Jacob Koppel ben Moses of Mezhirech

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JACOB KOPPEL BEN MOSES OF MEZHIRECH (d. c. 1740), Polish kabbalist. Jacob was influenced by the Shabbatean movement in Poland, and he himself influenced Ḥasidism. His main published works are: Sha'arei Gan Eden (Korets, 1803), a major kabbalistic treatise, dealing with all facets of kabbalistic theosophy, following the school of Isaac *Luria; and Ha-Kol Kol Ya'akov (Slaviuta, 1804), a formulation of the Lurianic kavvanot (the mystical intentions and meditations during prayer). This work served as a basis for later ḥasidic prayer books. Besides these he apparently wrote Naḥalot Ya'akov, an extensive commentary on the *Zohar, which has been lost. Jacob denounces the followers of *Shabbetai Ẓevi and messianic speculation in general in a few scattered remarks. However, it has been proved that he was the brother and pupil of a known Shabbatean, Ḥayyim of Ostraha (Ostrog), who influenced his writings.

A close study of the kabbalistic doctrine of Jacob proves conclusively that his works included at least one part of a "credo" of *Nathan of Gaza, the prophet of Shabbetai Ẓevi, that substantial parts of his theosophical discussions were influenced by Nathan's basic doctrines, and that his works contain many ideas and expressions similar to those of Jonathan *Eybeschuetz, another secret Shabbatean in Eastern Europe.

The Shabbatean elements in Jacob's theology are revealed in three fields. First, his theosophic doctrine, which describes the processes that led toward the creation within the Godhead itself, does not follow the orthodox Lurianic myth but uses a whole group of terms and processes introduced into the Kabbalah by Nathan of Gaza. While creating his Shabbatean theology, the latter utilized elements in the teachings of Luria's alleged pupil Israel *Sarug. Secondly, in his descriptions of development within the realm of the Sefirot (the divine emanations), Jacob uses a series of extremely radical sexual symbols found only in Shabbatean writings, mainly in those of Eybeschuetz. Finally, some scattered hints (which were fully developed in at least one of his works) allude to a heretical, antinomian concept of the Torah and the mitzvot, following the Shabbatean distinction between the laws governing the world before the coming of the messiah, Shabbetai Ẓevi, and the new laws following his appearance.

Jacob and his writings were highly praised by the early Ḥasidim, who published his works and used them extensively. A reliable ḥasidic tradition even quotes some words of praise attributed to *Israel b. Eliezer Ba'al Shem Tov. Thus Jacob's Shabbatean writings form one of the links between late East European Shabbateanism and early Ḥasidism.


I. Tishby, Netivei Emunah u-Minut (1964), 197–226, 331–43.

[Joseph Dan]

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Jacob Koppel ben Moses of Mezhirech

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