About Judah (Abū ʾl-Ḥasan) ben Joseph ibn Ezra (ben Abraham ibn Ezra)
Judah (Abū ʾl-Ḥasan) ben Joseph ibn Ezra, also called ha-Nasi in some sources, was born into a distinguished family in Granada in the latter part of the eleventh century. At the time of the Almoravid invasion, his family, including his uncles Moses and Isaac ibn Ezra, fled to Toledo in Christian territory. Many other illustrious families, the Ibn Shoshans, Alfakhars, Abulafias, and ha-Levis among others, also settled there. Judah was appointed almoxarife (collector of revenues) by King Alfonso VII of Castile. In 1147, the king put him in charge of the frontier stronghold of Calatrava, which had been conquered by the Knights Templar the year before. It is not certain whether they took him on as warden or, on the contrary, whether he bequeathed them the castle in exchange for some other heritage.
The chronicler Abraham Ibn Da’ud, praises Judah ibn Ezra in his Sefer ha-Qabbala, stating that in the spirit of “When I would heal Israel, then is the iniquity of Ephraim uncovered“ (Hosea 7:1), God “anticipated [the calamity] by putting it into the heart of King Alfonso the Emperador to appoint our master and rabbi, R. Judah the Nasi b. Ezra, over Calatrava and to place all the royal provisions in his charge.” Latin sources do not mention this fact, although we know that the Knights Templar gave Calatrava back to the crown because they were unable to defend it. In 1158, King Sancho III of Castile, King Sancho VI of Navarre, called The Wise, and Archbishop Don Juan yielded the fortress to Raimundo, abbot of the Fitero Monastery (Navarre) and to Brother Diego Velazquez of the Cistercian order.
During Sancho III’s brief reign (1157–1158) Judah ibn Ezra was also his almoxarife, and the monarch granted him his possessions and exempted him from taxes. At the National Historical Archive in Madrid there is a document dated in March 1158 which states that Sancho III awarded five vegadas of arable land to his almoxarife Bon Juda and his descendants near the village of Azaina “pro bono e fideli seruicio quod patri meo imperatore et mihi semper fecisti e pro illo comcanbio de medietate illius aldeie de Zirolus quam accepi de vobis et dedi eam illis fratribus de Calatraua.”
Ibn Daʾud also made reference to the help offered by Judah to the Jews fleeing the Almohads: “Now when R. Judah . . . was appointed over Calatrava, the city of refuge for the exiles, he supervised the passage of the refugees, released those bound in chains and let the oppressed go free by breaking their yoke and undoing their bonds. At his home and at his very table, where the refugees found rest, he fed the hungry, provided drink for the thirsty and clothed the naked. . . . The king sent for him and appointed him lord of all his household and ruler over all his possessions.” This passage is quoted almost verbatim by Joseph ha-Kohen, a descendant of a family from Cuenca that left Spain in 1492, in his historiographic essay ʿ Emeq ha-Bakha (The Valley of Tears).
A staunch opponent of the Karaite heresy, Judah continued relentlessly the fight begun by Joseph ibn Ferruziel (Cidellus), physician to Alfonso VI. Ibn Daʾud also refers to this, saying: “He (then) requested of the King to forbid the heretics [i.e., Karaites]) to open their mouths throughout the land of Castile, and the King commanded that this be done. . . . Indeed, they are dwindling steadily.”
It is not known when Judah ibn Ezra died, but it must have been sometime in the twelfth century.
Yolanda Moreno Koch
Baer, Yitzhak. A History of the Jews in Christian Spain, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1971).
Ha-Kohen, Yosef. El valle del llanto (ʿEmeq ha-Bakha), introd., trad. y notas por Pilar León, Tello Crónica hebrea del s. XVI. (Barcelona: Riopiedras Ed., 1989), § 38.
Ibn Daʾud, Abraham. Sefer ha-Qabbalah: The Book of Tradition, ed. and trans. Gerson D. Cohen. (Oxford: Littman Library, 2005), pp. 259 ff.
León Tello, Pilar. Judíos de Toledo (Madrid: CSIC, 1979), vol. 1, p. 45; vol. 2, p. 8, doc. 17.
Sáenz -Badillos, Angel, and Judit Targarona Borrás. Diccionario de autores judíos (Sefarad. Siglos X–XV) (Cordova: El Almendro, 1988), p. 132.
Yolanda Moreno Koch. " Ibn Ezra, Judah (Abū ʾl-Ḥasan) ben Joseph." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online , 2012. Reference. Jim Harlow. 09 July 2012 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-in-the-islamic-world/ibn-ezra-judah-abu-l-hasan-ben-joseph-COM_0010540>