Ben Meir, Aaron

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BEN MEIR, AARON (early tenth century), scholar and rosh yeshivah in Ereẓ Israel. Aaron lived apparently in *Ramleh, and traced his descent to the former nesi'im ("patriarchs") of Palestinian Jewry. His relations with the *Karaites in Palestine were extremely strained. In about 920 he went to Baghdad to complain to the central authorities of the malicious Karaite attacks upon the Rabbanites. After his return, Aaron conceived the idea of strengthening the religious hegemony of Palestine, which had been weakened by the Babylonian yeshivot. To achieve this, Aaron attempted to restore to the Palestinians the sole authority to fix the calendar, as they had had until the middle of the ninth century. On Hoshana Rabba 921 he proclaimed on the Mount of Olives to all communities of Palestine and of the Diaspora that the months of Marḥeshvan and Kislev would be defective, i.e., consisting of only 29 days. As a result, Passover of 922 would fall on Sunday and the New Year of 922 would fall on a Tuesday instead of on the following Thursday as it would have done were these months to contain the full 30 days (see *Calendar).

This proclamation aroused the opposition of several scholars, notably of *Saadiah, who was on his way to Baghdad. The latter tried repeatedly to convince Aaron that there was no justification for opposing the Babylonian calendar calculations. Aaron stood his ground, however, and gave publicity to his proclamation. Fearing that the Jewish festivals might be celebrated at different times in different places, Saadiah addressed himself to the Diaspora communities warning them against acceptance of Aaron's proclamation, but he could not prevent a split. In 922 the Jews of Palestine, and, apparently, also those of Egypt, celebrated Passover two days before the Jews of Babylonia, fixing also the date of the following Rosh Ha-Shanah accordingly. This split caused considerable agitation throughout Jewry. References to it are to be found even in Syriac literature. Thus, the Syrian, Elias of Nisibis, wrote: "The year 309 [of the Hijra] began on the Sabbath, Iyyar 12, 1232 of the Seleucid era; in that year dissension broke out between the Jews of the West [Palestine] and those of the East [Babylon] with regard to the calculation of their holidays. The former fixed the New Year on a Tuesday and the latter on a Thursday" (Baethgen, Fragmente syrischer und arabischer Historiker (Leipzig, 1884), 84). The Karaite Sahl b. Maẓli'aḥ sought to prove from this controversy that the Rabbanite calendar calculations were altogether groundless.

The controversy between Aaron and his opponents on this issue continued for some time thereafter, ending in Aaron's defeat, and with it the failure of the attempt to strengthen the sole religious authority of the Palestinian scholars.


H. Malter, Saadia Gaon (Eng., 1921), 69–88, 409–19; Mann, Egypt, 1 (1920), 50–55, 61–66; 2 (1922), 49–57; Mann, Texts, 2 (1935), index; American Academy for Jewish Research, Saadia Anniversary Volume (1943), index; Abramson, Merkazim, 29 33; H.J. Bornstein, Maḥaloket Rav Sa'adyah Ga'on u-Ven Me'ir (1904), printed also in Sefer ha-Yovel… N. Sokolow (1904), 19–189.

[Encyclopaedia Hebraica]

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