SAR SHALOM BEN BOAZ:
Gaon of Sura, where he died about 859 or 864, having held the gaonate for ten years. He succeeded Kohen Ẓedeḳ I., and was in turn succeeded by Naṭronai b. Hilai. He left more than 100 responsa, a great many of which are to be found in the collection "Sha'are Ẓedeḳ" (Salonica, 1792), forty-seven in "Teshubot Ge'onim Ḳadmonim" (Nos. 13-60, Berlin, 1848), twenty-seven in "Sefer Sha'are Teshubah," and some in "Toratan shel Rishonim" (Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1881). His responsa show clearly that Sar Shalom was very tolerant toward non-Jews, mild toward his subordinates, and liberal in the enforcement of the laws. He was consulted by chiefs of communities of distant countries, whom, instead of commanding, as it was in his power to do, he answered in a friendly manner, explaining the difference between the customs of his school and those of Pumbedita, and leaving the choice to them. In his responsa he endeavored to give the reasons for his decisions, often declaring that if the consultants were present he would be better able, by discussing the various questions, to elucidate them.
He warned the people not to establish institutions which they probably would be unable to observe. In cases where a community had bound itself by a vow to a statute which it found itself unable to fulfil, he allowed it to break such vow ("Toratan shel Rishonim," i. 47). His tolerance is shown by the fact that he particularly prohibited the robbing of a non-Jew, even when there was no "ḥillul ha-Shem" (profanation of the name of God; "Sha'are Ẓedeḳ," part iv., gate 1, No. 7). But although of a mild disposition, he insisted upon punishing severely the man who struck another man, or who ill-treated his wife, and the woman who was rebellious toward her husband (ib. part i., gate 6, Nos. 3-5); and he was very severe with regard to usury, placing many difficulties in the way of money-lenders (ib. part iv., gate 2, Nos. 3-4).
It may be pointed out that when consulted as to the custom obtaining in certain places of washing the hands and then sitting on the ground seven times when returning from a funeral, he answered that the practise was followed only by the relatives of the deceased, and that the purpose of sitting on the ground was to drive away thereby the demons who accompany a man when returning from the funeral of a relative (ib. part iii., gate 4, No. 20). Thus it seems that he either believed in demons himself, or, at least, did not oppose the popular belief in them.
Sar Shalom manifested a tendency to interpret the Bible cabalistically. He particularly tried to explain the numbers symbolically; thus he declared that the candlestick, consisting of twenty-five parts (comp. Ex. xxv. 31-37), symbolizes the twenty-five generations from Adam to Moses; the ten curtains covering the Tabernacle (ib. xxvi. 1 et seq.), the ten commandments or Decalogue; and the thirty cubits' length of the upper curtains, the thirty generations from Isaac, who was the first circumcised on the eighth day, to Zedekiah, in whose days the Temple was destroyed. In explaining the expression "the ark of the covenant" (Josh. iii. 11) he identifies the Ark with the angel ("Teshubot Ge'onim Ḳadmonim," No. 15).
- Fürst, in Orient, Lit. x. 187;
- idem, Bibl. Jud. iii. 246;
- Grätz, Gesch. 3d ed., v. 231;
- Kaminka, in Winter and Wünsche, Die Jüdische Litteratur, ii. 20 et seq., 242;
- S. J. Rapoport, in Bikkure ha-'Ittim, x. 36, note 28;
- idem, in Teshubot Ge'onim Ḳadmonim, pp. 8-10;
- Weiss, Dor, iv. 112-114.