Isaac ben Jacob Ha-Kohen

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ISAAC BEN JACOB HA-KOHEN (second half of 13th century), Spanish kabbalist. He was born in Soria and was related to *Shem Tov b. Abraham ibn Gaon. He traveled through Spain and Provence together with his brother *Jacob and also on his own and collected the traditions of the elder kabbalists there. Isaac was among the leading spokesmen of the Gnostic circle in Spanish Kabbalah; his books are full of important material having no counterpart in his colleagues' works; but some of it was incorporated as well as freely edited by his pupil *Moses b. Solomon of Burgos.

Isaac's writings include (1) a treatise on aẓilut ("*emanation";Madda'ei ha-Yahadut, 2 (1927), 244–64; other excerpts in Ha-Ẓofeh, 13 (1929), 261 and in Kitvei Yad be-Kabbalah (1930), 69–70). Another edition of this treatise was edited with additions and elaborations of several passages by Moses of Burgos (Tarbiz, 5 (1934), 190–6); (2) Perush al Merkevet Yeḥezkel ("Commentary on Ezekiel's Chariot," Tarbiz, 2 (1932), 188–218, and additions from the elaborations of Moses of Burgos; Tarbiz, 5 (182–90)). This commentary was mistakenly inserted in the commentary of *Moses de Leon on the *Merkabah in his Mishkan ha-Edut in some manuscripts; (3) Ta'amei ha-Nekuddot ve-Ta'amei ha-Te'amim ("On vowels and accents") on which no author's name appears but whose content and language prove the identity of the author (Madda'ei ha-Yahadut, 2 (1927), 265–75); (4) Inyan Gadol Meva'er Keẓat Ma'aseh Merkavah ("An important theme, which explains part of the mystery of the chariot"; ibid., 279–84); (5) a commentary on the Torah seen by Isaac b. Samuel of Acre; (6) a speculative work which belonged to Shem Tov *Ibn Shem Tov explaining the doctrine of the Sefirot and connecting it with neoplatonic ideas; some quotations from it are quoted by Shem Tov ibn Shem Tov (ibid., 276–9).

Isaac *Albalag mentions Isaac among the three most famous and most authoritative kabbalists of his generation and indeed in several manuscripts of his major treatise he is called "Paragon of the Generation." His treatise on emanation contains the first formulation of the doctrine of left emanation (see *Kabbalah) according to pseudepigraphic sources. This article is composed of different parts, apparently letters which he wrote to his colleagues at different times, and they contain parallel and different versions of this doctrine. As can be seen from his commentary on Ezekiel 1 and remnants of his theoretical book, he had a complete system on the hierarchy of the worlds which came to him from neoplatonic sources in different channels: olam ha-mitboded ("the transcendent world of divine unity"), olam ha-yeẓirah ("the world of formation") which is also called olam ha-madda ("the world of cognition"), olam ha-nivdal ("the world of separation," i.e., separate intelligences) or olam ha-nevu'ah ("the world of prophecy"), olam ha-tekhunah ("the world of astronomy") and olam ha-beḥinah ("the world of trial") which is olam ha-shafel ("the terrestrial world," Tarbiz, 2 (1939), 436–42).


G. Scholem, in: Madda'ei ha-Yahadut, 2 (1927), 163–293; idem, in: Tarbiz, 2–5 (1931–34); Toledano, in: Ha-Ẓofeh 13 (1931), 261–7; G. Scholem, Les Origines de la Kabbale (1966), 310–4, 376–82.

[Gershom Scholem]

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Isaac ben Jacob Ha-Kohen

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