Moses ben Ḥanokh

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MOSES BEN ḤANOKH

MOSES BEN ḤANOKH (d. c. 965), Spanish rabbi. The principal source for the biographic details of this famous scholar is the story of the *Four Captives told by Abraham *Ibn Daud in his Sefer ha-Kabbalah (The Book of Tradition, ed. by G.D. Cohen (1967), 63–69). This story tells how R. Moses' wife cast herself into the sea in order to escape from her captor, how he was sold as a slave at Cordoba and redeemed, and how his erudition resulted in his becoming recognized as rabbi of the community. But, according to sources which have since been discovered, this story seems to be unacceptable. It would indeed seem that R. Moses probably came from southern Italy. It is quite possible that he was indeed taken prisoner on a sea journey at the time he traveled to Spain, because a maritime war was then being waged between the Umayyad caliphate of Spain and the Fāṭimid kingdom of North Africa. In any case, it seems that R. Moses arrived in Spain during the 950s and became rabbi of Cordoba. He enjoyed the protection of the minister *Ḥisdai ibn Shaprut, who by coordinating the policies of Abd-al-Raḥmān iii (912–961), the Umayyad caliph of Cordoba, sought to make the Jewish population of Spain independent of the Jewish center in Babylonia. R. Moses headed the yeshivah, which had many pupils, and also answered halakhic questions which were addressed to him from other towns. His responsa were regarded by his contemporaries as authoritative and no less valuable than the responsa of the Babylonian geonim. Many were included in the collections of geonic responsa, such as Sha'arei Ẓedek (Salonika, 1792), Ge'onei Mizraḥ u-Ma'arav (ed. by J. Miller, Berlin, 1888), and some were quoted by the *rishonim, particularly by the author of "Ha-Ittur," R. *Isaac b. Abba Mari of Marseilles. His responsa in a German translation were collected by J. Miller. A responsum attributed to Moses, the Gaon of Sura, is in fact by Moses b. Ḥanokh. From the time of Moses b. Ḥanokh the practical dependence of Spanish scholars upon Babylonian scholars ceased in everything connected with halakhah and custom. In addition to his outstanding erudition, his great humility and exceptional modesty left a deep impression on his contemporaries. He was succeeded by his son *Ḥanokh.

bibliography:

Ashtor, Korot, 1 (19662), 155–9, 289–90; G.D. Cohen, in: paajr, 29 (1960/61), 55–131: M. Margolioth, Hilkhot ha-Nagid (1962), 6–8: S. Abramson, R. Nissim Ga'on (Heb., 1965), 307; J. Miller, Siebenter Bericht ueber die Lehranstalt fuer die Wissenschaft des Judenthums in Berlin (1889), 3–4, 8–10.

[Eliyahu Ashtor]

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