History Of Dayyan
DAYYAN, Syrian family claiming descent from King David. The Dayyan family's origin can be traced to a
branch of the house of Josiah Hasan ben Zakkai, brother of the exilarch David (?917940). One of his
descendants, SOLOMON BEN AZARIAH, settled in Aleppo, and his family there occupied the position of nasi,
the title of the House of David. The first to be known with the family name is MOSES BEN SAADIAH DAYYAN
in the 16th century. His son, MORDECAI (b. 1541), was a member of the bet din of Samuel Laniado. Even
after many Spanish refugee scholars settled in Aleppo, the Dayyan family continued to be held in great
esteem. Some of them held key positions in religious and communal life.
One of the most important members of the family in Aleppo was ISAIAH (d. 1830), hakham, scribe, and mohel.
His son ABRAHAM (d. 1876) was a distinguished rabbi and the author of Shir Hadash (1841), a commentary on
Psalms; Zikkaron la-Nefesh (1842), ethical writings; Holekh Tammim u-Fo'el Zedek (1850), sermons and responsa:
Ta'am (1867), sermons; and Yosef Avraham (1863), responsa. He also wrote sermons and commentaries on Ein
Ya'akov and the Zohar, which are extant in manuscript. His son MOSES (d. 1901) wrote Yashir Moshe (1879),
a homiletic commentary on Song of Songs; in the introduction to this work he traced the Dayyan family lineage.
ISAIAH BEN MORDECAI (d. 1903) was head of the bet din in Aleppo. In 1888 he founded a Jewish press, which was
administered after his death by his sons SAUL, SOLOMON, and ISAAC, and later by his grandson JOSEPH BEN Ezra.
AARON (d. 1893) was chief rabbi of the community of Urfa. Turkey, during the 1880s. He was also a merchant and
acted as Persian consul. He wrote a book of sermons, Beit Aharon (unpublished).
The best-known member of the branch of the family which moved to Erez Israel was HIYYA BEN JOSEPH
DAYYAN (late 17th century), scholar and emissary. His grandfather had emigrated from Damascus to Jerusalem
where Hiyya was born and educated. He later moved to Hebron. As emissary of that community he traveled to
North Africa (1665, 1669) and Italy (1673). While in Mantua he met Moses Zacuto who recommended him to his
pupil Benjamin b. Eliezer ha-Kohen of Reggio. Both wrote poems dedicated to him. In Italy he strongly opposed
the Shabbatean movement. Hiyya also went to Turkey and Persia as emissary for Jerusalem (168096). In 1696,
while returning from Persia, he was attacked by robbers near Baghdad who took from him, besides his money and
clothes, also the manuscript of his book Adderet Eliyahu. However, he found another copy he had made in
Aleppo, which he took with him on his last mission to Morocco. In the introduction there is a description
of his travels and an autobiography. One of his pupils in MeknIs was R. Hayyim b. Moses Attar the Elder.
[Avraham Yaari/Editorial Staff Encyclopaedia Judaica]