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About Rab David I 'Pinchas' ben Abdimi, Exilarch & Gaon of Ramla
Rav Pinchas David ben Yehudah was an exilarch during the first half of the ninth century. In his bid for office, David was opposed by another member of the exilarchal dynasty named Daniel ben Anan. The dispute between the two candidates is mentioned in the Epistle of Sherira Gaon, as well as in the Syriac chronicles of Michael the Syrian and Bar Hebraeus.
According to the latter sources, Pinchas David was backed by the Jews of Tiberias, while Daniel, described as a follower of ʿAnan ben David , had the support of the Babylonians. The same sources connect the conflict with a proclamation by the Abbasid caliph al-Maʿmūn (d. 833) allowing religious groups of at least ten people to appoint their own leaders. David is generally thought to have been the victor in the controversy, but a reference to the grave of “the exilarch Daniel in the time of al-Maʿmūn” in an eleventh-century letter from the Cairo Geniza recently led to the suggestion that each of the candidates may have viewed himself as the legitimate appointee. Sherira notes in the Epistle that in David ben Pinchas Yehudah’s time the exilarchate lost its authority over the Pumbedita yeshiva. David had a son named Yehudah who was an exilarch in the second half of the ninth century.
Gil, Moshe. The Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages (Leiden: Brill, 2004).
Goode, Alexander. “The Exilarchate in the Eastern Caliphate, 637–1258,” Jewish Quarterly Review, n.s. 31 (1940): 149–169.
Arnold Franklin. " David ben Judah." 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/david-ben-judah-SIM_0006400>
A noted grammarian, perhaps the author of The Seder Olam Zutta or Small World Chronicle, recognized by Palestine Jews as heir of King David although the title of Exilarch was held by his distant cousins in Babylon.
Pinchas was not merely the author of a complete Masoretic arrangement of the words of the Tanach, but was also the first to arrange the texts into rhythm and verse.
Historical Note: One of the most important projects connected with the name of the city of Tiberias was the creation of vocalization and cantillation marks and the preservation of the text of the Bible by means of the Masoretic commentaries. Rabbi Avraham Ibn ‘Ezra wrote in his book, Tsahut (Correctness) that “the Sages of Tiberias are the main ones, for from them came the Masoretes, and we received vocalization from them.” We learn from an Arab historian that Rabbi Sa’adia Gaon, who is regarded as the first Hebrew grammarian, spent time in Tiberias and learned the reading and linguistic traditions from one of its Sages. We also know the names of some of the scholars of the language and the Masora who lived and worked in Tiberias: Rabbi Pinhas ben Abdimi ( the head of the Yeshiva), Ahayahu Hacohen Hehaver, and others.
The most famous scholar of the Masora who lived in Tiberias was Aharon Ben Asher, who lived in the tenth century. The treatise, Diqduqei hate’amim (Precisions of Cantillation Marks) is attributed to him, and the heading at the beginning of the book states that Rabbi Aharon Ben Asher was “from the place Ma’azia, which is called Tiberias, which is on the West of the Sea of Galilee.”
In 895, Aharon’s father, Moshe Ben Asher, wrote “a codex of the Bible … in the town of Ma’azia Tiberias the famous city,” as attested by the inscription placed at the end of a manuscript that was found in Cairo. However, Rabbi Aharon himself was the one who revised, vocalized, added cantillation marks, and transmitted the most important Bible manuscript, the Aleppo Codex.
“Tiberias in the Middle Ages,” Hebrew Linguistics in Tiberias, Jerusalem, 1995, pp. 9-31 (Hebrew). Simha Assaf and L. Meir (eds.), “Tiberias,”
The Book of the Settlement, vol. 2, from the Conquest of the Land by the Arabs until the Crusades, Jerusalem, 1944, pp. 0-14 (Hebrew).
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