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Raḥamim, Ezekiel Ezra

(199 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
Ezekiel (Yehezkel) Ezra Raḥamim, known by the acronym Ya"AR, was born in Baghdad in 1876 and emigrated to Jerusalem in 1904. From childhood he distinguished himself as a prodigy in all facets of rabbinic studies, and by the age of fifteen he was considered one of the foremost sages of Baghdad. He was, as well, a confidant of Joseph Ḥayyim al-Ḥakam, the Ben Ish Ḥayy. Ben Raḥamim passed away in 1908 at a young age, leaving a wife and daughter, and providing for their needs precluded the publication of his works. Although he wrote many practical codes of law, only one, ʿ Aṣ e ha-Yaʿar (The Trees of t…

Azikri, Eleazar b. Moses

(294 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
A prominent kabbalist, ethicist, and composer of liturgical poetry of the late Safed renaissance, Eleazar ben Moses Azikri was born in 1533, apparently in Safed (Ḥayyim Joseph David Azulay’s claim that he came from Istanbul has been discredited), and was ordained by Jacob Berab in 1596. In his masterwork, the Sefer Ḥaredim (Heb. Book of Those Who Tremble [before God]), Azikri refers to Joseph Sagis, a well-known associate of Isaac Luria and Joseph Caro, as his principal teacher. Azikri himself was also a student of Karo and Luria, and, as well, of Moses ben Josep…

Gagin, Ḥayyim Abraham Moses

(365 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
Ḥayyim Abraham Gagin (known as Rav Aga"n , 1787–1848), was the scion of an illustrious North African family, based in Fez, that traced its origins to the Spanish expulsion. His mother was the daughter of David Majar, the prayer leader of the Bet El kabbalists. Upon the death of his first wife, Gagin married the daughter of Abraham Shalom Ḥasid, who was known as Doda (Aunt) Rivka in 1828. Gagin became the head of the yeshiva in 1827 and also served as the head of the Tiferet Yisra’el academy.In 1842 Gagin was appointed rishon le-ṣiyyon ("first of Zion ," the title of Sephardi head of the rabb…

Meyuḥas Family

(527 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
The Meyuḥas family left Spain in 1492 during the expulsion and arrived in Jerusalem in 1510. Their earliest affiliation was with the Yoḥanan ben Zakkay Synagogue in the Old City. Other members of the family settled in Greece, Turkey, and elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire.The brothers Abraham ben Samuel Meyuḥas (d. 1767) and Raphael ben Samuel Meyuḥas (1695–1771) both studied in the Bet Yaʿaqov Yeshiva. Raphael subsequently became its head. Abraham was a noted kabbalist whose commentaries and conclusions were incorporated into the final recensions of the Lurianic canon (…

Mishʿan, Elijah

(259 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
Elijah ben Abraham Mishʿan (d. 1882) was the most influential kabbalist of the Aleppo community in the nineteenth century, and his students, most notably Ḥayyim Saul Duwayk, had enormous influence in the Jerusalem Jewish community into the period of the British Mandate. Mishʿan was regularly consulted by the Jerusalem kabbalists of the Bet El school, especially Jedidiah Raphael Ḥayy Abulafia, as well as by Moses Galante of Damascus. He played an instrumental role in determining the standard version of Shalom Sharabi’s prayerbook, for which the Aleppo version is viewed as p…

Zarqa, Joseph

(186 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
Joseph Zarqa (1722–1798), a student of Isaac Lumbruso, was an influential Tunisian kabbalist. Zarqa’s kabbalistic activity was centered on bringing specifically Lurianic traditions into the practice of North African Jewry. Employed as a scribe, he adapted the Lurianic traditions regarding scribal practices into his own writing of Torah scrolls. When queried regarding matters that fell between halakha and Kabbala, Zarqa was apt to resolve the problem in accordance with the kabbalistic interpretation, advocating the a…

Abulafia (Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya), Jedidiah Raphael

(248 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
Jedidiah Raphael Ḥay Abulafia (Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya), known as Rav Yira (acronym for Yedidya Refaʾel Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya), was the seventh head of the Bet El Yeshiva, presiding over the institution from 1850 to 1871. He was the primary editor of Shalom Sharabi’s writings and produced the most widely accepted version of Sharʿabi’s prayer intentions (Heb. kavvanot). Like Jacob Shealtiel Nino, he was affiliated with the Bet El community from childhood.Abulafia enlarged the Bet El prayerbook to include devotions for the entire year and edited its introductory sections, commonly called Reḥovot ha-Na…

Mani, Elijah ben Sulayman

(371 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
Elijah ben Sulayman Mani (1818–1899, known as the Re'em) was one of Baghdad’s most prominent rabbis. His career was emblematic of the movement of Baghdad’s rabbinic elite to the land of Israel in the nineteenth century. He was educated by Rabbi Abdullah Somekh, and fell under the influence of Rabbi Joseph Ḥayyim al-Ḥakam, the Ben Ish Ḥayy, who encouraged him to emigrate to Jerusalem. Among the duties Mani took up on arriving in Israel in 1856 was the management of Joseph Ḥayyim’s estate. He truly flourished in Hebron, however, and after the death of Moses Pereira in 1865 became it…

Sarug, Israel

(473 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
Israel Sarug (d. 1610) was born into a prominent Egyptian rabbinic family. His activities in the first few decades of his life are uncertain. It may be that he became acquainted with Isaac Luria in Egypt and followed him to Safed, but it is also possible that he arrived in Safed only after Luria’s death to study with his surviving disciples. What is clear is that in 1594 he went to Italy, where he had an influence on Pico della Mirandola and other Neoplatonists. One of his most illustrious students was Naphtali Ṣevi Bacharach, whose voluminous ʿ Emeq ha-Melekh (Valley of the King) set forth …

Shar'abi, Hezekiah Isaac Mizraḥi

(213 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
Hezekiah Isaac Mizraḥi Sharʿabi (d. 1808), referred to by his acronym Ḥay be-Shemesh (lit. alive in the sun) was the only son of the legendary Yemenite kabbalist Shalom Sharʿabi and served as the fourth head of the Bet El yeshiva in Jerusalem. Although he was clearly an accomplished kabbalist, his main area of distinction was as a rabbinical judge (Heb. dayyan) on the court of Rav Mordechai ha-Levi, author of the Ma’amar Mordekhay (Mordechai's Composition) on the code of Jewish law. He composed the Me'ira Dakhya ("Pure Enlightening"; Constantinople, 1807) and two introductions t…

Ḥayyun, Gedaliah

(297 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
Born in Istanbul, Gedaliah Ḥayyun settled in Jerusalem’s Old City in 1736 at the age of forty with the aim of pursuing his studies in Kabbala. He was a student of Ḥayyim Alfandari, (see Alfandari Family) who initiated him into the mysteries of the Lurianic system of Kabbala, which dominated his theology, and he was influenced halakhically by Judah Rosanes (see Rosanes (Rosales) Family), the chief rabbi of Istanbul. His halakhic opinions are cited by Ḥayyim Joseph David Azulay and others of the period.Ḥayyun briefly returned to Istanbul to organize a committee of support for th…

Abbadi, Mordechai

(239 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
Mordechai Abbadi, born in Aleppo in 1826, was a rabbi, judge, and distinguished sage. Renowned for his enormous command of legal and mystical literature, he reputedly composed his first novellae on the Talmud at the age of fifteen. His influence in the realm of Kabbala continued after his lifetime through the activities of his students Ḥayyim Saul Duwayk and Jacob Saul Duwayk (Duwayk Family), the latter of whom composed Abbadi's eulogy. Abbadi was influenced by the Bet El school of kabbalists (Bet El Kabbalists) and their quest for a purely Lurianic interpretation of Ka…

Mani, Sulayman Menahem

(267 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
Sulayman Menahem Mani (1850–1924), the eldest son of Elijah Mani, was born in Baghdad but was brought to Palestine when his father settled there in 1856. He was a student of Rabbi Solomon Eliezrov, the son-in-law of Rabbi Moses Pereira, and he married Pereira’s daughter, Rina. In 1901, he published his father’s book Siaḥ Yiṣḥaq. Upon his father’s death in 1899, he became head of the rabbinical court in Hebron, while Ḥayyim Hezekiah Medini, the author of the Sede Ḥemed, succeeded his father as chief rabbi of Hebron. After Medini’s death, Sulayman in turn became chief rabbi …

Algazi, Yom Ṭov ben Israel Jacob

(321 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
Yom Ṭov Algazi(1727-1802), the son of Israel Jacob Algazi (1680-1756), was, like his father, a principal member of the Bet El Yeshiva and a member of the initial circle around Shalom Sharabi and Ḥayyim Joseph David Azulay. He became Rishon le-Siyyon (Heb. chief rabbi) in 1777. As an emissary (Heb. shadar) for the Jerusalem community, he traveled widely in Europe and made a favorable impression on such monolithic figures of the Hungarian rabbinate as Moses Sofer (Ḥatam Sofer) and his father-in-law, Akiva Eiger.Yom Ṭov Algazi was the head of Bet El for the last twenty-five years of …

Sharʿabi, Abraham Shalom

(236 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
Raphael Abraham Shalom Sharʿabi (1775–1827), known as the RA"Sh and as Rav Abraham Shalom Ḥasid (Heb. the saint) because of his piety, was the grandson of the influential kabbalist Shalom Sharʿabi and the son of Hezekiah Isaac Mizraḥi Sharʿabi. Abraham Shalom headed the Bet El yeshiva from 1808 until his death and was one of the first major redactors of the linguistic mysteries of the Bet El system of Kabbala. His Divre Shalom, a theoretical work that details the practices of the Bet El community, is still one of the most useful volumes in the library of that tradit…

Gagin, Shalom Moses Ḥayy

(311 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
Shalom Moses Ḥayy Gagin (1833-1883) was the son of Ḥayyim Abraham Gagin and his second wife, Doda Rivka, the daughter of Abraham Shalom Sharʿabi. He was called Shalom Moses after Shalom Sharʿabi and his grandfather Moses Majar, and subsequent Ḥayy was added to his name; thus he is known by the acronym SaMaḤ¤, which was incorporated into the titles of his books. The substantial library he inherited from his father was available to Aryeh Leib Frumkin when compiling Sefer Even Shmu' el Kolel Toledot Ḥakhmey Yerushalayim (Vilna, 1874).Gagin's father died when he was fifteen, and his m…

Harari-Raful, Nissim ben Isaiah

(262 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
Nissim ben Isaiah Harari-Raful (d. 1870) was one of the giants of the Aleppo rabbinate. He was a noted talmudist but also was distinguished in the field of Kabbala, particularly in respect to the kavvanot (Heb. prayer “intentions”) instituted by Shalom Sharʿabi and his acolytes in the Bet El community of the Old City of Jerusalem. Harari’s study partner in Aleppo was Elijah Mishʿan. When the two of them visited Jerusalem, they made a strong impression on the reigning kabbalist of the time, Moses Ibn Sasson, who contended that their exposition of Kabbala was beyond his underst…

Duwayk (Douek, Dweck), Ḥayyim Saul

(543 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
Ḥayyim Saul Duwayk (1858–1933), known as the Rav Sadeh, was the most influential sage of the Aleppo wing of Bet El Kabbala. In his youth, he was influenced by Nissim Harari Raful, author of ‘Alei Nahar, an early explication of Shalom Sharʿabi’s prayer intentions ( kavvanot). Early in his career, Duwayk contacted Sasson Bakher Moshe, the incumbent head of Bet El in Jerusalem. At the age of thirty-two he moved to Jerusalem, cementing relations between the two communities. Renowned for his emotional intensity at the time of prayer and the bea…

Ftayya (Petaya), Judah

(432 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
The Baghdad kabbalist Judah Ftayya (1859–1942) was a principal student of Rabbi Joseph Ḥayyim al-Ḥakam, the Ben Ish Ḥay. He eventually took up residence in Jerusalem, where he exerted great influence through his writings, activities, and the illustrious family he founded. Ftayya studied there with Ḥayyim Saul Duwayk, who after succumbing to blindness dictated his commentary on Ḥayyim Vital’s Oṣrot Ḥayyim, Efah Shelema to Ftayya and Joseph Ḥayyim Sofer. Ftayya cared for Duwayk in his infirmity, aided by Sulaymān Moṣfi.A visionary who left a record of his communing with the …

Ḥayyim Ben Abraham ha-Kohen

(241 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
Ḥayyim ha-Kohen of Aram Ṣoba (Aleppo) was born in Egypt in 1585, with an ancestry that traced back to Spain by way of Baghdad and Jerusalem. He moved to Safed, where he encountered Hayyim Vital at the height of the latter’s influence. A letter from Shlumiel of Dreznis, the earliest chronicler of the Safed renaissance, notes the powerful rabbi/disciple relationship of the two scholars. Ḥayyim ha-Kohen subsequently relocated to Aleppo and presided over the rabbinical court there until 1653. While seeing to the publication of his works in Livorno, he initiated Nathan Neta Hanover into th…

Azriel, Aaron

(325 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
Aaron Azriel, born in Jerusalem in 1809, was the grandson of Avigdor Azriel, the author of Zimrat ha-Areṣ, a student of Shalom Sharʿabi, and a rabbinical judge alongside Yom Tov Algazi. Aaron Azriel was a student of Yedidya Raphael Ḥayy Abulafia and so was inducted into the school of Bet El Kabbala by birth and personal affiliation.Azriel was a leading Jerusalem scholar in both halakha and Kabbala. After Ibn Ṣaddīq, Joseph Abulafia's death, he became the leader of the Bet El kabbalists. Among his students was R. Yaʿaqov Meir, the future Sephardic chief r…

Bet El Kabbalists

(951 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
The Bet El yeshiva was founded in 1737 by Rabbi Gedaliah Ḥayyun in the Old City of Jerusalem as a part of the general flowering of Kabbala in eighteenth-century Jerusalem. The yeshiva was galvanized by its second leader, the Yemenite kabbalist Shalom Sharʿabi (1720-1780, also known as RaSHaSH). Sharʿabi bequeathed a system of contemplative kabbalistic prayer that has been the school's defining system ever since and is responsible for its preeminence among practitioners of the most arcane systems of Lurianic Kabbala.The early Bet El group left a number of documents. The most signifi…
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