Ishmael ben Abraham Isaac Ha-Kohen

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ISHMAEL BEN ABRAHAM ISAAC HA-KOHEN (1723–1811), Italian rabbi. Ishmael ha-Kohen, rabbi of Modena, enjoyed a high standing in the Jewish world generally and was the last Italian rabbi who was accepted throughout the rabbinic world as a halakhic authority. He was among those to whom Naphtali Hirsch *Wessely appealed in his Divrei Shalom ve-Emet (Berlin, 1782) to defend the introduction of secular studies in Jewish schools. Though formally disassociating himself from the ideology of the maskilim, in practice he concurred with it. It is of note that he occasionally wrote secular poems. Ishmael was among those invited by Napoleon to answer questions put to the *Assembly of Jewish Notables which took place in Paris in 1806. From his replies on this occasion as well as from his other halakhic rulings, both published and in manuscript, he emerges as a rabbi alive to the needs of the times and inclined to narrow the gap between them and traditions. His realistic and moderate approach is clearly revealed in his responsa published under the name Zera Emet (pt. 1, Leghorn, 1785; pt. 2, ibid., 1796; pt. 3, Reggio, n.d.), see especially pt. 1, nos. 69, 74, and 89; pt. 2, no. 107; and pt. 3, nos. 32, 33, and 42. Many responsa remain unpublished.


J. Rosenthal, Meḥkarim, 2 (1966), 513–32; Shirmann, in: Zion, 29 (1964), 88; M. Benayahu (ed.), Sefer ha-Ḥida (1959), 36–38; idem, R. Ḥayyim Yosef David Azulai (1959), index.

[Moshe Shraga Samet]