Barcelona, Lecture ~ Saturday, September 8th, 2018

"The Extraordinary story of the noble lineage of the Saltells"

Date: Saturday, September 8th, 2018

Time: 21:00

Address: Sant Domènec del Call, 6- 08002 Barcelona Spain (Casa Adret)

"The Extraordinary story of the noble lineage of the Saltells:from Bagdad to Barcelona and from Barcelona to everywhere" by Moriah Ferrus and Joan Martí.

THE ENTRY OF THE NAME INTO THE IBERIAN RECORD arises out of events in distant Babylonia. In 1020 AD, Mar Hezekiah b. David became the Exilarch. He held his position for thirty-eight years until 1058, when court intrigues led the Caliph of Baghdad to execute him, for a time bringing the dynasty to an end. Documents of the period state that Hezekiah had several sons, two of whom escaped to Granada, then a de facto independent Caliphate, where a correspondent of their father, R. Shmuel ha Nagid (Hebrew: ruler, leader), was Grand Vizier.

By the time the refugees arrived, Shmuel had died but his son, Yoseph, took them in. Eight years later, on 10 December 1066, Yoseph himself was assassinated. According to mediaeval sources, at least one of the brothers escaped to the north and resettled in the “Edomite kingdom”, a reference to the emerging but already independent Christian County of Aragon. Further evidence for this comes from the researches of Moshe Shaltiel Gracian.

These take their starting point from a close reading of the Catalan record of a property transaction in Barcelona, dated 12 October 1061. The original Latin text reads: “Bonhom, a Jew, trades with Miro Guadall and his wife Ermessenda, land located within the boundaries of the city of Barcelona.” Bonhom is dignified in the Hebrew text with the honorific Mar, which in modern Hebrew means “Master”. In medieval and ancient Hebrew, however, Mar was a title. Indeed, as Rav Sherira Gaon asserts in his Igrot, it was a title given exclusively to the Rosh ha-Golah, the Exilarch of the house of David, from the first Shealtiel, son of King Jeconiah, to the last, Mar Hezekiah. Thus, three years after the execution of the last Exilarch, in the area to which his children had reportedly escaped after the death of their protector Yoseph ha Nagid, we find a new Mar, Shealtiel, whose descendants were to become the Nessiim of Barcelona.

For several generations the Barcelonan family continued to use the distinguishing honorific of the line of the Exilarchs. This is explained by Prof. S.D. Goitein’s study of the fragments of the Geniza’s Hebrew documents. From these, we find that the office of the Exilarch was vacant until 1061, due to conflict within the community and a withdrawal of the Caliph’s patronage. A new Exilarch was chosen in 1069 under the patronage of a Jewish courtier, Abu Ali ibn Fadlan, rather than the traditional elective conclave of the The Nessiim of Barcelona Nasi—(Hebrew: Prince) is a title going back to the Babylonian Exile, when it was granted to the leader of the community, the Exilarch, whose legitimacy arose out of his descent from the House of David. Evidently our forbears took these matters seriously enough to feel able to adjudicate between true and false claims.

The record survives that an individual claiming the title of Nasi (plural—Nessiim) was found not to be a descendant of the House of David and was obliged to leave medieval Jerusalem in disgrace. LaytLav 9 royal family. In the light of this reading of the Geniza documents, we may surmise that, while the seat was vacant and during the period of the controversial appointment, the Barcelona family maintained their claim on their former throne, no doubt supported by some of the Baghdad community. As time went by members of the family who remained in the East, nearer the seat of the Caliphate, seem to have gone further. Thus, Daniel b. Azarya was the son of the Exilarch Mar Azarya b. Shlomo, the immediate predecessor of Mar Hezekiah. Daniel became the head of the religious academy in Palestine. Yoseph, the youngest of his three sons, moved to Cairo a few years later (1080/1) and proclaimed a new Exilarchate. A document found in the Cairo Geniza and dated 1090 was issued by “The court of Rosh ha-Golah” and signed by Yoseph b. Daniel. In other documents issued in Fustat, Egypt, in 1088 and subsequently, David b. Daniel was entitled “The great Nasi (Hebrew—prince), the Nasi of all [the diaspora of] Israel”. The increased independence of such former tributary states as Egypt reflected a decline in the Caliph’s political reach. This in turn led to a reduction in the power of the Exilarch in Baghdad. In addition, the abandonment of the tradition of tolerance made the seat of the Exilarch both less attractive and more volatile by comparison with life in the “Edomite kingdom”. Nonetheless, in 1090 David’s eldest son, Hezekiah II, returned to Baghdad to resume the Exilarchate and thereafter his relatives in Barcelona ceased to use the honorific.

Name of organization: Nova Escola Catalana.

Date/s of event/s: Sunday 2thSeptember

Time/s: 21:00h

Contact email:

Cost/s if any: Free

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