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Kalonymus

(192 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] Kalonymus, one of the most prominent Jewish families into which important personalities were born between the 9th and 13th centuries. Their descendants exerted great influence on Jewish culture in Italy, Germany, and the Provence. Originally perhaps from southern Italy, the earliest mention of this family occurs in the Chronicle of Achimaaz (11th cent.). According to widespread tradition, part of the family was brought to Mainz from Italy by Charlemagne and rose to become the leading family of the Rhineland from the 9th century o…

Zohar, Sefer

(471 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] The Zohar is the most important book of the Kabbalah (II) and one of the most profound works of mysticism (III, 2.b.) in the Middle Ages. It joined the Bible and the Talmud as the three most sacred works of Judaism. According to G. Scholem it was written mainly by Rabbi Moses ben Shem Tov de Leon in northern Spain between 1270 and 1291; according to Isaiah Tishby it was written in the year de Leon died in 1305. Since 1280 de Leon was distributing sections of the Zohar, claiming th…

Zefad

(195 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (Safed, Sefat; bibl. Heb. תפַצְ/ ṣepat), is a small town in the Upper Galilee in northern Israel which served as a center for Jewish mystics from the 16th century (Land of Israel). Many kabbalists (Kabbalah) assembled in this town, attracted by nearby Meron with the tomb of Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai, the 2nd-century sage to whom the Zohar is attributed. Several main figures lived in Zefad: Rabbi Joseph Karo, the author of Shulhan Arukh, the major book of law in modern Judaism; Rabbi Moshe Alsheikh, the great sermonist; Rabbi Israel Nagara, the great litur…

Isaac ben Abraham

(177 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (the Blind; c. 1160, Posquières, Provence – 1235) was the author of the first non-anonymous kabbalistic work (his Commentary on the Sefer Yetzirah, Kabbalah) and the most prominent kabbalist in the early circle in southern France in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. It is not known whether he was blind from birth or became blind as an adult. His commentary and several other short treatises, for example, On the Secret of the Sacrifices and On the Intentions of Prayer, and the many quotations from his teachings found in the writings of his disciples, reve…

Luzzatto, Moshe Hayyim

(315 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (1707, Padua – May 6, 1747, Akko) is regarded as one of the most influential figures in Jewish culture in early modern times. His poems and plays, written in the fashionable Italian allegorical manner of the time, placed him in the position of the first writer of modern Hebrew literature. With a small group of adherents Luzzatto established a mystical-messianic sect (Messiah/Messianism). He claimed that a maggid appeared to him in 1727, transmitting secrets, directing his actions, and instructing him in the composition of the new Zohar , the mysti…

Nagid

(299 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (Heb. נָגִיד, pl. nagidim) is the Hebrew title of the head of the Jewish community in an Arabic-speaking country. It followed the Babylonian title “Rosh ha-Gola” (“exilarch”; Resh Galuta) which developed in the early Middle Ages. In Spain, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and the Yemen there arose several dynasties of nagidim. Many Jewish poets, scholars, philosophers and scientists served in this position, and in several cases it became hereditary for three or four generations. The establis…

Baʾal Shem Tov

(337 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (c. 1700, Okop, Ukraine – 1760, Mezibuz, Silesia), acronym: “Besht,” Baal Shem Tov, lit. “Master of the Good Name,” figuratively “Master of White Magic” was actually called Israel ben Eliezer and is considered to be the founder of the modern Jewish religious movement of the “Hasidim” (Hasidism). Hasidic tradition makes him the disciple of the prophet Achiya Ha-Shiloni (1 Kgs 11:29), who was, according to midrashic tradition (Midrash), the teacher of the prophet Elijah. The collection of legends known as Shivkhey ha-Besht (“In Praise…

Abraham Maimuni

(209 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (Abraham ben Moses ben Maimon; 1186, Cairo – 1237, Cairo), son of M. Maimonides, inherited the position of his father as the leader of the Jewish community in Egypt; he extended the philosophical work of his father. When the great controversy over the rationalistic work of Maimonides arose in 1232–1235 in northern Spain and the provinces, Abraham responded with “The War of the Lord” ( Milchamot ha-Shem), an apology for the rationalistic style of writing of his father; he defended vigorously …

Israel of Ruzhin

(186 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (or Ryzhin; surname: Friedmann; 1797, Pogrebyszcze near Kiev – 1850, Sadigora). Israel was one of the leading representatives of the Hasidic movement in the first half of the 19th century. As the grandson of the Maggid Dov Baer of Mezhirech, he assumed a leading role in the Hasidic congregation of Ryzhin as early 20 years old. Although he did not stand out either for his scholarship or for particular expertise, he quickly attained enormous recognition. Israel was implicated in a t…

Urbach, Ephraim Elimelech

(217 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (May 26, 1912, Wloclawec, Poland – Jul 2, 1991, Jerusalem), one of the most influential scholars in Jewish studies in the second half of the 20th century. Urbach studied at Breslau Rabbinical Seminary and the Universities of Breslau (Wrocław) and Rome. He lived in Jerusalem from 1938; he served as professor of Talmud at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem from 1953. In 1974 he was elected president of the Israeli Academy of Arts and Sciences of the World Union of Jewish Studies. In…

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…
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