Aaron ben Joseph Ha-Rofe

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AARON BEN JOSEPH HA-ROFE ("the physician") "the Elder" (c. 1250–1320), *Karaite scholar and writer. Born apparently in Solkhat, Crimea. In 1279 he disputed there with the Rabbanites concerning the method of determining the New Moon of Tishri (see *Calendar). Apparently he also lived in Constantinople. The influence of the Talmud and Rabbanite scholars and philosophers is seen in his writings. His views were based on the Muslim *Kalām philosophical system, but he inclined toward Aristotelianism. In 1293 he completed his commentary on the Pentateuch, Sefer ha-Mivḥar (1835), widely used by the Karaites in the 14th and 15th centuries; several supercommentaries were written on it, the last, Tirat Kesef, by Joseph Solomon *Luzki. Usually preferring the plain meaning of the Bible, Aaron occasionally also uses aggadic interpretations, taken as a rule from *Rashi. He frequently quotes his Karaite and Rabbanite predecessors, notably *Abraham ibn Ezra. Aaron sometimes interpreted the halakhah of his sect leniently, for instance permitting Karaite residents of Jerusalem to eat meat; however this ruling was not accepted. He also disagreed with the "catenary" theory of forbidden marriage (rikkuv) which extended the laws against incest to extremely remote relationships, on the ground that it ran counter to the Karaite principle that no addition should be made to biblical injunctions. In these laws, he differed from the Rabbanites only in upholding the Karaite interdict of marrying one's niece. He may have preferred a permanent system of calendation instead the one based on lunar observation. Aaron also wrote commentaries on the Former Prophets and Isaiah 1–59 (Mivḥar Yesharim, 1836), and on Psalms 1–71 (several Mss. In Leyden and jts, New York). He refers to an apparently lost commentary he wrote on Job. An unfinished Hebrew grammar (Kelil Yofi, printed Gozlow 1847), recognizably influenced by Jonah ibn *Janaḥ, was completed by Isaac b. Judah Tishbi. His polemics against Rabbanite practices and the *Kabbalah (entitled Moreh Aharon and Sefer Mitzvot) have not been preserved. Aaron's redaction of the Karaite liturgy remains the official order of Karaite service. He introduced into it piyyutim by Solomon ibn *Gabirol, Judah *Halevi, and *Abraham and Moses ibn *Ezra. Aaron himself wrote liturgical poems for Sabbaths and holy days, many of which have been included in the Karaite prayer book, notably those written according to the weekly reading of the Torah. A late commentary on these poems entitled Tuv Ta'am, has appeared in a non-critical edition (Ramle 2000). He had a marked influence upon later Karaite writers.


Fuerst, Karaeertum, 2 (1865), 238–9; Danon, in: jqr (1926/27), 165–6, 265–6; Davidson, Oẓar, 4 (1933), 359; Mann, Texts, 2 (1935), index; Z. Ankori, Karaites in Byzantium (1959), index; add. bibliography: S.B. Bowman, The Jews of Byzantium (1204–1453), 1985, index; J-C. Attias, Le commentaire biblique: Mordekhai Komtino ou l'hermeneutique du dialogue, Paris, 1991, index; D.J. Lasker, "Aaron ben Joseph and the transformation of Karaite thought", in: Torah and Wisdom (1992) 121–128; G. Brinn, Beit Mikra, 47,4 (2002), 305–321 (Heb.); L. Charlap, Journal of Jewish Studies, 56,1 (2005) 80–100; idem, Pe'amim, 101–102 (2005), 199–220 (Heb.); M. Polliack (ed.), Karaite Judaism: A Guide to Its History and Literary Sources, (2003), index.

[Zvi Avneri]