Moses Ben-chanoch

Moses ben-Chanoch a Hebrew savant who flourished in Spain in the second half of the 10th century, although not known in Jewish literature by his writings, holds, nevertheless, a very prominent place in the history of Jewish learning, since he must be regarded as its propagator on Spanish soil. While the famed Jewish academies of Persia and Pumbedita existed, the Jews of Spain respected them as the head of the Hebrew nation, and referred every weighty point or legal difference to their decision. Notwithstanding the distance and the dangers of the voyage, they sent their sons to them for the study of the law and for education. But as soon as the Persian dynasty had gained the caliphate, it commenced persecuting the Jews, and, without regard to the flourishing state which literature had attained in those academies, it expelled the Jews from Babylon, closed the renowned Jewish colleges, and dispersed their illustrious teachers. Four of these learned men, of whom R. Moses was one, fell into the hands of a Spanish corsair about the year A.D. 950, who was despatched by Abderahman from Cordova to cruise in the sea of the Grecian Archipelago. The wife of Moses accompanied him in his voyage. The high-minded woman, dreading defilement, looked to her husband for advice, asking in Hebrew whether those drowned at sea would be resuscitated at the resurrection. He answered her with the verse of the psalm. "The Lord said, I will bring again from Bashan, I will bring again from the depths of the sea." On hearing this, to save her honor, she plunged into the sea and perished. Moses was brought as a slave to Cordova, and redeemed, though his quality was unknown, by a Jew. One day he entered the college clad as a slave, in a scanty sackcloth. The discussion was on a difficult passage of the treatise Joma (day of atonement). After listening for some time, he explained it so satisfactorily to all the students present that R. Nathan, the president of the college, rose from his seat, and said, "I am no more judge; yon slave in sackcloth is my master, and I am his scholar." The very same day Moses was installed by acclamation as head of the community, and with him the foundation of Jewish learning was laid in Spain. The fame of his acquirements spread throughout Spain and the West. Numbers flocked from all parts to receive instruction from him, and thus through this man "the light of learning, which, by the rapid progress of the iron age of Judaism in Babylonia, by the extinction of the authority of the Prince of the Captivity, the dispersion of the illustrious teachers, and the final closing of the great schools, seemed to have set forever, suddenly rose again in the West in renewed and undiminished splendor." Moses ben-Chanoch died in 1104. See Gratz, Geschichte d. Juden, 5:310 sq.; Jost, Geschichte d. Juden u.s. Sekten, 2:400; Dessauer, Geschichte d. Israeliten, page 281 sq.; Braunschweiger, Geschichte d. Juden in den romanzischen Staaten, page 22 sq.; Basnage, Hist. of the Jews, page 606 (Engl. transl. by Taylor); Milman, Hist. of the Jews, 3:156 sq.; Da Costa, Israel and the Gentiles, page 250 sq.; id. Hist. of the Jews in Spain, page 55 (Engl. transl. by E.D.G.M. Kirwan, Cambridge, 1851); Lindo, Hist. of the Jews in Spain and Portugal, page 45 sq.; Smucker, Hist. of the Modern Jews, page 112; Etheridge, Introduction to Hebrew Literature, page 244 sq.; Finn, Sephardim, page 150 sq.; S. Seckler, in Jewish Messenger, 1874 ("Some Jewish Rabbis"), art. 15. (B.P.)

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