Zechariah al-ḍāhiri

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ZECHARIAH AL-ḌĀHIRI (1519?–1589?), author in *Yemen. A well-known scholar and dayyan, Zechariah was well versed in Hebrew and Arabic literature and in philosophy. He traveled widely, journeying to Ereẓ Israel in 1567 and becoming acquainted with scholars there. During the Turco-Yemenite war (1568–73), he was imprisoned, together with the rest of the Jewish community, in *Sanʿa. In prison he wrote his best-known work, Sefer ha-Musar, consisting of 45 sections (maḥbarot), influenced in subject matter by the maqāmāt of Al-Ḥariri and the maḥbarot of *Al-Ḥarizi and *Immanuel of Rome. The book includes amusing folklore, animal fables, and riddles, as well as moral and admonitory tales, and contains poems praising particular books and their authors. However, the most important part of the work is the author's description of his travels in Ereẓ Israel, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Persia, and India, and of contemporary events in Yemen. Zechariah described the scholars and systems of learning of the yeshivot of Ereẓ Israel, including that of *Tiberias, which was supported by Gracia *Nasi, and that of Joseph *Caro in *Safed. Among the notables of Safed whom he mentions are Moses of *Trani and Moses *Cordovero. In Ereẓ Israel Zechariah widened his knowledge of *Kabbalah, and later was instrumental in diffusing the Zohar and other kabbalistic works in Yemen. Sefer ha-Musar is an important source of information on the Jewish communities of the period, throwing special light on the political, spiritual, and cultural situation of Yemenite Jewry. Zechariah also wrote Ẓeidah la-Derekh, a commentary to the Pentateuch (published with the text, 1964), and several works on halakhah and aggadah.


Zechariah al-Dahiri, Sefer ha-Musar, ed. by Y. Ratzaby (1965), introd.

[Yehuda Ratzaby]