Sheluḥei Ereẓ Israel

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SHELUḤEI EREẒ ISRAEL

SHELUḤEI EREẒ ISRAEL (Heb. "emissaries of Ereẓ Israel"), the name for messengers from Ereẓ Israel sent abroad as emissaries to raise funds. During the patriarchate after the destruction of the Second Temple, emissaries were sent in groups (tj, Hor. 3:7, Pes. 4:8); sometimes a father and a son were sent together. The senders of these emissaries were usually the heads of the Ereẓ Israel religious administration, or its communities. During Roman rule the sender was the patriarch. With the cessation of the patriarchate in 429 c.e. the sending of emissaries ceased, but was renewed after the Arab conquest of Ereẓ Israel in the 630s, when the emissaries were sent by the geonim and the heads of the academies. In general, emissaries did not act on behalf of two towns at the same time, an exception being Shabbetai Baer, who was sent (1674) from *Jerusalem, *Hebron, and *Safed. Usually a single emissary was dispatched on a mission, but at times two were sent, as in the case of Joseph b. Moses of Trani and Abraham Shalom iii who went to Istanbul in 1599, while occasionally two emissaries, an Ashkenazi and a Sephardi, were sent. The *Azulai, *Israel, Navon, and Meyuḥas families perennially provided emissaries.

There were several kinds of deeds and letters that the emissary needed on his journey:

(1) Iggeret kelalit ("general letter"), the most important of the emissary's letters, was a lengthy and detailed document written on parchment, mainly in ornate style. It contained a request for financial support with a detailed description of the town's troubles as well as its virtues. The letter was signed by the rabbi, the dayyanim, and the other important members of the community. The letter was always written in Hebrew, but from the 18th century some emissaries translated it, or its most important points, into the language of the locality to which they were sent, sometimes even printing it.

(2) Iggeret li-nedivim ("letter to philanthropists"), directed to individual philanthropists, being merely an abridgment of the general letter.

(3) Shetar ko'aḥ harsha'ah mishpati ("power of attorney"), a widespread custom was that the emissary received power of attorney from his senders, giving legal force to his demands as an accredited agent to collect the contributions.

(4) Shetar tena'ei ha-sheliḥut ("deed of terms of the mission"), deed to confirm the conditions stipulated between the emissary and his principals concerning the former's salary and expenses to be deducted from the funds raised. On his return the emissary was required to present an account of the income and expenditures of his mission. From the 17th century it was customary to give the emissary one-third of his income, and in exceptional cases only one-quarter.

(5) Shetar pitturin ("bill of nonliability"), deed freeing the emissary from every liability imposed upon him by his senders, with the aim of giving confidence to future emissaries.

(6) Pinkas ha-sheliḥut ("account book of the mission"), account book of the mission which every emissary took with him. The heads of the donor communities, as well as individuals, noted in the pinkas the amounts they gave. On the one hand the account book served as the emissary's evidence of the contributions he collected in each place, and on the other as propaganda in the places to which he was going. In most cases the communities' leaders briefly repeated the contents of the emissary's letter of appointment in their notes, sometimes stressing that the amount given was the result of a special effort because of their love for Ereẓ Israel. The emissary entered his expenses in the pinkas, and on returning home he delivered it to the community which sent him, doing this to attest the veracity of his accounts. The pinkas also served as a guide for future emissaries, to help them in arranging matters at the time of their mission. Ereẓ Israel emissaries frequently reached remote communities, despite the numerous dangers surrounding them. Many of the emissaries left written impressions of their missions, only some of which are extant. The pinkasim and descriptions of the missions, providing information on the number, occupation, habits, etc. of the members of the communities, are of considerable historical importance, particularly in the case of remote communities where no other records are extant. The most important of such works include Ḥ.J.D. *Azulai's Ma'gal Tov ha-Shalem (1934), the diary of his travels during two missions (1753 and 1773) for Hebron, and Jacob *Saphir's Even Sappir (1866), on his mission from Jerusalem to Egypt, Yemen, and the Far East in the late 1850s.

From the *Mamluk period until the Turkish conquest in 1517, a few emissaries were sent on behalf of the yeshivot of Ereẓ Israel. From the second half of the 16th century missions were executed in the name of the town or the community, and by the first half of the 17th century a gradual consolidation of a permanent system of missions from the three holy cities, Jerusalem, Hebron, and Safed (referred to as YaḤaẒ), began to take place. Each of the three cities regularly sent its own emissary once every few years to each of the mission regions. The emissary was called sheli'aḥ kolel, or sheli'aḥ kolelot, the latter designation serving as an indication that he was sent on behalf of the entire population of the town. From 1740 Tiberias – after being rebuilt – also joined this group. At first the heads of the Diaspora communities insisted that emissaries not be sent separately for each Ereẓ Israel community, an exception being made in the case of the Ashkenazi and Italian communities of Safed and the Ashkenazi community of Jerusalem, which were allowed to send their own emissaries to their countries of origin. Special dispensation was given to these communities in order to encourage immigration from their countries of origin. From 1777, authority was given to one Jerusalem institution, the kabbalist yeshivah Bet El, also called the yeshivah or community of the Ḥasidim (the pious), to send emissaries regularly. At times, temporary permission was granted an institution or yeshivah whose economic plight was serious to send its own special emissary. One Jerusalem rabbi, Yom Tov *Algazi, authorized Jerusalem emissaries to collect special contributions in the course of their mission for a personal need, namely, to redeem a child from captivity. Missions of a temporary nature were also common in localities other than the four towns. From the beginning of the 19th century the communities began to act separately, each sending its own emissary to maintain its institutions. This phenomenon eventually brought an end to the missions (see below). The Karaite community of Jerusalem also sent emissaries to the members of its community in the Diaspora. The first such emissary (from the middle of the 17th century) known by name was David b. Joshua ha-Ḥazzan.

From time to time private emissaries, due to personal poverty and severe economic plight, left Ereẓ Israel to collect contributions. They were provided with letters of recommendation signed by the heads of the yishuv, being similar in form, and at times also in content, to those borne by the emissaries, but in them the emissary's troubles were stressed. From the 18th century such individuals who obtained these letters were called sheliḥim le-aẓmam ("emissaries on their own behalf"). At first the emissary was sent to a particular country or a group of adjacent countries, but the region of the mission was not restricted; sometimes the emissary was permitted during the course of his journey to determine the extent of the region of his mission, being guided by his desire and the prevailing conditions.

Gradually more precise regions of activity were determined. In the 17th century there were already four mission regions: Turkey, including Syria, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean islands; Frankia, including Italy, France, Germany, and later also Poland and Lithuania; Maghreb, North Africa; and Arbistan, including Persia, Iraq, Kurdistan, Afghanistan, and Bukhara. Emissaries were also sent to Egypt, the Yemen, and India. The duration of the emissary's stay in the locality of his mission was not fixed. In general he used his own discretion, and its length depended upon the needs, possibilities, and prospects of collecting the maximum amount of money. Sometimes its duration was determined by his health, or whether or not he was able to adapt himself to harsh and unpleasant conditions in the country of his mission. In general the mission did not last longer than three or four years, but there were occasional emissaries who stayed ten years and more. Sometimes an emissary was sent two or three times to the same country. During their travels emissaries were exposed to all kinds of hardships that at times endangered their lives. Some died during their mission or in consequence of it. Some were robbed by highwaymen, taken captive, or imprisoned on the charge that they were spies. Of the 850 known emissaries, 85 died during their journey or in the locality of their mission. The ability and greatness of the emissary did not necessarily stem from his own personality but chiefly from his principals, i.e., as a consequence of the authority in Ereẓ Israel in whose name he spoke. The heads of a number of communities were accustomed to receive the emissary with royal splendor, song, and praise. In Oriental countries he stayed in most cases at the home of one of the wealthy members of the community, while in European lands the community hired accommodation for him. Sometimes the heads of the community compiled poems in his honor, as Moses *Zacuto was accustomed to do.

Emissaries who died during their mission received the honor that was their due; they were eulogized fittingly by the rabbis of the communities and kinot were recited for them. In Oriental countries it was customary to exaggerate in praise of the emissaries and ascribe miraculous deeds to them. There were messengers who pretended to be emissaries of Ereẓ Israel, particularly in Ashkenazi countries where they did not know the customs of Ereẓ Israel and did not recognize the florid signatures of its scholars. When such deceit was revealed, it gave rise to doubt regarding the motives of many emissaries. An additional occurrence that caused a decline in the honor accorded the emissaries, though indeed unusual, was the rivalry between the emissaries of different towns when they met in one place. At times there were serious frictions between them. Some emissaries, who were not treated with honor because of this, demanded that they be treated properly not for their own sake but for the honor of Ereẓ Israel. As a result there were instances of emissaries who scolded communities where they were not treated in a dignified manner. If they found no other way to gain their ends, they made use of the power of ḥerem, which was proclaimed in Jerusalem in front of the Western Wall. Megillat Ahima'aẓ (ed. by B. Klar (1944), 18–19) mentions a story from the tenth century about a Jerusalem emissary in Venosa, in southern Italy, where one of the worthies of the community, the well-known paytan*Silano, scoffed at the emissary. The latter related the incident to his principals in Jerusalem and they excommunicated Silano.

Historical Survey

After the destruction of the Second Temple Vespasian substituted a fiscal tax for the half-shekel paid by the Jews for Temple sacrifices, which was called *fiscus Judaicus. In the anarchy of the third century this tax ceased to be collected and world Jewry was prepared to give toward the maintenance of the courts of the patriarch (*nasi) in Ereẓ Israel. The patriarchs also used these funds to maintain the academies and needy students. Like the half-shekels in former times, these contributions, later called aurum coronarium, were collected annually. To collect them the patriarchs on occasion dispatched distinguished emissaries. Equipped with a letter of authorization (igra di-ykar; Aramaic, "letter of honor") from the patriarch Judah (c. 230–286), Ḥiyya b. Abba (late third century) visited the communities in Syria and Rome. He was the first recorded professional Jewish fund raiser; his letter read: "We are sending you our emissary, a great man who is to be treated as ourselves" (tj, Ḥag. 1:8, 76d, Ned. 10:10, 42b). In describing the emissary Joseph of Tiberias, who converted to Christianity, a detailed description of the rank of the emissary and his functions is transmitted by Epiphanius (one of the Church Fathers in the fourth century): "This Joseph is regarded by them as one of the notables, for those who are called emissaries take their places after the patriarch. They sit together with the patriarch and can frequently discuss matters with him both by day and night in order to inquire and obtain counsel from him, and they put before him halakhic words from the Torah … [The patriarch] sent him with letters to Cilicia, and when he arrived there he collected from every town in Cilicia all the tithes and contributions of the Jews of the province … Since he was an emissary, for this office is so called by them, he was very severe … he expelled and removed from their offices many of the members of the synagogue: laymen, priests, elders and readers…" In talmudic sources the collection of money by emissaries is called migbat ḥakhamim ("collection of scholars"; tj, Hor. 3:7). From the second half of the fourth century the Roman emperors became envious of the money of the emissaries, which at times reached enormous sums, and when the office of patriarch was abolished in 429, the sending of emissaries was explicitly prohibited by the emperors Theodosius ii and Valentinian. The sending of emissaries was later renewed, and in the eighth century two emissaries of Ereẓ Israel are known to have been active in Venosa in the south of Italy; it is not certain whether they were sent from Jerusalem or Tiberias. The tombstone on a Roman grave found in this city states that the dead maiden was the only child of a distinguished family and that she was eulogized by two emissaries and two rabbis. In the second half of the ninth century an emissary is known to have come to this city from Jerusalem and preached there every Sabbath (Megillat Aḥima'aẓ, ed. by B. Klar (1944), 18–19).

In the second half of the tenth century a Jerusalem emissary named R. Jonah ha-Zaken b. R. Judah ha-Sefaradi is mentioned as having been sent to distant lands. He is the first emissary referred to by name after the close of the Talmud. His letter as emissary for 977 or 987 is also extant, and it contains all the components of the letters of the 16th-century emissaries and their successors. In the first half of the 11th century the two sons of the Gaon*Solomon b. Judah traveled as emissaries of the Ereẓ Israel yeshivah. During this period emissaries went with two aims: to maintain the central Torah foundation, i.e., the yeshivah and its scholars, and to ease the heavy burden of taxation imposed upon the Jewish community in the country. These funds were not however intended to maintain the poor, who were supported by the local charity of Ereẓ Israel. On the other hand, the emissaries of Tiberias were sent out to raise funds to maintain the poor flowing into the town, who called themselves meyasserim ("sufferers"), since a not inconsiderable number of the poor were among the sick who came to bathe in its healing waters.

The first known emissary from the Mamluk period was Jacob, who was sent by the yeshivah in Acre of *Jehiel b. Joseph of Paris in the second half of the 13th century. He took a list of the graves of the ẓaddikim (righteous men) in Ereẓ Israel with him as propaganda. There are no other emissaries from the 13th and 14th centuries who are known by name. *Isaac b. Sheshet Perfet (the Ribash) alludes to a Jerusalem emissary to Spain in about 1390 (Responsa, no. 508). In the 15th century the Jewish population in Jerusalem grew through immigration from Italy, Franco-Germany, and Oriental countries, many of whom were poor, and there was need to collect donations on their behalf outside Ereẓ Israel.

From the beginning of the Ottoman period (1517), the sending of emissaries continued to increase and take on a permanent character (more or less along the lines mentioned above). Among the Ereẓ Israel emissaries of this period were those who are generally considered its most distinguished scholars: Bezalel *Ashkenazi, Moses *Alshekh, Joseph of *Trani, Yom Tov *Ẓahalon, Nathan *Spira, *Hezekiah da Silva, and Ḥayyim Joseph David Azulai. At times immigrant scholars, whose influence on the communities of their native countries was great, were sent. A number of scholars are also known to have feared to immigrate to Ereẓ Israel lest they be required to return to their country of origin as emissaries, e.g., *Benjamin ha-Kohen of Reggio. Suitable persons from among the scholars could not always be found to carry out missions, and then men of inferior standard were used. Sometimes this resulted in the choice of unworthy persons who embezzled the funds collected. In 1629 opposition to the emissaries was heard for the first time from the heads of the Italian community of the island of Corfu. In their letter to the heads of the Jerusalem community they informed them that they no longer wanted emissaries to visit as the great expense involved in this swallowed up most of the money; they assured the leaders that they themselves would take care to transmit the contributions to their agent in Venice.

The leaders of the Jews of Amsterdam succeeded in 1824 in abolishing the sending of emissaries not only to their own town but also to all the communities of Western Europe. They further resolved that there should be a permanent center in Amsterdam for the Ereẓ Israel contributions from all the communities in the West. The institution that centralized the contributions was called Ḥevrat Terumat Kodesh ("Society for Holy Contributions"); however, this name was quickly forgotten and it became known as Pekidei u-Mashgiḥei ve-Amarkelei Ereẓ Israel ("Officers, Overseers, and Treasurers of Ereẓ Israel"). Ẓevi Hirsch Lehren was the head of the central fund for many years. Following its establishment, a similar one was founded in New York in 1832, Ḥevrat Terumat ha-Kodesh. The leaders of the Ereẓ Israel yishuv accepted this arrangement with pleasure, even though their spiritual independence was restricted as many matters were dictated to them by the Amsterdam center. From time to time an emissary was sent in spite of their express commitment to refrain from doing so. Lehren firmly prevented these emissaries from operating in Western Europe. The Venetian community also followed the lead of Amsterdam, but its center did not succeed in collecting a reasonable sum of money, and in 1863 a pamphlet was printed in Trieste containing letters from the heads of the four holy towns with a request that the new regulation be reexamined and rescinded. The scholars gave assurances that the sending of emissaries would be conducted in an orderly and honorable manner. Thus, the organization of emissaries retained its special character only in Amsterdam.

Activities in the Diaspora

The function of the emissary in the later centuries may be defined as (1) activities for Ereẓ Israel, and (2) for the communities of the Diaspora.

activities for ereẒ israel

The Collection of the Contributions. The emissary strove to obtain the maximum contribution from the communal fund. He then turned to the philanthropic members of the community, although not every community permitted him to turn to its members. In some communities, however, the rabbis encouraged individuals to make a separate contribution as distinct from the other contributions of the community. In some communities in Italy and in Amsterdam the rabbis placed at the disposal of the emissary one or two patrons who guided and counseled him, and taught him how to carry out the collection, as well as to whom to turn with requests for separate contributions. In many communities it was customary to collect donations on certain days of the year or on special celebrations. Sometimes this took place during the calling up to the reading of the *Torah. The funds were centralized in the hands of a treasurer called the gabbai Ereẓ Yisrael ("Ereẓ Israel collector"), or pekid Ereẓ Yisrael ("Ereẓ Israel officer"), from whom the emissary received the money. Every important community had some religious trust (hekdesh) on behalf of Ereẓ Israel. In some communities it was customary to impose fines on transgressors for the benefit of Ereẓ Israel. In the important communities there were special funds called Kuppot ("Funds") or Ma'ot ("Monies") Ereẓ Yisrael.

Over the years special funds were added for each of the four holy towns, and even for their different institutions. The Karaites also had funds in their communities, which were called Im Eshkaḥekh ("Lest I Forget Thee") or Zikkaron Im Eshkaḥekh ("A Reminder Lest I Forget Thee"). The division of the contributions in Ereẓ Israel was made in accordance with a definite system fixed by mutual agreement, as each of the four towns sent emissaries abroad. At the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th centuries they divided the funds into 24 parts: Jerusalem took seven, Safed ten, Hebron three, with the other four going to others. At that time Tiberias was in ruins. With the growth of the populations of Jerusalem and Hebron and the decline of Safed's, the share of the former in the division was larger. Thus, in 1670 Jerusalem took 12 parts, Safed eight, and Hebron four. This division lasted until 1740, when Tiberias was resettled and its part in the division was fixed once more. At the beginning of the 19th century the funds were divided into 28 parts: Jerusalem took 11 parts, Safed seven, Hebron six, and Tiberias four. At times, when the situation in Ereẓ Israel was bad and they could not manage with the contributions, the heads of the Diaspora communities put a special tax on their members for the benefit of Ereẓ Israel – in Venice in 1601, in Istanbul in 1727. Similarly, indirect taxes were placed on certain goods in Istanbul in 1763. The half-shekels donated on Purim were also devoted to Ereẓ Israel.

A special collector was appointed in each community whose duty was to supervise the donations. In Oriental countries the supervisors were generally appointed by the emissaries or the heads of the Ereẓ Israel communities. When the mission was completed, the head of the community confirmed in writing the sum of money given to the emissary. The emissary also left proof (in the communal pinkas) in the hands of the head of the community that he had received this amount (see below). At times some emissaries also accepted donations from Christians, as did the kabbalist Nathan Spira of Jerusalem in 1656–60, but there were scholars who held that according to the Torah it was forbidden to accept funds from Christians. When asked about this, Moses *Ḥagiz declared it permissible, and a number of emissaries in the 19th century are known to have taken money from Christians. Some of the contributions were transmitted to Ereẓ Israel by way of local centers. From the 17th century such centers existed in Venice, Leghorn, Istanbul, Amsterdam and Lvov (Lemberg). At the beginning of the 19th century one was also established in Vilna. Venice was the center of the funds of Italy in Europe; Leghorn chiefly those of North Africa, but also of Europe; and Amsterdam chiefly those of Western Europe. The funds from Poland which were contributed at the *Council of the Four Lands were centralized in Lvov and transmitted from there by way of Istanbul, which was the most important center as it was the one nearest to Ereẓ Israel and the capital of the Ottoman government. Donations from the Turkish communities and the Balkans, as well as those from Eastern Europe (see above), were transferred to Istanbul. There were also smaller centers in Vienna, Prague, and Frankfurt on the Main.

Propaganda Methods

The emissaries used the general letter (see above) to help raise donations. There were also special letters to philanthropists and homilies in praise of Ereẓ Israel generally, as well as of the town assigned the emissary. The emissary was accustomed to preach on the first Sabbath of his arrival in the community and in practice his work commenced with this. Sometimes he brought with him some soil from the holy land for the communal worthies, drawings of the holy places and the graves of the ẓaddikim (pious men), or scrolls of Esther and amulets from Ereẓ Israel. An important medium utilized for publicity was the printing of various books about Ereẓ Israel, whether compiled by themselves or others, in order to awaken the readers' love for Ereẓ Israel and interest in its affairs. The books included descriptions and illustrations of holy places and the graves of ẓaddikim in Ereẓ Israel, descriptions of travels to Ereẓ Israel, geographical descriptions of the country, maps, etc. Sometimes the emissaries printed books describing the immediate events which had given rise to their mission, among them Ḥorvot Yerushalayim (Venice, 1636), by anonymous authors, describing the difficult conditions of *Jerusalem in 1625; Zimrat ha-Areẓ (Mantua, 1745) by Jacob *Berab (iii), describing the resettlement of Jews in Tiberias in 1740; and Korot ha-Ittim (Vilna, 1840), a detailed description of the riots against the Jews of Safed during the revolt of the fellahin against Ibrahim Pasha in 1834, and of the Safed earthquake in 1837. Similarly, many propaganda books were published describing the virtues and the praise of Ereẓ Israel. Additional propaganda media were poems and piyyutim in praise of Ereẓ Israel which the emissaries circularized in the localities of their activities.

activities for the communities of the diaspora

The emissary's mission to the Diaspora had another side. It also aimed at bringing the Jews of the Diaspora nearer to the affairs of Ereẓ Israel. This found expression in the spiritual influence of the emissaries, who regarded themselves as bound to teach and guide the exiles in spiritual matters. Sometimes the emissaries were asked by the exiles to make decisions in matters of minhagim and halakhah that they could not decide themselves. The emissaries had already begun to make improvements in the communities and to give halakhic decisions during the era of the patriarchate, when the messengers of the patriarch were accustomed to appoint the heads of communities and the supervisors of communal arrangements. This trend in affairs continued in effect until the missions came to an end. The emissary drew this power not simply from his personality but by virtue of the authority of Ereẓ Israel and of the great Torah scholars who were the signatories of his letter of appointment. For this reason, care was taken in general to dispatch men of stature. As a result the exiles looked upon rabbinical ordination by the Ereẓ Israel rabbis as something grand and superior. Thus, many rabbis of communities were accustomed to request confirmation of ordination for their pupils. Similarly, authors among the exiles who wanted to raise the public stature of their works attempted to win commendations for them from the emissaries. The Torah novellae (ḥiddushei Torah) and sermons of the emissaries found attentive listeners, and works by Diaspora scholars include novellae and homilies heard from the emissaries.

Ereẓ Israel Emissaries and Spiritual Movements

From the 15th century Ereẓ Israel emissaries played an important role in Jewish spiritual movements. Their influence in the outbreak of the spiritual storms flowed from their very personalities but their main influence stemmed from their authority as Ereẓ Israel emissaries. The Kabbalah, which developed and was consolidated in Safed in the 16th century, was spread throughout the Diaspora by kabbalist emissaries who circulated and published during their missions their own works and those of others. Thus, for example, Gedaliah *Cordovero, son of the well-known kabbalist Moses *Cordovero, organized the distribution of his father's writings, whose two works were published during Gedaliah's mission to Italy in 1582. Similarly, Abraham *Almosnino, the Jerusalem emissary to Frankfurt on the Main, brought tikkunim and sodot there in 1592 which he had copied from the manuscript of one of the pupils of R. Isaac *Luria. To a large degree it was the Ereẓ Israel emissaries who circulated reports of the existence of the ten tribes and thereby aroused waves of redemption yearnings and the will to immigrate to Ereẓ Israel. In 1527, the well-known Jerusalem kabbalist Abraham b. Eleazar ha-Levi transmitted information about the ten tribes and about indications of redemption and return in the wars of the *Beta Israel (Falashas) in Ethiopia. Similarly, the 17th-century letter of Baruch Gad concerning the Benei Moshe (sons of Moses) is remarkably like the story of *Eldad ha-Dani (and hence may be regarded as a forgery). The Benei Moshe complain about their bad conditions and desire with all their might to immigrate to Ereẓ Israel. The letter made a great impression on the Jerusalem inhabitants, who wished to restore the city to its former glory, as well as upon the Jews of Eastern Europe, who were severely agitated after the massacres of 1648–49 and were in need of consolation, hope, and salvation. Gad's letter was distributed by Ereẓ Israel emissaries throughout the Diaspora for a period of 250 years and was republished 15 times. A number of the emissaries attempted during their travels to discover traces of the ten tribes, some acting on behalf of their principals and others on their own behalf, e.g., *David D'Beth Hillel, one of the pupils of Elijah Gaon of Vilna.

The Shabbatean movement, which agitated most communities of Europe from the beginning of the second half of the 17th century, was also bound up with the emissaries, who played a decisive role in it. The pseudo-messiah *Shabbetai Ẓevi was sent as an emissary from Jerusalem to Egypt in 1664. *Nathan of Gaza was the son of the emissary Elisha Ḥayyim b. Jacob Ashkenazi. There is no doubt that the latter in the course of his work as an emissary – after Shabbetai Ẓevi had revealed himself – helped to spread the teaching of his son. Moreover, the scribe of Shabbetai Ẓevi, Samuel of Primo, went abroad in 1662 as a Jerusalem emissary. Later, he undoubtedly made use of his contacts with the communities of Turkey in order to spread his belief in Shabbetai Ẓevi. There were also emissaries who opposed Shabbateanism. When Ḥiyya b. Joseph Dayyan was in Italy in 1673 as an emissary, he censured Shabbateanism. Shabbetai Baer acted in a similar manner when he was on a mission in 1674.

The Ereẓ Israel emissaries also took an active part in the Nehemiah Ḥiyya *Ḥayon polemic at the beginning of the 18th century. Solomon *Ayllon, rabbi of Amsterdam who was a Safed emissary, was among his chief supporters, while Moses Ḥagiz, when an emissary of Jerusalem in Europe, was one of his most vigorous opponents. The Ereẓ Israel emissaries also played an important role in the polemic which was stirred up in 1729 around the personality and writings of Moses Ḥayyim *Luzzatto and continued for a number of years, giving rise to a controversy in the Jewish world. The Ereẓ Israel emissaries intervened in the dispute which centered around Jacob *Emden and Jonathan *Eybeschuetz. Abraham Israel, Jerusalem emissary in 1752, defended Eybeschuetz, and the document the latter received from him carried great weight and strengthened his stand. Emden was enraged by the Ereẓ Israel emissaries in particular and by its inhabitants in general, accusing them of Shabbatean tendencies.

The emissaries also played an important part in the Reform polemic which commenced in 1796. It started when in the same year a false report was published in one of the French newspapers that the Jews of Italy were preparing to introduce religious reforms. This grew from a rumor that a large convention of Italian rabbis in Florence had resolved to abrogate various prohibitions. Several Italian communities were stirred that same year to deny this report, and they published a special pamphlet. The moving spirit in all these activities was provided by several Ereẓ Israel emissaries who were then in Italy; among the signatories were Ḥayyim Baruch Saporta, the Safed emissary, and the Hebron emissaries Ephraim *Navon, Judah Leon, and Ḥayyim J.D. Azulai, and others. This pamphlet was also published the same year in Hamburg in German translation. In the Reform controversy only two emissaries, Ḥayyim Judah Ayash and Judah Aaron Takli, sided with the reformers when an organ was introduced into a Hamburg synagogue in 1817. Abraham b. Eleazar ha-Levi, the Jerusalem emissary in 1819, Nathan *Amram in 1842, and Israel Moses *Ḥazzan in 1845 came out against the religious reforms.

The emissaries helped in no small degree in the spread and revival of the Hebrew language, preaching mainly in Hebrew during their missions. In many of the communities the leaders thought of appointing the emissaries as rabbis or dayyanim, and many agreed to the proposals, accepting the appointment on completion of their mission. In times of need they used their influence to assist the communities in material matters, generally in isolated communities in the East. In 1750 in Nikopol, Bulgaria, the Safed emissary Ezra Malki helped mobilize financial support from Polish Jews to rebuild the synagogue named after Joseph Caro, which was in ruins. Cruel treatment of the Jews of Irbil, Kurdistan, in 1867 moved the emissaries to approach the Alliance Israélite Universelle to intervene on the community's behalf. In 1871, after the riots of their rebellious Kurdish neighbors, the Jerusalem emissary in Kurdistan, Raḥamim de la Rosa, and the heads of the community signed the emissary's letter requesting financial help. Ereẓ Israel emissaries also helped greatly in freeing the "black" Jews in *Cochin, India, who were regarded by their white brethren as slaves.

Emissaries' Activities on Their Own Behalf

As there was no printing press in Ereẓ Israel from the end of the 16th to the 19th centuries, the emissaries utilized their missions to the Diaspora as Ereẓ Israel emissaries to publish their own works. During their missions they succeeded in distributing their works, thus bringing greater honor upon themselves. In practice, most of the works of Ereẓ Israel scholars were published by their authors during their missions, or during the mission of another emissary. A number of the emissaries compiled their works during their travels, e.g., H.J.D. Azulai compiled his Shem ha-Gedolim. Usually the emissary referred to his adventures in the introduction. The distribution of the emissary's works at the time of his mission undoubtedly brought him financial profit, and there were even cases in which the emissary on his return was requested to divide his profits with his principals, as the publication of his works and their distribution was made possible primarily as a result of the mission. While on their missions, some emissaries made frequent visits to libraries to examine expensive and rare books and manuscripts. Some Ereẓ Israel emissaries regarded their missions simply as a means of livelihood and were sent numerous times to various countries.

Historical Importance of the Emissaries

The sending of emissaries played an exceptionally important part in Jewish history in general, and in the history of Jewish settlement in Ereẓ Israel, in particular. It constituted one of the most important chapters in the history of Ereẓ Israel between the destruction of the Second Temple and the birth of Zionism, and in the history of the relations between the inhabitants of Ereẓ Israel and the Jews of the Diaspora. The letters of the emissaries and documents about them are important sources for understanding the events that occurred in their times and the causes that gave rise to their missions. Their importance is also considerable for the histories of the communal institutions in Ereẓ Israel. On the other hand, the account books of the emissaries constitute an important source of the history of the communities in which they worked and of the relations between the communities and Ereẓ Israel. The modern scholar Abraham *Yaari compiled with great diligence and extraordinary erudition everything known (and not known until his research) on this subject in his monumental work Sheluḥei Ereẓ Israel (1951).

bibliography:

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[Abraham David]