930 AD to 950 AD, Psalm 94: Saadia Gaon.

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bagdad-shutterstock_2771719Die_deutschen_Kaiser_Otto_der_GroßeThis generation is those of 930 years and 940 years

While the Carolingian Empire continues to disintegrate, the Germanic empire takes off. Otton 1st succeeds in 936 to Henry the Fowler (Henry 1st). He reigns more than thirty-five years from 936 to 973. During the first part of his reign, during the generation that interests us, he devotes himself above all to consolidating his power and his kingdom. It gives birth to the Germanic Empire, later called the Holy Roman Empire Germanic.
While Christianity asserts itself as the dominant religion of Europe, this generation sees the first real attacks of this religion towards the Jews despite the relative protection granted to them by the kings of the former Carolingian empire and the Byzantine emperors.
It is in Byzantium that the relative protection of the Jews then undergoes a major breach:
  • Citizens [1] of the Empire since the Edict of Caracalla, the Jews are a religious community and not a foreign people; as such, they are protected while retaining their privileges: freedom of worship, provision of their synagogues, special courts of justice, respect for their customs by Christians, from circumcision to the Sabbath and diet. The Church, which sees in this community punished a living example for Christians, formally prohibits forced conversion. In 787, the Council of Nicaea recalls that all conversion can proceed only from conviction or a miraculous operation. It is true that the state, at times when it seeks a certain spiritual unanimity, sometimes tries to convert the Jews: after the edict of Heraclius, there was severe persecution under Basil 1, during the Pauline crisis then under Roman Lecapene, when the reconquest took a decisive turn. But the results were nil and we quickly returned to the usual tolerance: just like the Basilicas, the canonical collections then renew the old protective provisions.
The fanaticism of Romain 1er Lécapène is shared by his men:
  • The effort [2] of evangelization of pagan or Arian lands is also an effort to reconquer the territories lost under the pressure of Islam. Taking advantage of the Byzantine revival and discord within the ruling families in the Muslim world, the Macedonian dynasty went on the offensive in 924 under the reign of Roman 1st Lecapene (920-944). The soldiers who lead the war for God and for their Christian brethren pray morning and evening, fast, worship the icons, communicate before the battle, and go off fighting with their war cry: « The cross is victorious ».

Many forced conversions [3] take place, and executions take place in the south of Italy. Accused of treason for the benefit of the Fatimids, many communities disappear with an exodus to the Maghreb.

It is this resumption of the Christian offensive that is the subject of the beginning of the psalm of this generation:

(extract of the psalm 94 associated to this generation, verses 1 to 4 )

  • O God of vengeance, O Lord; O God show vengeance.
  • Exalt Yourself, O Judge of the earth, render to the haughty their recompense.
  • How long will the wicked, O Lord, how long will the wicked rejoice?
  • They spout forth, they speak falsely; all workers of violence boast.

In the Abbasid empire [4], following a lack of elite, the exilarch David Ben Zakkai had been forced to abandon the academy of Sura in favor of Poumbédita but quickly returned to his decision. Two candidates were then in smooth to take the direction of which Saadia Gaon who presided in 928. The academy had lost much of its luster, undermined by corruption.

Saadia tried to put things back in order, which eventually provoked his excommunication by David Ben Zakkai. The rivalry created by these tensions was regulated by caliphate power:
  • Two parties were formed, that of Saadia and that of David. […] The two adversaries appealed to the caliph Almouktadir and bought at a price of money the good graces of his favorites. On the order of the caliph, the vizier Ali ibn Isa, assisted by several high dignitaries, summoned the two parties before him. He did not intervene under Almouktadir, no doubt because of the large number of viziers who succeeded each other during the last two years of the reign of this caliph and because of the troubles that frequently occurred during this period (930-932). Saadia and Joseph ben Satia both continued to serve as Sura’s gaons, and both David and his brother Josiah Hassan remained exilarchs.
  • It was only after the death of Almouktadir, killed in a riot (October 932), and at the accession of his successor, Caliph Kahir, that the cause was finally judged. Kahir was extremely poor, his treasure was empty and he was in dire need of money. As David’s supporters had more resources than Saadia’s, it was the exilarch who triumphed. Kahir defended Saadia to retain the functions of Gaon and perhaps even to stay in Sura (933). […]
(Following more favorable circumstances, Saadia returned in 936 reconciling himself with the exilarch David, again named Gaon de Sura, the academy took over Poumbédita Saadia tried thereafter to manage the estate of the Exilarch)
  • After David’s death (around 940), Saadia showed great generosity of soul. Forgetting the iniquity of which he had been a victim, he sought and succeeded in having Judah, the son of his former adversary, raised to the dignity of exilarch. Judah only kept office for seven months; he died, leaving a child of twelve. Saadia gathered the orphan in his house and raised him carefully so that he might one day succeed his father. He provisionally appointed as exilarch a relative of the orphan, a member of the family Benè-Haiman, residing in Nisibis. Hardly settled, the new Resch Galutha was accused by Muslims of insulting Muhammad, and he was killed.
  • When the son of Judah had reached manhood, it invests the dignity of exilarch. Resolute, in their fanaticism, not to tolerate the Jews having a prince of their religion at their head longer, Muslims, nobles and commoners, formed a conspiracy against the life of the exilarch. The khalif sought in vain to impede the execution of this project. The crime was accomplished. In order not to put new lives in danger, the representatives of Judaism decided to no longer appoint an exilarch. Thus the exilarquat disappeared after a period of seven centuries. He succumbed to the blows of Muslim fanaticism as the patriarchy had previously succumbed in Judea under the attack of Christian intolerance. The unity of Babylonian Judaism was represented only by the academies of Sura and Poumbedita; but these too were nearing their end.
Thus after seven centuries of existence, the exilarquat ends in Babylonia (« Your inheritance they afflict« ), after the assassinations caused by the Muslim fanatics who do not hesitate to achieve their ends to blame the orphaned son of the exilarch (« they murder the orphans »).
This is what the following verses of the psalm of this generation relate:

(extract of the psalm 94 associated to this generation, verses 5 to 7 )

  • Your people, O Lord, they crush, and Your inheritance they afflict.
  • They slay the widow and the stranger, and they murder the orphans.
  • They say, « Yah will not see, nor will the God of Jacob understand. »
However, by annihilating Babylonian rabbinism, Muslim fanatics are promoting its rebirth in new areas that will in turn become vital centers of Judaism:
  • Sura’s Jews [5] de Sura voyaient arriver avec douleur la fin de l’école fondée par Rab, qui, pendant plus de sept
    Sura’s Jews [5] saw with pain the end of the school founded by Rab, who for more than seven centuries had made the glory of their community. They tried to raise their academy. Four young scientists were sent abroad to collect donations and awaken the interest of the Jewish communities in favor of this old and venerable school. But fate seemed to conspire against Sura’s academy. The four delegates were taken prisoner (about 950, at the end of this generation), on the shores of Italy, by a Hispano-Moorish admiral, Ibn Ruhami, and shipped, one to Egypt, the other to Africa, the third in Cordoba and the last probably in Narbonne. Far from helping in the reconstruction of the school of Sura, these four scientists contributed, by their departure, involuntarily, it is true, to precipitate the fall of the gaonat. It was Spain that would become the center of Jewish civilization.
  • While arguing at Poumbédita the dignity of schoolmaster and, consequently, the religious direction of Judaism, the four scholars of Sura mentioned above founded new Talmudic schools in the countries where they were taken. captives, in Egypt, Africa, Spain, and France, and thus rendered the Jewish communities of these countries independent of the Gaonate. These four Talmudists were called: Schemaria ben Elkanan, redeemed from slavery in Alexandria (Egypt) and later established in Misr (Cairo); Huschiel, sold in a port of Africa and released at liberty at Kairouan; the third was probably Nathan ben Isaac Kohen, the Babylonian, who, it is believed, went to Narbonne; finally the fourth was Moses ben Hanok.
  • Moses ben Hanok suffers many tribulations. Being alone married among the four delegates of Sura, he had taken with him his wife and his young son. On the vessel, Admiral Ibn Ruhami coveted the companion of Moses, who was remarkably beautiful, and made him understand. The young woman, overcome with the fate that threatened her, asked her husband in Hebrew if the people who perished in the sea would also be recalled to life. On the affirmative answer of Moses, she rushed into the waves.
  • Brought with his child as a slave to Cordova, Moses was bought by the community. In order not to profit materially from the teaching of the Law, he preferred to hide his profound Talmudic erudition. It was under rags that he went one day to the school in Cordoba, where the rabbi and judge Nathan taught, a man little versed in the Talmud but admired in Spain as one of the lights of the country. Sitting like an ignorant listener in a corner near the door, hearing Nathan explain as a schoolboy a passage of the Talmud, he could not help shyly making some objections. The assistants immediately recognized a master in the unfortunate whom they had just bought; they urged him to elucidate the controversial passage and at the same time solve other questions submitted to the rabbi’s examination. To the great surprise and admiration of the audience, Moses expounded his ideas with rare erudition and skill. That very day, Nathan, showing remarkable disinterestedness, declared that he was giving up his place of judge and rabbi to the learned foreigner who was a veal at school under beggar’s clothes. The community of Cordoba then placed Moses ben Hanok at his head, filled him with presents, gave him an annual salary and put a luxurious coach at his disposal.
  • Upon learning that his prisoner was so valuable, ibn Ruhami wanted to break his bargain with the community for a higher ransom. Thanks to the intervention of Hasdai, then almighty at court, Caliph Abdul Rahman III made the admiral give up his pretensions. This sovereign had been very anxious to give satisfaction, in this question, to the Jewish community, because he saw with displeasure considerable sums coming out every year from his kingdom to support the gaonat, placed under the authority of an enemy caliphate. He was therefore delighted that his Jewish subjects could make themselves independent of the academy of Poumbedita by founding a Talmudic school in Cordoba.
  • For their part, two of the ancient companions of Moses established Talmudic schools in Cairo and Kairouan, which became centers of education for Egypt and the caliphate of the Fatimids, and allowed these countries to cease their relations with gaonat.
Thus the enemies of the Jewish people, in trying to combat it, help to strengthen it, and to furnish it with a new favorable soil. The four envoys of Poumbédita’s academy were thus able to return their fatal destiny by their perfect knowledge of the law and thus become new masters in their new exile.
It is this divine benevolence towards his people that the following of the psalm evokes:

(extract of the psalm 94 associated to this generation, verses 8 to 14 )

  • Understand, [you] most boorish of the people, and [you] fools, when will you gain intelligence?
  • Will He Who implants the ear not hear or will He Who forms the eye not see?
  • Will He Who chastises nations not reprove? [He is] the One Who teaches man knowledge.
  • The Lord knows man’s thoughts that they are vanity.
  • Fortunate is the man whom You, Yah, chastise, and from Your Torah You teach him.
  • To grant him peace from days of evil, while a pit is a dug for the wicked.
  • For the Lord will not forsake His people, nor will He desert His inheritance.

Fatimid_Caliphate reagence

If the transfer can be done so well, it is because the Muslim world which had been created outside the power Abbasid becomes at least for some generations a land of predilection for the Jews. This is the case for the new Fatimid power, which before controlling soon Egypt, already dominates the Maghreb and more particularly the Ifriqiya (today: Tunisia), which allowed the development of the community of Kairouan.
But this is especially the case for the Umayyad power of Cordoba.
Abd al-Rahman III has been Caliph of Cordova since 912 and the rest until his death in 961. To maintain his power, Abd al-Rahman III does not trust anyone, turns to a Jew:
  • When he had no one left to conquer, he must have felt the fear of sickness and death as an insult: he was afraid of being poisoned. One day someone told him about a doctor from Cordoba’s Judia who spoke all known languages and had invented a substance that cured all diseases. He sent for him to his palace. He named him his ordinary physician and also the customs inspector of the kingdom, and with time he became accustomed to charge him with important diplomatic missions. He did not care that he was a Jew; what interested him in a man was more sagacity or courage than the credo he professed.
  • The name of this doctor was Hasdai ibn Chaprut (915-970, named Vizir in 929). He was born two years before al-Nasir ascended the throne. Compared to the caliph. He was a young man and he probably did not believe anything that mattered to ‘Abd al-Rahman: the’ fakhr ‘, the magnificence, and the’ hayba ‘, which was the fearful respect or sheer terror of the men who did not venture to raise their eyes on his face. What fascinated Hasdai ibn Chaprut was knowledge: he had learned Arabic, Roman and Latin, he spoke fluent Greek and read the most difficult passages of the Talmud without difficulty. They were Mozarabic priests who had taught him Latin, but he had learned medicine from Muslim and Jewish physicists, and when his parents suggested to him to look for a wife he replied that his studies absorbed him too much to give him time to to desire a woman.
The promotion of Hasdai corresponds to one of the most prosperous periods for the Jews in their exile:
  • As an exception [6], being a Jew in Cordoba was neither a threat nor a misfortune. Eliyahu Ashtor, a circumspect scholar and rampant Zionist, from whom I have learned almost everything I report about Hasdai ibn Chaprut, says that never in the history of the diaspora, except at the time of the Andalusian Umayyads, does he There were eight consecutive generations of Jews who knew neither the blackmail of a questionable tolerance nor the terror of indisputable persecution. Christians, the descendants of the Arab conquerors and the Muwallads, Spanish converts to Islam, had an incorrigible tendency to discord and rebellion. Unlike all those, the Jews never raised insurrection nor were disloyal to the power: for three centuries, in Cordoba, the synagogues did not experience any profanation.
Thus, although associated with a despotic power, the Jews will continue to experience a certain prosperity in Cordoba. This will allow Spain to take over the flames of the faltering Babylonian Academies and thus ensure the Jewish people continue to traverse the darkness of exile. The Jewish people will continue to go through time until their final redemption, while the caliphate of Cordoba will eventually disappear a few decades later.
It is a bit peculiar to the Jewish people once again illustrated in this generation that the psalm of this generation concludes:

(extract of the psalm 94 associated to this generation, verses 15 to 23 )

 

  • For until righteousness will judgment return, and after it all those upright in heart.
  • Who will rise up for me against evildoers; who will stand up for me against workers of violence?
  • Had not the Lord been my help, in an instant my soul would rest silent.
  • If I said, « My foot has slipped, » Your kindness, O Lord, supported me.
  • With my many thoughts within me, Your consolations cheered me.
  • Will the throne of evil join You, which forms iniquity for a statute?
  • They gather upon the soul of the righteous and condemn innocent blood.
  • But the Lord was my fortress, and my God the rock of my refuge.
  • And He returned upon them their violence, and for their evil, may He cut them off; may the Lord our God cut them off.

 

 

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[1] Alain Ducellier: « Byzantium and the Orthodox world ». Chapter: « Ideological Renewals ». (French: « Byzance et le monde orthodoxe ». Chapitre : « Renouvellements idéologiques ». (p. 290) ).

[2] Jean-Pierre Moisset: « History of Catholicism ». Chapter: « One Church, Two Cultures: East and West » (French: « Histoire du catholicisme ». Chapitre : « Une église, deux cultures : Orient et Occident ». (p. 167-168) ).

[3] According to : www.hebraica.org

[4] According to and excerpts from: Henri Graetz: « HISTORY OF THE JEWS / THIRD PERIOD – DISPERSION ». Second epoch – Science and Jewish poetry at their peak. Chapter 1 – Saadia, Hasdai and their contemporaries (928-970). (French: « HISTOIRE DES JUIFS / TROISIÈME PÉRIODE — LA DISPERSION ». Deuxième époque — La science et la poésie juive à leur apogée. Chapitre premier — Saadia, Hasdaï et leurs contemporains (928-970) ).

[5] Henri Graetz: « HISTORY OF THE JEWS / THIRD PERIOD – DISPERSION ». Second epoch – Science and Jewish poetry at their peak. Chapter 1 – Saadia, Hasdai and their contemporaries (928-970). (French: « HISTOIRE DES JUIFS / TROISIÈME PÉRIODE — LA DISPERSION ». Deuxième époque — La science et la poésie juive à leur apogée. Chapitre premier — Saadia, Hasdaï et leurs contemporains (928-970) ).

[6] Antonio Munoz Molina: « Cordoba of the Umayyads ». Chapter: « The Doctor of the Caliph ». (French: « Cordoue des Omeyyades ». Chapitre : « Le médecin du Calife ». (p. 141) ).