Meshwi (or Mishawayh, a form of Moses) Al-ʿUkbarī

views updated

MESHWI (or Mishawayh, a form of Moses) AL-ʿUKBARĪ

MESHWI (or Mishawayh , a form of Moses) AL-ʿUKBARĪ (second half of the ninth century), Jewish sectarian of Ukbara, near Baghdad. Later *Karaites refer to him as Meshwi Ba'albaki, since his followers emigrated from Babylonia to Syria in the tenth century. No details are known of the life of Meshwi, founder of a sectarian movement whose members are known as Misḥawayhites. No writings of his are known, and his opinions and teachings have been preserved only in the writings of his opponents. His teachings differed in many ways from Rabbinic and Karaite Judaism. This is particularly evident in his calendar computations. According to Meshwi, the first day of Passover must always fall on a Thursday, Shavuot on a Sunday, and the Day of Atonement on a Saturday. As he claimed that the day spanned from dawn to dawn, his followers observed the Sabbath from the dawn of Saturday to the dawn of Sunday. He also claimed that no sacrifices were offered at the Tabernacle on Saturdays, interpreting Numbers 28:10 to mean that the burnt-offering must be sacrificed on Friday for Saturday. Many deviations from tradition were ascribed to him by his opponents: in his commentary on Leviticus Saadiah Gaon refers to Meshwi's permitting the fat of animals which were not sacrificed at the altar to be eaten. The 11th-century Karaite scholar, Tobias b. Moses, attacked him as a heretic for declaring many pentateuchal laws void. Meshwi may have been influenced by his contemporary, the heretic Hiwi al-Balkhī. Remnants of the Mishawayhites survived until the 12th century; *Benjamin of Tudela, who met them in Cyprus, relates their heretical manner of observing the Sabbath, and Abraham *Ibn Ezra, in his commentary on Exodus 16:24 and in his epistle on the Sabbath, refers to their interpretation of Genesis 1:5 and their observance of the Sabbath. It is striking that the interpretation of *Samuel ben Meir (Rashbam) of Gen. 1:5 corresponds to that of Meshwi.


Ankori, Karaites in Byzantium (1959), 372–417 and index; S.A. Poznański, in: rej, 34 (1897), 161–91; L. Nemoy, in: huca, 7 (1930), 330, 389–90; Y. Rosenthal, in: yivo-Bleter, 21 (1943), 79.

[Judah M. Rosenthal]

About this article

Meshwi (or Mishawayh, a form of Moses) Al-ʿUkbarī

Updated About content Print Article