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Troki, Isaac Ben Abraham


TROKI, ISAAC BEN ABRAHAM (c. 1533–c. 1594), *Karaite scholar, born in Troki (according to Mann's hypothesis, he was born and died eight years earlier than the above dates). Troki's learning earned him the respect and deference of his fellow Karaites, and his knowledge of Latin and Polish enabled him to hold conversations on theological subjects with Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox clergymen, as well as with Socinian and other sectarian adherents. The result of these discussions was his famous apology for Judaism entitled Ḥizzuk Emunah. Troki himself did not live to complete the work and his pupil Joseph b. Mordecai *Malinovski (Troki) supplied it with preface and index.

Troki's reasoned defense of Judaism and his penetrating examination of the vulnerable points of Christian tradition and dogma caused his work to achieve immediate popularity. It was circulated in manuscript by interested Jewish readers, and each copyist felt free to modify the text according to his own views, so that at present, pending the discovery of more authentic manuscripts, it would probably be impossible to restore Isaac's original text in its entirety. In about 1629 *Zeraḥ b. Nathan of Troki offered the work to *Manasseh Ben Israel for publication at the latter's press in Amsterdam, but it was not printed there (presumably Manasseh declined the offer). Several decades later, another manuscript copy, apparently amended by a *Rabbanite copyist, fell into the hands of Johann Christoph *Wagenseil, who published it with a Latin translation and an extensive refutation in his Tela ignea Satanae ("The Fiery Darts of Satan"; Altdorf, 1681). The Latin version made Troki's work accessible to wider Christian circles, and some of his arguments were later taken over by the 18th-century anticlerical writers; Voltaire mentions the Ḥizzuk Emunah as a masterpiece of its kind. Troki would probably have been dismayed at this notoriety; he no doubt intended to have his work circulate among Jewish scholars only.

Wagenseil's text of the Ḥizzuk Emunah was reprinted for Jewish use at Amsterdam in 1705, and a Yiddish translation was printed there in 1717. An English translation by Moses Mocatta, uncle of Sir Moses Montefiore, was issued at London in 1851, with the statement on the title page "Printed but not published" (republ. 1970 with introd. by T. Weiss-Rosmarin). A German translation was published by David Deutsch (with the Hebrew text; 2nd edition, Sohrau, 1873). Among other editions, one appeared in Calcutta in 1846, and another in New York in 1932.

Some of Troki's hymns are included in the official Karaite prayer book. He is also said to have composed some works on Karaite ritual law.


Mann, Texts, 2 (1935), passim; Waxman, Literature, 2 (1966), 449–51.

[Leon Nemoy]

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