(Aix-la-Chapelle; in Jewish sources: tmp2C-1_thumb) city on the German-Belgian border; former capital of the Car-olingian Empire. The delegation sent by *Charlemagne to the caliph Harun al-Rashid in 797 included a Jew, Isaac, who probably acted as interpreter or guide, and subsequently reported back to Aachen. Jewish merchants were active in Aachen by about 820. A "Jews’ street" is known to have existed from the 11th century. The Aachen community, which paid only 15 marks in tax to the emperor in 1241, cannot have been large. In 1349 the Jews were "given" to the count of Juelich, who received their taxes and authorized Jewish residence in Aachen. The Jews were expelled from Aachen in 1629, most settling in neighboring Burtscheid. However, Jewish moneylenders were again active in Aachen about ten years later. They were included in the municipal jurisdiction in 1777. Prior to the inauguration of a Jewish cemetery in 1823, the Jews of Aachen buried their dead in Vaals across the border in the Netherlands. In 1847 the community was organized under the Prussian Jewish Community Statute. A Jewish elementary school was founded in 1845. The synagogue, built in 1862, was destroyed in the 1938 *Kristallnacht.

The Jewish population had increased from 114 in 1816 to 1,345 by 1933. In 1939, after emigration and arrests, there were 782 Jews living in the city. Others subsequently managed to flee and the rest were deported between March 1942 and September 1944. After the war, there were 62 Jews in Aachen. A new synagogue and communal center were built at the expense of the German government in 1957. In 1966 the Jewish community of Aachen and environs numbered 163. As a result of the immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union, the number of community members increased from 326 in 1989 to 1,434 in 2003. Another new synagogue and community center were inaugurated in 1995.


Canton of northern Switzerland. A few Jewish families are known to have lived there during the Middle Ages. From the 17th to the mid-19a centuries Aargau remained the sole area of permanent Jewish settlement in Switzerland; Jews lived in the two communities of *Endingen and Lengnau, and it was they who waged the struggle for Jewish *emancipation in Switzerland. In the 18th century Aargau Jews obtained rights of residence and movement; these were conferred by special safe conducts and letters of protection against the payment of high imposts, usually granted for a 16-year period. Jewish occupations were restricted to participation in the markets, the cattle and horse trade, peddling, and estate brokerage. Both communities possessed their own synagogues, sharing a cemetery and rabbi. The Jews in Aargau continued to pay the special taxes until their abolition by the Helvetic Republic in 1798. Rights of residence, trade, and ownership of real estate were granted to the Jews by the Helvetic government but were later revoked by the Judengesetz (Jews’ Law) in 1809. The independent canton of Aargau was founded in 1798/1803. A law regularizing the status of the Jewish communities was passed in 1824 and, in conjunction with the General Education Act of 1835, regulated Jewish life and communal organization on the same principles as those governing similar non-Jewish institutions in the canton. In the 1850s two new synagogues were built, one in Endingen and one in Lengnau, and were later declared cantonal monuments. However, since the Jewish communities were not recognized as communities of local citizens, their members were debarred from canton citizenship. The Great Council of Canton Aargau authorized Jewish emancipation in 1862, but was bitterly opposed by the popular anti-Jewish movement and was subsequently repealed. The Jews of Aargau only obtained full rights of citizenship in 1878 after the Swiss federal parliament had intervened in their favor. Jews began to leave the region for other parts of Switzerland in the middle of the 19th century, their numbers dwindling from 1,562 in 1850 to 990 in 1900 and to 496 in 1950. In 1859 in the town of Baden a Jewish community was founded which built its synagogue in 1913 and erected a cemetery (1879). Between 1900 and the 1940s a small yeshivah was active under Rabbi Akiba Krausz. A Jewish Swiss Home for the Aged was established in Lengnau in 1903. At the turn of the 20th century services were sometimes held in the synagogues on Rosh H odesh and for marriages. Aargau Jewish history came to public attention with the appointment of the first Jewish member of the Swiss governement, Ruth *Drei-fuss. In 2000, 342 Jews lived in Aargau.


tmp2C-2_thumb , brother of *Moses and *Miriam; founder of the priesthood in Israel. Biblical Information Aaron belonged to the tribe of *Levi (Ex. 4:14) and was the elder son of *Amram and *Jochebed (ibid. 6:20; Num. 26:59; 1 Chron. 5:29; 23:13). He was senior to Moses by three years (Ex. 7:7), but younger than his sister (as may be inferred from Ex. 2:4). There is no narrative recounting Aaron’s birth and nothing is known of his early life and upbringing. He apparently stayed in Egypt all the time Moses was in Midian and became known as an eloquent speaker (4:14). Aaron’s marriage to Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab (6:23), allied him with one of the most distinguished families of the important tribe of Judah. His brother-in-law, Nahshon, was a chieftain of that tribe (Num. 1:7; 2:3; 7:12,17; 10:14) and a lineal ancestor of David (Ruth 4:19; 1 Chron. 2:10). The marital union thus symbolized the religio-political union of the two main hereditary institutions of ancient Israel, the house of David and the house of Aaron. Four sons were born of the marriage, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar (Ex. 6:23; 28:1; Num. 3:2; 26:60; 1 Chron. 5:29; 24:1).

The biblical narrative assigns Aaron a role subordinate to that of Moses. No mention is made of him in the initial theophany (Ex. 3:18; 4:12), and he is introduced into the events of the Exodus only because Moses resists the divine commission (4:14-16). He is to be Moses’ spokesman ("prophet") to Israel (4:15-16) and to Pharaoh (7:1-2). He receives a revelation from God to go to meet Moses returning from Midian (4:27), and together the two brothers appear before the people, with Aaron performing his signs in their presence (4:28-30). Later, he performs wonders before Pharaoh. His rod turns into a serpent that swallows the serpent rods of the Egyptian magicians (7:9-12). In the ten plagues that befall the Egyptians, Aaron acts jointly with Moses in the first plague (7:19 ff.), operates alone only in the next two (8:1ff., 12ff.), is involved with Moses in the sixth and eighth (9:8ff.; 10:3ff.), and does not appear at all in the fifth and ninth (9:1-7; 10:21ff.). For the rest, he is merely a passive associate of his brother. Although Aaron functions whenever the Egyptian magicians are present, it is significant that even where he plays an active role in performing the marvels, it is not by virtue of any innate ability or individual initiative, but solely by divine command mediated through Moses. Aaron’s sons do not inherit either his wondrous powers or his potent rod. The secondary nature of Aaron’s activities in the cycle of plagues is further demonstrated by the circumstance that he never speaks to Pharaoh alone and that only Moses actually entreats God to remove the plagues, although Pharaoh frequently addresses his request to both brothers (8:4, 8, 21, 25-26; 9:27®, 33; 10:16 ff.).

Strangely, Aaron plays no part at all in the events immediately attending the escape from Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, the victory hymns, and the water crisis at Marah (13:17; 16:1). He reappears again in connection with the incident of the manna (16:2-36), and at the battle with the Amalekites when, jointly with Hur, he supports Moses’ hands stretched heavenward to ensure victory (17:10-13). Together with the elders of Israel, he participates in Jethro’s sacrificial meal (18:12), but plays no role in the subsequent organization of the judicial administration. He does, however, again jointly with Hur, deputize for Moses in his judicial capacity while the latter goes up to the Mount of God to receive the Tablets (24:14). At the revelation at Sinai, Aaron again is a minor participant. He is distinguished from the "priests" and the people in being allowed to ascend the mount (19:24), but has the same status as his two sons, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel in having to maintain a distance from Moses, although they all "see the God of Israel" and survive (24:1, 9ff.).

It was during his brother’s prolonged absence on the mount that, yielding to popular insistence, he fashioned a golden calf that became a cause of apostasy (ch. 32). On the one hand, the text stresses the grave responsibility of Aaron in this incident. He makes no attempt to dissuade the would-be idolaters, but himself issues instructions, produces the molten image, builds an altar, and proclaims a religious festival (32:2-5). His culpability is thrice emphasized (32:2, 25, 35), and the contrast between his actions and the zealous fidelity of the tribe of Levi is apparent (32:26-29). On the one hand, God wanted to destroy Aaron, but he was saved by virtue of Moses’ intercession on his behalf (Deut. 9:20). On the other hand, there is a perceptible tendency to de-emphasize Aaron’s share in the episode. The initiative for the idol comes from the people who approach Aaron menacingly (Ex. 32:1). They, not he, identify the calf with a divinity (32:4). He does not participate in the worship and is not mentioned in God’s indictment of the people (32:70".); nor is his name mentioned in Moses’ intercession (32:11-14, 31-32). The making of the calf is attributed to the people (32:20; cf. Deut. 9:21) and is also described as though the particular bovine form emerged almost accidentally (Ex. 32:24). Despite Aaron’s involvement, he was neither punished nor disqualified from the priesthood. The same inclination to play down Aaron’s participation in the calf cult is present in the poetic version of the story (Ps. 106:19-22; cf. 106:16; Neh. 9:18).

When it comes to constructing the portable sanctuary, Aaron is conspicuously absent, but he and his sons are appointed priests and are consecrated into that office by Moses (Ex. 28-29; Lev. 8-9). During the ceremonies marking the investiture, his two sons, Nadab and Abihu, died mysteriously, a calamity that he bore in silent resignation (Lev. 10:1-3; Num. 3:4; 26:61; cf. 1 Chron. 24:2). Aaron’s other two sons continued to serve in the priestly office (Num. 3:4; 1 Chron. 24:2) and Eleazar succeeded his father as high priest (Num. 20:25-28; Deut. 10:6; cf. Josh. 24:33). No reason is given for the selection of Aaron as the archetypal high priest and founder of a hereditary priesthood to the extent that "the house of Aaron" became synonymous with the only legitimate priestly line (see *Aaronides). After his induction as high priest, Aaron is no longer the attendant of Moses, nor does he occupy a position of secular authority, his activities being restricted to the area of the cult. Yet even here, it is Moses, not Aaron, who is the real founder of the cult and who generally receives the divine instructions relative to the priestly duties (cf. Lev. 6:1, 12, 17; et al.). It is to him, too, that the priests are answerable (cf. Lev. 10:16-20). But on one occasion Aaron corrected Moses’ understanding of a sacrificial law (ibid.).

Nevertheless, Aaron undoubtedly held an outstanding position of leadership, as may be determined by the fact that God often addresses Moses and Aaron jointly (Ex. 9:8-10; 12:1, 43; Lev. 11:1; 13:1; 14:33; 15:1; et al.) and, sometimes, even Aaron alone (Lev. 10:8; Num. 18:1, 8). With Moses, Aaron shares the popular hostility to authority (Ex. 16:2-36; Num. 14:1-45; 16:3; 20:1-13). In the extra-pentateuchal literature his name is coupled with that of his brother as bearers of the divine mission (Josh. 24:5; 1 Sam. 12:6, 8; Micah 6:4; Ps. 77:21; 105:26; 106:16; cf. 99:6). Significantly, the period of national mourning at his death is the same as that for Moses (Num. 20:29; cf. Deut. 34:8) and throughout biblical literature the name Aaron remains unique to this one personality. A hint of friction between Moses and his brother is apparent from one narrative in which Aaron and his sister were involved in some act of opposition to Moses’ prophetic preeminence. Probably because of priestly immunity he escaped divine punishment, but Miriam was stricken. At Aaron’s behest, Moses successfully interceded with God on her behalf (Num. 12).

On another occasion, Aaron, together with Moses, was the target of a widespread insurrection against the monopoly of leadership. The exclusive priestly privileges of Aaron and his family against the challenge of Korah and his associates were upheld in a trial by ordeal, which led to the destruction of the rebels (Num. 16). This aroused the indignation of the people which, in turn, brought down upon them divine anger in the form of a plague. Through an incense offering, brought at Moses’ directive, Aaron was able to make expiation for the people and to check the outbreak (Num. 17:1-15). This event necessitated a further vindication of Aaron’s priestly preeminence. Twelve staffs, one from each tribe and each inscribed with the name of the tribal chieftain, were deposited in the Tent of Meeting. The following day, that of Levi, on which Aaron’s name was written, sprouted blossoms and almonds. Henceforth, Aaron’s staff lay in the Tent of Meeting as a witness to his unchallengeable priestly supremacy (17:16-26; cf. 20:8ff.). Further, the subordination of the Levites to Aaron and his sons and their respective duties and privileges in the service of the sanctuary were unequivocally defined (17:18).

Aaron died on the first day of the fifth month at the age of 123 years (33:38-39). The account of his passing is unusually detailed, doubtlessly due to the fact that it involved the all-important matter of priestly succession. The Israelites arrived at Mount Hor from Kadesh and, by divine decree, Aaron ascended the mount accompanied by Moses and Eleazar. The high priest was stripped of the garments of his office and his son was invested in his stead. Aaron then died on the summit of the mount and a 30-day mourning period was held by the entire community (20:22-29; cf. 33:37-38; Deut. 32:50). It should be noted that another tradition has the place of Aaron’s death as Moserah (Deut. 10:6), which was seven stages behind Mount Hor in the wilderness wanderings (Num. 33:31-37). Like Moses, Aaron was not permitted to enter the promised land in punishment for disobeying the divine command in connection with the waters of Meribah (20:12, 24; 27:13-14; cf. Deut. 32:50-51), although no clear account of Aaron’s role in that incident has been preserved (Num. 20:10). A poetic digest of the narrative mentions only Moses as suffering the consequences of the people’s provocation (Ps. 106:32). No explanation for Aaron’s death in the wilderness is given in either Numbers 33:37-38 or Deuteronomy 10:6, except that the latter passage follows the story of the golden calf and the sequence may possibly imply a connection between the two events.

Critical View

The difficulty of reconstructing a comprehensive biography and evaluation of Aaron is due to the meager and fragmentary nature of the data available. It is aggravated by the fact that the details are scattered over several originally independent sources which, in the form they have come down to us, represent an interweaving of various traditions. This explains the differences in approach, emphasis, and detail, outlined above. Moreover, consideration has to be given to the possibility that the picture of Aaron, the archetypal high priest, may well be the idealized retrojection of a later period, and that subsequent developments have influenced the narratives in the Pentateuch. While there is no unanimity among scholars of the source critical school as to the proper distribution of many passages among the different pentateuchal sources, especially in regard to those relating to J and e, there is a wide measure of agreement that in the original J and e documents Aaron was neither a priest nor a levite, and that he had no part in the narrative of the ten plagues. In fact, it is regarded as likely that J did not originally mention Aaron. To e is attributed the picture of Aaron as Miriam’s brother, as Moses’ attendant, as participating in the war with Amalek, Jethro’s sacrifice, and the golden calf, as well as acting together with Miriam in opposition to Moses. The redactor who combined je introduced the story of Aaron as a levite and as Moses’ brother and spokesman and, possibly, portrayed him as assisting in the plagues. There is no agreement as to whether d originally mentioned Aaron, or as to the source of the few references to him in that document. To the p source is assigned the exalted image of Aaron as the archetypal and only legitimate levitical high priest, and a leader of the people. Here, too, is the source of the Aaronite genealogies and the notices of his age and his death.

In the Aggadah

The many praises heaped on Aaron in the aggadah are due to the desire to minimize his guilt with regard to the sin of the golden calf and to explain why, despite it, he was worthy to be appointed high priest (see: Sif. Deut. 307).

Aaron had great love for Moses. He was completely free of envy and rejoiced in his success. Moses was reluctant to assume his call (Ex. 4:14), because Aaron had for long been the prophet and spokesman of the Jews in Egypt, and Moses was unwilling to supplant him, until God told him to assume the leadership. Far from resenting it, Aaron was glad. For this he was given the reward of wearing the holy breastplate (Urim and Thummim) upon his heart (Tanh. Ex. 27). Aaron is especially praised for his love of peace. Unlike Moses, whose attitude was "let the law bend the mountain" (i.e., the law must be applied), Aaron loved peace and pursued peace.

Aaron never reproached a person by telling him that he had sinned, but employed every stratagem in order to reconcile disputes (arn2 48) especially between man and wife (ibid., emended text p. 50). According to one account this love for peace determined Aaron’s attitude toward the golden calf. He could have put to death all those who worshiped it, as Moses did, but his love and compassion for the people prevented him. He regarded peaceful persuasion as the best way of inculcating love of the Torah, and thus Hillel declared: "Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving one’s fellow men and bringing them nigh to the Torah" (Avot 1:12). For this behavior Aaron was chosen to be the high priest; God knew that his intentions were honorable (Ex. R. 37:2). According to other accounts Aaron agreed to make the golden calf after procrastinating as much as possible, because his life was threatened, and he feared the same fate as overtook Hur, who according to the Midrash, was assassinated by the people when he opposed them (Ex. R. 41:9; Sanh. 7a). Aaron’s rod possessed the same miraculous powers as the staff of Moses and some aggadic sayings make them identical (Yal. Ps. 869). With it, Aaron brought about the first three of the Ten Plagues because the water of the Nile, that shielded Moses as an infant, should not suffer through Moses, by being turned into blood or bringing forth frogs, and the earth that afforded Moses protection when it concealed the slain Egyptian overseer (Ex. 2:12) should not bring forth lice by his action. Both the aggadah and Josephus emphasize the great spiritual strength of Aaron at the death of his two sons Nadab and Abihu; he saw his two "chickens" bathed in blood and kept silent (Lev. R. 20:4). "He withstood his ordeal with great courage because his soul was inured to every calamity" (Jos., Ant., 3:208). He did not question God’s dealing with him, as Abraham did not when ordered to sacrifice his only son Isaac (Sifra 46a).

Aaron was one of those who died not on account of sin "but through the machinations of the serpent" (Sif. Deut. 338-9). When Aaron died "all the house of Israel" wept for him (Num. 20:29), while after the death of Moses, the stern leader who reprimanded them by harsh words, only part of the people, "the men," bewailed him (Sifra 45d).

In Christian Tradition

As the ancestor and founder of the one priesthood entitled to offer acceptable sacrifice to God, Aaron was taken as the type of Christ in the New Testament and later Christian tradition: he offers sacrifice, mediates between the people and God, and ministers in the Holy of Holies. The typology is developed especially in the Epistle to the Hebrews which stresses the superiority of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice to the animal sacrifices of the Aaronic priesthood. Jesus, the high priest of the New Covenant, is foreshadowed by Aaron, the high priest of the Old Covenant, but Christ’s priesthood, which is "after the order of Melchizedek," supersedes and replaces the inferior priesthood of Aaron (see Heb. 5:2-5; 7:11-12; 8:23-27). Influenced by this distinction, the Mormons distinguished in their hierarchy between a lesser, Aaronic priesthood, and the office of high priest which is according to the order of Melchizedek.

In the Koran and in Islamic Literature

Like some other biblical figures, Aaron (Arabic: Harun) only became known to Muhammad gradually. In the Koran (37:114-20), Moses and Aaron appear together as those who were redeemed (from Egyptian slavery) at the head of their people and to whom the topic was given. In 20:29-30, Moses requests, in a general way, that his brother Aaron be his helper (waztr; cf. also 25:37; see below). In 26:12, he voices his fear that he might be inhibited and unable to speak. Finally, in 28:35 Moses prays to God: "Aaron is more eloquent than I am; send him to strengthen me." Just as the Midrash tries in various ways to exonerate Aaron from all blame in the incident of the golden calf, so the Koran account of that incident assigns him the role of an onlooker and administrator rather than that of chief participant, and attributes the actual making of the golden calf to one Samiri (20:96-7; perhaps meaning "a Samaritan"; see the detailed discussion by H. Speyer, pp. 329-32). The post-koranic Islamic legend describes, in a number of fanciful variations, how Moses demonstrated to the children of Israel that he had not killed his brother, as they suspected, but that he had died a natural death. The relationship of these legends to similar stories in the late Midrash still needs elucidation. An attempt to explain why Mary, the mother of Jesus, is addressed during her pregnancy as "sister of Aaron" (Koran 19:27-29, cf. Ex. 15:20) is made by H. Speyer (p. 243, where further literature is available). The Koran never mentions the fact that Aaron was the father of the priestly tribe of the Kohanim; the ancient biographer of Muhammad, however, was aware of this fact. The two main Jewish tribes in Medina, the Quraiza and *Nadir, were called al-Kahinan, "the two priestly tribes." When Muhammad’s Jewish spouse, Safiyya, was insulted by one of the Prophet’s other wives, he allegedly advised her to retort: "My father was Aaron and my uncle Moses." The word waztr, by which Aaron’s subordination to Moses is designated in the Koran, became the title "vizier," a kind of prime minister with wide or full powers in Islamic states.


(1859-1912), U.S. rabbi. Aaron was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but at the age of 16 moved to Cincinnati to join the first class of students entering the Hebrew Union College. There was little in his background to suggest a rabbinical career. He attended public schools and his parents were immigrants from Hesse-Darmstadt, where his father had served as a junior officer in the military. In 1883, Aaron, together with Henry *Berkowitz, Joseph *Krauskopf, and David *Philipson, formed the first cohort of students to graduate from the new seminary. He later received a doctorate in divinity from the same institution. After graduating, Aaron served the synagogue in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for four years before assuming the pulpit of Temple Beth Zion in Buffalo, New York. Aaron thrived in this latter setting. He was a keen advocate of the reintroduction of congregational singing, seeking to extend the success of his own endeavors in Buffalo to the wider Reform movement. Aaron was also a scholar of medieval Jewry, writing about Muslim-Jewish relations during the Renaissance, and the Iberian Jewish community. As with many of his contemporaries in the Reform rabbinate, he was also active in the civic and cultural life of his city. Aaron was an immensely successful pulpit rabbi, overseeing both the building of a new temple and the enlargement of its membership. This new temple, designed by Edward Kent, an architect who later perished in the Titanic disaster, was also ill-omened for Aaron. Barely four days after a celebration organized by his congregation to honor his 25th year of service to Temple Beth Zion, Aaron died at age 52 of an ear infection. David Philip-son, a lifelong friend, officiated at both services.


(ninth-tenth centuries), court banker in Baghdad. Having built up a position of wealth and influence as private bankers, Aaron and his partner Joseph b. Phinehas were eventually accorded the official position of jahbadh, whose functions involved the collecting of state revenues, the issue of bills of exchange on behalf of the government, and long-term loans to the caliph’s administration. At the same time, Aaron and his firm acted as private bankers for the vizier and other high officials, who transacted through them their sometimes shady business. The firm attracted the patronage of Jewish merchants, both in Baghdad, where there was a special banking quarter, and from the provinces of the Islamic empire, and beyond. Their banking transactions involved them deeply in international trade. The contributions of Diaspora communities to the upkeep of the talmudical academies in Babylonia were conveyed by letters of credit drawn on such banking houses as that of Aaron b. Amram and his partner. The influence which Aaron and his friends commanded in the Jewish community was commensurate with his position at court and in the economic life of the caliphate. Aaron sided with *Aaron b. Meir, the gaon in Erez Israel, in his controversy with *Saadiah b. Joseph, over the supremacy of the Palestinian authorities in proclaiming the religious feasts. His sons and heirs, who inherited his official position and influence, enjoyed the confidence of Saadiah, who made use of their services in dealing with the government.


(Ben Senton-Ben Shem Tov; Harun al-Yahudi; d. 1465), vizier in Morocco. Aaron was a member of a family of Spanish origin who settled in *Fez. He served as banker and adviser to Abd al-H aqq, sultan of Morocco, later becoming his vizier. He appointed a relative, Saul b. Batash, in-tendant of the palace and chief of police. Aaron is mentioned as a scholar and writer. He imposed heavy taxes and was accused of distributing the revenue among his impoverished coreligionists. Anti-Jewish agitation by Muslim divines induced a mob attack on the Jewish quarter in Fez. The sultan and his vizier were assassinated in May 1465. (See *Morocco.)


(d. 1656), rabbi and merchant in Ragusa (Dubrovnik). After studying in Venice, Aaron returned to his native city. There he engaged in commerce, his import and export business becoming the most important Jewish commercial house in the city. At the time of the blood accusation against Isaac Jesurun in 1622, Aaron and his father were arrested. In his will, Aaron gave his children guidance for moral behavior and regular study. He also provided for the publication of the Zekan Aharon (Venice, 1657), which included his own discourses on the Bible and those of his grandfather (and predecessor in the Ragusa rabbinate), Solomon Ohev (Oef), which were entitled Shemen ha-Tov. He appended an account of the blood accusation and a poem of thanksgiving for recital on the annual commemoration of the occurrence. This topic was reprinted separately under the title Maaseh Nissim (Venice, 1798). The will, of unique interest for the history of Hebrew publishing, provided for the printing of 800 copies of the work of which 600 were to be exported.


(1328?-1369), Karaite scholar, philosopher, and jurist. Aaron, who lived in Nicomedia (near present-day Izmir, in Turkish Asia Minor), was called Aaron the Younger to distinguish him from Aaron ben Joseph, or Aaron the Elder, who lived a century earlier. Aaron died in an epidemic, apparently in Constantinople.

Aaron’s greatest work is a massive Hebrew trilogy of Karaite learning. The trilogy consists of Ez Hayyim ("Tree of Life"), dealing with philosophy of religion, composed in 1346; Gan Eden ("Garden of Eden"), dealing with Karaite law, composed in 1354; and Keter Torah ("Crown of the Law"), a commentary on the Pentateuch, written in 1362. According to Karaite tradition, Aaron wrote Ez Hayyim when he was 18 years old. This would place his birth in 1328, but it was probably earlier. The trilogy displays fully his great learning in both Karaite and Rabbanite literature. Aaron quotes of course the Karaite authorities, notably the 10th and 11th centuries Jerusalem scholars (his access to their Arabic writings was probably through Hebrew translations and abridgements). But he frequently quotes also the Talmud, Saadia, Rashi, Abraham Ibn Ezra, David Kimhi, Maimonides, Nahmanides, the earlier grammarians Judah ibn *Quraysh, Judah H ayyuj, Jonah ibn Janah, and others. His Hebrew style, though tinted with arabisms, is clear and fluent.

Legal Teachings

As a jurist, Aaron followed mainly in the footsteps of his Karaite predecessors. He generally opposed any relaxation of the letter of scriptural law, even when it involved great exertion and hardship, except in cases of clear and evident danger to life. Yet on the other hand he accepted Jeshuah ben *Judah’s reform of the Karaite law of incest, and rejected the excessive restrictions advocated by Karaite ascetics, such as the prohibition of eating meat in the Diaspora.

Biblical Exegesis

As a biblical commentator, Aaron followed the general Karaite policy of preferring the literal meaning of the biblical text, except where this meaning seemed to lead to conclusions that were blasphemous or illogical. However, this did not prevent him from indulging his philosophical bent by introducing allegorical and metaphorical interpretations where they seemed to him to be more suitable or advisable. His commentary on the Pentateuch has become the standard reference in all Karaite communities.


Aaron’s Ez Hayyim was undoubtedly undertaken by him with the aim of creating a Karaite counterpart to *Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed. Unlike Maimonides, Aaron did not venture to cut a new Aristotelian path for Karaite theological-philosophical thought. Instead, he remained attached to the Mutazilite philosophy (see *Kalam) which dominated his Karaite predecessors, as well as a number of pre-Maimoni-dean Rabbanite philosophers. Aaron is more orderly, clear, and logical than his Karaite forerunners, but he to a large extent rephrases what the latter had already said. Occasionally he avoids taking a definite stand on some points, and does not refrain from adopting some Aristotelian terminology and argumentation. Accordingly, and under the influence of Aaron b. Joseph, he attempted to forge some sort of reconciliation between traditional Karaite Kalamic positions, regarding it as his duty to stand by the tradition of his predecessors, and more Modern positions.

Although Aaron had to deal with religion in a rational fashion, he begins his philosophical work with a wholesale condemnation of the Greek philosophers and of their brainchild, philosophy, in general. The teachings of the Mutazilite "investigators" (the term "philosopher" is objectionable to Aaron), on the other hand, are in accord with Scripture (as interpreted by the Karaites), while most Rabbanite thinkers, particularly Maimonides, follow the philosophers and thus often run counter to the true principles of the Torah. Reason is the chief instrument of true knowledge, hence God exists, for His existence was deduced rationally already by the patriarch Abraham. God is one, and is neither corporeal nor characterized by any corporeal qualities. His attributes are both negative and positive – indeed every negation implies a positive assertion – and not exclusively negative, as asserted by Mai-monides. His providence and justice extend to all creatures, both human and subhuman. His revelations were given to His prophets for transmission to mankind as a guide to righteous life. The world (i.e., matter) is not eternal (as the Aristotelians taught) but created – this is the chief proof of God’s existence -and consequently natural law is not immutable. The universe is made up of indivisible atoms having no magnitude and not eternal, and creation signifies combination of atoms, while dissolution signifies their separation. The atomic theory of matter, rejected by the Aristotelians, is thus reasserted by Aaron. Anthropomorphic descriptions of God in the Bible must be interpreted allegorically. God is all-knowing, but man’s will is free, hence no evil can be charged to God; though God foreknows that the wicked will choose evil, the blame is theirs, not God’s. Free will necessarily involves retribution according to each man’s deserts. Scriptural ordinances are divided into revelational, whose necessity is so sublime that it is beyond rational explanation; and rational, whose necessity is deduc-ible by reason. Good and evil are inherently so, and are not so merely because God approves of the former and condemns the latter. His approval or condemnation simply assists man in recognizing what is good and what is evil. Divine chastisement is not always punishment for antecedent sin: in the case of a righteous person like Job it is a Divine favor intended to increase the sufferer’s reward in the world to come. This explains the prosperity of the wicked and the misery of the righteous on earth. Besides, physical bliss is, at best, a base and fleeting enjoyment, hence a more sublime spiritual reward must be postulated in the hereafter. This serves as one of the evidences of the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the dead. All these philosophical problems are treated with constant reference to, and mostly refutation of, the teachings of the Aristotelians, as set forth by Maimonides.

Aaron also composed a number of poems and hymns, some of which were included in the official Karaite liturgy.

Gan Eden was published in Eupatoria, 1864 and 1866; Ramle 1972. Ez Hayyim was edited by Franz Delitzsch (Leipzig, 1841), and was re-edited, with an extensive commentary, by the Karaite scholar Simh ah Isaac Lutzky (Eupatoria, 1847). Extracts from these two works, in English translation, are found in L. Nemoy (ed.), Karaite Anthology (New Haven, 1952), 172-95, and most topics of the latter in two Ph.D. dissertations mentioned below; Keter Torah was published in 1867 in Eu-patoria; Ramle 1972.


(c. 16701721), rabbi in Germany; nephew and son-in-law of the court Jew Jost *Liebmann, who appointed him head of the yeshivah he founded in Berlin. In 1697 Aaron became deputy rabbi and in 1709 rabbi of Berlin. Berlin Jewry was then rent by internal strife in which Aaron supported Liebman’s widow in her struggle for leadership of the community against the court Jew Markus Magnus. When in 1713 the Magnus faction prevailed, Aaron left Berlin to become rabbi of Frankfurt on the Oder, which had been detached from the Berlin rabbinate to enable him to officiate there. Aaron was suspected of Shab-batean sympathies. In 1713 he approbated two works by Ne-hemiah *Hayon.


(end of 13th and first half of 14th century), Provencal scholar. Despite his name, he was probably not from Lunel but from Nar-bonne, where his forefathers lived. In his well-known work Orhot Hayyim he makes frequent mention of the customs of Narbonne and often cites the opinions of its scholars. Aaron’s grandfather, David, wrote a work on the laws of terefot (Orh ot Hayyim, 2:420), and his great-grandfather, Isaac, was a pupil of *Abraham b. David of Posquieres and wrote a commentary on the Jerusalem Talmud (Meiri, Beit ha-Behirah on Avot, ed. by B.Z. Prag (1964), 56). Aaron was among those exiled from France by Philip iv in 1306 and apparently reached Spain, subsequently proceeding to Majorca. Orh ot Hayyim is for the most part a compilation of halakhot taken verbatim from earlier halakhic works sometimes without indicating the source (e.g., extracts from Nathan b. Judah’s Ha-Mahkim and David b. Levi’s Mikhtam). It is a work of great importance and cites halakhot not found in any other source. Halakhic authorities esteemed it greatly, and it was cited by Jeroham b. Meshullam, Isaac b. Sheshet, Simeon Duran, Levi ibn H abib, Joseph Caro, and others. Its sources are extremely varied. Though based on Maimonides, it contains statements of German, French, Provencal, and Spanish scholars. Some (Joseph Caro, Azulai, and others) consider the anonymous work Kol Bo (1490) to be an abbreviated version of Orhot Hayyim. This view, however, is controverted by a comparison of the two works. Benjacob and S.D. Luzzatto are more correct in maintaining that Kol Bo is the editio princeps of Orh ot Hayyim, probably representing an early stage of that book, and antedating the three manuscripts mentioned below.

Part 1 of Orh ot Hayyim was first published in Spain before 1492, but no complete copy of it is extant (for part of the missing introduction see A. Freimann, Thesaurus Typo-graphiae Hebraicae (1931) B37, 1-2). The existing edition first appeared in Florence in 1750, although the manuscript had already been sent for publication by Elijah Capsali of Candia to Meir of Padua in Venice in the middle of the 16th century (Responsa Maharam Padua, no. 77). The order of the halakhot is very similar to that of the Tur, Orah Hayyim of *Jacob b. Asher, Aaron’s younger contemporary. The Tur quickly gained wide acceptance at the expense of Orh ot Hayyim. Its second part, dealing with laws of marriage, damages, things ritually prescribed or permitted, and the like was published by M. Schlesinger in Berlin in 1902 from the Warsaw Communal Library Ms. (a copy of the Jerusalem Ms. of 1455) after a rather inadequate comparison with another earlier manuscript, now in the Montefiore Library, London. There are significant differences between these two manuscripts, and between a third (in the Guenzburg Collection, Moscow, copied in 1329) which was not used by Schlesinger and which represents the earliest version of the work, having been written apparently before Aaron went to Majorca, since it omits all the passages (at least 15) referring to that island and to Shem Tov Falkon, the local rabbi. It contains however 12 more topics than the 73 in the printed version. These deal with faith, philosophy, messianic legends, paradise, hell, the natural sciences, the formulae for documents, and the principle of intercalation.


(also known as Halaf ibn Sargado), gaon and head of the academy at Pumbedita, 942-60. His antagonist *Saadiah Gaon slanderously altered his Arabic first name, Halaf, to read Kelev ("dog") and it appears in this erroneous form in the Hebrew translation of Nathan ha-Bavli’s chronicle. No satisfactory explanation has yet been found for the surname Sargado.

The gaon Mevasser (916/7-925/6) appointed Aaron resh kallah ("head of the kallah") although he did not come from a family of scholars. He was the son-in-law of Bishr b. Aaron, one of Baghdad’s wealthiest and most respected citizens. According to the tenth-century chronicler Nathan ha-Bavli, who does not seem to have admired Aaron, Aaron was very eloquent and erudite, but Saadiah was a much greater scholar and Aaron envied him for his superior learning. In the campaign against Saadiah, led by the exilarch David b. Zakkai, Aaron took the exilarch’s side and attacked Saadiah in a malicious epistle. Upon the death of Gaon H ananiah (H anina), the father of *Sherira Gaon, Aaron assumed the direction of the academy, although Amram b. Meswi, Sherira’s uncle, who was the av bet din, was more deserving of the gaonate. Aaron was a self-righteous and willful person, and his term of office was marked by endless quarrels. Many years later a rival gaon, Nehemiah b. Kohen Z edek, was nominated, but he was unable to assert himself against Aaron who, according to Sherira, excelled him in scholarship. Sherira’s son Hai, who later became gaon, was Aaron’s pupil in his youth.

Only fragments of Aaron’s literary work have been preserved; the Teshuvot ha-Geonim contain four responsa ascribed to him (Hemdah Genuzah (1863), no. 37-40, and Rashi Pardes, ed. by H.Y. Ehrenreich (1924), 118-22), but only one of these is definitely by Aaron. Another responsum by Aaron was published in Jeschurun, 12 (1925), 50-51. Sherira and Hai Gaon mention Aaron’s interpretation of a passage in the tractate Yevamot in one of their legal opinions (L. Ginzberg, Geonica, 2 (1909), 67). Aaron also wrote an Arabic commentary on the Pentateuch, in the same style as that of his rival Saadiah. The few existing fragments are inadequate to judge the character of this work, or its relationship to Saadiah’s exegesis. Aaron’s commentary on Deuteronomy (beginning with the weekly portion Shofetim) is also mentioned. Fragments of his commentary on other parts of the Pentateuch are cited in Abraham Ibn Ezra’s commentary on the Pentateuch. Maimonides mentions Aaron among the older Jewish scholars who opposed the view of the Greek philosophers that the universe is eternal.


(HaRAH, initials of his name Ha-Rav Aharon ha-Levi; c. 1235-1300), Spanish rabbi and halakhist. Aaron was a descendant of *Zerahiah b. Isaac ha-Levi. His principal teachers were his brother Phinehas and Moses b. Nahman (*Nahmanides). He had many disciples in his native Barcelona; the most famous was Yom Tov b. Abraham of Seville. In 1278 Aaron and Solomon b. Abraham *Adret were designated by Pedro 111 to settle a dispute in the community of Saragossa. In 1284, on the instructions of the king, he was appointed rabbi of that town for the purpose of ending the continuous dissensions in Saragossa. On Aaron’s advice, the community enacted several important ordinances; some were vigorously contested both during his lifetime and in subsequent generations (Isaac b. Sheshet, Responsa, 388). After some time he returned to Barcelona where he apparently engaged in business. In 1286 he went to Toledo and remained there briefly. He returned to Barcelona.

Noted for his originality, Aaron would defer neither to the majority nor to the traditional authorities. At times, both he and Solomon b. Abraham Adret, who had many mutual disciples, were consulted on the same legal question, and answered jointly. Their personalities clashed and they often disagreed. On one occasion they requested French scholars to pronounce a final decision (Yom Tov b. Abraham of Seville, responsa, ed. by Y. Kafah (1959), 79). When Adret published his Torat ha-Bayit ("Law of the House") Aaron wrote critical comments called Bedek ha-Bayit ("Repair of the House") which were printed together with the former work (Venice, 1608 and in all subsequent editions). His introduction and notes were written in an inoffensive and respectful tone. Adret hastily wrote a sharp rejoinder called Mishmeret ha-Bayit ("Guard of the House"), which was issued anonymously. However, Adret admits his authorship in one of his responsa. Most of his attacks were based on statements of the early legal authorities whom Aaron had ignored.

Aaron wrote several independent books. Of his novellae to the Talmud, only those to three tractates have survived -Ketubbot (Prague, 1734), Bezah (published in the Mareh ha-Ofannim of Jacob Faitusi, Leghorn, 1810), and Sukkah (1962); the novellae on Kiddushin (1904) are erroneously ascribed to him. A large part of his novellae to Shabbat is preserved in the pseudo-R. Nissim commentary to this tractate. Of his commentaries on the halakhot of Alfasi, only those on tractates Berakhot and Ta’anit have survived (Pekuddat ha-Leviyyim, 1874; new edition M. Blau, 1957). In his preface Aaron mentioned that he wrote a short commentary on the Talmud called Nezer ha-Kodesh in which he gives the halakhah without the accompanying discussion. The work is no longer extant. Of his legal decisions, only his Kelalei Yein Nesekh on the prohibition of wine prepared by Gentiles (published as an topic to Adret’s Avodat ha-Kodesh, (Venice, 1602)), and HilkhotNiddah (1967), have survived. The Sefer ha-Hinnukh of Aaron ha-Levi of Barcelona has been wrongly ascribed to him.


("the physician") "the Elder" (c. 1250-1320), *Karaite scholar and writer. Born apparently in Solkhat, Crimea. In 1279 he disputed there with the Rabbanites concerning the method of determining the New Moon of Tishri (see ^Calendar). Apparently he also lived in Constantinople. The influence of the Talmud and Rabbanite scholars and philosophers is seen in his writings. His views were based on the Muslim *Kalam philosophical system, but he inclined toward Aristotelianism. In 1293 he completed his commentary on the Pentateuch, Sefer ha-Mivh ar (1835), widely used by the Karaites in the 14th and 15th centuries; several su-percommentaries were written on it, the last, Tirat Kesef, by Joseph Solomon *Luzki. Usually preferring the plain meaning of the Bible, Aaron occasionally also uses aggadic interpretations, taken as a rule from *Rashi. He frequently quotes his Karaite and Rabbanite predecessors, notably *Abraham ibn Ezra. Aaron sometimes interpreted the halakhah of his sect leniently, for instance permitting Karaite residents of Jerusalem to eat meat; however this ruling was not accepted. He also disagreed with the "catenary" theory of forbidden marriage (rikkuv) which extended the laws against incest to extremely remote relationships, on the ground that it ran counter to the Karaite principle that no addition should be made to biblical injunctions. In these laws, he differed from the Rabbanites only in upholding the Karaite interdict of marrying one’s niece. He may have preferred a permanent system of calenda-tion instead the one based on lunar observation. Aaron also wrote commentaries on the Former Prophets and Isaiah 1-59 (Mivhar Yesharim, 1836), and on Psalms 1-71 (several Mss. In Leyden and jts, New York). He refers to an apparently lost commentary he wrote on Job. An unfinished Hebrew grammar (Kelil Yofi, printed Gozlow 1847), recognizably influenced by Jonah ibn *Janah, was completed by Isaac b. Judah Tishbi. His polemics against Rabbanite practices and the *Kabbalah (entitled Moreh Aharon and Sefer Mitzvot) have not been preserved. Aaron’s redaction of the Karaite liturgy remains the official order of Karaite service. He introduced into it piyyutim by Solomon ibn *Gabirol, Judah *Halevi, and *Abraham and Moses ibn *Ezra. Aaron himself wrote liturgical poems for Sabbaths and holy days, many of which have been included in the Karaite prayer book, notably those written according to the weekly reading of the Torah. A late commentary on these poems entitled Tuv Taam, has appeared in a non-critical edition (Ramle 2000). He had a marked influence upon later Karaite writers.


(or Kosdani, i.e., "of Con-stantinopole"; end of 12th century), Karaite scholar. Of his works only a responsum addressed to Solomon b. David, the Karaite nasi in Cairo, concerning the law of incest is known. In it Aaron reveals himself a zealous partisan of the highly restrictive catenary (rikkuv) theory of forbidden marriages favored by the early Karaite authorities. Solomon rejected his views. The responsum is quoted by Karaite writers, who call Aaron ba’al ha-derashot ("the author of homilies") but no homilies from his pen have as yet been found.

Levi "Abulafia of Maimonides’ views on resurrection, Aaron vigorously defended Maimonides in the name of the "sages of Lunel," lauding him as "Prince (nasi) and rabbi, unequaled in East or in West."


(d. 1807), Polish rabbinical scholar and author. Aaron’s father was one of the leaders (allufim) of the Brest-Litovsk (Brisk) community and one of the signatories to a letter sent in 1752 to Jonathan Eybeschuetz, whom he supported in the dispute with Jacob *Emden. Aaron studied under Eleazar b. Eleazar Kallir, author of Or Hadash. He refused to accept a rabbinical position and devoted himself exclusively to his studies. Aaron was delegate to the conference of Jewish notables of Poland which assembled in Warsaw in 1791 to deliberate on the problems of Polish Jewry. He wrote Minhat Aharon, novellae on tractate Sanhedrin (Novydvor, 1792) with a topic entitled Minh ah Belulah containing responsa and talmudical treatises. Other responsa (Anaf Ez Avot) were included in Mekor Mayim Hayyim (1839) by his grandson Jacob Meir, whose father H ayyim had adopted the surname Padua. In his work Aaron shows himself a master of the casuistic method of Talmud study known as pilpul.


(d. c. 1210), one of the leading scholars of Lunel. He was the son of *Meshul-lam b. Jacob of Lunel. Aaron studied under "Abraham b. David of Posquieres, with whom he subsequently corresponded. A book on the laws of terefot is attributed to him, but it is likely that this treatise is an extract from his work on the Talmud or on the halakhot of Alfasi on tractate Hullin. *Meshullam b. Moses, son of Aaron’s sister, mentions these novellae of his uncle in his Sefer ha-Hashlamah. Aaron was expert in astronomy and the computation of the calendar and wrote a booklet comparing the Hebrew and Christian calendars. Judah b. Saul ibn *Tibbon, in his will, urges his son Samuel to study this subject with Aaron and to rely upon him and upon his brother Asher. Aaron was an admirer of Maimonides. In the controversy which arose following the criticism by Meir ha-


(1766-1828), leader of a dissenting group in the *Chabad branch of Lithuanian H asidism. Born in Orshva Aaron was a descendant of the family of Isaiah Leib *Horwitz (Shelah; 1555-1630) and was considered both a brilliant interpreter of h asidic teachings and a prominent mystical innovator. He was the most prominent disciple of *Shneur Zalman of Lyady, founder of Chabad H asidism (1745-1813), with whom he remained close friends for 30 years between 1783 and 1813. Personal and subsequently ideological disputes estranged him from Shneur Zalman’s elder son and successor Dov Ber (see *Schneersohn, 1773-1827), who assumed Chabad leadership in a period of ensuing conflict. After Shneur Zalman’s death in 1813, Aaron headed a major trend of Chabad which was marked and differentiated from the mainstream movement in questions concerning spiritual authority and ecstatic religious expression in prayer. While the importance of the intellectual approach to religious worship (hitbonenut in Chabad vocabulary) was accepted by all the followers of Shneur Zal-man, the role of mystical rapture and the ecstatic-emotional approach, referring to communion with God known and as devekut or hitpaalut, was intensely disputed. Dov Ber maintained a distinction between proper and improper states of ecstasy and stages of mystical rapture, claiming that his perception expressed his father’s position. R. Aaron maintained, on the contrary, that he was the true follower of R. Shneur Zal-man, who favored unrestricted exaltation in meditation and emotional prayer, which he considered conducive to love and reverence of God, a position which Dov Ber refused to accept. The debate is argued forcefully in the books of R. Aaron detailed below and the two tracts by R. Dov Ber – Kuntres ha-Hitpaalut ("Tract on Ecstasy") and Kuntres ha-Hitbonenut ("Tract on Contemplation"). Aaron’s most important works are (1) Shaarei ha-Yihud ve-ha-Emunah (Shklov, 1820), a commentary completing the second (unfinished) part of the Tanya, the main work of Shneur Zalman; (2) Sha’arei ha-Avo-dah (Shklov, 1821) with a forward known as petah hateshuvah, explaining and defending his approach, considered the true path set by Shneur Zalman; (3) Avodat ha-Levi, a compendium of sermons, letters, and miscellaneous works, published posthumously in 1842 in three volumes (Lemberg ed. and in 1866, Warsaw ed.). The composition of some of the most beautiful H abad melodies is attributed to him. Although one of Aaron’s sons attempted to continue his spiritual leadership in his court after his father death, most of his disciples left him to join the main Chabad movement led by Menahem Mendel of Lubavitch or other hasidic groups.


(c. 1620-1701), German rabbinical author. He is best known for his concordance Beit Aharon (Frankfurt on the Oder, 1690-91) in which he assembled all biblical passages cited or explained in the Talmud, the mi-drashim, and the many religious-philosophical, homiletic, and kabbalistic writings, with exact references for each quotation. The Beit Aharon is based on such works as *Aaron of Pesaro’s Toledot Aharon (1581), Simeon b. Isaac ha-Levi’s Mas-oret ha-Mikra (1572), and Jacob *Sasportas’ Toledot Yaakov (1652). It was published in the Vilna and Grodno edition of the Prophets and Hagiographa in 1780. An enlarged edition by Abraham David Lavat appeared under the title Beit Aharon ve-Hosafot (1880). Aaron’s other works include Sisra Torah (a pun on the Ashkenazi pronunciation of "Sitrei Torah"), a homiletic commentary on Judges 4 and 5 (on Sisera and Jael); Shaloah Manot, a short commentary on the Babylonian Talmud; Megillah (both lost); and Hlibbur Masorah, a midrashic commentary on the masorah. Some excerpts of the latter appeared as a topic to the Beit Aharon. At the request of his wife Aaron translated into Yiddish the Midrash Petirat Moshe (Frankfurt on the Oder, 1693), which was popular among women in Poland and Russia. Aaron also wrote a commentary on *Perek Shirah.


(of Hergerhausen; 1665-c. 1732), author of Liebliche Tefillah, a volume of prayers and supplications in Yiddish. Aaron was an orphan supported by charity. Later he was a distiller of brandy for sale in his tavern. He had little schooling, but in 1709 he came to the conclusion that prayers should be recited in the current Jewish vernacular (Yiddish-Taitch) since the public was ignorant of Hebrew, and in pursuit of this aim published (Frankfurt a-M., 1709) his Liebliche Tefillah in that language and in his introduction urges that children be taught to pray in that language. It consists of selections from the Prayer Book, Psalms, and a number of personal supplications which include "a beautiful prayer for a servant or maid" and one ".. .for husband and wife that they live in harmony."

Next post:

Previous post: