Nathan Ben-jechiel

Nathan ben-Jechiel also called Arukn (ערו), or Baal ha-Aruk (בעל הערו), from the fact that he is the author of the celebrated lexicon denominated Aruk, a distinguished Jewish lexicographer, was born in Rome about 1030, where, like his ancestors before him and his descendants after him, he was held in the highest veneration for his extraordinary learning, and it was said of him, "peritum omnis generis scientiarum fuisse." Though busily engaged in faithfully discharging the responsible duties devolving upon him as rabbi of the Jewish community in the Eternal City, and in attending to the Hebrew academy of which he was the president, R. Nathan devoted all his spare time for the greater part of his life to the writing of that important lexicon which has obtained such a world-wide celebrity. From the words of the epilogue which R. Nathan himself appended to it (this lexicon was completed on Tuesday, the nineteenth day of the month on which thee Temple was destroyed by the despised one [i.e., Ab = end of July], 4861 after the creation [ =A.D. 1101], 1033 after the destruction of the burned Temple, 1413 of the Seleucian aera), it will be seen that he finished this lexicon A.D. 1101. According to Mr. Etheridge, the work was finished in the year 4865, answering to A.D. 1105; it may be that he read.,' בשנת דתתֹסה ליצירה, instead of דתתֹסא. Five years after the completion of the work Jechiel died, A.D. 1106. The lexicon is denominated Aruk (ערו, from ִער, to arrange, to set in order), i.e., arreangement of the words in alphabetical order, and extends over the Mishna, both the Gemaras, the Midrashim, and all the Chaldee paraphrases of the O.T. "The importance of this work, both to the understanding of the ancient expositions of the Bible and the criticism of the text of the Chaldee paraphrases, can hardly be overrated, inasmuch as R. Nathan, in explaining the words, embodied the interpretations of the ancient sages preserved by tradition, and adopted the ancient and correct readings. So comprehensive is this lexicon, and so highly was it appreciated, that it not only superseded and buried in oblivion a lexicon also called Aruk, compiled by Zemach ben-Paltoi, who was gaon in Pumbaditha, A.D. 871-890, but simply left for his future supplementors to compile and rearrange the rich materials which R. Nathan amassed. In this, however, they did not always succeed" (Ginsburg). Notwithstanding the subsequent labors of Buxtorf, Landau, and others, in the field of Hebraeo-Aramaic lexicography, the Aruk of Nathan Jechiel still holds its pre-eminence. Its definitions are remarkable for their substantial import and verbal precision, and it is even quoted by David Kimchi (q.v.) in his famous ספר השרשים, s.v. דרדר נצ פקע שכר. It was published at Pisauri, 1515, and often afterwards. An edition was published at Amsterdam in 1655, with the additions of B.-Musafia (q.v.), which edition was republished by M.I. Landau with his own notes, in 5 volumes, under the title לָשׁוֹן מִעִרכֵי, or Rabbinisch-Aramaisch- Deutsches Worteerbuck zur Kenntniss des Talmuds, der Tcagumimn u. Midraschim, etc. (Prague, 1819-24). A convenient edition of the Aruk, with the supplements of Mussafia, De Lonsano, and Berlin, has been published by H. Sperling (Lemberg, 1857); still later annotations to the Aruk, with emendations and critical notes, appeared by R. Lindermann, under the title ספר שירד בערכין (Berl. 1864; see Frankel, Monatsschrift, 1865, page 393 sq.); and a still later edition was published by Lonsano and Berlin (Lemberg, 1865), and the latest edition is that of Lemberg (1874, 2 volumes). To the honor of R. Nathan be it said — though it does not redound to the glory of modern scholarship — that his Aruk is still the only clew to the ancient Jewish writings which are so important to Biblical literature and exegesis. See the masterly biography of R. Nathan by Rapaport in the Hebrew annual entitled Bikure haltim (Vienna, 1829), 10:1-79; 11 (ibid. 1830), 81- 90; Geiger, in Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft. 12:142 sq., 357 sq.; 14:318 sq.; Steinschneider, Catalogus Libr. Hebr. in Biblioth. Bodleiana, No. 2040-2043; id. Bibliograph. Handbuch, page 99 sq.; Kitto, Cyclop. s.v.; Furst, Biblioth. Judaica, 3:20 sq.; De Rossi, Dictionario storico degli autori Ebrei, page 140 sq. (German transl.); Etheridge, Introd. to Jewish Literature, page 284 sq.; Graitz, Gesch. d. Juden, 6:76; Braunschweiger, Gesch. d. Juden in den Roman. Staaten, page 56; Basnage, History of the Jews, page 625 (Taylor's transl.); Dernburg, in Geiger's Zeitschrift fur Jud. Theologie, 4:123 sq.; Bleek, Einleitung in das Alte Testam. page 100; Kimchi, Liber radicum (ed. Lebrecht u. Biesenthal), page 39; Buxtorf, Lexicon Talmudicum, etc., page 9, ed. B. Fischer (Leips. 1869); (N.Y.) Jewish Messenger, January 8, 1874. (B.P.)

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