About Abu Ishaq Abraham ben Nathan, Nasi
Abraham ben Nathan son of Nathan ben Abraham
Abraham ben Nathan, born around 1037, was the only the son of Nathan ben Abraham, the rival of Gaon Solomon ben Judah in the famous conflict that took place between 1038 and 1042. The dispute ended when Nathan ben Abraham was appointed Av Beit Din of the yeshiva, with hopes of obtaining the position of gaon. He apparently died before achieving this goal.
Abraham ben Nathan inherited his father’s ongoing feeling of frustration and bitterness toward the Palestinian yeshiva and its leaders. His maternal grandfather, Mevorakh ben Eli, was one of the leaders of the Babylonian community in Fustat, Egypt, and Abraham himself was well known as a gifted scholar. He was evidently one of the first to join David ben Daniel in his campaign against Abiathar ben Elijah ha-Kohen, an understandable alliance given his family background.
According to the Scroll of Abiathar (Heb. Megillat Evyatar ), David ben Daniel sent Abraham to Tyre to impose his (David’s) rule there and weaken Abiathar’s authority. In the Scroll, Abiathar describes how Abraham ben Nathan abused and persecuted his family. Paradoxically, Abraham describes in his own letters his many difficulties in attempting to carry out his mission. The Scroll relates that Abraham ben Nathan was forced to flee from Tyre during an uprising against Fatimid rule, but that he returned to the city in 1093, after the Fatimids suppressed the revolt. Before going back, Abraham managed to make advances in Alexandria (Egypt) as well, and upon returning to Tyre, he was also able to garner support in Acre (Akko). Afterwards, he organized a large assembly in Tyre, where he announced to the community the decision taken in Fustat to declare David ben Daniel exilarch.
In 1094, after the fall of David ben Daniel, Abraham ben Nathan wrote to Nahray ben Nissim, one of the leaders of the Babylonian community in Fustat, and described the difficult circumstances in which he found himself as a result of supporting the wrong side in the dispute. In the letter, he expresses his distress about the problems he had to face as a consequence and his apprehension about further difficulties. He goes into detail about his economic troubles and inquires about the possibility of moving to Egypt in order to earn a living there.
Evidently, Abraham ben Nathan did move to Egypt in the end, and peace was made between him and David ben Daniel’s enemies. He was given the post of dayyan in Cairo, where he remained until his death around 1115, and earned such honorifics as yesod ha-yeshiva (Heb. foundation of the yeshiva), reshbey rabbanan (Heb. head of scholars), and rosh ha-seder (Heb. head of the school).
Gil, Moshe. A History of Palestine, 638–1099 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).
Elinoar Bareket. " Abraham ben Nathan son of Nathan ben Abraham." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online , 2012. Reference. Jim Harlow. 03 July 2012 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-in-the-islamic-world/abraham-ben-nathan-son-of-nathan-ben-abraham-SIM_0000220>