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Dov Baer of Mezhirech

(169 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (1704 [1710?], Lukazch, Poland – 1773, Anapoli). The main disciple of the founder of the Hasidic movement (Hasidism), Rabbi Israel Ba'al Shem Tov, and the leader of the first Hasidic court which assembled around him in Mezhirech from 1760 to 1772. He was a mystic and a homilist; his court was described by S. Maimon in his autobiography. Several collections of his sermons were assembled by his disciples, the best-known being Maggid Devarav le-Ya'akov ( Speaker to the People of Jacob), printed in Koretz in 1781. His teachings are charact…

Luria, Isaac

(302 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (Acronym: Ha-ARI; 1534, Jerusalem – 1572, Safed) is regarded as the most important Jewish kabbalist (Kabbalah) of modern times, the originator of a revolutionary kabbalistic myth, which is the dominant theology in orthodox Judaism to this day. His father was of European origin (“Ashkenasi”; Judaism). Not long after Luria was born, his family went to Egypt, where Luria was raised and educated. He became a halakhic authority (Halakhah) with great creative abilities and dealt in comm…

Abulafia, Abraham

(284 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (1240, Saragossa – 1291, Italy). Abulafia, one of the most important mystics among the medieval Kabbalists, created a highly individual form of mystic contemplation, based on a mystical interpretation of language. Leaving Spain, he journeyed through many lands until reaching Akko in 1260; he lived and taught in Sicily, Greece, and Italy. G. …

Lubavich, Hasidic Movement

(285 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] Lubavich is a small town in Russia, near Smolensk, which became the common designation of the Hasidic movement (Hasidism), ¶ Habad, founded at the end of the 18th century. Seven generations of the Schneursohn family were the spiritual leaders of the people of Lubavich. Rabbi Shneur Salman von Liadi is still today revered as the founder and leader of Habad Hasidism. After his death his disciples elected his son, Rabbi Dov Baer (1773–1827) to lead them. Baer's son, M.M. Schneerson, became known by his …

Alharizi, Judah

(207 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (1170, Toledo? – 1235), an important Jewish poet, philosopher, and translator in medieval Spain. He spent most of his life traveling through the Provence and, for many years, in the Near East, visiting Jerusalem, Damascus, Baghdad, and other places. Alcharisi translated the narrative poems ( Maqammas) of Al-Hariri from Arabic into Hebrew, and he wrote his best-known work, Tachkemoni (“Enlighten Me”), in a similar style. It is a comprehensive philosophical narrative-poetic work, cons…

Vidas, Eliyahu ben Moses de

(184 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (c. 1525, Safed – c. 1586, Hebron), prominent kabbalist in 16th-century Safed, a disciple of M. Cordovero. His main work is Reshit Chokhma (“The Beginning of Wisdom”), which is the most influential expression of kabbalistic ethics (Kabbalah). The book is comprised of five extensive discussions concerning the love of God, the fear of God, repentance, humility, and sanctity, each consisting of an anthology of kabbalistic sources on the subject (mostly from the Zohar). It transforms a detailed kabbalistic…

Tosafot/Tosafists

(482 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] Tosafot (lit. additions) is a literary format of commentaries and discussions of sections of the Talmud; Baaley ha-Tosafot (authors of tosafot, tosafists) is the name given to the school of talmudic scholars who developed this format, especially in northern France and western Germany between the 11th and 13th centuries. In the printed editions of the Talmud, the tosafot are printed opposite to the classical commentary on the Talmud by Rashi, on the two sides of the talmudic texts.…

Isaac ha-Cohen

(197 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (of Castile; born in Soria, Spain) was a key figure in an influential group of kabbalists ¶ (Kabbalah) in Castile in the second half of the 13th century. Other important figures were his father, Jacob ha-Cohen, his elder brother, also called Jacob, and his disciple Moshe (ben Solomon ben Simeon) of Burgos. These kabbalists derived their esoteric knowledge mainly from the Gerona kabbalists in the first half of the 13th century, the book Bahir and the teachings of the early kabbalists in the Provence. The works of Isaac, especially his work on the emanation ( Treatise on the …

Eleazar ben Judah of Worms

(163 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (c. 1165, Mainz – 1230, Worms), halakhist, poet, and writer of esoteric, mystical, and ethical works, and the central figure in the literature of the Kalonymus circle of the Hasidic Ashkenazi (Hasidism). Eleazar ben Judah left Mainz following the persecution of the Jews there in 1188, and settled in Worms. He was the main disciple of Rabbi Judah ben Samuel (Yehuda he-Chasid) of Regensburg. Eleazar wrote a halakhic (Halakhah) work, Sefer ha-Rokeah, which deals with questions of ethics. Among his most important works are the …

Hasidic Tales

(276 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] The use of narrative literature in the presentation of Hasidism occurred mainly more than a century after the beginning of the movement. It peaked in the period between 1863 and 1914 when many scores of collections of Hasidic tales were published in Hebrew and Yiddish, mainly in Poland. In the ealier period of Hasidism, only two narrative works were published, both in 1815: Shivchey ha-Besht [In praise of the Besht], a hagiographic biography of the founder of the movement, Israel Baʾal Shem Tov (acronym Besht; this collection became paradigmat…

Arama, Isaac ben Moses

(225 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (c. 1420 Aragon – 1494), one of the leading thinkers of Spanish Jewry in the 15th century and the author of Aqedat Yitzhaq (The Binding of Isaac), a major, influential, homiletical-philosophical work. Arama taught in several towns and was appointed the rabbi of Calatayud; after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain (1492) he settled with his family in Naples. Aqedat Yitzhaq is comprised of 105 homiletical expositions, which deal with the problems of religion and reason: creation, revela…

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…

Kabbalah

(1,981 words)

Author(s): Kilcher, Andreas | Dan, Joseph
[German Version] I. Philosophy of Religion – II. Jewish Kabbalah – III. Christian Kabbalah I. Philosophy of Religion Since c. 1200, Kabbalah has been the designation for Jewish mysticism (III, 2). According to the name, the term Kabbalah means “reception” or “tradition”: the reception of an orally transmitted, esoteric knowledge concerning the “secrets of Scripture” ( rasin de oraita; sitre tora). The material that can be considered Kabbalah can be described in terms of (a) the philosophy of religion or phenomenology, or (b) history. A phenomenologica…

Exile

(1,918 words)

Author(s): Graf, Friedrich Wilhelm | Dan, Joseph
[German Version] I. General – II. Judaism I. General Exile (Lat. exilium or exul) refers to the state-organized and politically, religiously, or ethnically motivated expulsion of people from their homeland or their forced resettlement in a land that they often would not have freely chosen as a place of refuge. The politically powerful have forced people into exile in all periods of history. The t…

Disputation

(1,448 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph | Köpf, Ulrich | van Ess, Josef
[German Version] I. Judaism – II. Christianity – III. Islam I. Judaism Talmudic tradition includes several examples of disputations between Jewish scholars and pagan philosophers or Roman emperors, dealing mainly with the questions of divine unity, the creation and the role of Israel ( b. Sanh. 91a–b; ' Abod. Zar. 10a–11a, etc.). Disputations with representatives of Islam and, especially, of the Christian religion became a central subject in the historical and apologetical literature (…

Hagiography

(2,226 words)

Author(s): Köpf, Ulrich | Plank, Peter | Dan, Joseph
[German Version] I. Western Hagiography – II. Eastern Hagiography – III. Medieval and Modern Judaism I. Western Hagiography Western hagiography, as a literature that has no scholarly purpose but serves to venerate saints, first followed Greek examples. Its most important genre, the lives of the saints, is shaped less by the panegyric biography of the martyr bishop Cyprian of Carthage, written by the deacon Pontius (2nd half of 3rd cent. ce), than by the vitaes of the desert father Anthony of Padua, written by Athanasius (with two Latin translations), and of Martin …

Transmigration of Souls

(1,282 words)

Author(s): Betz, Hans Dieter | Dehn, Ulrich | Dan, Joseph | Schmidtke, Sabine
[German Version] I. Religious Studies 1. Terminology. Theories of transmigration, which go back to the pre-Socratics of the 6th and 5th centuries bce (Empedocles, Pythagoras, Orphism), presuppose a dualism of body and soul. They hold that a human birth is not a totally new creation but the reincarnation of a pre-existent soul. Repeated incarnations extend not only to human beings of all classes and stations but also to flora and fauna; their purpose is the eschatological purification of the soul from ritual and ethic…

Sacred Sites

(2,374 words)

Author(s): Baudy, Dorothea | Reichert, Andreas | Dan, Joseph | Koch, Guntram
[German Version] I. Religious Studies Characterization of a place as “sacred” or “holy” lends it a special status vis-à-vis its environment. Usually specific regulations govern how it is entered and used. Traditionally this status has been grounded in the belief that the site is proper to a deity or another spiritual being, or that a special power emanates from it. Sacred sites are particularly common at the center and on the fringes of group territories: the “men’s house” or festival ground defines the center of a village, just as the temple complex on …

Pre-existence

(1,863 words)

Author(s): Plasger, Georg | Necker, Gerold | Dan, Joseph | Radtke, Bernd
[German Version] I. The Concept Pre-existence refers to the existence of deities, persons, or objects prior to the world or the earth. All religions in which the deity is not subsumed into time espouse the notion of the deity’s real pre-existence, because entrance into the course of time brings forth only knowledge of the deity without affecting the deity’s being. It is in this context that we also speak of the pre-existence of Christ. In Greek philosophy, which influenced early Christianity, the no…

Anti-Semitism/Anti-Judaism

(9,075 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph | Schäfer, Peter | Schaller, Berndt | Thierfelder, Jörg | Frey, Christofer
[German Version] I. Definitions and Problems - II. Greco-Roman Antiquity- III. New Testament (Primitive and Early Christianity) - IV. Christian Antiquity to the Beginning of the MiddleAges - V. The Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period - VI. German Anti-Semitism in Recent History - VII. Systematic Theology I. Definitions and Problems The term “anti-Semitism” in its narrowest sense relates to a racist ideology that emerged in France and Germany in the last decades of the 19th century and de…
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