of the Church. 

The Jews of southern France and of Spain were 
the only apostles of higher learning. But the 
Church begrudged them even this glory, and 
worked with all its might to degrade them. The 
Council of Avignon (Sept. 1209), presided over by 
the papal legate, Milo, at which Count Raymund 
was again laid under the ban, and at which the 
severest measures were passed against heretics. 


resolved that all barons of free cities should take an 
oath that they would entrust no office whatever to 
Jews, nor allow Christian servants to be employed 
in Jewish houses. One of the ordinances of this 
council prohibited the Jews from working on Sunday 
and all Christian holidays, and also forbade them to 
eat meat on Christian fast-days. Everywhere the 
Jews felt the heavy hand of the Romish Church, 
which stretched forth unhindered to degrade them 
to the dust. 

In England, the Jews had at that time three 
enemies : the licentious, unprincipled John Lack- 
land, who shrank from no expedient to extort money 
from them ; the hostile barons, who saw in them the 
source of the king's wealth, by depriving them of 
which they thought to gain the means of damaging 
the power of the king ; and, lastly, Stephen Lang- 
ton, whom the Pope had appointed Archbishop of 
Canterbury, and who had introduced the tyrannical 
spirit of the Church into England, At the begin- 
ning of his reign. King John assumed the appear- 
ance of friendship towards them, for as he had 
usurped the crown of his nephew, and in conse- 
quence had France and a part of the English 
nobility against him, he naturally sought to win 
over to his side the moneyed classes of the people. 
He appointed a Talmudical scholar, Jacob of Lon- 
don, as chief rabbi over all the English com- 
munities (presbyteratus omnium Judseorum totius 
Anglise), and all his subjects were warned against 
attacking either his property or his dignity. The 
king called this chief rabbi his " dear friend." 
Every outrage that was offered to the latter was 
looked upon by the king as a personal insult to 
himself. He further renewed and confirmed the 
privileges and liberties of the Jews which they had 
received from Henry I, including the remarkable 
provision that a Christian was bound to prefer his 
complaint against a Jew before a Jewish tribunal. 


The Jews, it is true, had to pay much money — 4000 
silver marks — for these generous concessions. But 
it was a great boon that they received protection 
and freedom of movement in return for their money. 
When the Jews were in peril from a London mob, 
John wrote a threatening letter to the authorities of 
the capital, reproaching them with the fact that, whilst 
the Jews in other parts of England were unmolested, 
those of London were exposed to injury, and stating 
that he would hold them responsible for all bodily 
and material damage suffered by the Jews. As, 
however, John proceeded to quarrel more and more 
with his barons, and became involved in oppressive 
money difficulties, he gradually abandoned his mild 
demeanor, which had never been genuine, and 
adopted a totally different attitude towards the 
Jews. On one occasion he imprisoned all the 
English Jews in order to extort money from them 
(12 10), and he demanded from one Jew of Bristol 
alone the sum of 10,000 marks of silver. As the 
latter could not, or would not pay, John had his 
teeth extracted one by one. 

The crushing antipathy against them from all 
sides, and their yearning for the Holy Land, which 
the poet Jehuda Halevi had aroused, induced more 
than 300 rabbis of France and England to emigrate 
to Jerusalam (121 1). The most renowned of them 
were Jonathan Cohen of Llinel, who had been in 
correspondence with Maimuni, and was one of his 
admirers, and Samson ben Abraham, an opponent 
of the school of Maimonides. Many of the emi- 
grants stopped on their way at Cairo in order to 
make the acquaintance of Maimuni's son, who re- 
ceived them with great respect and joy. Only 
Samson ben Abraham, the exponent of a one-sided 
Judaism, avoided meeting the son of the man whom 
he considered almost a heretic. 

The French and English emigrants, who were 
honorably received, and provided with privileges by 


the Sultan Aladil, Saladin's able brother, lost no 
time in building houses of prayer and learning in 
Jerusalem, and transplanted the Tossafists' method 
of exposition to the East. Intellectual activity, even 
in the field of the Talmud, did not, however, thrive 
in the Holy City. It seemed as if the curse of 
heaven had fallen upon this once glorious, and now 
distressed city, for since the Roman legions, under 
Titus -and Hadrian, had struck down her noblest 
sons, she had become altogether barren. Not a 
single man of importance had sprung up in the city 
since the destruction of the Synhedrion. Jerusalem, 
like the whole of Palestine, was notable only on 
account of its illustrious dead. Pious men, who 
yearned for the home of their ancestors, searched 
only for their graves, for living fountains were no 
longer there, Jonathan Cohen and his associates 
conscientiously visited the spot upon which the 
Temple had once stood, the graves of the patri- 
archs, kings, prophets and doctors of the Mishna, 
and wept, and prayed upon the ruins of departed 
glory. They met the Exilarch David, of Mosul, 
who bore a letter of recommendation from the 
Caliph Alnasir Ledin Allah, which secured him free 
access to every place of interest. In the East the 
Jews were still allowed to maintain a certain show 
of dignity ; caliphs and sultans, the wielders of the 
spiritual and the worldly might, granted them so 
much — for money. In Europe, however, the very 
lives of the Jews were continually in peril from 
a fanaticism which was ever being goaded into 

The Almohade Prince of the Faithful, Mahomet 
Alnasir, of northern Africa, had called to arms the 
entire male population at his disposal for a holy war 
against the increasing power of the Christians in 
Mahometan Spain, and led at least half a million 
warriors across the sea into Andalusia. The strong 
city of Salvatierra, In spite of the gallant defense of 


the knightly order of Calatrava, fell into the hands 
of the Mahometans (September, 121 1). In this 
long siege, the Jewish community of Salvatierra 
was destroyed, and a remnant fled to Toledo. 
The Christian kings of Spain, terrified by this 
danger, laid aside their mutual hostilities in order 
to oppose the powerful enemy with united forces. 
But as the Christian population of Spain did not 
feel itself strong enough to undertake a war 
against the Mahometans, Alfonso the Noble, King 
of Castile, appealed to Innocent to decree a general 
crusade against the Crescent, and the Pope very 
readily consented. Thus it was that many European 
warriors crossed the Pyrenees, amongst them the 
bloodthirsty Cistercian monk, Arnold, with his 
troops, who had assured themselves of future bliss 
by all sorts of barbarities practised on the Albi- 
genses and the Jews of the south of France. The 
wrath of the Ultramontanes, as they were called, in 
contradistinction to the Spanish warriors, against 
everything that was not Roman Catholic had risen 
to the point of frenzy ; they took umbrage at the 
comparatively happy state of the Jews in the 
Spanish capital, at their wealth, their freedom, and 
their importance at court. These foreign crusaders, 
animated by Arnold's violent fanaticism, suddenly 
attacked the Jews of Toledo, and killed many of 
them (June, 12 12), and all the Jews would have 
fared very badly, had not the noble Alfonso inter- 
fered in their behalf, and had not the Christian 
knights and citizens of Toledo, animated by a sense 
of honor, repelled the attacks of the fanatics. This 
was the first persecution of the Jews in Castile, the 
attack, however, being made by foreigners, and dis- 
approved by the natives. 

The Church, however, soon educated the Spanish 
kings and the people to become the enemies of the 
Jews. The extraordinary change of sentiment to- 
wards the Jews which had set in since Innocent's 


pontificate was shown by a resolution of the Synod 
of Paris of the same year. King Louis VII, and 
even his son Philip, had stoutly resisted the canon- 
ical institute which provided that the Jews were 
not to employ Christian servants. But now the 
French councils, under the presidency of the papal 
legates, and with the consent of the king, sought to 
extend this narrow-minded provision, so that not only 
was a Christian woman prohibited from nursing a 
Jewish child, but a Christian midwife was not even 
allowed to attend upon a Jewish woman in confine- 
ment, because Christians, who stayed with Jews, took 
a liking to Judaism. It was with reason, therefore, 
that the Jews, on hearing of the formation of a new 
council, were greatly alarmed lest they should be 
subjected to a new species of tyranny. When, 
therefore, the papal legate, Peter, of Benevento, 
convened a synod in Montpellier (beginning of 
1 2 14), to which he invited priests and laymen, in. 
order completely to divest the Count* of Toulouse 
of his dominions, and hand them over to Simon de 
Montfort, and to adopt the severest measures 
against the remnant of the Albigenses, the Jews of 
the south of France felt that a great danger was 
menacing them, and at once took steps to avert it. 
At the instance of the illustrious Don Isaac (Zag) 
Benvenlste, physician in ordinary to the king of 
Aragon, many Jewish congregations sent each two 
deputies to use their influence with clergymen and 
laymen, that no new restrictions might be imposed 
upon the Jews. And it seems that they succeeded 
in warding off the danger ; for the council of Mont- 
pellier omitted all mention of the Jews in its delib- 

Hardly had this local danger been averted, when 
another and more general one appeared to be ad- 
vancing. This threw all those Jews who received 
tidings of it into the greatest consternation. Inno- 
cent III had, through an encyclical, pastoral letter, 


convoked to Rome the representatives of entire 
Christendom for a general