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MALEA (MALEHA; MELEA), MEÏR DE:

"Almoxarif mayor"; chief farmer of taxes of King Ferdinand III. (the Holy) of Castile, whose favor he gained through his honesty and zeal in the interest of the state. Don Meïr, who was versed in the Talmud and was held in high esteem by his coreligionists, is called by Moses ben Naḥman "the great prince, the learned Don Meïr Almoxarif." Ferdinand's son and successor, Alfonso X. (the Wise), whose finances, in consequence of the troubled condition of the state, were in great confusion, employed, after the death of Don Meïr, his sons Don Zag (Isaac) and Don Juzef, who inherited the influence and position of their father, to remove the financial difficulties. When Alfonso desired to subdue his vassal Aben Nathfot de Niebla, Don Zag undertook the provisioning and administration of the entire army, being given as security the lease of all the customs duties and taxes.

Don Zag remained the only lessee of taxes until 1276, when he met competitors in the persons of his brother-in-law Don Abraham ibn Xuxen (Shushan) and one Roy Fernandez of Sahagum, and was compelled to enter into partnership with them. For two years these three paid the king an annual rent of 80,000 gold maravedis. Don Zag, who possessed the complete confidence of the king, took, with his brother Don Juzef, in addition to the lease of the taxes, that of the fines, most of which were concerned with commerce and customs, and the officials of the king were placed at their disposal to recover such fines. They certainly rendered in this capacity great services to the state, but they nevertheless incurred in no small measure the anger of the population.

Don Zag, who was exceedingly wealthy, fell suddenly, through the following incident, from the height upon which he stood: When King Alfonso undertook the siege of the city of Algeziras, he ordered the almoxarif to employ in victualing the army the large sum which he had collected as tax-lessee. Just then Don Zag was accidentally met by the infante, Don Sancho, who was in conflict with his royal father, and the infante succeeded in taking the money from Don Zag under the pretext that he wished to send it to his mother, Donna Violante, living in separation from the king. The king, exceedingly enraged, ordered Don Zag and the other Jewish tax-lessees to be thrown into dark dungeons. When the infante returned to Seville from his victorious campaign against the Moors, in the autumn of 1280, the king had the unfortunate Don Zag dragged through the city and executed in the presence of the infante. The infante had endeavored to relieve the almoxarif, who was suffering on his account and who had rendered such valuable services to the state, but all his endeavors proved futile. One Sabbathshortly after, when all the Jews of Castile and Leon were in their synagogues, they were seized by order of Alfonso, who demanded 12,000 gold maravedis, and imposed a fine of another 12,000 for every day of delay. The deposition of Alfonso, which took place several years later, stands in no relation to the execution of Don Zag.

Bibliography:
  • Zuñiga, Anales de Sevilla, i. 297, 318;
  • Marques de Mondejar, Memorias Historicas del Rey Sabio, pp. 297, 367;
  • Moses b. Naḥman, Responsa, Nos. 284, 322;
  • Rios, Hist. i. 488 et seq.;
  • Grätz, Gesch. vi. 165;
  • Kayserling, Gesch. der Juden in Spanien, i. 118, 218.
G. M. K.
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