Aaron of Baghdad

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AARON OF BAGHDAD (c. mid-ninth century), Babylonian scholar, described as the son of a certain R. Samuel, who lived in Jewish communities in southern Italy. In the sources he is referred to either as Aaron, or Abu Aaron, or Master Aaron (which might be a corrupted version of Abu Aaron). He met with several scholars in Oria, Lucca, and other communities, and many stories were told about his wisdom as well as his magical powers. His appearance is described in Megillat *Aḥima'aẓ, which is a literary chronicle of the *Kalonymus family in Italy, and in a document, written by Eliezer ben Judah of Worms in the second or third decade of the 13th century, tracing the history of the tradition of exegesis of prayers used by Eleazar and his teacher, *Judah b. Samuel he-Ḥasid. These two sources agree in attributing to Aaron, who is described by R. Eleazar as av kol ha-sodot ("father of all the secrets"), the transmission of certain doctrines and methods from the East to the West, to the Kalonymus family in Italy and Germany. As to the nature of these secrets, it is clear from Megillat Aḥima'aẓ that before the arrival of Aaron, Jewish scholars in Italy were studying early mystical, eastern works, especially the mysticism of the Heikhalot and Merkabah. Eleazar's words seem to prove that Aaron contributed to the Ashkenazi ḥasidic tradition of prayer exegesis. The stories in Megillat Aḥima'aẓ suggest that he may have transmitted some magical formulae, as magic was one of the fields of study (usually secret) of both the Italian and the Ashkenazi scholars. There is no evidence that Aaron contributed anything to the development of theological doctrines or mystical speculations in these areas. Nor is there proof that any known book was written by Aaron or contained a contribution by him. However, in the traditions of the Kalonymus family, Aaron serves as the link connecting its own western culture with the revered centers of learning in Babylonia of the geonic period.


A. Neubauer, in: rej, 23 (1891), 230–7; H. Gross, in: mgwj, 49 (1905), 692–700; Kaufmann, Schriften, 3 (1915), 5–11; Scholem, Mysticism, 41, 84; idem, in: Tarbiz, 32 (1962/63), 252–65; Weinstock, ibid., 153–9; J. Dan, in: Roth, Dark Ages, 282–90.

[Joseph Dan]

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Aaron of Baghdad

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