Abiathar ben Elijah Ha-Kohen

views updated


ABIATHAR BEN ELIJAH HA-KOHEN (C. 1040–1110), last of the Palestinian geonim. Abiathar studied under his father elijah b. solomon, president of the Palestinian academy, from 1062 to 1083. A responsum of Elijah addressed to Meshullam b. Moses of Mainz in 1070 was signed also by Abiathar under the title "ha-Revi'i" ("the Fourth") implying that he was fourth in rank at the yeshivah. With the capture of Jerusalem by the Seljuks in 1071 and the transfer of the academy to Tyre, Abiathar was appointed "the Third," and later vice president of the academy (av ha-yeshivah). In 1081, while his father was still alive, he was appointed gaon. Abiathar was involved in a long and bitter controversy with David b. Daniel, the Egyptian exilarch and president of the Fostat (Cairo) Academy, who sought to extend his authority (as had his father *Daniel b. Azariah) over the Palestinian academy and community. Abiathar described this controversy in a "Scroll," published as "Megillat Abiathar" by S. Schechter (jqr 1901/02), in which he gave an account of his family's battle against the would-be usurpers. He forcefully defended the special rights of Ereẓ Israel over the Diaspora. "Ereẓ Israel is not called exile; how, then, can an exilarch wield authority over it?" At the beginning of the First Crusade (c. 1095), Abiathar was in Tripoli (Syria). Nothing is known about his last years.


W. Bacher, in: jqr, 15 (1902/03), 79–96; Mann, Egypt, 1 (1920), 187–95; A. Kahane, Sifrut ha-Historya ha-Yisre'elit, 1 (1922), 160–2; Marcus, in: Horeb, 6 (1941), 27–40; S. Assaf and L. Meir (eds.), Sefer ha-Yishuv, 2 (1944), 39–40 (introd.); S. Goitein, in: ks, 31 (1955/56), 368–70; Braslavi-Braslavsky, in: Eretz Israel, 6 (1960), 168–73 (Heb. sect.); idem, in: Tarbiz, 32 (1962/63), 174–9.

[Simha Assaf]