Thursday, May 24, 2012

A list of educated Jews throughout history.

The amazing has a fascinating and rare pamphlet called Reshimos Anshei Mofes published in Rausnitz in 1838 (supplied by the YIVO library, its owner was the great bibliographer Benjacob)

It's author, Joseph Flesch, intended it as a compilation of "mighty scholars, old and new, who distinguished themselves by their commentaries on the Bible, as great grammarians, Hebraists and experts in other languages ... who grasped Talmudic and various other branches of knowledge." In doing so he hoped to show the panoply of great Jewish scholars throughout the ages. Arranged alphabetically, by first name, and also chronologically - his first entry, under aleph, is Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus amd the last, under aleph, is Rabbi Abraham Geiger. He tries to list everyone he can think of. Thus, there is Ptolemy (who spearheaded the LXX, he thinks), Spinoza and Salomon Maimon, alongside various Tannaim and posekim. Each entry is accompanied with a few words or lines of biography, explaining why they are on the list. For obvious reasons, the more recent ones (18th and 19th century) are the most interesting.

Oirignally I thought it might be interesting to type out his complete list of names, only arranged chronologically. I got this far, and then thought that I have better things to do:

73 R. Eliezer ben Hyrcanus
80 Onqelos Ha-ger
173 R. Eliezer Ha-qalir (that's right)/ or 970, he adds, according to R. S.J. Rapoport
219 R. Oshaiah
900 Adonim/ Dunash ibn Labrat
950 Menachem ben Saruk
1037 R. Aharon ben Asher
1050 Avicena
1105 Avraham b. Yihye
1174 Avraham ibn Ezra
1180 Avraham ben Dior
1180 Avraham ben Chisda
1200 Avraham ben David, Rabad
1200 Ibn Rushad
1238 R. Eliezer of Worms
1247 R. Eliezer ben Nathan Ashkenazi
1250 R. Abraham Maimonides
1286 R. Aharon Halevi of Barcelona
1286 R. Isaac Tirnau
1290 R. Aharaon ben Yoseph of Kairwan
1305 R. Asher ben Yechiel
1350 R. Aharon ben Elijah of Cairo
1400 R. R. Elijah Bashyatzi
1463 R. Abraham Bibago
1490 R. Elijah Delmedigo
1509 R. Elijah Mizrahi
1509 or 1523 R. Abraham de Balmes

so instead I will list some of  interesting people he gives in his chain-of-tradition. In no particular order:

- R. Shimon ben Yochai is the "baal ha-Zohar"
- He lists R. Isaac Bernays, only for some reason he calls him R. Shlomo Bernays, and is under the impression that he is the "Chacham of the Sephardim in Hamburg."
- On the last page he adds some young rabbis and scholars who are educated and making positive impressions on the youth. Among them future Chief Rabbi of Great Britain "Adler, darshan and mochiach in Hannover) and Frankel of Dresden.
- You have R. Pinchas Halevi Horowitz  (Haflaah) but not a contemporary rabbi, R. Moshe Sofer, his student. But you do have R. Moshe Kunitz.
- For some reason he decided that Maimonides' father's name was Yoseph, and that Maimon was the family name.

There are several other examples of the maskilic chains of tradition. Yitzchak Baer Levinsohn included one in his Teudah Be-yisrael, and R. Samson Rafael Hirsch's uncle Moses Mendelssohn Frankfurter of Hamburg also wrote one, although it was only published in 1872, in his Pene Tevel.


  1. Replies
    1. Who said anything about jewish? He was a liberal muslim.

    2. I called the post "Educated Jews..." and Avicenna is included in this pamphlet. So it's a fair question!

  2. Of course not. He has 3 or 4 exceptions. It's possible he thought he was Jewish, although I doubt it. It wasn't yet discovered that Avivcebron was really R. Shlomo ibn Gabirol, so I don't think he was going in that direction. More likely included him because of his importance in the Jewish philosophical tradition. On the other hand, he doesn't include Aristotle. I think he was just a quirky man, Joseph Flesch.

  3. Ptolemy, too wasn't Jewish.

    Anyway, does he include me on his list? If not, I'm insulted.

  4. That's Averroes.

  5. No smart Jews between 219 and 900? Sheesh. Nothing but blockheads, for 700 years.

    1. It was a bad time for education in many parts of the world, not just for Jews. (Dark Ages, hello.) And a very bad time for preserving written documents. There were probably a lot of educated people in that period we've never heard about because before their learning could spread, a big herd of Visigoths came charging through and used things manuscripts as torches to burn towns down along with all the manuscripts in them.

  6. Wow. How Forward 50-ish. I always thought list-making was a modern/pop culture thing.

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