Abulrabi (Abu al Rabi), Aaron

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ABULRABI (Abu al Rabi ), AARON (also called Aldabi or Alrabi ; first half of the 15th century), Sicilian-born biblical exegete, theologian, and polemicist. Born in Catania in Aragonese Sicily, Abulrabi became an itinerant scholar whose travels took him to Italy, Turkey, Alexandria, Damascus, Jerusalem, and Kaffa on the Black Sea. Along the way he engaged in intra- and interreligious discussion and dispute. He describes an exchange with an unnamed pope and his cardinals in Rome in which he refuted the Christian curialists' suggestion that the tabernacle cherubs reflected "the craft of talismans," thereby breaching biblical prohibitions on "other gods" and the manufacture of "graven images." He also reports debates with a Karaite scholar in Jerusalem and various Christian interlocutors.

The only witness to Abulrabi's life and thought is a tome that combines Torah commentary with supercommentary on Rashi's Commentary on the Torah. The work postdates 1446 in the version that has come down. At its outset, Abulrabi states that he will focus on Rashi's words inasmuch as they were "mostly hewn from the eminent [rabbinic] oaks of old." At times, Abulrabi issues sharp criticisms of Midrashim in a forthright manner almost without precedent in Rabbanite literature. Abulrabi's work was printed together with the supercommentaries on Rashi of Samuel Almosnino, Jacob Canizal, and Moses *Albelda under the title Perushim le-Rashi (Constantinople, 1525). In his commentary, Abulrabi mentions that he wrote the following other works: Sefer ha-Meyasher, on Hebrew grammar; Sefer Matteh Aharon, a polemical work; and three apparently theological studies: Nezer ha-Kodesh; Sefer ha-Nefesh; and Sefer Peraḥ ha-Elohut. In the course of his commentary, he quotes philosophic and kabbalistic sources, though rarely by name. He also quotes his father, learned brothers Shalom, Baruch, Moses, Jacob, and his father-in-law Moses *Gabbai, who, like Abulrabi, composed a supercommentary on Rashi's Commentary on the Torah.


Perles, in: rej, 21 (1890), 246–69. add. bibliography: E. Lawee, "Graven Images, Astromagical Cherubs, Mosaic Miracles: A Fifteenth-Century Curial-Rabbinic Exchange," in: Speculum, 81 (2006); J. Hacker, "Ha-Megidut bi-ẓefon Afrikah be-Sof ha-Me'ah ha-Ḥamesh Esrei," in: Zion 45 (1980–81), 127, n. 34; Schorr, in: Zion, 1 (1840), 166–68, 193–96.

[Judah M. Rosenthal /

Eric Lawee (2nd ed.)]

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Abulrabi (Abu al Rabi), Aaron

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