Click here to get started today!
The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
—Ancient and Biblical:
The valley of the Nile north of the first cataract, having an area of 9,000-12,000 square miles of arable ground. Almost rainless, the country depends upon the inundations of the Nile and artificial irrigation (comp. Deuteronomy 11:10; 14:18), although the narrow valley and its triangular prolongation of alluvium, the Delta or Lower Egypt, possess an extremely fertile soil. Egypt had in early times a very limited flora, which, like its fauna, was of an entirely African character. The same may be said of its population, which, quite in agreement with Genesis 10, formed a branch of the great white African or Hamitic family.
Tradition has preserved the recollection of the early division of Egypt into two kingdoms, (a) that of the red crown in the north, whose capital was Buto, and (b) that of the white crown in the south, with its capital at Eileithyiaspolis, the modern El-Kab; and in literary style Egypt is always designated as "the two countries" (comp. "Miẓrayim," dual, but see below). Yet these formed one kingdom even before King Menes (about 3500 B.C.?), whom the later books of history considered as the first historical king. The division of the country into about thirty (thirty-six?; later, forty-two) nomes or counties points to a still more primitive period, indicating that many independent tribes may have inhabited the land.
Some very primitive traits always adhere even to the later, highly developed culture. The clothing was remarkably scanty long after 3000 B.C.; and the scarcity of metals, although these were known very early, forced not only priests (in analogy with the old Israelitish custom referred to in Exodus 4:25 and Joshua 5:2), but also sculptors, masons, and other craftsmen, generally to use stone implements nearly up to 1000 B.C. The religion above all remained most primitive: it never concealed that its hundreds of local divinities, its sacred animals, trees, and stones, had their most perfect analogy and origin in the fetishism or animism of the negroes, although even in prehistoric time higher ideas, partly of undoubtedly Asiatic origin (especially traits of that astral mythology of which the clearest expression is found in Babylonia), mingled with it. The language and the race remained very consistent.
The history of Egypt can be best divided after the system of see see MANETHO, using his scheme of thirty royal dynasties from Menes to Alexander. Although these groups of kings do not represent genealogically correct divisions, and are often quite conventional, the uncertainty of chronology, especially before 2000 B.C., forces the student to use that arrangement. Dynasties 1-6 are called the ancient empire, dynasties 11-13 the middle empire, and dynasties 18-26 the new empire.
The Ancient Empire.
The tombs of Manetho's "Thinitic" dynasties 1 and 2 have recently been excavated near This Abydos (see especially Petrie, "Royal Tombs," 1900 et seq.). Whether that of the half-legendary Menes is among them remains disputed, but some of the tombs may be even earlier. The arts and architecture were even then highly developed at the royal court; and that the system of hieroglyphic writing was perfectly established as early as 3500 B.C. is shown by the inscriptions. The residence of those ancient kings seems to have been partly at This, partly in the ancient capitals of Upper Egypt, the twin cities Hieraconpolis and Eileithyiaspolis. Less well known at present is dynasty 3, which moved the capital not far south of Memphis. The earliest known pyramid (in steps, because unfinished), near Saḳḳarah, was built by King Zoser of this dynasty, who seems to have first exploited the mines near Sinai, which furnished the copper for tools and weapons. Dynasty 4 (from about 2900?) is famous for the construction of the three largest pyramids, those of Cheops (Khufu), Chephren(Kha'f-re'), and Mycerinus(Men-ka[u]-re') near Gizeh—monuments which the successors did not try to imitate. Snefru(i), the first king, seems to have waged extensive wars in Nubia and Palestine. From dynasty 5 remainders exist of several gigantic monuments in the form of huge obelisks (not monolithic!) on platforms, dedicated to the sun-god Re' (see Pillars). In dynasty King Pepy (pronounced "Apopy"?) I. (c. 2450 B.C.) was a great builder; he founded Memphis proper. With dynasty 6 closes the period called conventionally the ancient empire. Of its literature only religious and magic texts (chiefly from the funerary chambers of the pyramids in dynasties 5 and 6; comp. Maspero, "Les Inscriptions des Pyramides de Saqqarah," 1894) have been preserved. Egyptian sculpture reached its acme of perfection at that time.
The Middle Empire.
After the sixth dynasty the centralization of the government broke down, and the nomarchs or counts became independent princes. The long wars which they waged over their possessions or the crown of the whole country, led to the establishment of two rival kingdoms, one (dynasties 9 and 10) at Heracleopolis, the other (dynasty 11) at Thebes. The younger Theban family finally united Egypt again under one scepter (c. 2150 B.C.?). Much more important is the 12th (Theban) dynasty (c. 2000 to 1800 B.C.) of seven kings—four of whom were called Amen-em-ḥe't, and three Usertesen (or Sa-n-usor-et)—and a queen. The fertile oasis of Fa(i)yum was created by diking off (not excavating) the lake called "Moeris" (after Amen-em-ḥe't III.). Nubia to above the second cataract was conquered; but a powerful Canaanitish kingdom prevented conquests, in Asia—only Usertesen III. records an expedition to Palestine.
The following period (13th and 14th dynasties) soon developed the former decentralization, together with civil wars and anarchy. One hundred and fifty kings—e., aspirers to the crown—are recorded. This explains the ability of a Syrian power, the so-called Hyksos (better "Hyku-ssos" = "foreign rulers," mistranslated "shepherd kings" in Manetho), to conquer Egypt (c. 1700?). On this family of (7?) rulers, in whose time, after Exodus 12:40, the immigration of Israel into Egypt is usually assumed, APÔPHIS. Most scholars consider them as Canaanites, somewhat after Josephus' confusion of "Hykussos" and "Israelites"; but it seems that those kings were of non-Semitic (northern?) origin (comp. "Mittheilungen der Vorderasiatischen Gesellschaft," 1898, p. 107). The nomarchs of Thebes revolted against the foreigners (c. 1620 B.C.?), and after a long struggle, especially around the stronghold of the foreigners, Hat-wa'ret (Auaris) (near Tanis?), expelled the Hykussos soon after 1600.
The New Empire.
These circumstances gave to the new dynasty (the 18th) a warlike character. Following the claims of their predecessors, its kings conquered and held about two-thirds of Syria; the north seems to have been under the control of the Mesopotamian kingdom Mitanni, and it withstood, therefore, the Egyptian attacks. Amosis (A'ḥmose) I. began those conquests. Amenophis (Amen-ḥotep) I. died after a short, peaceful reign. Thutmosis (Dhut[i]-mose) I. penetrated to the Euphrates (after 1570). Thutmosis II.'s reign was filled apparently with internal disturbances connected with the question of succession. Thutmosis III. (c. 1503) stood for twenty-two years under the control of his aunt (?) Ma'-ḳa-re or Ḥa't-shepsut (who has commemorated in her beautiful terrace-temple at Der al-Baḥri a commercial expedition to Punt, e., the incense region east of Abyssinia). His independent rule is marked by fourteen campaigns, reaching as far as northern Mesopotamia, and by great constructions (the temple of Karnak, etc.). Amenophis II., Thutmosis IV., and, less successfully, Amenophis III. (c. 1436) maintained the Asiatic conquests; Ethiopia as far as Khartum had been subjected and, unlikeSyria, which was merely tributary, had been made a province by the first kings of dynasty 18.
Amenophis IV. (c. 1400) is a most interesting person. He attempted a great religious reform; making the sun-disk his chief god, and persecuting the cult of several gods, especially that of the Theban AMON (2), the official god of the empire, with such hatred that he even changed his royal name and his residence. At his new capital, the modern Tell el-Amarna, the famous archive of cuneiform despatches has been found, which shows him corresponding with all the important kings of western Asia, but unable to control his Syrian possessions owing to the great struggles which his innovations had caused in Egypt. After his death (c. 1383) his reforms were overthrown, especially by his fourth successor, Ḥar-em-ḥeb(e). The religion, mummified again, kept its deplorable state of confusion forever.
The 19th dynasty begins with Rameses I. (after 1350?). Sethos (Setoy) I. and Rameses II. maintained only the smaller half of Syria against the encroaching empire of the Hittites. Both were very active as builders; Rameses II. (the "Sesostris" of the Greeks, reigning 67 years from about 1330?) was undoubtedly the greatest builder of the Pharaohs, even after taking into account the many cases where he appropriated monuments already in existence. Under his son Me(r)neptaḥ (c. 1263?) occurs the first monumental mention of Israel apparently dwelling as a rebellious nation in Palestine. Exodus 1:11, on the other hand, seems to fix upon Rameses II. as the Pharaoh of the oppression (RAMESES), While Me(r)neptaḥ is generally considered as the Pharaoh of the Exodus. How to fit the new monumental data in with the Biblical chronology is yet an open question, there being no certain monumental evidence for Israel's stay in Egypt. Me(r)neptaḥ warded off a great invasion of Libyans allied with pirates from Asia Minor and Europe. The nineteenth dynasty ended with several short-lived, powerless rulers, among them a Syrian (officer?) as usurper.
Setnakht(e) reunited the country and established a new dynasty (the 20th) somewhat before 1200. His son Rameses III. tried to imitate Rameses II., especially as builder. He fought with the Libyans, who pressed more than before on Lower Egypt; with the northern pirates; with the Philistines, who had just settled in Syria; with the Amorites; and with small Hittite princes. His successors, the Ramesides (Rameses IV.-XII.), had short, inglorious reigns; Palestine and Phenicia were freed from the condition of an Egyptian dependency, which had been their lot for more than 400 years. The priesthood had become so wealthy by numerous donations that the royal power vanished, and finally the high priests of Thebes became kings. They had soon to yield to the twenty-first (Tanitic) dynasty (c. 1100). Its seven kings were hemmed in by their Libyan mercenaries, whose generals gained great influence. Therefore the Pharaohs were unable to interfere in Syria, where the Philistines were waging war. Solomon's Egyptian wife (1 Kings 9:16,24; 11:1) would seem to have been a daughter of the following ruler (comp. ib. 9:16, which states that Gezer was her dowry).
Shoshenḳ I. (the Biblical "Shishak"), a descendant of Libyan generals, who founded the twenty-second or Bubastite dynasty (c. 950 B.C.), checked the Philistines, arranged the division of the Israelitish kingdom, evidently in favor of Jeroboam (comp. 1 Kings 11:18), and ransacked Palestine (ib. 14:25; ). On the Edomite Hadad (1 Kings 11:17-22) see below. Shoshenḳ's successors, however—3 Shoshenḳs, 2 Takelots, 3 Osorkons (Wasarken), 1 Pemay—could not maintain this influence in Asia.
Muṣri and Mizraim.
After 800 B.C. Egypt was again practically divided into about twenty kingdoms ruled by the generals of the larger Libyan garrisons. The new kingdom of Ethiopia was thus able to occupy Thebes; about 750 the Ethiopian king P-'ankhy even tried to conquer all Egypt. Only his grandson Shabako was, however, able to accomplish this and to subject the most powerful of the many princes, the ruler of Saïs and Memphis (Bocchoris or Bok-en-ranf, the son of Tef-nakhte), somewhat before 700. Neither he nor his successor Shabatako seems to have been able to interfere in Syria, finding it difficult to maintain Egypt. It has been shown conclusively by Winckler (especially in "Mittheilungen der Vorderasiatischen Gesellschaft," 1898, p. 1; comp. also Schrader, "K. A. T." 3d ed., p. 145) that the king So with whom Hoshea had conspired against Assyria (2 Kings 17:4) was Sib'e, viceroy of Muṣri, e., northwestern Arabia (not Mizraim-Egypt, cuneiform "Miṣri"), and that various other conflicts between Assyria and Egypt (?) refer rather to this Muṣri (which curiously had a king, Pir'u, formerly understood as "Pharaoh"). Few scholars, however, have accepted in all its conclusions the inference drawn from this, namely, that a great many Biblical passages originally refer to this Muṣri, not Mizraim-Egypt (thus Genesis 13:10; 16:1,3; 11; 1 Samuel 30:13; 2 Samuel 23:21; 1 Kings 3:1, 11:14 et seq.; Hadad's and Jeroboam's exile [see above]; and even Israel's servitude in Egypt).
The third king of the twenty-fifth (Ethiopian) dynasty, Taharḳo (see TIRHAKAH), had a share in rebellions of the vassals of Assyria, especially in the rebellion of Tyre, which led to two expeditions of Esarhaddon against Egypt. It was conquered in the second campaign and divided among twenty princes, descendants of Libyan generals. Taharḳo and his successor Tandamani repeatedly disputed without success the possession of Egypt by the Assyrians (comp. Nahum 3); about 660 B.C. Psam(m)ethik I. (son of Necho I.), a descendant of the 24th dynasty, nominal reign 664-610, made himself independent of Assurbanipal's sovereignty.
The new Saïtic dynasty (the 26th) brought the first centralized government after several centuries, and new prosperity, which was demonstrated by a remarkable archaizing revival of art. The enterprising Necho (Nekau) II. (610-594) undertook the conquest of Syria, which, however, was frustrated by his defeat at Carchemish by Nebuchadrezzar. He built a fleet, dug the first connection between the Nile and the Red Sea, and sent Phenician sailors around Africa. After Psam(m)ethik II. (594-588), Apries or Uaphris (Pharaoh hophrah, 588-569), seeking to check the Babylonians who menaced Egypt, instigated and aided the Jews (Jeremiah 37:5; comp. Ezekiel 29:6) and Tyrians and received their fugitives (Jeremiah 41:17). This policy seems to have been continued by his successor, the clever usurper Amasis (A'ḥmose II., 564-526), who still warded off the destruction threatened in Jeremiah 46:26.
But when the Babylonian empire had been superseded by the Persian, Psam(m)ethik, III. could not maintain himself any longer. In 525 Egypt was conquered by Cambyses, and remained a Persian province notwithstanding various rebellions, led by the half-Libyan soldiers, in 487, 460, and most successfully in 414. The period of independence (414-350?) was filled by internal struggles and by wars of defense against the Persians. The Macedonian conquest brought Egypt independence under the dynasty of the Ptolemies. But Egyptian culture was sinking fast; the native population (which rebelled repeatedly against the foreign rulers, led again by the old soldier class of Libyan descent) was reduced to the position of heavily taxed pariahs; and the kings in Alexandria considered their empire as a part of the Greek world. The annexation by Rome (31 B.C.) aggravated this decline of an old civilization, though temples were repaired or built by the Roman government and decorated with very poor hieroglyphics till about 300 C.E. The condition prophesied, that Egypt should be without native rulers, can, however, be traced back, as an actuality, as far as the tenth century B.C. (see above).
For the political history of the Ptolemies down to Ptolemy XVI. and the famous queen Cleopatra VII., see PTOLEMY. The great development of African commerce by Ptolemy II. and the building of the Jewish temple at Leontopolis under Ptolemy VI. may be mentioned. Palestine was an Egyptian province until 198 B.C., when Antiochus III. the Great conquered it. The attempt of Ptolemy VI. Philometor to regain it (I Macc. 11:1) was ended by his death in 145 B.C.
The Biblical name (land of) "Mizraim," or (in more poetic style) "Maẓor," is Semitic ("Miṣri" is the earliest Babylonian form) and may have some connection with that of the neighboring Muṣri (see above). The Biblical (dual?) form was usually understood as an allusion to the prehistoric division of Egypt, but, although the Hebrew (and Assyrian) has a special name for Upper Egypt, "Pathros" (Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 44:1; Ezekiel 29:14, 30:14), the ending "ayim" is now considered as a locative by scholars. The common Egyptian designation was "Keme[t]" = "black," e., "fertile land." The classical name "Ægyptos" seems to be connected with the old name of Memphis, "(Ḥ)a(t)ka-ptaḥ." The Bible calls Egypt also "land of Ham" (Psalms 105:23,27; comp. Psalms 78:51, 106:22), or contemptuously "Rahab," e., "boasting monster." The fertility of the country is mentioned in Genesis 13:10; Exodus 16:3; and Numbers 11:5 (see Deuteronomy 11:10 on the necessity of laborious irrigation). That the country depends on the Nile (the abundance and overflowing of which are proverbial; see NILE) is indicated by the Prophets, who threaten Egypt often with its drying up (e.g., Isaiah 19:5; comp. also the kine of Pharaoh's dream rising from the river [Gen. ]). On other disadvantages of the country see Plagues.
The monuments furnish several examples of permission given to large numbers of fugitive or starvingSemites to settle in the land, as Genesis 48 describes. Traders had always free access, as Genesis 37:25 and 42:2 imply. Hence after 1700 B.C. Egypt had constantly a large Semitic element of population, especially along the eastern frontier of the Delta (comp. Isaiah 19:18 on five cities speaking the language of Canaan). The Egyptian cities mentioned in the Bible all belong to this part of the country. No (Thebes) and Syene show, however, that the land south of Memphis also was well known in Palestine. More Jews and Samaritans immigrated in the Ptolemaic time, settling especially around Alexandria. The heavy taxation of the Egyptian peasants and their serfdom, from which only the priests were exempted, are mentioned in Genesis 47:20-26; the hard socage of the Israelites in Egypt was the usual one of royal serfs, into the condition of whom the colonists of Goshen had to enter. The most important industry, the weaving of various kinds of linen (of which "buẓ" [byssus] and "shesh" kept their Egyptian names with the Hebrews), is alluded to in Isaiah 19:9; Ezekiel 27:7; and Proverbs 7:16. Of Egyptian customs, the shaving of the beard and (sometimes) of the head (which, however, the better classes, except the priests, covered again by a wig), circumcision, the laws of clean and unclean (almost as complicated as those of Israel and often quite analogous), the custom of embalming the dead by a long process (mummification), and the long mourning are alluded to in Genesis 41:14; Joshua 5:9 (?); Genesis 43:32, 46:36,1,2-3, respectively. Otherwise the customs did not differ very much from those of the Syrian peasants (beer largely replaced wine, as castor-oil, etc., did the olive-oil, and linen the woolen clothing of Syria). Flax and spelt (the modern "durrah") were especially characteristic products of the fields (Exodus 9:31-32, R. V.).
In morals, the marriage of brothers and sisters as a regular institution was the principal difference. Women had greater liberty even than in Babylonia (comp. Genesis 39). The Egyptians were very industrious (as their gigantic constructions attest), but neither enterprising (hence they never made good sailors or traders) nor warlike. From the earliest period they preferred to employ foreign mercenaries (comp. Jeremiah 46:9; Ezekiel 27:10). Hence Egypt was a conquering power only on a rather limited scale (comp. on its military weakness 2 Kings 18:21; Isaiah 36:6). The country exercised a strong influence in the development of Eastern culture chiefly by its remarkable art and industries, less by science because of the national writing, the hieroglyphs, which could not be adapted to other languages (what the Greeks called hieratic writing was merely the cursive form; the demotic was a kind of stenography, developed from that cursive after 700 B.C.).
Of the enormous number of local divinities (usually arranged in triads—father, mother, and child—as in Babylonia) the Bible mentions only the god of Thebes, since the 18th dynasty the official deity of Egypt (see AMON (2)); for the sun-god (with whom later religion tried to identify almost all ancient local gods) see BETH-SHEMESH. For the reputation of Egyptian learning see an allusion in 1 Kings 4:30; for magic, Isaiah 19:3; Exodus 7:11. The magic literature is, indeed, endless. Modern scholars consider Babylonia as generally more advanced in science (except, perhaps, medicine, which was an Egyptian specialty). Contrary to a popular erroneous view on the character of the Egyptians as gloomy, they wereextremely superstitious, but less serious than any branch of the Semites, as a very remarkable entertaining literature and their non-official art demonstrate. Their massive architecture forms no contradiction, being relieved by polychromy.
- Flinders Petrie, History of Egypt, 1895 et seq.;
- Wiedemann, Aegyptische Gesch. 1884;
- E. Meyer, Geschichte des Alten Aegyptens, Berlin, 1887;
- Maspero, History of the Ancient Orient, 3 vols., French and English, 1895-99.
Contact between Egypt and Asia:W. Max Müller, Asien und Europa, 1893;
- idem, in Der Alte Orient, 1901, No. 4.
Egypto-Biblical questions:Ebers, Aegypten und die Bücher Mosis, 1867 (antiquated);
- Brugsch, Steininschrift und Bibelwort, 1891 (requires caution).
Language:Erman, Egyptian Grammar, German and English, 1894;
- Brugsch, Hieroglyphisch-Demotisches Wörterb. 1867-80.
- For the Coptic, Stern, Koptische Grammatik, 1880;
- Steindorff, in the Porta Linguarum Orientalium, 1894;
- Peyron, Lexicon Copticum, 1835.
- On the Egyptian loanwords from Semitic, Bondi, Dem Hebräisch-Phönizischen Sprachzweige Angehörige Lehnwörter, etc., 1886.
Manners and customs:Erman, Aegypten und Aegyptisches Leben, 1885 (Eng. ed., 1894);
- Brugsch, Die Aegyptologie, 2d ed., 1897.
Religion:Wiedemann, Die Religion der Alten Egypter, 1890 (Eng. transl., 1896);
- Brugsch, Religion und Mythologie, 1884-88;
- Maspero, La Mythologie Egyptienne, 1889;
- Lanzone, Dizionario di Mitologia Egiziana, 1881.
Names:Proper names, Lieblein, Hieroglyphisches Namenwörterb. 1871-92;
- ancient geographical names, Brugsch, Dictionnaire, Géorgraphique, 1877-80 (with much caution).
Literature:Translations in Records of the Past;
- Griffith, in The World's Best Literature, 1897;
- Petrie, Egyptian Tales, 1895;
- Maspero, Contes Populaires, 1882;
- W. M. Müller, Die Liebespoesie der Alten Aegypter, 1899;
- Wiedemann, in Der Alte Orient, , part 4;
- the so-called Book of the Dead, ed. Naville, 1886; transl. by Le Page Renouf, 1896 et seq.
Decipherment of hieroglyphics:Brugsch, Die Aegyptologie, Leipsic, 1881. Art:Perrot and Chipiez, Eng. ed., 1883;
- Maspero, Egyptian Archeology, Eng. transl., 1893;
- Flinders Petrie, Egyptian Decorative Art, 1895;
- Rosellini, Monumentidel Egitto, 1842 et seq.;
- Champollion, Monuments, 1835-45;
- Lepsius, Denkmäler aus Aegypten, 1849-58;
- annual publications of the Egypt Exploration Fund and Survey of Egypt.
Repertories on Egypt in general:Jolowicz, Bibliotheca Ægyptiaca, 1858-61;
- Ibrahim-Hilmy, The Literature of Egypt and the Sudan, 1886-88.
—In Medieval and Modern Times:For the titles of works cited under abbreviations, see Bibliography at the end of the article.
The history of the Jews in Egypt during the Greek and Ptolemaic periods centers almost completely in the city of see Alexandria (see Jew. Encyc. 1:361 et seq.). As early as the third century B.C. there was a widespread Jewish diaspora in Egypt. In addition to those in Alexandria a colony of Jews existed during the Ptolemaic period at Athribis in Lower Egypt, on the Damietta arm of the Nile (ib. 2:273). An inscription in which the Jews dedicate a synagogue to Ptolemy and Berenice has recently been found near the canal which connected Alexandria with the Canopic mouth of the Delta (T. Reinach, in R. E. J. 45:161; Mahaffy, "Hist. of Egypt," p. 192). Farther to the south, on the west bank of the Nile, was Fayum, identified by Saadia (to Exodus 1:11) with Pithom. A papyrus of the year 238-237 B.C. mentions a certain Ionathas of this city (Mahaffy, "The Flinders Petrie Papyri," part , pp. 15, 23). Another papyrus of the same date records that the Jews and Greeks in a place called "Psenyris" had to pay a special tax for the slaves in their possession (compare idem, "Hist. of Egypt," p. 93; T. L. Z. 1896, 2, p. 35); and in a third papyrus a place called "Samareia" in the Fayum is mentioned, together with a number of names, among which is that of a certain Sabbathion, a Jewess according to Schürer (ib. 20, p. 522) and Reinach (R. E. J. 37:520). Another papyrus of the third century B.C. (Grenfell, "The Oxyrhynchus Papyri," 1:74) mentions a Jew named "Danooul." For the Roman period there is evidence that at Oxyrynchus (Behneseh), on the east side of the Nile, there was a Jewish community of some importance. It even had a Jews' street (R. E. J. 37:221). Many of the Jews there must have become Christians, though they retained their Biblical names (e.g., "David" and "Elisabeth," occurring in a litigation concerning an inheritance). There is even found a certain Jacob, son of Achilles (c. 300 C.E.), as beadle of an Egyptian temple. A papyrus of the sixth or seventh century C.E. contains a receipt given to Gerontius, quartermaster of the general Theodosius, by Aurelius Abraham, son of Levi, and Aurelius Amun, son of David, hay-merchants. To the same century belongs a papyrus detailing an exchange of vinegar for must between Apollos of the Arab village in the Arsinoe nome (e., Fayum) and the Hebrew Abraham, son of Theodotus (see also Wessely in "Sitzungsberichte der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien," 1902, pp. 12 et seq. For a Hebrew inscription at Antinoë, in Middle Egypt, see Jew. Encyc. 1:630, s. ANTINOË).
From the Arab Conquest.
Knowledge of the history of the Jews in Egypt from the time of the Arab invasion is still very fragmentary. There are a few scattered notices in the Hebrew chronicles and travels of later periods; but the best information comes from the fragments found in the Cairo genizah and in part published by Neubauer, Schechter, Hirschfeld, Margoliouth, Kaufmann, and others. To these may be added occasional references in Arabic works on Egyptian history and topography. No attempt has yet been made to put this material together.
During this period, Egypt was known to the Jews by its old name ; for which, at times, was substituted (Ezekiel 30:13) or (Ezekiel 29:10; see Ahimaaz Chronicle, 128, 7). It was also known as "the Diaspora" (, Al-Ḥarizi, § 46; M. 41:214,424; J. Q. R. 15:86,88; ib. 88). In the Ahimaaz Chronicle is perhaps used once (126, 2; see Z. D. M. G. li, 437). This last is derived from , a name given to Fostat (M. V. p. 181; J. Q. R. 9:669; synonymously, , ib. 15:87), which was known to Strabo and other Greek writers as well as to the Arabs, who, for the sake of distinction, often called it "Babylon of Egypt" (Pauly-Wissowa, "Real-Encyc." 1:2699; Z. D. M. G. 51:438; L.-P. p. 3). The name "Babli-on" (Heliopolis) was popularly connected with Babylon (Lane-Poole, "Cairo," p. 214). Cairo itself (Miṣr al-Ḳahirah, "the victorious") is called , or, as in Arabic, (S. 118, 7); it was a new city, founded by the vizier Jauhar in 969 for the Fatimites. The older city was farther to the southwest. It was called "Al-Fosṭaṭ" (the camp), and was founded by 'Amr ibn al-'Aṣi in 641 (B. p. 341). It remained the official capital for three centuries, and the commercial capital up to the time of the crusading King Amalric (1168), when it was burned. Its Hebrew name was (Z. D. M. G. 51:451; Kaufmann Gedenkbuch, p. 236), (S. 118, 5); or "the older M.," (G. p. 34), (or , S. 136, 29). Synonymously, Fostat was called or , in accordance with the translation of (Jeremiah 43:10); by the Karaites (L. notes, p. 61; compare Jeremiah 46:20). Another name for Fostat was (ZOAN), or (Al-Ḥarizi, "Taḥkemoni," § 46; S. 118, 5), and for the inhabitants (J. Q. R. 14:477; compare . Curiously enough, Benjamin of Tudela uses the name "Zoan" for a stronghold between Cairo and the Muḳaṭṭam Hills.
Alexandria was identified with the Biblical (Nahum 3:8) and so called by Ibn Safir ("Eben Sappir," 1:2a), though the Greek name was also used, (Conforte, "Ḳore ha-Dorot," p. 5a); and, following the Arabic, the gentile adjective or (see Neubauer, "Cat. Bodl. Hebr. MSS." No. 146). The region of the east arm of the Nile was called by its Arabic name , e., Damietta; or, symbolically, ("Abiathar Megillah" and Benjamin of Tudela; see J. Q. R. 15:89). In the letter of Al-Afḍal's ex-minister of finance (see below) occurs the form =εἰς το , Tamiathis, e., Damietta Z. D. M. G. 51:447). The Fayum was generally identified with the Biblical "Pithom" () and so called (Dunash b. Tamim; compare Grätz, "Gesch." Hebr. transl., 3:465). The gentile form was (M. J. C. 1:40); or, according to the Arabic, (e.g., Saadia and Nathanael).
Saadia was naturally well acquainted with Egyptian topography. In his translation of Genesis 10:13,14 he has the following identifications:
|=||"||"||Farama (Yaḳut, 3:882).|
|=||"||"||Biyama (idem, 1:899).|
The Jews and the Arabs.
Jerome was in Egypt in the year 400; he mentions five cities there "which still speak the Canaanitish [e., the Syriac] language." This perhaps refers to Aramaic—not to Coptic, as Krauss believes—and may very well have been due to the large colonies of Jews in the land (J. Q. R. 6:247). The part taken by the Jews in the Arab invasion of Egypt is not clear. In addition to the Jews settled there from early times, some must have come from the Arabian peninsula. The letter sent by Mohammed to the Jewish Banu Janba in Maḳna near Aila (Wellhausen, "Skizzen," 4:119) in the year 630 is said by Al-Baladhuri to have been seen in Egypt; and a copy, written in Hebrew characters, has been found in the Cairo genizah (J. Q. R. 15:173). Hebrew papyri are found in the Theodore Graf collection covering the period 487-909. The Jews had no reason to feel kindly toward the former masters of Egypt. In 629 the emperor Heraclius I. had driven the Jews from Jerusalem (Bury, "Later Roman Empire," 2:215). According to Al-Maḳrizi, substantiated by Eutychius, this was followed by a massacre of Jews throughout the empire—in Egypt, aided by the Copts, who had old scores against the Jews to wipe out, dating from the Persian conquest of Alexandria at the time of Emperor Anastasius I. (502) and of the Persian general Shahin (617), when the Jews assisted the conquerors against the Christians (B. pp. 82, 134, 176). The treaty of Alexandria (Nov. 8, 641), which sealed the Arab conquest of Egypt, expressly stipulates that the Jews are to be allowed to remain in that city (B. p. 320); and at the time of the capture of that city, Amr, in his letter to the calif, relates that he found there 40,000 Jews.
Of the fortunes of the Jews in Egypt under the Ommiad and Abbassid califs (641-868), the Tulunids (863-905), and the Ikhshidids, next to nothing is known. One important name has come down from that time, viz., Mashallah (770-820), the astrologer, called "Al-Miṣri" or "Al-Alaksandri" (B. A. § 18). The Fatimite 'Ubaid Allah al-Mahdi, who founded the new Shiitic dynasty in 909, is said to have been the son of a Jewess, or to have been a Jew adroitly exchanged for the real heir. This is probably nothing more than an invention of the Sunnites tending to discredit the Alid descent of the new house (Weil, "Geschichte der Califen," 2:600; Becker, "Beiträge zur Geschichte Aegyptens," p. 4). During the earlier period of this dynasty lived the gaon Saadia (892-942), whose teacher in Egypt was a certain Abu Kathir mentioned by Al-Mas'udi (Grätz, "Gesch." 5:282).
Rule of the Fatimite Califs.
The Fatimite rule was in general a favorable one for the Jews, except the latter portion of Al-Ḥakim's reign. This is directly confirmed by the laudatory terms in which the dynasty is spoken of by the author of the "Abiathar Megillah" (discovered by Schechter, J. Q. R. 15:73). From this time on Jews are found prominent in the service of the califs. Isaac b. Solomon Israeli, the physician (d. 953), was recalled to Egypt from Kairwan and entered the service of 'Ubaid Allah; he was still in the royal service at the death of Al-Manṣur (952). Al-Mu'izz (952-975) had several Jews in his service. The Bagdad apostate Ya'ḳub ibn Killis, who had been the right-hand man of the Ikhshidid Kafur (966), was driven by the intrigues of the vizier Ibn al-Furat to enter the service of Al-Mu'izz. He was probably with Jauhar when the latter led the calif's forces into Egypt, and he became vizier under the calif 'Aziz. This Jauhar, who for some time was practically ruler over Egypt and Syria, has been identified by De Goeje with Paltiel, of whom the Ahimaaz Chronicle speaks with much enthusiasm (Z. D. M. G. 52:75). Jauhar is known to have been brought from South Italy; but the identification is still very uncertain. The first fifteen years of Al-'Aziz's reign were dominated by Ibn Killis, whom Kaufmann has endeavored to identify with Paltiel; these were years of plenty and quiet. A Jew, Manasseh, was chief secretary in Syria (J. Q. R. 13:100; B. A. § 60; L.-P. p. 120). Moses b. Eleazar, his sons Isaac and Ishmael, and his grandson Jacob, were in the service of this calif (B. A. § 55).
The foundation of Talmudic schools in Egypt is usually placed at this period, and is connected with the story of the four captive rabbis who were sold into various parts of the Diaspora. Shemariah b.Elhanan is said to have been taken by the Arab admiral Ibn Rumaḥis (or Damahin) to Alexandria and then sent to Cairo, where he was redeemed in the tenth century (Ibn Da'ud, ed. Neubauer, M. J. C. 1:68). A letter from him is published by Schechter (J. Q. R. 6:222,596), and one from Ḥushiel to him (ib. 11:644). That he was settled in Fostat is proved by a legal document, dated 1002, in his own hand-writing. His cosignatories are Paltiel b. Ephraim, Solomon b. David, Aaron b. Moses, and Jalib b. Wahb. He is here termed "rosh" (ha-yeshibah; J. Q. R. 11:648; "Teshubot he-Geonim," ed. Harkavy, p. 147). Early responsa sent to Egypt are made mention of (ib. pp. 20, 142, 146), and one by Samuel b. Ḥofni (?) to Shemariah is likewise mentioned (J. Q. R. 14:491).
The Pranks of the Mad Calif.
That the mad calif Al-Ḥakim (996-1020) during the first ten years of his reign allowed both Jews and Christians to remain in the somewhat exceptional position which they had obtained under the toleration of Al-'Aziz is proved by the fragment of a versified megillah, in which the calif (Al-Ḥakim bi-Amr Allah) is lauded as "the best of rulers, the founder of hospitals, just and equitable" (J. Q. R. 9:25; Z. D. M. G. 51:442). But the Jews finally suffered from the calif's freaks. He vigorously applied the laws of Omar, and compelled the Jews to wear bells and to carry in public the wooden image of a calf. A street in the city, Al-Jaudariyyah, was inhabited by Jews. Al-Ḥakim, hearing that they were accustomed to mock him in verses, had the whole quarter burned down; and, says Al-Maḳrizi, "up to this day no Jews are allowed to dwell there" ("Al-Khiṭaṭ," 2:5). According to Al-Ḳalḳashandi ("Ṣubḥ al-A'sha," transl. Wüstenfeld, p. 73) the Jews then moved into the street Al-Zuwailah. Both of these streets were in the northwestern part of the city, not far from the Darb al-Yahud of to-day.
During the reign of Al-Mustanṣir Ma'add (1035-1094) the real power was wielded by his mother, a black Sudanese slave, who had been sold to Al-Ẓahir by Sahl, a Jew of Tustar. This Sahl had two sons, Abu Sa'id, a dealer in antiquities, and Abu Naṣr Harun, a banker. Through the intrigues of Abu Sa'id the vizier Ibn al-Anbari was deposed and his place taken by an apostate Jew, Abu Manṣur Ṣadaḳah ibn Yusuf. After nine months Ṣadaḳah, fearing the power of Abu Sa'id, had him put to death (Wüstenfeld, "Fatimiden," p. 230). To the eleventh century belongs the papyrus letter sent (1046) from Egypt to the Palestinian gaon Solomon b. Judah ("Mittheilungen aus der Sammlung der Papyrus Erzherzog Rainer," 1892, p. 127). It seems that an Egyptian community had been rent asunder by the presence in the synagogue of Solomon Sabik, a ḥazzan who had been excommunicated by the bet din of Ramleh for witchcraft. Sabik's letter of recommendation from the Palestinian gaon was considered a forgery; and a new letter from the gaon was demanded (R. E. J. 25:272; J. Q. R. 15:82). A papyrus deed of gift, dated 1089, names Abraham b. Shemaiah as head of the rabbinate at Fostat, his colleagues being Samuel the Spaniard and Ḥalfon b. Shabib, the ḥazzan ("Führer durch die Sammlung der Papyrus Erzherzog Rainer," p. 266). At this time there lived also Ephraim ibn al-Zafan (Za'faran; died 1068), a noted court physician, from whom Al-Afḍal once bought a library of 10,000 volumes, and who, when he died, left more than 20,000 books (B. A. § 142).
At the beginning of the twelfth century a Jew, Abu al-Munajja ibn Sha'yah, was at the head of the Department of Agriculture. He is especially known as the constructor of a Nile sluice (1112), which was called after him "Baḥr Abi al-Munajja" (Ibn Duḳmaḳ, "Description de l'Egypte," 2:46, Cairo, 1893; Al-Maḳrizi, c. 1:72,477; Ibn Iyyas, "Bada'i al-Zuhur," 2:109,182; Al-Kutubi, "Fawat," 1:89; Al-Ḳalḳashandi, c. p. 27). He fell into disfavor because of the heavy expenses connected with the work, and was incarcerated in Alexandria, but was soon able to free himself (J. Q. R. 15:73). A document concerning a transaction of his with a banker has been preserved (J. Q. R. 15:168). Under the vizier Al-Malik al-Afḍal (1137) there was a Jewish master of finances, whose name, however, is unknown. His enemies succeeded in procuring his downfall, and he lost all his property. He was succeeded by a brother of the Christian patriarch, who tried to drive the Jews out of the kingdom. Four leading Jews worked and conspired against the Christian, with what result is not known. There has been preserved a letter from this ex-minister to the Jews of Constantinople, begging for aid in a remarkably intricate poetical style (J. Q. R. 9:29, 10:430; Z. D. M. G. 51:444). One of the physicians of the calif Al-Ḥafiẓ (1131-49) was a Jew, Abu Manṣur (Wüstenfeld, p. 306). Abu al-Faḍa'il ibn al-Nakid (died 1189) was a celebrated oculist (B. A. § 151).
In this century a little more light is thrown upon the communities in Egypt through the reports of certain Jewish scholars and travelers who visited the country. Judah ha-Levi was in Alexandria in 1141, and dedicated some beautiful verses to his friend AARON BEN-ZION IBN ALAMANI and his five sons of that city. At Damietta Ha-Levi met his friend, the Spaniard Abu Sa'id ibn Ḥalfon ha-Levi. About 1160 Benjamin of Tudela was in Egypt; he gives a general account of the Jewish communities which he found there. At Cairo there were 2,000 Jews; at Alexandria 3,000, with a R. Phineas b. Meshullam, who had come from France, at their head; in the Fayum there were 20 families; at Damietta 200; at Bilbais, east of the Nile, 300 persons; and at Damira 700. At Maḥallah (Yaḳut, 4:428), now Maḥallat al-Kabir, half-way on the railroad line between Alexandria and Damietta, Benjamin found 500. Sambari (119, 10) mentions a synagogue here (), with a scroll of the Law (seen as late as 1896 by S. Schechter) in a metal case, which was used only on Rosh Ḥodesh, and which was supposed to entail the death of any one who swore falsely after having touched it. Benjamin also found 200 Jews at Sefitah and 200 at Al-Butij, on the east bank of the Nile. Sambari (156, 16) speaks of Jews also at Reshid (Rosetta), where Samuel b. David saw two synagogues (G. p. 4).
The rigid orthodoxy of Saladin (1169-93) doesnot seem to have affected the Jews in his kingdom. A Karaite doctor, Abu al-Bayyan al-Mudawwar (d. 1184), who had been physician to the last Fatimite, treated Saladin also (B.A. § 153); while Abu al-Ma'ali, brother-in-law of Maimonides, was likewise in his service (ib. § 155). In 1166 Maimonides went to Egypt and settled in Fostat, where he gained much renown as a physician, practising in the family of Saladin and in that of his vizier Ḳaḍi al-Faḍil al-Baisami. The title "Ra'is al-Umma" or "al-Millah" (Head of the Nation, or of the Faith), was bestowed upon him. In Fostat, he wrote his "Mishneh Torah" (1180) and the "Moreh Nebukim," both of which evoked opposition even from the Mohammedans, who commented upon them (J. Q. R. 6:218). From this place he sent many letters and responsa; e.g., to Jacob, son of Nathaniel al-Fayyumi, on the pseudo-Messiah in South Arabia, and to R. Ḥasdai ha-Levi, the Spaniard, in Alexandria ("Teshubot ha-Rambam," p. 23a). In 1173 he forwarded a request to the North-African communities to aid in releasing a number of captives. The original of the last document has been preserved (M. 44:8). He caused the Karaites to be removed from the court (J. Q. R. 13:104). He also served Saladin's successors as physician.
Maimonides' presence in Egypt at this time was quite fortunate. A certain Zuṭa, also called "Yaḥya," had supplanted the nagid Samuel for sixty-four days. Samuel, however, was reinstated. Zuṭa hoarded up much wealth, and when the nagid died (before 1169), denounced his manner of collecting the revenues. Though the accusation was proved to be false, Zuṭa induced Saladin to sell him the dignity, and under the name of "Sar Shalom ha-Levi" he greatly overtaxed the people for four years—probably from 1185 to 1189, two documents written during his tenure of office bearing these dates respectively (J. Q. R. 8:555). Maimonides, with the aid of R. Isaac, whom Harkavy and Neubauer connect with Isaac b. Shoshan ha-Dayyan, succeeded in driving Zuṭa out of office; and he and his son were put under the ban for the denunciations which they had hurled right and left. The matter was even brought to the attention of the vizier (). A megillah ("Megillat Zuṭa") recounting these events was written in rimed prose by ABRAHAM BAR HILLEL in 1196 (J. Q. R. 8:541, 9:721, 11:532; Wertheimer, "Ginze Yerushalayim," 1:37; see also Harkavy in "Ha -Miẓpah," 1885, 2:543; Kaufmann, in M. 41:460, and J. Q. R. 9:170).
The severe pest that visited Egypt in 1201-1202 in consequence of an exceptionally low Nile, and which is graphically described by the physician 'Abd al-Laṭif, is also described in a Hebrew fragment which is at present in the possession of A. Wolf of Dresden (Z. D. M. G. 51:448).
It was during the nagidship of Abraham Maimonides, who was physician to Al-Malik al-Kamil (1218-38), that Al-Ḥarizi went to Egypt, of which he speaks in the thirty-sixth and forty-sixth maḳamahs of his "Taḥkemoni." The former is supposed by Kaminka to be possibly a satire on Zuṭa (M. 44:220; Kaminka's ed., p.; but must referto South Arabia). In Alexandria Al-Ḥarizi mentions R. Simḥah ha-Kohen, the Karaite Obadiah (the royal scribe) and his son Joseph, R. Hillel, and R. Zadok, the ḥazzan. In Fostat he mentions especially the dayyan Menahem b. R. Isaac. He also met Abraham Maimonides; and in Egypt he began to write his "Taḥkemoni." At the beginning of the thirteenth century there lived Jacob b. Isaac (As'ad al-Din al-Maḥalli), a renowned physician and medical writer (B. A. § 163). A letter to Hananeel b. Samuel (c. 1200), author of commentaries to the Talmud, has been published by Horwitz (Z. H. B. 4:155; compare B. A. § 166). In 1211 a number of French rabbis, at the head of whom were the brothers Joseph and Meïr ben Baruch, emigrated to Palestine, and on their way visited Abraham Maimonides, who mentions them in his "Milḥamot Adonai" (ed. Leipsic, p. 16a; see R. E. J. 6:178; Berliner's "Magazin," 3:158).
Under the Mamelukes.
Under the Baḥri Mamelukes (1250-1390) the Jews led a comparatively quiet existence; though they had at times to contribute heavily toward the maintenance of the vast military equipment, and were harassed by the cadis and ulemas of these strict Moslems. Al-Maḳrizi relates that the first great Mameluke, Sultan Baibars (Al-Malik al-Thahir, 1260-77), doubled the tribute paid by the "ahl al-dhimmah." At one time he had resolved to burn all the Jews, a ditch having been dug for that purpose; but at the last moment he repented, and instead exacted a heavy tribute, during the collection of which many perished (Quatremère, "Histoire des Sultans Mamelukes," 2:154). Under Al-Naṣir Mohammed (three times sultan, 1293-1340) the tribute from Jews and Christians amounted to 10 to 25 dirhems per head (L.-P. p. 304).
An account is given in Sambari (135, 22) of the strictness with which the provisions of the Pact of Omar were carried out. The sultan had just returned from a victorious campaign against the Mongols in Syria (1305). A fanatical convert from Judaism, Sa'id ibn Ḥasan of Alexandria, was incensed at the arrogance of the non-Moslem population, particularly at the open manner in which services were conducted in churches and synagogues. He tried to form a synod of ten rabbis, ten priests, and the ulemas. Failing in this, he endeavored to have the churches and synagogues closed. Some of the churches were demolished by the Alexandrian mob; but most of the synagogues were allowed to stand, as it was shown that they had existed at the time of Omar, and were by the pact exempted from interference. Sambari (137, 20) says that a new pact was made at the instance of letters from a Moorish king of Barcelona (1309), and the synagogues were reopened; but this probably refers only to the reissuing of the Pact of Omar. There are extant several notable fet was (responsa) of Moslem doctors touching this subject; e.g., those of Aḥmad ibn 'Abd al-Ḥaḳḳ, who speaks especially of the synagogues at Cairo, which on the outside appeared like ordinary dwelling-houses—a fact which had occasioned other legal writers to permit their presence. According to Taki al-Din ibn Taimiyyah (b. 1263), the synagogues and churches in Cairo had once before been closed. This fanatical Moslem fills his fet was with invectives against the Jews, holding that all their religious edifices ought to be destroyed, since they had been constructed during a period when Cairo was in the hands of heterodox Moslems, Ismailians, Karmatians, and Nusairis (R. E. J. 30:1, 31:212; Z. D. M. G. 53:51). The synagogues were, however, allowed to stand (Weil, c. 4:270). Under the same sultan (1324) the Jews were accused of incendiarism at Fostat and Cairo; they had to exculpate themselves by a payment of 50,000 gold pieces (Quatremère, c. 2:16). The dignity which Moses Maimonides had given to Egyptian-Jewish learning was not maintained by his descendants. In 1314 the French philosopher and exegete Joseph Caspi went on a special mission to Egypt, where he hoped to draw inspiration for philosophical study; but he was much disappointed, and did not remain there for any length of time (Grätz, "Gesch." 7:362). During the period just referred to lived Abu al-Muna al-Kuhin al-Aṭṭar, who compiled a much-used pharmacopœia (ed. Cairo, 1870, 1883; B. A. § 176), and the apostate Sa'd ibn Manṣur ibn Kammuna (1280), who wrote a number of tracts on philosophy and an interesting controversial tract on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (B. A. § 178).
In the Fifteenth Century.
Under the Burji Mamelukes the Franks again attacked Alexandria (1416), and the laws against the Jews were once more strictly enforced by Sheik al-Mu'ayyid (1412-21); by Ashraf Bars Bey (1422-38), because of a plague which decimated the population in 1438; by Al-Ẓahir Jaḳmaḳ (1438-53); and by Ḳa'iṭ-Bey (1468-95). The lastnamed is referred to by Obadiah of Bertinoro (O. p. 53). The Jews of Cairo were compelled to pay 75,000 gold pieces (Muir, "Mamluks," pp. 136, 154, 180). During this century two travelers visited Egypt—namely, Meshullam of Volterra (1481) and Obadiah of Bertinoro (1488), just mentioned—and they have left accounts of what they saw there (see Bibliography, below). Meshullam found 60 Jewish householders in Alexandria, but no Karaites or Samaritans; there were two synagogues, a large and a small one. Fostat was in ruins; but he mentions the Elijah and the Damwah synagogues. In Cairo he found 500 Jewish householders, 22 Karaites, and 50 Samaritans; six synagogues, and a royal interpreter of Jewish descent, one Tagribardi. Of other prominent Jews he mentions R. Samuel a rich and charitable man, physician to the sultan, and his son Jacob; R. Joshua and Ẓadaḳah b. (M. V. pp. 176-187).
Obadiah was protected in Alexandria by R. Moses Grasso, interpreter for the Venetians, whom he mentions as a very prominent man. He speaks of only 25 Jewish families there; but there were 700 Jews in Cairo, 50 Samaritans, and 150 Karaites. The Samaritans, he says, are the richest of all the Jews, and are largely engaged in the business of banking. He also met there Anusim from Spain (O. p. 51). The Jewish community must have been greatly augmented by these exiles. They were well received, though occasionally their presence caused strife, as in the case of Joseph ibn Ṭabul, who insisted upon joining the Sephardim, though he really belonged to the Arabic community. Sulaimah ibn Uḥna and Ḥayyim Vital interfered, and copies of their letters to Ibn Ṭabul have been preserved (Frumkin, "Eben Shemuel," p. 7). Among their number may be mentioned Moses b. Isaac Alashkar, Samuel Sidillo (1455-1530), David ibn Abi Zimra (1470-1572), Jacob Berab (who came from Jerusalem in 1522; Frumkin, c. p. 30), and Abraham ibn Shoshan, the last three holding official positions as rabbis. Moses de Castro, a pupil of Berab, was at the head of the rabbinical school at Cairo.
Under the Turks.
On Jan. 22, 1517, the Turkish sultan, Salim I., defeated Tuman Bey, the last of the Mamelukes. He made radical changes in the affairs of the Jews, abolishing the office of nagid, making each community independent, and placing David ibn Abi Zimra, at the head of that of Cairo. He also appointed Abraham de Castro to be master of the mint. About this time David Re'ubeni was in Cairo (1523?); he speaks of the Jews' street there ( = "Darb al-Yahudi"), of their occupation as goldsmiths, and of Abraham de Castro, who, he says, lived as a pseudo-Mohammedan (M. J. C. 2:141). It was during the reign of Salim's successor, Sulaiman II., that Aḥmad Pasha, Viceroy of Egypt, revenged himself upon the Jews because De Castro had revealed (1524) to the sultan his designs for independence (Aḥmad Pasha; Abraham de Castro). The "Cairo Purim," in commemoration of their escape, is still celebrated on Adar 28.
The text of the megillah read on that day has been published by Löwe in "Ha-Maggid," Feb. 14, 28, 1866, and, from agenizah fragment, in J. Q. R. 8:277,511. The short report of an eyewitness, Samuel b. Naḥman, is given in Neubauer, "Aus der Petersburger Bibliothek," p. 118. Secondary sources: Ibn Verga, Additamenta, p. 111; S. 145, 9 (see J. Q. R. 11:656); Joseph ha-Kohen, "'Emeḳ ha-Bakah," pp. 76, 95; idem, "Dibre ha-Yamim," p. 72.
Toward the end of the sixteenth century Talmudic studies in Egypt were greatly fostered by Bezaleel Ashkenazi, author of the "Shiṭṭah Meḳubbeẓet." Among his pupils were Isaac Luria, who as a young man had gone to Egypt to visit a rich uncle, the tax-farmer Mordecai Francis (Azulai, "Shem ha-Gedolim," No. 332); and Abraham Monson (1594). Ishmael Kohen Tanuji finished his "Sefer ha-Zikkaron" in Egypt in 1543. Joseph ben Moses di Trani was in Egypt for a time (Frumkin, c. p. 69), as well as Ḥayyim Vital Aaron ibn Ḥayyim, the Biblical and Talmudical commentator (1609; Frumkin, c. pp. 71, 72). Of Isaac Luria's pupils, a Joseph Ṭabul is mentioned, whose son Jacob, a prominent man, was put to death by the authorities
According to Manasseh b. Israel (1656), "The viceroy of Egypt has always at his side a Jew with the title 'zaraf bashi,' or 'treasurer,' who gathers the taxes of the land. At present Abraham Alkula  holds the position." He was succeeded by Raphael Joseph Tshelebi, the rich friend and protector of Shabbethai Ẓebi (Grätz, "Gesch." 10:34). Shabbethai was twice in Cairo, the second time in 1660. It was there that he married the ill-famed Sarah, who had been brought from Leghorn (ib. p. 210). The Shabbethaian movement naturally created a great stir in Egypt. It was in Cairo that Miguel (Abraham) Cardoso, the Shabbethaian prophet and physician, settled (1703), becoming physician to the pasha Kara Mohammed. In 1641 Samuel b. David, the Karaite, visited Egypt. The account of his journey (G. 1:1) supplies special information in regard to his fellow sectaries. He describes three synagogues of the Rabbinites at Alexandria, and two at Rashid (G. 1:4). A second Karaite, Moses b. Elijah ha-Levi, has left a similar account of the year 1654; but it contains only a few points of special interest to the Karaites (ib).
Sambari mentions a severe trial which came upon the Jews, due to a certain "ḳadi al-'asakir" (="generalissimo," not a proper name) sent from Constantinople to Egypt, who robbed and oppressed them, and whose death was in a certain measure occasioned by the graveyard invocation of one Moses of Damwah. This may have occurred in the seventeenth century (S. 120, 21). David Conforte was dayyan in Egypt in 1671. In Sambari's own time (1672) there were Jews at Alexandria, Cairo, and Damanhur (R. Ḥalfon b. 'Ula, the dayyan); at or (S. 133, 11; 136, 18; R. Judah ha-Kohen, the dayyan; this city is perhaps identical with Bilbaïs, though a genizah fragment in Cambridge mentions the city in 1119); at Maḥallah (R. Peraḥiah b. Jose, the dayyan), at Bulak (S. 162, 7), and at Rashid (S. 156, 16), where he mentions Moses ibn Abu Darham, Judah , and Abraham ibn Ẓur. Sambari gives also the names of the leading Jews in Alexandria and Cairo. His chronicle (edited in part by Neubauer, and reprinted by Berliner, Berlin, 1896) is chiefly valuable for the history of the Jews in Egypt, his native country. From 1769 to 1773 Hayyim Joseph Azulai was rabbi in Cairo (J. Q. R. 15:333).
Solomon Ḥazzan gives the following list of rabbis at Alexandria during recent times: Jedidiah Israel (1777-82), his nephew Israel (1802-23), Solomon Ḥazzan (1832-56), Israel Moses Ḥazzan (1862), Nathan Amram (1862-73), Moses Pardo (1873-74), and Elijah Ḥazzan (1888). Israel Yom-Ṭob, who was nominally chief rabbi of Cairo, died April 8, 1892, and was succeeded by Aaron ben Simon
In the Nineteenth Century.
Two Jewish travelers have left an account of the condition of the Jews in Egypt about the middle of the nineteenth century. Benjamin II. found in Alexandria about 500 families of indigenous Jews and 150 of so-called Italians. Each of these communities had its own synagogue, but both were presided over by R. Solomon Ḥazzan, a native of Safed. In Cairo also he found two Jewish communities; the indigenous numbering about 6,000 families and the Italian 200. Both were presided over by Ḥakam Elijah Israel of Jerusalem. Benjamin speaks of their eight synagogues, one of which is called "the Synagogue of Maimonides." In Fostat, or old Cairo, he found 10 Jewish families, very poor, and supported by their richer brethren in Cairo. In Damietta there were 50 Jewish families, and between that place and Cairo several scattered Jewish communities which had lapsed into a dead state of ignorance (Benjamin II., "Eight Years in Asia and Africa," pp. 230 et seq.).
Ibn Safir ("Eben Sappir," pp. 26 et seq., Lyck, 1866) gives a more detailed account. He says that most of the Jews at present in Alexandria went there in recent times, after the cutting of the Maḥmudiyyah Canal. A number had gone from Rashid and from Damietta, so that only a handful of Jews was left in those places. The number in Alexandria he estimates at 2,000. Among the synagogues were the Kanis al-'Aziz, a small one, and the Kanis Sardahil, a large one. The Elijah synagogue had beenrebuilt three years before his arrival. He speaks also of a synagogue with Sephardic ritual for the Italian Jews, numbering 100, and of a special synagogue for 50 Jews who had come there from eastern Europe. Of Jews in other parts of Egypt he mentions: 20 at Ṭanṭa, between the Rosetta and Damietta arms of the Nile, with a synagogue; 40 families in Manṣurah; 20 families in Maḥallah, with a synagogue (p. 21b); 20 families in Bet Jamari (?); 5 families at Zifteh, on the left bank of the Damietta arm, 10 Jews at Benha, and only 1 in Fayum (p. 25a). In Cairo he found 600 families of native Jews and 60 of Italians, Turks, etc., following the Sephardic ritual, and 150 Karaite families living in a separate quarter. The Jews live in the northwestern part of the city in a special quarter called "Darb al-Yahudi." The lanes are narrow, but the houses are large. The Jews are well-to-do and are engaged largely in the banking business. The cemetery is two hours distant from the city, and the graves are not marked by any stones. There is, however, a monument to a celebrated pious man, R. Ḥayyim , to which the Jews make pilgrimages, taking off their shoes as they approach it. Kapusi (?) must have lived toward the end of the sixteenth and at the beginning of the seventeenth century. He is mentioned in a document of the year 1607, together with Abraham Castro, Benjamin , Conforte, c. p. 41b), and Moses Arragel (Ḥazzan, "Ha-Ma'alot li-Shelomoh," p. 12a), and by Conforte (ib.).
The head of the Egyptian Jews outside of Alexandria was R. Elijah Israel b. Isaac of Jerusalem, whose power over the community was considerable. Ibn Safir mentions as leaders of the community Yom-Ṭob b. Elijah Israel, a judge; Jacob Shalom; the Ya'beẓ family; Jacob Catawi; Saadia; and Abraham Rosana. In the ruined city of Fostat he found twelve Jewish families, whose number was increased during the summer by the rich Cairo Jews who go there for a time ("Eben Sappir," p. 20a).
Blood accusations occurred at Alexandria in 1844 (Jost, "Neuere Geschichte," 2:380), in 1881 (Jew. Encyc. 1:366), and in Jan., 1902 (see, "Bulletin All. Isr." 1902, p. 24). In consequence of the DAMASCUS AFFAIR, Montefiore, Crémieux, and Solomon Munk visited Egypt in 1840; and the last two did much to raise the intellectual status of their Egyptian brethren by the founding, in connection with Rabbi Moses Joseph Algazi, of schools in Cairo (Jost, c. p. 368; idem, "Annalen," 1840, p. 429).
In 1892 a German-Italian congregation was formed at Port Said under Austrian protection ("Israelit," 1892, p. 1620). When Khartum fell into the hands of the Mahdi (1885), seven or eight Jews were found there, among them Neufeld. They were, however, all foreigners.
According to the official census published in 1898 (, ), there were in Egypt 25,200 Jews in a total population of 9,734,405. Of these, 12,693 were Egyptians and 12,507 strangers. Their distribution in the various cities was as follows:
|No. of Jews.|
|G. Gl. du Canal||439|
The Alliance Israélite Universelle, together with the Anglo-Jewish Association, maintains at Cairo a boys' and a girls' school, founded in 1896. There are Zionist societies in Cairo, Alexandria, Manṣurah, Suez, Damanhur, Maḥallah, Kobra, and Ṭanṭa. The Zionist society Bar Cochba in Alexandria founded there a Hebrew school in 1901; it issues a journal, "Le Messager Sionist," which in 1902 superseded the "Mebassereth Zion."
Constitution; the Nagid.
The Egyptian communities were presided over for many centuries by a nagid, similar to the "resh galuta" in the East. One of the earliest references to the Egyptian nagid is to be found in the Midrash Agadat Bereshit (p. 110, Warsaw, 1876). His full title was (compare the title of Simon, σαραμελ = I. Macc. 14:28), or (MS. Cambridge Add. No. 3124, David Maimonides, 1396), or perhaps (Benjaminof Tudela; compare Z. D. M. G. 52:446; J. Q. R. 9:116); and Sambari (116, 20; 133, 7) speaks of him as . His authority at times, when Syria was a part of the Egyptian-Mohammedan empire, extended over Palestine; according to the Ahimaaz Chronicle (130, 5), even to the Mediterranean littoral on the west. In one document ("Kaufmann Gedenkbuch," p. 236) the word is used as synonymous with "padishah." The date is 1209; but the term may refer to the non-Jewish overlord. In Arabic works he is called "ra'is al-Yahud" (R. E. J. 30:9); though his connection with the "shaikh al-Yahud," mentioned in many documents, is not clear. Meshullam of Volterra says expressly that his jurisdiction extended over Karaites and Samaritans also; and this is confirmed by the official title of the nagid in the instrument of conveyance of the Fostat synagogue. At times he had an official vicenagid, called by Meshullam (M. V. p. 187, 5); in Hebrew, (J. Q. R. 10:162). To assist him he had a bet din of three persons (S. 133, 21)—though Meshullam mentions four judges and two scribes, and the number was at times increased even to seven—and there was a special prison over which he presided (M. V. p. 186). He had full power in civil and criminal affairs, and could impose fines and imprisonment at will (David ibn Abi Zimra, Responsa, , No. 622; M. V. ib.; O. p. 17). He appointed rabbis; and the congregation paid his salary, in addition to which he received certain fees. His special duties were to collect the taxes and to watch over the restrictions placed upon the further construction of synagogues (Shihab al-Din's "Ta'rif," cited in R. E. J. 30:10). Even theological questions—regarding a pseudo-Messiah, for example—were referred to him (J. Q. R. 5:506, 10:140). On Sabbath he was escorted in great state from his home to the synagogue, and brought back with similar ceremony in the afternoon (S. 116, 8). On Simḥat Torah he had to read the Pentateuchal lesson and to translate it into Aramaic and Arabic. Upon his appointment by the calif his installation was effected with much pomp: runners went before him; and the royal proclamation was solemnly read (see E. N. Adler in J. Q. R. 9:717).
Origin of the Office.
The origin of the nagidship in Egypt is obscure. Sambari and David ibn Abi Zimra (Frumkin, "Eben Shemuel," p. 18) connect it directly with a daughter of the Abbassid calif Al-Ṭa'i (974-991), who married the Egyptian calif 'Aḍud al-Daulah (977-982). But 'Aḍud was a Buwahid emir of Bagdad under Al-Muktafi; and, according to Ibn al-Athir ("Chronicles," 8:521), it was 'Aḍud's daughter who married Al-Ṭa' Nor does Sambari give the name of the nagid sent from Bagdad. On the other hand, the Ahimaaz Chronicle gives to the Paltiel who was brought by Al-Mu'izz to Egypt in 952 the title of "nagid" (125, 26; 129, 9; 130, 4); and it is possible that the title originated with him, though the accounts about the general Jauhar may popularly have been transferred to him. If this be so, he was followed by his son, R. Samuel (Ahimaaz Chronicle, 130, 8), whose benefactions, especially to the Jews in the Holy Land, are noticed. This must be the Samuel mentioned as head of the Jews many hundred years previous by Samuel b. David, and claimed as a Karaite. The claim is also made by Firkovitch, and his date is set at 1063. He is said to have obtained permission for the Jews to go about at night in the public streets, provided they had lanterns, and to purchase a burial-ground instead of burying their dead in their own courtyards (G. pp. 7, 61). The deed of conveyance of the Rabbinite synagogue at Fostat (1038), already referred to, mentions Abu (Ibn?) Imran Musa ibn Ya'ḳub ibn Isḥaḳ al-Isra'ili as the nagid of that time. The next nagid mentioned is the physician Judah b. Josiah, a Davidite of Damascus, also in the eleventh century (S. 116, 20; 133, 10); a poem in honor of his acceptance of the office has been preserved (J. Q. R. 8:566, 9:360).
Succession of Nagidim.
In the same century lived the nagid Meborak b. Saadia, a physician (J. Q. R. 8:557): he is referred to in a contract dated 1098 (ib. 9:38,115), in the epistle of the exminister of finance of the vizier Al-Afḍal (Z. D. M. G. 52:446), and in a Lewis-Gibson fragment (J. Q. R. 9:116). He was maligned by the exilarch David, and was forced to take refuge for a time in Fayum and Alexandria (ib. 15:89).
It is uncertain whether there was a nagid named Mordecai; the expression "Mordekai ha-Zeman" is probably appellative (ib. 9:170); but the fragment of a poem (see "He-Ḥaluẓ," 3:153) addresses him as "Negid 'Am El," which is quite distinctive (J. Q. R. 8:553). His full name would then be Mordecai b. al-Ḥarabiyyah. He was succeeded by Abu Manṣur Samuel b. Hananiah, who was nagid at the time of Judah ha-Levi (1141). He is not to be confused with Samuel ha-Nagid of Spain, as he is even in Sambari (S. 156, 24; see J. Q. R. 9:170, 13:103; M. 417). He was living in 1157, but not so late as 1171, as he is not mentioned by Benjamin of Tudela. When Benjamin was in Egypt the nagid was Nathanael (Hibat Allah ibn Jami, a renowned physician; B. A. § 145). This can be seen from Benjamin's description, though the title is not used (despite Neubauer, J. Q. R. 8:553). He is mentioned in 1164 in a marriage contract published by Merx ("Doc. Paleogr." 1894; M. 39:150, 41:214; J. Q. R. 13:103; B. A. § 145). During the time that he farmed the revenues the usurper Zuṭa must have held office (M. 41:463). Zuṭa was ousted by Maimonides, though whether the latter took his place as nagid, and what was his relationship to Nathanael, are not clear. A ketubbah, dated 1172, in the library of the late D. Kaufmann, seems by its wording to indicate that Maimonides did hold the office (Z. D. M. G. 51:451; M. 41:425,463). Maimonides induced many Karaites to return to Rabbinism (Grätz, "Gesch." 6:359).
The dignity of nagid was vested for some time in the family of Maimonides: Abraham (1186-1237; a document from his bet din is published by D. W. Amram in "The Green Bag," 13:339, Boston, 1901); his son David (1212-1300; S. 120, 15; 134, 29; M. 44:17; "Kerem Ḥemed," 2:169; "Or Meïr," p. 34); the latter's son Abraham Maimonides II. (1246-1310); and Abraham's son Joshua b. Abraham (b. 1248).
In regard to the fourteenth century there is noinformation. In the fifteenth occurs a Nagid Amram (1419), to whom a letter was sent (preserved by the Italian stylist Joseph b. Judah Sarko) introducing a certain R. Elias, who was on a mission to seek the Lost Ten Tribes (J. Q. R. 4:303). Lipmann of Mühlhausen mentions the office in his "Niẓẓaḥon" (ed. Amsterdam, p. 96). In 1481 Meshullam of Volterra mentions Solomon b. Joseph, whose father before him had also been nagid. Solomon was physician to the sultan Al-Malik al-Ashraf Ḳa'it Bey (M. V. p. 186); his dayyanim were Jacob b. Samuel (?), Jacob , Samuel b. Akil, and Aaron Me'appe. He was followed by Nathan Kohen Sholal (seen by Obadiah of Bertinoro, 1488), who was born in the Maghreb and had formerly lived in Jerusalem (O. p. 52). Nathan was followed by his nephew, Isaac Kohen Sholal (1509; S. 157, 1). A letter from his bet din is mentioned, among others, by Conforte ("Ḳore ha-Dorot," p. 31a; compare Frumkin, c. p. 20, and Azulai, "Shem ha-Gedolim," No. 322, 1:45a). For a time he was deprived of his rank; but he returned to Egypt in 1500 (Samuel de Avila in Frumkin, "Eben Shemuel," p. 18; Brüll's "Jahrb." 7:123). Abraham de Castro (1524), the mint-master, is given the title "nagid" by Sambari (145, 10; 159, 20); his nephew, Jacob de Castro (d. 1610), was a rabbinic authority. The same source mentions (S. 157, 6) as the last dignitaries ?) and Jacob ibn Ḥayyim. From the time of the Osmanli rule, says Sambari (116, 22), the nagid dynasty was no longer in the family of David, but was given to the one preeminent for wisdom and riches. He was sent to Egypt by the Jewish notables of Constantinople. The pretensions of Jacob ibn Ḥayyim made him disliked (116, 25). He was put under the ban by Bezaleel Ashkenazi, and driven from the country.
The office of nagid was suspended about the middle of the sixteenth century (according to Azulai, "Shem ha-Gedolim," 1:16, by Bezaleel himself), the chief rabbi being given the title "tshelebi." David ibn Abi Zimra was chief rabbi of Egypt for many years (c. 1570), and his decisions were widely followed throughout the Orient ("Ma'alot li-Shelomoh," p. 18b). The title "nagid" given to Berab (Responsa, , 1:87) is purely honorific.
The following is a tentative list of the negidim, as far as they can at present be determined:
|Paltiel (?)||Samuel (?)|
|Musa ibn Ya'ḳub al-Isra'ili||Meborak b. Saadia|
|Judah b. Josiah||(Mordecai b. al-Ḥarabiyyah ?)|
|Samuel b. Hananiah||Nathanael Hibat Allah|
|Abraham Maimonides I.||Abraham Maimonides II.|
|David Maimonides||Joshua b. Abraham Maimonides|
|Amram||Solomon b. Joseph (1481)|
|Joseph||Nathan Kohen Sholai|
|Isaac Kohen Sholal|
|Abraham de Castro (1524)|
|Jacob ibn Ḥayyim|
Gaon and Nagid.
The question of the relation of the religious leadership (gaonate) to the more worldly nagidship is extremely difficult of solution on account of the paucity of documents. The Egyptians seem to have recognized the authority of the Babylonian geonim; for they addressed questions to them (Harkavy, "Teshubot ha-Geonim," p. 342), and even helped the declining fortunes of the Eastern schools (Schechter, "Saadyana," pp. 117 et seq.). The head of the schools in Egypt was called, as in Babylon, "rosh ha-yeshibah," or "nasi"—a title which was much misused, to judge from a responsum of Abraham Maimonides, ("Teshubot ha-Rambam," p. 50a). The quarrel between the Babylonians and the Palestinians regarding the right to fix the religious calendar each year could not have been passed unnoticed in Egypt. All the fragments dealing with the controversy between Saadia and BEN MEÏR that have been found of recent years have come from the Cairo genizah (see R. E. J. 44:230). There is evidence that the question became acute for the Jews in Egypt also, during the califate of Al-Mustanṣir Billah (1036-94). This evidence is the so-called "Abiathar scroll." It seems as if a new Palestinian gaonate had begun about 1045 with Solomon b. Judah. Abiathar was a scion of a Palestinian priestly family. His father Elijah and a certain Joseph (before 1054) claimed jurisdiction over the Jews both in Palestine and in Egypt under the title of "gaon." They were bitterly opposed by a member of the exilarch's family, Daniel b. Azariah, "the Nasi," who had come from Babylon. Joseph was supported by the government; he died in 1054, and Daniel ruled for eight years without opposition (d. 1062). On his death, Elijah (d. 1084) held the office for nearly twenty-three years. In 1082 this Elijah called a synod at Tyre, and ordained his son Abiathar as gaon. But about 1081 David b. Daniel, a descendant of the Babylonian exilarch, aged 20, had gone to Egypt (Damira?), and in 1083 was in Fostat, where his claims were supported by the government, especially by the nagid Meborak and by a relative of his, Josiah b. Azariah, the head of the school there, to whom the title "gaon" is also given (J. Q. R. 15:86). At times the title does not seem to have been distinctive of any office.
The Babylonian gaonate had died out with Hezekiah; and the idea was to renew it in Egypt. David was declared exilarch; and he exercised power over the Jewish communities in Alexandria, Damietta, and Fostat, which he oppressed with taxes. He also had power over the Jews in Ashkelon, Cæsarea, Haifa, Beirut, and Byblus, and over Tyre also when it came again under the power of Egypt (1089), causing the gaon there to flee. Daniel then sent his own representative to the city. In 1093, in opposition to Abiathar, David endeavored to be made "rosh gelayot" over all Israel. His harshness caused Meborak to support Abiathar; and in 1094 Meborak assisted in having Abiathar's power as gaon acknowledged (J. Q. R. 14:449, 15:91). A defense of the pretensions of David by the school in Fostat has been published by Schechter (ib. 14:476). Abiathar was probably succeeded as gaon by his brother, Solomon b. Elijah, who had been "ab bet din" (ib.14:481). Solomon was followed by his son Maẓliaḥ (c. 1131). Following a notice of Benjamin of Tudela, Bacher believes that the gaonate was then transferred to Damascus (ib. 15:95). This gives the following list of Egyptian geonim:
|Joseph (d. 1054)||Solomon|
|Elijah (d. 1084)||Maẓliaḥ (c. 1131)|
Karaites in Egypt.
It is not known how early the Karaites commenced to settle in Egypt. The polemics against them of Saadia Gaon (before 928) show that at that time their numbers must have been large; and his activity in this respect may have won for him his position at Sura (J. Q. R. 10:240). It was in Egypt that he wrote his polemical work against Anan, "Kitab al-Rudd" (915), and his "Kitab al-Tamyiz" (926). His "Emunot" was written in 933. Four years afterward Al-Ḳirḳisani wrote his "Kitab al-Anwar," in which he gives an account of the Jewish sects of his day. Among these he mentions the "Ḳar'ites" (), so called because they used vessels made of gourds. They resided near the Nile, 20 parasangs from Fostat, and traced their descent from Johanan the son of Kareah (Jeremiah 43:4), who had emigrated to Egypt. They celebrated Sunday in addition to Saturday (ib. 7:704). Saadia even had personal disputations with Karaites, notably with Abu al-Sari ben Zuṭa (M. 41:204). Of his adversaries in Egypt, mention may be made of Solomon b. Jeroham, author of Karaitic commentaries to the Bible and of controversial tracts (B. A. § 40), and of Menahem Gizni of Alexandria, who wrote polemics against Saadia, and of whom a poem and a letter to the Karaites of Fostat have been preserved (L., Notes, p. 50). The oldest Egyptian Karaitic document published is a bill of divorce dated Fostat, 1030 (E. N. Adler in J. Q. R. 12:684). Present knowledge of Karaitic scholars and communities commences really with the twelfth century. Cairo and Alexandria became, after Jerusalem and Constantinople, their chief centers; and Karaites were to be found in Egypt wherever Jews dwelt. Most of the Karaitic manuscripts in the Paris and St. Petersburg libraries have come from Egypt (Neubauer, "Aus der Petersburger Bibliothek," p. 21). At the end of the twelfth century there lived in Egypt the Karaite poet Moses Dar'i; Israel b. Daniel al-Ḳumisi (about 1162), who wrote a "Sefer ha-Miẓwot" (J. Q. R. 8:701; B. A. § 70); and David b. Solomon (Sulaiman b. Mubarak, 1161-1241), who is described by his contemporary, Ibn Abi Usaidia, as an excellent physician and teacher in the service of the Ayyubid Abu Bakr al-'Adil, and as being connected with the hospital Al-Naṣiri in Cairo (J. Q. R. 13:103; B. A. § 154). Ibn al-Ḥiti, in his literary chronicle, mentions in Ramleh the sheik 'Ali b. Abraham al-Ṭawil, and especially the nasi Solomon, who wrote on forbidden marriages (J. Q. R. 9:440). Of Karaites in the following centuries mention may be made of Yafith b. Saghir, author of a "Sefer ha-Miẓwot"; Solomon Kohen (Abu Manṣur Sulaiman ibn Ḥafas), writer on medical subjects (B. A. § 194); and Yafith ibn Abi al-Ḥasan al-Barkamani, polemic—all of the thirteenth century; Israel b. Samuel ha-Ma'arabi (1310), who also wrote a "Sefer ha-Miẓwot" (B. A. § 184); Samuel b. Moses ha-Ma'arabi (1434), author of "Al-Mushid," on the laws and commandments, as well as of commentaries to the Bible (B. A. § 199).
Karaite Organization in Egypt.
Little is known about the organization of the communal life of the Karaites. They claim to have had at the head a "ra'is," whose seat for a time was in Fostat; though Saadia (Commentary to Ps. 119, end) expressly states that the Karaites agreed to have no nasi in the Diaspora (L., Notes, p. 52). This head was called "nasi" or "rosh hagolah." A list of the nasis is given in Karaitic manuscripts, carrying their genealogy back to David, which fact at once raises suspicions. For Egypt the following are given: Saadia, 980; Solomon; Hezekiah; Hasdai; David; and Solomon Abu al-Faḍl—(see Fürst, "Gesch. des Karäerthums," 2:192; Notes, p. 77; J. Q. R. 9:441).
The fact of there being such a head can hardly be doubted, since several of those cited above are mentioned regularly with the title attached to their names. Samuel b. David gives a description of his Karaite brethren in Egypt in the seventeenth century, and paints their condition in glowing colors (G. p. 5; transl. in Neubauer, c. p. 40). He stayed in Cairo with the nasi Baruch; and he mentions especially one Abraham Ḳudsi (e., "of Jerusalem"). This latter, together with the physician Zachariah, is mentioned by Moses b. Elijah also (G. p. 34). Samuel relates further that many of the Karaites were goldsmiths, but that in his day the wealth of the community was reduced (p. 5). Ibn Safir likewise speaks of the Karaitic goldsmiths. In his day Moses ha-Levi of Jerusalem was their ḥakam and Elisha their "rosh." Reference has already been made to the number of Karaites in Egypt at various times. Occasionally many were converted to Rabbinism, notably by Abraham Maimonides in 1313 (S. 134, 15; "Kaftor u-Feraḥ," p. 13b; J. Q. R. 13:101), a fact due, perhaps, to the mild and considerate manner in which they were treated, especially by Moses Maimonides (see his "Teshubah," No. 153, ed. Leipsic, p. 35b). A similar policy was pursued by Joseph del Medigo, who, being in Cairo in 1616, entered into friendly relations with their ḥakam, Jacob Alexandri (Geiger, "Melo Chofnajim," p. ). According to a report in Jost's "Annalen" (3:84), they numbered 100 in Cairo in 1841; while E. N. Adler speaks of 1,000 in 1900 (J. Q. R. 12:674). A Karaitic Haggadah, with Arabic translation for the use of the Karaites in Cairo, was published at Presburg in 1879 by Joshua b. Moses ("Hebr. Bibl." 19:2).
Samaritans in Egypt.
The Samaritans also settled in Egypt at an early date, though very little is known of their actual history. For Alexandria, see Jew. Encyc. 1:366; and for the Dosithean sect, ib. 4:643. The Samaritan chronicle published by Neubauer (J. A. 1869, No. 14) gives the names of the high priests and of the chief Samaritan families in Egypt. He mentions Ḥelbah b. Sa'adah, who went to live in Egypt and was the progenitor of the Ha-Mora and Ḥelbah families (idem, offprint, p. 74); Garnakah b. Ḥelef, progenitor of the Garnakah family (p. 75); Raḥiz b. Shafar, the first to go to Egypt by sea; Joseph b.Ḥelef; Elias Ṣadaḳah ha-Ḥifi, progenitor of the Ḥofni family at Cairo (p. 77); and in 1504 one Jacob of the family Puḳah, who is called "King of Israel" and "Abrek" (compare "He-Ḥaluẓ," 3:153,2), and whom the writer praises for his numerous good deeds (p. 80). In the fifteenth (?) century lived Abu Sa'id al-'Afif, one of the best-known physicians in Cairo, and a writer on medical subjects (B. A. § 325). Mention must also be made of Muhadhdhib al-Din Yusuf al-'Askari, author of a "Sefer ha-Miẓwot" (ib. § 328).
In 1481 Meshullam of Volterra found 50 Samaritan families in Cairo, with a synagogue (p. 185). A hanging for the Ark with a Samaritan inscription and coming from this synagogue was presented to the congregation of Widdin or to that of Ofen in the sixteenth century. Samaritans are also mentioned by David ibn Abi Zimra and by Joseph del Medigo, who saw them at disputations with Ali ibn Raḥmadan (Brüll's "Jahrb." 7:44). Of Samaritan literature in Egypt nothing is as yet known. Müller and Kaufmann suspect that a papyrus fragment containing part of an acrostic litany is of Samaritan origin ("Mittheilungen aus der Sammlung der Papyrus Erzherzog Rainer," 1:39). The use of Hebrew script by Samaritans is not, as Harkavy thinks (see "Allg. Zeit. des Jud." 1891, p. 57), peculiar. One of the Arabic Pentateuch manuscripts described by De Sacy ("Mémoire sur la Version Arabe à l'Usage des Samaritains," p. 13) was bought at Cairo, and seems to have been written there at the time of the Circassian sultan Al-Ashraf Kansuḥ ai-Ghuri (beginning of the sixteenth century) by one Ṣadaḳah b. Joseph ; ib. p. 17; compare a similar expression, , in the colophon of a Cambridge Samaritan Pentateuch, J. Q. R. 14:28, 8; 352; 15:75). The Scaliger manuscript, from which Juynboll edited the Book of Joshua (Leyden, 1848), came from the Egyptian Samaritans in 1584. It was written upon the skin of the Passover lamb (Juynboll, "Commentarii in Historiam Gentis Samaritanæ," p. 33).
Synagogues in Cairo.
The importance of the Jewish communities in Egypt may be seen from the number of synagogues which formerly existed in and around Cairo. Arabic topographers of Egypt have even given accounts of them; e.g., Ibrahim ibn Mohammed ibn Duḳmaḳ (1350-1406; "Description de l'Egypte," ed. Vollers, 1893, p. 108) and Al-Maḳrizi ("Al-Ḥiṭaṭ," 2:464). These accounts are followed by Sambari (S. 118, 136; see Schreiner in Z. D. M. G. 45:296). There were at least ten synagogues; Meshullam of Volterra (M. V. p. 185) describes six of them. The Karaite Samuel b. David speaks of thirty-one, besides fifty ("charitable foundations"), of which there were originally as many as seventy (G. p. 6). Following is a list of the synagogues:
- The Damwa synagogue in Gizeh, on the west bank of the Nile, opposite Fostat: (S. 120, 4), (O. p. 18 and a MS. in "Or Meïr," p. 34), (M. V. p. 182; see J. Q. R. 15:75); on the spot to which Moses is said to have retired. Tradition says that it was built forty years after the destruction of the First Temple. A tree there is said to have grown out of Moses' rod. Al-Maḳrizi relates that the Jews made pilgrimages to this synagogue on the Feast of Revelation. Sambari states that the Cairo Jews were accustomed to invite their brethren from all parts of Egypt to come there on Adar 7 (Death of Moses), the day following being celebrated with feasting. It was also called "Moses'Synagogue" ("Kanisat Musa"; S. 120, 137; Benjamin of Tudela, ii, 235); but in Sambari's time it was in ruins (S. 119, 30; 137, 14). According to Benjamin of Tudela, the overseer of the synagogue was called "Al-Shaikh abu Naṣr" (p. 98). Bertinoro speaks also of a Karaite synagogue in the place.
- The Jauhar synagogue, built upon the spot where both Elijah and Phineas b. Eliezer were born ("Al-Ḥiṭaṭ," 2:47). This also was in ruins (S. 121, 15).
- The Al-Maṣaṣah synagogue in Cairo, built in the year 315, Seleucidan era [= 3-4 C.E.], and restored under Omar ibn al-Khaṭṭab (816); situated in the Darb al-Karmah.
- The synagogue of the Palestinians ("Al-Shamiyyin"), in a section of Cairo called Ḳaṣr al-Sham; according to Ibn Duḳmaḳ, in the Ḳaṣr al-Rum. A wooden tablet over the gate says that it was built in 336 of the Seleucidan era, forty-five years before the destruction of the Temple; but Moses ben Elijah (G. p. 34) gives the date as 1531 (= 1291, if, as he thinks, this is according to the Seleucidan era). It is called after Elijah (S. 118, 9), who is said to have appeared in the southeast corner (O. p. 18). About 1487 the sultan Ḳa'it Bey, or his vizier (), wished to remove the columns of the building for use in his own palace. He was bought off with 1,000 gold pieces (O. ib.). In the northeast corner was a platform, on which was a celebrated Torah scroll, said to have been written by Ezra, and to which magical powers were attributed (S. 118, 137; O. ib.). Moses b. Elijah speaks of the many inscriptions and psalms which covered the walls and the "hekal," as well as the names, written or cut in, of the many visitors to the synagogue. Benjamin II. calls it also "Kenisat Eliyahu" (Engl. ed., p. 233). It is standing to-day (1903); and E. N. Adler holds that it was originally a church of the third or fourth century, the titular saint of which was Michael (J. Q. R. 9:670). Samuel b. David tries to make out that it was in former times a Karaite synagogue (G. p. 60).The best description of the synagogue is given by Ibn Safir (c. pp. 20 et seq.). He calls it the "synagogue of Ezra," on the theory that it was founded by him. Rosh Ḥodesh Iyyar is celebrated with much pomp here, and Jews flock from Cairo and other places with offerings. Ibn Safir also mentions the many inscriptions and names to be found upon the walls; the room in the southeast corner where Elijah is said to have appeared; the cupboard in the northeast corner containing the Ezra manuscript; and especially the Genizah, to which he ascended by means of a ladder, but found little of value there.
- In the same part of the city (Ibn Duḳmaḳ, again, has Ḳaṣr al-Rum), in the "Jews' Lane' ("Zuḳaḳ al-Yahud") was the synagogue of the Babylonian Jews ("Al-'Iraḳiyyin"). In Sambari's time it was in ruins. Benjamin II. must refer to this in speaking of the synagogue "Al-Karkujan" (S. p. 233).
- 6, 7. Al-Maḳrizi mentions two Karaite synagogues; one that of Ibn Shamikh (; S. 137, 11). This is the only one referred to by Sambari, in the district (e., the street Al-Khurunfush in the northern part of Cairo; Maḳrizi, c. 2:27; Al-Ḳalḳashandi, p. 72); it is now in ruins. Ibn Duḳmaḳ mentions one in Maṣmuma, in a small alley of the Darb al-Karmah (see above). The Karaites, however, speak of two; one, large and spacious, for the Jerusalem Karaites, with fourteen marble pillars and containing five hekalot, fourteen scrolls, and many Arabic Karaitic manuscripts; the second, smaller and private, situated in the courtyard of a certain Aaron (G. pp. 6, 34).
- A Rabbinite synagogue in which Sambari worshiped, "Kanisat al-Musta'rab" (S. 156, 5; compare Conforte, "Ḳore ha-Dorot," 32b, 33a), for the Arabic Jews. The deed of conveyance of the synagogue (1038) speaks of it as situated in the Darb al-Banadir in the Zuwailah quarter. It was closed at one time, opened again by Eliezer Skandari in 1580, but had been closed for forty years before Sambari wrote (S. 160, 10). A specially venerated Bible codex, called "Al-Sunbaṭi," was brought to the synagogue in 1623 from the Egyptian village of Sunbaṭ; a light was kept burning before it, and on Simḥat Torah it was carried once around the synagogue (S. 119, 1; perhaps the "Codex Sambuki"; see Jew. Encyc. 3:179).
- Synagogue al-Ḥadrah (Al-Maḳrizi). This also was in the Zuwailah quarter, in the Darb al-Ra'id.
- A Samaritan synagogue (Al-Maḳrizi; M. V. p. 185).In addition, Sambari mentions a synagogue of the West-African Jews (; 134, 9), in which Maimonides was buried before his body was taken to Palestine, and a private one of R. Sedillo, still standing in his day (S. 145, 16; but 159, 7 has = Sevilla?). In the middle of the nineteenth century Ibn Safir ( c. p. 9a) found ten old synagogues in Cairo proper, and of them mentions the following: (1) Synagogue ofR. Ishmael, rebuilt, in which most of the Franks (European Jews) worshiped. Attached to it was a school for orphans and poor children. (2) Synagogue Miẓrayim, the oldest of all, about to be rebuilt. (3) Synagogue of the Portuguese, rebuilt. (4) Synagogue of R. Moses (Maimonides), still standing; on the north side was a small room before which a perpetual light burned. This must be Sambari's Maghrabi synagogue. (5) Synagogue of R. Zimrah (David ibn Abi Zimrah). (6) Synagogue of R. Ḥayyim (see below). (7) Synagogue of the "Ba'al ha-Nes"; who he was is unknown. (8) Turkish synagogue; very old, and in which various minyanim prayed.
Of the literary ability of the Egyptian Jews the old Cairo genizah is continually giving further evidence. The old Bible fragments still to be found there are minutely described by Ibn Safir, c. pp. 11b et seq.; the standard Bible codex of Aaron b. Asher was brought to Egypt and used by Maimonides ("Yad," Sefer Torah, p. 3, end). A codex of the year 1008, written in Egypt, was corrected by means of this standard manuscript (M. 20:8). Maimonides found there portions of the Gemara which he thought were 500 years old ("Yad," Malweh, 15:2). Many of the writers and scholars whose names have become famous have already been mentioned. All departments of Jewish literature are represented; but it was especially in poetry of various kinds that they excelled. This was probably due to their intimate personal and literary acquaintance with Arabic authors. Mention may be made here of the dedicatory poem to the nagid Judah (J. Q. R. 8:556, 9:360); the "Maḳamah" of the historian Abraham b. Hillel (ib. 9:168), which shows also the influence of the Spanish-Hebrew poets; the involved and extremely well-executed "Tarshish" (Arabic, "Tajnis") of the professional scribe who wrote the letter of the ex-minister of Al-Afḍal (ib. 9:29, 10:430); the verses of Abraham Maimonides, mentioned even by Sambari (S. 134, 16); and the prose with occasional lapses into piyyuṭ, many specimens of which have been found by Schechter. The megillah form was generally used for historical records, either in prose or in poetry; e.g., the Cairo Purim, the Zuṭa, and the Abiathar Megillot (ib. 14:449). From Egypt have come nearly all the fragments of the Hebrew original of Ben Sirach (Ecclesiasticus). The number of the manuscripts of this text testifies that it was widely read. Many private libraries of large extent must have existed in Egypt—e.g., those of Bezaleel Ashkenazi and David ibn Abi Zimrah; and the fragments of catalogues which have been preserved show the wide scope of the literary interests of the times (Schechter, "Saadyana," p. 78).
The material used for writing was at first papyrus (for an example of the eighth century see Chwolson, "Corpus," p. 121; for a marriage contract of the ninth century see "Führer Durch die Papyr. Erzherzog Rainer," p. 262; see also ib. p. 234; "Aegyptische Zeitschrift," 33:64; "Magazin," 6:250); later, parchment and paper were employed. The Egyptian Jews wrote in Arabic as frequently as in Hebrew, and wrote well. Sambari's remark to that effect (S. 120, 1) is borne out by recent discoveries. At times they even went so far as to write their Hebrew in Arabic characters; e.g., the Karaite Bible manuscripts described by Hörnle ("British Museum Karaite MSS." London, 1889), and the fragments published by Hirschfeld (J. Q. R. 15:168). They busied themselves also with Arabic literature, fragments of which have been found written in Hebrew characters (ib.).
As regards typography, one Jewish work only is known to bear the imprint "Miẓrayim" (Cairo)—Ḥayyim Vital's ritual book in two volumes, "Ḥok le-Yisrael" (1740). It was edited by Isaac Baruch and published by Abraham Ẓaddikḳ. The establishment in which it was printed was owned by Abraham ben Moses Yatom, whose workmen were Solomon Sachata ben Samuel, Aaron ben Isaac Naḥmias, Israel ben Jacob Ḳimḥi, and Gershon ben Solomon. The book was approved by Nissim Solomon al-Gazi, rabbi at Cairo, and Moses Israel, rabbi at Alexandria.
With the exception of this one work, it is only quite recently that Hebrew books have been printed in Egypt, notably by Faraj Ḥayyim Mizraḥi in Alexandria. He has published the following works:
By Solomon Ḥazzan: , a companion to the "Shem ha-Gedolim," dealing with Eastern authors (1894); (1895); (1895); , an alphabetic collection of ritual ordinances (1900). By Elijah Ḥazzan: , on the peculiar religious observances and customs of the Alexandrian Jews (1894). By Meborak Berhent of Tripolis: (1896).
In addition, the following works have been printed in Alexandria:
, with commentary of David Maimonides (1901).
(1888); (1887). By Abraham Kestin: , "Hebrew Grammar for Arabic-speaking Jews" (1896).
, prayer-book, Egyptian rite.
The peculiarities in the liturgy and religious observances of the Egyptian Jews have been indicated by Zunz ("Ritus," p. 55), and for Alexandria they have been explained at length by Elijah Ḥazzan in his "Neweh Shalom" (Alexandria, 1894); see also Ibn Safir, pp. 10 et seq. In the Siddur of Saadia there is given probably the earliest form of the Egyptian order of service (see the account by Steinschneider in "Cat. Bodl." col. 2203, and B. A. § 62); but it seems doubtful if this order was observed for any length of time. Maimonides found little occasion to make changes; though his decisions in such matters became authoritative for the greater part of the East. As the Palestinians and Babylonians had their own synagogues, so they preserved some of their peculiar customs; e.g., the Babylonians preserved the yearly cycle in the Reading of the Law; the Palestinians, the triennial—an arrangement not touched by Maimonides ("Yad," Tefillah, 13:1), and of which Abraham Maimonides complains (J. Q. R. 5:420; M. 41:464; Benjamin of Tudela, p. 98; S. 118, 25). The buying of certain miẓwot was a hereditary privilege. The "Kol Nidre" prayer was not recited in Cairo (Geiger's "Zeitschr." 2:254; M. 41:464). On special occasions, when more than seven were called to the Law on a Sabbath, certain portions were repeated. On week-days the Sabbath portion was read, but without the Hafṭarah (Samuel b. David, ed. Gurland, p. 6). According to Conforte (c. p. 14a), David Maimonides' Midrashot to the Torah were read in some of the Egyptian congregations every Sabbath.
Some Egyptian liturgical texts have been found in the Cairo genizah, and their peculiarities noted by Schechter (J. Q. R. 10:654). From these, fragments of the Passover Haggadah have been published by I. Abrahams (ib. p. 41), in which the repeated reference to the "Memra" or "Logos" discloses peculiar Egyptian traits. The first attempts to illustrate the Haggadah are also found in the genizah fragments (Kaufmann, ib. p. 381). Peculiarities in connection with the rite of circumcision are described in the letter of Moses b. Elijah (ed. Gurland, p. 35); but it is not said whether these are Karaitic. It was customary in Egypt to put a reference to the ritual bath ("miḳweh") in the ketubbah, a point upon which Maimonides, having the Karaite system in view, insisted with rigor ("Teshubot," No. 116); also to insert a promise from the man that he would not marry an additional wife (ketubbah of 1396; MS. Cambridge Add. No. 3124; compare , 1:94). It was also customary to carry the dead to Palestine for burial (Abi Zimrah, Responsa, §§ 611, 741). According to Ibn Safir (p. 11b), in every synagogue in Cairo there is a small cupboard (called also ) in which an old copy of the Bible in book-form, or portions of it, is kept, and before which a light is kept burning (see above).
- Many of the genizah fragments mentioned have been republished by Schechter, Saadyana:
- Geniza Fragments, Cambridge, 1903. Compare, especially, Bacher, Ein Neuerschlossenes Capitel. der Jüd. Gesch. in J. Q. R. 15:79 et seq.;
- Berliner, Die Nagid-Würde, in Magazin, 17:50 et seq. See further Steinschneider and Cassel, in Ersch and Gruber, Encyc. section , part 28, p. 64.
- The following is a key to the abbreviations used in this article: B. = Butler, Arab Conquest of Egypt. B. A. = Steinschneider, Bibliotheca Arabica Judaica, Frankfort, 1902. G. = Gurland, Ginze Yisrael: Neue Denkmäler der Jüd. Literatur, part 1, Lyck, 1865. J. Q. R. = Jewish Quarterly Review. L. = Pinsker, Liḳḳuṭe Ḳadmoniyyot, Vienna, 1860. L.-P. = Lane-Poole, A History of Egypt in the Middle Ages, London, 1901. M. = Monatsschrift. M. J. C. = Medieval Jewish Chronicles. M. V. = Meshullam of Volterra, in Luncz, Jerusalem, O. = Obadiah of Bertinoro, in Neubauer, Zwei Briefe Abadjah's, Leipsic, 1863. R. E. J. = Revue des Etudes Juives. S. = Sambari, ed. Neubauer, in M. J. C. T. L. Z. = Theologische Literaturzeitung. Z. D. M. G. = Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlündischen Gesellschaft. Z. H. B. = Zeitschrift für Hebräische Bibliographie.
These files are public domain.
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Cairo'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/c/cairo.html. 1901.
the Seventh Week after Easter