NAGID (Heb. נָגִיד, pl. נְגִידִים; Ar. raʾīs al-yahūd), the head of the Jewish community in Islamic countries (except under*Abbasid rule where Jewry was led by the *exilarchs). In the Middle Ages, beginning with the tenth century, there were negidim in *Spain, *Kairouan, *Egypt, and *Yemen; in *Morocco, *Algeria, and *Tunisia there were negidim from the 16th to the 19th centuries.
History of the Institution of the Nagid
When the Abbasid caliphate was split up and independent kingdoms came into being, the new rulers found it necessary to appoint a leader for each non-Muslim community. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān i (751–788), founder of the *Umayyad emirate in Spain, appointed a Visigoth prince to head the Christian community, and subsequent leaders of the Christians were appointed from among Christian courtiers or candidates proposed by the community. The duties of the head of the Christian community consisted of representing the community before the authorities, ensuring the payment of taxes, supervising community life, and administering the judiciary, which applied Visigoth law. In a similar manner, the heads of the Jewish community were appointed from among persons holding high rank at the court of the caliph or sultan, such as vizier, secretary, or treasurer; most, however, were physicians. Their task was to see to it that the Jewish community fulfilled the duties imposed on it (such as observing the Covenant of *Omar); they also appointed dayyanim and other community officials. Thus, the office of nagid came into being to serve the purposes of the Muslim state, but its existence was also in the interests of the Jews, for these *nesi'im (the term nagid was first applied in the beginning of the 11th century) would intervene in their behalf to obtain better conditions or to bring about the cancellation of anti-Jewish decrees. The archetype of the institution of nagid was the Babylonian exilarch, with certain differences. The negidim did not claim Davidic descent, their appointment being based on their own achievements and their standing with the authorities, rather than their blood line, and they did not, as a rule, derive their income from taxes imposed on the community, as did the exilarchs. The similarity of the duties of the two institutions seems to account for the legend mentioned by *David b. Solomon ibn Abi Zimra (Responsa no. 944) and Joseph b. Isaac Sambari (Neubauer, Chronicles, 1 (1887), 115–6), according to which the office of nagid in Egypt was created by a member of the Babylonian exilarch's family who had been invited to Egypt by the Abbasid wife of the Egyptian ruler; D. Ayalon (Neustadt, see bibliography) has shown that there is no historical truth to this legend, for there is no record of any daughter of an Abbasid caliph marrying a Fatimid caliph, and, as stated, the negidim did not claim Davidic descent.
Among those known to have held the office of nagid in Spain are Ḥisdai ibn *Shaprut, physician and statesman at the courts of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān iii (ruled 912–61) and his son al-Ḥakam ii (961–76). Ibn Shaprut did a great deal for the Jews in his own country, as well as for Jewish communities in other parts of the world; Dunash b. *Labrat refers to him as "judge." Jacob ibn *Jau, who succeeded Ibn Shaprut, was, according to Abraham ibn *Daud, appointed head of the Jewish community by Manṣur ibn Abi ʿAmir, the guardian of Hisham ii (976–1013); the latter "issued him a document placing him in charge of all the Jewish communities from Sijilmassa to the river Duero… [The decree stated] that he was to adjudicate all their litigations, and that he was empowered to appoint over them whomsoever he wished and to exact from them any tax or payment to which they might be subject… he placed at his disposal… the carriage of a vicegerent. Then all the members of the community of Córdoba assembled and signed an agreement [certifying] his position as nasi, which stated: 'Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also" (Abraham ibn Daud's The Book of Tradition, ed. by G.D. Cohen (1967), 69). Ibn Jau was in office for only one year, and was removed by the vizier al-Manṣur. The source quoted above illustrates the duties of the office, the manner in which the appointee was chosen by the authorities, and the appointee's acceptance by the community. Both Ibn Shaprut and Ibn Jau fulfilled the duties of nagid, but neither bore the title. Two Spanish negidim who did hold the title were Samuel ibn Nagrela (Samuel *ha-Nagid; 993–1056) and his son Jehoseph *ha-Nagid. Samuel was the treasurer and secretary of King Ḥabbus of Granada; S.D. Goitein (see bibliography) assumes that the title nagid was awarded to him by *Hai Gaon. His son, who also served as the king's secretary, was killed in 1066; according to Goitein, he was awarded his title by Daniel b. *Azariah, nasi and Gaon of Palestine from 1051 to 1062. Both negidim received their titles in recognition of the aid they extended to the yeshivot, both in Palestine and in Iraq (Babylonia).
During the same period, there was a separate Jewish leadership in Kairouan, Tunisia. The first official nagid who was appointed by the Zirid emir was ʿAbu Isḥaq Ibrahim ibn ʿAta (Natan), who served as court physician to the emir Badis (966–1016) and his son al-Muʿizz (1016–62), the rulers of the eastern Maghreb (Tunisia and Algeria). The appointment apparently was made during the period of the Fatimid al-Ḥākim bi-Amri'llah (1010–1221), at which time the opportunity was grasped to free themselves from Fatimid rule. It may be assumed that even before this there was local Jewish government in Kairouan, but without formal independent status. Ibrahim, like the Spanish negidim, extended aid to the Babylonian yeshivot, in addition to attending to the needs of his own community, and earned the praise of Hai Gaon, who in 1015 awarded him the honorary title of negid ha-Golah ("nagid of the Diaspora"). He died in about 1020 and was succeeded by Jacob b. Amram, who was referred to by such titles as negid ha-Golah, sar ha-Segullah ("the chosen prince"), and pe'er ha-'edah ("pride of the community"). There is no record of his early activities and the last report about him dates from 1041. He helped the Kairouan community in times of need, sent contributions to the yeshivot in Palestine and Babylonia,
and earned the praise of the exilarch Hezekiah b. *David. He was also in contact with the Jewish community in Sicily. It is probable that there was one more nagid in Kairouan before the community ended in the 1160s.
In Egypt the office of nagid remained in existence for over 500 years; there are extant documents which contain a wealth of details on the negidim and their authority and acts. Some scholars accept the view that the first nagid of Egyptian Jewry was *Paltiel, an Italian Jew who was brought to Egypt by al-Muʿizz, the Fatimid conqueror of Egypt (969), and was part of the ruler's officialdom. The sole source for this information is the *Ahimaaz Scroll; there is an assumption that the Shiʿite Fatimids, who decreed themselves Imams (caliphs), did not wish to depend in any way upon the Sunnite Abbasid caliphs, preferring to appoint a separate head for the Jews under their ruler rather than have them acknowledge the authority of the Babylonian exilarch, an official who was part of the Abbasid hierarchy. There are various theories concerning the true identity of Paltiel, the most recent being the one expressed by M. Gil (see bibliography), according to which he was Fadl ben Salih, a chief commander of the Fatimid army. Another theory is B. Lewis's (see bibliography), according to which he was Musa b. Eleazar, al-Muʿizz's physician. Mann (Egypt, 1920, see bibliography) was the first to suggest this theory of Paltiel's being the first nagid on the Fatimids initiative.
The Genizah documents contain no proof of the existence of the office of nagid in the first half of the 11th century. On this basis some scholars, such as Goitein (1971, see bibliography), Cohen (1980, see bibliography), and Gil (1992, see bibliography), wrote against Mann's theory. Today there are certain scholars, such as Sela (1995, 1998, see bibliography) and Bareket (1998, 1999, see bibliography) who are re-adapting the old Mann theory. The first negidim for whom details are found in the Genizah are Judah b. Saadiah, who was a court physician, held the post of nagid in the 1060s and the 1070s, and was referred to as "nagid of the People of God," and his brother *Mevorakh, who was nagid from about 1079 (with temporary interruptions) to 1110. Mevorakh was the physician and adviser of al-Malik al-Afdal, the acting ruler of Egypt, and was awarded no less than 14 honorary titles, some of which were typical of those used by the yeshivot in Babylonia and Palestine. For a while, Mevorakh was removed from office, a result of the machinations of David b. *Daniel, a member of the house of the Babylonian exilarch who had succeeded in gaining the governor's support for his claim to the leadership of Egyptian Jewry. Such competition for the office occurred on several occasions, up to the 13th century. As a rule the challenge came from members of the Babylonian exilarch's house or the Palestinian yeshivah.
the institution of nagid
The nagid was appointed by the authorities after receiving the agreement of prominent members of the community. The choice, however, was not made in a democratic manner. Rather than the official representatives, it was the influential members of the community who recommended the candidate. Sometimes the vizier was bribed to recommend a particular person; this happened, for example, in the middle of the 12th century, in the case of*Zuta. The appointment of the nagid did not depend upon the consent of the exilarch or the heads of the yeshivot, and the mention of such consent in the existing documents must be regarded as a mere formality. At times it was the son of the deceased nagid who was appointed in his father's place, while on some occasions preference was given to a person who had achieved a prominent position at the ruler's court. Beginning with Abraham b. Moses b. *Maimon, the son of *Maimonides, the office became hereditary, and four of his descendants served as negidim, the last being David b. Joshua *Maimuni. From the end of the Ayyubid dynasty and throughout the Mamluk period, the office of nagid, or raʾīs al-yahūd, had the character of a permanent institution, whose functions were defined by the authorities. Several letters of appointment from the Mamluk period are extant which contain the provision that the raʾīs always be a Rabbanite and that he also be in charge of the *Karaites and *Samaritans. It was his duty to appoint a prominent Karaite as leader of that community, although the head of the Samaritans received his own letter of appointment from the government. According to Qalqashandi (d. 1418), the status of nagid was parallel in nature to that of the Christian patriarch, and like any person of official rank wore official dress, the khalʿa. The Arab chronicler Ibn Faḍl Allah al-ʿOmarī, whose work was written in 1340, tells about a nagid's letter of appointment in which his authority and functions were described as follows: consolidation of the community; administration of justice to the members of the community on the basis of its religious law; responsibility for matters of personal status – betrothals, marriages, and divorces; the right of excommunication; supervision of the observance of the commandments, according to the Law of Moses and the decisions of the rabbis; the duty to ensure compliance with the Covenant of Omar, especially the prohibition of constructing new synagogues, and the order concerning the wearing of garb different from that of the Muslims; supervision of synagogues and prayer services; grading the status of the members of the community (this apparently applies to tax assessment, for there were three different rates for the poll tax, depending upon a person's economic situation); and general responsibility for the maintenance of law and order by the community. Jewish sources, primarily Genizah documents dating from the Fatimid period and after, give further information on the wide range of the nagid' s duties and activities. He protected his community from oppression by government officials and interceded with the authorities for the cancellation of unjust and severe decrees. He served as arbitrator in cases of injustice, discrimination, and unfair economic competition; attended to the needs of the weak and the suffering; and tried to retrieve lost goods, rescue Jews from prison and captivity, and raise the ransoms required for such purposes. It was he who authorized the payment of tuition fees from the communal trust fund for the education of orphans and children of the poor (five such payment orders by a single nagid, Abraham b. Moses b. Maimon, were found in the Genizah). The nagid was not responsible for collecting the poll tax, but it was he who ensured the payment of the tax on behalf of the poor, when the authorities did not exempt them. He had his own officials through whom he supervised kashrut, ritual slaughter, and marriages. Decisions made by the various communities required his confirmation, and in general he supervised the community operations by means of the muqaddam, his personal representative to the local community. Although he was the supreme legal authority for the community, he did not actually function as a judge, but appointed dayyanim who sat on his bet din and handled legal conflicts; the court was known as the Great Bet Din and it was headed by the dayyan al-yahud. Legal documents such as marriage writs, divorce writs, and wills were issued "by the authority" of the nagid. According to Meshullam of *Volterra, who visited Egypt in 1481, the nagid's penal powers included the right to impose capital punishment (Massa Meshullam mi-Volterah, ed. by A. Yaari, 1948, 57), but it is doubtful whether the authorities did in fact grant him such power. Obadiah *Bertinoro, writing in 1487–88, states that the nagid was empowered by the caliph "to punish, imprison, and flog" anyone who opposed his will; this seems to be a more realistic description of the nagid's authority. He could also use excommunication and imprisonment in those cases where the prestige of his office was not sufficient to achieve compliance with his decisions. In the Fatimid and Ayyubid periods the negidim did not impose taxes for the maintenance of their office; usually they were wealthy court physicians and property owners, and also received gifts from members of the community. In the Mamluk period a change seems to have taken place, and according to the testimony of David b. Solomon ibn Abi Zimra marriage and divorce proceedings became subject to a fee, out of which the nagid would pay the scribe, while the rest would go into his own treasury. The honors accorded to the Egyptian nagid were similar to those of the exilarch. Thus, the reading of the weekly portion of the Torah would be preceded by an introductory recital in honor of the nagid, in which he was mentioned by name. Special Yizkor (i.e., memorial) piyyutim were composed to commemorate departed negidim. The conquest of Palestine by Saladin (1187) created the need for the appointment of a separate leadership for Jewish communities of Palestine and Syria, and the office of nagid of "Ereẓ Israel and Judah" was created. The names of two such negidim are known, both of whom served in the 13th century; Obadiah b. ʿUlah and Hillel b. Moses. Under Mamluk rule, Palestine had a deputy nagid, who was under the authority of the nagid of Egypt. As a rule the Egyptian negidim were chosen from local Jewish leaders. The last two negidim appointed under Mamluk rule, however, were from a family of Maghreb ḥakhamim: Nathan (or Jonathan) *Sholal, nagid from 1484 to 1502, who went from Algeria to Palestine but then moved to Egypt, and his nephew Isaac *Sholal, who was director of the Egyptian mint. Isaac founded a yeshiva in Jerusalem and attended to the needs of the city's scholars. In 1509 he and his bet din enacted an ordinance exempting religious scholars from all taxes, except for the poll tax. He was deposed from his office in 1517, when Egypt was taken over by the Ottomans, and died in 1524. Under Ottoman rule, two more negidim were appointed in Egypt: Abraham *Castro, who was also the director of the Egyptian mint, and Jacob b. Ḥayyim *Talmid, who was sent from *Istanbul to Egypt in order to take up the post. According to a report by Joseph *Sambari (Neubauer, Chronicles, 1 (1887), 116–7), Jacob Talmid became involved in a controversy with Bezalel *Ashkenazi, whereupon the Egyptian governor decided to abolish the office of nagid in Egypt. Henceforth, it was the ḥakham (chief rabbi) who acted as the representative of Egyptian Jewry before the authorities.
The existence of the office of nagid in Yemen may be deduced from fragmentary information contained in letters found in the Genizah and from inscriptions on Yemenite tombstones, both sources dating from the end of the 11th up to the beginning of the 14th centuries. The first nagid of whom there is knowledge was Japheth (Hasan) b. Bendar, apparently of Persian origin, who in a document dating from 1097 is referred to as a "prince of the communities." He and his descendants were residents of *Aden, were clerks for merchants, and dealt in the trade with India; they exercised some measure of control over the trade routes and the price of the transit goods which passed through Yemen on their way to Egypt. Japheth's son, Maḍmun, mentioned in letters from the period 1132–51, was granted the title of "nagid of the Land of Yemen" by the exilarch; he also maintained contact with the gaon Maẓliaḥ *ha-Kohen from Egypt and received an honorary title from him (in addition to six other titles of honor that he bore). In an official report of the bet din he is described as "appointed by the exilarchs and heads of the yeshivot over all of Israel and acknowledged by the respective rulers in the lands of the sea and of the desert"; the latter passage seems to imply that Maḍmun had agreements with the pirate chiefs who controlled the sea routes. His son Ḥalfon inherited the title of nagid and served from 1152 to 1172. During his lifetime there were two other negidim, R. Nethanel *al-Fayyumi (d. after 1164) and his son Jacob b. Nethanel *al-Fayyumi, who was in charge of the communities in central Yemen; the latter received Maimonides' famous Iggeret Teiman. There are reports of another nagid by the name of Maḍmun (he may be identical with Shemariah b. David), who served from 1202 to 1218. Three negidim are known from the first half of the 13th century: Maḍmun (apparently a descendant of the first Maḍmun mentioned above) and his sons, Halfon and Joshua. The title of nagid was also held by David b. Amram *Adani, author of Ha-Midrash ha-Gadol, who lived at the end of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th centuries, and may have been a descendant of the Maḍmun family.
In the Jewish communities of the Maghreb from the 16th to the 19th centuries the office of nagid was held either by prominent Jewish merchants or Jews who had close contacts at the ruler's court and served as interpreters and diplomatic agents. In rabbinic literature of the time, they are referred to as nagid me'ulleh ("most excellent nagid") or nasi. They differed from the medieval negidim in that they served only a single community, rather than a whole country, and were really rashei kahal. Some of them, however, extended their influence beyond the confines of their own community. They were elected by the prominent members of the community and in some cases also received an appointment from the Muslim ruler. They participated in the drafting of community statutes, and were authorized to impose corporal punishment and fines and report to the Muslim authorities any person violating community regulations. The negidim are frequently mentioned in the "Statutes of Fez" (Kerem Ḥemed, 2, 1871). In the 18th century their official title in Algeria was muqaddam, while in Tunisia and Tripolitania it was qāʾid.
spain: Dinur, Golah, 3 (19612), 128–68; H. Schirmann, in: Zion, 1 (1936), 261–83, 357–76; idem, in: jss, 13 (1951), 99–126; Ashtor, Korot, 1 (19662), 103–51; 2 (1966), 26–117. kairouan: J. Mann, in: jqr, 11 (1920–21), 429–32; Hirschberg, in: Zion, 23–24 (1958–59), 116–73; 25 (1960), 62; Hirschberg, Afrikah, 1 (1965), 152–61; S.D. Goitein, in: Zion, 27 (1962), 11–13, 156–65; idem, in: Tarbiz, 34 (1965), 162–82. egypt: A. Neubauer, in: jqr, 8 (1896), 551–5; E.N. Adler, ibid., 9 (1897), 712–20; D. Kaufman, ibid., 10 (1898), 162–4; R.J.H. Gottheil, ibid., 19 (1907), 500f., 528–32; Mann, Egypt, index; J. Mann, in: huca, 3 (1926), 303–5; A.N. Pollack, in: Zion, 1 (1936), 24–36; S. Assaf, ibid., 256–7; idem, Mekorot u-Meḥkarim (1946), 186–99; D. Neustadt, in: Zion, 4 (1939), 126–49; 11 (1946), 147–8; D.Z. Baneth, in: Sefer ha-Yovel li-Khevod… A. Marx (1950), 75–87; Ashtor, Toledot, 2 (1951), 28–30, 237–58, 448–54; E. Ashtor, in: Zion, 30 (1965), 139–47; S.D. Goitein, Sidrei Ḥinnukh (1962), index; idem, in: jqr, 53 (1962–63), 93–119; idem, in: Tarbiz, 34 (1965), 232–56; B. Lewis, in: Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 30 (1967), 177–81. yemen: J. Mann, in: huca, 3 (1926), 301–3; E. Strauss (Ashtor), in: Zion, 4 (1939), 217–37; Maimonides, Iggeret Teiman, ed. by A.S. Halkin (1952), Heb. introd., viii; Goitein, in: Sinai, 33 (1953), 225–37; idem, in: Bo'i Teiman, ed. by Y. Ratzaby (1967), 15–25. north africa: J.M. Toledano, Ner ha-Ma'arav (1911), 80, no. 25; G. Vajda, Un recueil de textes historiques judéo-marocains (1951), index s.v. Nagid; Hirschberg, Afrikah, index, s.v. Muqaddam, Negidim, Kaid. add. bibliography: kairouan: M. Ben-Sasson, The Emergence of the Local Jewish Community in the Muslim World (1996), 347–77 (Hebrew). egypt: S.D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society, vol. ii (1971), 23–40; M.R. Cohen, Jewish Self-Government in Medieval Egypt (1980); M. Gil, A History of Palestine, 634–1099 (1992), pars. 809–11; S. Sela, "Rashut ha-Yehudim," in: Mas'at Moshe (1998), 256–81; idem, "The Head of the Rabbanite, Karaite and Samaritan Jews," in: bsoas, 57 (1995), 255–67; E. Bareket, Fustat on the Nile; The Jewish Elite in Medieval Egypt (1999), 23–25; E. Bareket, "Rosh ha-Yehudim taḥat Shilton ha-Fatimim," in: Zemanim, 64 (1998), 34–44.
[Eliezer Bashan (Sternberg) /
Elinoar Bareket (2nd ed.)]
"Nagid." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 23, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/nagid
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