Benveniste, Abraham

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BENVENISTE, ABRAHAM

BENVENISTE, ABRAHAM (1406–1454), "court rabbi" in Castile mentioned in crown documents dating from about 1430. The young king, John ii, handed over the government of Castile to two noblemen, who appointed Benveniste, a native of Soria, to restore its shaky fiscal administration. Benveniste acted as tax farmer general of the realm and organized the levy of the taxes and customs duties with the assistance of subordinates, mainly Jews. He also supplied the army with money and grain. In 1432, at the request of the Jewish communities of the Castile, the king appointed Benveniste chief justice and tax superintendent of Castilian Jewry, with the title of Rab de la Corte. The same year he convened the representatives and scholars of the Castilian communities in Valladolid, and framed a number of ordinances designed to strengthen the status of Spanish Jewry, which had been undermined by the recent tragic events. These enactments were directed toward maintaining religious instruction, the fair administration of justice in Jewish courts, equitable tax apportionment, defense against informers, and curbs on extravagance in dress and entertainment. Benveniste was conservative in his approach to religious problems. He opposed the rationalist philosophical trends widespread among Jewish scholars, and strove for the rehabilitation of Jewish communal life through strict observance of the precepts of Judaism.

bibliography:

Graetz, Hist, 4 (1949), 228–9, 280, 341, 351; Baer, Urkunden, 1 pt. 2 (1936), 305–6, 309; Baer, Spain, index; Neuman, Spain, index; Finkelstein, Middle Ages, 103, 349.

[Zvi Avneri]

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