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ALFAKAR (Arabic, Al-Fakar; Hebrew, "The Potter"):

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The name of one of the oldest Spanish-Jewish families, distinguished for its social position and scholarship; originally of Granada, and subsequently of Toledo. An Alfakar, who wrote a treatise "On Salvation," was a contemporary of Abraham ibn Ezra, who mentions him in his commentary on Daniel. Maimonides, a few years before his death, also mentions the venerable Ibn Matka Alfa. Ḥym or Ḥayyim Alfakar of Granada is referred to by Alfonso de Spina as being physicianin ordinary to King Alfonso. At about the same time (1190) there lived in Toledo the physician Joseph Alfakar, "the learned sage, the great nasi and physician," who was instrumental in suppressing the Karaites in Spain ("Rev. Ét. Juives," xviii. 62; "Jew. Quart. Rev." xi. 590). He was the father of Judah Alfakar and, probably, also of Abraham Alfakar. These two were considered the most celebrated of their line.

Abraham Alfakar:

A highly honored member of the court of Alfonso VIII. of Castile; died in January, 1231 or 1239, in Toledo. He was a master of Arabic, and a versatile poet. He wrote a eulogy (see Makkari," Analectes sur l'Histoire des Arabes d'Espagne," ii. 355; M. Hartmann, "Das Arabische Strophengedicht," 1896, p. 46) on his royal master, who honored him with a mission to Abu Yakub Almustanẓir, sultan of Morocco.

Not less distinguished was Judah Alfakar (died 1235), who is said to have been physician in ordinary to King Ferdinand III. Endowed with a keen intellect, he acquired an excellent scientific education, and exercised great influence in Toledo. In the controversy concerning the writings of Maimonides, he took sides with the opponents of the philosopher. The aged David ḳimḥi attempted to win him over to the party of Maimonides, and undertook a journey to Toledo for this purpose, but falling ill on the road, ḳimḥi addressed a letter to Alfakar, which began with the following words: "O Judah, thy brethren offer thee homage from afar; thou art adorned with wisdom, greatness, and modesty." But Judah, who was filled with Castilian intolerance, repelled his advances. A second letter from ḳimḥi brought from Judah a most emphatic answer, in which he unsparingly condemned the attempt of Maimonides to reconcile the Greek or Aristotelian philosophy with Judaism, and set up a canon which several centuries later was approved by Spinoza. He reproached Maimonides with permitting himself to be influenced by mere philosophical hypotheses. He admitted that Maimonides was a great man, and entitled to much respect for the good he had done; but contended that he was only a human being, and that blindly to accept his errors would be sinful. The harsh manner in which Alfakar treated the universally respected ḳimḥi aroused the outspoken disapproval even of his own friends.

Bibliography:
  • Zunz, Z. G. p. 428;
  • A. Geiger, Das Judenthum und Seine Geschichte, iii. 46 et seq.;
  • Oẓar Neḥmad, ii. 172;
  • Grätz, Gesch. d. Juden, vii. 63 et seq.;
  • Steinschneider, Hebr. Bibl. xix. 41.
M. K.
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