The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
Princes of the Captivity
Title given to the head of the Babylonian Jews, who, from the time of the Babylonian exile, were designated by the term "golah" (see Jeremiah 28:6, 29:1; Ezek. passim) or "galut" (Jeremiah 29:22). The chief of the golah or prince of the exiles held a position of honor which, recognized by the state, carried with it certain definite prerogatives, and was hereditary in a family that traced its descent from the royal Davidic house. The origin of this dignity is not known. The first historical documents referring to it date from the time when Babylon was part of the Parthian empire, and it was preserved uninterruptedly during the rule of the Sassanids, as well as for several centuries under the Arabs.
Traced to Jehoiachin.
A chronicle of about the year 800—the Seder 'Olam Zuṭa—fills up the gaps in the early history of the exilarch by constructing an account according to which the first exilarch was no less a person than Jehoiachin, the last king but one of the house of David, whom the exilarchs regarded as their ancestor. The captive king's advancement at Evilmerodach's court—that curious incident of the Babylonian exile with which the narrative of the Second Book of Kings closes (2 Kings 25:27)—was apparently regarded by the author of the Seder 'Olam Zuṭa as the origin of the exilarchate. Even without any authentic genealogical tree of the family of the exilarchs, it could not have been difficult to find a genealogical connection between them and King Jehoiachin, since a list including generations of the descendants of the king is given in 1 Chronicles 3:17 et seq. A commentary to Chronicles (ed. Kirchheim, p. 16) dating from the school of Saadia quotes Judah ibn Ḳuraish to the effect that the genealogical list of the descendants of David was added to the book at the end of the period of the Second Temple, a view which was shared by the author of the list of exilarchs in Seder 'Olarn Zuṭa. This list has been synchronistically connected with the history of the Second Temple, Shechaniah being mentioned as having lived at the time of the Temple's destruction. The following are enumerated as his predecessors in office: Salathiel, Zerubbabel, Meshullam, Hananiah, Berechiah, Hasadiah, Jesaiah, Obadiah, and Shemaiah, all of which names are also found in 1 Chronicles 3 (compare the list with the variants given by Lazarus in Brüll's "Jahrb." 1890, p. 171). The names of the next two prehistoric exilarchs—if that term may be used—Hezekiah and Akkub, are also found at the end of the Davidic list in Chronicles. Then follows Nahum, with whom the authentic portion of the list probably begins, and who may, perhaps, be assigned to the time of the Hadrianic persecution (135), the period in which are found the first allusions in traditional literature to the existence of the exilarchic dignity.
First Historic Mention.
In the account referring to the attempt of a Palestinian teacher of the Law, Hananiah, nephew of Joshua b. Hananiah, to render the Babylonian Jews independent of the Palestinian authorities, a certain Ahijah is mentioned as the temporal head of the former, probably, therefore, as exilarch (Ber. 63a, b), while another source substitutes the name "Nehunyon" for "Ahijah" (Yer. Sanh. 19a). It is not improbable that this person is identical with the Nahum mentioned in the list (Lazarus, c. p. 65). The danger threatening thePalestinian authority was fortunately averted; and about the same time R. Nathan, a member of the house of exilarchs, came to Palestine, and by virtue of his scholarship was soon classed among the foremost tannaim of the post-Hadrianic time. His Davidic origin suggested to R. Meïr the plan of making the Babylonian scholar "nasi" (prince) in place of the Hillelite Simon b. Gamaliel. But the conspiracy against the latter failed (Hor. 13b). R. Nathan was subsequently among the confidants of the patriarchal house, and in intimate relations with Simon b. Gamaliel's son Judah I. R. Meïr's attempt, however, seems to have led Judah I. to fear that the Babylonian exilarch might come to Palestine to claim the office from Hillel's descendant. He discussed the subject with the Babylonian scholar Ḥiyya, a prominent member of his school (Hor. 11b), saying that he would pay due honor to the exilarch should the latter come, but that he would not renounce the office of nasi in his favor (Yer. Kil. 32b). When the body of the exilarch Huna, who was the first incumbent of that office explicitly mentioned as such in Talmudic literature, was brought to Palestine during the time of Judah I., Ḥiyya drew upon himself Judah's deep resentment by announcing the fact to him with the words "Huna is here" (Yer. Kil. 32b). A tannaitic exposition of Genesis 49:10 (Sanh. 5a) which contrasts the Babylonian exilarchs, ruling by force, with Hillel's descendants, teaching in public, evidently intends to cast a reflection on the former. But Judah I. had to listen at his own table to the statement of the youthful sons of the above-mentioned Ḥiyya, in reference to the same tannaitic exposition, that "the Messiah can not appear until the exilarchate at Babylon and the patriarchate at Jerusalem shall have ceased" (Sanh. 38a).
Succession of Exilarchs.
Huna, the contemporary of Judah I., is not mentioned in the list of exilarchs in the Seder 'Olam Zuṭa, according to which Nahum was followed by his brother Johanan; then came Johanan's son Shaphat (these names also are found among the Davidians in 1 Chronicles 3:22,24), who was succeeded by Anan (comp. "Anani," 1 Chronicles 3:24). From the standpoint of chronology the identification of Anan with the Huna of the Talmud account is not to be doubted; for at the time of his successor, Nathan 'Uḳban, occurred the fall of the Arsacids and the founding of the Sassanid dynasty (226 C.E.), which is noted as follows in Seder 'Olam Zuṭa: "In the year 166 [c. 234 C.E.] after the destruction of the Temple the Persians advanced upon the Romans" (on the historical value of this statement see Lazarus, c. p. 33). Nathan 'Uḳban, however, who is none other than Mar 'Uḳban, the contemporary of Rab and Samuel, also occupied a prominent position among the scholars of Babylon' (see Bacher, "Ag. Bab. Amor." pp. 34-36) and, according to Sherira Gaon (who quotes Shab. 55a), was also exilarch. As 'Uḳban's successor is mentioned in the list his son Huna (Huna II.), whose chief advisers were Rab (d.247) and Samuel (d. 254), and in whose time Papa b. Nazor destroyed Nehardea. Huna's son and successor, Nathan, whose chief advisers were Judah b. Ezekiel (d. 299) and Shesheth, was called, like his grandfather, "Mar 'Uḳban," and it is he, the second exilarch of this name, whose curious correspondence with Eleazar b. Pedat is referred to in the Talmud (Giṭ. 7a; see Bacher, c. p. 72; idem, "Ag. Pal. Amor." 1:9). He was succeeded by his brother (not his son, as stated in Seder 'Olam Zuṭa); his leading adviser was Shezbi. The "exilarch Nehemiah" is also mentioned in the Talmud (B. M. 91b); he is identical with "Rabbanu Nehemiah," and he and his brother "Rabbanu 'Uḳban" (Mar 'Uḳban II.) are several times mentioned in the Talmud as sons of Rab's daughter (hence Huna II. was Rab's son-in-law) and members of the house of the exilarchs (Ḥul. 92a; B. B. 51b).
The Mar 'Uḳbans.
According to Seder 'Olam Zuṭa, in Nehemiah's time, the 245th year (313 C.E.) after the destruction of the Temple, there took place a great religious persecution by the Persians, of which, however, no details are known. Nehemiah was succeeded by his son Mar 'Uḳban (III.), whose chief advisers were Rabbah b. Naḥmani (d. 323) and Adda. He is mentioned as "'Uḳban b. Nehemiah, resh galuta," in the Talmud (Shab. 56b; B. B. 55a). This Mar 'Uḳban, the third exilarch of that name, was also called "Nathan," as were the first two, and has been made the hero of a legend under the name of "Nathan di Ẓẓuta" (see Shab. 56b). The conquest of Armenia (337) by Sapor II. is mentioned in the chronicle as a historical event occurring during the time of Mar 'Uḳban III. He was succeeded by his brother Huna Mar Huna III., whose chief advisers were Abaye (d. 338) and Raba; then followed Mar 'Uḳban's son Abba, whose chief advisers were Raba (d. 352) and Rabina. During Abba's time King Sapor conquered Nisibis. The designation of a certain Isaac as resh galuta in the time of Abaye and Raba (Yeb. 115b) is due to a clerical error (see Brüll's "Jahrb." 7:115). Abba was succeeded first by his son Nathan and then by another son, Mar Kahana. The latter's son Huna is then mentioned as successor, being the fourth exilarch of that name; he died in 441, according to a trustworthy source, the "Seder Tannaim wa-Amoraim." Hence he was a contemporary of Ashi, the great master of Sura, who died in 427. In the Talmud, however, Huna b. Nathan is mentioned as Ashi's contemporary, and according to Sherira it was he who was Mar Kahana's successor, a statement which is also confirmed by the Talmud (Zeb. 19a). The statement of Seder 'Olam Zuṭa ought perhaps to be emended, since Huna was probably not the son of Mar Kahana, but the son of the latter's elder brother Nathan.
Persecutions Under Peroz and Kobad.
Huna was succeeded by his brother Mar Zuṭra, whose chief adviser was Aḥai of Diphti, the same who was defeated in 455 by Ashi's son Ṭabyomi (Mar) at the election for director of the school of Sura. Mar Zuṭra was succeeded by his son Kahana (Kahana II.), whose chief adviser was Rabina, the editor of the Babylonian Talmud (d. 499). Then followed two exilarchs by the same name: another son of Mar Zuṭra, Huna V., and a grandson of Mar Zuṭra, Huna VI., the son of Kahana. Huna V. fell a victim to the persecutions under King Peroz (Firuz), being executed, according to Sherira, in 470; Huna VI. was not installed in office until some time later, the exilarchate being vacant during thepersecutions under Peroz; he died in 508 (Sherira). The Seder 'Olam Zuṭa connects with the birth of his son Mar Zuṭra the legend that is elsewhere told in connection with Bostanai's birth. Mar Zuṭra, who came into office at the age of fifteen, took advantage of the confusion into which Mazdak's communistic attempts had plunged Persia, to obtain by force of arms for a short time a sort of political independence for the Jews of Babylon. King Kobad, however, punished him by crucifying him on the bridge of Maḥuza (c. 520). A son was born to him on the day of his death, who was also named "Mar Zuṭra." The latter did not attain to the office of exilarch, but went to Palestine, where he became head of the Academy of Tiberias, under the title of "Resh Pirḳa" ('Aρχιφεκίτησ), several generations of his descendants succeeding him in this office. After Mar Zuṭra's death the exilarchate of Babylon remained unocupied for some time. Mar Ahunai lived in the period succeeding Mar Zuṭra II, but for more than thirty years after the catastrophe he did not dare to appear in public, and it is not known whether even then (c. 550) he really acted as exilarch. At any rate the chain of succession of those who inherited the office was not broken. The names of Kafnai and his son Ḥaninai, who were exilarchs in the second half of the sixth century, have been preserved. Ḥaninai's posthumous son Bostanai was the first of the exilarchs under Arabic rule.
Bostanai was the ancestor of the exilarchs who were in office from the time when the Persian empire was conquered by the Arabs, in 642, down to the eleventh century. Through him the splendor of the office was renewed and its political position made secure. His tomb in Pumbedita was a place of worship as late as the twelfth century, according to Benjamin of Tudela. Not much is known regarding Bostanai's successors down to the time of Saadia except their names; even the name of Bostanai's son is not known. The list of the exilarchs down to the end of the ninth century is given as follows in an old document (Neubauer, "Mediæval Jewish Chronicles," 1:196): "Bostanai, Ḥanina b. Adoi, Ḥasdai I., Solomon, Isaac Iskawi I., Judah Zakkai (Babawai), Moses, Isaac Iskawi II., David b. Judah, Ḥasdai II" Ḥasdai I. was probably Bostanai's grandson. The latter's son Solomon had a deciding voice in the appointments to the gaonate of Sura in the years 733 and 759 (Sherira, Gaon). Isaac Iskawi I. died very soon after Solomon. In the dispute between David's sons Anan and Hananiah regarding the succession the latter was victor; ANAN then proclaimed himself anti-exilarch, was imprisoned, and founded the sect of the Karaites. His descendants were regarded by the Karaites as the true exilarchs. The following list of Karaite exilarchs, father being succeeded always by son, is given in the genealogy of one of these "Karaite princes": Anan, Saul, Josiah, Boaz, Jehoshaphat, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Ḥasdai, Solomon (see Pinsker, "Liḳḳuṭe Ḳadmoniyyot," 2:53). Anan's brother Hananiah is not mentioned in this list. Judah Zakkai, who is called "Zakkai b. Ahunai" by Sherira, had as rival candidate Naṭronai b. Ḥabibai, who, however, was defeated and sent West in banishment; this Naṭronai was a great scholar, and, according to tradition, while in Spain wrote the Talmud from memory. David b. Judah also had to contend with an anti-exilarch, Daniel by name The fact that the decision in this dispute rested with the calif Al-Ma'mun (825) indicates a decline in the power of the exilarchate. David b. Judah, who carried off the victory, appointed Isaac b. Ḥiyya as gaon at Pumbedita in 833. Preceding Ḥasdai II.'s name in the list that of his father Naṭronai must be inserted. Both are designated as exilarchs in a geonic responsum (Harkavy, "Responsen der Geonim," P. 389).
Deposition of 'Uḳba.
'Uḳba is mentioned as exilarch immediately following Ḥasdai II.; he was deposed at the instigation of Kohen Ẓedeḳ, gaon of Pumbedita, but was reinstated in 918 on account of some Arabic verses with which he greeted the calif Al-Muḳtadir. He was deposed again soon afterward, and fled to Kairwan, where he was treated with great honor. After a short interregnum 'Uḳba's nephew, David b. Zakkai, became exilarch; but he had to contend for nearly two years with Kohen Ẓedeḳ before he was finally confirmed in his power (921). In consequence of Saadia's call to the gaonate of Sura and his controversy with David, the latter has become one of the best-known personages of Jewish history. Saadia had David's brother Josiah (Al-Ḥasan) elected anti-exilarch in 930, but the latter was defeated and banished to Chorasan. David b. Zakkai was the last exilarch to play an important part in history. He died a few years before Saadia; his son Judah died seven months afterward. Judah left a son (whose name is not mentioned) twelve years of age, whom Saadia took into his house and educated. His generous treatment of the grandson of his former adversary was continued until Saadia's death in 942. Only a single entry has been preserved regarding the later fortunes of the exilarchate. When Gaon Hai died in 1038, nearly a century after Saadia's death, the members of his academy could not find a more worthy successor than the exilarch Hezekiah, a descendant, perhaps a great-grandson, of David b. Zakkai; he thereafter filled both offices. But two years later, in 1040, Hezekiah, who was the last exilarch and also the last gaon, fell a victim to calumny. He was cast into prison and tortured; two of his sons fled to Spain, where they found refuge with Joseph, the son and successor of Samuel ha-Nagid. Hezekiah himself, on being liberated from prison, became head of the academy, and is mentioned as such by a contemporary in 1046 ("J. Q. R." 15:80).
The title of exilarch is found occasionally even after the Babylonian exilarchate had ceased. Abraham ibn Ezra (commentary to Zechariah 12:7) speaks of the "Davidic house" at Bagdad (before 1140), calling its members the "heads of the Exile." Benjamin of Tudela in 1170 mentions the exilarch Ḥasdai, among whose pupils was the subsequent pseudo-Messiah David Alroy, and Ḥasdai's son, the exilarch Daniel. Pethahiah of Regensburg also refers to the latter, but under the name of "Daniel b. Solomon"; hence it must be assumed that Ḥasdai was alsocalled "Solomon." Al-Ḥarizi (after 1216) met at Mosul a descendant of the house of David, whom he calls "David, the head of the Exile." A long time previously a descendant of the ancient house of exilarchs had attempted to revive in Egypt the dignity of exilarch which had become extinct in Babylon. This was David b. Daniel; he came to Egypt at the age of twenty, in 1081, and was proclaimed exilarch. by the learned Jewish authorities of that country, who wished to divert to Egypt the leadership formerly enjoyed by Babylon. A contemporary document, the Megillah of the Palestinian "gaon" Abiathar, gives an authentic account of this episode of the Egyptian exilarchate, which ended with the downfall of David b. Daniel in 1094 ("J. Q. R." 15:80 et seq.). Descendants of the house of exilarchs were living in various places long after the office became extinct. A descendant of Hezekiah, "Hiyya" by name, with the surname Al-Da'udi, indicative of his origin, died in 1154 in Castile (Abraham ibn Da'ud). Several families, as late as the fourteenth century, traced their descent back to Josiah, the brother of David b. Zakkai who had been banished to Chorasan (see the genealogies in Lazarus, c. pp. 180 et seq.). The descendants of the Karaite exilarchs have been referred to above.
Development and Organization.
The history of the exilarchate falls naturally into two periods, which are separated from each other by the beginning of the Arabic rule in Babylonia. As shown above, the first period is not accessible to the light of historical research before the middle of the second Christian century. There are no data whatever for a working hypothesis regarding the beginnings of the office. It can merely be said in general that the golah, the Jews living in compact masses in various parts of Babylon, tended gradually to unite and effect an organization, and that this tendency, together with the high regard in which the descendants of the house of David living in Babylon were held, brought it about that a member of this house was recognized as "head of the golah." The dignity became hereditary in this house, and was finally recognized by the state, and hence became an established political institution, first of the Arsacid and then of the Sassanid empire. Such was the exilarchate as it appears in Talmudic literature, the chief source for its history during the first period, and from which come the only data regarding the rights and functions of the exilarchate. For the second, the Arabic, period, there is a very important and trustworthy description of the institution of the exilarchate, which will be translated further on; this description is also important for the first period, because many of the details may be regarded as survivals from it. The characteristics of the first period of the exilarchate, as gathered from significant passages of Talmudic literature, will first be noted.
Relations with the Academies.
In accordance with the character of Talmudic tradition it is the relation of the exilarchs to the heads and members of the schools that is especially referred to in Talmudic literature. The Seder 'Olam Zuṭa, the chronicle of the exilarchs that is the most important and in many cases the only source of information concerning their succession, has also preserved chiefly the names of those scholars who had certain official relations with the respective exilarchs. The phrase used in this connection ("ḥakamim debaruhu," the scholars directed him) is the stereotyped phrase used also in connection with the fictitious exilarchs of the century of the Second Temple; in the latter case, however, it occurs without the specific mention of names—a fact in favor of the historicalness of those names that are given for the succeeding centuries. The authenticity of the names of the amoraim designated as the scholars "guiding" the several exilarchs, is, in the case of those passages in which the text is beyond dispute, supported by internal chronological evidence also. Some of the Babylonian amoraim were closely related to the house of the exilarchs, as, for example, Rabba b. Abuha, whom Gaon Sherira, claiming Davidian descent, named as his ancestor. Naḥman b. Jacob (d. 320) also became closely connected with the house of the exilarchs through his marriage with Rabba b. Abuha's daughter, the proud Yaltha; and he owed to this connection perhaps his office of chief judge of the Babylonian Jews. Huna, the head of the school of Sura, recognized Naḥman b. Jacob's superior knowledge of the Law by saying that Naḥman was very close to the "gate of the exilarch" ("baba di resh galuta"), where many cases were decided (B. B. 65b). The term "dayyane di baba" (judges of the gate), which was applied in the post-Talmudic time to the members of the court of the exilarch, is derived from the phrase just quoted (comp. Harkavy, c.). Two details of Naḥman b. Jacob's life cast light on his position at the court of the exilarch: he received the two scholars Ḥisda and Rabbab. Huna, who had come to pay their respects to the exilarch (Suk. 10b); and when the exilarch was building a new house he asked Naḥman to take charge of the placing of the mezuzah according to the Law (Men. 33a).
Retinue of the Exilarch.
The scholars who formed part of the retinue of the exilarch were called "scholars of the house of the exilarch" ("rabbanan di-be resh galuta"). A remark of Samuel, the head of the school of Nehardea, shows that they wore certain badges on their garments to indicate their position (Shab. 58a). Once a woman came to Naḥman b. Jacob, complaining that the exilarch and the scholars of his court sat at the festival in a stolen booth (Suk. 31a), the material for it having been taken from her. There are many anecdotes of the annoyances and indignities the scholars had to suffer at the hands of the exilarchs' servants (Giṭ. 67b, the case of Amram the Pious; 'Ab. Zarah 38b, of Ḥiyya of Parwa; Shab. 121b, of Abba b. Marta). The modification of ritual requirements granted to the exilarchs and their households in certain concrete cases is characteristic of their relation to the religious law (see Pes. 76b, Levi b. Sisi; Ḥul. 59a, Rab; 'Ab. Zarah 72b, Rabba b. Huna; 'Er. 11b, Naḥman versus Sheshet; 'Er. 39b, similarly; M. Ḳ. 12a, Ḥanan; Pes. 40b, Pappai). Once when certain preparations which the exilarch wasmaking in his park for alleviating the strictness of the Sabbath law were interrupted by Raba and his pupils, he exclaimed, in the words of Jeremiah 4:22, "They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge" ('Er. 26a). There are frequent references to questions, partly halakic and exegetical in nature, which the exilarch laid before his scholars (to Huna, Giṭ. 7a; Yeb. 61a; Sanh. 44a; to Rabba b. Huna, Shab. 115b; to Hamnuna, Shab. 119a). Details are sometimes given of lectures that were delivered "at the entrance to the house of the exilarch" ("pitḥa di-be resh galuta"; see Ḥul. 84b; Beẓah 23a; Shab. 126a; M. Ḳ. 24a). These lectures were probably delivered at the time of the assemblies, which brought many representatives of Babylonian Judaism to the court of the exilarch after the autumnal festivals (on Sabbath Lek Leka, as Sherira says; comp. 'Er. 59a).
Etiquette of the Resh Galuta's Court.
The luxurious banquets at the court of the exilarch were well known. An old anecdote was repeated in Palestine concerning a splendid feast which the exilarch once gave to the tanna Judah b. Bathyra at Nisibis on the eve of the Day of Atonement (Lam. R. 3:16). Another story told in Palestine (Yer. Meg. 74b) relates that an exilarch had music in his house morning and evening, and that Mar 'Uḳba, who subsequently became exilarch, sent him as a warning this sentence from Hosea: "Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as other people." The exilarch Nehemiah is said to have dressed entirely in silk (Shab. 20b, according to the correct reading; see Rabbinowicz, "Diḳduḳe Soferim").
The Talmud says almost nothing in regard to the personal relations of the exilarchs to the royal court. One passage relates merely that Huna b. Nathan appeared before Yezdegerd I., who with his own hands girded him with the belt which was the sign of the exilarch's office. There are also two allusions dating from an earlier time, one by Hiyya, a Babylonian living in Palestine (Yer. Ber. 5a), and the other by Adda b. Ahaba, one of Rab's earlier pupils (Sheb. 6b; Yer. Sheb. 32d), from which it seems that the exilarch occupied a foremost position among the high dignitaries of the state when he appeared at the court first of the Arsacids, then of the Sassanids. An Arabic writer of the ninth century records the fact that the exilarch presented a gift of 4,000 dirhems on the Persian feast of Nauruz (see "R. E. J." 8:122). Regarding the functions of the exilarch as the chief tax-collector for the Jewish population, there is the curious statement, preserved only in the Palestinian Talmud (Yer. Soṭah 20b, bottom), that once, in the time of Huna, the head of the school of Sura, the exilarch was commanded to furnish as much grain as would fill a room of 40 square ells.
The most important function of the exilarch was the appointment of the judge. Both Rab and Samuel said (Sanh. 5a) that the judge who did not wish to be held personally responsible in case of an error of judgment, would have to accept his appointment from the house of the exilarch. When Rab went from Palestine to Nehardea he was appointed overseer of the market by the exilarch (Yer. B. B. 15b, top). The exilarch had jurisdiction in criminal cases also. Aḥa b. Jacob, a contemporary of Rab (comp. Giṭ. 31b), was commissioned by the exilarch to take charge of a murder case (Sanh. 27a, b). The story found in B. K. 59a is an interesting example of the police jurisdiction exercised by the followers of the exilarch in the time of Samuel. From the same time dates a curious dispute regarding the etiquette of precedence among the scholars greeting the exilarch (Yer. Ta'an. 68a). The exilarch had certain privileges regarding real property (B. Ḳ. 102b; B. B. 36a). It is a specially noteworthy fact that in certain cases the exilarch judged according to the Persian law (B. Ḳ. 58b); and it was the exilarch 'Uḳba b. Nehemiah who communicated to the head of the school of Pumbedita, Rabbah b. Naḥmai, three Persian statutes which Samuel recognized as binding (B. B. 55a).
A synagogal prerogative of the exilarch was mentioned in Palestine as a curiosity (Yer. Soṭah 22a): The Torah roll was carried to the exilarch, while every one else had to go to the Torah to read from it. This prerogative is referred to also in the account of the installation of the exilarch in the Arabic period, and this gives color to the assumption that the ceremonies, as recounted in this document, were based in part on usages taken over from the Persian time. The account of the installation of the exilarch is supplemented by further details in regard to the exilarchate which are of great historical value. Following is a translation of a portion of this account, written by Nathan ha-Babli in the tenth century, and included in Abraham Zacuto's "Yuḥasin" and in Neubauer's "Mediæval Jewish Chronicles," 2:83 et seq.:
"The members of the two academies [Sura and Pumbedita], led by the two heads [the geonim] as well as by the leaders of the community, assemble in the house of an especially prominent man before the Sabbath on which the installation of the exilarch is to take place. The first homage is paid on Thursday in the synagogue, the event being announced by trumpets, and every one sends presents to the exilarch according to his means. The leaders of the community and the wealthy send handsome garments, jewelry, and gold and silver vessels. On Thursday and Friday the exilarch gives great banquets. On the morning of the Sabbath the nobles of the community call for him and accompany him to the synagogue. Here a wooden platform covered entirely with costly cloth has been erected, under which a picked choir of sweet-voiced youths well versed in the liturgy has been placed. This choir responds to the leader in prayer, who begins the service with 'Baruk she-amar.' After the morning prayer the exilarch, who until now has been standing in a covered place, appears; the whole congregation rises and remains standing until he has taken his place on the platform, and the two geonim, the one from Sura preceding, have taken seats to his right and left, each making an obeisance.
"A costly canopy has been erected over the seat of the exilarch. Then the leader in prayer steps in front of the platform and, in a low voice audible only to those close by, and accompanied by the 'Amen' of the choir, addresses the exilarch with a benediction, prepared long beforehand. Then the exilarch delivers a sermon on the text of the week or commissions the gaon of Sura to do so. After the discourse the leader in prayer recites the Ḳaddish, and when he reaches the words 'during your life and in your days,' he adds the words 'and during the life of our prince, the exilarch.' After the Ḳaddish he blesses the exilarch, the two heads of the schools, and the several provinces that contribute to the support of the academies, as well as the individuals who have been of especial service in this direction. Then the Torah is read. When the 'Kohen' and 'Levi' have finished reading, the leader in prayer carries the Torah roll to the exilarch, the whole congregation rising; the exilarch takes the roll in hishands and reads from it while standing. The two heads of the schools also rise, and the gaon of Sura recites the targum to the passage read by the exilarch. When the reading of the Torah is completed, a blessing is pronounced upon the exilarch. After the 'Musaf' prayer the exilarch leaves the synagogue, and all, singing, accompany him to his house. After that the exilarch rarely goes beyond the gate of his house, where services for the community are held on the Sabbaths and feastdays. When it becomes necessary for him to leave his house, he does so only in a carriage of state, accompanied by a large retinue. If the exilarch desires to pay his respects to the king, he first asks permission to do so. As he enters the palace the king's servants hasten to meet him, among whom he liberally distributes gold coin, for which provision has been made beforehand. When led before the king his seat is assigned to him. The king then asks what he desires. He begins with carefully prepared words of praise and blessing, reminds the king of the customs of his fathers, gains the favor of the king with appropriate words, and receives written consent to his demands; thereupon, rejoiced, he takes leave of the king."
Income and Privileges.
In regard to Nathan ha-Babli's additional account as to the income and the functions of the exilarch (which refers, however, only to the time of the narrator), it may be noted that he received taxes, amounting altogether to 700 gold denarii a year, chiefly from the provinces Nahrawan, Farsistan, and Holwan.
The Mohammedan author of the ninth century, Al-Jaḥiz, who has been referred to above, makes special mention of the shofar, the wind-instrument which was used when the exilarch ("ras al-jalut") excommunicated any one. The punishment of excommunication, continues the author, is the only one which in Mohammedan countries the exilarch of the Jews and the catholicos of the Christians may pronounce, for they are deprived of the right of inflicting punishment by imprisonment or flogging ("R. E. J." 8:122 et seq.). Another Mohammedan author reports a conversation that took place in the eighth century between a follower of Islam and the exilarch, in which the latter boasted; "Seventy generations have passed between me and King David, yet the Jews still recognize the prerogatives of my royal descent, and regard it as their duty to protect me; but you have slain the grandson [Ḥusain] of your prophet after one single generation" (ib. p. 125). The son of a previous exilarch said to another Mohammedan author: "I formerly never rode by Kerbela, the place where Ḥusain was martyred, without spurring on my horse, for an old tradition said that on this spot the descendant of a prophet would be killed; only since Ḥusain has been slain there and the prophecy has thus been fulfilled do I pass leisurely by the place" (ib. p. 123). This last story indicates that the resh galuta had by that time become the subject of Mohammedan legend, other examples also being cited by Goldziher. That the personage of the exilarch was familiar to Mohammedan circles is also shown by the fact that the Rabbinite Jews were called "Jaluti," that is, those belonging to the exilarch, in contradistinction to the Karaites (ib.). In the first quarter of the eleventh century, not long before the extinction of the exilarchate, Ibn Ḥazam, a fanatic polemicist, made the following remark in regard to the dignity: "The ras al-jalut has no power whatever over the Jews or over other persons; he has merely a title, to which is attached neither authority nor prerogatives of any kind" (ib. p. 125).
Curiously enough the exilarchs are still mentioned in the Sabbath services of the Ashkenazim ritual. The Aramaic prayer "Yeḳum Purḳan," which was used once in Babylon in pronouncing the blessing upon the leaders there, including the "reshe galwata" (the exilarchs), is still recited in most synagogues. The Jews of the Sephardic ritual have not preserved this anachronism, nor was it retained in most of the Reform synagogues of the nineteenth century.
- Grätz, Gesch. , ,;
- Felix Lazarus, Die Häupter der Vertriebenen, in Brüll's Jahrb. 1890;
- Jacob Reifman, Resh Galuta, in Bikkurim, 1864;
- Abr. Krochmal, Perushim we-Haggahot le-Talmud Babli, pp. 5-68;
- Lemberg, 1881;
- S. Funk, Die Juden in Babylonien, Berlin, 1902:
- Goldziber, Renseignements de Source Musulmane sur la Dignité du Resch-Galuta, in R. E. J. 1884, pp. 121-125:
- Brull's Jahrb. 5:94 et seq.;
- S. Jona, I. Rasce Galutà, in Vessillo Israelitico, 1883-86;
- Seder 'Olam Zuṭa, in Neubauer's Mediæval Jewish Chronicles, 2:68 et seq.
These files are public domain.
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Princes of the Captivity'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/p/princes-of-the-captivity.html. 1901.