Friday, 15 January 2016

Jewish King of Shingly and the Spanish poet...

A calligraphic representation the Rabbi Nissim's poem by, Thoufeek Zakriya

A 14th century poem נאמר שירה "Nomar Shirah" (Let us sing a song) by a Spanish Jew, ends like this 

I travelled from Spain,                   מספרד הלכתי נסעתי       
I has heared of the city of Shingly,  עיר שנגולי שמעתי          
I longed to see an Israel King,          ישראל מלך תאבתי        
Him, I saw with my own eyes.                  אותו יראו עיני                

Prof Nathan Katz, mentions in his book  "In the fourteenth century, Rabbi Nissim ben Reuben (1310? - 1375?) of Spain not only made his way to Shingly, but composed a song to commemorate his visit. The song has been preserved in Cochin song books and is chanted on the secnd day of Shavu'oth"

About the poet

Rabbi Nissim ben Reuven of Girona, Catalonia (נסים בן ראובן) also refered as RaN (ר"ן) was believed to be born in 1310 A.D or 1320 A.D and died in 1375 A.D 1380 A.D. He was an influential talmudist and halakist, Head of the Yeshiva ( Jewish religious school) probably Kehillas Yaakov shul of Barcelona, court Physician, an astronomer, a poet and one among the last great Spanish medieval Jewish scholars. 

He was the greatest Halachic authority of his generation, queries were sent to him from throughout the Jewish diaspora.  

His best-known work is his commentary and explanation of Isaac ben Jacob Alfasi ha-Cohen's "Sefer ha-Halachot ". Rabbi Nissim wrote a commentary on the Talmud. The commentary is oriented toward practical decisions as opposed to theory. The commentary has been printed only on some tractates, the rest exists in manuscript or has been lost.

Other works include, Responsa, a recently published commentary on the Bible, a work of philosophy, and a collection of sermons ("Derashot Ha'RaN").

Torah inscribed by Rabbi Nissim ben Reuven conditionally donated to the Kehillas Yaakov shul in Barcelona in the year 1336. now in the Israel’s National Library 

Who was the Jewish King of Shingly?

Not much is known about the Israeli (Jewish) King of city of Shingly (modern day Kodungallur) but reading all the available information we could come to a conclusion that the Israel King, would be Joseph Azar, who was the descendant of Joseph Rabban. And supposed year of their meet is no later than 1340 A.D and this happened in the Jewish principality of Anjuvannam.

Some points which concrete this claims are:

  • Anjuvannam was the Jewish principality in the vicinity of Shingly which was having a leader equal to a King or Prince, inherited by the Copper Magna Carta received by Joseph Rabban.
  • The coinciding timeline of the Rabbi Nissim and Joseph Azar
  • Joseph Azar is supposed as the Prince or the head of the principality of Anjuvannam.
  • The troop/ principality of Anjuvannam was dispersed after 1340 A.D after the disputes between the brothers.

This Jewish King is believed to have finally ended up in Cochin, and the construction of the first synagogue of Cochin, Kochangadi synagogue is attributed to him. 

Moses pereira de paiva gives his account in Noticias dos Judeos de Cochim , that he had seen the tomb of Joseph Azar in Cochin. And also gives details of the descendants of Joseph Azar, who was residing in Cochin then. 

Eben Sapir, by Jacob Sapir
Who are the Jews of India, by Nathan Katz.