Almoli (Almuli), Solomon ben Jacob

views updated


ALMOLI (Almuli), SOLOMON BEN JACOB (before 1485– after 1542), grammarian, physician, philosopher, and kabbalist.

Biography and Basic Works

Probably born in Spain, Almoli passed his early years in Salonika, but before 1515 settled in Constantinople, where he spent the rest of his life, serving as a dayyan and rabbi of one of the congregations there. Almoli devoted himself to the study of science and medicine, earning his livelihood from the latter, and serving, as it seems, as physician to the sultan. Few biographical details are known of his life except that it was marked by want and poverty. Having conceived the idea of compiling a general encyclopedia, he launched his undertaking enthusiastically, though fully aware that the work would take many years to complete and that large sums of money would be required for an adequate reference library. He was encouraged by the hope that others would take up his work in the event of his failing to complete it, but the scholars of Constantinople reacted disparagingly and rejected the plan. Almoli was also unsuccessful in his attempt to recruit a group of trainees for his work. He did, however, publish a small pamphlet of 24 pages under the title Me'assef le-Khol ha-Maḥanot (Constantinople, c. 1531), a prospectus of the proposed encyclopedia which was to be in three parts: (1) Maḥaneh Yisrael, on what every Jew needs to know; (2) Maḥaneh Leviyyah, on general knowledge; and (3) Maḥaneh Shekhinah, on Hebrew, Aramaic, biblical exegesis, theology, Kabbalah, and the commandments of the Torah.

The fate of the project is unknown. Also included is his Sha'ar ha-Shem he-Ḥadash (Constantinople, 1533), which he describes as being "the first section of the large book which deals with all matters of faiths." In it he treats the existence of God, His attributes and essence, according to the Kabbalah and philosophy. He states that "wonderful secrets and explanations, hitherto unrevealed" (p. 13a) have been disclosed to him. With one exception, all Almoli's other works are mere prolegomena to larger works which he contemplated. The exception is the Mefasher Ḥelmin (Salonika, c. 1515) often republished under its Hebrew title Pitron Ḥalomot ("Interpretation of Dreams") and translated into Yiddish (Amsterdam, 1694). In it he classifies dreams by categories and gives rules for their interpretation.

Other Publications

(1) Halikhot Sheva (Constantinople, c. 1520), according to Almoli, the introduction to a larger projected work on the science of Hebrew grammar. This is an original study, including rules for the pointing of the vowel e, under differing circumstances. The first part begins with general comments on the relationship between the sheva and the other vowels, which are significant guidelines for the history of the science of the Hebrew language. In the second part, the sheva is classified by categories. The third part deals with the different forms of the noun. Almoli cites various opinions as to the alternate pronunciations of the sheva na' ("mobile") and gives his own analysis of it as a third type of vowel, having its place midway between the short vowels and the sheva naḥ ("quiescent"). A critical edition was published by Ḥ. Yallon. (2) Iggeret ha-Purim is mentioned in Halikhot Sheva and is probably a treatise on the Scroll of Esther. (3) Sha'ar ha-Yesod (Constantinople, 1536) deals with the roots of Hebrew words. This book is not extant, except for the title page. (4) Almoli was also instrumental in the publication of books on language and vocalization by other authors. These are the Magen David (Constantinople, 1517) of *Elisha b. Abraham, in the writing of which Almoli participated, replying to Profiat *Duran's and David *Ibn Yaḥya's criticism of David *Kimḥi; the Yesod Mora (Constantinople, 1530) and the Safah Berurah (Constantinople, 1530) of Abraham *Ibn Ezra; the Leshon Limmudim (Constantinople, 1526) of David ibn Yaḥya, together with the Shekel ha-Kodesh on prosody. For many years this last book was also thought to be the work of David Ibn Yaḥya, but Ḥ. Yallon has shown that it was written by Almoli, who included in it criticism of the Leshon Limmudim (critical edition by Ḥ. Yallon, 1965). Almoli also composed poems which were published in his own books and in those he edited.


Aloni, in: ks, 18 (1941/42), 192–8; Ḥ. Yallon (ed.), Shelomo Almoli Halikhot Sheva (1944), 79–115; idem, in: Sinai, 32 (1952/53), 90–96; idem, in: Aresheth, 2 (1960), 96–108; idem, in: ks, 39 (1963/64), 105–8; Gruenbaum, in: Aresheth, 4 (1966), 180–201. add. bibliography: S. Morag, "Some Notes on Shelomo Alomoli's Contributions to the Linguistic Science of Hebrew," in: J.A. Emerton and S.C. Reif (eds.), Interpreting the Hebrew Bible, Essays in Honor of E.I.J. Rosenthal (1982), 157–69.