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Moses Jonah

JONAH, MOSES (16th century), kabbalist and one of the most important disciples of Isaac *Luria. Ḥayyim *Vital places him in the second group of Luria's pupils (Sha'ar ha-Gilgulim) and states that this is his first transmigration as a human being, and therefore he is a great jester and his conduct is not seemly (Sefer ha-Gilgulim, "The Book of Transmigrations," 1875, 66). These remarks attest to some personal tension between the two kabbalists, which is also borne out by the story quoted in Menahem *Lonzano's book, Omer Man, on Luria's last words before his death. According to this story, Jonah asked Luria if Vital understood his doctrine and Luria answered "A little." Jonah headed a yeshivah in Safed for a time and also spent some time in Egypt and Constantinople. His signature occasionally appears (c. 1590) on letters sent from Safed to Worms. His fragmentary notes on Luria's Kabbalah (of 1586) are in an autograph in the Schocken collection. However, several years earlier, apparently in the 1570s, he had written a systematic treatise on his teacher's Kabbalah. In 1582 he himself copied this book, called Kanfei Yonah in the complete manuscripts, and dedicated it to one of the rich men of Constantinople. The bulk of this copy is preserved in Sassoon Ms. 993. This work is clear and well arranged and is superior in several respects to Vital's different editions of Eẓ Ḥayyim. Menahem Azariah da *Fano compiled extracts from this book in five parts, 1–4 (1785) and 5 (1899); manuscripts of the original book also circulated widely (Ms. Ben Zvi Institute, 2218). Jonah taught Jacob Schweinfurt, who brought some of his kabbalistic traditions to Germany in 1613. A summary of Jonah's major work in 13 chapters was printed under the title Sha'ar ha-Kelalim at the beginning of the published editions of Eẓ Ḥayyim. It is said in many manuscripts that this summary was written by three kabbalists: Moses *Najara, Jonah, and Joseph *Arzin.


Yaari, Sheluḥei, 153; Kaufmann, in: mgwj, 42 (1898), 96; M. Ḥagiz, Magen David of David b. Zimra (1713), preface; J. Hahn, Yosif Omeẓ (1928), 271.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.