Gaon (Hebrew: גאון, glory, plural: Geonim / גאונים ) is originally the title of the Talmud known as performer heads of the Jewish academies in Babylonia in the seventh to eleventh century AD. It is also used later for it. The Office of the Gaon is referred to as Gaonat ( mittellat. gaonatus ). The Babylonian Geonim were considered the religious leaders of Judaism in the early Middle Ages, during the Resch Galuta ( Exilarch ) was responsible for the secular authority over the Jews in the Islamic countries.

The Geonim played an important and decisive role in the transmission and teaching of the Torah and Jewish law ( Halacha ). They taught the Talmud and decided on discourses which have not been provided at the time of the Talmud with rules.

The period of Geonim began 589 ( according to the Jewish Calendar: 4349 ), after the period of Sevora'im, and ended in 1038 ( according to the Jewish Calendar: 4798 ). The first Gaon of Sura was, if you Sherira Gaon follows, Mar Mar Rab, whose term began in 609. The last Gaon of Sura was Samuel ben Hophni, who died in 1013; the last Gaon of Pumbedita was Hezekiah Gaon, who was murdered in 1040; thus the period of Geonim had almost a period of 450 years.

There were two great academies of Geonim, one in Sura and the other in Pumbedita. The Academy at Sura was originally the more dominant, but their authority waned at the end of the period of Geonim so that the Geonim of Pumbedita grew stronger (Louis Ginzberg in Geonica ).

Importance in Jewish life

The Geonim officiated, first of all, as directors of the Babylonian Talmud academies. They continued the university technical activities of amoraim and Saboraim. While the amoraim, had given her interpretation of the Mishnah, the basis for the creation of the Talmud and the Saboraim have finished him authoritatively, it was the task of Geonim to interpret the Talmud. They put their emphasis in teaching and instruction, they published religious law decisions that were consistent with their doctrine.

During the period of Geonim the Babylonian academies were the center of Jewish teaching excellence. The Geonim, the heads of these schools were considered the highest authorities of the Halacha. Despite the difficulties, which paved the irregular communication in these times, sent Jews who lived in faraway countries, questions about how religion and law to the school heads to Babylonia.

At the end of the period of Geonim, from the mid-10th to the mid 11th century, took off her priority, as the study of the Talmud was also practiced in other countries. The inhabitants of these regions now sent their questions to the heads of the academies of their own countries and thus no longer a Geonim to Babylonia

The title " Gaon "

The title Gaon can be related to the heads of the two Babylonian academies Sura and Pumbedita, although that's not the original name Rosh Yeshiva Ge'on Yaakov was displaced (Hebrew for ' head of the Academy, Jacob's sovereignty "). The Aramaic title was Resch Metivta.

The title Gaon was announced around the end of the 6th century around. As the academies of Sura and Pumbedita the legal authority was held, the Gaon was its chief judge.

The composite of the Babylonian academies called the ancient Sanhedrin back to life. In many responsa of Geonim members of the academies have called the "Great Sanhedrin " belongs, others belonged to the "small Sanhedrin ". Before ruling Gaon him sat against 70 members of the Academy in seven rows of ten people, each person was determined by him and all together with the Gaon revealed the "Great Sanhedrin ". Amram Gaon calls him in a Response ( " Responsa of Geonim " Lyck (ed.), No. 65) the " ordained researchers who were sitting in the Great Sanhedrin ." Ordination in the sense of the original Semicha was not meant here, this existed in Babylonia not only a solemn investiture took place.

Gaon Ẓemaḥ describes in a response of "the ancient researchers the front row who took their place in the Grand Sanhedrin ": Seven Masters ( allufim ) and the chaverim, the three most famous among the remaining members of the Academy, sat in the front rows of the seven. Nine members of the Sanhedrin were allufim each of the seven subordinate, probably the implementation of the instructions observed that they had given them over the current year. The members of the Academy who were not ordained, sat behind the seven rows.

Works of Geonim

Response Literature / Responsa

At the beginning of the era of Geonim came the majority of the questions sent to them from Babylonia and the neighboring countries. Jewish communities from this region had religious leaders who were familiar with the Talmud in a certain way and if there was an event could also visit the academies in Babylonia. Thus a literary genre of questions and answers which has become known as Response literature developed.

The questions were usually limited to one or more specific cases, while the response then a general rule and a concise statement of reasons were. These most listened Talmud quotes to support the decision and refute possible objections.

Extravagant were the responsa of the later Geonim. Since the 9th century, questions were sent from more distant regions, whose inhabitants were less with the Talmud and the Babylonian academies known also could not visit.

The later Geonim were not limited to the Mishnah and the Talmud, they also used the decisions of responsa of their predecessors, whose statements and traditions had now become authoritative. These responsa of the later Geonim were then often whole tracts on Talmudic subjects. Since often a single letter raised many questions, they often got the length of books. Two important examples of such books are the Siddur of Amram Gaon, addressed to the Spanish Jews in response to the question about the prayer rules, and the letter of Sherira Gaon, which in response to a question from Kairouan ( Tunisia ) the history of the Mishnah and the Gemara outlines.

Some of the responsa have been preserved in their original form, while others are cited only in later works. Many were found in the Cairo Genizah.

Examples of Responsasammlungen are:

  • Halakhot Pesukot min ha - Geonim ( Short instructions from the Geonim ): Konstantin Opel 1516
  • Sheelot u - Teshuvot me- ha - Geonim (questions and answers from the Geonim ): Konstantin Opel 1575
  • Shaare Tzedek (Gates of law ), edited by Nissim ben Hayyim: Salonica in 1792, contains 533 responsa arranged according to the subject and an index of the publisher
  • Teshuvot Ha - Geonim ( answers the Geonim ), ed Mussafia: Elk 1864
  • Lewin, BM, Otzar ha - Geonim: Thesaurus of the Gaonic Responsa and Commentaries Following the Order of the Talmudic tractates (13 vols ): Haifa and Jerusalem, 1928-1943
  • Assaf, Simhah, Teshuvot ha - Geonim, 2 volumes, Jerusalem 1927-1929
  • HZ Taubes, Otsar ha - le- Geonim Massekhet Sanhedrin, Jerusalem 1966

Other works

Individual Geonim have often written collections and comments. Two legal manuals are:

  • She'iltot of Achai Gaon, edited by S. Mirsky, Sheeltot de Rab Ahai Gaon, 5 volumes, Jerusalem 1960-1977
  • Halachot Gedolot, edited by Simeon Kayyara.

The principal author under the Geonim Saadia Gaon was. He wrote biblical commentaries and many other works. He is known for his philosophical work Emunot ve Deot.

The Kalla

Two months of the year were the kallah dedicated to the Jewish month of Adar and Elul. During this period, foreign students and scholars came in the Babylonian Talmud academies around there at the famous Geonim to study and discuss.

During the first three weeks of the kallah wore the teacher in the front row sat on the Talmudic matters that should be studied in more detail in the next few months before. In the fourth week the other teachers and even some students had the opportunity to give their opinion on the subject. This was followed by discussions. Difficult sections have been submitted to the Gaon, who also had an important role in these debates. He was able to simply check every member of the Academy, whether it corresponded to the general teaching guidelines. At the end of the kallah Gaon selected the Talmudic topic that aufbekamen the assembled members prepare to the next kallah. The members who had no place found were exempt them and could choose according to their preferences what they wanted to study in the near future.

During the kallah the Gaon opened some questions that had been everywhere from the Diaspora on this topic sent in the interim since the last Kallah from him. The answers were discussed and written down at the end by the clerk of the Academy according to the instructions of the Gaon. At the end of the kallah, the questions were read together with the answers publicly before the meeting and the answers were signed by the Gaon. A large number of responsa from the era of Geonim were written in this way, but a lot were also published by the Geonim competent without consultation with the coming together in Spring Kallah Convention.

Individual Geonim

  • Achai Gaon ( 680-752 )
  • Amram Gaon ( d. 880 )
  • Dodai ben Nahman
  • Hai ben Sherira Gaon (939-1038)
  • Saadia Gaon ( 882-942 )
  • Sherira Gaon (10th century).

Chananel ben Chuschiel ( Rabbeinu Chananel ) and Nissim Gaon of Kairouan, although they were not owners of the status of " Gaon ", are often counted among the Geonim. Logical to expect this to be the first generation of the Rishonim would. Maimonides sometimes uses the term " Geonim " in an extended sense of " leading authorities", regardless of the country in which they lived.

Literature (selection )

  • L. Ginzberg: Geonica. 2 vols. Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York NY 1909 ( Texts and studies of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America 1-2, ZDB - ID 847022-4 ), ( 2nd edition = reprint Hermon Press, New York, NY, 1968; too. Reprint. Wagšal, Jerusalem 1986).
  • Samuel Poznański: Babylonian Geonim nachgaonäischen in age from manuscript and printed sources. Mayer & Müller, Berlin 1914 ( writings of the School of Jewish Studies. Vol. 4, Issue 1 /2, ZDB - ID 513586-2 ).
  • Simha Assaf: Teḳufat ha - ve Geonim sifrutah. Hartsaot VE shiurim. Mosad ha - rav Kuk, Jerusalem 1955.