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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…

Transmigration of Souls

(1,282 words)

Author(s): Betz, Hans Dieter | Dehn, Ulrich | Dan, Joseph | Schmidtke, Sabine
[German Version] I. Religious Studies 1. Terminology. Theories of transmigration, which go back to the pre-Socratics of the 6th and 5th centuries bce (Empedocles, Pythagoras, Orphism), presuppose a dualism of body and soul. They hold that a human birth is not a totally new creation but the reincarnation of a pre-existent soul. Repeated incarnations extend not only to human beings of all classes and stations but also to flora and fauna; their purpose is the eschatological purification of the soul from ritual and ethic…

Messiah/Messianism

(10,414 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph | Waschke, Ernst-Joachim | Wandrey, Irina | Dan, Joseph | Karrer, Martin | Et al.
[German Version] I. History of Religions – II. Old Testament – III. Judaism – IV. Christianity – V. Dogmatics – VI. Islam I. History of Religions The terms messiah and messianism derive from the Hebrew word māšîaḥ, “anointed one.” Under the impact of foreign rule in Israel and Judah beginning in the 6th century bce, the word took on a new meaning: the Messiah was expected to bring deliverance from foreigners and oppressors, and in part to inaugurate the eschatological age of salvation (see II–IV below). The word's meaning was expanded in the …

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 …

Land of Israel

(3,019 words)

Author(s): Waschke, Ernst-Joachim | Küchler, Max | Gafni, Isaiah | Dan, Joseph
[German Version] I. Old Testament – II. New Testament – III. Antiquity – IV. Middle Ages and the Modern Period I. Old Testament 1. Terminology and boundaries The terminology used for the land of Israel (cf. Israel), in the sense of the OT view of the land itself, and the definition of its borders varies greatly. The texts appear in the context of particular literary and theological concepts in which “the land” constitutes a thematic focus. Hebrew has two words for land: (a) אֶרֶץ/ ʾereṣ, denoting the earth as a whole and its individual territories from a geographical and po…

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…

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. …

David

(3,786 words)

Author(s): Dietrich, Walter | Klauck, Hans-Josef | Leeb, Rudolf | Jacobs, Martin | Dan, Joseph | Et al.
[German Version] I. Bible – II. Christianity – III. Judaism – IV. Islam I. Bible 1. Old Testament From the biblical perspective, David, whose name means “darling, beloved,” is the embodiment of the ideal ruler. He governed in the early 10th century bce, allegedly for 40 years, of which seven and a half were in Hebron, the rest in Jerusalem (2 Sam 5:4f.). Although he is the king of whom the Bible has most to tell (Kingship in Israel), he remains a …

Apologetics

(9,615 words)

Author(s): Usarski, Frank | Horst, Pieter W. van der | Dan, Joseph | Lüdemann, Gerd | Skarsaune, Oskar | Et al.
[German Version] I. Concept – II. Judaism – III. New Testament – IV. Church History – V. Islam – VI. Fundamental Theology – VII. Practical Theology – VIII. Missiology I. Concept The necessity – felt with varying intensity by different communities of faith – to lend credibility to one's own convictions, ways of behaving, etc. in the face of other, perhaps dominant worldviews, using appropriate means, is an essential element of the history of religion. When the term apologetics is used in this context there is a certain conformity in content w…

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…

Eschatology

(22,095 words)

Author(s): Filoramo, Giovanni | Müller, Hans-Peter | Lindemann, Andreas | Sautter, Gerhard | Rosenau, Hartmut | Et al.
[German Version] I. Religious Studies – II. Old Testament – III. New Testament – IV. History of Dogma – V. Dogmatics – VI. Ethics – VII. Philosophy of Religion – VIII. Judaism – IX. Islam (cf. Present and Future Eschatology, Consistent Eschatology) I. Religious Studies 1. The Problem of Terminology Eschatology (“discourse” or “doctrine” [Gk λόγος/ lógos] concerning the “last things” [Gk ἔσχατα/ éschata]) is a neologism that was introduced in the late 18th century in the con- text of the definition of the “last things,” i.e. of the novissima of medieval theology (death, …

Repentance

(11,471 words)

Author(s): Gantke, Wolfgang | Waschke, Ernst-Joachim | Oppenheimer, Aharon | Dan, Joseph | Weder, Hans | Et al.
[German Version] I. Religious Studies Examination of repentance from the perspective of religious studies must confront the problem that the term itself has no culturally neutral meaning. Many of the phenomena in other religions that Christians tend to call repentance appear in a different light when viewed in the context of different anthropological presuppositions, ¶ so that due weight must be given to the religious anthropology in question. Generally speaking, it is true to say that in almost all non-Christian religions the notion of repentance c…

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 …

Apocalypticism

(4,831 words)

Author(s): Hellholm, David | Kratz, Reinhard Gregor | Frankfurter, David | Dan, Joseph | Collins, Adela Yarbro | Et al.
[German Version] I. Definition of the Term as a Problem for the History of Religions – II. Old Testament – III. Jewish Apocalypticism – IV. New Testament – V. Church History – VI. Dogmatics – VII. Islam – VIII. Art History I. Definition of the Term as a Problem for the History of Religions As a phenomenon in the history of religions, apocalypticism represents a form of revealed communication distinct from other types such as prophecy (Prophets and prophecy: I), oracle, mantic…

Diaspora

(2,671 words)

Author(s): Baumann, Martin | Rajak, Tessa | Dan, Joseph | Fleischmann-Bisten, Walter | Gerloff, Roswith
[German Version] I. History of Religions – II. Jewish Diaspora – III. Christian Diaspora I. History of Religions The Greek noun διασπορά/ diasporá derives from the composite verb διασπείρω/ dia-speírō, translated “to disperse, scatter, be separated.” Epicurus, following Plutarch, used diasporá in the context of his philosophical doctrine of the atom in the sense of “dissolution down to the last units, to have become without context.” The Jewish tran…

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 …

Disputation

(1,448 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph | Köpf, Ulrich | van Ess, Josef
[German Version] I. Judaism – II. Christianity – III. Islam I. Judaism Talmudic tradition includes several examples of disputations between Jewish scholars and pagan philosophers or Roman emperors, dealing mainly with the questions of divine unity, the creation and the role of Israel ( b. Sanh. 91a–b; ' Abod. Zar. 10a–11a, etc.). Disputations with representatives of Islam and, especially, of the Christian religion became a central subject in the historical and apologetical literature (…

Shekhinah

(1,527 words)

Author(s): Janowski, Bernd | Reeg, Gottfried | Dan, Joseph | Moltmann, Jürgen
[German Version] I. Old Testament The word shekhinah (שְׁכִינָה), a postbiblical noun from the root שׁכן/ škn, “settle, dwell,” denotes an aspect of God’s presence in the world, usually translated as “indwelling” or “habitation.” The term indwelling suggests the Egyptian theology of cultic images, according to which the deity in heaven “descends” upon his image in the earthly temple and “unites” with it (Assmann). The earliest reference to the Old Testament shekhinah theology is in 1 Kgs 8:12f., in Solomon’s words at the dedicatio…

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…

Providence

(4,529 words)

Author(s): Friedli, Richard | Cancik-Lindemaier, Hildegard | Bosman, Hendrik | Söding, Thomas | Plathow, Michael | Et al.
[German Version] I. Religious Studies Certainty is a fundamental human need. The answers given by religions to unsettling experiences cover a broad cultural spectrum. The issue is (1) to foresee fate as much as possible, (2) to integrate it into a cosmology, and (3) thus to master it. In general terms, we can identify four ways of containing the unforeseeable. 1. Being at the mercy of natural events. When they are powerless, people feel at the mercy of a powerful, threatening fate. Archaic forms of religion and shamanistic experiences (Shamanism) document how t…

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…

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 …

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 …

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…

Fear of God

(3,873 words)

Author(s): Nielsen, Kirsten | Becker, Jürgen | Link, Christian | Börner-Klein, Dagmar | Dan, Joseph | Et al.
[German Version] I. Old Testament – II. New Testament – III.  Christianity – IV.  Judaism – V. Islam I. Old Testament In the OT, fear of God occurs in various reactions to the encounter with God. Fear of God encompasses both the immediate reaction of a person gripped by horror before the holy God (the numinous) and the behavior of the pious person toward God in the form of obedience and praise. Consequently, fear of God can also designate veneration of God and piety (religion). The scope of the fear of God corresponds to the breadth of the concept of God (God: II). The God of Israel is not only a nume…

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 …

Kabbalah

(1,981 words)

Author(s): Kilcher, Andreas | Dan, Joseph
[German Version] I. Philosophy of Religion – II. Jewish Kabbalah – III. Christian Kabbalah I. Philosophy of Religion Since c. 1200, Kabbalah has been the designation for Jewish mysticism (III, 2). According to the name, the term Kabbalah means “reception” or “tradition”: the reception of an orally transmitted, esoteric knowledge concerning the “secrets of Scripture” ( rasin de oraita; sitre tora). The material that can be considered Kabbalah can be described in terms of (a) the philosophy of religion or phenomenology, or (b) history. A phenomenologica…

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…

Abraham

(3,604 words)

Author(s): Blum, Erhard | Attridge, Harold W. | Anderson, Gary A. | Dan, Joseph | Nagel, Tilman
[German Version] I. Old Testament – II. New Testament – III. Judaism – IV. Qur’ān I. Old Testament 1. Name. The name אַבְרָהָם/ 'abrāhām is a by-form of אַבְרָם/ 'abrām or אֲבִירָם/ 'abîrām (Num 16:1, etc.). With the meaning "Father (= God) is exalted," it corresponds to a widely dispersed West-Semitic name pattern and, as a praise or confessional name, belongs in the realm of personal piety. The otherwise unattested extended form is interpreted in Gen 17:4f. in a popular etymology as "Father (אָב/ 'āb) of a multitude (הָמוֹן/ hāmôn) of nations" - in an entirely …

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…
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