Shephatiah ben Amittai

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SHEPHATIAH BEN AMITTAI

SHEPHATIAH BEN AMITTAI (d. 886 c.e.), paytan and spiritual leader. Shephatiah lived in Oria in southern Italy. When *Abu Aaron came to Italy in the mid-ninth century, he passed on to Shephatiah secrets of practical Kabbalah which the latter was to use in performing legendary deeds, as related in the Chronicle of*Ahimaaz. In about 856, when the Saracens attacked Oria, Shephatiah was sent to try and buy them off. About 873 Shephatiah traveled to Constantinople to plead for the annulment of anti-Jewish decrees issued by the Byzantine emperor Basil i. At the court he "delivered one of the princesses from the power of a demon" and as a reward Oria and four other communities are said to have been exempted from the edict. Of Shephatiah's many poems, only the piyyut Yisrael Nosha is known today. It is included in the Ne'ilah service on the Day of Atonement in the Ashkenazi liturgy.

bibliography:

Roth, Dark Ages, index; Schirmann, in: ymḤsi, 1 (1933), 97–147.

[Yonah David]