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Cabala

(842 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
1. Term Cabala (also spelled cabbala, cabbalah, kabala, kabbala, and kabbalah) means “tradition”—more specifically, “esoteric, mystical tradition.” It is the common name for the most important school of Jewish mysticism, which flourished from the late 12th century to the 19th, mainly in Christian Europe and the Middle East. The early cabalists in medieval Europe relied on ancient Jewish (Judaism) mystical traditions known as Hekhalot (heavenly palaces) and Merkabah (chariot) mysticism and on the traditions of the ancient cosmological work Sefer Yetzirah (Book of creation). T…

Karo, Joseph ben Ephraim

(208 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (1488, Toledo or Portugal – 1575, Safed). Karo was the greatest Jewish legal scholar of the modern period; his legal works are still considered normative. During or shortly before the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, his family left Spain and settled in Turkey. In 1536 he moved to Zefat, then a center of Kabbalistic circles (Kabbalah: II). His most important work is the Bet Yosef [House of Joseph], a commentary on the entire halakhic tradition (Halakhah), which provided the basis for the condensed version, the Shulchan ʿarukh [Prepared table], which even today remains…

Hasidism

(1,178 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] I. Modern Hasidism – II. Ashkenazi Hasidism I. Modern Hasidism Hasidism is the largest and most important Orthodox Jewish religious movement of the modern period. Founded in southern Russian by Rabbi Israel Baʾal ¶ Shem Tov (acronym Besht) in the middle of the 18th century, it spread throughout Europe in the 19th century. Today its strongholds are in the great cities on the East Coast of the USA and in Israel. Before the Holocaust, the movement had several million members; today it numbers several hundred thousand,…

Azriel of Girona

(186 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (1160–1238) was a significant writer of the first generation of Kabbalists in Girona. He probably was a disciple of Isaac, and with Rabbi Ezra he founded a new center in Catalonia. Many of his ideas influenced the Zohar and hence the Kabbalah as a whole. He wrote a commentary on the traditional prayers, in which he identifies the hidden divine power within every word and letter; a commentary on the Haggadah, which was a major step in presenting a hidden kabbalistic meaning in talmudic sayings; a commentary on the ancient Sefer Yetzirah and many other treatises. He combi…

Ben Israel, Menasseh

(262 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (1604, Madeira – Nov 20, 1657, Middelburg, Netherlands), scholar and leader of the Jewish community of Amsterdam. Ben Israel was one of the first Jewish writers to dedicate a significant part of his literary religious activity to presenting Judaism to non-Jewish European audiences. He played a leading role in the negotiations with O. Cromwell to enable the return of Jews…

Adam Kadmon

(140 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (Qadmon; אדם קדמון, lit. primordial man). In 13th-century Kabbalah and later as well, Adam Kadmon articulated in anthropomorphic terminology the idea of the highest, concealed nature of the totality of divine powers, namely, of the plḗroma (Gk. πλήρωμα ). The antithetical concept is that of shiʾur qoma in Hekhalot mysticism (with which it belongs together in the Kabbalah). In the Zohar and in the Lurianic myth of the late 16th century, in which it represents the first emanation …

Shneur/Schneerson

(527 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] I. ben Baruch of Liadi (1745–1813, Piena, Bezirk Koisk),founder of the Hasidic community of Habad (Lubavich, Hasidic movement, Hasidism). Schneur was a disciple of the great Maggid rabbi Dov Baer of Mezhirech. His two closest colleagues, Menachem Mendel of Vitepsk and Abraham of Kalisk, immigrated to Zefat in 1777, and he took it upon himself to lead the community in southern Russia. His influence grew, and thousands flocked to his court. He tried to seek a resolution of the conflict b…

Moses of Narbonne

(162 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (c. 1300, Perpignan, France – 1363, Soria, Spain) was one of the great Jewish philoso-¶ phers of the 14th century. He was a physician by profession and wandered between several cities in Provence and Spain. His best-known and most influential work is his commentary on Moses Maimonides's More Nevukhim (publ. 1852 in Vienna). He was a radical interpreter of Maimonides, and loyal, more than almost all other Jewish rationalists, to the teachings of Averroes. He did not hesitate to assert a common truth underlying Judaism, Christian…

Temurah

(215 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] is a Hebrew midrashic technique (Midrash) in which any letter in a biblical verse can be substituted by another one, in order to reveal new layers of meaning in the divine language of the Scriptures. Its origin is biblical: Jeremiah twice calls the city of Babylon (Heb. “Bavel”) “Sheshach” (Jer 25:26; 51:41). This was achieved by the temurah technique called ETBSh, in which the 22 letters of the alphabet are written in one column from beginning to end, and from end to the beginning in the parallel column. Thus the first letter א (aleph) is substituted by (ת (tav), the last le…

Alemano, Yohanan ben Isaac

(230 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (c. 1435, Florence – c. 1504), one of the most important kabbalists, philosophers, and educators in the Jewish community in Italy in the second half of the 15th century. He was an important source of Kabbalah for his contemporary Pico della Mirandola, thus having great influence on the development of the Christian kabbalah of that period. He was raised in Florence, where he spent most of his life, but also lived in Mantua and other cities. Part of his printed work is his commentary on the Song of Songs, Heshek Shlomo (“Solomon's Desire”), published as Sha'ar ha-Heshek (“The …

Ethical Literature (Sifrut musar)

(298 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] This term is used both by traditional Jewish genre designation and modern scholarship to describe the body of spiritual literature, usually intended for the wide public, which directs Jews in their daily lives. The emphasis, in most cases, is not on the purely practical aspect of ethical conduct (which is codified in the Halakhah), religious law, but in the spiri…

Bahya ben Asher

(187 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (ibn Halava; 2nd half of 13th cent., Spain), a prominent exegete, moral preacher, scholar in ethics, and kabbalist (Kabbalah), who, according to tradition, was a judge and preacher in Saragossa. Bahya wrote an extensive commentary on the Torah (pr. in Naples, 1492) and a widely circulated ethical work, Kad ha-Qemach (“A Bowl of Flour”), which discusses alphabetically-arranged sermons on themes of Jewish morality. Bahya's model was Nachmanides. He…

Donnolo, Shabbatai ben Abraham

(197 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (913, Oria, Italy – after 982, Rome?), scientist, physician, and theologian, one of the founders of Hebrew culture in medieval Europe. Donnolo wrote an autobiographical treatise, which was included with his treatise on the microcosmos and macrocosmos (as a commentary on Gen 1:27) and his commentary on Sefer Yetzira , in his Hachmony. We also have several medical treatises written by him; the most important is Sefer ha-Mirqachot (“The Book of Pharmacy”). His work influenced the Ashkenazi Hasidim (Hasidism), who regarded him…

Abrabanel

(544 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] 1. Isaac ben Judah (1437, Lisbon – 1508, Venice) was an important Jewish leader, diplomat, exegete and philosopher in the period before and after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain (1492). Abrabanel was from a prominent family who were reputed to stem from the house of David. He was a financial advisor to King Alfonso V of Portugal, although he was forced …

Bar Hiyya, Abraham

(197 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (c. 1065–1136) was the first Jewish rationalistic philosopher and scholar to write in Hebrew. His many trips to Northern Spain and the Provence, where Jews were no longer familiar with Arabic, prompted him to write his treatises in Hebrew. His main philosophical works are Hegyon ha-Nefesh (“The Meditation of the Soul”) dealing with creation of the world, the nature of the soul, and repentance, and Megillat ha-Megalle (“The Scroll of the Discoverer”) dealing with creation and cosmology with a strong …

Zaddiq

(311 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] The term zaddiq (קידְּצַ/ ṣaddîq; “Righteous”) is in most cases a vague, general title associating with religious devotion and leadership. It indicates social involvement and ethical perfection beyond the strict demands of the Halakhah and prominent position in the religious community. The verse in Pro 10:25 gave this term a cosmic meaning: the zaddiq is the foundation of the universe ( axis mundi). The legends of the 36 zaddiqim who are the justification of the world’s existence developed from this concept. In the Kabbalah, the term was used to indicate the ni…

Falaquera, Shem Tov ben Joseph

(230 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (c. 1225–1295) was one of the most productive and popular rationalist philosophers of 13th-century Spanish Judaism (Spain: II, 1). He wrote most of his works in Hebrew and was also active as a translator from Arabic. His most important ¶ works include Sefer ha-Mevaqqesh (ET: cf. Falaquera's Book of the Seeker, 1976), a description in rhyming prose of the search for spiritual truth among the various competing schools and factions; Sefer ha-Nefesh (ET: cf. Torah and Sophia, 1835), one of the earliest treatises on the human soul in Hebrew; Iggeret ha-Vikuach (ET: cf. Falaque…

Ibn Daud, Abraham

(291 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (ben David; acronym Rabad I; c. 1110, Córdoba – 1180, Toledo), historian, philosopher, and scholar. Ibn Daud was one of the leading personalities of the Jewish community in 12th-century Spain. He acquired an extensive knowledge of philosophy, medicine, and astronomy in his native town of Córdoba, and was also familiar with the Qurʾān and the New Testament. His main historical work, Sefer ha-Kabbalah (ET: The Book of Tradition, 1967), was on the one hand a polemical tractate against the Karaites, who rejected rabbinic tradition; Ibn Daud according…

Exempla,

(314 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] a literary genre, which became frequent in Hebrew ethical literature in the Middle Ages and modern times, deriving its roots from midrashic literature (Midrash) and which may have been influenced by comparable literary devices in Christian medieval literature. An early medieval example of the use of exempla was the anthology Midrash Aseret ha-Dibrot (“Expounding the Ten Commandments”), which originated probably in Babylonia in the 7th and 8th centuries. This work contains examples of …

Nahman ben Simhah of Bratslav

(306 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (1771, Medshibosh, Ukraine – 1811, Uman, Ukraine). Rabbi Nahman ben Simhah was one of the most influential leaders of the Hasidic movement (Hasidism). Although he was the great-grandson of Baʾal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, only a small group of adherents gathered around him. On his pilgrimage to the Land of Israel (1798) he was able to escape Napoleon's siege of Akko aboard a Turkish warship. When he returned to Europe he preached a new doctrine according to ¶ which there is only one true Zaddik, who is the redeemer of all the people of Israel. He did …
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