Alashkar, Moses ben Isaac

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ALASHKAR, MOSES BEN ISAAC

ALASHKAR, MOSES BEN ISAAC (1466–1542), talmudist and liturgical poet. Alashkar, who was born in Spain, studied in his youth with R. Samuel Valensi in Zamora. In 1492, when the Jews were expelled from Spain, Alashkar sailed to North Africa. On board he was kept below deck with other Jewish refugees, and nearly drowned when the ship foundered. He wrote a poem, "Be-Mah Akaddem," inspired by this experience. Alashkar settled in Tunisia, but when the Spaniards landed in North Africa in 1510 and part of the Jewish population made prisoner, Alashkar fled. He resettled in Patras, Greece, where he established a yeshivah. Alashkar later immigrated to Egypt, and in 1522 became dayyan in Cairo, where he distinguished himself as a talmudist. His halakhic decisions were widely cited; he also corresponded with most of the outstanding rabbis, e.g., Elijah *Capsali, *Levi b. Ḥabib, and Jacob *Berab. Alashkar was involved in halakhic disputes with Samuel b. *Sid and Jacob Berab. In a poem and in a letter to Levi b. Ḥabib, Alashkar complained about the hostility toward him in Cairo. The dissensions eventually led to his departure to Jerusalem, where he died.

Alashkar was well versed in Arabic, and studied the responsa written by earlier scholars, especially Maimonides. He also studied Abraham b. Moses b. Maimon's al-Kifāya and Samuel b. Hophni ha-Kohen Gaon's al-Aḥkām. That Alashkar knew Kabbalah is apparent from his kabbalistic explanations cited by Samuel Uceda in his Midrash Shemu'el, and in several of Alashkar's liturgical poems. Alashkar, however, was opposed to the diffusion of secret lore and mysticism.

Though generally conciliatory and moderate in polemics, occasionally Alashkar severely criticized halakhic statements that seemed untenable to him. Once he even accused his close friend, Levi b. Ḥabib, of making a statement contrary to common sense (Responsa, no. 41). Similarly, he rejected opinions by Joseph *Colon, *Jacob b. Asher, and Joseph *Albo. The editors of Alashkar's responsa mitigated or deleted several statements directed against Berab. Alashkar's responsa, 121 in number, were first published in Venice in 1554. Appended to the responsa are five liturgical poems by Alashkar, printed also with two others in Y. Zarki's anthology Yefeh Nof (Sabionetta, 1575).

bibliography:

Graetz, Hist, 4 (1949), 391; 5 (1949), 392; Landshuth, Ammudei, 21 ff.; S.A. Horodezky, Le-Korot ha-Rabbanut (1914), 57–70; Frumkin-Rivlin, 1 (1928), 57–59; Davidson, Oẓar, 4 (1933), 443; Rosanes, Togarmah, 1 (1930), 196f.

[Samuel Abba Horodezky]