Joseph ben Uzziel

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JOSEPH BEN UZZIEL

JOSEPH BEN UZZIEL , name of the grandson of *Ben Sira, according to two pseudepigraphical sources. In the first source, the Alphabet of *Ben Sira (a late-geonic work, which contains some heretical tendencies), the unknown author used the literary device of a dialogue between two or three characters, his intention being to create a satirical imitation of midrashic forms. These characters were Ben Sira, his son Uzziel, and the latter's son Joseph b. Uzziel. Probably the idea of Ben Sira's grandson originated from the author's knowledge that the historical Ben Sira had a grandson who had edited and translated his book. The second text, the baraita of Joseph b. Uzziel, is a short treatise found in several manuscripts, usually followed by a religious poem which might be part of the pseudepigraphical work. The baraita was written by one or more of the early Ḥasidei Ashkenaz, probably in the 12th century. It claims to contain revelations which the prophet Jeremiah handed to his great-grandson (Ben Sira was described as Jeremiah's daughter's son). This treatise is a commentary on Sefer *Yeẓirah ("Book of Creation") and contains some of the main ideas of Ashkenazi ḥasidic esoteric doctrines, in addition to some ideas unknown from any earlier source, e.g., the "Special Cherub," which shines in the east (Shekhinah ("Divine Presence") shines from the west), and is described as the main vehicle of divine revelation. The baraita of Joseph b. Uzziel served as a major source for a group of Ashkenazi ḥasidic thinkers, who wrote some numerous works based on its ideas. The most extensive of these works is the commentary on the Sefer Yeẓirah attributed to *Saadiah Gaon. Some quotations from a lost commentary on the baraita by one Avigdor ha-Ẓarefati are found in the writings of the Ḥasidei Ashkenaz. *Elhanan b. Yakar used the baraita extensively in his esoteric writings.

bibliography:

A. Epstein, Mi-Kadmoniyyot ha-Yehudim (1957), 241, 248; Scholem, Mysticism, 87, 111–8; G. Scholem, On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism (1965), 173ff.; Dan, in: Molad, 23 (1966), 490–6; idem, in: Tarbiz, 35 (1965/66), 349–72.

[Joseph Dan]