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Daniel ben Saadiah Ha-Bavli


DANIEL BEN SAADIAH HA-BAVLI (known as Daniel ibn al-Amshata ; fl. c. 1200), Babylonian talmudist. Daniel was head of the "third yeshivah" in Baghdad when *Benjamin of Tudela was there c. 1170. In 1193 he was appointed "segan ha-yeshivah" ("vice president of the academy"), under *Zechariah b. Berachel. Some time later, after the death of his teacher *Samuel b. Ali ha-Levi (1193–94), he moved to Damascus. There he served as a preacher, his sermons making a profound impression. Judah *Al-Ḥarizi, who heard him there in 1220, praised him (Taḥkemoni, 46). Like Samuel b. Ali ha-Levi, he waged a bitter campaign against Maimonides' philosophical views. Forty-seven of his criticisms of Mishneh Torah and 13 of Sefer ha-Mitzvot, which he sent to Maimonides' son Abraham from Damascus in 1213, were published, together with Abraham's answers, in Birkat Avraham (1859), and with the Arabic original in Ma'aseh Nissim (1867). Much of his criticism of Maimonides' Sefer ha-Mitzvot is included in Naḥmanides' criticism of the same book. Daniel also wrote a commentary on Ecclesiastes, in which he again violently criticized Maimonides' views, though not mentioning him by name. When Abraham was urged by several rabbis to excommunicate Daniel, he refused to do so, both because of Daniel's distinction and because of his own lack of objectivity in the matter. The Maimonists finally prevailed upon the exilarch *David b. Samuel of Mosul to place Daniel under the ban. Eventually Daniel recanted his views.


Abraham b. Moses b. Maimon, Milḥamot ha-Shem, ed. by R. Margaliot (1953); Graetz-Rabbinowitz, 5 (1897), 40ff; Poznański, in rej, 33 (1896), 308–11; idem, Babylonische Geonim im nachgaonaeischen Zeitalter (1914), 120–1; Mann, Texts, 1 (1931), 401–11; D.J. Silver, Maimonidean Criticism and the Maimonidean Controversy (1965), index.

[Abraham David]

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