Samuel Ha-Nagid
Jewish Community Leader and Philathropist

Just as a vizier was the Caliph's official serving the Muslim community, a nagid served the Jews —  and was in fact elected by them. Samuel devoted himself to assisting the Jewish community far and wide. He also provided the Granadan Jews with an heroic example that inspired pride and confidence they sorely needed, being constantly vulnerable to the whims of the Arab, Slav, and Berber armies vying for control of the Andalusian kingdoms.

The Nagid's spectacular victories were considered victories of the Jewish community as well, and the dramas the Nagid played out on the Granadan battlefield were so central to these Jews' lives that a special Purim was even declared to celebrate one of his victories.[1] Samuel's poems were recited aloud not only by the Andalusian Jews, but also as far away as Babylonia.[2]

In the following selection, 12th-century Jewish historian Abraham Ibn Daud[3] describes the many services the Nagid performed on behalf of the Jews that he represented:

"Now R. Samuel was appointed as Nagid in 4787 (1026/7). He achieved great good for Israel in Spain, the Maghreb (North Africa), Ifriqiya (Tunisia), Egypt, Sicily, indeed as far as the academy in Babylonia and the Holy City. He provided material benefits out of his own pocket for students of the Torah in all these countries. He also purchased many books —  copies of the Holy Scriptures as well as of the Mishna and Talmud, which are also among the holy writings. Throughout Spain and the countries just mentioned, whoever wished to devote himself full time to the study of the Torah found in him a patron.

Moreover, he retained scribes who would make copies of the Mishna and Talmud, which he would present to students who were unable to purchase copies themselves, both in the academies of Spain as well as of the other countries we mentioned. These gifts were coupled with annual contributions of olive oil for the synagogues of Jerusalem, which he would dispatch from his own home. He spread Torah abroad and died at a ripe old age after having earned four crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of power, the crown of a Levite, and towering over them all, by dint of good deeds in each of these domains, the crown of a good name."[4]

[1] Encyclopedia Judaica, "Samuel ha-Nagid." [back]

[2] Jefim Schirmann. "Samuel Hannagid, the Man, the Soldier, the Politician." Jewish Social Studies, 2 (April, 1951), p. 109. [back]

[3] Jewish historian and philosopher Abraham Ibn Daud (c.1110-1180, Toledo, Castile), also called Rabad I, was the first Jewish philosopher to draw on Aristotle's writings in a systematic fashion. He is most esteemed today for his history Sefer ha-Kabbalah (Book of Tradition), in which he attempted to demonstrate the unbroken chain of rabbinic tradition from Moses, this in response to the attack of the Karaites on rabbinic authority. Sefer ha-Kabbalah provides much valuable information about contemporary Spanish Jewry, their synagogues, and their religious practices. [back] [4] An allusion to Mishnah Avot 4:13. [back]
From: Norman A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands. Copyright © 1979 The Jewish Publication Society (Philadelphia), p. 213. Permission of The Jewish Publication Society of America.

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