Joseph ben Tanḥum Yerushalmi

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JOSEPH BEN TANḤUM YERUSHALMI (b. 1262), Hebrew poet, son of the grammarian-exegete *Tanḥum b. Joseph Yerushalmi of Cairo. It seems that he spent most of his life in Egypt, though he traveled to Jerusalem, Hebron, and other cities of Palestine. At the age of 15 Joseph composed 'Arugot ha-Besamim', a collection of poems with tajnīs rhymes, distributed in 10 sections (arugot), in imitation of Moses ibn Ezra's Sefer ha-'Anak; the book was published by J. Dishon in 2005. As a means of earning a livelihood Joseph had to write poems in honor of several Jewish patrons. Many of his poems were dedicated to Maimonides' grandson David b. Abraham *Maimuni, who had befriended him. Joseph also addressed verses to David's son, Abraham, to several relatives of this family, and to many others. He celebrated the familiar events (births, circumcisions, weddings) of his sponsors and wrote elegies in case of illness. On the death of his father in 1291 he composed a lamentation in which he mentions the conquest of Acre by the Crusaders. He may have still been alive in 1330.

Beside the poems collected in the Arugot ha-Besamim, with Arabic glosses, other of Joseph's poems were collected in a Divan, divided into seven sections (abwāb). The extant manuscripts are all fragmentary and contain only poems of section 2 (Letters and maqāmāt), 4 (Eulogies and Congratulations), 5 (Love and Wine), 6 (Elegies and Dirges), 7 (Miscellaneous). He knew the most important Andalusian Hebrew poets very well and was particularly influenced by Moses *Ibn Ezra and Judah *Al-Ḥarizi; most genres of the Spanish-Hebrew poetry are represented in the Divan. There are poems with verses in different meters, strophic verse (muwashshaḥ) occasionally with Arabic endings, maqāmāt in which the narrator is called Aḥiṭūb b. Ḥakmoni, and plays on words (tajnīs). A small number of liturgical poems also appear. Although the compositions are without originality, and often even devoid of precise expression, Joseph displays a knowledge of Arabic and Hebrew literary tradition and stylistic skill and is no doubt the most representative Hebrew poet of Egypt in the 13th century. A.M. Habermann published a number of his shorter wine and love poems. Several other poems and maqāmāt were published by H. Brody, J. Schirmann, S.M. Stern, P. Naveh, H.V. Sheynin, J. Yahalom, and J. Dishon.


Brody, in: Kobez al Jad, 9 (1893), 7–8, 17–19; Poznański, in: rej, 40 (1900), 129–53; 41 (1900), 46–61; Mann, Texts, 1 (1931), 435–45; J. Schirmann, Shirim Ḥadashim min ha-Genizah (1965), index; idem, in: Kobez al Jad, 3 (1939), 62–64; Habermann, in: Maḥbarot le-Sifrut, 2 no. 2 (1942), 39–40; Ashtor, Toledot, 1 (1944), 163–6; S.M. Stern, in: Tarbiz, 18 (1947), 184–86; Toledano, in: Sinai, 42 (1958), 339–55; P. Naveh, in: Molad, 25 (1968), 237–44; idem, in: Studies in Bibliography and Booklore, 9 (1970), 57–75, V. Sheynin, in: AO, 22 (1969), 245–71. add. bibliography: Y. Ratzaby, in: Pirkei Shirah, 1 (1990), 77–110, 2 (1999), 53–81; J. Yahalom, in: Sefer Yisrael Levin (1994), 145–54; idem, in: Pirkei Shirah, 3 (2003), 87–98; S. Einbinder, in: Medieval Encounters, 1 (1995), 252–70; J. Dishon, in: Dappim le-Meḥkar be-Sifrut, 12 (1999/2000), 25–63; idem (ed.), The Book of the Perfumed Flower Beds (Heb., 2005).

[Jefim (Hayyim) Schirmann /

Angel Sáenz-Badillos (2nd ed.)]

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Joseph ben Tanḥum Yerushalmi

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