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Anan ben David ha-nasi I

ענן בן דוד הנשיא

The reformer Anan ben David ha-nasi 1 was born in Baghdad, living during the reign of Caliph ( لخليفة khalīfah) Abu Ja’far al Mansur 2.

1 There are many contradictions and disagreements between the texts of Talmud historians and the texts of Arab writers, concerning Anan ha-nasi.  For example; Grätz strives to convince the readers that Anan left the Talmud because of wicked motives and describes Anan ha-nasi as a selfish, obstinate, stubborn man, without a stable philosophical and general overview.  Contrary to this, most of the Arab writers, unlike Grätz, were contemporaries of Anan ha-nasi.  They depict Anan ha-nasi in totally different colours and equate him with positive characteristics.  According to them Anan was a God fearing man, imbued with piousness and never digressing from the truth.
Anan was not only an opponent and enemy to the Talmudists, but also for those Karaites who had no fear of God, did not keep the commandments and did evil deeds.  Pinsker in his work
לקוטי קדמוניות, on page 8, presents the opinion of the Arab writer Masud: Ananites are the followers of Exilarch Anan, the head of the Israelites in exile, who came from the East during the reign of Abu Ja’far al Mansur, and who brought from there a copy of the original The Fifth Book of Moses דברים. If he saw that the Talmudists or Karaites acted contrary to the commandments and violated the regulations of the Law, he intervened against them. He used to convict the Talmudists of following their false teaching and any Karaites if they violated the Law. Anan was respected and revered not only for his origin, he was the descendant of King David, but also for his erudition, mastery in the Law and pious way of life.
It is said that if Anan was born in the time of the existence of the Temple he would have certainly been a prophet.         
On page 6 of Pinsker's book
לקוטי קדמוניות  it reads: Rabbi Japheth ben Sa’id, a Karaite writer, living in the first half of the twelfth century, wrote that the tradition of Bene Miqra or the Karaites, is often identical with the teaching of Shammai. On page 9 we read Abu al Fath Muhamad al Shahrastani's view of Anan ha-nasi: Ananites are followers of teachings of the famous Exilarch Anan ben David and his co-religionists. They differ from other Jews by the proper observance of the feasts and Sabbath day. They do not consume the meat of those species of animals that were sacrificed in the Temple. Instead they use, for eating, the meat of fish, birds, wild goats and deer.

2 Not to be confused with Abu Amir al Mansur, who lived at the turn of the tenth and eleventh centuries in Spain, and who ruled the Caliphate of Córdoba in the time of infancy of Caliph Hisham II.

Here is the list of the ancestors of Anan ben David ha-nasi, on the throne: David - Hasdai - Bostanai - Haninai - Kafnai - Abba - Ukban - Nehemyah - Nathan - Anan - Shaphat - Yohanan - Akkub - Hezekyah - Shemayah - Obadyah - Yesayah - Hasadyah - Berekhyah - Hananyah - Meshullam - Zerubbabel - Pedayah - Shealtiel - King Yekanyah - King Yehoyakim - King Yoshiyahu - King Amon - King Manashsheh - King izkiyyahu - King Aaz - King Yotam - King Uzziyahu - King Amatzyahu - King Yehoash - King Aazyah - King Yehoram - King Yehoshafat - King Asa - King Aviyyam - King Reav’am - King Shelomoh (Solomon) - King David.

The descendants of Anan ben David ha-nasi, have remained, until these days, part of Egyptian Karaite community.
They also live in the village of Hīt (هيت), that lies west of Baghdad.
Although they are not numerous, they are aware of their own royal ancestry and carefully maintain their genealogical tree.
They use an ancient parchment with their genealogy, to record the name of each newborn, which is handed down from generation to generation.
This record is confirmed by the signatures of the community representatives, the chief hazzan 3 and the seal of synagogue.

3 Hakham - the Crimean Karaites used this title hazzan for the office known to other Karaites as hakham.

Anan ben David ha-nasi, devoted his youth to the study of the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Talmud.
As an adult, he taught the Law of God and wrote theological works.

In the Talmudic environment he was well known as an educator, a writer-theologian, as well as a pious and unimpeachable man.
However he did not hold this reputation for long after he began to publicly deny the divine origin of the Talmud.
He proclaimed that just as there is only One God, there is also only one Law gifted by God to Moses on Mount Sinai and written by Moses into five books, and that there never existed an oral Law.
The adherents of the Talmud then established a faction strongly hostile to Anan ben David ha-nasi.
The long lasting period of hidden hostility between these two parties 4 surfaced in the time of the election of the Exilarch.

4 According to Rabbi Samuel Holdheim, who was one of the most important writers of the Talmudists; the teaching of the Karaites existed a long time before the birth of Anan ben David ha-nasi. Samuel Holdheim in his work מאמר האישות, published in Berlin, in 1860, writes on page 131; the term the teaching of the Karaites did not exist before the birth of Anan, but there existed teachings identical with the faith of Karaites, that our writers, the Rabbanites, used to label as 'the teaching of the Sadducees'. Therefore it is unacceptable to deny the fact that the disputes, between Karaites and Rabbanites regarding the oral Law, have been going on since the time of the second Temple. In the past were these disputes known as the disputes between the Sadducees and Pharisees. Therefore the Karaites are right if they assert that their faith existed a long time before Anan. He only brought this faith to the light of God, united it's followers, reformed it, and defined and systematized the teachings of this faith.

After the office of the High Priest of Aaron's dynasty, that was designated by Moses, ceased to exist, the Exilarch or Rosh Galut, ruled the Judean expatriates.
He had to be a Nasi, a descendant of King David.

The office of the Exilarch always enjoyed high esteem, reverence and respect.
The eyes of all of Israel were focused on the Exilarch because he reminded them of the happy and prosperous times past when they were ruled by their own kings.
They also looked to a future time because a descendent of the Exilarch, of the dynasty of King David, will become the expected messiah, the savior of Israel.
Even caliphs extended deep respect to the Exilarch, and in addition to other privileges, put some of their guards at the Exilarch's disposal.
It was at this point in time that the highest respect was accorded to this office. 5

5 At the time that Anan’s grandfather, Bostanai, was granted the office of the Exilarch, the Caliph granted to him a seal on which a fly was depicted. This Exilarch's position had became prestigious and royally noble because of his deeds. An Exilarch legend, regarding this act, towards this Exilarch, has it that a fanatical caliph was angry at the representatives of the Jews who refused to convert to Islam. He ordered that the whole dynasty of the Exilarch be killed, to destroy the offspring of the house of King David. The next night, after this slaughter, this despot had a dream in which he saw himself walking through a beautiful garden. Then he saw, as he ordered the cutting down of all the trees, that there only remained one small tree. When the servants of this barbarian were going to destroy this last tree, there suddenly appeared a venerable, gray haired, old man. He snatched the stick from the hands of the Caliph and hit the Caliph’s head so hard that blood began to trickle from his head and nose. The old man gave a severe look at the Caliph and with a thunderous voice told him; You villain! How dare you destroy my garden; my trees that I planted centuries ago?! In this dream fear immediately spread through the Caliph, he fell on his face in front of the old man, asking for forgiveness and mercy. He vowed to the old man that he would order the planting of the scions of the remaining tree and cultivate these scions in the garden, making it much more beautiful than the previous garden that had been ordered cut down. After he awoke he told his dream to his advisers. They explained to him that the dream referred to the slaughter of the offspring of King David and the old man, he had seen in the dream, was an apparition of King David. The small tree, according to the Caliph’s advisers, represented the child who was the only one of this family that was saved. The Caliph issued an edict that this child must be found. There was indeed one young pregnant woman that had managed to escape and give birth to a boy. She was hiding with him in the house of a gardener. The mother and boy were brought before the Caliph, who then, based on what he had seen in the dream and in honour of the gardener or saviour, ordered that the boy be named Bostanai.a) The Caliph then ordered that the boy would be raised at his expense and when he reached the age of 13 he was introduced to the Caliph. At the time of the audience a biting fly sat on the boy's forehead and despite the fact that this fly bit the boy, drawing blood, the boy did not move, out of respect for the Caliph. This did not escape the eyes of the ruler of all Muslims. The Caliph was satisfied not only with the behaviour of his protégé, but also with his wise answers. As a result he decided to reward the boy with precious gifts and ordered him to be enthroned as the Exilarch. As a reminder of the deep respect which the boy gave, face to face with the Caliph, the Caliph ordered a seal, with the fly depicted on it, to be made for the young Exilarch.

a) Bostan or Bustan, which means an orchard or garden

The choosing of the Exilarch was accompanied by a special, majestic ceremony.6
In a large ceremonial hall, seats were prepared for the Exilarch and Gaons, which were the chairmen of Synedrions 7, in Pumbedita and Sura.
The event was also attended by the representatives of the constituent communities.
The Gaon of Sura used to give a speech to the future prince in which he pointed out the duties associated with this high office.
He urged him not to act haughtily over his brothers, and to always fulfil his obligations.
This was followed with the ceremony of ushering the future prince to the oath, which consisted of putting the hands, of both Gaons, on the oncoming Exilarch.
The trumpets sounded at that time and Gaons shouted; Long live our Master, this Prince, the Prince of the exile!
The crowds of people that arrived for the ceremony responded with loud cheers.
Then all the participating people accompanied the Exilarch, as an honorary entourage, from the synagogue to his residence.

6 See. Grätz, History of the Jews, part 11, pp. 126 and 184.
7 Sanhedrins or Supreme Courts. The term Sanhedrin is more well known to the Western World.