Arḥa, Eliezer ben Isaac

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ARḤA, ELIEZER BEN ISAAC (d. 1652), Ereẓ Israel kabbalist and physician. Arḥa was born in Safed, but moved to Hebron early in the 17th century to officiate as rabbi of the community. He studied with R. Abraham Azulai who wrote Or ha-Ḥammah ("The Light of the Sun") with Arḥa's assistance. According to R. Yom Tov Ẓahalon, Arḥa served as dayyan in the bet din in Gaza. It is possible that he was there only during the 1619 epidemic although he was certainly in Gaza in 1626. His name is also mentioned in an inscription on the walls of the reputed grave of Aaron on Mount Hor. In 1623 Arḥa and other scholars of Jerusalem recommended to the wealthy Jews of Constantinople the publication of Abraham Azulai's Zohorei Ḥammah. R. Isaiah *Horowitz appointed Arḥa executor of his estate. In about 1630 Arḥa had to leave Hebron and lived a wandering life. In 1648 he was in Jerusalem. His son Isaac Arḥa also figured among the scholars of Hebron. Eliezer Arḥa wrote extensively, but none of his works was published. The manuscripts extant include a volume of responsa (Ms. Oxford Mich. 291), sermons (Ms. Jerusalem 80 1300), a commentary on Midrash Rabbah, written between 1599 and 1639 in Hebron and Jerusalem, and a commentary on Ein Ya'akov. It is doubtful whether the annotations on Maimonides ascribed to Arḥa are actually his. In Mavo le-She'elot u-Teshuvot Rabbeinu Eliezer ben Arḥa (1978) Ezra Batzri has published 35 responsa of Arḥa; they were taken from a manuscript (Oxford 29 i). These responsa throw light on the relations between Jews and non-Jews in Israel. One of them discusses whether Jews are permitted to make clerical vestments for priests and another whether they are entitled to lend them money on interest, both of which Arḥa permits.


M. Benayahu, in: Yerushalayim, 2 (1955), 151–4, 174–80; I. Ḥasida, in: J.L. Maimon (ed.), Koveẓ ha-Rambam (1955), 164–79.

[Yehoshua Horowitz (2nd ed.)]