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Shemarya b. Elḥanan / שמריה בירבי אלחנן — מחדש התורה במצרים: אגב פרסום אוטוגראפים מידו
שלמה דב גויטיין and S. D. Goitein
Tarbiẕ / תרביץ
כרך לב, חוברת ג (ניסן תשכ"ג), pp. 266-272
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23590981
Page Count: 7
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Shemarya b. Elḥanan, one of the "Four Captives", or founders of Jewish learning in the Diaspora outside Babylonia, was the first leader of stature of Egyptian Jewry during the "classical" Geniza period (which extended approximately from 965 to 1265). The article summarizes the material known thus far (fifteen Geniza fragments), to which two autographs, published here for the first time, are added. S. was a prominent figure in the yeshiva of Pumbadita, where he was second only to Sherira Gaon himself. He established a School (midrash, not yeshiva) in the capital of Egypt and became also "President of the Court of all Israel", a title characterizing him as the highest religious authority in the country. He died on December 31, 1011, and was succeeded by his son Elḥanan. The new autographs show that S., like the Gaons of Babylonia and Palestine, used Hebrew for his correspondence with learned persons, and, like the heads of the ecumenical schools, opened his letters with greetings from the scholars studying under him. His language betrays Babylonian origin or influence. The first letter decries in strong terms a husband who had deserted his wife for seven years (a common occurrence during the Geniza period and one of its most blatant social evils) and summons him to court. The second letter refers to two legal cases and to the sending from Alexandria of a large mat donated to S.'s midrash. It is to be hoped that scholars engaged in the search for literary material from the gaonic period will be able to fill in the frame provided here. Shemarya was a pioneer, and as such deserves special attention.
Tarbiẕ / תרביץ © 1963 Mandel Institute for Jewish Studies / המכון למדעי היהדות ע"ש מנדל