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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…

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…

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…

Bahir, Sefer ha-Bahir

(281 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (“the Book of Brilliance”), also known as the Midrash of Rabbi Nechunia ben ha-Kanah (after the 2nd-cent. sage to whom the first paragraph in the book is attributed). It is the first work of the Kabbalah, and was written anonymously around 1185, probably in the Provence or in northern Spain. It contains around 200 paragraphs, which are attribu…

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…

Abraham ben Azriel

(152 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] was one of the major authors belonging to the Kalonymus circle of 13th-century Rhineland esoterics and mystics; he was among the third generation of scholars produced by this school. He came to Speyer from Bohemia to study with Rabbi Judah the Pious (died 1217) and especially with Rabbi Eleazar ben Judah of Worms, whom he referred to as his immediate teacher. He is the author of Arugat ha-bosem (“Bed of Spices”: Song 5:13), completed in 1234, an exhaustive commentary on the piyuttim of the Jewish prayer book. Its encyclopedic compass makes Arugat ha-bosem unique …

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…

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…

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 …

Yehiel ben Yekutiel Anav of Rome

(134 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] Jewish physician, halakhist, and ethical writer in the second half of the 13th century in Italy. His best-known work is the ethical treatise, Maʾalot ha-Midot (“The ascending ethical qualities”), written c. 1287, one of the most important ethical works of that age. Yehiel bases his teachings on both traditional rabbinic education and rationalistic philosophical ideology which was dominant among Jewish intellectuals at that time. His attitude is moderate and worldly (among the recommended qualities, “weal…

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…

Tosafot/Tosafisten

(473 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[English Version] . Unter Tosafot (T.; wörtl. »Zusätze«) versteht man einen lit. Typus von Komm. und Diskussionen zu Abschnitten des Talmud, Ba‘ale ha-T. (»Autoren der T.«, Tosafisten) bezieht sich demnach auf die Schule der talm. Gelehrten, die diesen Typus entwickelten; sie waren zw. dem 11. und 13.Jh. bes. in Nordfrankreich und im westlichen Deutschland aktiv. In den Druckausg. des Talmud stehen die T. dem klassischen Komm. von Salomo ben Isaak (Rashi) gegenüber, beidseitig des eigentlichen Tal…

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…

Temura

(204 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[English Version] , Auslegungsmethode der hebr. Midrashlit., bei der jeder Buchstabe eines Bibelverses durch einen anderen ersetzt werden kann, so daß in der göttlichen Sprache der Schriften neue Bedeutungsebenen entstehen. Urspr. ist die Methode bibl., denn Jeremia nennt die Stadt Babylon (hebr. Bavel) zweimal »Sheshakh« (Jer 25,26; 51,41). Hier wurde die als ATBSh bez. T.-Technik angewandt, in der die 22 Buchstaben des hebr. Alphabets in einer Spalte vom Anfang bis zum Ende und in einer zweiten daneben in umgekehrter Reihenfolge notiert werden. Somit wird der erste Buchstabe א …

Nachmanides

(331 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[English Version] (Moses ben Nachman, Akronym »Ramban«; 1194 Gerona – 1270 Akko), Rabbi, Arzt, Prediger, Exeget und große halakhische Autorität. N. war in der 1. Hälfte des 13.Jh. der geistige Führer der span. Juden (Judentum: II.) und das Oberhaupt der kabbalistischen Schule (Kabbala: II.) von Gerona, wo Rabbi Ezra und Rabbi Azriel zu seinen Lehrern zählten. In Disputationen mit seinen christl. Zeitgenossen trat er apologetisch für das Judentum ein. Sein exegetisches Werk zum Pentateuch, in dem der traditionelle, midrashische Komm. mit ma. linguistischer A…

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…

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…

Nagara, Israel ben Moses

(185 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (Naǧara; c. 1555, Damascus – c. 1625) is regarded as the great poet of the “golden age” of Jewish culture of the 16th century in Zefat. Following the destruction of the Jewish communities in Spain (1492) this Upper Galilean region, where various kabbalistic schools (Kabbalah) were situated, flourished. Although Nagara is often regarded as a kabbalistic poet, the Kabbalah did not occupy a meaningful place in his work. He served as the rabbi of the Gaza Jewish community for several …

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 …

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…

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…

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 …

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…

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…

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…

Eliyahu, Gaon of Vilna

(179 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (Seletz near Horadna, April 1720 – Vilna, April 1797) was the most important halakhic authority (Halakhah) in East European Judaism in the last third of the 18th century, the leader of Lithuanian Jewry, and the leader of the opposition ( mitnaggedim) to the emerging Hasidic movement (Hasidism). He was called “gaon” (“highness,” the title of the leader in a high Rabbinic school), in recognition of his position of leadership in talmudic studies. He wr…

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.…

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. …

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…

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 …

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…

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…

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…

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 …

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…

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…

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 …

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…

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…

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…

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…

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 …

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…

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,”…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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 …

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…
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