Elhanan ben Yakar

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ELHANAN BEN YAKAR

ELHANAN BEN YAKAR (first half of the 13th century), *Ḥasidei Ashkenaz theologian. Elhanan, who lived in London, seems also to have traveled on the continent. In common with the Ḥasidei Ashkenaz, his main interest was in esoteric theology and all his known writings belong to this category. His family was related to that of R. *Simeon b. Isaac ("the Great"), which also gave rise to the school of *Judah he-Ḥasid in Germany. Elhanan received some traditions from the tosafists in France, as is proved by his statement that he studied the Sefer *Yeẓirah with a pupil of R. *Isaac ha-Zaken, one of the most prominent tosafists. All his works are based upon the Sefer Yeẓirah: two of the major ones are versions of a detailed exegesis of this work, and the third, Sod ha-Sodot (called in a later source, probably by mistake, Yesod ha-Yesodot), is a theological treatise which uses the Sefer Yeẓirah extensively. Elhanan was well acquainted with contemporary Christian theological works, both in Latin and French, and included almost literal quotations from such works in his writings. In this he is unique, as far as is known, among the theologians of the Ḥasidei Ashkenaz movement. His writings contain, in addition to his own theology, also compilations and juxtapositions of various ideas taken from other sources and relating to problems he discussed. One such prominent source was the baraita attributed to *Joseph b. Uzziel and the writings of the group of Ḥasidei Ashkenaz thinkers who based their doctrines on this pseudepigraphical text. Whole pages of Elhanan's writings are found in the commentary on Sefer Yeẓirah attributed to *Saadiah Gaon, which was written by one or several of that group. Elhanan discussed the major problems of Ḥasidei Ashkenaz theology in his writings: the creation, the relationship between the Creator and the Divine power revealed to the prophets, the "Special Cherub" or "Holy Cherub," etc. His theories frequently contain a stronger element of mystical speculation than those found in the writings of the continental Ḥasidei Ashkenaz.

bibliography:

Scholem, Mysticism, 85; C. Roth, The Intellectual Activities of Medieval English Jewry (1949), 62; G. Vajda, Etudes orientales à la mémoire de P. Hirschler (1950), 21–27; idem, in: Archives d'histoire doctrinale et littéraire du Moyen Age, 28 (1961), 15–34; idem, in: Koveẓ al Yad, 16 (1966), 147–97; Y. Dan, in: Tarbiz, 35 (1965/66), 361–73.

[Joseph Dan]