Aaron ben Elijah

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Aaron ben Elijah, also called Aharon Ben-Eliyahu, (1320?-1369) was a Jewish theologian from Constantinople and the only major scholar to philosophize Karaite beliefs. He created three troves of Karaite lore, including 'Etz ḥayyim (1346), Gan Eden (1354), and Keter Torah (1632).[1] Aaron ben Elijah was regarded by the Karaites as an intellectual equal to the Aristotelian philosopher Maimonides, but conceived by others as an eccentric.[2] Little is known of his background.


In his 'Etz ḥayyim, also called Etz HaChayyim ("Tree of Life"), he repudiates many ideas expressed in Maimonides's More nevukhim ("Guide of the Perplexed"). His work was more liberal than that of Maimonides and rejected his ideas of creation that he worked hard to defend. He states that the philosophy of the Karaites is that which was gleaned from Abraham's meditations and Mosaic law.[3]

His Gan Eden establishes a new Karaite law similar to that of Maimonides, though the Karaites prefer to compare it to the Yad haḤazaḳah. It differs greatly from the Talmud in its view of the suffering of the righteous.[4] His Keter Torah ("Crown of Law") is an exegesis on the Pentateuch which, like the commentary of ibn Ezra, interprets it literally and reviews other interpretations.