Nethanel ben Isaiah

views updated


NETHANEL BEN ISAIAH (14th century), Yemenite scholar. Nethanel's fame rests upon his extensive midrashic anthology, Nur al-Ẓalam ("Light in the Darkness"). The book is a typical Yemenite Midrash: it is based upon the standard Midrashim, though with stylistic changes and adaptations, and the influence of Maimonides, with whom the author shows great familiarity, is conspicuous. Philosophical ideas from other schools as well as kabbalistic sayings are also woven into the work.

Nur al-Ẓalam contains few of the peculiarities of the other Yemenite Midrashim and is of a much higher literary standard, being comparable in this respect to the *Midrash ha-Gadol. It was utilized by authors of later Yemenite Midrashim, among them Manẓur Aldamari, in his Sarag al-Ekol, and Shalom *Shabazi. The Midrash was published in its entirety with a Hebrew translation accompanying the Arabic original, by Y. Kafaḥ (1957). Nethanel also wrote a commentary on Maimonides' Mishneh Torah which was extant until recently and subsequently lost.


Nathanel b. Isaiah, Me'or ha-Afelah, ed. by Y. Kafaḥ (1957), introd.; A. Kohut, "Light of Shade and Lamp of Wisdom"… composed by Nethanel ibn Yeshâya (= Studies in Yemen-Hebrew Literature, pt. 2), (bound with proceedings of the fourth Biennial Convention of the Jewish Theological Seminary Association, 1894).

[Israel Moses Ta-Shma]