JOEL, DAVID HEYMANN (1815–1882), rabbi and scholar. Born in Inowroclaw (Poznan province), Joel studied under his father, a rabbi, and under R. Akiva *Eger. In 1836 he went to Berlin to continue his studies and took courses at the university. In 1842 he was ordained as a rabbi and in 1843 was appointed rabbi in Swarzedz (Poznan region). There he wrote his major work: Midrash ha-Zohar: Die Religionsphilosophie des Sohar und ihr Verhaeltnis zur allgemeinen juedischen Theologie (Leipzig, 1849). This book was one of the first Jewish studies which made a serious, scholarly approach to Kabbalah. Joel criticizes the work of A. Frank on Kabbalah and attempts to prove that there is no essential difference between Kabbalah as formulated in the Zohar and the Jewish theology current in the Middle Ages, the differences amounting only to the choice of daring metaphors in Kabbalah. Joel denies the decisive influence of Persian religion, Platonism or neoplatonism, Christianity, or Gnosis on the Kabbalah, which he regards as an original Jewish creation. From 1859 to 1879 Joel served as rabbi in Krostoszy, and from 1880 until his death was teacher of Talmud and rabbinic literature in the Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau. There he wrote his valuable work, Der Aberglaube und die Stellung des Judentums zu demselben, of which only two parts were published (Breslau, 1881–83).
A. Heppner-J. Herzberg, Aus Vergangenheit und Gegenwart der Juden in Hohensalza (1907), 58; idem, Aus Vergangenheit und Gegenwart der Juden und der Juedischen Gemeinden in den Posener Landen (1909), 481–2; M. Brann, Geschichte des Juedischen Theologischen Seminars in Breslau (1904), 108–9; B. Ziemlich, in: Ost und West, no. 2 (1904), 775–6; Ch. D. Lippe, Bibliographisches Lexicon, 1 (1881), 211; 2 (1887), 120; G. Scholem, Bibliographia Kabbalistica (1933), 78 no. 613.