Gaon of Pumbedita from 917 to 935. Immediately after his appointment he took measures to change the existing system in the division of the revenues between the two schools of Sura and Pumbedita. Hitherto Sura had taken two-thirds, and Pumbedita one-third, of the total revenue. Kohen Ẓedeḳ opposed this division on the ground that Pumbedita was at that time the more prominent and had the greater number of pupils, and was, therefore, under heavier expense than Sura. The controversy resulted in favor of Kohen Ẓedeḳ, it being decided that an equal division of the income should thenceforth be made between the two schools.

Kohen Ẓedeḳ succeeded also in protecting the interests of Pumbedita against the schemes of the exilarch Mar'Uḳba. It had been the custom to assign the income from Chorazan to Pumbedita, which was bound, in return, to provide the Jewish communities of that province with officers. Mar 'Uḳba, already unpopular, attempted to secure possession of these revenues for himself, but the attempt cost him his position. Kohen Ẓedeḳ's influential friends, Neṭira, his sons, and Joseph ben Phineas his son-in-law (see on them A. Harkavy in the "Berliner Festschrift," pp. 34 et seq.), induced the court of Bagdad to banish Mar 'Uḳba to Kermanshah. His poetic talents, however, won him a renewal of the favor of the calif, but the strong opposition to him brought about his second banishment.

When the post of exilarch had been vacant five years, and the question of Mar 'Uḳba's successor began to be considered, the appointment of his nephew, David b. Zakkai, proved generally acceptable. But although the whole college of Sura acknowledged him as exilarch, Kohen Ẓedeḳ refused to recognize him, on the ground that he was a relative of Mar 'Uḳba. David b. Zakkai then declared Kohen Ẓedeḳ's position vacant, and appointed Mebasser b. Ḳimoi as gaon in his place (918). Only part of the college of Pumbedita remained faithful to their old head, the rest going over to Mebasser. The tedious struggle between David b. Zakkai and Kohen Ẓedeḳ was finally settled by the blind Nissim Naharwani; he went to the latter late at night and persuaded him to become reconciled to the exilarch, who then recognized him as lawful gaon.

Such is the account of Kohen Ẓedeḳ's life as given by Nathan ha-Babli (in the Ahimaaz Chronicle, in"Med. Jew. Chron." ii.), which is followed by Grätz and Weiss. The letter of Sherira Gaon, on the other hand, which is followed by Abraham ibn Daud ("M. J. C." i. 40, 66), makes Kohen Ẓedeḳ's public career much shorter, and contradicts in many respects the accounts of the other authorities. Sherira's version begins with the election of Mebasser to the gaonate. After the death of Yehudai bar Samuel, gaon of Pumbedita (917), the college selected Mebasser ben Ḳimoi as his successor (918). The exilarch David ben Zakkai, however, refused to recognize him and chose Kohen Ẓedeḳ as gaon in opposition to him. A struggle naturally ensued between David b. Zakkai and Mebasser and his pupils, ending finally in the reconciliation of the exilarch and the gaon (922). After the death of Mebasser (926) his pupils went over to Kohen Ẓedeḳ, who thenceforth until his death in 935 was sole and acknowledged gaon. The fact that Kohen Ẓedeḳ was not independent, as Nathan ha-Babli seems to suggest, and that his importance depended on David b. Zakkai's favor, agrees with the fact that in the controversy of the exilarch with Saadia over a case of inheritance, Kohen Ẓedeḳ unhesitatingly subscribed to David b. Zakkai's decision, while Saadia refused to do so. According to J. Halevy, whose statements are made on the authority of Sherira's letter, the dispute with Mar'Uḳba concerning the income from Chorazan, of which Nathan ha-Babli speaks, was not between 'Uḳba and this Kohen Ẓedeḳ of Pumbedita, but involved an earlier gaon of Sura, Kohen Ẓedeḳ b. Abimai (845). No responsa from Kohen Ẓedeḳ Kahana b. Joseph have been preserved.

  • Grätz, Gesch. v. 246 et seq., 276, 391 et seq.;
  • J. Halevy, Dorot ha-Rishonim, iii. 25 et seq.;
  • Weiss, Dor, iv. 134 et seq., 157, 159;
  • compare also the direct contradiction in Jew. Encyc. v. 290b and 569a.
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