Who's Who in Jewish History: After the Period of the Old Testament

By Joan Comay | Go to book overview

A

AARON ben-Elijah?

1328-69. Karaite scholar. Aaron lived for a time in Nico-media, in Asia Minor. His fame rests on his trilogy, consisting of Ez ha-Chaim ('Tree of Life'), dealing with the philosophy of religion; Gan Eden ('Garden of Eden'), dealing with Karaite law; and Keter Torah ('Crown of the Law'), a commentary on the Bible. 'Tree of Life' seems to be a conscious imitation of MAIMONIDES' Guide of the Perplexed, though meant to be a counterweight to it. Aaron was successful in restoring some prestige to Karaism, the movement that accepted the Scriptures as the sole source of authority and rejected the Oral Rabbinic Law. He died of plague in 1369, probably in Constantinople, where he had settled.


AARON OF LINCOLN

c. 1123-86. English money-lender. Aaron became the wealthiest Jew in 12 century England by loans to the Crown, the nobles and the Church. Aaron's money helped to build nine Cistercian abbeys and the cathedrals of Lincoln and Peterborough. He owned a house in London near the present-day Mansion House. No ghetto existed in England at this time and the Jews were free to live where their means allowed.

On Aaron's death in 1186, King Henry II, prompted by greed, declared his property escheated to the Crown, including outstanding debts to the sum of some £15,000, equivalent to three-quarters of the royal income in any one normal year. A special branch of the treasury, called the Exchequer of Aaron, was set up to collect the debts over a period of years. Some of them were re-sold to Aaron's son Elias. The king had Aaron's treasure and bullion loaded on a ship in 1187, so that it might be used in the war against Philip Augustus of France. The ship foundered in the Channel, and the treasure was lost.


AARON OF YORK

1190-1268. English money-lender. Aaron was the richest English Jew in the reign of Henry III. From 1236 to 1243 he filled the office of Presbyter Judaeorum ('Jews' bishop'), who served the king as an expert on Jewish affairs and was expected to supply the court with money in exchange for exemption from special taxes. In 1243 Aaron had to provide the huge sum of 4,000 silver marks and 400 gold marks on the occasion of the marriage of Richard of Cornwall, the king's brother. In 1248 and 1250 he was fined 5,000 gold marks on two unsubstantiated charges of forging deeds. So ruthless were King Henry's extortions that Aaron died in penury.


AARONSOHN, Aaron

1876-1919. Head of Nili spy group in Palestine. Aaronsohn was brought to Palestine from Romania at the age of six and grew up in Zichron Ya'akov, which his father helped to found. He was later joined by his sister Sarah.

Trained in France as an agricultural expert, he discovered an important strain of wild wheat in the Galilee, ran an experimental station at Athlit, and headed an anti-locust drive for the Turkish government.

During World War I the yishuv

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