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Title: History of the Jews, Vol. III (of 6)
Author: Graetz, Heinrich
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "History of the Jews, Vol. III (of 6)" ***

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    VOL. III

    MAHOMETANS (1291 C. E.)




    COPYRIGHT, 1894,




  The Zendik Religion--King Kobad and Mazdak the Reformer--Revolt
  of the Jews--Mar-Zutra--Revival of the Schools--The Saburaïm--
  The Talmud committed to writing--Tolerance of Chosru II--The
  Christianization of Judæa--The Jews under Byzantine Rule--
  Justinian--Persecution of the Samaritans--Benjamin of Tiberias
  --Attack on Tyre--The Emperor Heraclius                  _page_ 1

  500-628 C. E.



  Growth of the Jews in Europe--The Communities in Constantinople
  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 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       _page_ 53

  500-662 C. E.



  The Conquests of Islam--Omar's Intolerance--Condition of the
  Jews in Babylonia--Bostanaï--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 Literature--The
  Assyrian Vowel-system--The Neo-Hebraic Poetry: José ben José--
  Simon ben Caipha--Employment of Rhyme--Jannaï--Eleazar Kaliri
  --Opposition to the Study of the Talmud--The False Messiah
  Serenus, the Syrian--The Jews in the Crimea and the Land of
  the Chazars--The False Messiah Obadia Abu-Isa           _page_ 86

  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 Débonnaire--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 Béziers and Toulouse--Decree
  against the Jews in Italy--Boso of 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 Karaism
  --Dissensions at Pumbeditha                            _page_ 160

  814-920 C. E.



  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--Chasdaï--His services to Judaism--Menachem ben
  Saruk--Chasdaï and the King of the Chazars             _page_ 187

  928-970 C. E.



  The Gaon Sherira and his son Haï--Sherira's Historical Letter
  --The Jewish Congregations in Spain--Jewish Culture in
  Andalusia--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 Communities of Northern Africa--
  Chananel, the Son of Chushiel, and Nissim bar Jacob Ibn Shahin
  --The Jerusalem Talmud--Haï 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 statesman
  Yekutiel Ibn-Hassan befriends him--Murder of Yekutiel--Bachya
  Ibn-Pakuda and his moral philosophy--The Biblical critic
  Yizchaki ben Yasus--Joseph ben Chasdaï, 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                                         _page_ 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 Leiningen and the Martyrs of Mayence--
  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                    _Page_ 297

  1096-1105 C. E.



  The Jews under the Almoravides--Joseph Ibn-Sahal, Joseph
  Ibn-Zadik--Joseph Ibn-Migash--The Poets Ibn-Giat, Ibn-Abbas,
  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_ 311

  1105-1148 C. E.



  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                                                    _page_ 347

  1143-1170 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 Béziers,
  Montpellier, Lünel, and Toulouse--Persecutions of Jews in
  Northern France--The Jews of England--Richard I--The Jews of
  York--The Jews of Germany--Ephraim ben Jacob--Süsskind--
  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    _page_ 382

  1171-1205 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 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--Maimuni attacked by Samuel
  ben Ali--Maimuni and the Jews of Provence--The _More Nebuchim_
  and its importance--Death of Maimonides                _page_ 446

  1171-1205 C. E.



  Effects of the Death of Maimuni--Abraham Maimuni, the son of
  Maimuni--Hostility of the Papacy against the Jews--Pope
  Innocent III--The Albigenses--Emigration of Rabbis 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 Benveniste
  --Stephen Langton and the Jews of England--Gregory IX and
  Louis IX of France--The Jews of Hungary                _page_ 494

  1205-1232 C. E.



  The Opposition against Maimuni--Maimunists and anti-Maimunists
  --Meïr 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 Bahir--Three
  Parties in Judaism--Last flicker of the Neo-Hebraic Poetry--
  The Satirical Romance: Al-Charisi and Joseph ben Sabara
                                                         _page_ 522

  1232-1236 C. E.



  Pope Gregory IX--Emperor Frederick II and the Jewish Scholars,
  Jehuda Ibn-Matka and Jacob Anatoli--The Jewish Legislation of
  Frederick of Austria--The Martyrs of Aquitaine and Gregory IX
  --Louis IX 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--Judah
  of Melun--The Talmud burnt at Paris--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--Meïr de Malea and 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 Philosophy--David Maimuni--Moses
  Taku--Meïr of Rothenburg--The Jews of Italy--Solomon Petit--
  Rudolph of Habsburg--Emigration of Jews from the Rhine
  Provinces--Sufferings of the English Jews--Expulsion of the
  Jews from England and Gascony--Saad Addaula--Isaac of Accho
                                                         _page_ 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 Saburaïm--The Talmud committed to writing--Tolerance of
    Chosru II--The Christianization of Judæa--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 subjected 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 qualities, 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 discovered
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 endeavors 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 confinement 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 marriage 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 licentious attacks of the Zendiks.
An insurrection 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-Zutra'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
withstand 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 Judæa, taking with
them Mar-Zutra's posthumous heir, who also bore the name Mar-Zutra. He
was educated in Judæa, and there became a distinguished scholar. On
account of Kobad's persecution, 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
compelled to hide. Two of the leading men, Ahunai and Giza, fled, and
the latter settled on the river Zab. Other fugitives probably directed
their steps towards Palestine or Arabia. Kobad's revenge for an
insurrection provoked by fanaticism dealt a severe blow at the public
life of the Babylonian 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 representatives 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 posterity, that of Rabaï 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 Amoraïm had lost all creative power,
and were unable to continue the development of the Talmud. The
subject-matter and the method of teaching were both so fully defined
that they were incapable of extension or of amplification. 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 marriage code, which had until then remained undetermined, 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 _pro_ and _con_ conferred
upon the post-Amoraïc teachers the name of Sabureans (Saburaï). 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 completion 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 Amoraïc authorities appeared
of importance to their successors, 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 received the Talmud.

The era of the Sabureans witnessed the beginnings 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 unlearned. 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 horrible 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 persecuting the adherents of other beliefs, he
vented his wrath upon the Jews and the Christians of his empire. The
Talmudical academies in Sora and Pumbeditha 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 exposed 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 successful
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 Pumbeditha 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 had 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 population,
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 administration the
fortunes of the Jews of Palestine alternated from victory to defeat.
The successors of these teachers were Chaninaï 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: Kafnaï, Chaninaï, and
Bostanaï. 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 Captivity with substantial power.

The position of the Jews in Judæa during the sixth century was so
terrible that a complete cessation of intellectual pursuits ensued.
Like their co-religionists of the Byzantine empire, they were without
political standing; the laws of the younger Theodosius 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 Constantinople,
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? Christianity had made itself master of Judæa, and
had become the heir of Judaism. Churches and monasteries arose in
the Holy Land, but its former masters 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 Constantine, was, after the death of
Julian, most rigorously enforced by the authorities. Tiberias, the
stately city on the lake, alone maintained its academical rank, and
under the presidency of Mar-Zutra III and his descendants, it became
a seat of authority for 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 Palæstina Secunda during this
century, 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

There probably existed an educational system among the Jews of
Palestine, but it must have been inadequate and unimportant, since,
with the exception 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 emperors did not interfere
in the affairs of the heart. Justinian 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 heretics,
from offices of honor, they were obliged by law to assume the onerous
and expensive decurionate (magisterial office), without being
permitted, however, 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"

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 Cæsarea,
had been for some time divided against itself. One party wanted the
reading of the portions of the Pentateuch and the Prophets to be
followed by a translation into Greek, for the benefit of the illiterate
and the women. The pious members, on the other hand, especially the
teachers of the Law, entertained an aversion to the use of the language
of their tormentors and of the Church in divine service, probably also
on the ground that no time would be left for the Agadic exposition.
The dispute 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 conceptions 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 explanation, 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 homilies, 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 (February 13th, 553).

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 the congregation was at peace. The preachers continued to
make use of the Agada, even introducing covert attacks upon anti-Jewish
Byzantium into their sermons. "'There are creeping things innumerable'
(Psalm civ) signifies the countless edicts which the Roman empire
(Byzantium) publishes 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 decrees of
Esau (Byzantium). His shafts come suddenly, 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 Judæa.

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 religious hypocrisy. Stephanus, the governor of
Palæstina 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
venturesome, 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 disposing of their property. Although Sergius, bishop of
Cæsarea, 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 Cæsarea, 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 made
common cause with them, and together they massacred their Christian
opponents in Cæsarea and destroyed their churches. Stephanus, 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 Theodora, with whose secret commissions he was entrusted.
Stephanus' widow hurried to Constantinople to acquaint the emperor with
this disturbance and the death of her husband, whereupon Justinian
ordered Amantius, the governor of the East resident 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 property 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 disturbance occurs,
in the course of which the Jews were carried away to a deed of brutal
violence, which proves that the arbitrariness of the officials and the
arrogance of the clergy must have caused intolerable suffering among

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 Bonosus 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 advantage 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, mutilated
others, and sent the rest into exile (September 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 Persian 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 Christian 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 warlike 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 Palestine 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 probably 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 destroyed the Christian
sanctuaries. All the churches and monasteries were burned, and the Jews
undoubtedly had a greater share in this deed than the Persians. 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 Jerusalem and the surrounding territory whereon to
establish a commonwealth.

With the Persians, the Jews swept through Palestine, destroyed the
monasteries which abounded in the country, and expelled or killed
the monks. A detachment of Jews from Jerusalem, Tiberias, Galilee,
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 massacre them. The
Jewish host is said to have consisted of 20,000 men. The expedition,
however, miscarried, as the Christians of Tyre had been informed of
the impending danger. They anticipated their enemies, seizing their
Jewish fellow-citizens 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 Tyrians.

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 continuance 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 Sinaï in doing penance and reciting litanies.
Suddenly he was assailed by doubts as to the truth of Christianity.
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 Sinaï, crossed the desert to
Palestine, and finally went to Tiberias, where he declared his settled
determination to embrace Judaism. He offered himself for circumcision,
adopted the name of Abraham, married a Jewess, and henceforward became
a zealous advocate of Judaism and a vehement opponent of his former

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 probably 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 enthusiastic 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 punishment 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 incapacity, 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 Judæa, 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 argument
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 mountains 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 generosity, during a pestilential
famine charitably fed the needy without distinction of religion.
The Jews of Alexandria, moved by warm sympathy for their suffering
co-religionists, fraternally welcomed the unhappy fugitives from Judæa,
the victims of monkish fanaticism. Heraclius seized upon this occasion
to renew the edicts of Hadrian and Constantine, 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--Chilperic and 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 unmolested, 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 Frankish and Burgundian Gaul, in Visigothic
Spain, everywhere 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 prosperity
and comfort of the Jews appeared as a humiliation of Christianity. They
desired the fulfillment 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 dogmatic controversies and the prevailing
immorality, which was continually gaining ground among the clergy and
the laity, in spite, or perhaps in consequence of, ecclesiastical
severity and increased austerity 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
inconsistency, 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
inconsistency of Gregory the Holy to the terrible consistency of
the bloodthirsty kings Sisebut and Dagobert, 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 Arian 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 missal.

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 having been transported
from place to place, had at last been deposited at Carthage, where
they remained for nearly a century. It was with pain that the Jews of
the Byzantine capital witnessed their removal to Constantinople by
Belisarius, the conqueror 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
unfortunate monarch. A certain Jew, filled with profound grief on
seeing the living memorials of Judæa'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 misfortune
in their train. They had brought misfortune to Rome, which had been
pillaged by Genseric, and they had brought down adversity upon his
successor, Gelimer, and his capital. It would therefore be better to
remove these holy relics to Jerusalem, where they had been wrought by
King Solomon. No sooner 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 church.

In Greece, Macedonia, and Illyria the Jews had been settled a long
time, and although the Christian emperors persecuted them, and laid
them under considerable restraint, they nevertheless allowed them
autonomy in communal affairs, and the application 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 tributary?" After the Gepidæ 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 Theodoric (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 Sclavonic 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 specious 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
prisoners, and the Jews carried on a brisk trade in slaves, although
they were not the only slave merchants. The depopulated cities and
the desolate 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
Judaism, partly because there was a Talmudical ordinance 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 exercise 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 shrewdness
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 illustrious" (clarissimus), and at his intercession his relative
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 impossible 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 directed
against the Jews, but against this hated Arian monarch. Theodoric,
although an Arian, was by no means favorably disposed towards the
Jews, whose conversion he desired. On a certain occasion, he had his
counselor and minister Cassiodorus 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 accordingly 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, ill-treated the Jews,
and plundered their property, in order to laugh Theodoric's edicts to
scorn. Theodoric, having been informed of this, bitterly reproached
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
condemned the Roman commune to make compensation. 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 demoralization, the political and
ecclesiastical literature of the times imputes no other crimes to
them than obduracy and unbelief. Their religion shielded them from
the prevailing wickedness. Cassiodorus, who became a monk after
resigning all his dignities, composed among other works a homiletic
exposition of the Psalms, in which he makes frequent reference to the
Jews, apostrophizing them, and endeavoring to convert them. It is
characteristic of this period that Cassiodorus,--who, besides Boëthius,
was the only notability of the sixth century possessing a certain
philosophic culture--designated 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

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 Theodatus, 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 Justinian'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 divided into
two factions. But even the war party was not disposed to sacrifice
itself for the Ostrogoths, who were hated in Italy. The Jews alone,
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
promised 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 contemporary historian
(Procopius) has raised a glorious monument to the heroic bravery of the
Jews of Naples.

Having one night, by means of treachery, penetrated into the city,
the enemy almost made themselves 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, Constantine, 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 intolerance. 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
conscientiously maintained their rights of Roman citizenship, which
had been recognized by various emperors. In the territory which was
subject to the papal sway in Rome, Lower Italy, Sicily, and Sardinia,
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 imposed 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 farmers and peasants as embraced
Christianity. He did not, indeed, deceive himself with the belief that
the converts who were obtained in this manner 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 persecuted such of the
Jews as purchased or possessed Christian slaves. In the Frankish
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, Theodebert, king
of Austrasia, and also to Queen Brunhilde, 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 intolerance.

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 different and
much more favorable aspect. The invasions 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 established 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
Cæsar. The Jewish merchants whose business pursuits brought them
from Alexandria or Asia Minor to Rome and Italy, the Jewish warriors
whom the emperors Vespasian and Titus, the conquerors of Judæa, had
dispersed as prisoners throughout the Roman provinces, 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

The Gallic Jews, whose first settlement was in the district of Arles,
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 Frankish 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 Frankish kingdom founded by Clovis, the Jews
dwelt in Auvergne (Arverna), in Carcassonne, Arles, Orleans, and as far
north as Paris and Belgium. Numbers of them resided in the old Greek
port of Marseilles, and in Béziers (Biterræ), 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 Frankish and Burgundian kingdoms 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 Arles (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 Christian 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
Judæa 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'
conversion, 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 confirmed 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 commanded 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 intolerance of the clergy
into a law of the state. This feeling of hostility, however, was not
prevalent among Childebert's contemporaries. The Frankish empire was
divided among several monarchs, who, although related, mortally hated
one another; this division had the effect of confining intolerant
practices to single provinces. Even ecclesiastical dignitaries 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 Frankish 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 converts, 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 celebrated 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 Avitus,
raised a monument of shame to his memory. They indicate quite clearly
that the Jews of Clermont suffered innocently, and became converts
to Christianity out of sheer desperation. Thus the effects of the
ever-growing fanaticism made themselves felt in many parts of France.
The Council of Mâcon (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 reverence to the Christian
priests, and were to seat themselves in their presence only by express
permission. 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 Judaism.

The later Merovingian kings became more and more bigoted, and their
hatred of the Jews consequently increased. Clotaire II, on whom
had devolved the rule of the entire Frankish empire (613), was a
matricide, but was nevertheless considered a model of religious piety.
He sanctioned the decisions 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 Frankish empire to escape from the fanaticism of Sisebut,
king of the Visigoths, roused the jealousy of this sensual monarch, 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 population of the Frankish
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 _fainéants_, 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
exemption 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 legislation in the Councils; but in spite of their
zeal they were unable to abolish the traffic in human beings, because
their condemnation applied to only one phase of the trade.

The Jews of Germany are to be regarded merely as colonies of the
Frankish Jews, and such of them as lived in Austrasia, a province
subject to the Merovingian kings, shared the same fate as their
brethren in France. 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 communities
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 municipal offices.
The first Christian emperor, however, narrowed the limits of this
immunity, exempting only two or three families. The Jews of Cologne
enjoyed 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 contributed 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 Judæa 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 familiar 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 members 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 Hesperia 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 undoubtedly hastened to ransom them, and thus
fulfil the most important of the duties prescribed by Talmudical
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
localities. 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 Saragossa there was a fortress which
at the time of the Arabs was called Ruta al Jahud. In the neighborhood
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 emigrated 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 transported hither after the destruction of the Temple by the
Babylonian conqueror, Nebuchadnezzar. Certain Jewish families, the
Ibn-Dauds and the Abrabanels, 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 tradition 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 Judæa, 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 subordinate 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
Christians occurred quite as frequently in Spain as in Gaul.

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 intercourse with the Jews, to contract marriages with them,
or to allow them 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 Germanic 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 indifferent 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 offices. Their skill and knowledge, which gave them the
advantage 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
distinction. The Visigothic Jews must have remained in communication,
either through Italy or through Africa, with Judæa or Babylonia, from
which countries 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. Henceforward
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 advantage. 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 fulfilled 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,
Reccared had sacrificed to God the gold which had been offered to
him. At the same time Reccared confirmed 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 nevertheless 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, in consequence, prepared a grievous destiny
for his empire. Sisebut, a contemporary 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 solemnly 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
enforced 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 Visigothic 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 conscience 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 fanatical 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-informed 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 pale 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, therefore, 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 Sabbath and
the Jewish festivals, contracting marriages according to the Jewish
rites, practising circumcision, 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 themselves 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, naturally 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 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

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 propositions 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, before 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
confession to the effect that they would observe and obey the Catholic
religion without reserve. But the confession thus signed by men whose
sacred convictions 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
empire soon made this possible. The present situation lasted only
during the four years of Chintila's reign (638-642).



    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

500-662 C. E.

Wearied with contemplating the miserable plight of the Jews in their
ancient home and in the countries 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 ecclesiastical 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 constituted 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. According 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, seafaring 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 Arabian 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 descended 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 surrounding country, whereby they guarded their
independence. 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 hostile 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 descendants 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 fortresses,
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 Bedouins, and enabled
them to offer an asylum to many a persecuted fugitive. Wadil-Kora (the
valley 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 inhabitants 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 obtained 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 subjection 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 converting 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 Jijbân), 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 language was closely related to Arabic, and their
customs, 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. Intermarriage
between the two nations tended to heighten the similarity of their
characters. Like the Himyarites, the Jews of southern Arabia applied
themselves more particularly to the trade between India, the Byzantine
empire, and Persia. The Jews of northern Arabia, on the contrary,
led the life of Bedouins; they occupied themselves with agriculture,
cattle breeding, transport by caravan, traffic in weapons, 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 (shaïch), 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 neighboring
tribes. Like the Arabs, the Jews of the peninsula 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 inflexibility, 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 contended with them for the palm in poetry. For in addition
to manliness and courage, poetry was cultivated 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 likewise able to speak with elegance the Arabic language, and to
adorn their poetry with rhymes.

The knowledge of their religion, which the Arabian Jews had brought
with them in their flight from Judæa, and that which afterwards came
to them from the academies, conferred upon them superiority 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 art 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 observed the dietary
laws, and solemnized the festivals, 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 nothing to complain of in this hospitable country, which they
were able to regard and love as their fatherland, 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 themselves 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 (Achbâr, Chabar) who expounded the Scriptures in
an academy (Midras). But the knowledge of the Bible which the Arabian
Jews possessed was not considerable. They were acquainted with it only
through the medium 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 history 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 facts.

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 intellectual promptings, was delighted
with the simple, sublime contents of the Bible, and by degrees certain
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 accustomed 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, concerning 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 important
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-scrupulous 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 progenitors, the real Arabs (the Himyarites) supposing
themselves to be descended from Yoktan; the pseudo-Arabs in the north,
on the other hand, deriving 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 consequently exerted themselves to
bring their genealogical records and traditions into unison with the
Biblical 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 relationship, that is to say,
equality and all the advantages attending it.

The Arabs were thus in intimate 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 conversion
had not been thought of by the Jews. As they had practised circumcision
while heathen, their conversion to Judaism was particularly easy.
The members of a family among the Arabs were indissolubly bound to
one another, and, according to their phylarchic constitution, the
individuals identified themselves 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 powerful 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, however, 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 perfidious 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 discourse to Abu-Kariba of Judaism, and succeeded in
inspiring him with a lively interest for it. The exhortations of Kaab
and Assad raised his sympathy to so high a pitch that he determined to
embrace the Jewish faith, and induced the Himyarite 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 appreciable 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 Maaddites on the Red Sea,
and also gave him the government 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 continually 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
kingdom suffered from daily persecution. He felt deeply for them, and
wished therefore by retaliation to force the Byzantine emperors to
render justice to the Jews. When some Roman (Byzantine) 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 impolitic step in destroying the trade with
Europe. The excuse Dhu-Nowas made was that many notable 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 Christianity. Dhu-Nowas was not killed in this
battle, as the Christian authorities relate, but made another effort,
and through his impetuosity entangled himself in new difficulties.
Najaran, in Yemen, was inhabited chiefly by Christians; it had, too, a
Christian chief, Harith (Aretas) Ibn-Kaleb, who was a feudatory of the
Jewish-Himyaritic kingdom. Harith 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 historical fact. This much is certain:
Dhu-Nowas levied a heavy tribute on the Christians in the kingdom 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 traveling 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 Christians 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 foolish old man, was also asked to make war on the Jewish
king. But his people were engaged in a war against the Persians, and
he therefore 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 persuasion 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 Christian 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 arrogant 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 towards 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 welcomed 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, however, 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 (Mawâli) of Aus and Chazraj. They hoped for the
coming of the Messiah to crush their enemies.

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 immortality through his friendship with the most
celebrated 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 neighborhood 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 distinguished 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 throughout the peninsula.
Imrulkais took his daughter and what remained of his retinue to Ablak,
and lived 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 recourse to a
barbarous expedient to compel Samuel to submit. One of Samuel's sons
was taken outside 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 withdraw from Ablak without accomplishing his object. The
Arab proverb, "Faithful as Samuel," used to express undying faith,
originated from this circumstance.

Many blamed him for the sacrifice of his son; but he defended himself
in a poem, full of noble sentiments, 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 footsteps. 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 having been captured, he was, by chance
and without being recognized, taken with other prisoners to Taima, the
castle of Shoraich. Here, 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 allies suffered
less. In consequence 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 influence 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 world. 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
powerfully 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

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 new-born daughters, and
he declared that there was nothing new in all these changes, but that
they were commanded by the faith of the ancient religion of Abraham. A
similar thing had happened at the time when Paul of Tarsus first made
known to the Hellenes 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 connection 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

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-Salâm, of the race of
Kainukaa. Abdallah and other Jews assisted Mahomet in propagating the
Koran. The unbelieving Arabs frequently reproached 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-Salâm 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

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 beautiful 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 Abdallah, 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 contemptuously, not anticipating
that the fugitive from Mecca, who had come to Medina 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 apparent 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 discontent made it difficult to
maintain peace permanently. On the one side, the Jews did their best to
alienate Mahomet's followers. They succeeded in prejudicing the first
man in Medina, the Chazrajite 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 expunged
the passages. At first he declared that the Jews were possessed of the
true faith; later on he said that they honored Ezra (Ozaïr) 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 him.

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 sufficiently great, and the Jews outnumbered his followers.
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 increased 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 enemies. However, he was
prudent enough to avoid becoming involved in disputes with the powerful
Jewish tribes; he began with the weak and defenseless. 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 sarcastic wit had made Mahomet appear in a ridiculous
light. The pretext was of the slightest kind. A Mahometan had killed a
Jew on account of a poor practical 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 besieged 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 interests
in view. The Kainukaa fought desperately for fifteen days, expecting
re-inforcements from their co-religionists. But as these did not come,
they surrendered 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 represented in
northern Arabia, and generally kept themselves neutral. The Jews, on
the contrary, who were accustomed to independence, and who were full of
warlike courage, became involved in numerous disputes by this act of
outlawry. Their former allies for the most part renounced them, and at
Mahomet's bidding, took spiteful vengeance on them.

With this mutual, deadly hatred existing between 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
warriors 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 revelation 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 misfortune 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 enthusiasm
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 common 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
resistance. 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 beginning
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 resistance. 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 challenged 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 without 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 possession 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
religion, 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 henceforth 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 companions.
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 appointed 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 conquest, 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. Judaism
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 Evangelists
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 desecrated 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--Bostanaï--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
    Literature--The Assyrian Vowel-system--The Neo-Hebraic
    Poetry: José ben José--Simon ben Caipha--Employment of
    Rhyme--Jannaï--Eleazar Kaliri--Opposition to the Study of
    the Talmud--The False Messiah Serenus, the Syrian--The Jews
    in the Crimea and the Land of the Chazars--The False Messiah
    Obadia Abu-Isa.

640-760 C. E.

Scarcely ten years after Mahomet's death the fairest lands in the north
of Arabia and the northwest 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 unknown 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 capture 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
Cæsarea, the political capital of the kingdom, which is said to have
contained 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 personal 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 succeeding 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
instructions to his generals against the Jews and Christians. 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

They dared not hinder their followers from accepting 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 contribution 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 Yochaï, 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 Mahometans.

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, doubtless, in consequence of the services which
they had rendered that the Mahometan generals recognized Bostanaï, the
descendant of the Exilarch of the house of David, as the chief of the
Jews. Omar respected Bostanaï 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 grandson
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 Persian dynasty. Bostanaï 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. Bostanaï also
obtained the exceptional permission to wear a signet-ring (Gushpanka).
By this means he was able to give his documents and decrees an official
character. The seal, in reference to some unknown historical allusion,
bore the impress of a fly. Bostanaï 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 Judæo-Babylonian
community, which had acquired some importance through Bostanaï,
obtained its real strength under Ali, the fourth Caliph, Mahomet's
comrade and son-in-law, the hero of Chaibar.

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 Ali, and
rendered him assistance. A Jew, Abdallah Ibn-Sabâ, 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 followers (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 certain 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 Bostanaï and Mar-Isaac,
the Jewish officials recognized by the Caliph, there begins a new
period in Jewish history--the Epoch of the Geonim. After Bostanaï's
death dissension arose among his sons. Bostanaï 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 Bostanaï's legitimate sons.
Other authorities, however, maintained that Bostanaï, 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, Chaninaï, 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 Bostanaï.

Bostanaï's descendants in the Exilarchate arbitrarily deposed the
presidents of the colleges, and appointed their own partisans to
the vacant places. The religious leaders of the people thus bore
Bostanaï'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
Bostanaï, 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 Bostonaï and the rise of the Gaonate till the Exilarchate of
Chasdaï (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, Hunaï
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 Hunaï
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, however, 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 developed 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
Babylonian-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 received princely homage.

The religious unity of Judaism, on the other hand, was embodied in the
Gaonate of Sora and Pumbeditha. 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 Pumbeditha.

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 Gaon 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 capital 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 Bostanaï, 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 colleges, 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 installation 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 Exile."

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 prerogative. He was
also the first one called to the reading 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), expounding 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 prominent 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
community, 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 irregular 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 ($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
because they themselves had an interest in it.

The president of the college of Sora was the second in rank in the
Judæo-Babylonian community. 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 Pumbeditha 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 representing the "great Synhedrion," the other of
thirty forming the "smaller Synhedrion." The seventy were ordained, and
consequently qualified for promotion; 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 candidates 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 colleges 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 Talmud, which had been
given out beforehand as the theme. But the attention of the meeting was
principally 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, confirmed
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 directions, 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

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 $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 commonwealth 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 exchange, 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 contribution 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 connection
with the synagogue, were probably also under the supervision of this

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
Parnesé-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 victims 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 excommunicated,
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 was posted up outside the court of
justice, and communicated to the congregation. Although this punishment
of excommunication and its consequences were extremely horrible, it was
nevertheless, 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, notwithstanding 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 upholders 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 corners 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 believed 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 persecution at the hands of the Romans or the
Byzantines, and have known 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 (Ashkabá). Later on it became customary to forward
lists of the dead, even from France and Spain, in order that they might
also be thus honored.

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
independence. Some of them had been obliged to emigrate; others were
compelled to embrace Christianity, 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 converted, 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 have 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 disgraceful 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 blasphemy 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 Christians. 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
punishments were decreed against all who renounced Christianity, or
hid themselves anywhere, or attempted to leave the country. Even the
abettors of, or accessories to, the flight of converts incurred heavy
punishment. Those, however, who desired to continue 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 Judæorum).

On February 18th, 654, the Jews of the capital Toletum (Toledo) signed
a confession of the purport that they had already promised, it was
true, under king Chintila, 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 overcome their abhorrence
of it. They promised, however, 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 compelled
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 penalty of excommunication and exclusion from
the pale of the Church. But these measures and precautions by no means
accomplished the intended result.

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 continued 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 unfortunate 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 disregard
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
converted Jews a safe refuge and religious liberty in his province,
and they, taking advantage of the invitation, 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 appeared 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
freedom during his reign, and to have made some efforts towards their

In order, on the one hand, to prove that, although they were unable to
reconcile themselves to Christianity, 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 themselves 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 relating 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 corresponded 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 impossible, 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
himself king. In order to have his usurpation recognized 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 addressed the council which was assembled
to crown him, and in a fanatical speech, submitted for confirmation 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 promulgated."

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 persist in the
Christian faith, and the severe punishment 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 confiscated, 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 subjected 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 rigorous 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 incompetent 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 confession
of faith--with the same sincerity, of course, as under Chintila and

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 possessing 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 surrender 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
unrelenting 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
sentenced 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 Mahometan
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 victorious
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, praying for the safety of their country and religion, the
Jews flung open the gates to the victorious Arabs (Palm-Sunday, 712),
receiving them with acclamations, 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 custody 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 conquered 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 like their
co-religionists 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
jurisdiction 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 commonwealth.

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
himself a poet), held knowledge in esteem, and rewarded the author
quite as liberally as the soldier who fought for them. The Jewish
inhabitants of Mahometan countries soon adopted the Arabic language.
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. Henceforward 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 Scriptures, 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 necessary 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 employed 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, and 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 attention. 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, necessarily
assumed a synagogical or liturgical character.

The poetical impulse was strengthened by practical 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 congregation 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 dedicated 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 José bar José 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 century.

José b. José took as the subject of his poems the emotions and memories
which move a Jewish congregation 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 attached 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. José'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 José'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 description 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 recognition 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 fragment 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 José b. José'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 commencement
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 José b. José, but is greatly
inferior to its model. 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 renounce his adherence to Jesus, as though the disciple
who three times denied his Master had desired in this liturgical poem
to attest his unbelief.

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 cultivation. As far as
is known, the first poet who introduced 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
preparation 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 the _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, including hymns for the festivals, penitential
prayers for the holy-days, songs of lamentation for the principal
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 compositions 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 honored 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 translation 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 unfamiliar to the multitude, gradually disappeared
from the divine service, and their places were filled by metrical
compositions (Piyutim) which answered the same purpose, and at the same
time possessed the advantage of a poetical character. By this means
considerable 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 divisions of the principal prayer, and in this
manner destroyed the continuity and coherence of its separate parts.

The return to the source of the Bible had the result of kindling a
poetic flame in artistic natures; but, at the same 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 century.

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 Geonim as law,
without greatly troubling themselves as to their agreement with the

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
development 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 themselves hampered by the Talmud.

The Jews of Arabia, who came into close contact 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 themselves 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, holding out attractive promises to the new converts,
or unceremoniously compelling both Jews and Christians 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 representations
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 prescribed forms of prayer, and the laws of
the Talmud 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 marriages 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
leadership 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 impoverished equally with the Christians. Serene's fate was
miserable, as indeed he deserved. He was captured and brought before
the Caliph Yezid, Omar II's successor, who put an end to his Messianic
pretensions 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 punishment. Many of his adherents, repenting of their
easy credulity, desired to rejoin the communities from which they
had severed themselves by infringement 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 Natronaï ben Nehemiah, surnamed Mar-Yanka, the principal
of the college at Pumbeditha, and successor of Mar-Raba (719-730).
Natronaï's decision concerning the reception of Serene's adherents
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-admitted 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 accordance
with the precepts of the Talmud, and in addition 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, Natronaï
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 empire 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, having 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, however, 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
received 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 Byzantine empire pined away under unceasing petty
persecution, 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 communities
which had existed from early times, there arose new communities on the
shores of the Black Sea and the Straits of Theodosia (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 communities 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 (Dâï) who was to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. His
views concerning the office of precursor of the Messiah were, indeed,
altogether peculiar. He taught that five forerunners would precede the
Messiah, and that each one would be more perfect 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
differing in some respects from that accepted at the time; the points
of difference, however, are not known. He entirely abolished divorce,
even in the case of adultery. He augmented the 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 existing 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 sacrificial 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, dissatisfied 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 position 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 dispersed, and
the Jews of Ispahan had to suffer for his revolt. His adherents,
however, loyally cherished 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 Talmudical Judaism, while
disregarding many others.

During this time, however, no extraordinary movement occurred in the
center of Jewish religious life; everything continued on the old
lines, the principals of the colleges and the Geonim succeeded 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 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.

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 disturbed, and the power
of habit broken. This destructive activity, although at first painful,
is eventually favorable to the growth of healthy institutions, for
thereby all vagueness is dissipated, all pretense destroyed, and dim
reality brought more clearly to light. Opposition, the salt of history,
which prevents corruption, 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 develop 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.
Opposition to the Talmud, the password of the two heralds of the
Messiah, Serene and Abu-Isa, had left no lasting impression, partly
because the movement, 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 regain 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 invested 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
regenerative effects. The required agitation was set on foot by a son
of the Prince of the Captivity, of the house of Bostanaï, 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 profound an
influence upon Jewish history, and whose adherents exist at the present
day, is quite unknown, and the facts have been entirely distorted in
consequence 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 certain 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 Blind (759-762), and that of Pumbeditha by Dudaï (761-764).
These two brothers united with their colleges to prevent Anan from
succeeding to the dignity of Exilarch, and to choose in his stead his
younger brother Chananya (or Achunaï). 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 are 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 consequence of handsome presents of money, and
permitted him to emigrate with his followers to Palestine.

One thing only among all these doubtful statements is certain, namely,
that Anan was obliged to leave his country and settle in Palestine. In
Jerusalem he built his own synagogue, which was still standing at the
time of the first crusade. It is likewise 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 importance. 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 reproached 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 followers 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 Karaism.

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 himself 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 marriage, 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 observation 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 untenableness
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 Sadducees, 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 introduced the custom among the Karaites
of spending the Sabbath-eve in entire darkness. All these alterations
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 absolutely
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 invested 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 manner of a litany 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 property 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 connecting 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 naturally 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 versâ_. Anan was as devoid of the power of
appreciating poetry as of understanding history. The sacred prophetic
and poetic literature was of no further use to him than to prove the
existence of some law or some religious command. 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 disciples called themselves, after him,
Ananites and Karaites (Karaim, Bene Mikra), while to their adversaries
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 necessary 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 Sabbath, 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 spending 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 allegory 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 opposition 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 descendants. Both parties exerted
themselves as much as possible to widen the breach.

After Anan's death, his followers, out of reverence, 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 judgment 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 opposition 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
institutions which he rejected.

After Anan's death the Karaite community conferred the leadership
on his son, Saul. Anan's disciples, 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 religious 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, from 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 Massora, the determination
of the manner of reading the Holy Scripture. There sprang up many
commentators 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 productions. 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 arranged, 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 intelligible. For this reason the
work penetrated to the most distant Jewish communities, and became the
model for later compositions of a similar description.

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 succeeded 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
Exilarchate, which had been hereditary since the time of Bostanaï,
became elective after Anan, and the presidents of the academies
directed the election. On the death of Chananya (Achunaï), and hardly
ten years after Anan's defection from Rabbanism, a struggle for the
Exilarchate broke out afresh between two pretenders, Zaccaï ben Achunaï
and Natronaï ben Chabibaï. The latter was a member of the college under
Judah. The two heads of the schools at this period, Malka bar Acha, of
Pumbeditha (771-773), and Chaninaï Kahana ben Huna, of Sora (765-775),
united to bring about the overthrow of Natronaï, and succeeded in
procuring, through the Caliph's attendants, his banishment from
Babylonia. He emigrated to Maghreb (Kairuan), in which city there had
existed ever since its foundation a numerous Jewish population. Zaccaï
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 influence 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 Hungarians, 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 Itil
or Atel) at the place near which it runs into the Caspian Sea, in the
neighborhood of Astrakhan, now the home of the Kalmucks. Their kings,
who bore the title of Chakan or Chagan, 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 for 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

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 business, 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 fugitives 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 interpreters 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 induced 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 prohibited 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 between 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 impartial avowal
of the excellence of that religion, he would carry out his intention
of professing Judaism as his religion. He thereupon immediately
offered himself for circumcision. The Jewish sage who was the means of
obtaining Bulan's conversion is supposed to have been Isaac Sanjari or

It is possible that the circumstances under which the Chazars embraced
Judaism have been embellished 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, however, 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 modeled 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 barbarous 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 powerful kingdom 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 tribute.

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 contributed to the spiritual and
social advancement of the Jews in France and Germany. By the creation
of the German-Frankish empire--which extended from the ocean to the
further side of the Elbe, and from the Mediterranean to the North
Sea--Charlemagne transferred the focus of history to Western Europe,
whereas hitherto it had been at Constantinople, 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 Frankish 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 France 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 inflicted heavy punishment on the sacrilegious ecclesiastics, and
absolved the Jews from all penalties.

The Jews were at this period the principal representatives 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 attention
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 experienced 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 life. 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 Charlemagne also manifested deep interest in
the spiritual 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 inviting 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
Kalonymos, his son Moses, and his nephew, from Lucca to Mayence (787),
hoping besides to make the Jews independent of the academies of the

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). Although at 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 Talmudical
school at Narbonne.

Owing to their favorable position in the Frankish-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 ecclesiastics; they were also enabled to
abandon themselves 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 Slavonians 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 were witnesses against, or accusers
of, a Christian. 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 punishment 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 Church.

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 oppression 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 distinctive 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, especially
those in Palestine, experienced severe persecution. The Christians,
however, were their companions in misfortune. During the four years
(809-813) 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,
affliction, 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 foundations, but did not destroy it. Alemin was killed, and
Almamun became the sole ruler of this extensive empire.

It was during Almamun's reign (813-833) that the Caliphate of the East
flourished most luxuriantly. 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 possess 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 unaffected by this enthusiasm for science.
Investigation and subtle inquiry are indeed part of their innermost
nature. They took earnest interest in these intellectual activities,
and many of their achievements gained the approbation of the Arabs.
The history of Arab civilization has several Jewish names recorded 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 mathematician. 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 Ali (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
(Kalâm). 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 contradictions 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
freedom of the human will, because the unconditional predetermination
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 philosophers of religion had used to reconcile the
Bible with Greek philosophy; they adopted an allegorical 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 Mahometans, 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 conveying 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 expressions concerning God,
however gross they might be, which occurred in the Koran, or were used
by tradition, and constructed 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 accepted
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, measured 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 Rationalists.

The Jews of the East lived in so close a connection 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 Pumbeditha, 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 outside 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 Karaites for the most part were of Mutazilist (rationalistic)
tendency, while the Rabbanites, on the contrary, having to defend the
strange Agadic statements 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

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 himself 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 connection 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 themselves as a
peculiar sect under the name of Judghanites, 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 doctrine 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, was killed, in the neighborhood of
Koom (east of Hamadan, southwest of Teheran), most probably by the

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
philosopher. A contemporary Karaite, Benjamin ben Moses of Nahavend
(about 800-820), spread the Mutazilist philosophy among the Karaites.
Benjamin 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 Scripture, 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 spiritual 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 Maghariyites.

While Benjamin Nahavendi, as is generally acknowledged, deviated
widely from the Jewish system with respect to religious philosophy,
he approached 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
obedience to the laws, Benjamin Nahavendi introduced a species of
excommunication, which differed only slightly from the excommunication
of the Rabbanites. 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 consisted 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 temporal
justice. Although Benjamin Nahavendi inclined to Rabbanism on certain
points, he adhered firmly, nevertheless, to the Karaite principle of
unrestrained 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 religion
worked counter to the unrestrained subtlety of the Mutazilists, and,
falling into the opposite extreme, conceived the divinity as possessed
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 desired 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 comprehension 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 blasphemous detail of God's
right and left eye, of his upper and lower lip, of his beard and of
other members, 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 considerably 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
proportions 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 Christian 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 misunderstood Agadas, and of
Jewish, Christian, and Mahometan fantastic notions, clothed itself in
mysterious obscurity, and pretended to be a revelation. In order to
answer the inquiry whence it had acquired 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 impressively
enunciated, this doctrine of mystery, which was based upon a grossly
material conception of God, found many followers. Its adepts called
themselves "Men of Faith." They boasted of possessing the means
of obtaining a view of the divine household. By virtue of certain
incantations, invocations of the names of God and the angels, and
the recitation of certain prayer-like chants, combined with fasting
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 Palestine, where the real
study of the Talmud was languishing; 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. Nevertheless, preference was given to the claim
of a rival, the aged Joseph bar Abba, who was far inferior to him in
learning; the reason of this preference 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 entrance, 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 invisible, 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 Pumbeditha academy, for it had been honored and
hallowed by Elijah, and it became the custom to leave it vacant.

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
candidates, David ben Judah and Daniel. The latter was inclined to
Karaism, and perhaps just on this account found in southern Babylonia
many supporters who gave him their votes. The Babylonians 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 Abraham 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 Chaldæo-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.
Eventually 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 Sora.

When the lecture was to begin, and it was proclaimed 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 tendered 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 Karaism had something to
do 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 dissension amongst the
followers of the more ancient sect, it was itself not by any means
free therefrom. The principal dogma of Karaism was unlimited 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. Moreover, exegesis was yet in its infancy. The knowledge 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
century 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
approached 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 Rabbanites. 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 centuries.

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 Sabbaths." 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 spiritual court to represent
its unity, it is quite natural that there could be no sympathy between
one Karaite community and another. And so it happened that the people
of Khorasan observed the festivals in a manner different from that of
the other Karaites.

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, especially as regards the marriage of certain
blood-relations. They fell from one difficulty into another. They held
that the affinity between a man and his wife was, according to the
Bible, continuous. Consequently step-children 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 generations. Thus the circle of affinity
was considerably enlarged. The authors of this system of artificial
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 Débonnaire--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 Béziers and Toulouse--Decree
    against the Jews in Italy--Boso of 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 Karaism--Dissensions 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
willingly than a papal bull among the Catholics, because 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 schools.

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

The favorable condition of the Jews in the Frankish dominions, under
Charles the Great, continued under his son Louis (814-840), and, under
these advantageous circumstances, an impulse towards 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 baptize 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, moreover, 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 periodically of their income. Jews
also farmed the taxes, and obtained through this privilege a certain
power over the Christians, although this was distinctly contrary to the
provisions of canonic law.

An officer (Magister Judæorum) 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 Charlemagne 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 garments in order to show their appreciation and respect.

As such favor was shown them in higher circles, it was only natural
that the Jews of the Frankish 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 Christianity, the miracles of the saints,
the relics, and image worship. Christians visited the synagogues, and
were edified by the Jewish method of conducting 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. Clergymen 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 worked 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 French 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 discipline saw
in the violation of the canonical laws, in the favor 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 orthodoxy. 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 Ahithophel 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 Judæorum, 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. However, 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 commanding him, under a severe
penalty, to discontinue 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
Judæorum, 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, Gerrick 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 significant 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. Perhaps 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 chancellor 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 Agobard'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 Church.

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 wickedness and the danger of favoring the Jews, and specifying
the privileges which ought to be withdrawn (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." Agobard 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 revenge. 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 disposed 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, indeed, was accompanied
by peculiar circumstances, and was a great shock to pious Christians.
Bodo, or Puoto, descended from an old Alemannic 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 conceived 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 immoral 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 Judaism.

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 fatherland, his position, and his
friends. He was circumcised 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-religionists, 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 Frankish 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 conversion. 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

With the death of the emperor Louis, the golden age of the Jews in
the Frankish dominions came to an end, and their good fortunes were
not renewed for a considerable time. Southern Europe, disturbed 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 confusion in the Frankish
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 unhindered, and also to possess landed property. Some of
them controlled the tolls. But they had implacable 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 845, 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 Agobard'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 Visigothic 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 chastisement 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 Christians 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 frustrated. Agobard's successor sent a letter to the spiritual
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 borrowed 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 disposed toward them. The Jews were even allowed to have
Christian servants to work in their houses and fields. He complains,
too, that many Christians 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 restrictions 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
Jews 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 damnation."

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 Jews at the mercy of the fanatical clergy and the tyranny of petty

How malicious was the spirit animating the French clergy, can be
judged from the fact that the successive bishops of Béziers 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 Béziers 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 indignities. The counts of this town had the privilege of
publicly giving the president of the Jewish community 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 payment by the Jews.
The great grandson of Louis the Pious, Louis II, son of Lothaire, was
so influenced 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 1st 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
Christian 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 vineyards of
the Jews in the Duchy of Narbonne 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 absolutely to
the guardian. This thought, at least, underlies the act by which the
usurper Boso, king of Burgundy and Provence, who was greatly influenced
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 Capets.

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 Isaurian, the Jews
again spread over the whole Byzantine 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 arguments that their religion was the true one, or
confess that "Jesus was the culmination of the Law and the Prophets."

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 punishment was
inflicted on those unwilling to be converted, 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 religion 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 decreed 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 Babylonia (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 successor,
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 jurisdiction.
Pumbeditha now rose from the subordinate position into which it had
been forced. It put itself on an equal footing with the sister academy
of Sora, and its presidents likewise assumed 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 Pumbeditha. 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 (Excommunication). Dissensions about the succession
to the Gaonate were not wanting during this period, although the
Exilarchs could not make their influence felt.

A Gaon of Sora, Natronaï II, son of Hillaï (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. Natronaï 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 compiler of the
liturgical order of prayers in use amongst European Jews. At the
request of a Spanish community, preferred by their religious leader,
Isaac ben Simeon, he collected everything that the Talmud 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 regulation 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 communities
in Egypt, Africa, Spain and France, and students of the Talmud spent
their time in studying 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 necessary 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
Pumbeditha, arranged an alphabetical index of difficult words in the
Talmud, under the title of "Aruch." In it he shows acquaintance with
the Persian language. This dictionary forms the first contribution
to the constantly growing department of Talmudical lexicography. The
second literary Gaon was Nachshon ben Zadok of Sora (881-889), Zemach's
contemporary. He, too, wrote a book giving explanations of difficult
words in the Talmud. Nachshon 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
supplement to Jehudaï'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 two
schools confined itself to Talmudical 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 scientific 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 philology 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, philosopher, and Hebrew philologist. He was an
Egyptian, and was called to Kairuan about the year 904 as physician
to the last Aghlabite prince, Ziadeth-Allah. 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 translated 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 impression than his writings.
He instructed two disciples, 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 succeeding generations.

Whilst the Rabbanites were making the first attempt to follow a
scientific method, the Karaites were disporting on the broad beaten
path of Mutazilist philosophy. Although young in years, Karaism 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 Jerusalem, it assumed
an ascetic character. Sixty Karaites agreed to leave their homes,
their property 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
promoting Israel's redemption. They called themselves 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 Judæa to Egypt on the one side and to
Syria on the other, and northwards as far as the Crimea. There were
large Karaite communities in Alexandria and Cairo, and also in the
Crimea, on the Bosporus (Kertch), Sulchat and Kaffa (Theodosia). The
zeal of individuals contributed 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 relied 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 themselves were almost deceived into believing
his pretended traditions, which he affirmed had been received direct
from Moses.

Meanwhile, the institution to which the memories of the former
political independence of Judaism 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 considered
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 Haï 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 regent 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 Haï 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 influential members. Their object was to make
the school of Pumbeditha of greater importance, and the academy at
Sora declined more and more. Haï's successors, who, like himself, had
commenced their career with the rabbinate of Bagdad, worked in the same
spirit, and were assisted by the powerful 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
consideration. As soon as he entered upon his office, Kohen-Zedek
demanded that the school of Pumbeditha 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 appointment
of judges in the communities of Khorasan 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 influence 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 Natronaï, permitted
all these usurpations without interfering.

Meanwhile matters took a favorable turn for the banished Exilarch, by
which he was able to frustrate the plans of Kohen-Zedek. Just at this
time there came to Kermanshah the young and pleasure-seeking Caliph.
The banished Exilarch Ukba frequently 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 Natronaï, 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 representatives 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. Thereupon 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 Zaccaï, 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 Pumbeditha refused to recognize him. David ben Zaccaï
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 reconciliation. 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 venerable 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 Pumbeditha. 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--Chasdaï--His services to
    Judaism--Menachem ben Saruk--Chasdaï and the King of the

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 scientific 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 endeavored
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 Chasdaï.

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 Exilarchate, 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 circumstances, a turning-point in the progress of Jewish

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 important link in
its development in the East; Chasdaï and the scientific men whom he
influenced became the first representatives of a Judæo-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 elements.
More remarkable even than his knowledge was his personality. His
was a religious spirit and deep moral earnestness. He had a decided
character, 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 Talmudical
scholars in Egypt at that time, and the fact that Saadiah became famous
in this branch of literature 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 inconsistencies. 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 consequences 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 expositions 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 translation 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 Talmudical 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 surface, and
he sought by his translation and exposition 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 cannot 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 meaning 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 importance 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 Pentateuch, Saadiah again
challenged the Karaites. The dispute arose out of his endeavor to prove
that the Karaite calendar was not in accordance with Scripture. In
attacking Karaism, he had disturbed a hornets' nest, and aroused a
host of opponents. The Karaites had hitherto waged war against Talmudic
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 scientific interest. Saadiah's chief opponent
was the Karaite Solomon ben Yerucham (Ruchaïm). 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 scoffing 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
writings generally deserve consideration more on account 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 composition 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 attacks. 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 "Distinction" (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 venerable 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 decadence, and was so
deficient in learned men, that the Exilarch David ben Zaccaï 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 Pumbeditha, Kohen-Zedek, who did his best to
establish his college as the exclusive authority, made an agreement
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 Pumbeditha. The son
of a Gaon, named Nathan ben Yehudaï, 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. "Saadiah 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 would 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 banished 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 Amoraïm, 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 Judæo-Babylonian community,
was without intrinsic excellence, and was constantly at variance with
the schools. Not being officially recognized at court, the Exilarchate
had to purchase its existence 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 Fars (Hamadan?) refused it, David excommunicated 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 unimpeachable, 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 community. 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 Zaccaï, who felt himself insulted, deprived the Gaon of his
office. He excommunicated him and appointed a young man, Joseph ben
Jacob ben Satia, as his successor. Saadiah, however, 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 Babylonia, 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 Pumbeditha. 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 probably
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
Exilarch squandered the money that had been extorted from the various
communities. Saadiah was soon forbidden by the Caliph to continue in
office, perhaps also to stay in Sora (commencement of 933). The rival
Exilarch Hassan was banished to Khorasan, where he died. Saadiah now
lived in retirement 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
calendar (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 commentary on
the "Book of the Creation" (Sefer Yezirah), the other his _magnum 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
disputations, 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
philosophy. 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 Commandments, in which he strove to
bring them into relation with the Ten Categories of the Aristotelian
philosophy, belongs to his earlier and less excellent efforts.

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
contemporaries 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 all 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 confused idea of their religion. Some deny the truth, clear as
daylight though it be, and boast of their unbelief. Others 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 unbelief?' 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 speculation
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 objections that are made by unbelievers. The
truth of revealed Judaism may be premised, since it was confirmed
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 knowledge 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 propounded 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, rationalistic 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 unorthodox 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
weakness. He likewise did not lose sight of the objections made against
Judaism by Christianity and Islam.

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 Caliph 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
Kafnaï, 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

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 Exilarch 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 reconciliation was so
complete that Saadiah 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 melancholy. 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 influence, 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 member 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 disliked. 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 vacant.

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 Judæa through the
intolerance of the Christian emperors, so the Exilarchate 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 son, Dossa, who was learned
both in the Talmud and in philosophy--the author of several works--but
he was not appointed his father's successor. Joseph ben Satia, who had
been deposed, 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 instruction. 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 possessed a good philosophical education,
wrote a philosophical work, and a commentary to the Pentateuch. 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 consequently, 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 continued 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 perceived 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 Yerucham, 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 proselytizer 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 beginnings; 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, considered 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 obedience 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 Sabbath.

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
Rabbanism 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 anything 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 José 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 stimulate 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 would 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 come."

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 rendered them tedious talkers. Jephet's absurd polemic against
Saadiah's pupil bears this stamp of superficiality 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
Hagiographa, and other works no longer known. He was a sworn enemy to
philosophical research. In his commentary on the Psalms, he bitterly
complains that Jews occupy themselves with heretical writings, whose
authors and teachers he curses severely.

    "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 contradict 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 philosophy, and took it into the service of Judaism; the
other (without any knowledge of it) declared it heretical, and allowed
his Judaism to become petrified. The Rabbanites entered into the temple
of philosophy, and the Karaites shunned it as an infected 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 accents and Biblical orthography, but in so clumsy a style and
such miserable verse, that their observations 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 Massoretic 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 overlooked the fact that the
scribe was a Karaite.

Saadiah, on the contrary, who had known Ben-Asher, the son, was
dissatisfied with these Massoretic works, and wrote a very keen polemic
against him. In addition to Saadiah, Ben-Naphtali raised objections
against the results of Ben-Asher's Massoretic investigations, though
mostly on insignificant points. Nevertheless, the text of the Bible
according 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-Asher.

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 deceived.
After Ibn-Sarjadu's death, internal quarrels prepared for its
destruction. Nehemiah, the son of Kohen-Zedek, who had been the rival
of Ibn-Sarjadu, 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 Talmudic 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 was drowned. In deep sorrow and in the garb of the
slave, Moses ben Chanoch with his little 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 community 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

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 jurisdiction, "I can no longer be your
judge and rabbi. That stranger, who is now so miserably clothed, must
henceforth take my place." The rich community 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 Chasdaï, 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 considerable 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 undesignedly 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
addition 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 development 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 physician 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
accomplished 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 corresponded
with the Jewish statesman Chasdaï, 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
missionary, who saw in the Caliph 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 tolerate
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 ancestors 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
communities 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
Sabbataï 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. Sabbataï
Donnolo (913-970) of Oria was taken prisoner when the Mahometans of the
Fatimide kingdom pressed forward 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 parents 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 to us. The author,
however, put so high a value upon it, that he thought that through it
the name Sabbataï 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 Christianity in Italy in the middle of the tenth century.

Donnolo had known Nilus from his youth; perhaps 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
medicine 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 development 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 barbarism, 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 emotional 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 literature 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
favorable 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 Judæo-Spanish culture: (i) Moses ben Chanoch, the Talmudical
scholar, who had been carried captive to Cordova; (2) The first
Andalusian grammarian, 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 Chasdaï 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.

Chasdaï 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 expressions 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
Mæcenas. 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 diplomacy, 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 Chasdaï's value and
usefulness, and appointed him as interpreter and diplomatist (940).
At first Chasdaï only had to accompany the principal ambassadors to
the Spanish Christian courts. But the more able he proved himself, the
more was he honored and advanced. On one occasion Chasdaï'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. Chasdaï 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 Chasdaï 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. Chasdaï inspired 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 vouchsafed through him
        Crumbs of comfort and salvation."

This praise is by no means exaggerated. Chasdaï 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 astronomical
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 Caliph, 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.

Chasdaï played an important part in two embassies from the mightiest
courts of Europe. The Byzantine empire, oppressed on all sides, had
remained 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 Dioscorides 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, Chasdaï was the only one who understood
Latin, and he was, therefore, requested by the Caliph to take part in
the translation. Nicholas translated the original Greek into Latin,
and Chasdaï 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. Chasdaï also had a peculiar rôle 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 German emperor sent an embassy, at whose
head was the abbot John of Gorze (Jean de Vendières), and a letter,
in which there were harsh expressions against Islam. The Caliph, who
suspected something of the kind, asked Chasdaï to find out for him the
contents of the diplomatic letter. Chasdaï treated with John of Gorze
for several days, and although the latter was very clever, Chasdaï
outwitted him, and learnt from him the purport of the letter. Thereupon
Abdul-Rahman kept the German envoys waiting for a whole year before
admitting them to an audience. He would have kept them waiting still
longer, had not Chasdaï and the Mozarab Bishop of Cordova induced John
of Gorze to procure a new and unobjectionable document from the emperor

Chasdaï, 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 argument against
Judaism, "Inasmuch as the scepter hath departed from Judah, God hath
rejected it!" Even Chasdaï 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
Chasdaï's birth, had given probability to the vague tradition, but,
on the other hand, rendered it improbable through the exaggeration
that the ten tribes were still in existence in all their strength.
Chasdaï never failed to make inquiries about a Jewish kingdom 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 Byzantine 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
communication 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. Chasdaï
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 permitted his statesmanship and a sense of his own worth to
be seen. Chasdaï's letter fortunately reached the hands of King Joseph,
through the instrumentality of a man Jacob ben Eleazar from the land
of Nemes (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 Russians, 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 helmets and coats of mail, and partly infantry armed only with
spears. The decaying Byzantine empire 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 Frankish
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 receiving Chasdaï'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 Messianic
redemption which he also cherished, he remarks that neither he nor his
people knew anything 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 hands."

When Joseph wrote this letter, he could boast of the peaceful state of
his kingdom. But circumstances 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
conqueror 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 Derbend, 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 Chasdaï 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
Chasdaï, 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 respected genius, Chasdaï
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 Chasdaï's time. His praise was sung by eloquent
tongues." Only two of the philosophers and poets of this time became
famous, Menachem ben Saruk and Dunash ben Labrat. Both of these made
the Hebrew language, which they considerably enriched, the object of
deep research. They went far beyond all their predecessors that had
worked at philology, the Karaites and even Saadiah.

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 synagogal 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 Sabbataï Donnolo. Chasdaï, however, gave the poets an opportunity
of changing their subjects. His imposing person, his high position,
his deeds, and his princely liberality had an inspiring influence upon
the poets, and 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 Chasdaï did not entirely cast off its fetters, nor change
its high-flown style. "The poets in Chasdaï'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. Chasdaï's father Isaac was interested
in him, and took care that pecuniary difficulties 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 Chasdaï attained his high position, he invited the favorite of his
father, with flattering words and glowing promises, to come to Cordova.
Menachem became Chasdaï's court poet, and was warmly attached to him,
praising him in every kind of verse, and, as he himself affirms,
"exhausted poetry in singing Chasdaï's praises." Chasdaï 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 complete Hebrew dictionary
(Machbereth), with some grammatical rules, in which he corrected his
predecessors in many respects. Brought up amidst surroundings 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 misapprehended by
previous grammarians. This misapprehension, 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 explanations 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 unattractive and awkward; he did not understand how to
handle Hebrew meter. He was, however, supplemented by his rival, Dunash
ben Labrat.

This poet (also called Adonim) came from Bagdad, and was younger than
Menachem (born 920, died 970). He afterwards lived in Fez, and was
likewise invited to Cordova by Chasdaï. Dunash appears to have been
wealthy, and was thus able to be freer and more independent than
the grammarian 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 mistakes 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 Mæcenas to his side,
and to injure Menachem 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 Chasdaï
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, Chasdaï's favor was withdrawn from the latter,
and changed into direct hostility. In what their defamations consisted
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 writings to the Jewish minister, and sent
him a panegyric and a satire against Dunash. Chasdaï 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 Chasdaï brings
back peace and order. God has appointed him prince, and granted him the
king's favor, whereby He exalted him above all the nobles."

Menachem's defenders endeavored to appeal to Chasdaï'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 contributed largely towards making the
Hebrew language at once pliant and rich.

As Chasdaï Ibn-Shaprut had given an impulse to various poets and
writers by means of encouragements 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 Chasdaï, 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 Babylonian 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 recognized him as their head. Religious questions
which had hitherto been sent to the 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
Talmudical knowledge, which would enable them to dispense with the
Babylonian teachers. Chasdaï 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 subsistence. 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 communities, 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 Cordova 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
knowledge 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 consequently 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,
Chasdaï 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. Chasdaï 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 Haï--Sherira's Historical Letter
    --The Jewish Congregations in Spain--Jewish Culture in
    Andalusia--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 Communities
    of Northern Africa--Chananel, the Son of Chushiel, and Nissim
    bar Jacob Ibn-Shahin--The Jerusalem Talmud--Haï 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 Pumbeditha--were Sherira and
Haï (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 families having filled the office of Gaon. He
boasted that he could trace his descent to the line of the Exilarchs
before Bostanaï. 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 kings.

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 instruction 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 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 traditional 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 office.
Sherira wrote an answer (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 Bostanaï, and about some of his
contemporaries, _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 Haï, when only sixteen
years old, to the high office of chief judge. The respect for the 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 consequence of this, father and son were
deprived of their liberty, all their property was confiscated, and
there was not enough left to them for a bare livelihood. They were,
however, liberated at the intercession 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 Haï, 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 Haï 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 everywhere, and produced the brilliant
efflorescence of Jewish culture. There arose in the Jewish communities
of Andalusia intense zeal for the various branches of knowledge, and an
eager desire for creative activity.

The seed which had been sown by Chasdaï, the Jewish Mæcenas, by the
study of the Talmud under Moses the Babylonian, and by the poetical
and philological works of Menachem and Dunash, produced 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-Rahman 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 Chasdaï 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 thoroughly 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 sentiments. They were as chivalrous as the
Andalusian Arabs, and excelled them in magnanimity, a characteristic
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, Abulafia, 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 religion with all the fervor of conviction and enthusiasm. 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 senseless 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 mysticism find favor with them during
the flourishing period. No wonder, then, that the Jews of Spain were
looked upon as superior beings by their uncultured brethren in other
lands--in France, Germany, 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 language. 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 Chasdaï were
the pupils of Menachem and Dunash. They carried on a controversy 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 recognize 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 predecessors, 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 Chasdaï's death. The followers of Joseph Ibn-Abitur,
amongst whom were the numerous Ibn-Abitur family, and the brothers
Ibn-Jau, silk manufacturers, 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 themselves, 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 rabbinate. 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 abdicate 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, however, 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 Caliphate 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 admired and sought after. Their business brought them into
contact with Almansur, and on one occasion 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 appointed 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
rabbinate. 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
community were required. Out of regard for Ibn-Jau, who was respected
at court, all the members of the community, amongst whom were his
former opponents, 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 wanderings 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 authority. His patron,
Almansur, deposed him, and cast him into prison, the reason of his
condemnation 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 community, and, consequently, could not satisfy
Almansur'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 practically 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 decadence 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 Germany 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 tyrannical caprice.
Only the fanatical clergy had entertained 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 Meïr), 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, confessed 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 Magdeburg, 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 praised
rule of the Ottos gave the Jews subject 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 Talmudical 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 importance that it had not
obtained even in the Gaonic schools.

Gershom ben Jehuda (born 960, died 1028) was born in France, and
emigrated for some unknown reason to Mayence. 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
distinguished 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 submitted to him, and unwittingly he became the rival
of the last Gaon Haï, 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 in 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 without 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 German 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 liturgical 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 persecutions 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 unlucky 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 Christianity, 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 bribing the officials
with large sums of money, succeeded 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 temporary apostasy, by
threatening to excommunicate any one who reproached them.

The grateful community was anxious to perpetuate the memory of Simon.
It was done by mentioning 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 oppressed because they would not believe in
Mahomet and the immaculate Imam, in the heavenly guide (Mahdi).

This persecution was originated by the mad Egyptian Caliph Hakim, a
Mahometan Caius Caligula, 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,
without 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 possessions (1008).
A similar regulation was enacted against the Christians. When Hakim
heard that the Jews evaded his decree by wearing 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 distance as
unbelievers (1010). 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 persecution
lasted till the Mahometans themselves grew tired of the half-witted
Caliph, and assassinated him (1020).

Northern Africa, too, which had enjoyed a brief efflorescence under
Isaac Israeli, Dunash ben Tamim, 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. Chananel, 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 Babylonian, 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 companion 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 consequence
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
Talmudists, 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 Pentateuch.

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 Babylonian-Persian Judaism
showed manifest signs of decay at this time. They possessed, it is
true, two men of extraordinary ability, viz. Haï 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.

Haï (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 succeeded his father Sherira in the Gaonate of Pumbeditha. 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 communities, 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. Haï 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 religious philosopher. Like him Haï was a
thorough Arabic scholar, and made use of that language in many of his
letters, and in numerous scientific treatises. 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 occasion, when in his
exegetical lectures he chanced upon a difficult passage, he did not
hesitate to consult the Patriarch (Mar-Elia I.).

In his explanation of rare and archaic words in the Bible, Haï
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 Mahometan 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.

Haï treated of the civil law of the Talmud, of contracts, loans,
boundaries and oaths, with systematic 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 Haï perceived
its deceptive 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 especially 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
formulæ, consisting of various combinations of the letters in the name
of God. Haï'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 desecration of religion. A pupil of Jacob
ben Nissim of Kairuan once asked Haï what he thought of the magical
power of the names of God, which, many boasted, they could use. Haï
answered briefly and sensibly:--"If any one by the mere use of formulæ
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 extraordinary than its common motion in the opposite
direction--in short, miracles would cease to be miracles. "It is
wrong," said Haï, "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

Haï was universally acknowledged as an authority, 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, Gershom 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 Zaccaï, and Haï 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 Sora was
without a chief, Haï did his best to give it a leader in the person
of Samuel ben Chofni, who filled his office during Haï's Gaonate.
Samuel was his father-in-law, and his equal in learning and character.
He wrote several systematic works on the ritual, and a commentary 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 commentaries, diffuse, and contained discussions
on irrelevant questions. But although his exegetical works mark no
distinct progress, yet they show the important fact that the Geonim
followed the scientific lines laid down by Saadiah. Samuel ben Chofni's
interpretations 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 Haï
(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 Haï 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 Pumbeditha 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
Zaccaï, 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 muses.

Jewish Spain thus became the heir of Judæa, Babylonia, and northern
Africa, and greatly increased 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 succession 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
Chasdaï, a generous chief and a patron of learning, like Moses ben
Chanoch, a thorough Talmudist, 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. Jehuda Chayuj, the
father of Hebrew philology, instructed him in the subtleties of the
Hebrew language, and the Andalusian capital, which was then the center
of culture, offered him sufficient opportunity 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 Jewish families emigrated to Granada, Toledo, and even to
Saragossa, to escape this persecution. 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 Germany 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 languages. Diplomatic, wise, and always
master of himself, Ibn-Nagrela knew how to employ circumstances, 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 overwhelmed 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, however, was not his only enemy; there were several others, and
very dangerous ones. The fanatical Mahometans beheld in the elevation
of an unbeliever to so high a rank a mockery of their religion. 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 government 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 manner 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 formulæ of Moslem rulers.
He opened with the words, Chamdu-l-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
addressed 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 Chasdaï 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 epigrams
and songs of praise, but his poetic compositions, 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, Haï and with Nissim.
He gave rich gifts to the learned, he had copies of books made to be
presented to poor students, 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 generation 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 structure 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 composed 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 Chasdaï 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 Saragossa were for the most
part still laboring under the delusion that rabbinical Judaism would
be injured 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 comprehension 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, irreconcilable 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 attention 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 explained over
two hundred obscure passages by means of the supposition that the
writer had substituted 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 understanding, 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 exegesis ("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 Chasdaï, 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 1021, died 1070). His father, Judah, who
lived in Cordova, appears to have emigrated with Ibn-Nagrela, during
the disturbances 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-contemplation. Poetry and a
faith resting upon a philosophical 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 improved 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 Alhassan appears to have had a high position
in Saragossa, 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 conspirators,
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 Idumæan (Romance), and some the language of Kedar"
(Arabic). His versified Hebrew Grammar 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 remarkable 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
sentences from the Talmud, Ibn-Gebirol put the favorite sayings of
the "divine Socrates," of his disciple Plato, of Aristotle, of Arabic
philosophers, and more especially 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 Saragossa, 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

In return, he describes the town as a second Gomorrha in a mournful,
heart-rending lamentation, the beautifully rhythmical cry of distress
uttered by despair. Whither he next went is not known. The unfortunate
young poet was so inconsolable that he determined, in his indignation,
to leave Spain altogether, and to go to Egypt, Palestine 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 apostrophizes 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 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 I forsake 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 understanding. 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 attention 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 scattered thoughts. He developed his system in a work entitled,
"The Fountain of Life" (Mekor Chayim, Fons Vitæ), written in Arabic,
which he handled with as much ease as Hebrew. A Christian 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 borrowed 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 unenjoyable. 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 prominent scholastic
writers subscribed to the views of Ibn-Gebirol, whom they called
Avicebrol or Avicebron. Others opposed them, but all considered them.
In later times, the Kabbala borrowed some formulæ 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
circumstances of the time, effect reformations. Of the details of the
life of this moral philosopher absolutely 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 distinguished 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,
changing 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 descendants,
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, especially the prophets, felt
themselves impelled to withdraw from communion with society and from
worldly affairs, 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 exemplary persons, who shall deny themselves
intercourse 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 Alghazali, 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 medicine was also celebrated among the Arabs. Born
at Toledo (982, died 1057), he was appointed physician to Mujahid, the
Prince of Denia, and his son Ali Ikbal Addaula. 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 Chasdaï 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 Chasdaï 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 Chasdaï, a similar poem in the same meter, but not possessing the
same poetical beauty. Joseph ben Chasdaï 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). He was buried at the gate of Elvira, in
Granada, and his son erected a magnificent monument 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 1031), was
a worthy successor to all the honors and titles of his father. King
Badis appointed him his 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 displayed extraordinary
maturity of mind. Joseph, who, like his father, was well acquainted
with Arabic literature, became during his father's lifetime secretary
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 minister, Joseph worked for the welfare of the state, and ruled as
independently as his father. He supported 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 Captivity, 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 lectures 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 believed, 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 conspiracy of the Arabs
organized by the king of Seville, and on this account he was filled
with mistrust 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 monarch 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 statesman.

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 frustrate 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 Berbers 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 suspected 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, unnecessary military preparations. Finally,
he remarked that the king ought to thank God that he had protected 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 themselves up with foolish
hopes, make themselves lords, and treat the Moslems with haughtiness.
When I entered Granada, I perceived that the Jews possessed 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 Mahometans; it was the raven's
croaking for Joseph's death.

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
blackened 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 hundred 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 friendship 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, however, 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-Chasdaï who contended
with Ibn-Gebirol for the laurels of poetry. This Abu Fadhl Chasdaï
(born about 1040) was likewise a poet, but, although acquainted with
Hebrew, 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 attention 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 extraordinary blossoms, the attention of
passers-by was drawn to it, and thus the murder of the noble poet was

At the time when Spain showed such an abundance of distinguished
men, France and Germany were lacking in great creative minds, and
the history of the Jews of these countries presents few interesting
features. They lived entirely undisturbed, were landowners, cultivated
the vine, occupied 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
compatriots. 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 stagnation. The
pursuit of science and poetry had become 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 dissolution 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 followed, 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 second 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 surpassing that used by the Geonim.

Isaac ben Baruch Albalia, by means of documents, traced his origin to
Baruch, a noble exile from Jerusalem, 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 1094) 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 calendar, 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, 1069), 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 foretell future events from the position of the constellations. 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-Chasdaï, Ibn-Jau, and
Ibn-Nagrela, 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 acknowledged 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 belonged 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 jurisprudence 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

Albergeloni in early youth had gone from Barcelona to Denia; at the
same time the fourth Isaac (ben Moses) Ibn-Sakni was departing thence,
probably 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 Haï, 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 were outstripped by the fifth, Isaac ben Jacob Alfassi, or
Alkalaï. Born in Kala-Ibn-Hammad, in the neighborhood of Fez (1013), he
was instructed by the last African authorities, Nissim and Chananel,
and after their death in 1056 he became the representative of Talmud
studies in western Africa. Indifferent to the scientific pursuits which
their taste as well as consideration 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 hitherto 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
acuteness 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 Jehudaï Gaon's time. His name was borne by this 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 knowledge of the Talmud was
the Frenchman, Solomon Yizchaki, a man as acute and independent as
himself, 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 he left his home and his wife to devote
himself to the study of the Law in foreign parts. He tells in what
needy circumstances he pursued this study, "in want of bread, denuded
of clothing 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 lore. In Rashi's earliest decisions
which he delivered 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 not 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, indifference to
Mammon, were as a matter of course expected of every rabbi. Rashi was
the most perfect embodiment of this conception of a rabbi, and Jewish
posterity has beheld in him a spotless personification 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 temper.

After the death of the Talmudical scholars in Lorraine, about 1070,
the German and French students 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 elucidation
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 necessary 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 misunderstanding, 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 commentary 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 passages. 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, conscious 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 expositors 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 achievements 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 grammatical 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, Meïr 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 attainments, 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 the study of the Bible, and although they
did not particularly enrich these studies, yet they undoubtedly imbued
them with fresh vitality. They were Moses ben Samuel Ibn-G'ikatilia,
of Cordova, and Jehuda Ibn-Balam, of Toledo (about 1070 to 1100). The
former, the disciple of Ibn-Janach, in his exposition 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 common
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
division 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 1001 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 works 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 important 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 insignificant 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 subjects the Jews were the ones
best prepared for the work. His knights were too clumsy, and his
citizens 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 diplomatic 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, Cidellus,
who was on such intimate terms with the king, that the latter's reserve
was overcome, and he permitted 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.
Alfonso had, indeed, found a certain equality in citizenship 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 regulations 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 (Alkalde). 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 Nájera), 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 municipal 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 intolerance, was not
likely to countenance the promotion of Jews to honorable offices
in a Christian land. The head of the Church, Pope Hildebrand, 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 privileges 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 suffer
    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

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 neighboring
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 probability 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
disagreements 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 friendship, 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,
instructing him not to pay any regard to the requirements 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 between 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 Leiningen and the Martyrs of Mayence
    --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.

1096-1105 C. E.

Towards the end of the eleventh century there 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 congress 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 confession 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 Rüdiger
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 burgomasters, 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,
Rüdiger gave them a special quarter surrounded by a wall, which they
might fortify and defend. These privileges, for which they annually
paid 3-1/2 lbs. of gold, were guaranteed to them for all time. Rüdiger
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) in 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 1104, 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 crucified 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 inflammatory 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 Christianity, and that the crusade
could begin on the spot, if the beginning were made with the Jews. When
the troops assembled in France and Germany, they were marked by the
cross on their garments and by the blood of the Jews. The massacres 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. However, at the bidding of the head of their
congregation, 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
believing that they would show them the 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 themselves 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
enjoyment of your property. If you remain hardened, your soul and
body shall be destroyed together." The Jews thereupon assembled in
council, and determined, 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 Iyar--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 regard 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 immoral, dissipated life of
the priesthood; the horrible practices of the crusaders--all these
things reminded them much more of the practices of idolaters than of
the followers of a holy God. As in the days of the Maccabees their
ancestors had revolted 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 congregation 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, however, 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 Iyar--18th May). Seven days later those that
had found protection 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 Allebrandus 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 consented to be baptized. The chief amongst them 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 preferred death at the hands of their
brethren. On hearing this, the furious mob fell on the survivors, and
murdered them, dragging the corpses through the streets. Only a few
saved themselves by ostensible conversion to Christianity (Sunday,
1st 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 congregation, which was formed later on, cherished
their memory as of martyrs, or saints (Kedoshim), to be venerated and
held up as patterns of steadfast 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 opponent of Henry
IV, devised a fiendish plan of extermination. The archbishop invited
all the Jews to take shelter in his palace, until the danger had
passed. Over 1300 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 crusaders 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 penetrated 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 conveyed 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 to it, and died in the flames. A
great part of Mayence was destroyed by this fire.

Meanwhile, crusaders, under Hermann the Carpenter, assembled at Cologne
on the eve of Pentecost. The members of this oldest congregation of
Germany prepared for the worst; but they entreated 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, Hermann 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 pilgrims had come to Neus, one of their cities of
refuge, for the feast of St. John (1st 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 lakes 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 community 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
themselves 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 transplanted 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
Cosmas 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 bloodthirsty 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 disgraceful 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
sinful; 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 Emmerich 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 conscience was not
clear, feared the disgrace of exposure, and, as he was in disfavor
with the emperor, he fled to Erfurt. Thereupon the emperor confiscated
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 country. 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 belonged to him, and that they
were endeavoring to rob him: "Ye brought none of Jerusalem's treasures
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 relates 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 Bouillon, after many attempts had
taken the city by storm, and massacred the Mahometans, they drove the
Jews, Rabbanites and Karaites, into a synagogue, set fire to it, and
burnt all within its walls (July 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 protection 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 Judaism."

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
assumed 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 crusading mob on the communities of the Rhine
district. 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 (1105, 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 legends. 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, Joseph
    Ibn-Zadik--Joseph Ibn-Migash--The Poets Ibn-Giat,
    Ibn-Abbas, 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.

1105-1148 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 traveling through Lucena,
and noted the populous Jewish community, which through Alfassi had
become the most influential in Spain. The prince called together the
representatives of the Jews, and announced to them that he had read
that Mahomet had bestowed religious liberty on the Jews on condition
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 protection 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 (1106-1143), the
Jews not only lived in peace, but some of them were entrusted with the
collection of the poll-tax from Jewish and Christian 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
Abraham ben Meïr 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 immortalized 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
Iyar--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 murder.

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 accuracy of the Jewish calendar. But he also
practised the pseudo-science of astrology, and drew a horoscope of
favorable and unfavorable hours of the day. He calculated in the same
way that the Messiah would appear in the year 5118 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 Chasdaï 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 misfortune, 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 1124), 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 depth.

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 Talmudist, 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 instructed 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 conception 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 fashion.

Joseph ben Meïr Ibn-Migash Halevi (born 1077, died 1141) 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 disciple of the school of
Alfassi, whose lectures he attended uninterruptedly for fourteen years.
When Ibn-Migash married (in 1100), Jehuda Halevi composed 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 question.

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 Mahometans 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 conspired,
they could, in case of discovery, take refuge with their powerful
co-religionists. The Jews, however, 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-religionists, the rabbi and judge, Joseph Ibn-Migash, determined to
make an example of him. He condemned the traitor to be stoned to death
at twilight on the Day of Atonement. Joseph Ibn-Migash left a learned
son, Meïr (1144), and a large circle of disciples, amongst whom was
Maimun of Cordova, whose son was destined to begin a new era in Jewish

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 imitators. 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 themselves with matters
other than poetry, were Judah Ibn-Giat, Judah Ibn-Abbas, Solomon
Ibn-Sakbel, and the brothers Ibn-Ezra. They were all surpassed 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 introduced 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 vicissitudes. 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 reflections 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 Abuhajaj 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 (1100).
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,
on 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 emotions 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, without 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 command 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,
complains of the separation from friends, of faithlessness 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, Montpellier, 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, dealing 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
contemporaries 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, ever spotless
        Was his song, even as his soul was:
        Soul, that when the Maker fashioned,
        With his handiwork delighted,

        Straight he kissed the beauteous spirit;
        And that kiss, in sweetest music
        Echoing, thrills through all the singing
        Of the poet consecrated."[1]

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 characteristics 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
prescribed 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 Talmudical
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-Albalia (about 1100). 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 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
sentiments, 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 complained 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

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 metaphysics, 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 1130), 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 I may repair to some place
    of living knowledge, to the fountain of wisdom."

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
inspired 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 following the
example of others, wrote sparkling lyrics, in which he glorified his
numerous friends. He sang of wine and pleasure, and composed riddles.
When his friends rebuked him for this conduct (about 1110), he retorted
in youthful insolence,

        "Shall one whose years scarce number twenty-four,
        Turn foe to pleasure and drink wine no more?"

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 irresistible 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 affliction 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 conviction. 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 expression 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 employed 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
importance 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 comprehensive. From Job or from Plato, Jehuda Halevi borrowed
the form in which his religious philosophical 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 rabbinical Judaism,
and how reply to the objections hurled against it by philosophy,
Christianity, Islam and the Karaites, he produced his answer in
a comprehensive, 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, becomes
convinced of the truth of Judaism. This heathen is Bulan, the king of
the Chazars, who himself embraced the Jewish faith. Him the Castilian
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 servest God." In order to
ascertain with certainty in what manner the Deity should be worshiped,
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
reverential worship.

The king of the Chazars did not feel at all satisfied 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 worshiping 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 something 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 condition
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 creation 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. Christians 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 theologian 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 referred 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 reasonable idea in them. You, O Jew, should have premised that
you believe in the Creator and Ruler of the world, instead of giving
me so dry and unattractive 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 philosophers 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. Christianity and Islam
turn their backs on reason, for they find reason in opposition to
the cardinal doctrines 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

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 sceptics. Jehuda Halevi 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 illuminating 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

        "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 assailed 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 revelation 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 established by philosophy.
The existence of God is demonstrated more powerfully by the revelation
of Sinai than by the conclusions of the intellect. Jehuda 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 and 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

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
propounded a view which is certainly original and ingenious. The truth
of the creation, as related in the Torah, being pre-supposed, he starts
from the fact that Adam was in soul and body completely perfect when
he came from the hand of the Creator, without any disturbing ancestral
influences, and the 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 consciousness, and he possessed, so to speak, a prophetic
nature, and was therefore called the son of God. This perfection,
this spiritual and moral endowment, he bequeathed to those of his
descendants 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
preserve 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 chosen; 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 extraordinary
blessings and curses, which were supernatural. 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 productions 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 followers a joyful disposition. It indicates the
limits of the soul's activity and the promptings of the heart, and thus
maintains the individual and communal 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 Christianity. 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 temporal 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 contumely. The
Moslems also take pride in the followers of their Prophet, who endured
much suffering 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 sympathetically 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 miraculous, 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 blossoms 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 development. As soon as
mankind, prepared for it by Christianity and Islam, recognizes the true
importance 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 kingdom, which is the
true fruit of the tree.

Certainly the exalted significance of Judaism and the people that
confess it was never more eloquently preached. Thought and feelings,
philosophy 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 contemptible life. In him thought and deed
were identical. 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 Jerusalem, 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 animated 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 determination grew to journey thither and there spend his
last days.

This irresistible impulse towards Zion, the favored city, gave birth to
a series of deeply impassioned 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."[2]

        "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 pent in the Arab's
        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 prize."

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 glittering 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, encouraged the people, "The
Distant Dove," to leave the fields of Edom and Arab (Christendom and
Mahometan 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 1141),
he entertained serious thoughts of starting on his holy journey. He
made no slight sacrifices to this remarkable, if somewhat adventurous,
resolve. He exchanged a peaceful, comfortable life for one of
disquietude and uncertainty, and left behind his only daughter and his
grandson, 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 turn revered him as a father. He bade
farewell to his numerous friends, who, without envy, praised him as a
distinguished scholar. All this in his estimation was of little value
in comparison 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 earth.

Provided with ample means, Jehuda Halevi started on his journey, and
his passage through Spain resembled a triumph. His numerous admirers in
the towns through which he passed outvied each other in attentions to
him. With a few faithful companions 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 "between him and death there
intervened only a board," unlocked the store of song within his breast.
Of the sea he sang songs which for faithfulness 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!"[3]

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 became known, all hearts were drawn towards him. The most
distinguished man of the Alexandrian congregation, the physician and
rabbi Aaron Ben-Zion Ibn-Alamâni, 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-Alamâni 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 Dedication.
He tore himself away by force from such dear friends, and meant to go
to the port of Damietta, 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 decline 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 delicately 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 liberality, 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 project 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

Jehuda Halevi appears to have reached the goal of his desire, and
to have visited Jerusalem, 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 soldier. 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 unknown. A legend has it that a Mahometan horseman
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 intellectual
and artistic form.

In Spain Jewish culture had arrived at its zenith, and had reached its
highest perfection in the greatest of the neo-Hebraic poets. In France
the beginnings of culture now became manifest. The reigns of the two
kings of the house of Capet, Louis VI and VII (1108-1180), 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 (præpositus), who was invested with authority to guard the
interests of his people, and to arrest Christian debtors and compel
them to pay their Jewish creditors. The Jewish provost was chosen by
the community, 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 questions, 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 unrestricted 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 explain 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 indefatigable research and close inquiry, of acute dialectics,
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 independently,
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
subjected 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 appeared 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
fashioned surprising Halachic (legal) shapes and substances. For the
circumstances of modern times they found numerous analogies on record,
which a superficial examination would never have discovered.

The circle of the earliest Tossafists was composed chiefly of the
relatives of Rashi, viz.: his two sons-in-law, Meïr 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 Meïr;
and finally a German, Isaac ben Asher Halevi (Riba) of Speyer, also
connected with the family of Rashi.

The school of the Tossafists divided the study of the Talmud into two
branches: theoretical discussion leading to a thorough comprehension
of the text of the Talmud (Chiddushim), and practical application 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 intellectual 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 Meïr (about
1100-1160). 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 Meïr had been
taught by his grandfather 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 grandfather 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 commentaries on the books of the Prophets and
the Hagiographa. Samuel ben Meïr, 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.

1143-1170 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 Christian
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 formulæ, 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 1146 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 mankind desired
to exceed in inhumanity the epochs of darkest barbarism. This period
of suffering imprinted 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 catastrophes 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 Eleanora, 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 Christians 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 permission
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 falsehoods 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
execrable, 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 annihilate them, but like
Cain, the fratricide, they must be made to suffer fearful torments,
and be preserved 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 plundering of the rich Jews, who were reduced to the state of their
poorer brethren. The friendly monarch 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 occasion, 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, 1146, were sacrificed the first victims of
the persecution stirred up by Rudolph. Simon the Pious, of Treves,
whilst on his way home from England, 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 Königswinter, and allowed them to
defend themselves with arms. Wolkenburg became a refuge for many of the
congregations 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 prelates 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 massacres of the Jews, particularly as
these gave rise to dissensions and feuds, and Rudolph even emboldened
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 archbishop 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, maligned
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 _en 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 protest 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 consistent 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 Würzburg,
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 Würzburg. 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
which seized them was therefore the greater, when they were suddenly
attacked by a crowd of crusaders (22 Adar, 24 Feb., 1147). 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 compassionate Christians.
The humane Bishop of Würzburg assigned a burial-place in his own
garden for the bodies of the martyrs, and sent the survivors into a
castle near Würzburg. The lot of the German 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 emperor, were at liberty to commit fearful outrages
(May, 1147).

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 massacred them all.
Among the martyrs of this time in France was a young scholar named
Peter, a pupil of Samuel ben Meïr and Tam, who, in spite of his youth,
had already distinguished himself among the Tossafists. At no great
distance from the monastery of Clairvaux, under the eyes of the Abbot
Bernard, the savage bands of the crusaders continued 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 Tam, who was the most distinguished man among the European
Jews on account 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 fortunately a
knight with whom he was acquainted happened to pass along the road. Tam
still retained 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
Carenton, 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 crusade 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
accompanied 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 future. 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 cameræ) 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 conditions 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 manifested a peculiar political and religious
enthusiasm. Abdallah Ibn-Tumart, who came from the northwest 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 Sunnite teachings of Mahometan orthodoxy, and
the literal interpretation of the verses of the Koran, which affirmed
that God had the feelings of man, and was affected by the same emotions
as man. He obtained 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 recognized as the Prince of the
Faithful (Emir al-Mumenin). 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, however, asserted that
the Messiah would appear at the latest about half a century after the
coming of Mahomet. Behold! that half a century has 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 preferred 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 persecution, 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 steadfast, and departed from the
country in large bodies. Synagogues and churches alike were destroyed
throughout the land of the Almohades, which extended 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 converts. 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 maintained 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 Talmud 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, Draï and other towns.

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 dissensions. 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
synagogues 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. Meïr, the son and successor 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 pretending to acknowledge Islam, though
in private they observed their ancient faith, till they found an
opportunity of openly professing Judaism. Women 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
(1126-1157), 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 Judæo-Spanish literature. 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, in clothing the
naked and feeding the hungry. The congregation of Toledo was very much
increased by the immigrant Jews. Meïr 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 Rabbanite, 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
Rabbanites, 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 rekindled 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 probably 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 persecute 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 (1158), 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 German and French brethren, did not remain
mere indifferent 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 opposing sides.

Meanwhile Jewish learning was in nowise impaired 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 Abraham Ibn-Daud and Abraham Ibn-Ezra,
who, dissimilar 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 1110, 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 expression 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 philology,
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 practical realization of
moral ideals. Such ideals Judaism presents. None of his predecessors
had so definitely and clearly 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 principles of right and affection. The fourth
division, which comprises a large group, prescribes the relation 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 comprehended. 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 importance.

Abraham Ibn-Daud was, however, not only a religious philosopher,
but also a conscientious historian, and his historical labors have
proved of greater service to Jewish literature than his philosophical
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 writings. 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
(1161). 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 researches. 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 profound mind was that of
Abraham ben Meïr 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 personality,
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
Pantheism, existed side by side with a veneration for authority, which
led him, with fanatical ardor, to accuse independent thinkers of
heresy. His temperate mind, which examined into the origin of every
phenomenon, did not prevent him from wandering 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 withdraw. Thus Ibn-Ezra was at once an inexorable
critic and a slave of the letter of the Law, a rationalist 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 distinguished 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
censorious 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 expositor of the Holy Scriptures. As such, he
displayed 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 connect them logically. His restless,
inconstant mind was not capable of creating a complete and systematic
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 interpretation
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 character.

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 1138-1139) accompanied 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 (1140). 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 remained 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 inimitable.
Their sluggish minds were prone to all the superstition of the Middle
Ages. What a contrast 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 pretended 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 dispelling 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
concentrated 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
importance of Hebrew grammar, of which they were completely ignorant.
He translated the grammatical 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 appears 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 cisterns.

He does not appear to have stayed long in Mantua, 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 attention also to the pseudo-science of astrology, which was
diligently studied by Mahometans and Christians. He wrote many books
under different titles on this subject (1148).

After recovering from a severe illness, he determined to write a
commentary on the Pentateuch, a self-appointed task from which
he shrank on account of its great difficulty. 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 interpretation profound, temperate,
and bearing the impress of devoted work. His rich store of knowledge,
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 unsuitable 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 enlightened minds opposed to the obscurity of
Agadic explanation, of which Rashi was the leading exponent. For
although he denounced as heretical every interpretation that differed
from the Massora, yet rationalists considered him their leading
authority, and even unbelief looked to him for support. In fact,
Ibn-Ezra gives us abundant reason for reckoning him among such men as
Chivi Albalchi, Yitzchaki, and others, who called the authority of the
Pentateuch into question. In a vague and mysterious way, he suggested
that several verses in the Torah 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 (1154-1155),
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 connection 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 Provençals 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 (1155-1157), and
wrote his commentaries to the book of Daniel, the Psalms, and the
Twelve Prophets. His fame became wide-spread, and attracted admirers.
The greatest rabbinical authority 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 Mæcenas, 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 accomplished as little in this
branch of learning as in general 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 introduction. He begins by telling a dream which he had had, and
in which the Sabbath in person handed him a letter. Herein the Sabbath
complains 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 consequently the evening before the Sabbath possessed no sanctity.
The apparition thereupon commanded him to take up the defense of the
Sabbath. 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 propounded by the grandson of Rashi, the pious Samuel ben Meïr,
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." Although 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 1166) 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, 1st Adar (22d 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 concentrated 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 1100, died 1171)
was the most distinguished 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 excellence 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 clearness of intellect with acuteness in
reasoning, and was the chief founder of the school of the Tossafists.
None of his predecessors had revealed such profound 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 exclusively, not only
from his own land, but also from southern France and Germany; and all
the rabbinical authorities of the period bowed to him with the deepest
reverence. In his youth he was surrounded by pupils who regarded him
with veneration as their ideal. He was so overwhelmed with the task
of answering questions sent to him that he sometimes succumbed. The
fanatics of the second crusade, who almost deprived him of life, robbed
him of all his possessions, and left him nothing more than his life and
his library. Nevertheless, he composed 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

Jacob Tam is almost the only member of the school of northern France
who overcame the partiality 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
language, 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 acknowledged authority of Tam, brought about a
new departure, which for the first time made its appearance in the
post-Talmudical period. Under the presidency of the Rabbi of Rameru,
the first rabbinical synod assembled for the purpose of deciding
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, Lyons,
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: (1) That no Jew should
summon one of his co-religionists 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
congregation. A ban of excommunication was pronounced against all who
transgressed these and other decisions 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 presided, all those were
threatened with excommunication 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 decisions
were made by the synods, and these possessed the force of law among
the French and German Jews. Thus it was decided that the ordinance
of Gershom for the prevention of polygamy could only be abrogated by
a hundred rabbis from three different provinces, such as Francia,
Normandy, and Anjou, and only for the most weighty motives. The rabbis
did not, like the Catholic prelates, 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 renewal.

In his old age, Tam witnessed a bloody persecution 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
Chartres, and took this opportunity of revenging himself. 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, remained 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 statements were really true. Count Theobald issued an order
condemning the entire Jewish congregation 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 chanting the prayer which contains the confession of faith in
One God (Wednesday, 20 Sivan--26 May, 1171), 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

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 may be 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 Provence--The Kimchis--The Communities of Béziers,
    Montpellier, Lünel, and Toulouse--Persecutions of Jews in
    Northern France--The Jews of England--Richard I--The
    Jews of York--The Jews of Germany--Ephraim ben Jacob--
    Süsskind--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 exposed 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 shuddered 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 Innocent 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 altogether 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 miserable position of
bondmen, in another they still wielded the sword, and fought for their

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
regarded 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 intellect 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 professed 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, possessed 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 1135, died 1204-1205). 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 encouraged 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 1160, 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
language, Ibn-Alfachar wrote choice prose, and composed 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 himself for an audience before the vizir of Almostansir,
in order to present his credentials, he was conducted 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 remarked to the Jewish ambassador, "The
ugly doorkeeper was intentionally chosen, in order to facilitate the
entrance of a Jew into this Paradise, because a Redvan would certainly
never have admitted an infidel."

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 themselves 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 religion, 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 1180 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, probably 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, however, 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 Almansur 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, 1195) he was defeated, and the flower of
Christian chivalry lay upon the battle-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 rendered 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 Provençal 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. 1131, d.
about 1210). 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 hundred and
forty-two verses in honor of Joseph Ibn-Shoshan of Toledo.

Next to him in importance in Barcelona stood Samuel ben Abraham
Ibn-Chasdaï Halevi (1165-1216), "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-Chasdaï, 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
occasions 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 (1165-1173). 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 (1125, died 1186) in the little town
of Gerona in Catalonia. He appears to have possessed considerable
knowledge of philosophy, and was probably one of the first in his
country to occupy himself with this subject. 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 Talmudical works, and
annotated the commentaries of Alfassi. Serachya Gerundi appears to
have suffered persecution at the hands of the community of Gerona, for
which he avenged himself by a satire. He left Gerona, and settled in
Lünel, where he possessed 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
independence of spirit, and everywhere he insists upon a thorough
understanding of the Talmud. But this very independence was displeasing
to his contemporaries, who were accustomed to hedge themselves 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 side 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 excellence, 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 Provençal 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 inhabitants and the Moslems and Jews had weakened
western prejudices against the Orientals. The breadth of mind of the
Provençals, 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 Provençal
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 innovations, 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 distinguished scholar
in any branch of knowledge. The Jewish Provençals 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
noteworthy 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 commerce, which at that time was carried on with Spain,
Italy, England, Egypt, and the East, and was in a most flourishing

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, 1172). 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
1150-1170), 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; composed a Hebrew grammar;
wrote a commentary on Holy Writ, the nature of the extant fragments
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
permanently 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 contrasted 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 robbers; whilst Christian highwaymen often rob the weak, hang,
or blind them. Jewish children are brought up in purity and fear of
God, and no improper 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 prisoners,
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 Christians. 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 character of insignificance is borne
out by his grammatical and exegetical works. The younger brother, David
Kimchi (born 1160, 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 grammatical, lexicographical and exegetical 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 between 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 Béziers, which had received 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,
surrounded 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 consent 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 Béziers 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 murderers 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 Provençal 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 Béziers, they had a predilection 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 neighbors of Béziers. William
VIII and his son expressly enjoined in their wills that no Jew should
be admitted to the office of sheriff (1178-1201), 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 Lünel, not far from Montpellier,
was, under the lords De Gaucelin, an important city, and the Jewish
congregation, consisting of nearly three hundred members, was
considered, together with Narbonne, the most important outpost of
Jewish Provence. Its Talmudical school, which rivaled that in Narbonne,
educated numerous foreign students, who, if needy, were provided with
all necessaries by the congregation. At the head of the congregation
stood a man who was extravagantly praised by his contemporaries,
Meshullam ben Jacob (died 1170), a scholar and wealthy man, whose
opinion was held to be decisive in all matters 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. Meshullam
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 influential position in southern France
that Chasdaï 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 1170 to 1210, although conversant with
the Talmud, had a special predilection 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 Lünel, 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 Lünel. 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 Lünel. 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 Lünel he pursued 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 carefully measured every step, and cogitated deeply
whether he should take it or abandon it. At regular 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 instigation of friends, particularly Meshullam of Lünel--with whom,
as with Serachya of Gerona and Abraham 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 Halevi's religious philosophical work, Ibn-Janach's important
grammatical and lexicographical work, and, lastly, Saadiah's "Religious
Philosophy" (1161-1186). 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 conscientious
translator must thoroughly understand both languages, as well as the
subject-matter of the work, pleaded as an excuse for the stiffness of
his translation, the poverty of the Hebrew language.

The second Tibbonid, Samuel, son of Judah (1160-1239), formed a strong
contrast to the character of his father; though more gifted than the
latter, he was thoughtless, prodigal, and of phlegmatic 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 exhortations 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 rendered 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 distinction
rests on their skill as translators, as that of the Kimchis on their
grammatical acumen.

Not far from Lünel, in Posquières, 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 Meshullam 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 Judaism; 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. Abraham ben David
and Serachya Halevi were the profoundest Talmudists since the death of

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 troubadours 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
instance 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 (1192-1222). 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,
the 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 1170). The larger congregation
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 between 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 enforcement, and endeavored
to bring into effect several other decisions of the Church, which
encroached on the prerogatives of the crown, the young king sent
him into banishment. By and by, however, other considerations, not
different influences, 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 inheritance, 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 transforming 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 plunder 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 nevertheless 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 hundred marks of silver
they were set at liberty. This extortion was only a prelude to further
demands. Before the end of the year 1180, 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 endeavored 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 him, 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

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 independent 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
Tossafists 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 presented 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 (1184).

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 accident, the execution took
place on the Purim festival, and this circumstance reminded the people
of Haman'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, saying 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 members 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 consecrated 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 arbitrary 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 Rudolph, 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
crusaders. 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 Champagne, 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 Dampierre, 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 principle of the legislation of northern France concerning 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 annoyances, 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 Christian world
like lepers. Bishop Odo, of Paris, who issued canonical constitutions
(1197), forbade Christians 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 selfishness 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 the latter's brother, Isaac the Younger (Rizba), in
Dampierre. All three expounded the Talmud in their schools in the usual
manner, decided religious questions that were submitted to them, and
wrote Tossafoth, 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 incitement 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 disciples of his school later on
arrayed themselves against the Spanish exponents of a higher conception
of Judaism.

In England, and in those French provinces which at that time belonged
to England (Normandy, Bretagne, 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 England. In London, Jacob of Orleans, a pupil of Tam, a famous
Tossafist, founded his school. Benjamin 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 à Becket included them among
its victims. At Richard's coronation (3d September, 1189), the first
persecution broke out against the Jews, culminating a century 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 deputation of the richest and most prominent members of
the congregations of England to hand in their presents. On their
appearance, Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, a fanatical church
dignitary, remarked fiercely, that no presents ought to be accepted
from Jews, and that they ought to be dismissed 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, innocently 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 pursued 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 executed. 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 outbreaks 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 confession 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 prosperity, 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 defeated 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 disturbances, 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 Norwich 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 provocation, 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 compulsory baptism, died from the
wounds which had been inflicted on him in London. Crusaders who wanted
to obtain wealth, citizens who were chagrined 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 Christianity. 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 province, 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. Infuriated 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 repulsed all attacks bravely. The governor
was beginning to repent of having given orders to storm the place, and
many noblemen and prudent citizens were withdrawing from an enterprise
which promised so many evil consequences to them, if it became 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

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 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 Egyptian 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, 1190), 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 (18th March),
750 Jews were butchered by crusaders in Bury St. Edmunds. Throughout
England, wherever Jews were to be found, unless protected by the
citizens, they met with the death of martyrs. A congregation 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 office.

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
cameræ," the serfs of the imperial chamber. Frederick Barbarossa, the
most powerful German emperor, who took Charlemagne for a model, was
the first to begin the conversion of free Jews into "servi cameræ."
The legend is interesting which characterizes the connection of the
German emperor with the Jews in history. After the destruction 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 cameræ." The emperor, however, had taken upon
himself the duty of protecting them, as a reward for Josephus' service
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 similarly constituted
the protectors of the Jews, and the Jews became their "servi cameræ."
The Jews had, in all essentials, been "servi cameræ" 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, however, 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 emperor
with pocket-money.

Although the Jews of Germany were "servi cameræ," 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 jurisdiction, and were not compelled to
appear before an alien judge. Now and again some of them attained a
higher position. The brave Duke Leopold of Austria, renowned in history
for his capture of King Richard of England, had a Jewish treasurer,
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 infamous 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 Boppard, 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 horrible 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 (1132-1200), 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 Wolkenburg during the persecution
that attended the second crusade; there he saw the sufferings of
his brethren in faith, and described them later on in an impartial,
enthusiastic and vividly written martyrology, which he brought down
to the year 1196-97. Ephraim was also a skilful versifier, and he
composed many liturgical poems, particularly lamentations on the
sufferings of his time. His verses possess no poetical beauty, but they
are characterized by a certain wit, which is displayed in ingenious
allusions to Biblical verses and Talmudical passages.

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 appreciated that he was
received into the circle of poets. Süsskind (Süzkint) 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 neighboring 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 showered on him formed his sole
means of support. Süsskind 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."

Süsskind also composed a German psalm. He describes the awesome thought
of death and dissolution, 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 farewell 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 became 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
Halaban 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 1175-1190) through
Poland, Russia, the land of the Chazars, Armenia, Media, Persia,
Babylonia, and Palestine. His abridged description of his journeys
gives interesting 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 productions 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
(1171), 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 banners, 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 imposts or Jew-taxes. The favorable feeling of
Alexander 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 endeavored to
pass certain mischievous laws against the house of Jacob. The Jews, who
received information of their hostile intentions, lived in tormenting
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 renewed. On the other hand, it was particularly
insisted upon that they were not to be forcibly baptized, nor to be
apprehended without a judicial warrant, nor robbed, nor disturbed on
their religious festivals. The limitation of a privilege of the Jews,
that henceforth Christians were also to be competent 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
advantage over the Christians. What a contrast to that old Byzantine
law and the resolution of the Visigothic council, that Jews could
not act as witnesses against Christians! Not that the spirit of the
Church had grown milder during these five centuries; but the Jews had
earned respect for themselves, and accordingly the representatives of
Christianity durst not repeat that old charge, "He cannot be true to
men who denies God," _i. e._, the Christian God.

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
requirements 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, Solomon 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
departments, 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 numerously 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 emigrated 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 congregations in the island of Sicily were still more numerous.
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 transplanted 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
Gallipoli 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 Græco-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 merchants, 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 vouchsafed 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 martyrs; nor 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 cultivation
of their minds. Not one of their Talmudists 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 explains 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 Mahometan 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 10 families, nearly all glass-workers. In
Leda (Laodicea), 200; in Jebilé, which belonged to the Genoese, 150;
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 position
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 Palmyra
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 Rabbanites. In the whole
of that part of Palestine in the hands of the Christians, there lived
scarcely more than 1000 families. The largest congregations, 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 Judæa, 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 1169 and 1175
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 Cæsarea, 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 Judæa vegetated rather than lived;
not even the study of the Talmud was cultivated 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 recognition 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 from 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 Judaism. Here there were congregations which
numbered thousands. The former academical cities, Nahardea, Sora,
and Pumbeditha, had certainly disappeared; but in their stead the
congregations of Bagdad and Mosul (called New Nineveh) had gained an
ascendancy over all Asia. The Bagdad congregation contained 1000 Jewish
families with four synagogues, and lived in undisturbed 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 synagogue. The caliph, Mahomet Almuktafi, had conceived an
affection for an estimable and wealthy Jew, Solomon (Chasdaï?), 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 appeared in public, or repaired to
court for an audience, 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 commission,
for which he expected gifts. Thus the exilarchate was once more raised
to the splendor of the time of Bostanaï. 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 considerable 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 believed 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 expeditions,
and Zenki thereupon left the city, and ordered his army to encamp in
tents before the gates. His successor, Saif-Eddin Ghasi (1146-1149),
observed the same friendly attitude towards the Jews. At the head of
the Mosul congregation was a man named Zaccaï, 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 distinguished 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 (Aserbeidsan) 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
themselves 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 our 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 acquirements, but others also, among whom was the commander
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 countrymen 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, Menahem 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 Jerusalem.
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 himself 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 representatives
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
ignorant 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 practised 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
distribution. 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 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 representatives
of the congregation of Mosul, Zaccaï 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 Sultan 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 venerate 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 province of Khorasan, on the highlands by Nishabur.
This tribe numbered 4000 families, and was governed 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 Bokhara,
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 Exilarch 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 consequence was that feuds and bloody fights arose between
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 Mahometans. 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 congregation. 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 according 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 Christians.

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 congregations, 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 hundred
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 numbered
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 before 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 redemption from the dispersion. A third group,
some 50,000, inhabited the province of Chaibar; they were most warlike,
but also possessed some Talmudical 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 inhabitants,
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 surrounded with pomp, was Daniel,
the son of Solomon (Chasdaï), who held office about 1165-1175. He was
as much respected by the Caliphs Almustanjid and Almustadhi as his
father had been by Almuktafi. Under Daniel, the Talmudical college of
Bagdad 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
philosophical 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 considerable, 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 Talmudist. 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
expounding 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 subordinate positions.

When the Exilarch Daniel died (1175), Samuel thought the time
propitious for obtaining the highest dignity and authority over the
Asiatic congregations. 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, appropriated
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, moreover, 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 pleasure 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 ambassadors from the Caucasian hills with
his own eyes. Many poor students from Babylonia and Egypt determined to
repair to this remote nation of proselytes, and instruct them in the
Bible and Talmud.

The condition of Judaism in Asia was at that time very low indeed.
Without higher knowledge, without spirit or enthusiasm, the Jews of
Asia, learned as well as unlearned, discharged their religious duties
in a perfunctory, mechanical way. Even Talmudical 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 Mahometans and Christians the
custom of making pilgrimages 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
dedicated to gaiety and feasting. As the Mahometans also reverenced
the tomb, and even the wild Karmates, who lived nearby, 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 Judæa, 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. All these mythical
stories arose during the period of degeneration which followed the
dissolution of the Gaonate.

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 (1160-1170).

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 endeavors 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,
Reïs), and was, in a sense, the Egyptian Exilarch. The Nagid had
authority to appoint or confirm rabbis and precentors, and to impose
fines, scourgings, 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 character 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 synagogues, 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, Reïs). About this time, Chiskiya and Solomon I,
who believed themselves to be descendants of Anan, successively held
this office (about 1160-1200). 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 authorities at this time
that they were obliged to import a Talmud instructor from France. A
Karaite congregation existed also in Alexandria. In Bilbeïs (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 Egyptian 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 superstition, and put an end to ignorance. Egypt
became, through Moses Maimuni, the center of Judaism.



    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 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--
    Maimuni attacked by Samuel ben Ali--Maimuni and the Jews of
    Provence--The _More Nebuchim_ and its importance--Death of

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 congregations
of Cordova, Granada, Seville and Lucena, 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
Christian Spain, as well as those of the northern Spanish towns, had
not yet succeeded in gaining any extensive 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 cameræ" 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.
Moreover, since the death of Joseph Ibn-Migash and Jacob Tam there had
arisen no men of commanding authority able to mark out a path, or even
to stimulate inquiry.

About this time, when dissolution seemed imminent, Maimuni appeared,
and became the prop of the unity of Judaism, the focus for all the
communities in the East and the West, a man whose decisions as a
rabbinical authority were final, although he was not invested with any
official dignity. 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
contemporaries, that even the day and the hour of his birth have been

Moses Ibn-Maimun (with the long Arabic name Abu-Amran Musa ben Maimun
Obaid Allah) was born on the Eve of Passover (30th March, 1135, 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 community of Cordova. The city
was captured by the Almohades (May or June, 1148), who forthwith
promulgated fanatical edicts against Jews and Christians, giving them
the alternatives of conversion to Islam, expulsion, or death. Maimun
and his family went into exile with the great majority of the Cordovan
congregation. They are said to have established 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 inhabitants 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 anywhere.

From his father, Maimuni learnt the Bible, the Talmud, the Jewish
branches of learning, mathematics 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, however
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 possession, 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, mature 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 philosophical 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 compeers, but in
his strongly-marked individuality he surpassed all his contemporaries.
His actions corresponded 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 difference 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, certainly 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 humility were his characteristics
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 convictions 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,
misrepresentation, 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
ceremonies 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, philosophy, 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 evidence 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 Talmud before him, that he could manage
to dispense with books. A year or two later (1159-1160) 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 profess 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 religion 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 oppression of Judaism its dissolution, and changing
pretence into reality, came near to lending themselves to the notion
that God had, through Mahomet, superseded His revelation on Mount Sinai
by another in Mecca, and almost believed that He had chosen the Arabs
instead of the Jews. This self-abandonment 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 to Islam now exhorted one another
to remain faithful 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 himself 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 reprehensible--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 considerable 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 observed 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 suffering, 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 zealot,
but he proved contrary results from the very passages adduced by his

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. Meïr, 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
Law, 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 transgressed 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
something else to consider," said Maimuni. "We must make a distinction
between a transgression by mere word, and one by deed. The Mahometan
authorities 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 compulsion, where nothing more than a
word is demanded, is, in reality, without parallel. He who sacrifices
himself as a martyr, rather than acknowledge Mahomet as the messenger
of God, certainly performs a most meritorious action. But if a person
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 compelled 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 obligations; 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-Moïsha, had not interceded
for him, and saved him. The feeling of insecurity, together with the
pricks of conscience, when compelled publicly to deny Judaism, 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 Iyar--18th 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--16th May). This
day Maimun dedicated as a family festival, for having escaped religious
intolerance and the dangers 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 1166). So highly esteemed were both father and son by all
who knew them, that letters of consolation 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 appeared 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
accumulated 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 daughter 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 Mahometan
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 discussions, 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
(Halacha) 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 pursued.

Maimuni treated, with special predilection, those points of the Mishna
which have a scientific coloring, 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 tradition, 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 philosophical conception of God. To this end he
turned his attention with particular interest and thoroughness to the
Agadic elements in the Mishna, which till then had been little or only
occasionally noticed. He further explained the nature of tradition,
maintaining 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 uncertainty. Unconsciously Maimuni by this theory put
himself in opposition to the Talmud, and undermined 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 veritable 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-deception, 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 knowledge. 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. Maimonides 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 compared; in
the divinity of the Torah; in its unalterability; 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
unquestioning 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, Epicoros),
he does not belong to the community of Judaism, and cuts himself off
from the hope of future bliss.

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 province of religious practice, but in the shifting ground of
religious belief, and brought the ethereal element of thought under
rigid formulæ.

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 systematic arrangement, yet he did not obtain
a reputation 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
appreciation 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 support.

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
countries. The Fatimide Caliph died, or was deposed, and the great
Saladin, the model of royal magnanimity and chivalry in that barbarous
age, succeeded to the government (September, 1171). At first the
celebrated Ajubide 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 enemies. 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 belonging to it, under the Abbasid or Sunnite
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 1172).
But as the grossest ignorance prevailed among them, there was danger
that the unthinking multitude would proceed from pretence to reality,
and fall away from Judaism altogether. This fear became real when a
Jewish apostate preached to the congregation that Mahomet is mentioned
in the Torah, and that Islam was a new, divinely announced revelation,
which was intended to supersede 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 enthusiastic 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 abandoned 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 counsel and consolation, described to him
their sufferings and apprehensions, and begged him to send a reply.

Maimuni accordingly sent a letter of consolation, in Arabic, to the
congregation of Yemen, directed personally to his correspondent, but
having reference 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 profound 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 professors had not been exposed to
sufferings and persecutions. 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 Persians, Greeks, and Romans, with
a view to refute and falsify the doctrines of Judaism; or finally under
the mask of revelation, as it were, in the garb of Judaism, in order
to juggle it out of existence. 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 revelations of Nazareth and Mecca, compared with
Judaism, 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 foreseen 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 yourselves 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

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 himself, 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
apprehensions of danger. This interesting letter of consolation, 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 importance,
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.

Maimuni's greatness only gradually obtained acknowledgment. As early as
the year 1175, 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 circumstance from which we may infer the universal
recognition of his authority. Maimuni appears to have been officially
recognized in 1177 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 exercised 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 rabbinical 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 approached 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
instance, 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 unbecoming manner. The Mahometans
mocked at them, and with justice too, for they were accustomed to
conduct their own divine service with concentrated devotion. Maimuni,
who always felt deeply mortified when Judaism was exposed to ridicule,
was anxious to put a stop to such offensive behavior in the synagogues,
and with this motive abrogated the silent prayer altogether, without
considering that it is expressly prescribed by the Talmud. Sincere
prayer was to him of higher importance than mere mechanical fulfilment
of precept. This practice, instituted by Maimuni, according to which
the reader alone said the chief prayer, was followed, not only in the
whole of Egypt, but even in several congregations of Palestine, 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 himself to the constant study of
philosophy and science, Maimuni completed his second great work
(8 Kislev--7 November, 1180), 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 uninitiated 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 appropriate 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 Talmud resembles a Dædalian 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 emotional side of Judaism which the aspiration
for a Messianic period of redemption expresses, are treated in this
work as of equal worth and prominence. 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 taken 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 the Shema to
be said in the evening?" and concludes with a discussion 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 Philosophy, and
philosophized the Talmud. He admitted 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 Aristotle 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 Geonim, 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 knowledge of
the Talmud, had no more need to struggle through the thorny underbrush
of Halachic discussions, 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 understood, 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 Scriptures, 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 deviating
occasionally in his decisions from the Talmudical method of determining
the case, and striking out into a path peculiar to himself. In one
particular point he stepped beyond the bounds of the Talmud. The Talmud
treats as Biblical many decisions which were inferred from verses of
Scripture by an application of the accepted rules of interpretation.
Maimuni, however, advanced the principle that only those laws were
Biblical which the Talmud distinctly claimed to be so without recording
any difference of opinion on the subject.

In this bold view Maimuni was manifestly influenced 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 generation, 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 position 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 rabbinical 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 introduced into Judaism articles of
belief, which were to limit thought by thought, so by his codified
determinations 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
circumstances. 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 authorities,
and from the Jewish courts of law, Talmudical Judaism would have
succumbed to petrifaction, notwithstanding 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 became 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 banner of the rabbis," "The enlightener of the eyes of Israel,"
were modest titles. It required all Maimuni'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 judgment, 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

He did not escape the attack of petty opponents, who were jealous of
his towering greatness, insignificant 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, surrounded 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 Maimuni'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

It was only after a residence in Egypt of more than twenty years that
Maimuni obtained an appointment 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 Alfadhel, 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 distinguished recognition of
the sovereign. Alfadhel caused Maimuni to be placed on the list of
physicians, settled upon him a yearly salary, and loaded him with
favors. Inspired by his example, the great men of the country who lived
in Cairo likewise bestowed upon him their patronage, so that Maimuni'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 character is borne also by his medical aphorisms, which
are nothing further than extracts from and classifications of older
theories. In spite of his almost absolute lack of originality in the
province of medicine, Maimuni nevertheless enjoyed a wide reputation as
a medical author. The celebrated Mahometan physician and theologian,
Abdel-latif, of Bagdad, who enjoyed the favor of Saladin in a high
degree, confessed that his wish to visit Cairo 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 Maimuni'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 save her from waning."

Maimuni's reputation was so great that the English king, Richard
Cœur-de-Lion, the soul of the third crusade, wanted to appoint him his
physician 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-Moïsha who had befriended Maimuni in
Fez, had come from Maghreb to Egypt, and when he saw Maimuni, whom
he had known 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 1187). 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 precedence 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 meritorious 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 accordingly took every opportunity to depreciate Maimuni'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
Commentary, 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 religious 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 resurrection 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 dissolution 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 according partial praise
to Maimuni. On another occasion, Samuel ben Ali directed a letter to
Maimuni, 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 Maimuni
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
congregation in Yemen. Maimuni replied with a heated letter, in which
he showed his malicious opponent 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 instruction." Although Samuel ben
Ali was readily refuted 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 completed his religious philosophical work, "Guide of the
Perplexed" (Moreh Nebuchim, Dalalat al Haïrin) in about 1190. This
treatise became of extraordinary importance, not only for Judaism, but
for the history of philosophy in the Middle Ages generally. 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 convincing. 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 elaborated,
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
principal of all essences one indivisible God, the governor of the
world. Judaism likewise teaches with emphatic asseveration the unity of
God, and abhors nothing more thoroughly than polytheism. Metaphysics
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 Maimuni, in the scattered utterances of the prophets, and in the
reflections of the Agada. When, therefore, 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 treasure.

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 realization. He continually imparts to it
new forms and shapes, and implants order and regularity in the world.
Everything is arranged therein in accordance with a final purpose. The
Greek philosophy, 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 composed of
matter and form, and consequently partake most of the divine nature.
Their necessary existence is proved philosophically, because many
phenomena in the universe best admit of explanation 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 motion, and are therefore not subject to
the change of genesis and dissolution, but revolve in the firmament
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 evolutions, 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 multiform universe to be
understood? The changes cannot proceed immediately through Him. 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 reception 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 conception 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 otherwise 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 himself 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 purpose
are of a spiritual nature. If man raises himself 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 immortal 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 prophetic 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 cultivation 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 prophesying of the
prophets always occurred in a kind of dream. The Scriptural accounts
of the actions and experiences of the prophets during their ecstatic
condition, 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 profoundest sway over men's minds. The prophecy of Moses differed
from that of later prophets in four essential points. He received the
revelation without 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 maintain 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 transparent
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 Torah.

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 contents 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 unnecessary, nothing
gratuitous. The design of the revelation brought down 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 government of the world, the other by enjoining principles
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 according 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 suggestive. 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 something 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 fruitful 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 predecessors from Saadiah to Ibn-Daud.

Maimuni's philosophical work, being written in Arabic, also exercised
considerable influence beyond the Jewish world. He had, it is true,
composed 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
animosity against his own people. He even cautioned his favorite
disciple to use the utmost care in handling 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 tendencies 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 sympathy with the human race,
with the Israelites, 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 revelation of the Torah in the fullest sense
as a communication of the Deity to His people, he had to consider 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 attainable
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 immortality and future bliss,
and have divine care vouchsafed them. Thus, according to Maimuni's
theory, there are but very few elect. Lastly, Maimuni had to put a
forced interpretation on verses of Scripture, 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 doctrine 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
resurrection of the dead, which he wrote in Arabic in 1191. 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 misunderstood. 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 condemned 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 acquaintance 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 himself
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 apparently designed to strengthen

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 clericalism, had awakened a
taste for scientific investigation, and where Ibn-Ezra, the Tibbon and
the Kimchi families, had scattered seeds of Jewish culture. 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 circumspection, clearness,
deliberation and depth. Not only laymen, but even profound Talmudists,
like Jonathan Cohen, of Lünel, 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 calling 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 Lünel. In his missive he excuses himself on the ground
that his senses were disturbed, his mental power weakened, 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 Posquières, whose inconsiderate manner of dealing with those who
represented an opposite line of thought to himself had been experienced
by Serachya Halevi Gerundi. This profound Talmudist subjected Maimuni's
Mishne-Torah to scathing criticism, and treated him in a contemptuous
manner. He maintained that the author had not thoroughly grasped
many Talmudical passages, had misconstrued their sense, and had thus
drawn many false conclusions. He reproached him for desiring to bring
Talmudical authorities into oblivion by reducing 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 impulse to the taste for disputation. The rich, learned,
and impulsive rabbi of Posquières also had his admirers. When he died
(Friday, 26th Kislev--27th Nov., 1198), 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 consideration among the congregations of Provence; he
remained for them an infallible authority. The chief representative of
Jewish-Provençal 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 translating his work into Hebrew. Full of
joy he replied to Ibn-Tibbon, and gave him some advice how to handle
so difficult a theme (8th Tishri--10th September, 1199). 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 Lünel 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 translate this work for them into
Hebrew. Maimuni pleaded want of time in excuse, and referred them to
Ibn-Tibbon (about 1200). He seized the opportunity also to exhort the
Provençal Jews to grapple with the scientific treatment of the Talmud.
"You, members of the congregation of Lünel 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 wisdom.
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); in 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
requested the poet Charisi to translate Maimuni's Commentary to the
Mishna into Hebrew. The Provençals took this great man and his writings
as a guide in all their actions.

When Maimuni despatched his last missive to the congregation of Lünel,
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 the congregation held a special
funeral service for him. A general fast was appointed, and the chapter
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 remains 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 Egyptian community, but not his intellect.
His descendants, 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 inscription:

        "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 following substituted:

        "Here lies Moses Maimuni, the excommunicated heretic."

These two inscriptions shadow forth the bitter differences which broke
out after Maimuni's death, and divided Judaism into two camps.



    Effects of the Death of Maimuni--Abraham Maimuni, the son
    of Maimuni--Hostility of the Papacy against the Jews--
    Pope Innocent III--The Albigenses--Emigration of Rabbis
    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
    Benveniste--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 mediæval Jewish history, and
soon after his death the shadows begin to incline. Gradually the
sunshine lessens, and gives way to dismal gloom. His intellectual
bequest produced a far-reaching cleavage, which divided Judaism,
or its leaders, into two hostile camps, and aroused a weakening,
factional spirit which presented points of attack to deadly foes. The
Church, whose arrogance was constantly gaining ground, interfered in
the disputes of Judaism, and brought into play against the refractory
Synagogue 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 Egyptian 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 Obsaibiya. He was likewise a Talmudical scholar,
defended 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 philosophical
ideas of the time. But Abraham Maimuni was a man of learning, not of
original, intellectual power. He followed with slavish fidelity in
the footsteps of his great father, and appropriated his method of
thought, surrendering his own intellectual independence. Abraham made
the Maimunist system of teaching his own. Hence it happens, that what
is striking originality in the father, appears in the son as a copy
and an insignificant commonplace. Abraham Maimuni, it is true, enjoyed
wide-spread esteem, but he was by no means an authority compelling
attention and claiming submission.

In Europe, too, there were no men of commanding influence after the
death of Maimuni. There appeared local, but not generally recognized
authorities. There existed no man who could step into the breach to
pronounce the right word at the proper moment, and point out the right
way to wavering minds. If Maimuni had had a successor of his own
spirit and character, the dissensions between 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, inexorable 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-fé_ 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 Constantinople, 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-disposed to the Jews, was at least
ready, like his predecessors, 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 they 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 disinterred nor
dishonored. So much had Christianity degenerated, that decrees like
these, and a constitution (Constitutio Judæorum) 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 opportunity 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 the 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, however, 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 difficulties, 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 crucifiers 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 possession, through usury, of the property of the Church
and of the Christians, and that, in spite of the resolution of the
Lateran Council, under Alexander III, they kept Christian servants
and nurses in their houses; and further, that Christians were not
admitted 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' paying 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 excommunication, he threatened to inflict that penalty on
Christians 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 denunciatory 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 circumstances
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 Christians 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 inflicting 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 light, 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 thoroughly 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 arrogance, 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 imbibed their hostility from
intercourse with educated Jews. Amongst the Albigenses there was a
sect which unhesitatingly declared the Jewish Law preferable to that
of the Christians. The eye of Innocent 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 consequently cruelly harassed, was also credited by
the Pope with favoring the Jews. In the list of transgressions which
he drew up against the count, Innocent charged him with the crime of
employing Jewish officials in his state, and of generally favoring 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 discharge 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 Béziers.
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
22d July (1209) the beautiful city of Béziers was stormed, and its
inhabitants were massacred 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; God will recognize His own." Under these circumstances,
the flourishing and cultured Jewish communities of Béziers had still
less reason to hope for any indulgence. The result was that two hundred
Jews were cut down, and a large number thrown into captivity. The
Jews, on their side, marked 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 Béziers, 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 bloodshed. 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, Amalarich 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 extinguished by the representatives of the

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 Lackland, 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 Langton,
whom the Pope had appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, and who had
introduced the tyrannical spirit of the Church into England. At the
beginning of his reign, King John assumed the appearance of friendship
towards them, for as he had usurped the crown of his nephew, and in
consequence 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 London, as chief
rabbi over all the English communities (presbyteratus omnium Judæorum
totius Angliæ), 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 (1210), 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 Jerusalem
(1211). The most renowned of them were Jonathan Cohen of Lünel, 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 emigrants stopped on their way at Cairo in order to make the
acquaintance of Maimuni's son, who received 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 patriarchs, 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 activity.

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, 1211). 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 Albigenses 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, 1212), and
all the Jews would have fared very badly, had not the noble Alfonso
interfered 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 disapproved by the

The Church, however, soon educated the Spanish kings and the people to
become the enemies of the Jews. The extraordinary change of sentiment
towards 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 canonical
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 confinement, 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 1214), 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) Benveniste, 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 Montpellier omitted all
mention of the Jews in its deliberations.

Hardly had this local danger been averted, when another and more
general one appeared to be advancing. This threw all those Jews who
received tidings of it into the greatest consternation. Innocent
III had, through an encyclical, pastoral letter, convoked to Rome
the representatives of entire Christendom for a general Œcumenical
Council, at which the energetic prosecution of the crusades against
the Mahometans in the Holy Land, in the Pyrenean peninsula, and
against the heretics of the south of France, was to be decided upon;
the deposition of the Count of Toulouse, and the transference of his
estates to Simon de Montfort were to be ratified, and the reformation
of the Church, _i. e._, the extension of her power in the states, was
to be promoted. The congregations of the south of France, who had been
informed that a severe blow was about to be dealt the Jews at the
meeting of this council, were completely staggered. Isaac Benveniste
accordingly invited Jewish deputies to the town Bourg de St. Gilles,
in order to select certain influential and able men as deputies to
Rome, who should endeavor to prevent the enactment of resolutions
against the Jews. The names of the delegates chosen for this purpose
are unknown, because their labors proved fruitless. The great Fourth
Lateran Council was presided over by Pope Innocent III, and comprised
over 1200 deputies from many Christian states, both churchmen and
laymen. At this council, the papacy was permitted to make the greatest
demands ever preferred by it. To its action is due the founding of
the two orders of the Dominicans and Franciscans, distinguished by
their hatred of freedom and their bloodthirstiness. This council,
which wrapped round Christian Europe the ignominious coil of spiritual
servitude, and threw it back into the ignorance of barbarism, inflicted
deep wounds on Judaism. On the feast of the Maccabees, during which the
children of Jacob celebrated their deliverance from Syrian tyranny,
this council, which placed the yoke of the deepest degradation on
the posterity of the Maccabean heroes, brought its deliberations to
a conclusion (30th November, 1215). Though in the midst of gigantic
undertakings, the Pope and the Elders of the Council nevertheless did
not forget the Jews. Four of the seventy canonical decrees then passed
dealt with the Jews. One canon set forth that Christian princes should
keep strict watch over the Jews, lest they exact too high an interest
from their Christian debtors. This restriction is not altogether
unjustifiable--although, indeed, the Christian clergy and laity
promoted Jewish usury, and profited by it; and Christian companies,
like the Lombards and the Caorsini (called also Ultramontanes),
practised usury on an enormous scale. The Church did not take any
notice of the financial needs of the time, and kept to the strict
letter of the Bible. The council, from its point of view, was also in a
measure justified in forbidding baptized Jews to retain Jewish customs,
because it would have been suicidal to the Church to allow freedom of
conscience. If the accusation was true that some Jews at that time
mocked at the Christian processions at Easter, then the authorities
of the Church were partly right in forbidding them to show themselves
openly on that day; although equitable legislation would not place
restrictions on a whole community on account of the transgressions of a
few indecorous members. Still more unjust was the canon which not only
decreed that the Jews should give tithes of their houses and property,
but also that the head of every Jewish family should pay a yearly tax
at the Easter festival. The Catholic clergy considered themselves
lords, to whom the Jews, their subjects, were to bring tribute. But
it was characteristic of the spirit of Innocent, the persecutor of
the Albigenses, that the law was renewed, that "no Christian prince
shall bestow any office on a Jew." The transgressor of this rule was
to be punished with excommunication, and every Jewish official was
to be excluded from the society of Christians until he resigned his
office in disgrace. The council, however, was unable to bring forward
even a show of reason for this canonical decree; neither the New
Testament, nor the Fathers of the Church, however much they hated the
Jews, had offered a precedent for it. The Lateran Synod was compelled
to go back to the Provincial Council of Toledo, under Recared, king
of the Catholic Visigoths, in order to find a precedent for this
scandalous law. The depth of the degradation of the Jews, however,
was reached by the decision of the council that Jews in all Christian
countries and at all times should wear a dress differing from that
of the Christians. The reason urged was that in many countries where
Jews (and Mahometans) wore the ordinary costume, intermarriages took
place between the Jews and the Christians. By a sophistical argument
it was shown that this law was contained in the Bible, and that Moses
had commanded the Jews to wear a peculiar dress. Therefore it was
decreed that, from the twelfth year of their age, Jews were to wear a
peculiar color as a badge of their race, the men, on their hats, and
the women, on their veils. This stigma on the Jews was an invention of
Pope Innocent and of the Fourth Council assembled at Rome. It cannot,
however, be strictly called an invention, because the pope borrowed the
idea of forcing the Jews to wear a peculiar badge from the fanatical
Mahometans. The Almohade Prince of the Faithful of Africa and southern
Spain, Abu-Yussuff Almansur, had forced those Jews who had adopted
the Mahometan faith through compulsion to wear a hideous dress, heavy
clothes with long sleeves, which almost reached the feet, and instead
of turbans, large bonnets of the ugliest shape. Said this fanatic:
"If I knew that the converted Jews had adopted the Mahometan belief
with an upright heart, then I would allow them to intermarry with the
Mussulmans. If, on the other hand, I were convinced that they are still
sceptics, I would put the men to the sword, enslave their children,
and confiscate their goods. But I am doubtful about this point;
therefore they shall appear distinguished by a hateful uniform." His
successor, Abu-Abdullah Mahomet Alnasir, allowed them to change this
mean apparel for yellow garments and turbans. By this color the class
of people who were outwardly Moslems, yet in their heart of hearts
still Jews, was characterized in the first decade of the thirteenth
century in the kingdom of Morocco. This barbarous treatment of the
Jews, Pope Innocent III now imitated, and their greatest humiliation
during six centuries of European life dates from November 30th, 1215.

Provincial councils, assemblies of estates and royal cabinets
thenceforward, in addition to their deliberations on the exclusion of
the Jews from all honors and offices, determined on the color, form,
length and breadth of the Jew-badge, with pedantic thoroughness. The
Jew-badge, square or round in form, of saffron yellow or some other
color, on the hat or on the mantle, was an invitation to the gamin to
insult the wearers, and to bespatter them with mud; it was a suggestion
to stupid mobs to fall on them, to maltreat, and even kill them; and
it afforded the higher class an opportunity to ostracize the Jews, to
plunder them, or to exile them.

Worse than this outward dishonor was the influence of the badge on
the Jews themselves. They became more and more accustomed to their
ignominious position, and lost all feeling of self-respect. They
neglected their outward appearance, because they were nothing but a
despised, dishonored race, which could not have even the least claim
to honor. They became more and more careless of their speech, because
they were not admitted to cultured circles, and in their own midst they
could make themselves understood by means of a jargon. They lost all
taste and sense of beauty, and to some extent became as despicable
as their enemies desired them to be. They lost their manliness and
courage, and a child could place them in terror. The punishment which
Isaiah had prophesied for the house of Jacob was fulfilled to the
letter: "Thou shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be
low out of the dust." The great misery of the Jews during the Middle
Ages began with Pope Innocent III. In comparison with their subsequent
sufferings, all foregoing persecutions from the beginning of the
Christian domination seemed like innocent bantering. But the Jews did
not readily comply with the decree which forced them to wear the mark
of shame. This was especially the case with the communities in Spain
and southern France, which, having held an honorable position, would
not suffer themselves to be humiliated without a struggle. Besides,
there were influential Jews at the courts of Toledo and Saragossa,
either as ambassadors to foreign courts or as treasurers of the royal
coffers, who exerted their utmost efforts to prevent the enforcement
of the decree. When Pope Innocent III died (1216), and Pope Honorius
III, who was of a mild temperament compared with Innocent, ascended
the papal throne, the Jews hoped for a repeal of this canonical law.
Isaac Benveniste seems to have been particularly active in this
direction, as he had been in trying to ward off the disgrace when
first contemplated. They were successful in delaying the enforcement
of the canonical decree. At least, King Alfonso IX of Leon did not
compel the Jews of his land to wear the badge, and Pope Honorius was
compelled to exhort the bishop of Valencia and two brother bishops
to see that the decree was duly enforced, and that all Jews were
excluded from offices of honor. The communities of southern France
viewed with joy the victorious progress of the army of the repeatedly
excommunicated Raymund VII of Toulouse against the crusading army
and Simon de Montfort, because their security depended on the victory
of the Albigenses. The Duke of Toulouse and his barons, in spite of
their oaths, continued to promote Jews to offices, for they saw that
their administrative policy would lead to their advantage. It may be
that it was on account of the secret and open devotion of the Jews for
Raymund that Simon de Montfort's wife Alice of Montmorency, ordered all
the Jews of Toulouse--of which town she had charge--to be arrested,
offering them the choice between death and conversion, although her
husband, as well as his brother, had sworn to the Jews that their lives
would be safe, and that freedom should be allowed them for the due
exercise of their religion. At the same time, Alice ordered that Jewish
children under the age of six should be torn from their parents, and
given over to the priests in order to be baptized and brought up as
Christians. The heartless woman had no feeling for the pangs that the
Jewish mothers suffered. In spite of this, the majority of the members
of the Toulouse community refused to become Christians.

When, however, Simon de Montfort heard of this cruel persecution of the
Jews by his wife, he ordered the prisoners to be released, and to be
allowed to practise their religion in freedom. The joy of the unhappy
people when they were told of this deliverance (1 Ab--7th July, 1217)
was great, but it was mixed with sadness, for the Cardinal-Legate
Bertrand had decided that the children that had been baptized should
not be allowed to return to their parents. The legate also insisted
upon the Jews' wearing the distinctive badge. In the meantime, there
came a counter-command from the Pope, that the decree should not be
too strictly enforced, but the cause of this change in the papal
policy is unknown. In Aragon the Jews obtained the same immunity from
the indignity of the Jew-badge through the untiring efforts of Isaac
Benveniste, physician in ordinary to the king, Jayme I (Jacob). This
illustrious man had rendered the king such important services that the
latter, with the consent of the bishops of the country, recommended
him to the Pope, and strove to obtain for him recognition from the
papal chair. Wonderful to relate, Honorius took up the matter, and, in
recognition of his merits in eschewing usury, and zealously assisting
Catholics, sent Isaac Benveniste a diploma that he should in nowise be
molested. For his sake also the Jews were exempted from wearing the
badge (1220).

However friendly Honorius affected to be in this matter, he was
nevertheless far from being disposed to countenance the appointment
of Jews to posts of dignity. In an autograph letter of the same year,
he exhorted King Jayme of Aragon not to entrust any Jew with the
office of ambassador to a Mahometan court, for it was not probable
"that those who abhorred Christianity would prove themselves faithful
to its professors." In this spirit the pope wrote to the archbishop
of Tarragona, to the bishops of Barcelona and Ilerda, to prevail on
the king of Aragon to employ no Jews in diplomatic legations, and to
abolish a practice so perilous to Christendom. The pope also exhorted
the Church dignitaries of Toledo, Valencia, Burgos, Leon, and Zamora,
to use their influence with the kings of Castile, Leon, and Navarre
for the same purpose. How little did the pope know the incorruptible
fidelity of the Jews towards their sovereigns, and their love for the
land of their birth! So far from abusing the trust reposed in them,
the Jewish ambassadors applied the utmost zeal in executing their
commission successfully. But since Innocent III, it had become a fixed
principle of the Church to degrade and humiliate the Jews. Although
Honorius had exempted the Jews of Aragon from wearing the badge of
disgrace, he insisted that those of England should not be released from

In that country, Stephen Langton, who had been appointed archbishop
by the Pope, held the reins of government, after the death of the mad
tyrant John Lackland, and during the minority of his son Henry III.
This prelate exercised his power as if he were the wearer of the crown.
At the council of Oxford, which he summoned in 1222, several decrees
with reference to the oppression of the Jews were promulgated. They
were not to keep any Christian servants, and were not to build any
new synagogues. They were to be held to the payment of the tithe of
their produce and the Church taxes, according to the decision of the
Lateran council. Above all things they were to be compelled to wear on
the breast the disgraceful badge, a woolen stripe four fingers long
and two broad, of a color different from the dress. They might not
enter the churches, and still less, as had hitherto been their custom,
might they place their treasures there for security from the attacks
of the brigand nobles. These restrictions were imposed on the English
Jews because they had been guilty of monstrous crimes, and had proved
themselves ungrateful; but the nature of their crime is not mentioned.
Was perhaps the fact that a deacon had in the same year gone over
to Judaism, laid to their charge? In after years such an occurrence
caused the expulsion of the Jews from England. This time the deacon was
summarily burnt at the stake for his apostasy. The Church knew no more
effective means of refuting a heresy than the blazing fire.

It is remarkable that the hostile measures of the Pope against the
Jews at that time had least effect in Germany, and that under Emperor
Frederick II they enjoyed a comparatively favorable position. It is
true that they were "servi cameræ" of the empire and the emperor, and
were even so called; but nevertheless princes, especially the archdukes
of Austria, now and again entrusted into their hands important
offices. Those Jews who had access to the courts of the princes
always labored to free themselves from the Jew-tax, and to obtain
privileges from their patrons. As, however, it was the custom in the
German congregations to distribute the tax among all the members of
the congregation in proportion to their means, it happened that if the
richer and more influential men obtained exemption from it, the poorer
members found themselves greatly encumbered, and accordingly complaints
were made about it to the rabbinical authorities of that time. A synod
of rabbis, which met at Mayence (Tammuz--July, 1223), discussed this
question, for the purpose of adjusting it. There were at this synod,
which numbered more than twenty members, the most influential rabbis
in Germany: David ben Kalonymos, of Münzenburg (in Hesse-Darmstadt),
a famous Tossafist; Baruch ben Samuel, of Mayence, composer of a
Talmudical work; Chiskiya ben Reuben, of Boppard, the courageous
champion of his persecuted co-religionists; Simcha ben Samuel, of
Speyer, likewise a Talmudical author; Eleazar ben Joel Halevi, called
Abi-Ezri, from his Talmudical works; lastly, the German Kabbalist,
Eleazar ben Jehuda of Worms, called Rokeach, a prolific author, who,
through his mysticism, helped to obscure the light of thought in

This rabbinical synod of Mayence renewed many ordinances of the times
of Rabbenu Tam, and established others besides. Its decisions mark
the condition of the German Jews in the beginning of the thirteenth
century. The synod enacted that Jews should on no account incur blame
by dishonorable dealings with Christians, or by the counterfeiting of
coin. An informer was to be compelled to make good the loss which he
had caused by his information. Those who had freedom of access to the
king (emperor), were none the less under the obligation to bear the
communal burden in raising the tax. He who received a religious office
through Christian authorities incurred the penalty of excommunication.
In the synagogues, devotion and decorum were to prevail. The
brother-in-law was to complete the release of his widowed sister-in-law
from her levirate marriage without extortion of money and without
trickery, and he was not to keep her in suspense. He who would not
submit to the regulations of the synod, or did not respect a sentence
of excommunication, was to be delivered over to the secular power.
The determination of disputed cases was left to the rabbinate and the
congregations of Mayence, Worms, and Speyer, as the oldest German
Jewish communities.

In spite of the many exertions of the cultured Jews to avert the
disgrace of wearing the badge, papal intolerance gradually gained the
ascendancy, and the edict of the Lateran Council of 1215 henceforth had
sway. Even Emperor Frederick II, the most intelligent and enlightened
prince that Germany ever had, whose orthodoxy was more than doubtful,
had at length to bow to the will of the papacy, and introduce the
Jew-badge by law in his hereditary provinces of Naples and Sicily.

In southern France, where, in consequence of the war against the
Albigenses, the spirit of persecution had been intensified among the
clergy more perhaps than in other Christian countries, the edicts of
Innocent III for the degradation and humiliation of the Jews found
only too zealous supporters. At a council at Narbonne (1227), not only
were the canonical ordinances against them confirmed, the prohibition
of taking interest, the wearing of the Jew-badge, the payment of a tax
to the Church, but even the long-forgotten decrees of the ancient time
of the Merovingian kings were renewed against them. The Jews were not
allowed to be seen in the streets at Easter, and they were prohibited
from leaving their houses during the festival.

In the next year the Albigensian war came to an end, and the horrors of
a blind, revengeful, bloodthirsty reaction began. The preacher-monks,
the disciples of Domingo, glorified Christianity through the agonies
of the rack and the stake. Whoever was in possession of a Bible in
the Romance (Provençal) language incurred the charge of heresy at the
court of the Dominicans, who had the exclusive right to bloodthirsty
persecutions. Their allies, the Franciscans or Minorites, energetically
seconded them. It was not long before these destroying angels in monks'
cowls placed their clutches upon the sons of Jacob.

Four men appeared simultaneously on the stage of history, who were
thoroughly pervaded with the spirit of Christianity, and especially
with its oppressive, unlovely, inhuman form, and they rendered the
life of the Jews in many countries an inconceivable torture. The first
was Pope Gregory IX, a passionate old man, the deadly enemy of Emperor
Frederick II, whose sole ambition was the extension of the power of
the Church and the destruction of his opponents, who cast the torch
of discord into the German Empire, and annihilated its unity and
greatness. The second was King Louis IX of France, who had acquired
the name of "the Saint," from the simplicity of his heart and the
narrowness of his head; he was a most pliant tool for crafty monks, a
worshiper of relics, who was strongly inclined to adopt a monk's cowl,
and most readily assisted in the persecution of heretics, and who
hated the Jews so thoroughly that he would not look at them. Similar
to him was his contemporary Ferdinand III of Castile, who inherited
also the crown of Leon, and was likewise recognized by the Church as
a saint, because he burnt heretics with his own hand. Lastly, the
Dominican-General Raymond de Penyaforte (Peñaforte), the most frantic
oppressor of the heretics, who applied all his efforts to convert
Jews and Mahometans to Christianity. In this spirit he exercised his
influence upon the kings of Aragon and Castile, and caused seminaries
to be established, where instruction in Hebrew and Arabic was given,
in order that these languages might be employed for the conversion of
Jews and Saracens. These tyrannical, pitiless enemies, furnished with
every resource, were let loose upon the Jews. Gregory IX exhorted the
bishop of Valencia (1229) to crush the arrogance of the Jews towards
the Christians, as if the Church were hovering in the greatest peril.
Consequently, under Jayme I, of Aragon, the position of the Jews of
Aragon and of the provinces belonging to it took an evil turn. Spurred
on by clerical fanaticism and by greed for gold, this king declared the
Jews to be his clients, _i. e._ in a manner, his "servi cameræ."

Everywhere the hostile spirit which first proceeded from Innocent,
and was spread by the Dominicans, assumed the form of severe laws
against the Jews. At two Church assemblies, in Rouen and Tours (1231),
the hostile decrees of the Lateran Council against the Jews were
re-enacted, and at the latter meeting another restriction was added,
the Jews were not to be admitted as witnesses against Christians,
because much evil might arise from the testimony of Jews.

The narrow-minded disposition of the Church towards the Jews was felt,
through the increased power of the papacy after Innocent, even by
the Jews dwelling on the banks of the Lower Danube and the Theiss.
In Hungary they had settled at a very early date, having immigrated
thither from the Byzantine and Chazar empires. Since there were many
heathen and Mahometans among the dominant Magyars, the kings had to
be very tolerant towards them; besides this, the Christianity of the
Magyars was only superficial, and had not yet affected their feeling
and mode of thought. Consequently, the Jews of Hungary from time
immemorial had had the right of coinage, and were in friendly relations
with their German brethren. Till the thirteenth century, Jews as well
as Mahometans were farmers of salt mines, and of the taxes, and filled
various royal offices. Mixed marriages between Jews and Christians
also occurred frequently, as the Church had not yet established itself
in the country. This enjoyment of dignities by the Jews in a country
only half Christian, could not be tolerated by the Church: it was a
thorn in its side. Accordingly when King Andreas, who had quarreled
with the magnates of the country, and had been compelled to issue a
charter of liberty, applied to Pope Gregory IX for help, the latter, in
a letter to Robert, Archbishop of Gran, ordered him to compel the king
to deprive both Jews and Mahometans of their public offices. Andreas
at first submitted to the papal will, but did not carry out the orders
of the Pope zealously, because he could not well dispense with his
Jewish officials and farmers. On this account and for other grounds of
complaint, the archbishop of Gran passed sentence of excommunication on
the king and his followers by order of the Pope (beginning of 1232). By
various strong measures, Andreas was at last compelled to obey, and,
like Raymund, of Toulouse, solemnly to promise (1232) that he would
not admit Jews or Saracens to offices, nor suffer any Christian slaves
to continue in their possession, nor allow mixed marriages, and lastly
that he would compel them to wear a badge. The same oath had to be
taken, by order of the papal legate, by the crown prince, the king of
Slavonia, and all the magnates and dignitaries of the kingdom.



    The Opposition against Maimuni--Maimunists and
    anti-Maimunists--Meïr 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 Bahir--Three Parties in Judaism
    --Last flicker of the Neo-Hebraic Poetry--The Satirical
    Romance: Al-Charisi and Joseph ben Sabara.

1232-1236 C. E.

As misfortunes never come singly, but draw others after them, so
besides the insults and humiliations which the Jews suffered from
without, there now arose alarming disunion within their ranks.
Remarkably enough, this intestine war was associated with Maimuni,
whose aim, during his whole life, had been to effect union and complete
finality in Judaism. But in undertaking to explain philosophically the
intellectual side of Judaism, he established principles which did not
by any means bear a Jewish stamp on them, nor were they in consonance
with the Bible, and still less with the Talmud. Those scholars whose
learning was entirely confined to the Talmud ignored the philosophical
discussion of Judaism, considered it sinful to be occupied with other
branches of knowledge, even when applied to the service of Judaism, and
took their stand, right or wrong, on the Talmudical saying, "Withhold
your children from excessive reflection." Even intelligent men, and
such as were philosophically trained, recognized that Maimuni, in his
endeavor to reconcile religion with the philosophy of the age, had made
the former subservient to the latter, and had made the mistress over
the mind a slave. Articles of belief and Scriptural verses, which do
not admit of philosophical justification, have no value according to
Maimuni's system. Miracles were not inevitable in Maimuni's philosophy;
but attempts were made to reduce them as far as possible to natural
causes, and to interpret in a rationalistic manner the Biblical
verses which contain them. Prophecy and direct communication with the
Deity, as it is taught in the Bible, Maimuni refused to accept, but
explained them as subjective occurrences, as effects of an over-heated
imagination, or as dream-phenomena. His doctrine of immortality was
not less in contradiction with the belief of Talmudical Judaism. It
denies the existence of a paradise and a hell, and represents the
purified soul as becoming fused with the original spirit. His method
of explaining many ceremonial laws especially provoked contradiction,
because, if accepted, these laws would lose their permanent value,
and have only temporary importance. And the manner in which Maimuni
expressed himself on the Agada, a constituent part of the Talmud--which
he either explained away or rejected--was in the eyes, not only of
the strict Talmudists, but also of more educated men, an heretical
attack upon Judaism, which they believed it was their duty to
energetically repel. Thus, besides enthusiastic worshipers of Maimuni,
who religiously adopted his doctrine as a new revelation, there was
formed a party, which assailed his writings, and combated particularly
the "Guide of the Perplexed" (Moré), and the first part of his Code
(Madda). The rabbis and the representatives of the Jewish congregations
in Europe and Asia, consequently became divided into Maimunists and
opponents to Maimuni (Anti-Maimunists). Such of the latter as were his
contemporaries, still full of the powerful impression which Maimuni's
individuality and activity had produced, fully acknowledged his genius
and piety, and blamed or criticised his views only, and the writings
which contained them.

The opposition to his philosophical doctrines had begun during
Maimuni's life, but it remained quiet and timid, unable to assert
itself against the enthusiasm of his admirers. A young, intellectual,
and learned man, Meïr ben Todros Halevi Abulafia, of Toledo (born about
1180, died 1244), had, at an early period, expressed his religious
objections to Maimuni's theory in a letter to the "wise men of Lünel,"
which was intended for publication. Maimuni's doctrine of immortality
forms the central point of Abulafia's attack. He made, however, but
little impression by this letter, for although Meïr Abulafia was
descended from a highly respectable family, and enjoyed considerable
authority, still his hostile attitude towards science, and his
tendency towards an ossified Judaism, isolated him even in his own
circle. Apart from this, he was possessed of overweening arrogance,
a quality not calculated to win adherents and organize a party.
Instead of finding supporters, Meïr met with a sharp rebuff from the
learned Aaron ben Meshullam, of Lünel, who was master of the sciences
and the Talmud, and a warm adherent of Maimuni. He charged him with
presumption in venturing, though unripe in years and wisdom, to pass
an opinion on the greatest man of his time. The Talmudists of northern
France, led by Samson of Sens, to whom every letter of the Talmud was
an embodiment of the highest truths, and who would not countenance
any new interpretations, thoroughly concurred with the inquisitor
Meïr Abulafia. Meïr was looked upon in his time as chief of the
Obscurantists. The aged Sheshet Benveniste, of Barcelona, ever a warm
friend of free research, composed a sarcastic epigram upon him:

        "You ask me, friends, why this man's name,
        Seeing he walks in darkness, should be Meïr.[4]
        I answer, the sages have called the night 'light,'
        This, too, is an example of the rule of contraries."

Another poet directed the arrows of his wit against Abulafia, but
its points are untranslatable. The Maimunists were generally vastly
superior to their adversaries in knowledge and speech, and they could
expose the enemies of light to ridicule.

The hostility against Maimuni appeared also in the East, but not so
strongly. A learned Talmudist, Daniel ben Saadiah, a disciple of the
Samuel ben Ali who had conducted himself so maliciously against the
sage of Fostat, had settled in Damascus, and animated by the spirit of
his master against the Maimunist tendency, he conceived it his duty to
continue to make it the target of his hostility. Daniel, in the first
place, impugned Maimuni's Talmudical decisions in order to weaken the
position on which his commanding influence rested, for it was through
Maimuni's acknowledged rabbinical authority that his philosophical,
or according to his opponents, his heretical, doctrines found such
dangerous and general acceptance. Daniel, however, thought it advisable
to maintain a respectful tone towards him; he even sent his polemic to
Abraham Maimuni for examination. Afterwards Daniel, in an exegetical
work, allowed himself to make veiled attacks upon Maimuni's orthodoxy,
and curiously enough reproached him with not believing in the existence
of evil spirits. His main argument, however, was not strictly
concerned with the existence or non-existence of demons, but sought
to demonstrate that Maimuni was a heretic, because he had refused
to acknowledge unconditionally, as correct and true, utterances
which occur in the Talmud. Maimuni's admirers, however, were greatly
exasperated at these attacks of Daniel, and Joseph Ibn-Aknin,
Maimuni's favorite pupil, urged Abraham Maimuni to pass sentence of
excommunication on Daniel ben Saadiah. Abraham, however, who had
inherited his father's disinterestedness and love of justice, would
not hear of it. He expressed himself on the subject with meritorious
impartiality, saying that he did not think it right to excommunicate
Daniel, whom he considered a religious man of pure belief, who had
only made a mistake in one point; moreover, that as he was a party in
this controversy, he did not feel himself empowered to excommunicate
an antagonist in a matter that was to some extent personal. Maimuni's
admirers, and especially Joseph Ibn-Aknin, were not, however, disposed
to take the same view. They labored to induce the Exilarch David of
Mosul to exclude from the community the blameless and esteemed scholar
of Damascus, until he should humbly recant his strictures upon Maimuni.
Daniel was excommunicated, and died of grief, and all opposition to
Maimuni in the East was silenced for a long time. The Asiatic Jews were
still so overpowered by the glamour of his name, that they could not
think of him as a heretic. Nor were they learned enough to grasp the
range of Maimuni's ideas, and to perceive their incompatibility with
the spirit of the Talmud. It may also be that his admirer, Jonathan
Cohen, who had emigrated to Palestine, had won the pious to his side,
and had defeated the party of Samson of Sens, which was inimical to him.

Very different was the state of affairs in Europe, especially in the
south of France and in Spain. Here Maimuni's theories had taken root,
and dominated the minds of the learned and of most of the influential
leaders of congregations; henceforth they regarded the Bible and the
Talmud only in the Maimunist light. The pious Jews of Spain and
Provence endeavored to reconcile the contradictions between Talmudical
Judaism and Maimuni's system, by a method of interpretation. The less
religious used his system as a support for their lukewarmness in the
performance of their religious duties; they expressed themselves more
freely about the Bible and the Talmud, practically neglected many
precepts, and were bent on re-organizing Judaism on a rationalistic
basis. Among the Jews of southern Spain, this lukewarmness towards the
Law went so far that not a few contracted marriages with Christian
and Mahometan women. The excessively pious, whose whole life was
absorbed by the Talmud, mistaking cause for effect, considered these
distressing occurrences as a poisonous fruit of the philosophical seed,
and prophesied the decay of Judaism, if Maimuni's theories should gain
the ascendancy. Nevertheless considerable time elapsed before any one
ventured to make a decisive stand against them. The rabbis of northern
France, who were of the same way of thinking as Samson of Sens, knew
little of Maimuni's philosophical writings and their effects, while the
rabbis of southern France and of Spain, who were guided absolutely by
the Talmud, may have thought it dangerous and useless to try to stem
the overwhelming flood of free thought.

It was, therefore, looked upon as a most audacious step, when a rabbi
of the school which followed the Talmud with unquestioning faith,
openly and recklessly declared war against the Maimunists. This was
Solomon ben Abraham, of Montpellier, a pious, honorable man, learned
in the Talmud, but of perverted notions, whose whole world was the
Talmud, beyond which nothing was worthy of credence. Not only the
legal decisions of the Talmud were accepted by him as irrefutable
truths, but also the Agadic portions in their naked literalness. He
and his friends conceived the Deity as furnished with eyes, ears, and
other human organs, sitting in heaven upon a throne, surrounded by
darkness and clouds. Paradise and Hell they painted in Agadic colors;
the righteous were to enjoy, in the heavenly garden of Eden, the flesh
of the Leviathan and old wine, stored up from the beginning of the
world in celestial flasks, and the godless, the heretics, and the
transgressors of the Law were to be scourged, tortured, and burnt in
the hell-fire of Gehenna. The rabbis of this school believed in the
existence of evil spirits; it was in a manner an article of faith with
them, for the Talmudical Agada recognizes them as existing.

Adopting a theory so gross and anthropomorphic, Solomon of Montpellier
could not help finding nearly every word in Maimuni's compositions
un-Jewish and heretical. He felt it incumbent on him to make reply;
he saw in the toleration of the Maimunist views the dissolution
of Judaism, and he entered the lists against their exponents and
champions. But with what weapons? The Middle Ages knew of no more
effective instrument than excommunication to destroy ideas apparently
pernicious. He attempted to compel men, who towered head and
shoulders above their contemporaries, and held different opinions
on religion from the thoughtless crowd, to seal up their ideas in
themselves, or to recant them as vicious errors, by shutting them
off from all intercourse with their co-religionists. At about the
same time Pope Gregory directed the University of Paris, the upholder
of the free philosophical spirit till the rise of the Dominicans
and Franciscans, to adhere strictly in its curriculum to the canon
of the Lateran Council, and on peril of excommunication, to avoid
using those philosophical writings which had been interdicted by it.
This precedent, together with his bigoted, passionate nature, may
have induced Solomon of Montpellier to introduce a censorship of
thought into the Jewish world, and to crush the Maimunist heresy by
excommunication. But to appear single-handed against the Maimunists,
whose number was large, and who ruled public opinion, could but ruin
his cause. Solomon sought for allies, but could not find a single rabbi
in southern France who was ready to take part in the denunciation of
the Maimunist school. Only two of his pupils came to his aid--Jonah
ben Abraham Gerundi (the elder) of Gerona, a blind zealot like his
master, and David ben Saul. These three pronounced the ban (beginning
of 1232) against all those who read Maimuni's compositions, especially
the philosophical parts (Moré and Madda), against those who studied
anything except the Bible and the Talmud, against those who distorted
the plain literal sense of Holy Writ, or, in general, expounded the
Agada differently from Rashi. Solomon and his allies explained the
reasons for their sentence of excommunication in a letter to the
public, and laid special stress on the point that Maimuni's line of
argument undermined Talmudical Judaism. They did not hesitate even to
vilify the venerated sage: it might be true, they said, that he had
once lived strictly in accordance with the Talmud, yet instances were
known in which still greater men had become renegades from the Law in
their old age. Solomon at first thought of invoking the secular power
of the Christian authorities to aid him in oppressing free thought.
For the present, however, he looked for supporters among the rabbis of
northern France. These, belonging to the acute but one-sided Tossafist
school, and having grown hoary in the Talmud, did not for a moment
appreciate the necessity of establishing Judaism on a rational and
scientific basis, and nearly all of them adopted Solomon's opinion, and
took sides against the Maimunists.

The sentence of excommunication, the proscription of science, and the
defamation of Maimuni, excited the violent indignation of his admirers.
It seemed to them unheard-of audacity, unparalleled impudence. The
three chief congregations of Provence, Lünel, Béziers, and Narbonne,
in which the Maimunists were in power, rose against this presumption
of the Obscurantists, and on their side excommunicated Solomon and
his two disciples, and hastened to urge the other congregations
of Provence to unite in rescuing the honor of the great Moses. In
Montpellier the congregation was divided into two parties; whilst the
ignorant multitude remained by their rabbi, the learned renounced
their allegiance, and violent frays between them were not infrequent.
The flame of discord blazed up, and spread over the congregations of
Provence, Catalonia, Aragon, and Castile. The contest was carried on
by both sides with intense passion, and not entirely with honorable
weapons. Simple faith and a philosophical apprehension of religion,
which had till then maintained friendly relations, now met in a
conflict, which threatened to lead to a complete rupture and to schism.
The worst of it was, that the parties were both justified, each
from its own point of view; both could appeal to old and respected
authorities, some of whom maintained that the Bible and the Talmud must
be believed in without investigation and strained interpretation, while
others held that reason also had a voice in religious matters.

Two men, whose names are celebrated in Jewish literature, took part
in this passionate quarrel: David Kimchi and Nachmani. The former,
already an old man and at the zenith of his fame as a grammarian and
expositor of the Bible, was an enthusiastic admirer of Maimuni, and
a friend of free investigation. He was consequently an object of
suspicion to the Obscurantists, and the rabbis of northern France
appear to have excommunicated him, because he had explained the vision
of Ezekiel concerning the throne-chariot of God in a Maimunist sense,
_i. e._, philosophically, and because he had maintained that Talmudical
controversies would have no significance in the Messianic period, or
in other words, that the Talmud has no right to advance pretensions
to perpetual authority. Kimchi accordingly took up the cudgels for
Maimuni all the more promptly, as he had at the same time to defend his
own cause. Old and weak as he was, he nevertheless did not hesitate
to undertake a journey to Spain, in order personally to bring the
congregations of that country over to the side of the Provençals
against Solomon of Montpellier.

Another man of commanding influence in this struggle was Moses ben
Nachman, or Nachmani (Ramban) Gerundi, a fellow-citizen and relative
of Jonah Gerundi (born about 1195, died about 1270). Nachmani, or as
he was called in the language of the country, Bonastruc de Porta,
was a man of sharply-defined and strongly-marked individuality, with
all the strength and weakness of such a character. Whilst of pure
moral temperament and conscientious piety, mild disposition and
acute understanding, he was completely governed by the belief in
authority. The "wisdom of the sages" appeared to him unsurpassed and
unsurpassable, and their clear utterances were neither to be doubted
nor criticised. "He who occupies himself with the teachings of the
sages, drinks old wine," was Nachmani's firm conviction. The whole
wisdom of the later generations, according to his view, consisted
entirely in fathoming the meaning of their great ancestors, to acquire
a knowledge of it, and derive precedents from it. Not only the Holy
Writ in its entire scope, and the Talmud in its entire range, but
even the Geonim and their immediate disciples till Alfassi, were for
him infallible authorities, and their conduct worthy of emulation.
Within this compass he had intelligent notions, correct judgments
and a clear mind, but beyond it he could not proceed, nor could
he start from an original position. Nachmani was a physician, and
had, therefore, studied science a little; he was learned in other
branches, and familiar with philosophical literature. But metaphysical
speculation, to which he would not or could not apply himself, remained
strange to him. The Talmud was for him all in all; in its light he
regarded the world, the events of the past and the shaping of the
future. In his youth, the study of the Talmud and the vindication of
assailed authorities were Nachmani's favorite occupations. In about
his fifteenth year (1210), he elaborated several Talmudical treatises,
following the style and method of Alfassi.

In these works he shows so astounding an intimacy with the Talmud that
no one would recognize them as the productions of a youth. They bear
the stamp of complete maturity, show command over the subject, and
reveal profound acumen. Not less splendid in its way was the second
work of his youth, in which he sought to justify Alfassi's Talmudical
decisions on questions of civil and marriage laws against the attack of
Serachya Halevi Gerundi.

Nachmani had already commented upon several Talmudical treatises,
and he continued this labor indefatigably, till he had furnished the
greatest portion of the Talmud with explanations (Chidushim). Important
as Nachmani's contributions may be in this province, they are in nowise
original. The Talmud had been investigated too thoroughly during the
centuries since Rashi and Alfassi, for Nachmani, or indeed any one
else, to be able to establish anything absolutely new. Maimuni had
seen clearly, with the insight of a comprehensive mind, that it was
at length time to close accounts with commentaries on the Talmud, to
declare for or against, and bring the whole to a conclusion. Nachmani
did not pay attention to this result; Maimuni's gigantic religious code
did not exist for him.

If he did not sympathize with Maimuni in his treatment of the Talmud,
still less did he agree with him in his philosophical views on
religion. Maimuni proceeded from a philosophical basis, and everywhere
applied reason as the test of Judaism. Nachmani, on the other hand,
like Jehuda Halevi, took as his starting-point the facts of Judaism,
including even the narratives of the Talmud. For Maimuni the miracles
of the Bible were inconvenient facts, and he endeavored as much as
possible to reduce them to natural causes; the Talmudical miracle-tales
he refused to consider. For Nachmani, on the other hand, the belief
in miracles was the foundation of Judaism, on which its three pillars
rested: the creation from nothing, the omniscience of God, and divine
providence. But, although Nachmani shunned philosophy, he nevertheless
advanced new ideas which, though not demonstrated by logical formulæ,
deserve recognition. The ethical philosophy of Maimuni sought to
elevate man above the accidents of life, by reminding him of his
higher origin and his future bliss, and arming him with equanimity in
order to render him insensible to pleasure and to pain. Nachmani, from
his Talmudical point of view, strongly combated this philosophical
or stoical indifference and apathy, and opposed to it the doctrine
of Judaism, that "man should rejoice on the day of joy, and weep on
the day of sorrow." Maimuni assumed, with the philosophers, that
the sensual instincts are a disgrace to man, who is destined for
a spiritual life. Nachmani was a strenuous opponent of this view.
Since God, who is perfect, has created the world, it must all be good
as it is, and nothing in it should be regarded as intrinsically
objectionable and hateful.

Nachmani, who started from quite different principles, had consequently
but very few points of agreement with Maimuni. Had they been
contemporaries, they might have been attracted to each other by this
very dissimilarity. If Judaism was for Maimuni a cult of the intellect,
for Nachmani it was a religion of the feelings. According to the
former, there was no secret in Judaism which could not be disclosed to
thought; according to the latter, the mystical and the unknown were the
holiest elements of Judaism, and were not to be profaned by reflection.
The difference in their method is well illustrated by their views on
the belief in demons. According to Maimuni, it is not only superstition
but even heathenism to ascribe power to evil spirits. Nachmani, on the
other hand, was firmly attached to this theory, and allowed the demons
considerable place in his system of the world. Whilst he occasionally
expressed his disapproval of Maimuni's views, paying him at the same
time the greatest respect, he had a decided antipathy towards Ibn-Ezra.
This exegetist, with his sceptical smile, his biting wit, and his scorn
for mystery, was calculated to repel Nachmani. In his attacks upon
Ibn-Ezra, Nachmani could not preserve the serenity of his temper, but
used violent expressions against him, regarding him as the supporter
of unbelief. But though Nachmani waged war against the philosophy of
his age, as destructive of revealed Judaism, and denounced Aristotle
as the teacher of error, he nevertheless looked with disfavor on blind
belief and the exclusion of every rationalistic conception in religious
matters. On this point he diverged from the teaching of the rabbis
of northern France, whose strictly Talmudical tendency he otherwise
followed. He was too much a son of Spain, in a manner enveloped by an
atmosphere of philosophy, to be able to dismiss metaphysical research
with contempt. His clear mind and his Spanish education would not
permit Nachmani to follow the rabbis of northern France through thick
and thin, nor to accept the Agadas in their literal sense, with all
their anthropomorphic and offensive utterances. But on this point he
became involved in self-contradiction. He could not reject the Agadic
statements _in toto_, for he was too strongly dominated by belief
in authority, and respect for the Talmud. If, when constrained by
necessity, he here and there conceded that many Agadic sayings were
to be considered only as rhetorical metaphors, as homiletic material,
and that it was not a religious obligation to believe in them, he must
not be supposed to be in full earnest. But, if the Agada is not to
be believed in literally, it must be interpreted. This, however, was
to make concessions to the Maimunist school. Accordingly, there was
no escape from this dilemma except to admit that the Agada must be
explained, but deny that Maimuni's mode of explanation was correct.
There came to his aid the Kabbala, a new secret lore which claimed to
be a primitive divine tradition, and it relieved his embarrassment in
respect of the obnoxious Agadas. By means of this mystical theory, that
which, from the point of view of the literalists, appears blasphemous,
or meaningless and childish, was invested with deep, mysterious, and
transcendental sense. Nachmani did not even shrink from justifying
the perverse notion that the whole text of the Torah was simply the
material made up of letters, out of which mystical names of God might
be composed.

At the time when the sentence of excommunication was uttered against
Maimuni's philosophical writings, Nachmani was not yet forty years old,
but he even then was of such importance that even the haughty Meïr
Abulafia paid him the tribute of his respect. He could, therefore, as
rabbi of the congregation of Gerona, support either the one party or
the other. He decided in favor of his friend Solomon and his nephew
Jonah. As soon as he learnt that the former was excommunicated by the
congregations of Provence, he hastened, without waiting to be properly
informed of the whole affair, to send a missive to the communities of
Aragon, Navarre, and Castile, saying, in substance, that they should
not be carried away by the "hypocritical, false" Maimunists; but that
they should wait till the opposite party had spoken its mind. Nachmani
indeed regretted, in this letter, that the unity of Judaism, which
from time immemorial had been maintained in all countries of the
dispersion, should, through this controversy, threaten to be destroyed,
and he recommended, on that account, prudence and calm deliberation.
He himself, however, did not maintain this impartial attitude, but
inclined more to the side of the party hostile to science. "If the
French masters, at whose feet we sit, obscure the sunlight at mid-day,
and cover the moon, they may not be contradicted"; thus he expresses
himself at the very commencement.

But the majority of the congregations of Spain refused to be led
into darkness. The chief congregation of Aragon, with its leader,
the physician in ordinary and favorite of King Jayme, Bachiel
Ibn-Alkonstantini, declared itself decisively in favor of Maimuni,
and laid Solomon and his two allies under the ban, as long as they
continued in their perverseness. Bachiel, his brother Solomon, and ten
other influential men and leaders, sent a letter (Ab--August, 1232)
to the congregations of Aragon, urging them to join their party, and
repudiate those men "who have dared appear against that great power
which has rescued us from the floods of ignorance, error and folly."
The Maimunists in Saragossa pointed out that the opponents of science
had put themselves in opposition to the Talmud. "Our sages teach us
that we should philosophically explain to ourselves the unity of God.
We ought to be acquainted with profane sciences, in order to know how
to reply to the enemies of religion. Astronomy, geometry, and other
branches which are so important to religion, cannot be learned out of
the Talmud. The great doctor of the Talmud, Samuel, said of himself,
'that he knew the courses of the stars as well as the streets of his
native place.' From these remarks it is evident that it was deemed a
religious duty to acquire general knowledge. And now there appear three
corrupters and misleaders of the people, who stain the reputation of
the great Maimuni, wish to lead the communities into darkness, and
forbid the reading of his philosophical writings, and the study of
science generally." Bachiel Ibn-Alkonstantini, as the most influential
man in Aragon, in a letter, summoned the congregations to strenuously
oppose those who do not believe in God and his servant Moses
(Maimuni). In consequence of this action, the four great congregations
of Aragon--Huesca, Monzon, Calatayud, and Lerida--agreed with the
Saragossa congregation to pass the sentence of excommunication upon
Solomon and his two supporters. The eyes of the Maimunists and their
adversaries were, however, turned to the congregation of Toledo, which
was the largest, richest, most important and most educated in Spain.
Its decision was able to incline the balance in favor of either the one
side or the other. Here Jehuda bar Joseph, of the highly influential
family of Ibn-Alfachar, who was probably physician in ordinary of King
Ferdinand III, possessed the greatest authority. Hitherto he had not
expressed his opinion either for or against Maimuni, but had observed
a discreet silence. But the zealous rabbi of Toledo, Meïr Abulafia
Halevi, the old antagonist of the Maimunist tendency, loudly raised
his voice. He replied to the letters of Nachmani and of the Gerona
congregation that they might make their minds easy, that neither he
nor his friends would follow the "law-defiers of Provence," that there
were certainly many in the congregation of Toledo who were infatuated
by Maimuni and his philosophical writings, that he could not alter
their mind, but if they should declare themselves against Solomon of
Montpellier, he would repudiate them altogether, and acknowledge no
community with them. For he considered Solomon's action a meritorious
one. He himself had long recognized the dangerous character of the
doctrines laid down in Maimuni's "Guide of the Perplexed"; they
certainly strengthen the ground of religion, but destroy its branches;
they repair the breaches of the building, but tear down the enclosures.
"The exalting of God's name is on their lips, but also poison and death
lurk on their tongues." He had always kept himself remote from this
bottomless heresy, and had sent a letter to the Lünel community more
than thirty years since, to counteract the enthusiasm for Maimuni, but
his effort had been fruitless.

Besides this heavy-armed conflict of the two parties, with mutual
denunciations of heresy and thunders of excommunication, there was
carried on a light skirmish with sarcastic verses. An opponent of
Maimuni's "Guide" and its adherents threw off the following satire:

        "Thou Guide to doubt, be silent evermore;
          Thy sinful folly shall remain unheard,
        That makes of Bible-fact but metaphor,
          And to a dream degrades the prophet's word."

Whereupon a Maimunist retorted:

        "Thou fool profane, be silent! Nevermore
          Dare, sandaled, upon holy ground to stand;
        What dost thou know of fact or metaphor?
          Nor dream, nor prophet canst thou understand."

Another epigram condemns Maimuni himself:

        "Forgive us, son of Amram, be not wroth
          That we should call this fool by thy great name;
        _Prophet_ the Bible calls God's messengers,
          The servants of false Baal it calls the same."

The Maimunists, however, were much more energetic than their opponents;
they used all their efforts to alienate the French rabbis from Solomon,
and to bring the chief congregation of Spain over to their side. A
young scholar, Samuel ben Abraham Saporta, addressed a letter to the
French rabbis, and tried to convince them that in their eagerness
to support Solomon, they had taken a precipitate step in denouncing
Maimuni and the followers of his views as heretics. "Before you passed
a judgment upon them, you ought to have examined the contents of his
writings properly; but it appears that you know nothing about the
writings which you have condemned. Your business is the Halacha, to
determine what actions are forbidden or permitted by religion. Why do
you venture beyond your province to express an opinion on questions
about which you know nothing at all? In your worship of the letter,
like the heathen, you imagine the Deity in human form. What right have
you to call us heretics who cling as firmly as you to the Torah and
tradition?" Saporta's letter, in addition to other influences, made so
deep an impression upon some of the French rabbis that they renounced
Solomon. They soon notified the Provençal congregations of their change
of opinion. This change was undoubtedly due in great measure to Moses,
of Coucy (born about 1200, died about 1260), one of the youngest
Tossafists, who, although a brother-in-law of Samson of Sens, and a
pupil of the over-pious Sir Leon, of Paris, nevertheless cherished
great reverence for Maimuni, and made his Halachic works the subject
of study. Nachmani was extremely vexed at this change of opinion, and,
sorely distressed at the widening of the breach, he elaborated a scheme
of reconciliation, which seemed to him calculated to restore peace. He
wrote a well-meant, but bombastic letter to the French rabbis, wherein
he first of all expressed his dissatisfaction with them for having
put the readers of Maimuni's compositions under the ban: "If you were
of the opinion that it was incumbent on you to denounce as heresy the
works of Maimuni, why does a portion of your flock now recede from this
decision as if they regretted the step? Is it right in such important
matters to act capriciously, to applaud the one to-day, and the other

Finally, Nachmani explained his plan of compromise. The ban against
the philosophical portion of Maimuni's Code was to be revoked; but,
on the other hand, the condemnation of the study of the "Guide," and
the excommunication of the rejectors of the Talmudical exposition of
the Bible was to be strengthened. This sentence of excommunication was
not to be passed by the one party only, but the Provençal rabbis, and
even Maimuni's son, the pious Abraham, were to be invited to support
it with their authority. In this manner the gate would be closed to
disaffection and unbelief. Nachmani, however, ignored the fact that the
assailed compositions were all of one cast, so that it was not possible
to anathematize the one and canonize the other. Nachmani fell into the
mistake of thinking that it was possible to check free philosophical
inquiry. The two tendencies, each legitimate in its way, could not but
conflict with each other, and the struggle had to be protracted, and
could not be ended by a compromise. Consequently, the fight continued
on both sides, and Nachmani's proposal was utterly disregarded. The
longer it lasted, the more the controversy inflamed men's feelings, the
more participants were drawn into the arena.

The aged David Kimchi wished to undertake a journey to Toledo, in
order to induce that great congregation to join his party against
Solomon and his adherents, and through their weight completely to crush
their opponents. When he arrived at Avila, he became so ill that he
had to abandon the journey, but on his bed of sickness he wrote with
trembling hand to the chief representative of the Toledo congregation,
Jehuda Ibn-Alfachar. He blamed him for his obstinate silence in an
affair which concerned the French and Spanish communities so deeply,
and importuned him to persuade his congregation to make common cause
with the Maimunists. Unfortunately, however, he had approached the
wrong man; for Jehuda Alfachar had made up his mind decisively against
the Maimunists. He had thoroughly mastered Maimuni's system, and had
concluded that, if carried to its logical conclusion, it was calculated
to subvert Judaism. Ibn-Alfachar was a thoughtful man, and of more
penetration than Nachmani. The defects of Maimuni's theory were quite
palpable to him, but even he was misled by the thought that it was
possible to exorcise the spirit of free-thought by anathemas. Alfachar
paid such deference to the sentence of excommunication uttered by the
French rabbis, that at first he would not reply to Kimchi at all, but
when ultimately he decided to do so, he treated him in his answer in so
contemptuous a manner, that the Maimunists who expected the support of
Toledo were quite disconcerted at the result.

In the meantime, the sympathy of such influential personages as
Alfachar, Nachmani, and Meïr Abulafia, proved to be of little value
to Solomon's cause. The feeling of the people in his native place
and in Spain was against him. The French rabbis, on whose support
he had reckoned, gradually withdrew from a controversy, the range
of which they began to perceive, and which threatened to expose the
participators to peril. Solomon of Montpellier complained that no one
besides his two disciples sided with him, but the maladroitness with
which he conducted his cause was chiefly responsible for the want of
sympathy that he encountered. Thus forsaken of all, and hated most
bitterly in his own congregation, he resolved on a step which led to
the most deplorable results, not only for his own party, but for the
whole Jewish people.

Pope Gregory IX, who was eager to extirpate the remnant of the
Albigensian heretics in Provence, root and branch, about this time
established the permanent Inquisition (April, 1233), and appointed the
violent Dominican friars as inquisitors, as the bishops, who had till
then been entrusted with the persecution of the Albigenses, did not
seem to him to treat the heretics with sufficient severity. In all the
large towns of southern France where there were Dominican cloisters,
in Montpellier among others, there were erected bloody tribunals,
which condemned heretics or those suspected of heresy, and often quite
innocent people, to life-long imprisonment or to the stake.

With these murderers, Rabbi Solomon, the upholder of the Talmud and
of the literal interpretation of the Holy Writ, associated himself.
He and his disciple Jonah said to the Dominicans: "You burn your
heretics, persecute ours also. The majority of the Jews of Provence
are perverted by the heretical writings of Maimuni. If you cause these
writings to be publicly and solemnly burnt, your action will have
the effect of frightening the Jews away from them." They also read