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Reuchlin, Johannes

(2,621 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
Reuchlin, Johannes, * 22 Feb 1455 (Pforzheim), † 1522 (Liebenzell) Reuchlin was the leading German humanist of the Renaissance, the most prominent Hebraist of his age and the author of the central text of Christian kabbalah, De arte cabalistica (1517). The influence of his numerous books and the intense controversy which surrounded them make him a key figure in the history of European spirituality in the 16th century and the main influence on the integration of Jewish and kabbalistic elements into European thought [→ Jewish Influenc…

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…

Safed

(173 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[English Version] (bibl.-hebr. צְפַת/ṣepat), Kleinstadt im Norden des Staates Israel, die vom 16.Jh. an jüd. Mystikern als spirituelles Zentrum galt (Land Israel: IV.). Dort sammelten sich viele Kabbalisten (Kabbala: II.), angezogen von dem nahe gelegenen Meron mit dem Grab Rabbi Simeon bar Jochais. Diesem Weisen des 2.Jh. wird das Buch Zohar zugeschrieben. In S. lebten mehrere bedeutende Persönlichkeiten: Rabbi Joseph Karo, Autor des Shulchan Arukh, des wichtigsten rel. Gesetzbuches im modernen J…

Narboni

(143 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[English Version] Narboni, Moses (ca.1300 Perpignan, Frankreich – 1363 Soria, Spanien), bedeutender jüd. Philosoph des 14.Jh. N. arbeitete als wandernder Arzt in verschiedenen Städten Spaniens und der Provence. Sein bekanntestes und einflußreichstes Werk ist der Komm. zu Moses Maimonides' »More Nevukhim« (veröff. 1852 in Wien). N. vertrat eine fundamentale Maimonides-Interpretation und folgte in höherem Maße als die meisten jüd. Rationalisten den Lehren Averroes'. N. behauptete eine Judentum, Chris…

Urbach

(200 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[English Version] Urbach, Ephraim Elimelech (26.5.1912 Wloclawec, Polen – 2.7.1991 Jerusalem), gehörte in der 2. Hälfte des 20.Jh. zu den einflußreichsten Wissenschaftlern für Jüd. Studien. U. studierte am Breslauer Rabbinerseminar und an den Universitäten von Breslau und Rom. Seit 1938 in Jerusalem; ab 1953 lehrte er als Prof. für Talmudstudien an der Hebr. Universität Jerusalem. 1974 Präsident der isr. Akademie der Künste und Wiss. der »World Union of Jewish Studies«. Darüber hinaus engagierte sic…

Nachman ben Simcha

(296 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[English Version] von Brazlav (1771 Medshibosh, Ukraine – 1811 Uman, ebd.). Rabbi N. ben S. gehörte zu den einflußreichsten Führern der chassidischen Bewegung (Chassidismus). Obwohl er ein Urenkel des Baal Shem Tov, des Gründers des Chassidismus, war, hatte sich nur eine kleine Gruppe von Schülern um ihn geschart. Auf seiner Pilgerreise in das Land Israel (1798) konnte er der Belagerung von Akko durch Napoleon I. an Bord eines türkischen Kriegsschiffes entkommen. Nach Europa zurückgekehrt, predigte…

Shir ha-Jichud

(164 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[English Version] . Das Sh. (»Gesang von Gottes Einheit«) ist ein langes Gedicht theol. Inhalts in lockerer Reimform, vf. von einem unbekannten dt. jüd. Gelehrten im 12.Jh. Es wurde zum wichtigsten Ausdruck einer neuen Vorstellung der göttlichen Welt innerhalb dieser Kultur. Das Sh. spricht von einem absolut transzendenten Schöpfergott, gleichfalls jedoch auch von dessen Immanenz in allen Bereichen der Schöpfung. Als eine Quelle des Sh. gilt eine frühe hebr. Übers. (11.Jh.) des rationalistischen W…

Zohar (Sohar), Sefer

(461 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[English Version] . Der Z. ist das bedeutendste Buch der Kabbala (: II.) und eines der fundiertesten Werke der ma. Mystik (: III.,2., b). Mit der Bibel und dem Talmud gehört er zu den drei heiligsten Büchern des Judentums. Nach G. Scholems Auffassung wurde er im wesentlichen von Rabbi Moses De Leon in Nordspanien zw. 1270 und 1291 vf.; gemäß Isaiah Tishby entstand er erst in dessen Todesjahr 1305. Von 1280 an hatte der Vf. Auszüge aus dem Z. verteilt und behauptet, es handle sich um Abschriften au…

Nathan

(186 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[English Version] von Gaza (1643 Jerusalem – 11.1.1680 Skopje, Mazedonien), erster Prophet und wichtigster Theologe des Sabbatianismus. Nach einer Begegnung mit Sabbatai Zevi (S.Z.) in Gaza 1665 berichtete der junge N., Schüler der Kabbala (: II.) I. Lurias, von einer Offenbarung, die S.Z. als den Messias auswies – ein Anspruch, den dieser schon jahrelang erfolglos erhob. Erst N.s Prophezeiung rief jedoch den eigentlichen Sabbatianismus ins Leben, dessen geistl. und administrativer Führer N. wurde.…

Schneursohn

(344 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[English Version] 2.Menachem Mendel , von Ljubawitsch (1789 Liadi – 1866 ebd.), Enkel von 1., genannt Zemach Zedek, seit 1828 drittes Oberhaupt der chassidischen Chabad-Gemeinschaft (Lubawitsch). Sch. wuchs im Haus seines Großvaters, des Gründers der Gemeinschaft, auf und folgte ihm in seinen Lehren und der Art und Weise seiner geistigen Führerschaft. Unter ihm wurde die Chabad-Gemeinschaft zur zentralen, einflußreichen Größe im orth. osteur. Judentum. Seinen volkstümlichen Namen erhielt er nach de…

Nagid

(273 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[English Version] (hebr. נָגִיד, Pl. Negidim) ist der hebr. Titel des Oberhauptes einer jüd. Gemeinde in einem arabischsprachigen Land. Er löste den bab. Titel »Rosh ha-Gola« (»Exilarch«; Resh Galuta) des frühen MA ab. In Spanien, Ägypten, Tunesien, Marokko und im Jemen entstanden mehrere Dynastien von N. Viele jüd. Dichter, Gelehrte, Philosophen und Wissenschaftler hatten diese Stellung inne, in einigen Fällen war sie über drei oder vier Generationen erblich. Das Amt des N. wurde nach dem Modell i…

Sefirot

(170 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[English Version] (hebr. סְפִרוֹת; Sg. Sefira). S. sind erstmals im Sefer Jezira belegt: Es gibt davon »zehn und nicht neun, zehn und nicht elf«, d.h. die zehn »Richtungen« des Kosmos (oben, unten, Anfang, Ende, Norden, Süden, Osten, Westen, Gut, Böse), die Mächte des göttlichen Thronwagens oder die kosmischen Elemente. Im 13.Jh. bez. die frühen Kabbalisten (Kabbala: II.) damit die zehn persönlichen, dynamischen Kräfte, die das Emanationssystem der göttlichen Welt konstituieren (Kosmologie: IV.,2.).…

Nagara

(176 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[English Version] (Nagˇara), Israel ben Moses (ca.1555 Damaskus – ca.1625), gilt als der große Dichter des »Goldenen Zeitalters« jüd. Kultur im 16.Jh. in Safed. Infolge der Zerstörung der jüd. Gemeinden in Spanien (1492) erlebte diese obergaliläische Ortschaft, in der verschiedene kabbalistische Schulen (Kabbala: II.) ansässig waren, eine neue Blütezeit. Obwohl N. oft als kabbalistischer Dichter angesehen wird, spielt die Kabbala in seinem Werk keine bedeutende Rolle. Einige Jahre lang amtierte er …

Zimzum

(192 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[English Version] (»göttliche Kontraktion«), gehört zu den aussagekräftigsten und einflußreichsten Begriffen der lurianischen Kabbala (: II.; Isaak Luria). Er bezieht sich auf den ersten Schritt, der von der Unendlichkeit der ewigen Gottheit (En Sof) zur Emanation der göttlichen Mächte und der irdischen Welt führt. Luria zufolge ist der Z. ein negativer Prozeß, bei dem das Zusammenziehen bzw. der Rückzug des unendlichen Göttlichen in sich selbst stattfindet, um einen leeren Raum (Tehiru) zu schaff…

Taku

(180 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[English Version] Taku, Moses ben Chisdaj (ca.1170–1230). Rabbi Moses T., dessen Name sich wahrscheinlich auf eine Stadt – entweder Dachau oder Tachau in Böhmen – bezieht, war ein angesehener Tosafist (Tosafot), der zu einigen Talmudtraktaten und Rechtsresponsen Kommentare vf. Bis ins 15.Jh. wird er in der halakhischen Lit. oft zitiert. Vermutlich amtierte er als Rabbiner in Regensburg. In der Hs. Paris H711 findet sich die Abschrift eines Teils aus seinem polemischen Werk Ketav Tamim (»Ein Buch de…

Zaddiq

(295 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[English Version] . Der Begriff Z. (צַדּֽיק/ṣaddîq; »Gerechter«) wird meist als unpräziser allg. Titel verwendet und mit rel. Hingabe und Führerschaft in Verbindung gebracht. Er weist in der Regel auf soziales Engagement und hochstehende ethische Maßstäbe hin, die noch über die schon strengen Forderungen der Halakha hinausgehen, und läßt auf eine herausragende Stellung in der rel. Gemeinschaft schließen. In Spr 10,25 erhält der Begriff eine kosmische Bedeutung: Der Z. ist das Fundament des Universums …

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…

Cordovero, Moses

(182 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (1522, Zefad [Safed]? – 1570, Zefad), the greatest Kabbalist in Zefad before I. Luria. His family, whose origin was in Córdoba, was exiled from Spain in 1492. Cordovero was a disciple of ¶ Rabbi Joseph Karo and Shlomo Alkabetz. His main work, an extensive commentary on the Zohar with the title Or Yaqar ( Precious Light) was first published in the last decades (printed in Jerusalem, 1961ff., 22 vols.). His best known work is Pardes Rimmonim ( A Garden of Pomegranates), a systematic presentation of Cordovero's interpretation of the classical Kabbalah. An…

Sefirot

(211 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (Heb. סְפִרוֹת; sg. sefira). Sefirot is found for the first time in the Sefer Yetzirah: there are “ten and not nine, ten and not eleven,” i.e. the ten “directions” of the cosmos (up, down, beginning, end, north, south, east,west, good, evil), as well as the powers of the divine chariot and the cosmic elements. In the 13th century this term was adopted by the early kabbalists (Kabbalah) to denote the ten personal, dynamic powers which together constitute the emanated system of the divine world (Cosmology). Each Sefira is a divine power with unique characteristics: Ke…

Nachmanides

(339 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (Moses ben Nachman, acronym “Ramban”; 1194, Gerona – 1270, Akko) was a rabbi, physician, preacher, exegete, and a great halakhic authority. In the first half of the 13th century, Nachmanides was the spiritual leader of Spanish Jews ¶ (Judaism: II) and the head of the Kabbalistic school (Kabbalah: II) of Gerona, where Rabbi Ezra and Rabbi Azriel were among his teachers. He was a defender of Judaism in disputations with his Christian contemporaries. His exegetical work on the Pentateuch is a landmark in medieval Jewish culture; it combines traditional mi…

Maggid

(409 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] is the general Hebrew word for “speaker.” In religious terminology, it has two different meanings: I. In the meaning of preacher, maggid refers to one of the most important cultural institutions of modern Judaism (II; III). It refers to a religious elite that is second in authority to the official rabbinate (Rabbis: II, 2). Although large congregations always employed preachers in permanent positions, most maggidim wandered from one congregation to another, staying in each place for weeks or months. …

Alnakawa, Israel

(263 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (died 1391 in Toledo), leader of the Jewish community in Toledo in the 14th century, author of one of the most important ethical/theological works of the period, Menorat ha-Maor (“Candelabrum of Light”). Alnakawa was the son of an important family in Toledo and a disciple of the great halakhists (Halakhah), Rabbi Asher ben Yehiel and his son Jacob. In the preface to his book Alnakawa tells how he was ordered …

Ben Gurion, David

(248 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (Oct 16, 1886, Plonsk, Poland – Dec 1, 1973, Sdeh Boker, Israel), the first prime minister of the state of Israel following his vigorous leadership of the Zionist movement (Zion); on May 14, 1948, Ben Gurion declared the state of Israel's independence. He remained in office with a short interval until 1953. As minister of defense, he led Israe…

Nathan of Gaza

(219 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (1643, Jerusalem, Israel – Jan 11, 1680, Skopje, Macedonia), the first prophet and main theologian of Shabbetaianism. After a meeting with Shabbetai Tzevi in Gaza in 1665, Nathan, a young scholar of I. Luria’s Kabbalah, declared that he had a revelation which identified Shabbetai Tzevi as the messiah, a claim that the latter had been making for years without any positive response. However, actual Shabbetaianism was only brought to life with Nathan’s prophecy, and Nathan became its…

Scholem, Gershom Gerhard

(344 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (orig. Gerhard; Dec 5, 1897, Berlin – Feb 20, 1982, Jerusalem), the most important scholar in Jewish studies in the 20th century and the founder of the scholarly study of the Kabbalah. He was born to an assimilated Jewish family. In his youth he devoted himself to Zionism, associated with M. Buber and began to learn Hebrew, taking lessons in Talmud. One of his early friends was W. Benjamin; their friendship lasted till Benjamin’s death in 1940. Scholem decided to write his Ph.D. on the Book of Sefer ha- Bahir, which he identified as the earliest work of the Kabbalah …

Zimzum

(179 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (“divine contraction”), is one of the most profound and influential terms in Lurianic Kabbalah (II; I. Luria). It denotes the first step leading from the infinity of the eternal Godhead ( En Sof) to the emanation of the divine powers and the earthly world. According to Luria, the zimzum is a negative process: it signifies the contraction of the infinite divine into itself, to create an empty space ( tehiru) into which the divine light can flow and shape the Sefirot. In the original Lurianic myth this was a cathartic process in which potentially evil elements …

Devequt

(205 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (communion) is the Hebrew term for adherence to or communion with God, which was used by Jewish kabbalists (Kabbalah), pietists, and teachers of the modern Hasidic movement (Hasidism) to indicate the maximal proximity to God that can be obtained by a mystic. Often used as an equivalent to the ¶ Latin unio mystica . The term is used for the relation between the divine powers (the sefirot), but mainly for the process of ascension of the human soul. The subject of…

Jacob Isaac of Lublin

(204 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (ha-Choseh, “The Seer”) (1745–1815, Lublin) is regarded as the father of Hasidism in Poland and Galicia and is one of the leading representatives of the third Hasidic generation. The epithet “The Seer” was given to him as he was believed to have miraculous visionary powers. His most important teachers were Rabbi Dov Baer of Mezhirech, the spiritual heir of Baʾal Shem Tov, and Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, from whom he distanced himself after a number of years of wandering, when he …

Taku, Moses ben Hasdai

(178 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (c. 1170–1230). Rabbi Moses Taku (the name probably relates to a town; it may be Dachau, or Tachau in Bohemia), was a prominent Tosafist (Tosafot) who wrote commentaries on some talmudic tractates and legal responsa and is frequently quoted in halakhic literature up to the 15th century. He may have served as a rabbi in Regensburg. ¶ In manuscript Paris H711 there is a copy of a part of Taku’s polemical work, Ketav Tamim ( A Book of Wholesomeness; publ. R. Kircheim, 3 vols., 1860, 54–99). The work is dedicated to an uncompromising attack on the rationalistic…

Anatoli, Jacob ben Abba Mari

(196 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (born c. 1200), a rationalist philosopher from the school of Maimonides, translator, exegete and homilist. He belonged (by marriage) to the family of Ibn Tibbon, the famous school of translators of philosophical works from Arabic to Hebrew in the 12th/13th century. He spent many years as one of the international scholars who congregated in Naples in the court of Frederick I. In his collection of sermons, Malemad ha-Talmidim (“teacher/encourager of students”), he quotes the emperor twice and …

Levi ben Gerson

(314 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (Gersonides; acronym RaLBaG; 1288, Bagnols, Provence – 1344, Perpignan) is one of the most prominent rationalistic philosophers, scientists, and biblical exegetes of medieval Judaism. Born to a famous Provençal family, he lived most of his life in Orange and Avignon. He was known in Europe as Messer Leon de Bagnols or Magister Leo Hebreo de Bonnolis. Several of his treatises were translated into Latin and had an impact on European science, especially astronomy and philosophy. Levi…

Tikkun

(226 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] is the most potent, operative term in Lurianic Kabbalah (I. Luria), which expresses the messianic endeavor of believers in the kabbalistic worldview from the 17th century to this day. Its source is in the talmudic term tiqqun ha-ʿolam, deeds that assist in keeping the world functioning correctly. In the Lurianic myth, it represents the third, last phase in the cosmic-historical myth of Luria: the first is the zimzum; the second is the Shevirat ha-kalem (breaking of the vessels), the catastrophe in which the divine plan broke down; and then the tikkun should occur, corr…

Azikri, Eleazar

(196 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (1533–1600 Safed), a leader of the spiritual center in Safed, kabbalist, preacher, and ethical teacher and mystic. His best-known work is Sefer Haredim (“The Book of the God-fearing”, printed in Venice in 1600), an ethical treatise dedicated to the elucidation of the commandments and instructions concerning a life of devotion and asceticism. In the introduction, he describes the establishment…

Yehuda he-Chasid

(163 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (“the pious,” Yehuda ben Samuel of Regensburg; c. 1150, Speyer, Germany – 1217, Regensburg, Germany), leader of the school of esotericists and pietists of the Kalonymus family in the Rhineland. He wrote ethical works, especially the Sefer Hasidim (Hasidism, Ashkenazi) and a series of esoteric-mystical ones: Sefer ha-Kavod (“Book of Divine Glory,” ms. Oxford, Bodleiana 1566f.) and a lost six-volume Commentary on the Prayers (the earliest work of this genre known to us). In all three works his positions are radical: his view of the kavod is that of a divine power in…

Alphabet Mysticism/Letter Mysticism

(1,413 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] I. History of Religion – II. Judaism I. History of Religion It is an intriguing fact – and not easy to explain – that the map of the monotheistic or “book” religions largely coincides with the map of the languages that use an Alphabet. The reverence given to Scripture in these religions influenced the attitude of believers toward language and toward letters, its building blocks. Th…

Jacob Joseph of Polonnoye

(208 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (died c. 1782, Polonnoye, Ukraine) was a Hasidic theologian (Hasidism), ¶ preacher and rabbi. He was a prominent disciple of the founder of the movement, Rabbi Israel Besht (Baʾal Shem Tov). Jacob served as a rabbi in Shargorod, in the Ukrainian area of Podolia, from which he was expelled in 1748. Late in his life he became the rabbi of Polonnoye. Jacob was never a leader of a Hasidic community, but he wrote the first Hasidic book to be published: Toledot Yaʾakov Yosef. (The titles of his books are based on biblical phrases which include his name, here Gen 37:2…

Delmedigo, Elijah Cretensis ben Moses Abba

(176 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (1460, Candia, Crete – 1497, Candia, Crete). A rationalist philosopher, who influenced Renaissance culture by his translations into Latin of numerous works by Averroes, including his commentary on Plato's Republic and his questions relating to Aristotle's Logic. Delmedigo was the head of the talmudic academy in Padua, and later joined the circle of Platonist humanists in Florence. He was one of the teachers of G. Pico della Mirandola and travelled several times from Crete to Italy. His best-known philosophical work is Bechinat ha-Dat (“Examination of Religion,”…

Leon, Moses ben Shem Tov de

(156 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (1240, Leon – 1305, Arevalo), the greatest Jewish mystic in the Middle Ages and the main author of the book Zohar, the central work of the Kabbalah. De Leon mainly studied Jewish philosophy and the writings of M. Maimonides, but later devoted himself to the teachings of the Gerona circle of kabbalists and the kabbalists of Castile. He wrote the Zohar pseudepigraphically, attributing it to ancient sages; it was composed mainly between 1280 and 1291 and most of it is in an artificial Aramaic which De Leon formulated, though sections were pro…

Shir ha-Yihhud

(173 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (“The Poem of Divine Unity”) is a long theological poem which was written by an unknown Jewish scholar in the 12th century. It became one of the main expressions of the new conception of the divine world in this culture. The Shir ha-Yihhud expresses a radical transcendental conception of God the Creator, and at the same time insists on his immanence in all realms of creation. One of its sources was an early Hebrew translation (11th cent.) of the 10th-century rationalistic work, “Emunot we-De’ot” by Saadia Gaon. The poem h…

Rashba

(219 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (Adret Solomon ben Adrat [Rashba is an acronym]; c. 1235, Barcelona – 1310, Barcelona), head of a school of Jewish law and Jewish mysticism in Barcelona, late 13th/early 14th century. A student of the Kabbalistic (Kabbalah) school of Girona, he was leader of a group of kabbalists in Catalonia. Before becoming a rabbi in Barcelona, he was a merchant, and traded with the king of Aragon, among others. More ¶ than 1,000 of his Responsa (7 vols.) have survived; they deal with daily problems and political matters, and with complicated questions of law as …

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 …

Israeli, Isaac ben Solomon

(136 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (c. 855, Egypt – c. 955, Kairouan, Tunisia) earned his living as court physician in Kairouan. He is known as one of the founders of Jewish religious philosophy in the Middle Ages and was in contact with Saadia Gaon, the most influential philosopher of that age. His philosophical works, written in Arabic, had meaningful influence. They were also widely distributed in Europe (also among non-Jews) in their Hebrew and Latin translations. His Sefer ha-Gevulim ( Book of Definitions, trans. into Lat. by Gerard of Cremona) introduced the neo-Platonic concept of th…
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