Jacob Nazir

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JACOB NAZIR (Jacob ben Saul of Lunel ; second half of 12th century), scholar and kabbalist in Lunel, S. France. The brother of Asher b. Saul, author of Sefer ha-Minhagot, Jacob was a colleague of *Abraham b. David (RABaD). Solomon Schechter (jqr 5, 1893, pp. 22–23), on the basis of statements in letters of Samuel David *Luzzatto (Iggerot Shadal (1882), 669), established his identity, in opposition to Zunz, who had thought him identical with Jacob b. Meshullam of Lunel. Jacob Nazir belonged to a group of hermits in Provence who carried on the mystic tradition, devoting themselves wholly to a life of contemplation. Kabbalistic tradition attributes to Jacob and Abraham b. David revelations of the prophet Elijah. Through visions and meditations they arrived at innovations in kabbalistic thought. Some of their interpretations, in which they disagreed on the details of the mystical kavvanot ("meditations") in certain prayers (i.e., to which Sefirah or quality of God should a man direct his thought in prayer?), have survived in several manuscripts (Ms. jts New York 838 48a; British Museum 755 85b; Oxford 1646). The works that have survived contain kabbalistic terminology developed from Sefer ha-*Bahir, the Heikhalot literature, and a mixture of different traditions. However, there is no proof that Jacob constructed a complete and ordered system.

Jacob Nazir was the first to use the term Malkhut ("kingdom") to designate the last revelation of the Sefirot, and as a synonym for the concepts of Kavod ("glory") and Shekhinah ("Divine Presence"). According to G. Scholem this usage was derived from ibn *Tibbon's Hebrew translation of the Kuzari, composed in Lunel during that period (1167). One of the first kabbalists to serve as a direct link between Provence and the East, Jacob made a pilgrimage to Palestine, apparently after Saladin's capture of Jerusalem (1187). His circle transmitted traditions which he learned from R. Nehorai of Jerusalem (R. Ezra's commentary on the aggadot, Ms. Vatican 185; see Scholem, Kitvei Yad be-Kabbalah (1930), 202). Later legend of the Spanish kabbalists (c. 1300) linked his visit to the Middle East with *Maimonides' imaginary turning to Kabbalah in his old age. There is no trace of mysticism in Jacob's supplements to Rashi's commentary on Job (Ms. Oxford 295) written in 1163 or 1183. A. Jellinek's assumption that Jacob was the author of Massekhet Aẓilut is unfounded (Toledot ha-Filosofyah be-Yisrael (1921), 167).


G. Scholem, in: Tarbiz, 6 (1935), 339–41; idem, Reshit ha-Kabbalah (1948), 70–98; idem, Ursprung und Anfaenge der Kabbala (1962), 201–6.

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Jacob Nazir

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