Elisha Ḥayyim ben Jacob Ashkenazi

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ELISHA ḤAYYIM BEN JACOB ASHKENAZI (d. 1673), father of *Nathan of Gaza and emissary of the Ashkenazi community of Jerusalem. In 1650 Ashkenazi and the kabbalist Solomon Navarro were sent as emissaries to North Africa by their community. On their return, they stayed for a time in Venice where Isaac *Bing of Jerusalem published Joseph *Caro's Maggid Meisharim (1654), from a manuscript which Ashkenazi had brought from Jerusalem. Bing had published the first part of the work in Lublin in 1646. Ashkenazi also brought to Italy for publication Abraham *Galante's Zohorei Ḥammah, a commentary on the *Zohar (Venice, 1655). During his stay in Italy, Solomon Navarro converted to Christianity. The money they had collected on their mission was therefore lost, and Ashkenazi was compelled to begin anew, leaving for Germany and Poland. He returned to Italy in 1665, and in Leghorn heard of his son's prophecies in Gaza. Ashkenazi proceeded to Ereẓ Israel via Egypt, where he was received by the wealthy Raphael Joseph with honor and gifts, on account of his son, the prophet. In 1666 he again departed for Germany and Poland on a mission for the Ashkenazi community of Jerusalem, passing through Constantinople, the Balkans, Budapest, and Vienna. Toward the end of his life, Ashkenazi went to Morocco on a mission, and he died there in the city of Meknès. It is possible that he brought his son's kabbalistic writings with him on this mission, for they were circulated widely throughout Morocco at that time. Certainly the fact that Nathan's father was well known and respected in the North African communities facilitated the spread of Shabbateanism there. There is no doubt that Ashkenazi believed in the prophecies of his son, who corresponded with him notifying him of his activities, and in the messianism of *Shabbetai Ẓevi, even after the latter's conversion to Islam. Ashkenazi's other son, azariah Ḥayyim ashkenazi, was also sent to Morocco as an emissary of the Jerusalem Ashkenazi community. His novellae on the Torah appeared in Mareh Einayim (in Ms.) written by Eliezer Bahalul in 1710.


Yaari, Sheluhei (1951), 281–2, 331; Scholem, Shabbetai Zevi, 162–3, 188, 544, 602, 770–1.

[Avraham Yaari]