Phinehas ben Joseph Ha-Levi

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PHINEHAS BEN JOSEPH HA-LEVI (13th century), Hebrew poet and paytan in Toledo. According to some scholars Phinehas was the brother of *Aaron ha-Levi of Barcelona to whom the Sefer ha-Ḥinnukh is attributed. He was one of the rivals of Todros b. Judah *Abulafia in the court of Don Caq de la Maleha. To entertain Don Caq, Todros from time to time conducted a poetic controversy with Phinehas in the course of which they exchanged with one another 35 short poems, generally filled with contempt and faultfinding. While the poems themselves have little literary value, they are of great importance for knowledge of the contemporary mode of life and society. In one of his poems, published in Abulafia's Gan ha-Meshalim ve-ha-Ḥidot, Phinehas addresses Don Caq and attempts to persuade him to renew his benefactions toward him; he had been driven away, in his opinion, through the effort of Todros, and had fallen victim to a base charge. His *azharot for the Sabbath preceding Rosh Ha-Shanah, Elohim Niẓẓav ba-Adat El ("God stands in the divine congregation"), together with their reshut, Asir Tikvah le-Keẓ Yamim ("Prisoner of hope for the end of days"), was published in the maḥzor according to the custom of Catalonia (Salonika, 1526). It is not known whether he is identical with the poet Phinehas ha-Levi, also called Don Vidal Profiat, who lived in Spain in the 13th century and who forsook poetry, devoting himself to agriculture. His friend, the poet Abraham *Bedersi, who regarded agriculture as degrading labor, derided him with great contempt in one of his poems, and even rejoiced at his misfortune when all his produce went up in flames.


Davidson, Oẓar, 4 (1933), 461; idem, in: Tarbiz, 2 (1931), 90–100; A. Neubauer, in: mgwj, 20 (1871), 455–9; Schirmann, Sefarad, 2 (19602), 449–53; idem, in: Sefer Yovel Y. Baer (1960), 161f.

[Abraham David]