Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World
This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in
the world by JSTOR.
Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries.
We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial
Read more about Early Journal Content at http://about.jstor.org/participate-jstor/individuals/early-
JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please
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,
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
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
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;
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
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.