Rabbi Yehudah Ben Moshe HaKohen, "Sire Léonṭin"

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Rabbi Yehudah Ben Moshe HaKohen, "Sire Léonṭin"

Hebrew: הכהן רפא, "Sire Léonṭin"
Birthplace: רמלה, רמלה, מחוז המרכז, Israel
Death: circa 975 (61-78)
Immediate Family:

Son of Rabbi Moshe ben Meir HaKohen
Father of Samuel ben Judah; wife of R. Elyakim ben Yosef; Devorah bat Yehudah ben Meir ha-Kohen HaZaken and Rabbi Meir ben Yehudah HaKohen
Brother of Rabbi Aharon ben Meir HaKohen

Managed by: Malka Mysels
Last Updated:

About Rabbi Yehudah Ben Moshe HaKohen, "Sire Léonṭin"


The Radhanites (al-Rādhāniyya) were Jewish [Qaraite and Rabbinic] merchants believed to have originated in the ninth century in the region of Rādhān, a district in southern Iraq. Their trade routes, which stretched from China to the Iberian Peninsula, as well as the commodities in which they traded, were recorded by the ninth-century Persian geographer Ibn Khurradādhbih (or Khurdādhbih) in his Kit āb al-Masālik wa al-Mamālik (ed. de Goeje, Leiden, 1889, pp. 153-155).

According to this text, the Radhanites knew six languages and traded in slaves, silk, furs, and swords, as well as musk, aloe wood, camphor, and cinnamon. The difficulty of interpreting this source and textual differences that appear in the tenth-century geography of Ibn al-Faqīh (Kit āb al-Buldān, ed. de Goeje, Leiden, 1885, pp. 270-271) led a number of prominent scholars to conclude that the Radhanites were actually of Western European origin, and that the system of trade they brought to the lands of Islam a system of trade revolutionized the economic life of the Jewish communities, which until then had focused on agriculture, crafts, and local trade. In this view, the name Radhanite came from the Rhône River or from the Latin term verdarii (emissaries).

However, Gil’s analysis suggests that the Radhanites derived from the eastern part of the Islamic world, and he links the name to a district in the vicinity of Baghdad. Emerging from the Baghdad community, then, their forays into international trade should be seen as an extension of other trading ventures of contemporary Babylonian and Persian Jewry rather than as a paradigm shift in economic life from agriculture to international trade introduced from Western Europe.

by Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman


Fischel, Walter. Jews in the Economic and Political Life of Mediaeval Islam. 2nd rev. ed. (New York: Ktav, 1969).

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

———. “The Rādhānite Merchants and the Land of Rādhān,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 17 (1974): 299–328.

Lopez, Robert, and Irving Raymond. Medieval Trade in the Mediterranean World (New York: Columbia University Press, 1955).

Rabinowitz, Louis I. Jewish Merchant Adventurers (London: E. Goldston, 1948).

  • some* genealogists and historians promote the notion that Yehuda ben Meir Hakohen HaZaken was a Gaon AND a Kohen. Until 915CE, the position of Gaon of Palestine was held by Ẓemaḥ, a fourth-generation descendant of Anan b. David -- founder of the Qaraites, who was a nasi and a gaon. Aaron Ben Meir succeeded in deposing Anan's family only after a bitter struggle in which he was assisted by the scholars and heads of the Baghdad community.

There is only one "ben Meir" family in that historical time period with such a title as "Gaon" + "Kohen" - they were Gaonim of Palestine who were hotly and aggressively opposed by Babylonians and Karaites alike :

The list of Palestinian Gaonim of that period are:

Qaraite 884–915 Ẓemaḥ Not Qaraite 915–932 Aaron b. Moses Ben Meir
Not Qaraite 932–934 Isaac (son of Aaron) Not Qaraite 934–948 … Ben Meir (brother of Aaron) [Yehuda?] Not Qaraite 948–955 Abraham b. Aaron

If there is a Yehuda ben Meir HaKohen (Gaon of Mainz), then the only such person must be one without a name cited in the Geniza document [Yehuda???]. If that be the case then we cannot ignore the fact that gaonim of Ereẓ Israel in the 10th and 11th centuries were mainly from the family of Ben Meir, which **claimed** relation to Judah ha-Nasi and thus to King David. We can readily see the conflict by inspection - King David was not a Levite. Moreover, and two families of kohanim, one of which was the family of Abiathar and was related to Eleazar b. Azariah. These claims lack historical merit as it would require redating the birthdate of Yehuda ben Meir to circa 910CE.

I would like to ruther point out that ben Meir lost credibility in Palestine and Babylon when he tried to reset the Calendar according to his own faulty calculations; in essence he was embarrassed into leaving Palestine after his very public challenge of Sa'adya Goan was rebuked.

S. Abramson concludes that the family of kohanim that claimed relation to the House of David stemmed from the academy in Ereẓ Israel in one family - Ben Meir. Abramson discovered in the Genizah fragments of a previously unknown document, contains a list of the heads of academies for several generations. From this document it is apparent that one family of kohanim was merely a branch of the Ben Meir family...not Kohanim by paternity. Thus, the gaonate of Ereẓ Israel was held by one family and its different branches for perhaps 200 years.

Solomon b. Judah, a native of Fez, and his successor Daniel b. Azariah, a descendant of one of the families of the exilarchate in Babylonia, were heads of academies and were not descendants of the geonim of Ereẓ Israel. Daniel was known as a strong leader, was esteemed by his contemporaries, and was a friend of Samuel ha-Nagid.

In a related topic, Golb refers to Khazari priestly families who retained their status after they adopted Judaism. Such an event is known as ****sacerdotal metamorphosis****.

Assaf, Ge'onim;

Abramson, Merka zim;

Mann, Egypt -- Mann, Texts. BABYLONIA: L. Ginzberg, Geonica, 2 vols. (1909, repr. 1968); idem, Ginzei Schechter, 2 (1929); J. Mueller, Mafte'aḥ li-Teshuvot ha-Ge'onim (1891);

B.M. Lewin, Meḥkarim Shonim bi-Tekufat ha-Ge'onim (1926); V. Aptowitzer, Meḥkarim be-Sifrut ha-Ge'onim (1941);

M. Ḥavaẓẓelet, Ha-Rambam veha-Ge'onim (1967);

H. Tykocinski, Die gaonaeischen Verordnungen (1929); S.D. Goitein, Sidrei Ḥinnukh (1962);

Iggeret Rav Sherira Ga'on, ed. by B.M. Lewin (1921);

S. Abramson, in: Sinai, 54 (1963/64), 20–32; 56 (1964/65), 303–17;




Lacking connection to the ben Meir Family of Palestinian Gaonim - we then assume the Khazari connection of Yehuda ben Meir HaKohen HaZaken al-Khazari.











Yehuda ben Meir, also known as Yehuda ha-Kohen. His book Sefer ha-Dinim contains an account of his travels and those of other Jews in Eastern Europe. In this work, Przemyśl and Kiev are mentioned as trading sites along the Radhanite trade network.

Yehuda was surnamed, according to some sources, either "Léonṭin", "Sire Léonṭin", "more correctly as "Sar Liüntin". We do not know where the honorific "HaZaken" comes from.

The full and complete academic answer to the genealogy of Yehuda ben Meir HaKohen is as follows – there is none. No evidence of where he was born, no evidence of his education, no responsa with the Babylonian academies, no tombstone…nothing. No record of contributions to the Academies of Bavli or Palestine at a time when all academies of the Galut paid tribute to Bavli and Palestine Academies plus their concomitant Nasi’im. We have no means of determining whether he was Qaraite, Rabbinic Jew, Romaniot Jew, Khazari Jew, German, Italian or otherwise. See attached documents.

Rebbe of Rabbenu Gershom Me'or haGolah

Yehuda’s brother Aaron was Gaon in Eretz Yisrael from 915-932. R' Aharon, who famously disagreed with R' Saadyah Gaon over the correct date for Rosh Hashana in the year 922, was succeeded by his son Yitzchak as gaon in 932-934; then Yehuda succeeded his nephew in 934. In 948, Aharon’s younger son Avraham was named Gaon, and Yehuda traveled to Mainz (suffered ‘accident at sea’, as described in Cairo geniza - it is believed he was the unnamed 4th of the famous 'four captives). Though Yehuda’s father was Moshe ben Meir, the entire family went by the ‘ben Meir’ name for more than 5 generations. ‘Megillas Evyasar’ by Aharon’s great-great-grandson says they were Kohanim descended from R’ Elazar ben Azaryah, as well as being descended from Dovid haMelech; this seeming contradiction (since King David was not a kohain) is easily resolved, since one of Evyasar's great... grandfathers married the daughter of Bustenai, who was a direct descendant of Dovid hamelech.