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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…

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…
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