Khalaf Aaron ben Yosef haKohen ibn Sarjado, Gaon of Pumbeditha

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Khalaf Aaron ben Yosef haKohen ibn Sarjado, Gaon of Pumbeditha

Also Known As: "Caleb ibn Sargado", "Khalaf ibn Sarjado", "Kalib ibn Sarjado"
Birthdate: (27)
Death: circa 942 (19-35)
Immediate Family:

Son of Natronai Yosef "Mari" haKohen, Gaon of Sura & Jaen al-Andalus and unknown
Husband of ??? bat Bishr ben Aaron
Father of Ali ben Khalaf ben Tanab
Brother of Kohen Ṣedeq II "Yakob" ben Yosef, Gaon of Sura & Pumbeditha and unknown

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About Khalaf Aaron ben Yosef haKohen ibn Sarjado, Gaon of Pumbeditha

Ibn Sarjado, Aaron (Khalaf) ben Joseph ha-Kohen

Aaron (Ar. Khalaf) ben Joseph ha-Kohen ibn Sarjado was gaon of Pumbedita from around 942 to 960. Ibn Sarjado was not from a family of scholars, but married into a wealthy Jewish banking clan in Baghdad that had come to play an increasingly important role in the selection of geonim and exilarchs. His father-in-law, Bishr ben Aaron, is credited with brokering the settlement that ended the protracted dispute between Saʿadya Gaon and the exilarch David ben Zakkay. Ibn Sarjado’s first official post within the hierarchy of the yeshiva came when Mubashshir, gaon of Pumbedita, appointed him resh kalla .

In the conflict between Saʿadya and David ben Zakkay that polarized Baghdad Jewry, Ibn Sarjado sided with the latter and apparently wrote a letter viciously attacking Saʿadya. In his eagerness to bring about Saʿadya’s downfall, he reportedly tried, unsuccessfully, to get the caliph to intervene against him with a bribe of 60,000 dirhams. Sometime later, around 942, Ibn Sarjado assumed the headship of Pumbedita; his own time in office, however, was also marred by controversy. According to Sherira Gaon, several years after Ibn Sarjado was appointed he became embroiled in a dispute with Nehemiah bar Kohen Ṣedeq Gaon, who ultimately declared himself to be the legitimate head of Pumbedita.

Ibn Sarjado was a productive scholar, but only scattered evidence of his literary activity is extant today. Like his rival Saʿadya, he is known to have composed a Judeo-Arabic commentary on the Pentateuch, several sections of which have been discovered in the Cairo Geniza. A number of Ibn Sarjado’s responsa have also been identified. One of them offers a fascinating glimpse of the method of Talmud study that prevailed in the Babylonian yeshivot. His teachings were evidently known to later generations, for Sherira and Hay Gaon both refer to his interpretation of a passage in tractate Yevamot of the Babylonian Talmud, and his pentateuchal commentary is mentioned several times by Abraham ibn Ezra. Moses Maimonides was also familiar with his work, counting him as one of the Jewish scholars who rejected the idea that the universe was eternal.

Arnold Franklin


Brody, Robert, The Geonim of Babylonia and the Shaping of Medieval Jewish Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998).

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

Malter, Henry, Saadia Gaon: His Life and Works (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1921).

Citation Arnold Franklin. " Ibn Sarjado, Aaron (Khalaf) ben Joseph ha-Kohen." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online , 2013. Reference. Jim Harlow. 16 January 2013 <>

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