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Jaffe, Israel ben Aaron


JAFFE, ISRAEL BEN AARON (c. 1640–after 1703), kabbalist. Born in Uman (Ukraine), he fled at the age of eight to Glussk (Belorussia) on the outbreak of the *Chmielnicki persecutions (1648). He studied with *Isaac b. Abraham at Posen (Tiferet Yisrael, Frankfurt on the Oder (1774), 40b) and afterward continued his studies together with his friends Aryeh Loeb Epstein and Jacob Ḥayyat (ibid., 35a). Later he became rabbi at Shklov (Belorussia). Jaffe, who claimed to see heavenly visions, among which were revelations of the prophet Elijah, felt himself called upon to work for the messianic redemption. He appeared in numerous communities, in order to gain adherents for his kabbalistic theories and to scourge misdeeds. For the printing of his writings he went to Frankfurt on the Oder, where his work Or Yisrael (1702) was published (pt. 1: interpretations of the *Zohar; pt. 2: kabbalistic commentaries on Oraḥ Ḥayyim; in 1702 with approbations by numerous contemporary authorities). The work roused angry feelings in rabbinic circles, since the author was suspected of Shabbatean leanings because of the repeated use of the word ẓevi (interpreted as referring to *Shabbetai Ẓevi) in his work. In his apology, Jaffe attributes the incriminating passages to an alien insertion; by this he contradicts the testimony of his son Aaron, who had corrected the whole work. His grandson had this apology printed at the beginning of his excerpt from his grandfather's work Tiferet Yisrael, in order to clear him of the accusation of Shabbateanism. Although the rabbinic authorities had, in their approval to this work, confirmed the groundlessness of these accusations against Jaffe, the suspicion was nevertheless upheld by Jacob *Emden (cf. Torat ha-Kena'ot (Lemberg, 1870), 145, first printed Amsterdam, 1752, and Shevirat Luḥot ha-Aven (Zolkiew, 1756), 53b). On the other hand, *David of Makow, who was close to the circle of *Elijah Gaon of Vilna, took Jaffe's part in his anti-ḥasidic pamphlet Zemir Ariẓim.

The following works of Jaffe remain unpublished: Beit Yisrael, additions to the Talmud; commentary on the haftarot and the Five Scrolls; Yefeh Einayim; Milḥamot Adonai; and Tiferet Yisrael. Excerpts from the last three works were published by his grandson and namesake (who had the appellation Zuta to differentiate him from his grandfather) under the title Tiferet Yisrael (Frankfurt on the Oder, 1774); together with them are printed Kishut Tov by Moses b. Menahem and an excerpt from the works of Israel Zuta himself.


Z. Harkavy, Mishpaḥat Maskil le-Eitan (1953), 16–22; S.M. Chones, Toledot ha-Posekim (1910), 368; E. Kahan, Kinat Soferim (1892), 616; Fuenn, Keneset, 694–5.

[Samuel Abba Horodezky]

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