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BENAYAH , family of scribes living in San'a, Yemen, in the 15th–16th century. Between 1450 and 1483 the patriarch of the family, benayah ben saadiah ben zechariah ben benayah ben oded, known as Ben Merjaz, copied dozens of books, most of which were copies of the Bible (tījān, sin. tāj). In the margins of the pages of these copies there was the *mesorah and at the beginning the Maḥberet ha-tījān, which included the rules of reading. These copies, however, did not include the Aramaic targum of *Onkelos or the Arabic tafsīr of *Saadiah, as was customary in ancient Yemenite copying. Benayah's inscriptions are considered to be accurate and concise, which make him the most important of Yemen's scribes. His children were also scribes: david (1484–1510), joseph (1486–1508), saadia (b. 1489), the daughter miriam (!), and the grandchildren me'oded and avigad, the sons of David. Y. Sappir, who visited Yemen in 1859, tells of the beautiful and accurate copying done by Miriam. At the end of the manuscript she wrote: "Do not bring punishment upon me if you discover mistakes since I am a nursing mother, Miriam the daughter of Benayah the scribe" (Massaʿ Teiman, 1945, 174; the manuscript was never found). The sons of Benayah also copied the haftarot, prayer books which preserves the ancient Yemenite tradition, and other books such as the Kitāb Mi'yār al-'Ilm of Abū Ḥāmid al-*Ghazālī by Sa'adia. The connection between the tradition of the scholars of Tiberian tradition and the writings of the Benayah family was a subject of debate among scholars in 1961. According to an ancient tradition, Benayah copied over 400 texts. Today 33 manuscripts of the Benayah family are documented. Most texts are owned by public libraries and a few by private collectors (Rigler, 1991, 163–65). The texts were usually ordered by wealthy men, and after a while were donated to synagogues. In the colophon of a copy of the Early Prophets from 1475 Benayah dedicated a poem honoring the man who had ordered the book, a certain Avraham (Ratzaby, 1975). The Benayah family controlled the copying profession in San'a, which was the most important Jewish center in Yemen between 1460 and 1540.


Y. Sappir, Massaʿ Teiman (ed. A. Ya'ari, 1945), 173–74; Haaretz, May 26, June 2, 16, July 14, 1961; Jan. 5, Feb. 2, 1962; Y. Ratzaby, in: Sinai 76 (1975), 273–76; M. Beit Arié and C. Sirat, Oẓar Kitvei Yad Ivriyyim (1972–86), 3 vols; M. Rigler, in: Y. Ratzaby Jubilee Volume (1991), 161–79.

[Yosef Tobi (2nd ed.)]