Moses ben Jacob of Kiev

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MOSES BEN JACOB OF KIEV

MOSES BEN JACOB OF KIEV (also called Moses ha-Goleh and Moses of Kiev ii; 1449–c. 1520), talmudic scholar and author. Moses was born, according to various scholars, in Seduva (Shadov), Lithuania (see A. Epstein, Kitvei… 1 (1950), 303–7). I. Zinberg, however, is of the opinion that he was born in Tarov, Kiev region (Toledot Sifrut Yisrael, 3 (1958), 161–6, 354). He died in Kaffa (Feodosiya), Crimea. At that time there were no important Torah institutions in Poland and Russia, and Moses traveled to Constantinople where he became friendly with both Rabbanites and Karaites. He also studied astronomy there under the Karaite Elijah ha-Shayazi, author of Adderet Eliyahu. He settled in Kiev and acquired a reputation in various branches of literature. He was a biblical exegete, talmudist, paytan, linguist, and kabbalist. From Kiev he wrote a polemical work against Gan Eden, the book of precepts of the Karaite scholar Abraham b. Elijah. In 1482 the Tatars attacked Kiev. Moses' possessions, including his library, were plundered. He himself escaped, but his children were taken captive to the Crimea, and Moses journeyed to various communities to collect money for their ransom. When passing through Karaite communities he disputed with their scholars. After ransoming his children, Moses returned to Kiev. He then wrote his works Sefer ha-Dikduk, a Hebrew grammar, and Yesod ha-Ibbur, on the calendar. In 1495 the Jews of Lithuania and the Ukraine were expelled, and Moses again was forced to wander. During these wanderings he wrote Shushan Sodot on automatic and cryptic writing, as well as Oẓar ha-Shem and Sha'arei Ẓedek on the upper *Sefirot, which are no longer extant. In 1506, while he was staying in the Lithuanian (i.e., Belorussian) town of Lida, it was attacked by the Tatars and Moses was taken captive. He was carried off to the Crimea where he was ransomed by the Jews of the city of Salkhat. From there he removed to Kaffa in the Crimea where he settled. Here Moses filled an important cultural role as rabbi and head of the community. He succeeded in uniting the members of the community who had come from different countries, and also compiled a prayer book for them which became known as Minhag Kaffa and was adopted by all the communities of the Crimea. Moses also compiled special regulations for the community. There he succeeded in completing his Oẓar Neḥmad, a supercommentary to the Pentateuch commentary of Abraham ibn Ezra.

[Shlomo Eidelberg]