(c. 1515-1593), pious ascetic and Safed kabbalist. Born in Morocco, he immigrated to Palestine probably before 1565. In Safed he joined Moses *Cordovero’s circle and became a friend of Elijah de *Vidas. When Isaac *Luria went to Safed (late 1569), Abraham joined his school and was a member of its "fourth group." H ayyim *Vital had a great affection for him and in several places quotes kabbalistic sayings of Isaac Luria which he had heard from Abraham. Vital quotes Luria as saying that in the "origins of the souls of the Safed kabbalists," Abraham derived from the patriarch Jacob. Abraham was a visionary and ascetic, who preached piety and morality, and called for repentance. He was called the "great patron of the Sabbath" and he went out on Friday mornings to the markets and streets to urge the householders to hurry with the preparations for the Sabbath meals and close their shops early so that they would have time to purify themselves for the Sabbath. Almost nothing is known about his life. Many legends have been preserved about his piety and about Luria’s affection for him. His Tikkunei Shabbat were printed at the end of Reshit Hokhmah ha-Kazar (Venice, 1600) and thereafter in numerous editions as a separate book. On the other hand, his HHasidut, containing the rules of pious behavior which he established for his group in Safed, circulated in manuscript even in the Diaspora, and was published by Solomon Schechter (Studies in Judaism, 2nd Series (1908), 297-9). He was the first editor and collector of articles of the *Zohar which had not been included in the Mantua edition of 1558-60; these were afterward published under the title Zohar Hladash. It is not clear whether he was the author of Gallei Rezayya, parts of which were published in his name (1812). It is probable that Tobiah ha-Levi, author of Hlen Tov, was his son.


(1750-1808), talmudic and midrashic scholar. Abraham received most of his education from his father *Elijah b. Solomon Zalman, "the Vilna Gaon." He acquired complete command of rabbinic literature and much general knowledge. He had a strikingly critical approach to history and literature. Even before *Zunz, Abraham investigated the nature and development of the Midrashim and had written a valuable introduction to his edition of Midrash Aggadat Bereshit (Vilna, 1802). His work Rav Pealim (1894), an alphabetical index of all the midrashic works known to him, contains critical observations on 130 Midrashim. Abraham wrote a universal geography, Gevulot Erez ("The Earth’s Boundaries," published anonymously, Berlin, 1821). He composed commentaries on several tractates ofthe Talmud and on Midrash Rabbah, glosses and notes to the Jerusalem Talmud, a book on weights and measures in the Talmud, another on place-names mentioned in Talmud and Midrash, and several other works, some unpublished. Abraham was active in communal affairs and was one of the parnasim of the Vilna Jewish community. Together with his brother, Judah Loeb, he published several of his father’s works, and incorporated in them explanatory material from his father’s oral teaching.


(15th or 16th century), Hebrew poet in Yemen. His verse follows the genre of Spanish poetry in its meter, style, and content. Y. Tovi published his poems in 1991. Their subjects include moral and ethical exhortations, songs for weddings and circumcisions, religious verse, and hymns for special occasions and festivals. If he is identical with the person of the same name mentioned in the Sefer ha-Musar (pp. 46, 84, 151) of Zechariah Al-Dahri, he must have flourished in the 16th century, not in the 15th as was formerly believed.


(Heilprin; d. 1762), leader of the Jewish community in Lublin city and province, Poland. Abraham b. H ayyim at times represented the Lublin community in the assemblies of the Council of Four Lands. From 1753 to 1757 he acted as parnas of the Council, an office previously held by his grandfather, Abraham Abele b. Israel Isser, and his son’s father-in-law, the physician Abraham Isaac *For-tis (H azak). During Abraham b. H ayyim’s tenure, one of his sons, Moses Phinehas, acted as the neeman ("treasurer") of the Council of the Four Lands. Other members of his family served in several communities as rabbis or communal leaders. In the controversy that arose over the connection of Jonathan *Eybeshuetz with the *Shabbatean movement, Abraham and his son Jacob H ayyim of Lublin strongly supported Eybe-shuetz. Abraham was described by contemporaries as "princely and munificent," but nothing is now known of his occupation. He died in Lublin at an advanced age. The Bet ha-Midrash de-Parnas Academy, which he founded, existed in Lublin until the destruction of the community during World War 11.


(Dei Tintori; 15th century), Italian pioneer of Hebrew printing from Pesaro. Though Abraham may have been active in Hebrew typecasting and printing by 1473, his name as a printer appeared for the first time in two books printed in *Ferrara in 1477 – Levi b. Gershom’s commentary of Job and Jacob b. Asher’s Tur (Yoreh De’ah), using the first 40 pages which Abraham *Conat had printed in *Mantua in 1476.

Five years later (1482) at *Bologna, Abraham printed a Pentateuch with Targum Onkelos and Rashi’s commentary, probably the first printed book with vocalization and cantilla-tion. In the colophon, the proofreader Joseph H ayyim praises Abraham as "unequaled in the realm of Hebrew printing and celebrated everywhere."

Israel Nathan *Soncino and his son Joshua Solomon secured Abraham’s services for the work on the first printed Hebrew Bible – with vocalization and cantillation – which left the press at Soncino in February 1488. The edition of the Psalms, with R. David Kimhi’s commentary of 1477, and the Five Scrolls, with Rashi and with Abraham Ibn Ezra’s commentary on Esther (1482-83?), may also have been printed by Abraham (see *Incunabula).


(Egypt; d. 1223), scholar, poet, and physician. Abraham is probably identical with Abraham the Pious (he-H asid or he-Haver) referred to frequently by his friend Abraham b. Moses b. *Maimon in his writings. In 1167 Abraham b. Hillel, Maimonides, and other rabbis signed a takkanah to safeguard the observance of the laws of family purity in Egypt (Maimonides, Teshuvot (Responsa), ed. by A.H. Freimann (1934), 91-94). In 1196 Abraham wrote Megillat Zuta, describing satirically the exploits of an adventurer called *Zuta (and his son) who imposed himself repeatedly on the Jewish community of Egypt. Megillat Zuta is written in rhymed prose with a prologue and epilogue in metered verse. The number of manuscripts extant seems to attest the popularity of the work, which was first published by Neubauer (jqr, 8 (1896), 543ff.). Abraham and Josiah b. Moses verified a responsum by Jehiel (?) b. Eliakim Fostat, which deals with the controversy concerning the reference, in legal documents and during prayers, to the person of the reigning nagid. After Abraham’s death his collection of books was put up for sale in the Palestinian synagogue of Fostat under the auspices of Abraham b. Moses b. Maimon. The library contained 75 medical works, about 30 Hebrew books, among them biblical books, works on Hebrew grammar, a copy of the Mishnah, part of a talmudic tractate, Maimonides’ Book of Precepts and Guide, as well as several copies of Saadiah’s Siddur.


(Gerondi; mid-13th century), hazzan, kabbalist, and paytan in Gerona (Spain). One of the greatest kabbalists of his time, he was a pupil of *Isaac the Blind from whom he learned the mystical intentions of the prayers according to the Kabbalah. Gerondi later enlarged on this teaching and introduced it into his own order of the prayers. Although his work Kabbalah me-Inyan ha-Tefillah le-Rabbi Avraham ("Tradition Concerning Prayer, According to R. Abraham") was not published until 1948 (see Scholem in bibl.), his contemporaries quote various ideas on the subject of prayer from it. *Nahmanides held him in great esteem and tradition has it that he eulogized Abraham and offered a prayer in kabbalistic style by his grave. Abraham’s hymn for the eve of Rosh Ha-Shanah, *Ahot Ketannah ("Little Sister"), which describes the sufferings of the Jewish people in exile, has become well known. It is as yet unclear whether other hymns signed Abraham b. Isaac Hazzan are wholly or in part his work, or whether they were composed by another writer of the same name.


First known Hebrew printer. He produced Rashi’s commentary on the Pentateuch, completed at *Reggio Calabria on Feb. 17, 1475. Although this topic bears the earliest date, it was not necessarily the first Hebrew book (see *Incunabula) printed, as it may have been preceded by others which have disappeared, or bear no date of publication. The only extant copy of the book, in the De’ Rossi Collection in the Palatine Library, Parma, Italy, is slightly defective; it is in folio and contains 116 pages of 37 lines each. The text of this edition is significantly different from later ones. De’ Rossi formerly owned another copy which was lost in transit. Abraham’s country of origin is unknown, but it is conjectured that he came from Spain. No other book that came from his press is known.


(11th century), Egyptian physician and philanthropist. His father Isaac ha-Kohen b. al-Furat was a highly respected physician in Fostat (Old *Cairo) and his uncle Solomon ha-Kohen b. Joseph was the gaon in Palestine. Abraham held a high position in the government and was probably one of the court physicians. He may also have been president of the Jewish community; hence his honorary title ("prince of the community"). Apart from his general scholarship, Abraham also appears to have been learned in the Talmud. His erudition, nobility of character, and philanthropy are lauded in several poems and letters found in the Cairo Genizah.


(18th century), Polish rabbi and author. Abraham served for a short period as head of the bet din in Tarlow, but, as he was extremely wealthy, he was able to resign his position and in 1754 returned to Zamosc, his birthplace. There he occupied himself with both religious and secular studies. He knew German, Polish, and Latin. In 1753 he was a member of the Zamosc delegation to the central committee session of the *Councils of the Lands, held at Jaroslav. In 1754 he participated in the conference held at Constantinov where he was a signatory to the ban passed there on the printers of the Sulzbach Talmud. From this time, he played an active role in Polish Jewish life and became widely known. In the *Emden-*Eybeschuetz dispute he opposed the official line of the Council of Four Lands which supported Eybeschuetz and he defended Jacob Emden (with whom he corresponded in 1759-60). He strove zealously against any mystical messianic and Shabbatean revival and signed the 1753/54 letters of protest against the Shabbateans. Beit Abraham, his book of responsa and talmudic novellae, was printed in 1753; the book contained also the novellae of his father Isaac b. Abraham ha-Kohen, as well as his own hal-akhic novellae.


Spanish kabbalist, putative author of Berit Menuhah ("The Covenant of Rest"), one of the main works of the *Kabbalah. Nothing is known of his life or of the era to which he belongs. In the introduction to his commentary on Sefer *Yezirah, Moses *Botarel gives a long quotation from Sefer ha-Berit ("The Book of the Covenant") written by a scholar called Abraham b. Isaac of Granada.It explains the innermost meaning of the vocalization of God’s name in 26 different ways. However, only the first ten ways were printed, and this only in a very corrupt form (Amsterdam, 1648): H.J.D. *Azulai saw more than twice this number in a manuscript. The actual content of this work is very enigmatic as, in many respects, its symbolism and mysticism do not correspond with the conventional Kabbalah. The influence of Abraham *Abulafia’s Kabbalah is recognizable but the language-and-letter-mysticism of Abulafia is combined with a complicated light-mysticism. Moreover, the book’s aim was to provide a systematic basis for the so-called Practical Kabbalah. The few clear passages reveal the author as a profound thinker and visionary. In eight places, he quotes his own thought process as the words of "the learned Rabbi *Simeon bar Yohai," mostly in Aramaic. But these quotations are not to be found in the *Zohar, and in view of their style and contents do not belong there. The work was highly regarded by later kabbalists, especially by Moses *Cordovero and Isaac *Luria, who read their own thinking into Abraham’s symbolism. Cordovero wrote a lengthy commentary on part of the book. Abraham quotes two more of his own works, Megalleh ha-Taalumot ("Revealing Hidden Things") and Sefer ha-Gevurah ("The Book of Power"), on the names of God and Practical Kabbalah. His Hokhmat ha-Zeruf ("Science of Letter Combinations"), 12 topics in the spirit of Abulafia, is preserved in manuscript form (Margoliouth, Cat, no. 749, vi), but he is not the author of the Sefer ha-Heshek ("The Book of Desire," ibid., 748); Aaron *Marcus endeavored to prove that Abraham was identical with Abraham b. Isaac of Narbonne, author of Eshkol, and in doing so he tried to date the Berit Menuhah two centuries earlier, however, his argument is not tenable.


(d. c. 1315), talmudist of Provence, a contemporary of Menahem b. Solomon ha-*Meiri. Little is known of his life. He was born in Montpellier about 1250, and toward the end of his life settled in Carpentras. Abraham b. Isaac was known for his liberal outlook. When *Abba Mari Astruc wrote to him concerning the Maimonidean controversy and the proposed prohibition of the study of philosophy to anyone under 25 years old Abraham urged Abba Mari to desist from the controversy because freedom of thought and opinion should not be suppressed (Minhat Kenaot, 92). Abraham wrote a commentary on most of the Talmud, based principally on the views of Maimonides. He gives a brief commentary on the text in the style of Rashi; at the end of each topic he gives the practical halakhah derived from it. Only a minor part of this commentary has been published, including his commentary on Kiddushin appearing in the Romm 1880 edition of the Talmud (wrongly ascribed to Isaac of Dampierre) and those on Yevamot, Nedarim, and Nazir (New York, 1962). His commentaries to many other tractates were familiar to later scholars such as Moses *Alash-kar and Menahem de *Lonzano, but they were not generally known. *David b. Hayyim ha-Kohen of Corfu wrote: "I have hitherto heard nothing of him as an authority" (Responsa, Bayit 5, Heder 1), but at the end of that same responsum he added that he had come across the commentary "and I rejoiced greatly … he was an outstanding scholar" Some of Abraham’s responsa are extant. In addition to those which appear at the end of his commentary to Nazir there are those which appear in Teshuvot Hakhmei Provinzyah (1967), ed. by A. Sofer. There is no evidence that he was related to *Solo-mon b. Abraham of Montpellier. It is strange that he does not mention in his works the names of any scholars after Moses b. Nahman.


(known as Rabi Abad; c. 1110-1179), talmudist and spiritual leader of Provence; author of Sefer ha-Eshkol, the first work of codification of the halakhic commentary of southern France, which served as a model for all subsequent compilations. Abraham was a student of *Isaac b. Merwan ha-Levi and *Meshullam b. Jacob of Lunel. It is probable that Joseph *Ibn Plat, too, was one of his teachers. Abraham aparently spent some time in Barcelona where, it seems, he also studied with *Judah b. Barzillai al-Bargeloni. He was av bet din in his native Narbonne, and his prestige was such that he was cited by the early scholars simply as "the Rabbi, Av Bet Din" *Benjamin of Tudela speaks of him as "principal of the yeshivah" in Narbonne. Among his renowned students were *Zerahiah ha-Levi and *Abraham b. David of Posquieres, who became his son-in-law. Abraham’s halakhic compendium Sefer ha-Eshkol is an abridged version of the Sefer ha-Ittim, by Judah b. Barzillai al-Bargeloni, with additions from Rashi, R. Tam and his contemporaries, and Abraham himself. In the main, he omitted the geonic responsa and those of Alfasi. As most of the Ittim was lost, the Eshkol took on additional significance, in that it rescued a part, at least, of the extensive source material in the Sefer ha-Ittim. The very ambitious enterprise of excerpting Judah b. Barzillai al-Bargeloni’s book was carried out with the support and under the inspiration of his teacher, Meshullam b. Jacob, who encouraged the introduction of Spanish halakhah and tradition into Narbonne. The Eshkol was first published by Zevi Benjamin *Auerbach (1869) with an introduction and commentary, but doubts about the authenticity of at least parts of Auerbach’s manuscript were expressed by Shalom *Albeck. The ensuing controversy was inconclusive. Auerbach’s manuscript is rich in additions, the exact origin of which is not clear. Although there are no grounds for accusing Auerbach of willfully tampering with the manuscript, the version of the Eshkol that Albeck had in hand is undoubtedly the authentic one. Albeck himself published part of the Sefer ha-Eshkol (with introductions and notes) and his son Hanokh *Albeck completed this edition (1935-38). Abraham played a vital role as the principal channel through which the Spanish traditions passed into Provence and from there to northern France. At the same time, he emphasized the local traditions of the "Elders of Narbonne," of which he also made great use. His eclecticism is clear from the fact that he also gave due consideration to north-French halakhic traditions, using his personal authority to decide between the various traditions. Abraham was the recipient of numerous queries. A collection of his responsa has been published (ed. Kafah, Jerusalem, 1962) and another is extant in the Guenzburg Collection. Several of the responsa were published by S. Assaf in Sifran shel Rishonim (1935), and in Sinai, 11 (1947). He also wrote commentaries to the entire Talmud (except for the Order of Kodashim) which were quoted by his contemporaries and by later scholars, such as Zerahiah ha-Levi, *Nahmanides, Solomon b. Abraham *Adret, and others, but only his commentary on the second half of the tractate Bava Batra is extant (in a Munich manuscript, a fragment of which was published in Ozar ha-Hayyim, 12, 1936). The commentary resembles that of *Sam-uel b. Meir (Rashbam), which served, in a way, as a transition from Rashi’s commentary to the novellae of the tosafists, except that Abraham makes greater use of the earlier commentators and quotes them verbatim. He also excerpted Judah b. Barzillai’s Sefer ha-Din.


(1749-1836), Italian kabbalist. He resided in Leghorn and Trieste but finally settled in Ferrara where he remained 30 years. He was known as an ascetic who frequently fasted an entire week and studied six days and nights consecutively. He would purchase rabbinic works and distribute them to needy scholars. It was believed in Ferrara that his profound piety more than once saved the Jewish community from disaster. Among his publications are Likkutei Amarim ("Gleanings," Zolkiev, 1802), which include a commentary on the Pirkei Shirah and extracts from kabbalistic works, and Devar ha-Melekh (Leghorn, 1805-08) on the 613 commandments.


(d. c. 1800), kabbalist and rabbinical emissary. Abraham was renowned for his asceticism, fasting during the week and eating only on the Sabbath. He settled in Jerusalem shortly after 1770. Ten years later he returned to Europe as an emissary to collect funds on behalf of the rabbis of Jerusalem, and was then involved in a number of disputes with them regarding these collections. He traveled extensively and is known to have been in Nice for four years, in Ferrara (where he met Graziadio Neppi), Glogau, Berlin, and Warsaw. Wherever he went, he exhorted the Jewish community to repentance and good deeds and encouraged more intensive communal activity, including the building of synagogues. On his return to Jerusalem (1790) he was arrested and held ransom for the failure of the Jewish community to pay taxes. He died in prison, probably as a result of maltreatment. The best known of his kabbalistic works are Ve-Hashav lo ha-Kohen (1884), Ve-Shav ha-Kohen (Leghorn, 1788), Beit Ya’akov (Leghorn, 1792), Ayin Panim ba-Torah (Warsaw, 1797).


(Leszno;d. 1777), communal leader in Poland. Abraham, son of the rabbi of Zlotow, was apparently wealthy and engaged in trade. In the 1730s he represented *Great Poland on the ^Councils of the Lands. He presided over the Council as parnas in 1739-43 and 1751-53. He also served as neeman ("treasurer") of the Council during his last term as parnas and later in the 1750s and 1760s. While parnas, Abraham attempted to arbitrate the dispute between Jonathan *Eybeschuetz and Jacob *Emden (to whom he was related by marriage). The Council of the Four Lands was drawn into this controversy which stirred the Jewish world. Abraham, who was then serving his second term as parnas of the Council, tried to settle the dispute without taking a definite side. His brothers, especially Moses, lived in Lissa and also took part in the leadership of the community. The family was renowned for its wealth, its strong principles, and its charitableness. The sources do not indicate their means of livelihood but it is likely that they were merchants.


(1636-1687), Karaite poet and mystic; son of the physician Josiah b. Judah b. Aaron of Troki, Lithuania, who was a disciple of the famous Jewish scholar and kabbalist, Joseph Solomon *Delmedigo from Can-dia. According to A. *Firkovich, Abraham was the personal physician of King Jan 111 Sobieski of Poland and of Grand Duke Sigismund 11. Abraham was one of the leaders of the Karaite communities of Lithuania and one of the signatories to the decisions of their assemblies.

His writings include (1) Beit Avraham, a collection of mystical treatises; (2) Beit ha-Ozar, a medical work completed in 1672 (manuscript in St. Petersburg, Evr. 1 733); (3) Massa ha-Am, seven treatises whose content is uncertain (according to J. *Furst, they describe the condition of the Jews and Judaism); Firkovich reports that Abraham personally translated this work into Latin and sold it to the Dominican Order in Vilna; (4) Pas Yed’a, miscellaneous treatises (perhaps a 17th-century anti-Christian Rabbanite treatise Pas Yed’a Katava, written by Yehudah Briel, which Abraham owned or copied); (5) Sefer Refuot (manuscript in St. Petersburg, Evr. 1 732), a medical work, also containing information on the history of the Jews in Lithuania; S. *Poznanski identifies this with a collection of medical prescriptions in Latin mentioned by Furst and Firkovich; (6) three liturgical poems, one appearing in a Karaite prayer book (ed. Vilna, vol. 4, p. 102) and two in manuscript. Abraham is not to be confused with *Abraham b. Josiah Yerushalmi.


(c. 1685-after 1734), Karaite scholar, one of the most important authors in the Crimea, hazzan and teacher of Torah, from *Chufut-Kaleh. The agnomen Yerushalmi probably indicates that his father, Josiah, made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. His religious philosophical treatise Emunah Omen, written in 1712 (pub. Eupatoria, 1846), dealt with the following subjects: the divine origin and eternity of the Torah; which religion is the true one, the Karaite or the Rabbanite?; does tradition permit Jews to study the secular sciences? Abraham defended the Karaite conception of the Torah, arguing that the differences between the rabbinic and Karaite views about fulfillment of the commandments are insignificant. He shows respect for the talmu-dic authorities and later Rabbanite scholars with whose work he was well acquainted. Although opposed to the study of secular sciences (except in the service of the Torah), Abraham was familiar with both Karaite and Rabbanite philosophical and scientific literature. Abraham’s numerous other works include homiletical discourses, liturgical poetry incorporated in the Karaite prayer book, and Shaol Shaal (Ms. St. Petersburg, Evr. ii a 322), a treatise on the laws of ritual slaughter. Abraham was the grandfather of Benjamin b. Samuel *Aga.


(15th century), the "Elder," Karaite biblical exegete and liturgical poet of Constantinople. In his main work Yesod Mikra, a commentary of the Bible, Abraham quotes Rabbanite as well as Karaite authorities and refrains from polemics against the Rabbanites. It is preserved in two manuscripts (Jewish Theological Seminary and Leyden) both transcribed by his grandson Judah b. Elijah Tishbi (in 1511 and 1518, respectively). Fifteen liturgical poems by Abraham are included in the Karaite prayer book.


(second half of 14th century), disciple of H asdai *Crescas. Abraham came to Spain from his native Candia (Crete) sometime after 1375, the year in which he completed a Hebrew translation of Euclid’s Elements. In 1378, he finished his quadripartite theological tome entitled Even Shetiyyah ("Foundation Stone") "in the house of my master … Don Hasdai Crescas." The nature of the relationship between this work and Crescas’ teachings remains a matter of debate, though the two contain many similarities. Abraham’s work is often called Arbaah Turim ("Four Columns") on the basis of the title page of the lone manuscript in which it survives.


(first half of the 12th century), head of the Damascus yeshivah. Abraham, the son of a prominent Damascus Jew, married into the family of Gaon Solomon ha-Kohen b. Elijah, founder of the Damascus yeshivah, a continuation of the Palestinian yeshivah. When Solomon ha-Kohen’s son Mazli’ah settled in Fostat, Abraham became the head of the yeshivah, and served in this capacity during the 1130s and 1140s.


(late 17th century), Egyptian rabbi and author. In 1684 Abraham succeeded his father as head of the Egyptian rabbinate. His son-in-law, the physician Hayyim b. Moses Tawil, published a collection of Abraham’s responsa (arranged in the order of the four Turim) and a treatise on divorce entitled Ginnat Veradim (Constantinople, 1716-17) and Ya’ir Netiv (1718), respectively. In Venice, Abraham printed his father’s responsa Darkhei Noam (1697-98), adding to it his own treatise on circumcision which involved him in a halakhic controversy with his contemporaries. He annulled the ban on reading Peri Hadash by *Hezekiah Da Silva – imposed by Egyptian rabbis in the previous generation. A collection of brief decisions and rules entitled Gan ha-Melekh was printed at the end of Ginnat Veradim. His remaining works, consisting of Bible commentaries, sermons, and eulogies, have remained in manuscript.


(1186-1237), theologian, exegete, communal leader, mystical pietist, and physician. Little was known about him prior to the discovery of the Cairo *Genizah, which has preserved many of his writings, in part autographic. Born in Fustat, Egypt, on the Sabbath eve, the 28th of Sivan/June 1186, he was the only son of the great Jewish philosopher Moses *Maimonides (1135/8-1204). His mother was the sister of Ibn Almali, a royal secretary who had married Maimonides’ only sister. He was an exceptionally gifted child as his father himself testifies:

Of the affairs of this world I have no consolation, save in two things: preoccupation with my studies and the fact that God has bestowed upon my son Abraham, grace and blessings similar to those he gave to him whose name he bears [i.e. the Patriarch Abraham] … for, in addition to his being meek and humble towards his fellow men, he is endowed with excellent virtues, sharp intelligence and a kind nature. With the help of God, he will certainly gain renown amongst the great (Maimonides’ letter to Joseph ben Judah, Epistulae, ed. D. Baneth, p.96).

He studied rabbinics, and possibly philosophy and medicine, with his father, who groomed him from childhood by having him attend his audience chamber. At his father’s death in 1204, Abraham became leader of Egyptian Jewry at the tender age of 18. The mystical testament Maimonides supposedly addressed him is spurious. It was not until 1213 that he was appointed nagid, an office which became his descendants’ privilege for almost two centuries. Following his appointment, a temporary controversy erupted among the Jews of Egypt over the practice of evoking his name in public prayer. As representative of the Jewish community to the Ayyubid government, he enjoyed personal relations with the Muslim authorities and men of letters, especially after he became court physician to the Ayyubid Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil (reg. 1218-38), Saladin’s brother. His acquaintances include the Arab historian Ibn Abi Usaybi’a, who described him and his professional skills:

Abu-l-Muna Ibrahim, son of the ra’is Musa ibn Maymun was born in Fostat, Egypt. A celebrated physician, learned in the art of medicine, and excellent in its practice, he was employed in the service of al-Malik al-Kamil Muhammad b. Abu Bakr b. Ayyub. He also came frequently from the palace to treat the sick in the al-Nasiri hospital in Cairo, where I met him in the year 631/1234 or 632/1235 while I was practicing there. I found him to be a tall sage, lean in body, of pleasant manners, refined speech, and distinguished in medicine. Ibrahim, son of the ra’is Musa died in the year (…) and thirty and six hundred (History of Physicians, ed. Mueller, p. 118).

Despite the temporal and spiritual turmoil of the period, he proved to be an able administrator, a charismatic teacher, and an independant and influential scholar. Although he recognized the incompatibility of leadership and spiritual perfection, he was dedicated to his political vocation as a means of reversing religious decline. Abundant letters in the Genizah give witness to the multiple social and administrative chores to which he attended with the humility of a pietist and the determination of a leader. Hampered, as was his father, by pastoral responsibilities, he nonetheless produced notable works in six main areas: 1) responsa, 2) polemics, 3) exegesis, 4) theology, 5) halakhah, and 6) ethics. Despite their originality, his writings have survived in a fragmentary state. A unique letter, addressed in 1232 to R. Isaac b. Israel Ibn Shuwaykh, head of the Baghdad Academy, has preserved an autobiographical account of his literary activity:

I have not yet had the leisure to complete the compositions begun after my father’s demise, [namely] a detailed commentary on the Talmud and a work explaining the principles of the Hibbur [i.e. Maimonides' Code]. However, the Lord has assisted me in completing one work in the Arabic tongue, based on the principles of fear and love (of God), entitled Compendium for the Servants of the Lord. I have revised and almost entirely copied it, and part of it has been broadcast to distant lands. True enough I have begun the Torah commentary of which thou hast heard, and which I would have completed within a year or so were I to find relief from the sultan’s service and other tasks. However, I can only devote to it short hours on odd days, for I have not yet finished revising the first composition stated to be almost complete, a small part remaining to be finished with Heaven’s help. On this account I have covered only close to half the book of Genesis of the Torah commentary I am composing. When I shall have concluded the revision of [my] composition, of which the greater part is [already] finished, I shall endeavor with all my might to complete the Torah commentary and subsequently also a commentary on the Prophets and the Hagiog-rapha, Heaven, willing. But ‘the work is long’ and the day and the workers are as described by Rabbi Tarfon (Avot 2: 15), and "there are many thoughts in a man’s heart but the counsel of the Lord that shall stand" (Prov. 19:21) (Rosenblatt, 1:124-5)


Numerous items have been discovered in the Genizah since the single manuscript of his responsa was published by A. Freimann, Jerusalem, 1937. As head of the Cairo Rabbinical Court, he corresponded on legal matters with countries as far flung as Yemen (Cf. Responsa, p. 107-36), Byzance (p. 93), and Provence (p. 1). These responsa afford an opportunity of assessing his important communal role. Their content discusses, among other things, problematic passages in his father’s halakhic and philosophical writings, ritual matters and customs, exegetical remarks, and apostates, a concern in his time. Besides certain social ordinances (takkanot) he introduced, of special historical interest are his responsa concerning the burning of the Guide for the Perplexed, and specific pietist practices. Questioners include prominent scholars such as R. Solomon b. Asher of Provence, Me’ir b. Barukh, disciple of R. Abraham b. David of Posquieres, and Joseph b. Gershom and R. Anatoli b. Joseph, both dayyanim from France who had settled in Alexandria.


Some lenghtier responsa reply to the halakhic and philosophical detractors of his father’s works, thereby strengthening Abraham’s own prestige. In 1213 he composed in Arabic replies to Daniel Ibn al-Mashita’s strictures on his father’s Book of Precepts and Code, published as Birkhat Avraham (Lyck, 1865) and Maaseh Nissim (Paris, 1867). Later, Abraham declined when requested by his father’s disciple Joseph Ibn Shimon to excommunicate Ibn al-Mashita for his discourteous remarks about Maimonides in his Taqwim al-adyan (‘Redress of Religion’) and his commentary on Ecclesiastes. Abraham’s Milhamot ha-Shem ("Wars of the Lord," ed. princeps Vilnius, 1821), written in Hebrew after 1235, in which he defends his father’s eschatology, immaterial conception of the Godhead, rationalizing methods, and metaphorical interpretations, was singularly directed against the criticism of the rabbis of Provence, whom he accuses of a pagan anthropomorphism influenced by their Christian environment (see *Maimoni-dean Controversy). Interestingly, the text was interpretated mystically in the 16th century by Eliezer Eilenberg of the kabbalistic school of Abulafia.


Though Maimonides’ philosophical writings set out to determine a proper understanding of problematic scriptural passages, his unfulfilled ambition to compose a complete biblical commentary was to be taken up by Abraham in Arabic. Of his proposed Bible commentary only that on Genesis and Exodus, completed in 1232, has survived. A disciple of the An-dalusian rationalist school, he generally prefers literal meaning, though he is not adverse to midrash. He quotes the ge-onic and Spanish exegetes, especially Abraham Ibn Ezra, and even adduces the opinions of Rashi. Particularly noteworthy are comments cited in the names of his grandfather Maimun b. Joseph, and father, Moses Maimonides. He does admit moderate philosophical interpretation, adopting some of his father’s doctrines, especially in connection with prophetic visions, which he calls "mysteries." The latter term he applies too to his own pietistic interpretations inspired by Sufi concepts and practices projected back into the patriarchal past. "His explications of the Bible and the Talmud are so graceful, so lucid, so persuasive that one is almost convinced that his derash is peshat, that his moralistic and pietist interpretation constitutes the literal meaning of the text" (S.D. Goit-ein). Despite its pleasant style, the commentary did not attain wide recognition, probably because it was not rendered into Hebrew, and has survived in a single manuscript, published, with a modern Hebrew translation, by E. Wiesenberg (London, 1958). Like his father, Abraham also applied metaphorical interpretations to the midrash. His Ma’amar al Odot De-rashot Hazal (ed. Margaliot), twice translated into Hebrew, is an extract from his Kifaya.

Theology and Halakhah

Abraham’s magnum opus The Compendium for the Servants of the Lord (in Arabic: Kifayat al-abidin; in Hebrew: Ha-Maspik le-Ovedei ha-Shem), completed circa 1232, is a sum of theology, halakhah, and ethics. Of the 10 original volumes unfortunately only a small, nonetheless substantial, portion has been preserved in various libraries. This loss deprives us of a definitive assessment of his approach to legal and ethical issues. Written in a lively and attractive Arabic, but at times repetitive and digressive, it circulated widely, reaching Provence in the West, and was read at least into the 18thcentury in the East. Abraham had been the first to institute as a central textbook of rabbinic study his father’s Mishneh Torah, of which his own codified program of Jewish law and ethics, likewise referred to as the Hlibbur, has been called an Arabic version. Although relying heavily upon it, both halakhically and structurally, the Kifaya is an independent work betraying a very definite shift in emphasis. Departing from his father’s prescriptive mode, Abraham stresses, in a descriptive tone, the spiritual significance of the traditional Jewish precepts (mitzvot, divine commandments) and the "mysteries" they conceal, in much the same manner as al-Ghazali did in his classical Islamic summa, Ihya ulum ad-din ("Revival of the Religious Sciences"). While sharing his father’s dedication to strict adherence to the intricacies of religious ritual, he is sometimes at variance with his father’s rulings. After one such discrepancy, he writes:

Had my father heard [my explanation], he would have admitted it just as he had ordained to admit the truth. Indeed, we always observed that he would agree even with his slightest pupil with what was right, despite the breadth of his knowledge, which never belied the breadth of his religious integrity (Dana, p. 71).

Following his father’s distinction between the elite and the masses, he devotes its initial sections to the "common way," i.e. religious obligations incumbent upon the community as a whole, whereas the last sections, of a markedly pietistic tendency, expound the "special way," reserved for the elect few. Of particular interest are his ritual reforms set out in the topics on prayer, which include such Islamic-influenced practices as ablution of the feet before worship, standing in ordered rows during prayer, kneeling and bowing, and raising the hands in supplication. Some of these had existed in Temple times but had been abandoned in reaction to Christian worship. Indeed, Abraham justified the adoption of Muslim customs and symbols as restorations of lost Jewish traditions, which, having fallen into oblivion, had been preserved by the Sufis. Using his prerogative as nagid, he endeavored to enforce these far-reaching measures. Although intended to improve the spiritual decorum of the synagogue, they were not to go unchallenged by the Egyptian establishment. Despite his office and family prestige, which considerably furthered the pietists’ aims, his opponents, headed by the Nathanel and Sar Shalom families, who had presided over the Fostat Academy, even protested to the Sultan al-Malik al-Adil, accusing the Jewish pietists of "unlawful changes." Abraham retaliated with a memorandum signed by 200 of his followers, in which he states that his pietist practices were carried out solely in his private synagogue. He further replied to charges of "false ideas" and "gentile customs" in a special tract in defense of the pietists, whom he considers spiritually "superior to the scholars." His commentary on the Talmud and the work explaining the principles of the Hlibbur (i.e., Maimonides’ Code) have not survived.


A large portion of the ethical topics was published together with an English translation by S. Rosenblatt under the title High Ways to Perfection. Though in many respects he conducted himself – and indeed was considered – as the contin-uator and interpreter of Maimonides’ doctrine, his personal style was markedly different. Though he repeatedly states that he lived according to his father’s principles, he transferred the latter’s elite intellectualist system to the ethical plane, molding it into a pietistic way of life rather than a philosophical one. In fact, Abraham expressed reservations about philosophy in his Milhamot ha-Shem:

Fools have imagined in their silliness that whoever engages in science is a heretic denying the Torah, and whoever studies philosophy follows their creed concerning the principles of the faith. Now we oppose their opinion that the world is pre-existant with the belief of the Torah, refuting them with replies and proofs to clarify the creed of the Torah that the world is adventitious and created … as our Sages enjoined us: "Be eager to learn Torah; know what answer to give to the unbeliever" (Avot 2:19). We act likewise towards all their opinions which contradict the faith of the Torah. But, for all that, we are not to contradict their belief in the unity of the Creator (p. 59).

While recognizing the superiority of scientific speculation over the passive performance of the Law, Abraham considers the esoteric accomplishment of the precepts to be superior to philosophy. Indeed, in the Kifaya, he states with a note of opposition, reminiscent of Juda Halevi:

God has enabled [the true adherents of the Law who have grasped its secret meaning] to understand by means of His Law what the scientists and philosophers do not understand, and He has established for them, by means of His signs and miracles, proof for what the latter deny …

The pivotal difference being not one of theory but of practice, Abraham’s foremost goal was to become a hasid rather than a hakham. While recognizing the importance of strict observance of religious law and of intellectual accomplishment, he insists more heavily on man’s ethical achievements. In his day, the great spread of Islamic Sufi brotherhoods in Egypt constituted an immediate spiritual model. Under its sway, he tried to promote a form of pietism which earned him the epithet by which he is often referred to in later literature, Abraham he-hasid ("the Pious"). The Kifaya preaches an extreme form of Sufi-like ascetism, whereas Maimonides, though acknowledging in his Commentary on Avot the merit of self-mortification, rejects it in favor of the golden mean of temperance. The fourth and final section, presents the ethical stages of the "special way," modeled on the well- known stations (maqamat) of classical Sufi manuals: sincerity, mercy, generosity, gentleness humility, faith, contentedness, abstinence, mortification and solitude, whose mystical goal, wusul ("arrival"), culminated in the encounter with God and the certitude of his light. Entrance to the "path" is subject to an initiatory ritual such as the bestowal of a mantle, as Elijah did:

By casting his cloak over [Elisha], Elijah hinted to him. that Elijah’s spiritual perfection would be transferred to him and that he [Elisha] would attain the degree which he himself had attained. Thou art aware of the ways of the ancient saints [awliya'] of Israel, which are not or but little practised among our contemporaries, that have now become the practice of the Sufis of Islam, "on account of the iniquities of Israel", namely that the master invests the novice [murid] with a cloak [khirqah] as the latter is about to enter upon the mystical path [tariq]. "They have taken up thine own words" (Deuteronomy 33:3). This is why we moreover take over from them and emulate them in the wearing of sleeveless tunics and the like (Rosenblatt, 2: 266).

Abraham openly admires the Muslim Sufis, whose practices, he claims, ultimately derive from ancient Israelite custom. After having stated that the true dress of the ancient prophets of Israel was similar to the ragged garments (muraqqaat) of the Sufis, he declares:

Do not regard as unseemly our comparison of that [the true dress of the prophets] to the conduct of the Sufis, for the latter imitate the prophets [of Israel] and walk in their footsteps, not the prophets in theirs. (Rosenblatt, 2: 320).

He finds biblical counterparts for Sufi ascetic exercises such as combating sleep, solitary retreats in dark places, weeping, nightly vigils and daily fasts, as in the following passage:

We see the Sufis of Islam also profess the discipline of mortification by combatting sleep. Perhaps such a practice is derived from the statement of David: ‘I will not give sleep to mine eyes, nor slumber to mine eyelids’ (Ps. 132:4) … Observe then these wonderful traditions and sigh with regret over how they have been transferred from us and appeared amongst a nation other than ours whereas they have disappeared in our midst. My soul shall weep in secret … because of the pride of Israel that was taken from them and bestowed upon the nations of the world (Rosenblatt, 2:322).

One of the most typical aspects of the Sufi path is the necessity of the spiritual guidance of an experienced teacher who has traversed all the stages of the path in order to initiate the spiritual wayfarer into its intricacies. Abraham sees the origin of this principle in the discipline of the ancient prophets:

Know that generally in order for the Way to attain successfully its true goal [wusul], it must be pursued under the guidance [taslik] of a person who has already attained this goal, as it is said in the tradition: "Acquire a master" (Avot 1:6). The biblical accounts concerning masters and their disciples are well known; Joshua the servant of Moses was one of his disciples, who, having attained the goal, succeeded him. The prophets adopted the same conduct. Samuel’s guide [musallik] was Eli, Elijah was that of Elisha, and Jeremiah that of Barukh son of Neriah. Moreover the "disciples of the prophets" were thus called because the prophets were their spiritual guides. This practice was adopted by other nations (the Sufis), who instituted in imitation of Jewish custom the relation between shaykh and servant, master and disciple . If the wayfarer is capable and remains faithful to instructions, he will attain his goal through the guidance of an accomplished master (Rosenblatt, 2: 422).

The denomination "the disciples of the prophets" is a key to the process of recovering from the Sufis the lost "prophetic discipline." Its restoration was a prerequisite to the return of prophecy itself, whose imminence was predicted by Maimonides. The absence of the final topic of the Kifaya which dealt with the attainment of the ultimate goal (wusul), is an irretrievable loss.

Other Works

Abraham refers to other compositions now lost, such as a treatise on truth, and an explanation of the 26 premises of the introduction to the second part of the Guide. It has been shown that the Kitab al-hawd and the Taj al-arifin, ascribed to him by the 17th century chronicler Sambari, probably belong to other authors. Some manuscripts erroneously attribute to him the Sodot ha-Moreh ("Secrets of the Guide"), in fact by Abraham *Abulafiia. His authorship of the folktale Maaseh Yerushalmi (Jerusalem, 1946), is unlikely.


Abraham was at the hub of a pietistic circle of a sectarian nature whose adepts were dissatisfied with formal religion. Partly inspired by Abraham Abu ar-Rabia (d. 1223), also known as he-hasid, whom he calls "our Master in the Way," this circle included Abraham Maimonides’ father-in-law, Hananel ben Samuel, and his own son Ovadiah (1228-1265) author of the mystical al-Maqala al-Hawdiyya ("Treatise of the Pool"). Despite an enormous literary output, the movement did not engender a widespread community of ascetics similar to Sufism, probably because of the vehement opposition to Abraham’s ritual reforms. Indeed, this opposition, as well as the movement’s own elitist character seriously impeded its spread. With the general decline of Oriental Jewry, his Sufi-type Jewish pietism sank into oblivion, though some of its mystical elements were possibly absorped into the nascent Kabbalah. However, the exegetical and ethical writings of several of his direct descendants perpetuated his tendency to temper Maimonides’ spiritual ideology with Sufi mysticism. Later authorities, such as the 13th cent. Karaite Yefet b. Za’ir, Sefer ha-Hinnukh, Aaron ha-Yarhi, R. *David ibn Abi Zimra, Moses al-Ashkar, Joseph *Caro, Abraham Ibn Migash, and Mas’ud *Rakah, utilize his works, which were still being read in the 18th century. Abraham Maimonides passed away on Monday, 18 Kislev, 1237. Eliezer b. Jacob ha-Bavli (Diwan, no. 199) composed an elegy for him in which he wrote:

Who believed wholeheartedly in his Lord,

Counted to him as righteousness?

Who arose and, with the hand of reason, overthrew the idols of ignorance,

Reducing its image to shivers?

Who established in Memphis [= Egypt] an inn, opening its gates to wayfarers?

Who bound upon the altar of understanding, like young lambs, the offspring of thought?

With whom did his Lord make a covenant between the pieces, with flaming torches?

‘Twas Abraham, who, the day of his demise, rent our hearts and inner parts.

Although his father’s blessing of greatness had been fullfiled, Abraham’s renown may have been greater still had he not been overshadowed by Maimonides’ towering figure.


(late 15th and early 16th centuries), Italian rabbi. A scion of a prominent priestly family in the Spanish city of Cuenca, Abraham went to Italy at about the age of 20 in the wake of the expulsion from Spain. He resided first in Ferrara, then moved to Bologna, where he was appointed rabbi. He became involved in the controversy concerning the litigation between Abraham Raphael Finzi of Bologna and Immanuel di Norzi of Ferrara. The former did not wish the case to be tried in Ferrara, because of Norzi’s strong influence there. When R. Abraham *Minz insisted that the Ferrara court had jurisdiction, a controversy ensued. The rabbinical opinions expressed on both sides were published under the title Piskei ha-Gaon R. Liva mi-Ferrara ve-Rav Avraham Minz (Venice, 1519), and included that of Abraham b. Moses. The dispute was brought before the rabbinical authorities of Poland, who agreed with Abraham b. Moses. His learning won particular praise from R. Jacob *Pollak, the father of Polish talmudic scholarship, and from R. Moses *Isserles (in his supplements to the Sefer Yuhasin). Attacked by Minz as a "contentious priest" (cf. Hos. 4:4) and a "smooth-talking Sephardi," Abraham countered by deeming the abusive epithets titles of honor and stating at the same time that he had never previously had a dispute with anyone. The rest of his responsa, his commentary on the She’iltot, sermons, and comments on Rashi’s commentary on the Pentateuch, remain unpublished. He published an edition of the Sefer Hlasidim ("Book of the Pious") with an introduction and an index (Venice, 1538). His son-in-law, the husband of his daughter Paloma, was the historian Joseph ha-Kohen.


(end 11th-beginning 12th century), talmudic scholar and dayyan in Fostat, where he was active in the first quarter of the 12th century. His father Nathan was the av bet din of the Palestinian academy (probably at Tyre). Abraham also lived in Erez Israel toward the end of the 11th century and his signature is affixed to a document issued at Ramleh. In 1102, however, he was in Fostat, and his signature appears as the first on an attestation document. In a genizah document dated from 1116 Abraham is described as the "great, distinguished rabbi," and in letters he is addressed as "foundation stone and leader of the yeshivah" and "pride of the judges and support of the nasi"; he is also designated as reish bei rabbanan and rosh ha-seder (head of the academy). It is assumed that Abraham held the officially recognized office of dayyan al-Yahud ("judge of the Jews"), regarded by the authorities as the representative dignitary of the Jews second to the nagid.


(Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Ata;c. 1025), first nagid of the Jewish community of Kairouan. He was court physician to Badis, the viceroy of Tunisia, and to al-Mu izz his son and successor, who became independent ruler. Abraham did much for the Jewish communities of North Africa. Two poems praising the nagid for his communal activities are extant. Ishaq ibn Khalfon, the court poet, dedicated several of his poems to his benefactor. He was honored in a song of praise by R. *Hai Gaon. Abraham exchanged responsa with R. *Samuel b. Hophni, the gaon of Sura. The latter’s son, R. Israel, dedicated a book on liturgical laws to him.


(c. 1155-1215), Provencal talmudic scholar. His name "Ha-Yarhi" is the Hebrew translation for "of Lunel" where he spent many years. He was born at Avignon and was related to *Isaac b. Abba Mari. He studied with the scholars of Lunel, with Abraham b. David of Posquieres, and in Dampierre in northern France, under the tosafist Isaac the Elder, and other scholars of his circle. Abraham wandered through many countries, and visited Toledo, Spain, in 1194. Later he settled there and apparently became a member of the rabbinical court (before 1204). He left Toledo again, went to France, and returned to Spain in 1211.

During his travels Abraham made a point of "observing the customs of every country and every city" and noted that "they [the Jews] varied in their religious practices and that they were divided into 70 languages." He recorded various customs, particularly concerning prayer and other synagogue usages, in a book which he called Manhig Olam known popularly as Sefer ha-Manhig (Constantinople, 1519; republished by A.N. Goldberg, Berlin, 1855). This work has come down in a corrupt form.Various attempts have been made (by Freimann, Toledano, and Raphael) to correct it and fill some of the lacunae. The correct text however has been preserved in the manuscripts. In this topic he describes the customs of both southern and northern France, of Germany, England, and Spain. His literary sources include the Talmuds and the Midrashim, the works and responsa of the Geonim and the writings of French, Spanish, and other scholars. This work is the first book of min-hagim (local customs) written in Europe. Its explicit purpose was to show that there is a halakhic basis for every minhag. The need for such a compilation was mainly the result of the spread of the halakhic works of the Spanish authorities in Provence, which took place at that time and caused confusion and misunderstanding at both places (see Asher b. Saul). Abraham also wrote a commentary to Massekhet Kallah Rab-bati (Tiberias [Jerusalem], 1906; jqr, 24 [see bibliography]) and Mahazik ha-Bedek on the laws of ritual slaughtering and forbidden foods (lost). Some of Abraham’s responsa are preserved (S.A. Wertheimer, Ginzei Yerushalayim, 1 (1896), 19-32).


(10th century), communal leader in Babylonia. Information on Abraham is to be found in the poems of praise dedicated to him by one Abraham ha-Kohen, who seems to have been his secretary. He held a military command under the caliph and was a protector of the Jewish community. The reopening of the yeshivah of *Sura about 988 is attributed to him. He also maintained friendly relations with *Hai Gaon. There is reason to believe that Abraham ha-Baghdadi was a member of the *Netira family; he was possibly the son of Ne-tira 11 and the grandson of Sahl, who was the son of Ne-tira 1. One of his sons was named Sahl, probably after his great-grandfather.

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