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SHEMARIAH BEN ELHANAN:

Head of the yeshibah of Cairo, Egypt, about the end of the tenth century. Abraham b. David ("Sefer ha-Ḳabbalah," in Neubauer, "M. J. C." i. 68) relates that Ibn Rumaḥis (or Ibn Demahin), an Arab admiral, had captured four scholars who were voyaging from Bari to Sebaste to collect money for the maintenance of the great school in Babylonia ("haknasat kallah"), and that one of the four was called Shemariah b. Elhanan. Shemariah was sold by his captor at Alexandria, where he was afterward ransomed by rich Jews.

Shemariah then went to Cairo, where he founded a flourishing school. As to the native place of the captured scholars, the general opinion, more particularly with regard to Shemariah, is that the four were Babylonians, I. H. Weiss ("Dor," iv. 265, note 2) being the only authority who assigns them to Italy. David Kaufmann (in Berliner's "Magazin," v. 70-75) thinks they came from Pumbedita. This opinion, at least with regard to Shemariah b. Elhanan, is confirmed by a fragment of a responsum (published by Neubauer in "J. Q. R." vi. 222-223) apparently addressed by Sherira Gaon to Jacob b. Nissim at Kairwan (see Halberstam, ib. p. 596), in which Shemariah is spoken of as the head of the yeshibah of Nehardea and as a high authority in rabbinics. Later, also, when Shemariah was the head of the yeshibah of Cairo, he was consulted by many rabbis from distant countries; and Schechter has published (in "J. Q. R." x. 644-648) a long letter addressed to Shemariah by Ḥushiel of Kairwan, who, according to Abraham b. David (l.c.), was captured with Shemariah, and another letter, by an unknown rabbi, also addressed to Shemariah ("J. Q. R." xiv. 492-497).

Bibliography:
  • Besides the sources mentioned, Grätz, Gesch. v., note 21, ii.;
  • Harkavy, Teshubot ha-Ge'onim, p. 2.
W. B. M. Sel.
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