Shmuel HaLevi HaNagid, al-­Wazīr al-­ad̲j̲all al-Zīryūn

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Shmuel al-Wazir al-adjall al-Ziryun ibn Naghrela HaLevi HaNagid, Wazir

Hebrew: שמואל הנגיד ibn Naghrela HaLevi HaNagid, שמואל הלוי בן יוסף הנגיד
Also Known As: "שמואל הלוי בן יוסף הנגיד", "Samuel ha-Nagid", "Samuel ibn Naghrela", "Sh'muel HaLevi ben Yose‎ Abu Yusef Ismā‘īl ibn al-Nag'hdīlah ibn Aṭā al-yahūdī", "Abu Iṣḥāq Ismā‘īl bin an-Naghrīlah", "שמואל הנגיד‎"
Birthplace: Cordova, Andalusia, Spain
Death: Died in Málaga, Andalucía, España
Immediate Family:

Son of Yehoseph Ha-Nagid, Last Gaon of Sura and Safiyya bat Yusuf haLevi ibn Killis
Husband of אשת שמואל הנגיד
Father of Yosef HaNagid HaLevi Ibn Nagrela / Al-Nagrila and Qasmūna bat Ismā‛īl HaLevi HaNagid

Occupation: Talmudic scholar, poet, warrior, and statesman
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Shmuel HaLevi HaNagid, al-­Wazīr al-­ad̲j̲all al-Zīryūn

Samuel ibn Naghrela שמואל הלוי בן יוסף הנגיד‎, Sh'muel HaLevi ben Yosef HaNagid; Arabic: أبو إسحاق إسماعيل بن النغريلة‎ Abu Iṣḥāq Ismā‘īl bin an-Naghrīlah), also known as Samuel HaNagid שמואל הנגיד‎, Shmuel HaNagid, lit. Samuel the Prince) (born 993; died after 1056), was a Talmudic scholar, grammarian, philologist, poet, warrior, and statesman, who lived in Iberia at the time of the Moorish rule.

Born in Mérida, his main poetic works include "Ben Tehillim" (Son of Psalms), "Ben Qoheleth" (Son of Ecclesiastes), and "Ben Mishlei" (Son of Proverbs), each of which imitates the "father work". His choice of poetic themes reflected his myriad occupations and personal world-view, including poems describing the battlefield using the analogy of a game of chess, poems speaking of the great beauty of nature, of which there are numerous, etc.

His power in word choice of poetic portrayal of nature rivals that of the other great Jewish poets, namely ibn Saruk. He founded the Yeshiva that produced such brilliant scholars as R' Yitzhaq ibn Ghiath and R' Maimon ben Yosef (father of Maimonides).

He fled Córdoba when the Berbers took the city in 1013. For a while he ran a spice shop in Málaga, but eventually he moved to Granada, where he was first tax collector, then a secretary, and finally an assistant vizier to the Berber king Habbus al-Muzaffar.

When Habbus died in 1038, Samuel HaNagid made sure that his son Badis succeeded him. In return, Badis made Hanagid his vizier and top general, two posts which he held for the next seventeen years. When he defeated the allied armies of Seville, Malaga and the Berbers in 1047 at Ronda, he wrote in his Hebrew poem of gratitude for his deliverance: "A redemption which was like the mother of my other redemptions and they became to it as daughters."

HaNagid's son Joseph ibn Naghrela inherited those jobs. Some Muslims accused Joseph of using his office to benefit Jewish friends, assassinated him, and launched a massacre of Granada's Jews the next day (December 31, 1066).

The Nagids in al-Andalus

Eleventh-century Spain saw two Jewish notables styled nagid: Samuel Ibn Naghrella(993–1056) and his son Jehoseph Ibn Naghrella, who succeeded him. Both of them served as viziers and military commanders. to the Zīrīd sultan of Granada. Samuel seems to have been awarded the title nagid by Hai Gaon of Pumbedita.

After his death, his son Jehoseph was appointed vizier, serving until his assassination in 1066. The ties between the two Andalusian nagids and Daniel ben Azariah, gaon of the Palestinian yeshiva, were so strong that Daniel also granted them honorifics; it may in fact have been Daniel who conferred the title of nagid upon Jehoseph. Although Samuel and Jehoseph were the leading Jews in al-Andalus, the office of raʾīs al-yahūd as seen in Egypt apparently did not exist in Granada.

One of the great disciples of Rabbi Hanoch ben Moses, Dayyan of Cordoba [d. 1014], was Rabbi Samuel Ha­Levi, the Prince, the son of Joseph, who was known as Ibn Nagrela, of the community of Cordova. He was an unusually fine Talmudic scholar and was also well versed in Arabic literature and language. He was of the type that could occupy a high position in the royal palace.

Samuel was a merchant, supporting himself with great difficulty until the devastating days in Spain which followed the fall of the Amirid kingdom when the Berbers secured the power. Samuel fled Cordoba for Granada in 1013 [The civil war, which began in Spain in 1009, reached its climax in 1012 in the sack of Cordova by the Berbers.]

It was then that the land of Cordova began to decline and its inhabitants fled. Some of them ran away to Saragossa, where their descendants are even now; some fled to Toledo and their descendants are known there even to this day.

This Rabbi Samuel Ha­Levi fled to Malaga. There he had a shop and was a petty merchant. His shop happened to be near the palace of Ibn al­Arif, the vizier of King Habbus [1019­1038], the son of Maksan, the King of the Berbers, in Granada. At the request of a maid servant of the vizier, Samuel used to write letters for her to her master the vizier, Abu al­Kasim ibn al­Arif. This latter saw his letters and was amazed at his wisdom.

Some time later this vizier, Ibn al­Arif, got permission of his king, Habbus, to return to his home in Malaga. There he asked the people of his house: "Who used to write those letters that came to me from you?" "A certain Jew," they answered, "who comes from the community of Cordova and lives near your palace-he used to write them for us." Immediately the secretary issued a command and they rushed Rabbi Samuel Ha­Levi to him. "It is unbecoming for you to sit in a shop," he said to him. "Stay here with me." He did so and became his secretary and adviser.

The vizier used to advise the King according to the advice given by Rabbi Samuel Ha­Levi, of blessed memory. All his advice was as though it came from God, and the King Habbus prospered through it very much. After some time the vizier, Ibn al­Arif, became mortally ill, and King Habbus, who came to visit him, said to him: "What shall I do? Who will advise me in the wars which encompass me?" "I have never advised you," he answered him, "out of my own mind, but at the suggestion of this Jew, my secretary. Take care of him, and he will be as a father and a minister to you. Do whatever he advises you, and God will help you." So after the death of the vizier, King Habbus took Rabbi Samuel Ha­Levi and brought him to his palace and he became his vizier and councillor.

In the year 4780 [l020] he was in the palace of the King Habbus. [Samuel was already an important official before 1020.] The king had two sons: the name of the elder was Badis, and the younger, Bulukkin. All the Berber princes favored Bulukkin, the younger son, as the successor, but all the rest of the people favored Badis. The Jews, too, and among them Rabbi Joseph ibn Migas, Rabbi Isaac ben Leon, and Rabbi Nehemiah, who was called Escafa, three Granada notables, favored Bulukkin, but Rabbi Samuel Ha­Levi favored Badis.

On the day that King Habbus died, the Berber princes and their distinguished men rose in the morning to crown his son Bulukkin. Bulukkin, however, immediately went and kissed the hand of his elder brother Badis. Thus Badis was crowned in the year 4787 [1027] and the face of his enemies turned black like the bottom of a pot; and against their will they had to crown Badis. [Badis was really crowned in 1038 and died in 1073.]

After this Bulukkin regretted that he had made his brother king and kept on getting the upper hand over his brother Badis, with the result that King Badis was unable to do a thing, big or small, without his brother's interference. But after this his brother Bulukkin became sick, and the King gave orders to the physician not to cure him. The physician obeyed, and Bulukkin died. Thus was the kingdom established in the hands of Badis. These three distinguished Jews of the city, whom we have mentioned, fled to the land of Seville [then hostile to Granada].

Rabbi Samuel Ha­Levi was appointed Prince in the year 4787 [1027], and he conferred great benefits on Israel in Spain, in north-eastern and north­central Africa, in the land of Egypt, in Sicily, well as far as the Babylonian academy, and the Holy City, Jerusalem. All the students who lived in those lands benefited by his generosity, for he bought numerous copies of the Holy Scriptures, the Mishnah, and the Talmud-these, too, being holy writings. [Ibn Daud here refutes the Karaites who denied the authority of the Mishnah and the Talmud.]

To every one-in all the land of Spain and in all the lands that we have mentioned-who wanted to make the study of the Torah his profession, he would give of his money. He had scribes who used to copy Mishnahs and Talmuds, and he would give them as a gift to students, in the academies of Spain or in the lands we have mentioned, who were not able to buy them with their own means. [Printing was not yet invented. Manuscripts were very expensive.] Besides this, he furnished olive oil every year for the lamps of the synagogues in Jerusalem. He spread the knowledge of the Torah [Jewish learning] very widely and died an old man, at a ripe age, after having acquired the four crowns: the crown of the Torah, the crown of high station, the crown of Levitical descent, and what is more than all these, the crown of a good name merited by good deeds. He died in the year 4815 [1055] and his son, Rabbi Joseph Ha­Levi, the Prince, succeeded him. [It is more probable that Samuel died in 1056 or later when Joseph (b. 1035), succeeded him as vizier.]

Of all the good traits of his father, Joseph lacked but one. He was not humble like his father because he grew up in riches, and he never had to bear the yoke [of poverty and discipline] in his youth. He was proud to his own hurt, and the Berber princes were jealous of him, with the result that on the Sabbath, on the 9th of Tebet in the year 4827 [Saturday, December 30, 1066], he and the Community of Granada were murdered. [About 150 families were killed. This is the first known massacre of Jews in Spain by Moslems.]

All those who had come from distant lands to see his learning and his greatness mourned for him, and the lament for him spread to all lands and to all cities. Since the days of the ancient rabbis - of blessed memory-who wrote the Scroll of Fasts and decreed that the 9th of Tebet should be a fast, the reason for the decree was never known. But from this incident we know that they were directed by the Holy Spirit to fix this day. After his death his books and treasures were scattered and dispersed throughout the world So also were the disciples whom he had raised up. After his death they became the rabbis of Spain and the leaders of the generation. BIBLIOGRAPHY


Elbogen, pp. 56-57; Roth, pp. 160-161; Sachar, pp. 171­172. READINGS FOR ADVANCED STUDENTS

Graetz, 111, pp. 254­264, 273­280; Graetz­Rhine, 111, pp. 131­139,147ff

Margolis and Marx, pp. 313­317, 321.

Dozy, R., Spanish Islam. See Index under "Samuel Ha­Levi" and "Joseph, son of Samuel Ha­Levi."

Sassoon, D. S., "Diwan of the Vizier Samuel Hannaghid," The Jewish Chronicle, (London), March 28, 1924, literary supplement no. 39.

JE, "Samuel ha­Nagid." SOURCE: Jacob Marcus, The Jew in the Medieval World: A Sourcebook, 315-1791, (New York: JPS, 1938), 297-300

Later printings of this text (e.g. by Atheneum, 1969, 1972, 1978) do not indicate that the copyright was renewed)

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Shmuel HaLevi HaNagid, al-­Wazīr al-­ad̲j̲all al-Zīryūn's Timeline

Cordova, Andalusia, Spain
September 15, 1035
Age 42
Granada, Andalucía, España
Age 51
Age 63
Málaga, Andalucía, España