The "Residents" Jewish community in Fez from the XVIth century

פאס -שער הקסבהThe "Residents" Jewish community in Fez from  the XVIth century

Haim Bentov

The two catastrophes that befel the community of Fez, in 1438 and 1465, are commonly cited as the cause for the dwindling of the local Jewish population of 'residents' (toshavim) and the weakening of their economic and social position. This development, in turn, has been used to explain the fact that the exiles from Spain, who arrived during the years 1492- 1497, rapidly became the spokesmen for the entire community of Fez, and that the local 'residents' assimilated forthwith into their midst. In this study the author suggests that this assimilation was not quite total, and discusses its stages and limitations.

Two responsa are published here. One was written by Rabbis Yehuda ben Atar and Yaakov ben Zur (1712), and the other — based on a manuscript in the author's possession — by R. Eliyahu Sarfatti (c. 1780- 1790). Both deal with the community of 'residents', its customs and syna­gogue. The second responsum quotes documents that shed light on the history of the community in the 16th—18th centuries.

The author suggests that the halakhic dispute regarding nefihah, the 'inflating' of the lung (1525-1545) was a major turning-point. The 'exiles' emerged victorious in this affair, and continued thereafter to strengthen their position within the community. Conversely, the dispute weakened the position of the 'residents', ultimately causing them to lose their pre­eminence.

Prior to the dispute the Chief Nagid was chosen from among the 'residents', while deputy Negidim from the ranks of the 'exiles' drew their authority from him. Following the dispute there was only one Nagid, usually from among the 'exiles', and he served as a liaison between the authorities and the entire community. According to takkana 23 in the Book of Takkanot, he was also empowered to sign the takkanot of the residents' community. The 'court' of the 'residents' was abolished, and henceforth there was a 'body of sages' for the entire community, with one representative from among the 'residents'. Even legal decisions relating to single members of the 'resident' community were handed down by this body of sages, which as we have noted, had only one repre­sentative for the 'residents'.

There was only one shechita authority, and its control was divided between the 'residents' and the 'exiles'. A similar situation existed re­garding the office of 'court scribes': some were 'residents', others were 'exiles'. The systems of slaughtering and examining were uniform, and among the 'expert slaughterers' were also members of the 'resident' com­munity. Only in the synagogue of the 'residents' do we encounter their total dominance of the administration. At the head of the synagogue there stood 'seven best men of the Kahal, among them the Treasurer of the Kahal, and at their head was the sage of the Kahal — who also headed the special Yeshiva of the 'residents'. This Yeshiva contained an impressive library of printed books and manuscripts, and served exclu­sively the needs of the residents.

The author indicates special customs maintained by the 'residents' and passed down from generation to generation. These related mainly to daily life, including martial affairs, and some were even accepted as legal precedents by the 'exiles', thus rendering them binding on the entire community. The author describes the various sages who stood at the head of the 'resident' community, all from the family of Ibn Danan, and traces their lineage from the days of the Spanish exile to the present. The history of the two synagogues of the 'residents' — the old and the new — is also discussed.

הירשם לבלוג באמצעות המייל

הזן את כתובת המייל שלך כדי להירשם לאתר ולקבל הודעות על פוסטים חדשים במייל.

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אוגוסט 2016
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