Yehudah ben Yosef ben Eleazar HaKohen

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Yehudah ben Yosef ben Eleazar HaKohen

Immediate Family:

Son of Yosef ben Eleazar ha-Kohen
Father of al-Kabira bat Allan al-faraj HaKohen

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About Yehudah ben Yosef ben Eleazar HaKohen

Judah ben Joseph ben Eleazar ha-Kohen, often referred to simply as “the rav” in letters from the Cairo Geniza, was one of the most respected scholars in Egypt during the second half of the eleventh century. Sometimes confused with a prominent Egyptian merchant of the same name, he arrived in Fustat as early as 1050. It has been conjectured that he had family roots in North Africa and studied with Nissim ben Jacob ibn Shāhīn in Qayrawan. In his new home he became a highly regarded teacher and the spiritual leader of the circle of North African merchants around Nahray ben Nissim. Labraṭ ben Moses ibn Sighmār, the Jewish judge of al-Mahdiyya and the brother of one of Judah’s pupils, praised him for “reviving Torah in the land of Egypt.” He was given the honorific titles “the great rav” and rosh ha-seder (Heb. head of the row) by the Babylonian exilarch Hezekiah ben David. A supporter of both Daniel ben Azariah and his son David ben Daniel, Judah was an active participant in the vibrant Jewish political scene in Egypt. A number of works have been attributed to him, including a commentary on the Pentateuch, a commentary on the laws of the Sabbath, liturgical poems and works of philosophy. He was also the author of several responsa.

Arnold Franklin


Cohen, Mark R. Jewish Self-Government in Medieval Egypt: The Origins of the Office of Head of the Jews, ca. 1065–1126 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1980).

Goitein, S. D. “Ha-Rav: An Obscure Chapter in the History of the Palestinian Gaonate, with an Appendix: A Letter by ‘The Daughter of the Head of the Yeshiva’,” Tarbiz 45 (1975–76): 64–75 [Hebrew].

———. “Additions to ‘Ha-Rav’,” Tarbiz 46 (1976–77): 152–153 [Hebrew].

Mann, Jacob. The Jews of Egypt and in Palestine under the Fāṭimid Caliphs, 2 vols. in one, (repr. New York: Ktav, 1970).

———. Texts and Studies in Jewish History and Literature (repr. New York: Ktav, 1972).

Citation Arnold Franklin. " Judah ben Joseph ben Eleazar ha-Kohen." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online , 2012. Reference. Jim Harlow. 12 July 2012 <>