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Taytaṣak, Joseph

(545 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Joseph ben Solomon Taytaṣak was a scholar and rabbi, active from the late fifteenth to the mid-sixteenth century, who excelled both in traditional Jewish subjects and in secular subjects. As a young man in Castile, where he was born in 1465, Taytaṣak caught the attention of Rabbi  Levi ibn Ḥabib (Ralbaḥ, ca. 1480–1545). He moved from Spain to Portugal but fled to Italy after the expulsion edict in 1497. Taytaṣak lived in Salonica during the first decade of the sixteenth century, and later spent time in Yanina (Ioannina) and Serres. He was considered one of Saloni…

Silva, Hezekiah da

(382 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Hezekiah ben David da Silva was a noted rabbi and scholar in the second half of the seventeenth century. Born in Livorno (Leghorn) in 1656, da Silva migrated to Palestine at the age of twenty (1676). According to Ḥayyim Joseph David Azulay (Ḥida, 1724–1806), da Silva was the pupil of Judah Sharaf and Moses ben Jonathan Galante the Younger (1620–1689). He studied at the Bet Yaʿaqov Yeshiva in Jerusalem and was one of its most important scholars. In 1688, he went to Western Europe as a rabbinical emissary ( shadar or meshullaḥ). It was during his stay in Amsterdam (1690) that the well-k…

Ha-Kohen Ha-Itmari, Elijah ben Solomon Abraham

(396 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Elijah ben Solomon Abraham ha-Kohen, known as ha-Itmari because of the fame of his Midrash ha-Itmari(Constantinople, 1695), was a scion of a rabbinical family in Izmir (Smyrna). His brother Isaac moved to the Holy Land and died there at an early age. Elijah was active as a rabbi, kabbalist, and exegete in the last quarter of the seventeenth century and the first quarter of the eighteenth. Especially noted as a preacher, he had a strong tendency toward kabbalistic Hasidism, and his homilies on the commandment of charity ( ṣedaqa) reveal a great sensitivity to social injustice. He ap…

Boton, Abraham de

(385 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Abraham Ḥiyya ben Moses de Boton (or Button), generally considered to have been one of Salonica’s foremost rabbis during the second half of the sixteenth century, was born into a family of expellees from the Iberian Peninsula. Various dates have been given for his birth, with ca. 1545 being most likely. He died in Salonica in 1592 (other dates given in the secondary literature are as early as 1588 and as late as 1605). De Boton studied under Samuel de Medina and may have been a relative of Rabbi Moses ben Joseph de Trani (Mitrani) the Elder (known as Mabit, d. 1580 or…

Homosexuality in Jewish society

(1,771 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Human sexual activity is influenced by its surroundings, and whether it is labeled as “normative” or “deviant” depends upon the norms relative to the place and time, the social and cultural contexts, and the standing of the individual. The study of homosexuality among Jews in the Ottoman Empire and in the lands of Islam, and also of the attitude of Jewish society, amply demonstrates this. Like Judaism (Lev. 18:22 and 20:13), Islam strictly forbids sexual relations between males (Qur’an 7:81, 26:165, 27:55; and even more explicitly in the ḥadīth), but in actuality, the official stan…

Algazi family

(967 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Algazis were a noted Turkish rabbinical family from the sixteenth through the nineteenth century. Their origins lay in the city of Bursa, near Istanbul. The family was founded by Abraham ben Moses Algazi the Elder (ca. 1560–ca. 1640), who lived in Bursa and was the son-in-law of Rabbi Joseph ben Moses Benveniste de Segovia. Abraham had three sons: Moses, Isaac, and Solomon Nissim.  Little is known about Moses ben Abraham Algazi except that he mutilated himself in some way and emigrated to the Land of Israel in the mid-1630s. He returned to Bursa in his old age, and died there around 1671. Sol…

Ashkenazi Jews in the Ottoman Empire

(954 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Ashkenazi Jews from Central and Eastern Europe migrated to the Ottoman Empire in a series of waves that began as early as the fourteenth century. In part they were motivated by repeated invitations from Romaniot Jews urging them to escape the difficult conditions in Christian Europe by settling in the safer, more accommodating Ottoman realm. Rabbi Isaac Ṣarfati in Edirne, for instance, sent a missive to this effect to the Jewish communities of Germany in the fifteenth century. In addition to  Ashkenazi Jews who moved into Ottoman territory of their o…

Ḥazzan family

(1,029 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Ḥazzans (Ḥazan) were a Sephardi rabbinical family first mentioned in seventeenth-century Izmir (Smyrna). Several members of the family served as rabbis in communities of the Ottoman Empire from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century.  Joseph ben Elijah Ḥazzan (d. after 1694) was a pupil of Joseph di Ṭrani (Mahariṭ; d. 1638) in Istanbul. After some time in Izmir, he settled in Jerusalem. He was the author of several works, including ʿEn Yosef (The Face of Joseph; Izmir, 1675), a collection of homilies on the weekly Torah portions,and ʿEn Yehosef (The Face of Jeho…

Gabbay Family (Iraq)

(264 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The  Gabbay family of merchants and Ottoman officials flourished from the late eighteenth century through the end of the nineteenth. The name Gabbay is found mostly in Iraq, but it also appears in Turkey and other countries. It is one of the most common surnames of Iraqi Jewry, attributed by family lore to Davidic descent. A number of well-known members of the family served in key roles in the Baghdad community.        Isaac ben David ben Joshua Gabbay was chief banker (Ar. ṣarrāf bāshī) and   nasi (Heb. head) of the Jewish community of Baghdad from 1745 until his death in 1773. His son Ezra al…

Caro, Isaac Ben Joseph

(433 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Isaac ben Joseph Caro (d. 1518–1535) was a rabbi and scholar of the generation of the expulsion from Spain. Born in Toledo, Caro had a superb religious education and also studied medicine. He was called to become the head of the yeshiva in Lisbon, whence he was exiled in 1497. He then settled in Istanbul, where he established himself as a respected halakhic scholar. It is known that for a while he also lived in the city of Manisa in western Anatolia. If Caro had children, none of them survived childhood, but he raised and educated his nephew Joseph ben Ephraim Caro (1488–1575), the author of…

Alsheikh, Moses ben Ḥayyim

(386 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Moses ben Ḥayyim Alsheikh (Alshich, Alshekh), a prominent rabbinic scholar and author, was born in Edirne (Adrianople) around 1520. In his youth, Alsheikh studied under Joseph ben Samuel Taitatzak (ca. 1465–1546/50) and later under Joseph Caro (1488–1575). He then moved to Safed and, except for journeys abroad on behalf of the community, lived there for the rest of his life. Distinguished for his scholarship, he wrote dozens of halakhic works and commentaries on the Bible. Alsheikh was one of the select few to receive the ancient traditional ordination (Heb. semikha) revived by Jacob B…

Qimḥi/Qamḥi family

(539 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Qimḥi (Qamḥi, Kimḥi) family, a noted rabbinical family in the Ottoman Empire over several centuries, produced many important scholars. Judah Qimḥi was the father of Abraham and Ḥayyim. Also known are Raphael, Samuel, and Israel Ḥayyim. Samuel was the father of Rabbi Jacob Qimḥi (Istanbul, ca. 1720–London, 1800). Abraham ben Judah Qimḥi (d. 1722) was the head of a religious court and a chief rabbi in Istanbul during the 1720s. Raphael Israel ben Joseph Qimḥi was born in Istanbul and was a disciple of Ḥayyim Alfandari. He followed his teacher to Safed in 1713 and there also st…

Farḥi, Isaac

(284 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Isaac ben Solomon Farḥi, born in Safed in 1779, was a rabbinical scholar and writer noted for his piety and his concern for the impoverished. Educated in Jerusalem, Farḥi was a pupil of the Bet El kabbalist and halakhic authority Yom Ṭov ben Israel Jacob Algazi (1727–1802). He twice traveled abroad as a rabbinical emissary ( shadar or meshullaḥ) for the Jerusalem community. In addition to being a member of the religious court of Ḥayyim Abraham ben Moses Gagin (1787–1848), who was also of the Bet El yeshiva, Farḥi was a prolific and varied writer and exegete, and a sin…

Benveniste Family

(820 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Benveniste (Benvenest, Benvenisti) family, which had its origins in the Iberian Peninsula, produced noted rabbis and scholars throughout the Ottoman period. They were active primarily in Istanbul and Izmir (Smyrna) in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The first member of the Benveniste family known to have attained prominence was Moses Benveniste, a rabbi who also served as   physician to Grand Vizier Siyavuş Pasha (r. 1582–1584, 1586–1589, 1592–1593). Moses was eventually exiled from Istanbul to Rhodes by order of the sultan. He had two sons…

Bekemoharar Family

(518 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Bekemoharar family of rabbis and scholars was descended from Menahem ben Isaac Ashkenazi (1666–1733), who was born in Timişoara (Temesvár) near the border between present-day Romania and Serbia. His family moved to Edirne (Adrianople) in the heartland of the Ottoman Empire when he was two years old. When the chief rabbi of Edirne, Abraham ben Isaac Ṣarfati, died in 1722, the city’s thirteen congregations could not agree on a candidate to replace him. Seven congregations favored the late rabbi’s son-in-law Abraham Geron (d. 1751), but the other six chose Ashkenazi as thei…

Hagiz, Moses

(584 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Moses ben Israel Jacob Ḥagiz (Ḥagis) was a halakhic scholar, rabbinical emissary ( shadar), kabbalist, and vigorous opponent of the Sabbatean heresy. He was born in Jerusalem in 1672 into a family of North African origin and was the son of  Israel Jacob ben Samuel Ḥagiz (1620–1674), one of the leading rabbis of Jerusalem. Due to his father’s untimely death, however, he was educated by his maternal grandfather, Moses ben Jonathan Galante the Younger (1620–1689). Ḥagiz married the daughter of the scholar-physician Raphael Mordecai Malkhi and was…

Shabbetay (Shabbati), Ḥayyim

(327 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Ḥayyim ben Moses Shabbetay(Shabbati) was a noted rabbi of Salonica from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth century. Born around 1555, Shabbetay (known also by the Hebrew acronym Maharḥash) was the pupil of Aaron ben Joseph Sasson (1550 or 1555–1626) and of Solomon ben Abraham ha-Kohen (Maharshakh, d. 1602). By the last decade of the sixteenth century, Shabbetay had already achieved recognition as one of the leading rabbinical scholars in Salonica. In 1615, he succeeded Samuel Florentin as marbiṣ tora (teacher of Torah study), i.e., rabbi, of the Qahal Qadosh Shalom; succeede…

Haskama

(1,048 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
From the sixteenth century on, the fundamental rules guiding the life of the Jewish community in the Ottoman Empire were based upon legal decrees known as haskamot (sing. haskama,also askama) or taqqanot (sing. taqqana). Both terms were used in medieval Iberia and were carried over into the Sephardi diaspora following the expulsion. Taqqanot (Heb. ordinances) formulated to cope with new needs and changing realities organized and ensured the management and proper functioning of the community for the benefit of its members. The most important taqqanot determined the unchallengeab…

Modaʽi, Ḥayyim

(381 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Born apparently in Istanbul in 1720, Ḥayyim ben Elijah Moda‘i moved to the Holy Land during his childhood, where he lived in Safed. After having resided there for twenty-five  years, he left the town for Europe as a rabbinical emissary (Heb. shadar or meshullaḥ) in order to collect donations. After this journey he settled in Istanbul (1749), where he was appointed one of the city’s rabbis. At the same time he also served as a member of the Committee of Officials in Safed ( vaʿad peqide ṣefat). After the destruction of Safed by the earthquake of 1760, he once again traveled to Eur…

Ashkenazi, Samuel

(251 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Samuel ben Isaac Jaffe Ashkenazi (1525–1595) was a leading talmudic scholar of the sixteenth century. A native of Bursa (Brusa) in Turkey, Ashkenazi studied under Joseph ben David ibn Lev (1505–1580). Toward the end of the 1540s, he moved to Istanbul, where he was closely associated with Samuel Ṣaba. In the 1550s, already one of the leading scholars in the capital, he was appointed rabbi of one of the city’s congregations, most likely that of the Ashkenazi community. He excelled as an interpreter of halakha, wrote many responsa which are frequently cited by seventeenth-century …
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