Exilarch - Character of The Exilarchate in The Arabic Era - Income and Privileges

Income and Privileges

In regard to Nathan ha-Babli's additional account as to the income and the functions of the exilarch (which refers, however, only to the time of the narrator), it may be noted that he received taxes, amounting altogether to 700 gold denarii a year, chiefly from the provinces Nahrawan, Farsistan, and Holwan.

The Muslim author of the 9th century, Al-Jahiz, who has been referred to above, makes special mention of the shofar, the wind-instrument which was used when the exilarch (ras al-jalut) excommunicated any one. The punishment of excommunication, continues the author, is the only one which in Muslim countries the exilarch of the Jews and the catholicos of the Christians may pronounce, for they are deprived of the right of inflicting punishment by imprisonment or flogging .

Another Muslim author reports a conversation that took place in the 8th century between a follower of Islam and the exilarch, in which the latter boasted; "Seventy generations have passed between me and King David, yet the Jews still recognize the prerogatives of my royal descent, and regard it as their duty to protect me; but you have slain the grandson of your prophet after one single generation" .

The son of a previous exilarch said to another Muslim author: "I formerly never rode by Karbala, the place where Husain was martyred, without spurring on my horse, for an old tradition said that on this spot the descendant of a prophet would be killed; only since Husain has been slain there and the prophecy has thus been fulfilled do I pass leisurely by the place" . This last story indicates that the resh galuta had by that time become the subject of Muslim legend, other examples also being cited by Goldziher.

That the personage of the exilarch was familiar to Muslim circles is also shown by the fact that the Rabbinite Jews were called Jaluti, that is, those belonging to the exilarch, in contradistinction to the Karaites . In the first quarter of the 11th century, not long before the extinction of the exilarchate, Ibn Hazm, a fanatic polemicist, made the following remark in regard to the dignity: "The ras al-jalut has no power whatever over the Jews or over other persons; he has merely a title, to which is attached neither authority nor prerogatives of any kind" .

Curiously enough the exilarchs are still mentioned in the Sabbath services of the Ashkenazim ritual. The Aramaic prayer "Yekum Purkan," which was used once in Babylon in pronouncing the blessing upon the leaders there, including the "reshe galwata" (the exilarchs), is still recited in most synagogues. The Jews of the Sephardic ritual have not preserved this anachronism, nor was it retained in most of the Reform synagogues, beginning in the 19th century.

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