Yakhini, Abraham ben Elijah

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YAKHINI, ABRAHAM BEN ELIJAH (1617–1682), kabbalist and preacher, one of the leaders of the Shabbatean movement. Yakhini was born and lived his entire life in Constantinople. He was a pupil of R. Joseph di Trani and an influential preacher in the community. From adolescence, he was attracted by Lurianic *Kabbalah and wrote books and sermons according to the Lurianic system. He would note his dreams in his books. These dreams are of great interest. Yakhini was also a rhetorician and a poet; in 1655 he published Hod Malkhut, an imitation of Psalms. He knew of Shabbetai *Ẓevi while the latter was in Constantinople in 1658. However, there is no indication that Yakhini believed his messianic claims. His detailed notes on Kabbalah from 1658 to 1663 are preserved in a manuscript (Sefer Razi Li) and contain no indication of Shabbateanism. Only with the outbreak of the Shabbatean movement in the fall of 1665 did Yakhini join the "believers." He became its leading disciple and major spokesman in Constantinople. He also traveled to Smyrna and was appointed as a "King of Israel" by Shabbetai Ẓevi in December 1665. After Shabbetai Ẓevi's apostasy, Yakhini persisted in his belief and remained the head of the Shabbatean minority in Constantinople. He maintained personal contact and corresponded with Shabbetai Ẓevi and the rest of the movement's leaders. His relations with the rabbis of Constantinople, who now took a negative view of Shabbateanism, were tense. But apparently they did not dare harm him. He circulated books and poetry in honor of Shabbetai Ẓevi and the Shabbatean faith until his death, and in the last year of his life he contacted Abraham Miguel *Cardozo. Even after his death, Yakhini continued to influence Shabbatean circles, especially the sect of converts to Islam, the *Doenmeh of *Salonika. The many tales about him in Me'ora'ot Ẓevi, (1813) are not based on historical sources but are the products of the imagination of an anonymous author who wished to write a novel on Shabbetai Ẓevi.

Of Yakhini's numerous works there have been preserved in manuscript Sefer Razi Li and Peli'at Da'at (Ms. Adler), Sefer Vavei Ammudim (Ms. Oxford), sermons on Shabbetai Ẓevi written between 1681 and 1682, a book of various notes which was in the possession of R. Abraham Danon, several pamphlets on the Lurianic Kabbalah, and sermons and poems in honor of Shabbetai Ẓevi. A long letter to the Christian scholar Warner (Ms. Leiden) is preserved.


Scholem, Shabbetai Ẓevi, index, s.v. Ha-Yakhini; Amarillo, in: Sefunot, 5 (1961), 245; A. Freimann (ed.), Inyenei Shabbetai Ẓevi (1913), 13; A. Epstein, in: rej, 26 (1893), 209ff.; A. Danon, ibid., 58 (1909), 272ff.

[Gershom Scholem]