David ben Abraham Maimuni

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DAVID BEN ABRAHAM MAIMUNI

DAVID BEN ABRAHAM MAIMUNI (1222–1300), *nagid of Egyptian Jewry and grandson of *Maimonides. David was only 15 years old when his father *Abraham b. Moses b. Maimon died (1237) and in spite of his youth, he was appointed *nagid a few months later. A few years afterward opposition arose against him, possibly because of his youth, and he was deposed. In 1252 he was restored to his position, received government recognition, and remained in office for several decades. David had an extensive knowledge in all branches of Jewish literature and it seems that he was also competent in medicine. He maintained a correspondence with the leading scholars of Spain, Syria, and Italy, and is the author of three known works, which are extant in manuscript. The largest of them is a collection of commentaries on the weekly portions of the Torah and haftarot in Arabic. The commentary on the first portion of Genesis was published in Arabic under the title Midrash Rabbenu David ha-Nagid (Alexandria, 1914) and in Hebrew translation under the title Midrash David (Jerusalem, 1947). The commentaries on the books of Genesis and Exodus were translated into Hebrew as Midrash Rabbi David ha-Nagid (Jerusalem, 1964–68).

*Jacob b. Hananel ha-Sakili translated some of the sermons and inserted them in his Torat ha-Minḥah. These commentaries became popular among Egyptian Jewry and during many generations were read in synagogues. Some scholars have expressed doubt as to whether David was really the author. Nothing, however, in these sermons refutes the tradition that he is their author apart from the fact that he makes no mention of Maimonides being his grandfather. The writer follows the ideas of Maimonides (and moreover also quotes the Zohar, being probably the earliest known author to do so). It can be assumed that these sermons were delivered by David and were later recorded by one or several members of his audience. On the other hand, they probably include additions of the transcribers. The second work attributed to David is a commentary on Avot which was published in Arabic (Alexandria, 1901 and Cairo, 1932) and translated into Hebrew by Ben-Zion Krynfiss (Sefer Midrash David, Jerusalem, 1944). A commentary on the apocalypse, Nevu'at ha-Yeled asher Ḥazah Naḥman… ("The Prophecy of the Child Naḥman"), is also attributed to him and is said to have been written for the rabbis of Barcelona. He also wrote homilies to the Book of Lamentations under the title Midrash Eikhah which were published by A.I. Katsh in Sinai, 65 (1969), 251–80. In his old age some enemies slandered him to the governor of Egypt and David was compelled to flee to Acre, then under Crusader rule. In 1285 the physician al-Muhadhab Abul-Hassan b. al-Muwafak was appointed nagid in place of David. Abraham *Zacuto relates that David issued a ban against his slanderers and that many of them died (Sefer Yuḥasin ha-Shalem, p. 219). After his arrival in Acre, David was involved in a violent controversy with the conservative kabbalists who wanted to forbid the study of Maimonides' writings. The leader of this faction was Solomon *Petit, who had come to Palestine from France. David requested that the community leaders of the Oriental countries intervene. In consequence, in 1286–88, R. *Jesse b. Hezekiah, the exilarch of Damascus, R. *David b. Daniel, the nasi of Mosul, and *Samuel ha-Kohen b. Daniel Abu al-Rabi'a, the rosh yeshivah of Baghdad, issued a ban against anyone who insulted the memory of Maimonides. R. Solomon b. Abraham *Adret, the rabbi of Barcelona, also intervened and finally settled the controversy. In the interim David's supporters in Egypt succeeded in changing the government's attitude toward him and in about 1290 he returned to Egypt and was reinstated as nagid. The poet Joseph b. Tanḥum ha-Yerushalmi wrote enthusiastic poems on the occasion of his return, but David, tired from his troubles, appointed his son Abraham to share his duties. In a document from 1291 they jointly signed as negidim. David died in Egypt and his remains were brought to Palestine and interred in Tiberias near the tomb of Maimonides.

bibliography:

Ashtor, Toledot, 1 (1944), 117–43; A.I. Katsh (ed.), Midrash Rabbi David ha-Nagid (1964), introd. to vol. on Genesis; idem, in: jqr, 48 (1957/58), 140–60; Goitein, in: Tarbiz, 34 (1964/65), 236–53; Hurwitz, in: Sinai, 59 (1966), 29–38.

[Eliyahu Ashtor]