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Levi

LEVI

LEVI (Bet ha-Levi ), prominent, wealthy, and ramified Sephardi family of scholars and rabbis, many of whom served as congregation leaders during the 15th–17th centuries. The family originated from Évora in Portugal, but all that is known of its previous history is the statement of *Solomon ii: "… my grandfather the expert physician, pious and understanding, Maestro Solomon i, the son of the noble prince Don Joseph, son of the expert physician Maestro Moses, son of the exalted Don Solomon, son of the holy [martyred?] Don Isaac, son of the distinguished physician Maestro Joseph of the House of ha-Levi" (Bet ha-Levi, in manuscript). SOLOMON i arrived in Salonika after the expulsion of the Jews from Portugal in 1497 and founded the family which was outstanding in Salonika during the period that followed. The Ha-Levis were one of the richest families of Salonika and continued to be so until 1620. A patriarchal family, its members were proud of their lineage and of their scholarly attainments and position. Several reached outstanding positions of influence and status in the Jewish community of Salonika. They were devoted to study and possessed extensive libraries. The members of the family exhibited variegated talents, excelling as rabbis of communities, as posekim and as scholars, as outstanding preachers and poets. Some possessed a thorough knowledge of philosophy, and there were even kabbalists among them.

Two of the sons of Solomon i, isaac i (1500–1570/71), who was born in Salonika, and jacob (and perhaps a third son, Joseph), were among the outstanding personalities of the Salonikan Jewish community in the mid-16th century. They were in contact with Joseph Caro after he moved to Safed. Isaac is eulogized in Saadiah Longo's Seder Zemannim (Salonika, 1594, 36ff.). He had two sons *Solomon ii (1532–1600) and joseph i (d. 1618), who were eminent scholars, and a third son, judah, who died in his youth. Solomon ii had two sons, *Isaac ii (d. c. 1621/31) and joseph ii (d. 1605), who married

the daughter of Joseph i, as well as three daughters, one of whom married R. Aaron *Sasson. Isaac ii had two sons, *Solomon iii (1581–1634), an outstanding scholar, and nissim (d. 1633), a paytan. Solomon had a son jacob. Abraham *Levi was the son of Joseph i.

bibliography:

Solomon le-Bet ha-Levi, Ḥeshek Shelomo (Salonika, 1600), introductions; Conforte, Kore, index; Ch. Hirschensohn, in: Hamisderonah, 2 (1888), 161, 190–2, 219–23, 340–3; D. Pipano, introduction to Ein Mishpat of R. Abraham le-Bet ha-Levi (1897); A. Danon, in: Yerushalayim, ed. by A.M. Luncz, 7 (1906–07), 351–4; I.S. Emmanuel, Maẓẓevot Saloniki, 2 vols. (1963–68), index.

[Joseph Hacker]

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