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Jacob ben Judah


JACOB BEN JUDAH (13th century), Hebrew-French poet. Jacob came from Lorraine and lived, at least temporarily, in *Troyes, where he was an eyewitness of the auto-da-fé of April 24, 1288. He wrote two lamentations on the death of Isaac Châtelain and the other 12 martyrs burned as the result of a blood libel (Vatican Ms. 327). One, Yuẓẓa al Besari Sak va-Efer, is composed in Hebrew (published by Bernfeld, see bibl.); the other is a free rendering of the Hebrew poem in Old French describing the bele kedushah, the "beautiful martyrdom" and aspiring for a wider audience. Since this gives the pronunciation of 13th-century French words in Hebrew transliteration, it has been repeatedly published with commentary and translation. Both poems have 17 strophes of four verses, but the differences are many and, in some cases, significant. Solomon Simḥah the Scribe and Meir ben Eliav also wrote laments on the same event. According to S. Einbinder, Jacob drew on sacred and secular motifs to create martyrological vignettes that bear the stamp of romance hagiographical conventions; actually, he wrote under the constraints of two different sets of conventions. The Hebrew text contains a mosaic of biblical quotations and typologies that have particular connotations for a Jewish audience; the French text shares many traits with the hagiographical romance of the time.


A. Darmesteter, Deux élégies du Vatican (1874); idem, in: rej, 2 (1881), 199–220 (= Reliques Scientifiques, 1 (1890), 270–307); Renan, Rabbins, 475–82; Gross, Gal Jud, 240, 294; M. Steinschneider, Geschichtsliteratur der Juden (1905), 54 no. 44; E. Fleg, Anthologie Juive, 2 (1939), 106–8; Davidson, Ozar, 4 (1933), 413; S. Bernfeld, Sefer ha-Dema'ot, 1 (1924), 343–6; Zunz, Lit Poesie, 362, 489. add. bibliography: S. Einbinder, in: Viator, 30 (1999), 201–30; idem, Beautiful Death: Jewish Poetry and Martyrdom in Medieval France (2002).

[Jefim (Hayyim) Schirmann /

Angel Sáenz-Badillos (2nd ed.)]

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