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Ẓemaḥ, Jacob ben Ḥayyim


ẒEMAḤ, JACOB BEN ḤAYYIM (d. after 1665), kabbalist and physician. A member of a Converso family in northern Portugal, he first served as a physician. He decided to go to Ereẓ Israel and passed through Salonika where he studied Torah. Some time between 1610 and 1620, he settled in Safed and learned Talmud and Kabbalah. In approximately 1628 he left for Damascus, and studied the Lurianic Kabbalah under Samuel b. Ḥayyim *Vital. Around 1640 he settled in Jerusalem where he became one of the leading kabbalists. He was among the Jerusalem opponents of *Shabbetai Ẓevi who excommunicated him when he first claimed to be the messiah in 1665.

His many works, which are anthologic in character, lack originality and rely on *Ḥayyim Vital's Kabbalah. Nevertheless, his contribution to the literary consolidation of Lurianic Kabbalah is important, as are his citations of contemporary kabbalists, e.g., *Joseph ibn Tabul. In his introduction to Kol ba-Ramah, he complains that Lurianic Kabbalah is not much studied. Ẓemaḥ left many works, partly in manuscript. In the aforesaid introduction he gives details of his literary activities.

His works include: (1) introductions to and glosses on various works; (2) Zohar ha-Raki'a (Korzec, 1785), a commentary on sayings of Sifra di-Ẓeni'uta, and the Idra of the Zohar; (3) Zer Zahav, an explanation of every item in the Oraḥ Ḥayyim section of the Shulḥan Arukh according to the *Zohar and the Lurianic Kabbalah; (4) Leḥem min ha-Shamayim (Munkacs, 1905), a compilation of Lurianic customs of which the printed version differs from the manuscripts; (5) Nagid u-Meẓavveh (Amsterdam, 1712), an important anthology of Lurianic customs which served as the basis for Shulḥan Arukh shel ha-Ari. Due to frequent republication, many customs of Luria became widely familiar (the manuscript version is much longer than the printed); (6) Ẓemaḥ Ẓaddik (Korzec, 1785), kabbalistic homilies; (7) Kol ba-Ramah (ibid., 1785), a commentary on the Idras; here too the manuscript is longer than the printed version and is preceded by a very important introduction.


G. Scholem, in: ks, 26 (1950), 185–94; 27 (1951), 107–10: I. Sonne, ibid., 97–106; N. Ben-Menahem, in: Aresheth, 2 (1960), 379–83.

[Moshe Hallamish]

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