Wilna, Jacob ben Benjamin Wolf

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WILNA, JACOB BEN BENJAMIN WOLF (d. 1732?), rabbi, posek, and Shabbatean kabbalist. His name indicates that he was born in Vilna. He was a member of the circle of *Judah Ḥasid (Segal) ha-Levi, but it is not clear if he joined this circle while still in Europe and went with them to Ereẓ Israel in 1700 or whether he went there earlier. In any case, he clearly studied Kabbalah in Vilna. While in Jerusalem, he attempted to join the Sephardi community and was a member of the bet hamidrash of Abraham *Rovigo and a member of the Yeshivah Bet Ya'akov Ferrera of the Sephardim. In 1707 Jacob signed the ordination of David *Oppenheim with the leaders of the Ashkenazi community in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem he associated with Nathan Nata *Mannheim, a member of the circle of Judah Ḥasid. The two collaborated in the writing of Me'orot Natan, which includes the Me'orei Or of Meir *Poppers, with their commentary Ya'ir Nativ (Frankfurt, 1709). Between 1702 and 1725, he left Jerusalem three times, twice as an emissary of the Ashkenazi community. Jacob visited Turkey, Germany, Holland, and Italy, propagating Kabbalah wherever he went. In 1726 he returned to Safed and from 1728 served as the rabbi of Safed and as head of the yeshivah. He was a moderate Shabbatean and material on his "belief" is included in Shabbatean manuscripts. Jacob was considered the authoritative kabbalist by his contemporaries in Turkey, Ereẓ Israel, Italy, and Poland. His eminence in Kabbalah is attested by Abraham *Gershon of Kutow (Kuty). He died in Safed at an old age. His glosses on Tikkunei Zohar were published with the text (in Orta Koi, near Constantinople, 1709).

His son Ḥayyim nissim yeruḤam (1704?–1775), kabbalist and rabbi, was born in Jerusalem, and was also a Shabbatean kabbalist. He, too, joined the Sephardi community. Ḥayyim left Jerusalem on several occasions on missions for the Ashkenazi community and later became one of its scholars. Apparently he died in Damascus. There is no evidence for the view that Jacob Wilna was the ancestor of the *Elyashar family.


Yaari, Sheluḥei, 337–40; M. Benayahu, in: Yerushalayim, 4 (1953), 203–14; idem, in: Sefunot, 2 (1958), 147; idem, Rabbi Ya'akov Elyashar (1960), 11–12.

[Abraham David]