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^:trn nyhnci pnNn pi (83, 16). So far as I know, this use
of p occurs only in works translated into Hebrew, not
in Hebrew originals, and it gives considerable weight to
Dr. Friedlaender's opinion as to the original character of
the Arabic text. In any event, the Arabic contains some

1 Nissi, the son of the Exilarch and brother-in-law of the Gaon Sar
Shalom, is mentioned by Rabbi Hai in his Responsum appended to the
Letter of Kabbi Sherira, ed. Mayence, 63. b^raiu m nnn 'C:, in DiiD,
38 c, is derived from the Seder Rah Amram, as can be seen from Marx,
Untersuchungen, &c., 8, Hebrew part, but ncM 'nD (32) reads ^ri instead of
>D':. I have only to add that the Genizah fragments of the Ycrushalmi
read "'c: in all passages in which our texts have xd: or hdd.


readings that are preferable to the Hebrew in corresponding
passages, and they are of great value in the study of
Nathan's account.

Nathan ha-Bablt Identified.
Another important question must be settled, and a more
difficult one. Who was this Nathan, the Babylonian, the
author of the report we are considering ? Graetz's hypo-
thesis (Geschichte, V^, 471-2), that he was one of "the
four captives," and the founder of Jewish learning in
Provence is, it need hardly be said, wholly untenable.
From the Genizah fragments, we know first of all that
Kabbi Shemariah ben Elhanan, one of the four captives,
was a pupil of Rabbi Sherira (/. Q.R., VI, 222). But
Nathan, as Graetz himself observes, wrote his account
during the Gaonate of Rabbi Aaron, and knows nothing
of Sherira. Moreover, Rabbi Hushiel's Letter, published
by Professor Schechter {J. Q. R., XI, 643-50), stamps the
whole story of the four captives as a legend, at least in
the form in which it has been transmitted to us by Rabbi
Abraham Ibn Daud. There may be an historical kernel
in it, but not more. Furthermore, the hypothesis advanced
by Graefcz rests on a false construction put upon a sentence
in Zacuto's Yohasin (ed. London, 174), where a sentence
is quoted from a " Rabbi Nathan, the Babylonian, in Nar-
bonne." The practice of applying the name Babylon to
Rome is not limited to the New Testament (Rev. xiv. 8 ;
xvi. 19; xvii. 5). It is current in the Midrash as well
{Cant. B., I, 6), and there can be no doubt that Zacuto is
referring in the passage under consideration to Rabbi
Nathan of Rome, the author of the 'Aruk, who studied
in Narbonne under Rabbi Moses ha-Darshan. To clinch
the identification, the very sentence cited by Zacuto in
the name of Rabbi Nathan, the Babylonian, is to be found
in the 'Aruk of the Roman Rabbi Nathan ^

^ On the sojourn of Kabbi Nathan, the author of the -j-nv-, in Narbonne,
comp. Gross, Gallia Judaica, 409-10, and Geiger, Heh. Bibl., Ill, 4. The


On one point Graetz is doubtless right — in assuming that
Rabbi Nathan wrote his account, not in Babylonia, but
in some other countr^^, the Jewish inhabitants of which
he wanted to enlighten concerning Babylonian conditions.
In all probability the country in which the Babylonian
wrote was North Africa. His account, as it appears in the
Yohasin, and also in the Arabic Genizah fragment, begins
with the words : " This is what the Babylonian Nathan,
son of Isaac, told [ = '^?0^^, ' reported by word of mouth'],
what he himself partly saw and what he partly heard
in Babylonia, relative to the Exilarch who came to Africa,
TJkba, the descendant of David." Now, only a small
part of Nathan's account deals with Ukba, and it is
difficult to understand why, in the first place, Ukba
should be named as the hero of the narrative, but par-
ticularly why it should have been stated so emphatically
that he had come to Africa, a circumstance which naturally
comes out in the course of the narrative. It is therefore
not a far-fetched supposition, that this Babylonian Nathan
himself came to Africa, and the Jews there questioned him
about the celebrated exile who had once lived in their
city, for at Nathan's arrival he was probably deceased.

About the controversy of the Exilarchs, Nathan could
tell them but a few facts known to him by hearsay, nsDI
nvpD3. It had happened before his time, or at least in
his earliest childhood. On the other hand, he was well
versed in the details of the dispute between the Gaon
Kohen-Zedek and the Exilarch David, and again between
Rabbi Saadia and the same Exilarch. Therefore he passed
adroitly from Ukba to his successor. The description of
Ukba's exile serves as nothing more than a foil and intro-
duction to the events under David. That he began his
account with Ukba shows equal astuteness, for Ukba it
was who interested the African Jews in particular.

name Nathan ha Babli was probably suggested to Zacuto by the celebrated
Tanna of the same name; '\ 'ba 'c, ed. Friedmann is ^22 = ^0^, R. Joshua
was in Rome, comp. Gittin, 58 a.



These conjectures, which to me seem obvious, are sup-
ported by a Kesponsum by Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg^

nms b:im ^d b:: P^jd i:n— " In my collection of Responsa
of the Geonim, I found the following by Rabbi Nathan of
Africa : Until now it w^as customary to permit the eating
[of butter made by non-Jews], but since they have begun
to bring it from Hamath and Giscala, where it is adulter-
ated [wdth fat], we excommunicate all who use it."

First of all, we are here introduced to an African scholar
of the Geonic time by the name of Nathan. One is tempted
to identify him with the Rabbi Nathan ben Rabbi Hana-
niah, a Responsum by whom is abstracted (T^'lN, I, iy6 b) by
Rabbi Isaac ben Moses of Vienna, the teacher of Rabbi Meir
of Rothenburg, from the "African" collection myvpDH 'd, pro-
bably the same Geonic collection referred to by Rabbi Meir
himself in his nu^irn nvi^, 193. Muller in his MafteaJi (157)
assigns this Responsum to Rabbi Nathan Alluf, the uncle
of Rabbi Sherira, an identification that cannot hold water,
for several reasons. With the exception of Rabbi Hai, who
replied to a number of questions addressed to his father, by
reason of the advanced age of the latter, there is not, in
the whole extent of Geonic Responsa literature, a single
Responsum by an Alluf 2. Besides, Rabbi Isaac of Vienna
calls the author Rabbi Nathan ben Hananiah, and the
uncle of Sherira was Rabbi Nathan ben Judah. Miiller's
emended reading, n^j:n >m, instead of 'n 'n*i r[^-\2, cannot be
endorsed. What reason can there be for desio-natinix the

1 Quoted by Rabbi Aaron of Limel in his □"n 'm.v , II, 333. Rabbi
Nathan, whose views on liturgical questions are cited very frequently
by Rabbi Aaron in the first part of his work, was, as appears from
'n 'my, I, 43 b and 106 a (bottom), a grandson of Rabbi Azriel, doubtless
Rabbi Azriel ben Nathan, the great-grandson bearing the name of the
great-grandfather. Gross, Gallia Judaica, contains Rabbi Azriel, but not
his grandson. Rabbi Nathan.

For details comp. above, p. 7, n.




son and brother of a Gaon as the brother of his brother,
instead of in the universal way as the son of his father ?

We have, besides, positive and explicit evidence regarding
an African authority by the name of Rabbi Nathan ben
Hananiah. Such an one was a correspondent of Rabbi
Natronai Gaon, as we learn from Rabbi Samuel Ibn
Gama\ and also of the Gaon's younger contemporary,
Rabbi Zemah ben Solomon, the chief judge of the Exil-
arch^. In a question addressed from Kairwan (y''^,
84 a, 3) to Rabbi Zemah [ben Paltoi?], Rabbi Nathan
and Rabbi Judah are characterised as "the scholars of
Kairwan^." In another Responsum in the same col-
lection, 1 8 b, 12, the sons of Rabbi Nathan are referred
to in a letter to Rabbi Saadia. Moreover, it is highly
probable that the Rabbi Nathan whose opinions are cited
in three passages in the Seder Rah Amram is this African
Rabbi Nathan, and not the uncle of Rabbi Sherira '*.

Nevertheless, I hesitate greatly to identify the Rabbi
Nathan quoted by Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg with the
Kairwan scholar Rabbi Nathan ben Hananiah, and for the
following reasons : The passage about the butter made in
Hamath and Giscala by no manner of means bears the
interpretation that butter was exported from Palestine
to Northern Africa in the ninth century. The remark
by Rabbi Nathan becomes intelligible only when it is

^ In Graetz, Jubelschrift, 17.

2 Dukes, from an Oxford MS., in Ben Chananjah, IV, 142.

^ This passage was referred to by Zunz, Eitus, 191, and he properly
identified this Rabbi Judah with Rabbi Judah ben Saul, the contemporary
of Rabbi Nathan. The same Rabbi Judah is described in I'lX, II, 171b,
together with Rabbi Nathan ben Hananiah, as a correspondent of Rabbi
Natronai. He is there called bixir '^ 'n r^-\^r^'' '^ , which is better, it seems,
than bi^r '-I '2 nnn^ 'i '2 n-nn' '1, in Luzzatto's iiMi-n .t-i, 109. In Rabbi
Meir of Rothenburg's r>"-c, 193, he is also called Rabbi Judah ben Saul.
Is \cl"'^^ to be read for the corrupt iin'-D in Pardes, 21b?

^ Comp, below, pp. 149-50. In this Responsum cTmi does not mean
young students, but, according to the general usage of Arabic-speaking
Jews, prominent scholars. Comp. Harkavy, Saadia, 43, note 5, and y"ir,
3 a, end.



brought into connexion with the fact that in Babylonia
butter made by non-Jews was considered as belonging to
the forbidden varieties of food, though it was permitted
in Palestine. Hence Rabbi Nathan reports that even in
Palestine the use of such butter was prohibited, since it
appeared that it was adulterated in Hamath and Giscala,
being mixed there with forbidden ingredients. Whence
this specific acquaintance with Palestinian conditions on
the part of Rabbi Nathan of Kairwan? If we were to
assume, what is not very likely^, that the Kairwan scholars
of the ninth century were in close relations with those of
Palestine, it would still have to be explained what occasion
there was for the Palestinian scholars to communicate with
the Kairwan scholars regarding the custom prevailing in
their country.

Thus the probabilities multiply for identifying Rabbi
Nathan of Africa with the Babylonian Rabbi Nathan, the
author of the account of the Academies. This Babylonian,
who must have reached Africa by way of Palestine, had
to satisfy the curiosity of his African fellow- Jews and a
real desire for knowledge as well. The scholar from foreign
parts on the one hand told them about the Exilarchs and
the Geonim, and on the other doubtful ritual cases were
referred to him, such as that in the Responsum quoted
above, in which Rabbi Nathan, inclined as a Babylonian
to agree with a prohibition forbidding the use of butter
prepared by non-Jews, strengthens his natural inclination
by reference to the fact that even the Palestinians, ac-
customed from of old to a more lenient practice, refrained
from eating it in changed circumstances 2.

^ Rabbi Mei'r of Rotlienburg in his n^u.", 193, writes: 'i.'>J2'inw'' 'zwrt
^22 KMim ^7ii)r\D .... s^pncx nrTOO, which would indicate that this African
Responsa Collection contained decisions only by Babylonian, not by
Palestinian authorities.

'•^ On the use of such butter, comp. the Geonic Responsa in D"n, 19-2T,
and G. S., p. 153, according to which the prohibition against it had not
always been recognised even in Babylonia. Comp. also Miiller, mbn
D'2n:o, 16.



The assumption that Rabbi Nathan was an oral reporter
on Babylonian conditions, rather than an author who re-
corded his reminiscences in writing, would reconcile the
differences between the Hebrew and the Arabic version of
his narrative. The question as to the original language
would then be set aside in favour of the supposition that
the two versions are independent of each other. In the
Kairwan audience that listened to Rabbi Nathan, some
used Hebrew and some Arabic in their literary com-
positions, and thus his narrative reached us through the
medium of two languages.

Nathan ha-Babli the Source for the Two Reports
ABOUT the Babylonian Academies.

The above will throw light for us upon the relation
that exists between Rabbi Nathan's narrative proper and
the piece about the Babylonian Academies preceding it.
Graetz, whose view is espoused by Weiss and other
scholars, considers Rabbi Nathan the author of the de-
scription of the Babylonian Academies at the head of the
narrative, in the same sense in which he is the author
of the narrative to which his name is explicitly attached.
Halevy, on the other hand, identifies the piece about the
Academies with a report quoted by Zacuto from Rabbi
Samuel ha-Nagid's Introduction to the Talmud. Graetz's
historical tact stood him in good stead here as so often,
while Halevy cannot see the wood for the trees. There
can be no doubt, as Halevy properly remarks, that the
two are merely versions of one and the same account ;
and also there can be no doubt that Samuel ha-Nagid's
document goes back to Rabbi Nathan. It is certain
that the description of the Babylonian Academies pre-
ceding Rabbi Nathan's account cannot have been taken
as it stands from Rabbi Samuel's Introduction, which,
Halevy maintains, seeing that it contains two important
points missing in Rabbi Samuel's — the description of the



"reception Sabbath" of the Exilarch,and the dispute between
the Academies regarding the division of the revenues, at
the time of Kohen-Zedek^ Halevy {D(yrot ha-Rishonim,
III, 260,) passes the first point over in silence, and with
regard to the second he maintains that it dropped out
of Kabbi Samuel ha-Nagid's narrative in Yohasin through
an oversight of the copyist. But whence could Rabbi
Samuel Shulam, the editor of Zacuto's Yohasin, have
supplied the passage which was missing in his model 1 ^
We see thus that not only is the account transmitted by
Shulam independent of Eabbi Samuel ha-Nagid's, but a
comparison of the linguistic peculiarities of the description
of the Academies with those of the narrative proper by
Rabbi Nathan proves beyond the perad venture of a doubt
that they have the same origin. For instance, in both
accounts yii^ is used in the meaning of city (78, 5 ; 79, 21).
The statement about the rights of the Geonim of Sura
during an interregnum in the Exilarchate is the same
verbatim in Nathan's narrative proper (86, 11, below), and
in the description of the Academies preceding it (78, 15),

^ The folloAving point forms an essential difference between the two
narratives. According to Kabbi Samuel ha-Nagid it was a question of
"parishes," nv"i\rn, those under Sura being twice as large originally as
those under Pumbedita. But according to the account published by
Shulam, it was a question of the donations, which were put into a
common fund for the Academies, two-thirds being allotted originally
to Sura and one-third to Pumbedita. The rather indefinite expression
in Shulam's report, n^pbrr ^:^ nbrji:, was misunderstood by Rabbi Samuel
ha-Nagid, who took the nvi^n of the previous sentence as the subject.
This view is proved incorrect by the words of Rabbi Nathan, «a^;r rro b^.

2 Halevy might have learnt from Coronel's introduction to the n\Di:in
n^cnmv that the MS. of this report used by Neubauer for his edition
had been written in 1509, while Shulam published the Yohasin at
Constantinople only in 1566. On the MSS. of this report comp. Marx,
in Z.H.B., V, 57-8, and IX, 140. Steinschneider, in Geschichtsliteratur, 21,
likewise entertains the supposition that Shulam's report goes back to
Rabbi Samuel ha-Nagid. It need not be said that the great historian
was too circumspect to assume, as Halevy does, that Shulam had simply
copied Rabbi Samuel's narrative from Zacuto. He is of the opinion that
the source made use of by Shulam is traceable to Rabbi Samuel's Intro-
duction, which, however, as has been shown, is equally unwarranted,

D 2,


while Rabbi Samuel ha-Nagid has the somewhat pompous
expression iroi'iy n^a^ rwby D\sn 102^*^31 for r\)b: c'sn nic^ and
in the same sentence he uses niNt^^nn :i)^r\ for the )b\y nvic^nn
)^r\:'> of the other two sources.

But as, on the other hand, Rabbi Samuel ha-Nagid\s
presentation in the main agrees literally with the descrip-
tion of the Academies preceding Rabbi Nathan's report,
we are safe in assuming that Rabbi Nathan is the source
for both. The development must have been thus : Rabbi
Samuel, in his Introduction to the Talmud, where he had
to speak of the two Academies, abstracted Rabbi Nathan's
account, which may have come under his notice through
the Jews of Kairwan, with whom, it is well known, he
was in constant communication ^. Another author, who
had heard Nathan's account from his own mouth, tried
to make up a brief sketch of the Academies. He gave
a few facts regarding their origin at the time of the
Amoraim, and then, to lend his compilation an air of
completeness, he eked out Nathan's report by the addition,
at the beginning, of a chronology from Adam to David,
the last of the Exilarchs, taken from the Seder 'Olami
Zutta, According to the notions prevailing in the Middle
Ages as to literary practices, this compiler, who patched
together three pieces from three different sources, deserved
the name author, and, without burdening his conscience, he
could maintain silence regarding the sources used by him.
This "opus" he made the introduction to the narrative which
he had taken down from the mouth of Nathan, honestly
introducing it with the words " and what Nathan said 2."

^ Even his questions addressed to the Babylonian Geonim were trans-
mitted by the Kairwan scholars ; conip. Harkavy, 107. The literal
agreement of Rabbi Samuel ha-Nagid's report with Rabbi Nathan's
disposes of the theory that the former made use of Ibn Hofni's Intro-
duction to the Talmud.

"^ In his mm' TC2C-, § 42, Ibn Verga quotes a report on the installation
of an Exilarch from D'2i;rj^i D'iiw mm^rn, which seems to be independent
of Rabbi Nathan's, while the passage about the Exilarch Ukba, in Rabbi
Abraham ben Nathan's Manhig, 32 a, probably goes back to Nathan.


The Supkemacy of Sura.

We return to our starting-point. The relation of the
two Academies to each other, and their relation to the
Exilarch, can in a measure be defined now. Rabbi Samuel
ha-Nagid, as well as the anonymous author in Shulam,
who, as we have seen, is none other than Rabbi Nathan
the Babylonian, are explicit upon the subject. Originally,
the head of the Academy at Pumbedita could be appointed
only with the concurrence of the Gaon of Sura. If the
heads of the two Academies met anywhere, the Gaon of
Sura was given the precedence. This was particularly
marked when they paid their respects to the Exilarch on
his "reception Sabbath." In their correspondence, the
head of Pumbedita had to address " the Gaon and the
scholars of Sura," while the head of Sura wrote simply
"to the scholars of Pumbedita." In case the Exilarchate
had no incumbent temporarily, its revenues fell to the
share of the Gaon of Sura. Sura received two parts of
the donations contributed for the maintenance of the
Babylonian Academies, and Pumbedita but one part.
This fiscal arrangement was changed in 926, under the
Gaonate of Kohen-Zedek^ when Pumbedita was made
equal sharer with Sura, on account of the increase in the
number of disciples in the former Academy.

On the basis of these facts, Graetz properly makes the
assertion that originally the title Gaon was the prerogative
of the head of the Academy at Sura, the Gaonate not
being a duumvirate, but an institution with a single chief,
and its origin must be explained with these facts in mind.
In opposition to this sane view Halevy (p. 151 et seq.)
puts up a theory, which sets forth that in the Geonic

^ There is not the remotest warrant for supposing that Kohen-Zedek,
the Gaon of Pumbedita, was here confused with liis namesake of Sura.
The important change in favour of the Academy at Pumbedita could
natvu-ally not have been connected with the name of the Gaon of Sura.


time Pumbedita held the leading place, and the above-
mentioned privileges of Sura applied to the time of the
Amoraim, probably of Rab Ashi, with but few exceptions
not being in force in the Geonic time. But how, in the
name of common sense, can it be said that the claim
upon the larger share in the donations to the Academies
appertains to Talmudic times '? We know from Talmudic
data (Gittln, 60 b) that the revenues of the Academies
consisted of voluntary contributions deposited in boxes,
which were put up for this purpose in the house of the
head of the Academy. We should be accusing Rab Ashi
of highway robbery pure and simple, if we supposed that
he ordered the removal of two-thirds of the contents of
the box at Pumbedita to the coffers of Sura. It is hardly
necessary to defend the great leaders of the Jews against
such charges. Halevy, in particular, has no ground under
his feet when he relegates the privileges of Sura to Tal-
mudic times (p. 263), because he gives the preference to
Rabbi Samuel's version, which bases the distribution of
the moneys between the two Academies upon the parish
divisions for judicial purposes ^, and such divisions, it is
well known, did not exist in the Talmudic time, as the
appointment of communal officers was in the hands of
the Exilarch.

Besides, as applied to the Talmudic epoch, what does
it mean to say that the head of the Sura Academy was
addressed as Gaon by his colleague ? Even if Gaon is not
taken literally, but as an equivalent for NJin^riD t^n, it is
not a term used in the Talmudic period in addressing a
scholar. ):^2^ and mnn are the titles applied to scholars
in that time^. The parts assigned to the heads of the
Academies on the *' reception Sabbath " of the Exilarch
are altogether incongruous with the time of Rab Ashi,
about whom we are told explicitly that the Exilarch Huna

^ Comp. above, p. 35, n. i.

^ Ketubot, 69 a, ^nnn ; Shebu'ot, 36 a, im ; comp. also Hullin, 95 b, ai^b


ben Nathan subordinated himself to him (Gitfin, 59 a),
while in the narratives under examination, the respect
shown the Exilarchs by the Geonim is dwelt upon in
unmistakable words.

However, Halevy adduces reasons for his opinion, that
the prerogatives of Sura do not apply to the Geonic time.
And astonishing reasons they are ! From the letter of
Sherira we know that two scholars of Pumbedita, Rabbi
Samuel and Rabbi Jehudai, occupied the Gaonate of Sura\
The reverse situation is not mentioned as a fact. But, as
Dr. Elbogen justly says, " Lack of knowledge on our part
is not a counter-argument " (Die neueste Construction der
jildischen Geschichte, ^^). Sherira, belonging to Pumbedita,
was particularly proud of the distinction that fell to the lot
of two members of his own Academy, and records it with
great satisfaction. On the other hand, he had absolutely no
occasion to report the appointment of scholars from Sura
at Pumbedita. Quite apart from this consideration, the
installation of scholars from Pumbedita at Sura has nothing
to do with the question before us. On the contrary, from
the fact that the greatest scholars of Pumbedita were
invited to Sura, we might justly infer that Sura excelled
the other Academy in importance and dignity, and there-
fore those of Pumbedita regarded their appointment as a
distinction. The right of veto in connexion with the
appointment of a new Gaon in Pumbedita, which the
sources mention as a privilege of the Sura Gaonate, does
not affect the question as to whether, in the course of
centuries, two or three scholars hailing from Pumbedita
were installed in office at Sura.

For the rest, it can be demonstrated from Sherira's
Letter itself that scholars of Sura occupied the Gaonate
of Pumbedita. An extraordinary circumstance, to which
no attention has been paid hitherto, is that Sherira notes

^ Halevy might have added Rabbi Samuel ben Hofni, for he was
a grandson of the Pumbeditan Gaon Kohen-Zedek, and assuredly belonged
to the Academy of Pumbedita.


the provenance of only three of the Geonim of Pumbedita^
They are Rabbi Natronai, of Bagdad, Rabbi Isaiah of
m<)b^, a suburb of Bagdad, and the successor of the latter,
Rabbi Joseph of 'rh^ or 'rk^\ It is, of course, inconceivable
that the rest of the Geonim of Pumbedita, as many as
three dozen, should all have hailed from Pumbedita itself;
or that Rabbi Sherira should be ignorant of their pro-
venance. Rabbi Hai, for instance, reports that the Gaon
of Pumbedita, Rabbi Hai ben David, had been active,
before his accession to office, as judge in Bagdad 2, and

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