Balbo, Michael ben Shabbetai Cohen

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BALBO, MICHAEL BEN SHABBETAI COHEN (1411–after 1484), rabbi and poet in Candia (Crete). Although Candia was his permanent home, he is occasionally mentioned in nearby Canea and three sermons which he preached there in 1471, 1475, and 1477, are extant (Vatican Ms. 305). He functioned as condostablo, the leader of the Jewish community of Candia. Moses *Capsali in a responsum of 1458 refers to him as one of the communal leaders. Balbo's signature is found on many ordinances enacted in Candia between the years 1468 and 1479. He wrote letters and poems to many contemporary scholars, one poem dealing with the capture of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453. In this lament on the fall of Constantinople, he associated the fate of the Jews with that of the defeated Greek-Orthodox. Balbo took issue with scholars on various topics; in his polemic against Moses Ashkenazi (who was known by the curious name of Esrim ve-Arba – "Twenty-Four") he vigorously attacked Ashkenazi for his rejection of the doctrine of metempsychosis. Balbo also wrote on behalf of the Candia community on such topical subjects as the ransoming of captives and agunot. These writings are valuable material for the history of his time. In a colophon at the end of a manuscript of the Sefer Mitzvot Katan, which he copied, he refers to the deaths of his son Isaiah and of Isaiah's son Michael in 1484.


Freimann in: Zion, 1 (1936), 185–207; E.S. Artom and M.D. Cassuto (eds.), Takkanot Kandyah, 1 (1943), index; Urbach, in: KS, 34 (1958/59), 101; Malachi, in: KS, 41 (1965/66), 392f. add. bibliography: N. Stavroulakis, The Jews of Greece, An Essay (1990) 32; Z. Malachi, "The Balbo Family – Scholars of Hebrew Literature in Candia (15th Century)," in: Michael, 7:255–70.

[Yehoshua Horowitz]

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