Eliezer ben Nathan (Hebrew: אליעזר בן נתן) of Mainz (1090-1170),
Ra'aven (ראב"ן), was a halakist and liturgical poet.
As an early
, he was a contemporary of the
, and one of the earliest of the Tosafists
. He was the son-in-law of Rabbi Eliakim b. Joseph
of Mainz, a fellow student of
. Through his four daughters Eliezer
became the ancestor of several learned families which exerted a
great influence upon religious life in the subsequent centuries.
One of his great-grandsons was R. Asher
(ROSH), father of R.
Jacob, author of the Ṭurim
Eliezer proves himself conscientious and careful in his decisions.
Unlike R. Tam
possessed little self-confidence, and in his humility and reverence
for tradition he is inclined to extremely rigid interpretations of
the Law. Solomon's injunction (Prov. i. 8), "Forsake not the
teaching of thy mother," he interprets as meaning, "What the older
rabbis have prohibited we must not permit" (No. 10). The chapters
on civil law contain many an interesting document, and also a
statement of commercial relations occasioned by various trials.
contain precise statements of the prices of goods and accurate
information concerning commercial usages in the Rhineland and in distant Slavic countries; e.g., concerning the gold
trade in Strasburg and Speyer (fol.
145b); the coinage of the time (Zunz
p. 5b); and the export trade with Galicia and southern Russia (No.
5). Slavic customs and character are also discussed in connection
with ritual matters. Among the decisions are some containing
interpretations of Biblical
sayings; one of them (No. 119) even
presenting a connected commentary on Prov.
xxx. 1-6, in which R. Saadia
's view is
cited—namely, that Ithiel and Ucal were the names of two men who
addressed philosophical questions to Agur
The work mentions the year 1152, and must therefore have been
completed after that date. The year 1247, which occurs on two
copies, may be credited to later transcribers. In the subsequent
centuries Eliezer came to be regarded as a great authority, but his
work was little known. Not until its importance had been specially
urged by the most influential rabbis of Poland—Mordecai Jafe, Samuel Eliezer Edels (Maharsha),
Luntschitz, among others, in a formal appeal issued from
Posen in 1609—was
its publication undertaken.
As Liturgical Poet
Eliezer wrote numerous yoẓerot
, and other piyyuṭim
; very few of them, however, have
been incorporated in the German and Polish liturgy. The
Akapperah Pene Melek
in the seliḥot to the musaf of the
Day of Atonement
is an example. His
poetical productions are valuable only as an index to his devout
nature and to his estimate of the importance of the liturgy. They
are distinguished for neither originality, elevation of thought,
nor elegance of diction. With their allusions to haggadic
interpretations, their employment of
payyeṭan phraseology, acrostics, rimes, and similar mechanical
devices, they differ little from many other liturgical productions.
Some of these poems he seems to have written on special occasions.
Thus, one piyyuṭ composed for a circumcision occurring on the
bears at the close the cipher "ABN,"
and the words "Long live my child Eliakim." Altogether twenty-five
piyyuṭim of his are known. One of his seliḥot depicts the
persecutions of the First Crusade
(1096); another, those of 1146.
is attributed the commentary on the Maḥzor published in Ostroh in
Some of Eliezer's expositions are mentioned in a
commentary on the festal prayers called Ḳorban Aharon.
Mention is also made of a commentary on Abot
from which Jehiel Morawtschik
his Minḥah Ḥadashah,
written in 1576 after a manuscript of
the year 1145, makes quotations.
As Chronicler: Persecution of 1096
Eliezer is also supposed to be the author of a history of the
terrible events of 1096, the year of the German Crusade
, part of the First Crusade
. It expressed great antipathy
towards the Christian
wrestled with the matter of why God
so many Jews
to be massacred. The persecutions of
the Jewish communities in the towns along the Rhine, the
horrible butcheries that were perpetrated, are faithfully depicted
here in chronological order.
In this work various acrostic verses contain the name "Eliezer b.
Nathan." In deference to a passage in Joseph ha-Kohen
's Emeḳ ha-Baka,
31, which makes a certain Eleazar ha-Levi the author, some writers
and H. Grätz
denied Eliezer's authorship of this chronicle. This view, however,
was refuted around 1900. The chronicle was first edited by Adolph Jellinek
(Zur Geschichte der
Leipsic, 1854); and was republished as
Hebräische Berichte über die Judenverfolgungen Während der
by A. Neubauer
and Stern, together with a German
translation, in the Quellen zur Geschichte der Juden in
ii., Berlin, 1892.
Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography
- Leser Landshuth, 'Ammude
ha-'Abodah, pp. 20-22;
- Michael, Or
ha-Ḥayyim, pp. 211-215;
- Moritz Güdemann, Gesch. des
Erziehunqswesen und der Cultur, i., passim;
- Zunz, Literaturgesch. pp. 259-262;
- Gross, in Monatsschrift, 1885, p. 310;
- H. Bresslau, in Neubauer and Stern, Quellen, ii.,