Gabbai, Meir ben Ezekiel Ibn

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GABBAI, MEIR BEN EZEKIEL IBN (1480–after 1540), kabbalist of the generation of Spanish exiles. The details of his life are not known. Apparently he lived in Turkey and possibly died in Ereẓ Israel. He wrote three books dealing with the principal problems of Kabbalah. They are Tola'at Ya'akov (written in 1507 and first printed in Constantinople, 1560), on the prayers; Derekh Emunah (written in 1539 and first printed in Constantinople, 1560), an explanation of the doctrine of the sefirot in the form of questions and answers, based on Sha'ar ha-Sho'el by *Azriel of Gerona and incorporating views of the *Zohar; and Avodat ha-Kodesh, on the entire doctrine of the Kabbalah, in four parts – on the unity of God, the worship of God, the purpose of man in the universe, and an explanation of esoteric aspects of the Torah – an important work which he wrote from 1523 to 1531. The last is the most comprehensive and organized summary of the doctrine of the Kabbalah prior to the Safed period and was one of the most popular books on Kabbalah even with recent generations. It was first printed in 1566–68 under the name Marot Elohim. Gabbai was one of the leading proponents of the view that the Sefirot are the essence of divinity.

[Gershom Scholem]

Ibn Gabbai is also one of the most important exponents of the theurgical approach in Kabbalah, which found its elaborate and complex expressions in both Tola'at Ya'akov and Avodat ha-Kodesh.

[Moshe Idel (2nd ed.)]


Yaari, in: ks, 9 (1933), 388–93; Zunz, Lit Poesie, 381; Blau, in: zhb, 10 (1906), 52–58. add. bibliography: E.K. Ginsburg, Sod ha-Shabbat, from the Tola'at Ya'aqov of R. Meir ibn Gabbai, (1989); R. Goetschel, R. Meir Ibn Gabbai; Le Discours de la Kabbale espagnole (1981).