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A DIRGE ON THE DEATH OF DANIEL GAON 
By B. Halper, Dropsie College. 

Few of the Hebrew manuscripts recently brought to 
light have yielded such a rich harvest of historical data 
as the Dlwan secured at Aleppo by Mr. Elkan N. Adler, 
of London, in 1898. 1 Poznaiiski's work Babylonische 
Geonim im nachgaondischen Zeitalter, in which an attempt 
is made to present a picture of Jewish life in Babylon 
during the centuries immediately after the so-called gaonic 
period, is to a large extent based upon this Dlwan. As 
early as 1856 Steinschneider published four poems by this 
poet from a fragment in the Bodleian Library. 2 Brody, 
too, published some specimens of this same Dlwan from 
a manuscript in the British Museum. 3 At that time the 
name of the poet could not be ascertained, and the con- 
jectures made need not be repeated here. By a careful 
study of Mr. Adler's manuscript, which contains 381 poems 
and probably represents a great portion of the entire 
Dlwan, Dr. H. Brody was enabled to find the name of the 
author : Eleazar b. Jacob. 4 Brody correctly interprets the 

1 See JQR-, XI, pp. 68a ff. ; Elkan N. Adler, Jews in Many Lands 
(Jewish Publication Society of America, 1905), p. 167. 

2 He-Halus, III, pp. 150 ft". 

3 Zeitschrift fur Hebraische Bibliographic, II, pp. 34-5. 
* Ibid., IV, p. 23. 

4" E e 2 



412 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

short poem addressed to Joseph al-Barkoli, 5 the first line 
of which reads : 

-b^ "'B'iif 103 •VB' yi?"l TAW 

f|t?v -raa vtft by npsr iaa ity 

' Behold the firmament of song which the meditations of 
Eleazar the son of Jacob have spread over the head of the 
nobleman Joseph! This line in itself is conclusive, and no 
further evidence is necessary. Brody's other proof, from 
a riddle in the Dlwan, tends to obscure matters rather 
than to clarify them. The riddle is about the name "IJJ&K, 
and, according to Brody, reads : 

innnsa in 5>a dni uve^l? b$ nw nw) 

frixppi iV>3 »3K Wn win tib OKI 

The first line is quite clear: a name whose beginning is 
God's name (?X) and whose end is 'the mother of all living* 
(that is Eve who is a ' help,' "VJJ ; see Gen. a. 18). But the 
second hemistich of the second line is obscure. Brody 
interprets this line as follows : ' If you do not know it 
(i. e. the name), I am the whole of it and the part thereof ; ' 
but he admits that the word ^?P'?' is unintelligible. His 
suggestion in note 4 that this word refers to "if, which is 
part of "ltypN.is far-fetched, as it necessitates the assumption 
that Eleazar b. Jacob had for a time been compelled to 
adopt Islam. This conjecture cannot be substantiated, and 
the poem upon which it is based is too fragmentary to 
admit of any definite conclusion. 6 Now as to the riddle, 
it is by no means certain that the word '^ is correctly 
vocalized. The hint thus given about the solution is un- 
usual : the reader who knows the author's name is actually 

5 Poem 1 16 in Adler's manuscript. 

6 See Zeilschrift fur Hebrdische Bibliographie, IV, p. 26. 



DIRGE ON DANIEL GAON — HALPER 413 

told the solution, while the one to whom the name is not 
known receives no additional information. It is possible 
that the author meant the word *?£ , and he may have had 
in mind an ingenious combination of a boat (or vessel, 
Arabic i-oT) and its parts. 

Nothing is known about this Eleazar b. Jacob, except 
that he flourished during the first half of the thirteenth 
century. This fact is definitely established by the poems 
addressed to his contemporaries. He has a dirge on the 
death of Abraham Maimuni who died 1237, while he seems 
to have known also Samuel b. 'AH, Gaon of Bagdad, who, 
according to Poznaiiski, 7 flourished about iaoo. Whether 
this Eleazar b. Jacob is identical with the one mentioned 
by Zunz in his Literaturgeschichte der synagogalen Poesie, 
p. 505, is a moot question. The identification seems obvious, 
though by no means conclusive. Both Brody and Poznaiiski 
entertain no doubt about it, but it should be stated that 
Zunz places his paitan in the fourteenth century. 

It is to be regretted that, despite the importance of this 
Dlwan, its publication has for some reason or another 
been delayed. Although twenty years have elapsed since 
it was brought to light, it still exists in proof and is 
accessible only to a few scholars. For the study of the 
fragment which I am herewith publishing, I have been able 
to make use of the poems inserted by Poznaiiski in the 
third appendix of his book 8 and of Brody's edition of the 
first 1 8a poems which Professor Alexander Marx was kind 
enough to lend me. This fragment, which was brought 
from Cairo in 1891 by Dr. Cyrus Adler, is now at the 
Dropsie College. In my review of Poznaiiski's book, 9 

7 Babylonische Geonim im nachgaonaischen Zeitalter, p. 36. 

8 Ibid., pp. 61-77. 9 JQR-, N. S., VII, pp. 416 ft. 



414 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

I gave a general description of this fragment, and hazarded 
the suggestion that the poem is by Eleazar b. Jacob, and 
that the Gaon whose death is lamented is Daniel b. Abi 
al-Rabi'. A careful study of the 183 poems has strengthened 
my conviction, and although I am unable to offer any 
positive and conclusive evidence, I should like to call atten- 
tion to the similarity of a few expressions occurring in the 
Diwan and in the fragment. Of course, it must at the same 
time be borne in mind that the author of the Diwan is 
a ' minor poet ', and both in phraseology and sentiment he 
imitates the older poets of the Spanish period. His de- 
pendence upon Samuel ha-Nagid and Moses Ibn Ezra is 
especially marked. This is no doubt due to the fact that 
these two poets were the most ' polished ' of that period, 
and it is poets of that nature that usually serve as models 
for imitators. But when due allowance is made for the 
imitated style, the general impression obtained from reading 
these poems would lead one to ascribe the authorship of 
this fragment to Eleazar b. Jacob. 

The resemblance between poems 4 and 5 of Adler's 
manuscript and this fragment is at once apparent on account 
of the same metre and rhyme employed in three of them. • 
Poem 8, line 5 has *|ft bs\ ni»n atf; ^S3. This should be 
compared with 11. 7, 8 of our fragment. Then the sentiment 
expressed in 1. 14 is frequently repeated in Adler's 
manuscript, as in poem 9, 1. 33 ; 10 poem 179, 1. 16 ; n 

10 bw p pjn ipbn w 

11 nvcdi p pjn npbn w 
nuDi nb tyonoa abin 



DIRGE ON DANIEL GAON — HALPER 415 

poem 180, 1. 18 ; 12 poem 203, 1. 20 13 (quoted by Poznaiiski, 

P- 75)- 

The last-named poem was composed on the death of 
a son of Daniel, and the author laments the fact that Daniel 
Gaon is no longer alive to punish the arrogant plagiarists. 14 
Now, from the poems addressed to this Daniel, it is obvious 
that our poet was an intimate friend of his, and it seems 
strange that there is no dirge on the death of this Gaon in 
Adler's manuscript. Accordingly our fragment supplies 
the missing link. The poems in that manuscript do not 
follow in a strictly chronological order (Brody altered the 
numeration; see Poznaiiski, op. cit., p. 10, note 1), and it is 
possible that this dirge was put at the end of the Dlwan, 
which part has not been found yet. 

The external aspect of this fragment offers a few 
interesting points for discussion. It is a narrow strip of 
parchment measuring 15 x 6\ inches (= 38 x 15.5 cm.). It 
was originally a marriage document, dated Fustat, Sunday, 
twenty-first day of Adar, 1374 (= 1063). The bridegroom's 
name is Jepheth the son of Nissim, and the bride is named 

due* fran ijn didn djji 

13 vnux Dy pyi ipi>n \t 
D^aip !>n meh vn ie>n 

14 Dnw •wiy ibdm 'o nnx 

ouivn j^d syyDD d.-t>jb 

nmx vn ncK in ^kj 

D*aaro win m nui 

DC 1CK 3pV» J1NJ ^W3 

on-iw iniD3 ovn jim ("• 13-15) 



416 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

Sitt al-Dar, 15 daughter of Isaac. 16 Subsequently this 
document was trimmed, the lower part being entirely 
cut off, and the blank side was used for writing down 
the dirge. That the document was written before the 
dirge is evident from the appearance of the fragment as 
well as from the consideration that a clean piece of parch- 
ment would be used for a marriage document. The dirge 
is written in a bold square character, but not by a pro- 
fessional scribe. This may be inferred from the nature 
of the writing as well as from the material employed. 
A professional scribe copying a Dlwan would naturally 
write in a codex, and would hardly use a stray piece of 
parchment with only one blank side. At first the possi- 
bility that suggests itself is that the dirge was copied as 
an exercise in penmanship. But this seems unlikely on 
account of the irregularity of the letters and the unevenness 
of the lines. Is it not possible that we have here an auto- 
graph of the poet? This fragment may have been used 
by him for the first draft of his poem which was afterwards 
given to a professional copyist to be incorporated into the 
Dlwan. This conjecture is to some extent supported by 
the circumstance that there are a few corrections in some of 



16 The meaning of this name is Lady, or Mistress of the House. JtO is 
in Egypt the vulgar pronunciation or contraction of ,-j^ „. See also Lane 
and Dozy, s.v. In Neubauer and Cowley's Catalogue of the Hebrew Manu- 
scripts in the Bodleian Library, vol. II, 1906, there are marriage documents 
in which the names iTIND?N DD (P 2807, 20) and ISa^K DD (P 2821, 
16 d) occur. These names have not been transliterated by the authors of 
that Catalogue. iTINDPN DD means Lady, or Mistress of Lords, and DD 
^3?N means Lady, or Mistress of the Village. 

16 It is of interest to note that in this document we have the spelling 
irOSO v "Wil, which proves that the 'traditional' pronunciation 'in is 
entirely wrong. 



DIRGE ON DANIEL GAON — HALPER 417 

the lines. 17 On the whole the writing gives the impression 
of being the work of an old man whose hand was trembling. 
This is especially evident in the last few lines. Now 
Eleazar b. Jacob must have been an old man at the time 
of Daniel's death, and probably did not survive him very 
long. 

The question now arises : where was Eleazar at the 
time when he wrote this dirge ? Brody takes it for granted 
that he lived in Bagdad. This assumption apparently 
lends support to the identification of this poet with Eleazar 
b. Jacob ha-Babli mentioned by Zunz. Now our fragment, 
which had been in T063 in Egypt and was discovered in 
that country in recent years, could not have been in Bagdad 
in the middle of the thirteenth century. This would there- 
fore seem to disprove my conjecture. But no matter 
where the author of this Diwan resided permanently, he 
undoubtedly was both in Egypt and Babylon, as he had 
a number of intimate acquaintances in both countries. As 
a matter of fact, Steinschneider, 18 without stating his 
reasons, says of this author: 'He lived at Alexandria, 
but travelled as far as Bagdad.' Even if this Eleazar 
bore the surname ha-Babli, it would be no conclusive 
evidence that his permanent residence was in Bagdad or 
Babylon. It would rather indicate that he was of Baby- 
lonian extraction but subsequently settled elsewhere. 

The manuscript is unvocalized except in sporadic 
instances where the pronunciation is liable to be mistaken. 
The lines are continuous and are not identical with the 
verses, that is to say, if a verse ends in the middle of a 
line, another verse is started in the same line. The ortho- 
graphy is not consistent. Thus vmoaro in line ibis plene, 
17 See below, notes 20, 34. IS JQR., XII, p. 115. 



418 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

while in line 3 a it is defective. The spelling D^K3 (line 7 b) 
should be contrasted with iYTTi (line 4 a) and rvrv (line 5 b). 
As I supplied the vowel-points, I did not deem it ad- 
visable to reproduce this orthographic inconsistency. In 
all other respects I followed the manuscript, and put my 
emendations in the notes. 

nnw win fix* "i'STis 

one* xby&m vfcyo t^'k 

» jars' vntoam iTiiam 

I * • T ; T ; T 

MQ'rnrnn n^y D3 n»m 

D»sna i>y D'??i33 la'iji 

d^im »bwi !?3i) wtftn wm 

*:"tt ; t : 

CKBin n»m mKEfi Dpi 

19 The metre is Wafir, which is a favourite with many of the mediaeval 
Hebrew poets. With very few exceptions all the poems in the Dlwan of 
Eleazar b. Jacob are written in this metre. 

20 In the manuscript the 3 is written above the D . 

21 For the expression like the rain of the clouds and similar phrases as 
metaphors for abundance or liberality see my essay 'The Scansion of 
Mediaeval Hebrew Poetry ', JQR., N. S., IV, p. 305. 

22 So it is in the manuscript with a vowel-point under the B. We 
should, however, expect the Kal pJHB' as in Prov. 5. 16, though the Hifil, 
too, is sometimes intransitive ; see Exod. 5. 13 ; 1 Sam. 13. 8 ; Job. 38. 34. 

23 It is so vocalized in the manuscript on account of the metre, but 
grammatically it should be DilSp, as it is in the absolute state. 

24 This plural of i"IKB is coined by the poet on account of the rhyme. 
In the Bible it is rilXQ (see Exod. 25. 26 ; 37. 13). 

26 This form is probably due to a curious misunderstanding of the word 
irnH occurring in Isa. 44. 8. The root iim obviously belongs to the 
tertiae He class, but the poet took it to be a geminate verb, and formed its 
passive participle DVflrn instead of D^fTj , the dismayed or terrified. 



DIRGE ON DANIEL GAON — HALPER 419 

omen *»vwm rvitinni 

' T ; - * t :- 

rninn «e>i nsste i^aro 

t : ; t ••• -: * t * t : 

D'Kaxn w »rnw D\?;ta 

nhinp nteiy »ja la 28 jb^i 

»»Dnni fi'sVog tea pxi 

mw riobiya rvpsnoa 

t • ; tt • t :- : 

W3 IgW nS'N "rt'fc ""IKl 

ntoe>3n 31 th« ?k ison 

t ; - * -: ■• t -: 

Q^f? *?Q\>d? ^ainjj 
DH'Dnri w^aoa irae'ni) 

twain nb' via nirm 

26 These letters, which make no sense whatsoever, are very distinct in 
the manuscript. Perhaps they are meant to be t^NT N'riK*. For the 
vocalization frOnt?, which is demanded by the metre, see Eccles. 2.22; 
3. 18. 

27 For nlS, in the sense of young, compare the expression TOiU TTlB 
(Yoma i. 7). This word is t similar to biblical niTIS (Job 30. 12) and rhBK. 

28 This word is very clear in the manuscript, but a plural would be more 
appropriate. It is, perhaps, meant for ?aB i, l , the Waw being unintentionally 
lengthened. 

29 The plural is not found in the Bible. The poet wishes to say that 
Daniel Gaon was the patron of genuine talent, but would admit no imitators 
or plagiarists into his presence. This feature of Daniel's character is 
alluded to in the dirge on Daniel's son (poem 203, quoted by Poznariski, 
p. 75). See above, note 14. 

so We ought to read, perhaps, D*?T3> anless the P oet used the ? as the 
sign of the accusative (compare "VOtO, 2 Sam. 3. 30), and was influenced 
by Arabic ^a\. 

31 This foot is short of a syllable. We ought to read, perhaps, '•JilK , 
or supply P3 . 

32 Assembly, category ; a biblical noun with a new signification akin to 

mishnic 773 and Arabic i_Jo . 



420 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

ab |ia? » 3 i>3 -rina ip^a-rnb 

napi iasK'pa nm 
awac bos6jm "ny pb 

rijwan a-i^ u\ii»j 
awa? D'at? bafj *p6*nta 

- t • t t: t • : 

••rnyea jViaria B'Mte>ro 

38 awn pk anna "anatem 
i .. . T . . . i _ . 

33 This word is not clear in the manuscript. I read ?3 because it suits 
the sense, although the last letter, which seems to have been trimmed, 
hardly looks like the remnant of a p. The metre demands another syllable, 
and we ought to supply some such word as tyX. 

34 A word which looks like ")E>K was crossed out in the manuscript. 
The line as it stands is complete. If my conjecture that we are dealing 
with an autograph is right, it would seem that the poet intended to start the 
second foot of this hemistich in a different way. 

35 This word, which is quite clear in the manuscript, though apparently 
divided into two, is not appropriate. We should, perhaps, read rl^n^l. 

36 That is, the patriarchs. 

37 This seems to be a slip of the pen for B^Wajpnl . 

38 This refers to Aaron. Compare Num. 20. 28. The plural is probably 
general, but it may also include Eleazar (Joshua 24. 33). A third possibility, 
though an unlikely one, is that B'Haipm of the manuscript is correct, and 
refers to Moses and Eleazar.