Hai ben-Sherira

(939–1038)
   Gaon of Pumbedita. Hai came from a long line of gaonim. He traced his ancestry back to King David, and his personal seal pictured a lion. He was gaon of the famous Babylonian academy of Pumbedita for forty years.
   Questions were addressed to him from the communities in Spain, Italy, Tunisia and Egypt. His answers represent today about one-third of all the extant gaonic responsa, and are written in Hebrew, Aramaic or Arabic. Hai also wrote talmudic commentaries and halachic works on several subjects. Once, in a discussion with Arab scholars, he shamed them into silence by his knowledge of Arab literature.
   Hai was the last of the great gaonim. Pumbedita witnessed a brilliant revival under the leadership of his father SHERIRA and himself. But other centres of Jewish learning had sprung up by his time, and there was no one of Hai’s stature to replace him in Babylonia when he died at the age of ninety-nine. Although the exilarchate and the gaonate continued for many years, Hai’s death in 1038 is usually taken as marking the end of the gaonic period.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

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