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Benveniste, Sheshet ben Isaac ben Joseph


BENVENISTE, SHESHET BEN ISAAC BEN JOSEPH (also called "Perfect de Pratis "; c. 1131–1209), Spanish financier, physician, and poet; grandson of Sheshet ha-Nasi of Barcelona. In his youth, Benveniste entered the service of the count of Barcelona. Subsequently, he served the kings of Aragon Alfonso ii and from 1196 Pedro ii as physician, translator into Arabic, political adviser, and diplomatic envoy. He also took an active part in the fiscal administration, and received certain state revenues in return for loans to the royal treasury. Like the nobility of the kingdom, Benveniste was exempted from taxes and enjoyed legal immunity from the jurisdiction of both the crown authorities and the local Jewish community. He received a royal grant of privileges on the basis of which he regulated the affairs of the Barcelona synagogue. His signature in Hebrew figures on official documents. Benveniste apparently had a wide knowledge in many subjects. He wrote Hebrew poetry, was in touch with Muslim scholars, knew general history, and wrote medical works still preserved in manuscript. Benveniste regarded the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides as the basic authority on halakhah and vigorously championed the latter's philosophical views. *Benjamin of Tudela and Judah *Al-Ḥarizi, who met Benveniste in Barcelona, praise him highly. He was a patron of poets and scholars, such as *Isaac b. Abba Mari, and Joseph *Ibn Zabara, who dedicated to him his Sefer ha-Sha'ashu'im.


Baer, Spain, 1 (1961), 91, 100; D. Kaufmann, in: rej, 39 (1899), 62–63; Marx, in: JQR, 25 (1934/35), 406–7.

[Zvi Avneri]

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