Reading 3-13 Theses Examples
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This writing is explaining the process of honoring the Exilarch within ancient Jewish society. It was written by R. Nathan Ah-Kohen outlining the steps taken when appointing the Exilarch and the great prestige and honor the position held within the society itself. In order to choose an Exilarch the heads of the Yeshivot along with the elders and congregation leaders all had to come to an agreement on who should be awarded the honor. All of these important religious leaders would go to the house of the chosen member of the community showing him honor and naming him the Exilarch. The community members would all shower him with gifts and he would have a prominent part in a ceremony held at the synagogue. He would be blessed by the two heads of the Yeshiva and they would sit on either side of him. After the ceremony the Exilarch would have an entourage wherever he went and be honored as though he was a minister himself. The position held great honor and was a station of significant influence within the ancient Jewish community. In the following sections I will show that the Exilarchate has a prominent place in Jewish history and the Exilarch himself wielded substantial power in Babylon. (Hallo et al)
The Exilarch is defined as the leader of the Diaspora Jewish community located in Babylon during the first twelve centuries C.E. Most scholars believe he was a descendent of the line of David and was considered the man who would be king should the Jewish people come out of exile. Though, the actual significance of his lineage is sometimes debated among scholars that say most accounts state that the Exilarchs lineage was not the most important factor when the decision to name a man the Exilarch came about. The Exilarch was often called the Resh Galuta or “head of the exile”. Whether or not the position of Exilarch existed before or after that time is impossible to verify but more than twenty Exilarchs are known to have reigned during the first twelve centuries. In the first century C.E. The Jews aligned themselves with the Parthians against the Romans and in the second century the first evidence of the Exilarch arose. This was also a result of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple where Jewish leadership had arisen from in the past. The Exilarchate provided some guidance and hope to the Jewish people during their time of exile. Scholars have had a very difficult time understanding exactly what the Exilarchate meant to the Jewish community in Babylon because historical writings view the Exilarchate in a myriad of different ways. This particular reading gives a very detailed account of the pomp and circumstance surrounding the Exilarchate and in that regard it is very unique. Scholars have found it difficult to piece together the varying accounts found in many different writings because no first-hand accounts the Exilarchate have been found but do agree that there is great historical significance found in the Exilarchate. (Cohen) (Herman)
In Babylon the Jewish community was essentially a state unto itself and even had its own police force and judicial system. The Jewish people were very influential within the community and because of this the position of Exilarch was sometimes a tedious one; balancing the needs and wants of the Jewish people with the political pressures and outside influences of both Jewish and Parthian leaders. Most of the time the Exilarch was of exemplary character, steadfast and honest, but under certain reigns the Jewish community suffered. This was often caused by the shared power of the Exilarch who was a governing power and the Gaeon who was the governing religious power for the Jewish people. If these two men were unable to synchronize motives and ideals conflicts and turmoil arose within the community. However, regardless of personal faults the position of Exilarch provided honor and power to its holder. (Exilarch)
The Exilarch was a pillar of the Jewish community and governed the Jewish people during their period of exile, and some scholars believe far after. The reading outlines how the Exilarch is honored and becomes the equal of the religious leaders of the Jewish community. The man in this position ruled over the Autonomous Jewish community within the city of Babylon. It was a very difficult position to be in and scholars across the world have varying opinions of whether the position was solely for the benefit of the Jewish people and whether the lineage of the Exilarch was of as great of importance as many portray it to be. However, unanimously it is believed that the position held great historical meaning among the Jews and the holder wielded great power during that time in history.(Herman)
Cohen, Robin. "Diasporas and the Nation-state: From Victims to Challengers." N.p., n.d. Web.
"Exilarch." Exilarch. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2015.
Herman, Geoffrey. "A Prince without a Kingdom - The Exilarch in the Sasanian Era." A Prince without a Kingdom. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2015
William W. Hallo, David B. Ruderman, Michael Stanislawski, Heritage: Civilization and the Jews: Source Reader (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1984)
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