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Sar Shalom ben Boaz

SAR SHALOM BEN BOAZ (d. c. 859 or 864 C.E.), gaon of Sura from 838 to 848. Sar Shalom succeeded *Kohen Ẓedek and was succeeded by *Natronai b. Hilai. His personality reflects a kindly individual, profoundly learned, who exercised a benign and understanding authority. His appeal to the Jewry of the time and their admiration for him probably account for the fact that he was the most prolific writer of responsa of his time, and more than 100 of them are extant. A large number deal primarily with matters pertaining to prayer, benedictions, and the reading of the Torah; excerpts of his erudite opinions were later incorporated in the Seder *Amram Ga'on. Sar Shalom's responsa reveal a liberal attitude to non-Jews: he explicitly prohibited taking advantage of, or in any way infringing upon, the rights of those who were not coreligionists, even if according to the letter of the law it might be considered permissible. He ruled that even if a woman went through the ceremony of ablution for conversion against her will, she was to be considered fully Jewish, and food, including wine, served by her was permissible for use.

He never assumed an overbearing manner to his subordinates. Indeed, a generous, conciliatory tone is manifested in his epistles to leaders of Jewish communities even from distant countries, who turned to him for religious clarification in different matters. He never adopted a dogmatic view in his decisions; he would generally present both sides of a disputation, explaining the practices followed, and points of view held by the academies of both Sura and Pumbedita, the great centers of learning, and allowing the heads of congregations to make their own choice. Moreover, he admonished the people not to bind themselves with regulations to which it would be difficult to adhere. If he heard that a community had restricted itself by a vow which it later felt unable to comply with, he would use the authority of his office to rescind such an oath. He explains the reasons for his decisions in an amiable tone and often writes in his responsa how much he would prefer to have his correspondents in his presence for thorough elucidation, to make his decision acceptable to the inquirer. In his responsa Sar Shalom also deals with some of the geonic takkanot. Although of mild disposition, he severely punished a person who struck another, a man who maltreated his wife, and a wife who was guilty of recalcitrant behavior toward her husband.


R.S. Weinberg, in: Sinai, 65 (1969), 69–99; J. Mueller, Mafte'aḥ li-Teshuvot ha-Ge'onim (1891), 92–100; B.M. Lewin, Oẓar ha-Ge'onim, 1–12 (1928–43), index; H. Tykocinski, Takkanot ha-Ge'onim, tr. by M. Havazelet (1959), 70, 99; S. Abramson, Ba-Merkazim u-va-Tefuẓot bi-Tekufat ha-Ge'onim (1965), 14; M. Havazelet, Ha-Rambam ve-ha-Ge'onim (1967), 155; Baron, Social2, index.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.