Abū 'l-Faḍl Mevorakh (Mubārak) ben Saʿadya, Alluf, Nagid, Raʾīs al-Yahūd al-Fustat

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Abū 'l-Faḍl Mevorakh (Mubārak) ben Saʿadya, Alluf, Nagid, Raʾīs al-Yahūd al-Fustat

Дата рождения:
Смерть: ±02 декабря 1111 (62-79)
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Сын Sa'adya ben Mevorakh (Mubārak), Nagid, Nagid, Raʾīs al-Yahūd al-Fustat и Sitt al-Sittat "Gevira", al-Bayt Elijah hoKohen al-Yerushalayim
Отец Abu l-Bāyan Moshe ben Mevorakh (Mubārak), Nagid, Raʾīs al-Yahūd al-Fustat; Sa'adya Abraham ben Mazhir "Mevorakh" (Mubārak) и Abu al-Barakāt Nethan'el ben Mevorakh (Mubārak), Nagid al-Yahudi
Брат Yehudah "Judah" ben Sa'adya, Nagid, Raʾīs al-Yahūd al-Fustat

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About Abū 'l-Faḍl Mevorakh (Mubārak) ben Saʿadya, Alluf, Nagid, Raʾīs al-Yahūd al-Fustat

Mevorakh ben Sa‘adya

One of the five sons of Saʿadya ben Mevorakh, Abū 'l-Faḍl Mevorakh ben Saʿadya was born around 1040 and began his rise to prominence over the course of the late 1050s under the gaonate of Daniel ben Azariah (r. 1051–1062), even before his older brother Judah ben Saʿadya became nagid (head of the Jews in the Fatimid empire). By the time Judah attained that office, between 1062 and 1064, Mevorakh was already styled rayyis (leader or chief), a title acknowledging him either as physician or a government official or both. He seems to have enjoyed even more respect than his brother as a scholar, halakhic authority, and leader, especially among the Jews of Alexandria, where he would later take refuge during his interregnum.

On Judah’s death around 1078, Mevorakh succeeded him as head of the Jews. The gaon of Jerusalem, Elijah ben Solomon ha-Kohen (1062–1083), did not, however, grant him the title nagid that he had earlier granted to Judah. This was probably because Elijah understood that the growing strength of the office of nagid under Judah, and the weakening of the gaonate, posed a threat to his own standing. By 1080, Mevorakh began appointing judges in Egypt, usurping a main prerogative of the Jerusalem gaon, who was then in exile in Tyre. But Mevorakh’s tenure in office did not last long: David ben Daniel ben Azariah deposed him around 1082, and forced him to flee to Alexandria. Mevorakh was reinstated in 1094, in part by virtue of his association with the Fatimid vizier al-Afḍal ibn Badr al-Jamālī, as indicated in three documents from the Cairo Geniza: Megillat Evyatar claims that Mevorakh owed his reinstatement to a certain “lord” (Heb. adon); a letter notes that Mevorakh had been Badr al-Jamālī’s physician and “counselor since his days of youth”; and a document mentions that Mevorakh’s “service to the ruler” (Ar. khidmat al-sulṭān) and “abundant government duties” competed with his responsibilities to the Jewish community during his second term in office.

By the time of his reinstatement, Mevorakh had already been titled nagid, probably by the new gaon in Damascus, Abiathar ben Elijah ha-Kohen. By asserting the right to grant the title, Abiathar was attempting to shore up his waning authority over Egyptian Jewry, but the strategy backfired: Mevorakh was widely known as raʾīs al-yahūd (head of the Jews) and by the titles granted him by al-Afḍal, but the title nagid appears less frequently with his name; and the decline of the Palestinian gaonate dates to this period.

As raʾīs al-yahūd, Mevorakh continued to play the role of intercessor at the Fatimid court long exercised by the Jewish grandees of Fustat and Cairo. He increased the power of his office by gradually accumulating prerogatives once held by the gaon of the Jerusalem yeshiva, especially the power to appoint judges in Egypt. In addition to representing Egyptian Jewry at the Fatimid court, he also handled routine administrative matters, including receiving petitions and other appeals for redress of grievances. By 1082, the Fatimids had recognized the innovation that Judah’s and Mevorakh’s terms in office represented and titled the latter raʾīs al-yahūd.

During the interregnum, David ben Daniel had arrogated four additional gaonic privileges to the office of raʾīs al-yahūd: maintaining a “high court” (Heb. bet din gadol) that adjudicated appeals and appointed magistrates, appointing heads of local Jewish communities in the gaon’s stead, declaring bans of excommunication, and imposing fines and taxes on the Jewish communities of Egypt and Syria. On his reinstatement, Mevorakh continued to exercise these new prerogatives. He further centralized the judicial and administrative structure of the Jewish community by appointing “permanent” (Heb. qavuaʿ) chief judges in Fustat and Cairo, and local ones in Alexandria and elsewhere whom he titled nāʾib (deputy), indicating that they reported directly to him or to his chief judges in the capital. He also sometimes applied the term to his administrative appointees as heads of the local communities, who were normally known as muqaddam .

In addition to these centralizations, Mevorakh instituted major innovations in the regulation of family law and the standardization of the synagogue liturgy. Such matters of religious life had previously fallen outside the nagid’s purview, but Mevorakh transferred to Fustat and his own office the religious, judicial, and administrative powers previously reserved for the gaon.

Mevorakh also bore the Babylonian title ’alluf ha-binot (sagacious leader), possibly granted him by the Babylonian nasi and Palestinian gaon Daniel ben Azariah, since there were no Iraqi yeshivot during this period, and also the Palestinian title ḥaver (fellow [of the academy]). During his brother Judah’s tenure as raʾīs al-yahūd, Mevorakh’s titulature expanded to include ḥakham ha-yeshiva (sage of the yeshiva) and sanhedra rabba (grand counsel), probably both granted by the very Jerusalem yeshiva whose powers he would later usurp.

Mevorakh’s halakhic authority rested in part on his great learning, attested in a letter showing him to have ordered books from a scribe in al-Mahdiyya. Although he knew the works of Andalusī and Ifrīqiyyan sages, including Isaac al-Fāsī and Nissim ben Jacob, he probably studied entirely in Egypt, possibly at home. His strength lay in Bible and midrash, as attested in part in a letter from a European visitor to Egypt who commented invidiously on his knowledge of Talmud; and in the fact that he was a gifted synagogue orator, capable of inspiring the notables of Fustat to contribute large sums to redeem captives and Torah scrolls after the Crusader sack of Jerusalem in 1099. Mevorakh died on Saturday, December 2, 1111.

Marina Rustow


Cohen, Mark R. Jewish Self-Government in Medieval Egypt: The Origins of the Office of Head of the Jews, ca. 1065–1126 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1980).

Gil, Moshe. Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages (Leiden: Brill, 2004).

Citation Marina Rustow. " Mevorakh ben Sa‘adya." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online , 2013. Reference. Jim Harlow. 15 January 2013 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-...>

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Хронология Abū 'l-Faḍl Mevorakh (Mubārak) ben Saʿadya, Alluf, Nagid, Raʾīs al-Yahūd al-Fustat