Gottlieb, Ephraim

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GOTTLIEB, EPHRAIM (1921–1973), historian of Kabbalah. Gottlieb was born in Munkács (Mukachevo), and received his education in Czech schools, yeshivot, and the Hebrew high school at Munkács, where he took part in Zionist activities. Immigrating to Ereẓ Israel in 1941, he first taught in the agricultural school at Mikveh Israel (until 1955). From 1945 to 1947 he was in Hungary on behalf of the *Berihah ("Aliyah Bet"), organized by the Jewish Agency. From 1955 to 1965 he taught Jewish subjects in a municipal high school belonging to the religious trend in Tel Aviv. During the years 1952 to 1963 Gottlieb studied Talmud, Jewish philosophy, and Kabbalah (in which he specialized), becoming one of the foremost pupils of Gershom *Scholem and gaining his Ph.D. in 1963. From that year he lectured on Kabbalah at Bar-Ilan University, from 1964 at Tel Aviv University, and from 1965 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he became senior lecturer in 1966 and associate professor in 1970. Gottlieb's contributions (all in Hebrew) to the history of early Spanish and Italian Kabbalah, between the 13th and 16th centuries, are distinguished by profundity, wide knowledge of the sources, and philological precision. The history of Spanish kabbalistic literature, in particular, has benefited from this research. In his book The Kabbalah in the Writings of R. Bahya ben Asher ibn Halawa (1970), he analyzed the sources of Bahya's famous commentary on the Torah and proved conclusively that the author used some parts of the Zohar extensively, translating, or paraphrasing them in Hebrew. His other studies, most of which appeared in Tarbiz, Kirjath Sepher, and the Shenaton of Bar-Ilan University, include research into the kabbalistic exegeses on Genesis 1 in the Gerona circle (Tarbiz, 37, 1968), into the works of (or attributed to) Joseph Gikatilla (Tarbiz, 39, 1969–70), and into the Pekudin section of the main body of the Zohar, later used by the author of the Raaya Meheimna portion of the Zohar and incorporated into this secondary work (ks, 48, 1973). Gottlieb studied the concepts of devekut and prophecy in an unpublished work by Isaac b. Samuel of Acre (Papers of the Fourth World Congress of Jewish Studies, 2, 1969) and some of the writings of R. Joseph from Hamadan which were first identified by him (ks, 48, 1973). He conclusively identified the hitherto anonymous author of the commentary on Ma'arekhet ha-Elohut, printed in the Ferrara edition of this work (Memorial Volume for Prof. Benjamin de Vries, 1969), and analyzed the discussion on the theory of transmigration, held in 1466 in Crete and preserved in two Vatican manuscripts (Sefunot, 11, 1974). He also disproved the authenticity, or in another case the lack of value, of kabbalistic texts which had been considered important by earlier scholars (the falsification of the work Ginnat Bitan and its commentaries ascribed to the early 14th century, in Studies in Honour of G. Scholem, 1968, and the construction of R. Elhanan the Blind's epistles, in Michael, 1, 1973). Gottlieb proved them to be plagiarisms based on Judah Hayyat's work Minhat Yehudah. His lectures on the Kabbalah at the end of the 13th century, especially on Gikatilla and the book Ma'arekhet ha-Elohut, were published in mimeographed form (1969). Gottlieb died suddenly in October 1973, a month after his appointment as head of the Institute of Jewish Studies of the university.

[Gershom Scholem (2nd ed.)]