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Tam Ibn Yaḥya, Jacob ben David


TAM IBN YAḤYA, JACOB BEN DAVID (c. 1475–1542), Turkish rabbi and codifier. Leaving Lisbon with his father after the expulsion from *Portugal in 1496, he settled in Constantinople where he achieved a reputation for his comprehensive talmudic knowledge (responsa, Oholei Tam, 142). He was appointed a member of the bet din presided over by Elijah *Mizraḥi, chief rabbi of *Turkey, and after the latter's death Ibn Yaḥya was recognized, even beyond his own country, as the spiritual leader of Turkish Jewry (ibid., 110 and 147). In his responsa he adopted "the clear and concise style characteristic of the French and German rabbis … who weigh every word" (ibid., 36 and 147). Ibn Yaḥya adopted a rigid attitude in his decisions, but at the same time went to great lengths to seek relief for an agunah (ibid., 142). He opposed the view that the *Karaites were not to be regarded as Jews, but a group whose place, halakhically speaking, was intermediate between that of Jews and non-Jews, maintaining that they were to be regarded as Jews upon whom the precepts of Judaism were binding (ibid., 127). Although he had a knowledge of *Kabbalah, he opposed its being taught. He also studied medicine and had a knowledge of Arabic, Turkish, and Spanish, while "his knowledge of Islamic law was so great that their judges frequently consulted with him with regard to their decisions" (G. ibn Yaḥya, Shalshelet ha-Kabbalah). Ibn Yaḥya was a prolific writer, but most of his works were destroyed in the conflagration which overtook Constantinople a year before his death. The remnants of his responsa were collected and published after his death in the Tummat Yesharim collection (Venice, 1624), under the title Oholei Tam, along with his glosses to Alfasi, entitled Derekh Tamim.


E. Carmoly, Divrei ha-Yamim li-Venei Yaḥya (1850); Graetz, Gesch, 9 (18913), 33, 394; Rosanes, Togarmah, 2 (1937/38), 6ff.

[Ephraim Kupfer]

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