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Kara (Cara) Avigdor ben Isaac

KARA (Cara), AVIGDOR BEN ISAAC (d. 1439), rabbi, kabbalist, and poet. Kara was of German origin. It is uncertain whether the name Kara indicates, as some think, that he was a descendant of Joseph *Kara, or whether it is a reference to his expert knowledge of Scripture (Mikra). His father, Isaac Kara, met a martyr's death. About 1389 Kara was appointed dayyan in Prague. He and Yom Tov Lipmann *Muelhausen were among the most important rabbis of Prague of the age. Kara is the author of the elegy Et Kol ha-Tela'ah asher Meẓa'atnu to commemorate the sufferings which overtook the Jews of Prague on the last day of Passover 1389, as a result of an accusation that they had desecrated the Host. This elegy is recited by the Jews of Prague during the Minḥah service on the Day of Atonement. Like his colleague Yom Tov Lipmann Muelhausen he became famous for his polemics with Christians. According to the tradition of Jacob *Moellin, which is not to be accepted as true, he was a favorite of Wenceslaus IV, king of Bohemia, and played an important role in his court. It may be assumed, however, that he had discussions with high Christian dignitaries on theological matters, and it appears that John Huss and his colleagues and disciples were influenced in no small degree by his views. The Hussite sect, founded by Huss, opposed the authority of the Church and many of its principles. Probably due to this the Jews were persecuted by the Catholics in the war that broke out between the Hussites and Catholics. Huss even made use of a poem by Kara on the unity of God, beginning Eḥad Yaḥid u-Meyuḥad, which has been published in the Birkat ha-Mazon (Amsterdam, 1722).

Kara was also known as a kabbalist, and was one of the first to cause the spread of the Spanish and German Kabbalah in his land. Moses *Cordovero and Menahem Azariah da *Fano wrongly attributed to him the authorship of *Kanah, a kabbalistic work on the reasons for the precepts, and Peli'ah, a commentary on the first six chapters of Genesis. His kabbalistic compositions are still in manuscript, including: Kodesh Hillulim, a kabbalistic commentary on Psalm 150; and a biblical commentary based on gematriot. He appears also to have composed the kabbalistic work Sefer ha-Emet. He was known as a paytan and some of his piyyutim have been published in various places while others are still in manuscript. Some of his responsa have also been preserved. MENAHEM BEN JACOB KARA, who wrote commentaries on various philosophical works, including Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed, may have been his half brother. He is regarded as the originator of the movement whose aim was to find common ground between the Kabbalah of Eastern Europe and the doctrines of the Spanish scholars, particularly Maimonides. *Abraham b. Avigdor, a 16th-century rabbi of Prague, was his descendant.


Scholem, Mysticism, 371, 400; A. Marcus, Der Chassidismus (1901), 244–61; Horodezky, in: Ha-Tekufah, 10 (1921), 283–329; J. Kaufmann, R. Yom Tov Lipmann Muehlhausen (Heb., 1927), 10–12; Kestenberg, in: JGGJČ, 8 (1936), 1–25; Luzzatto, in: G. Polack (ed.), Halikhot Kedem (1847), 79ff.; Graetz-Rabbinowitz, 6 (1898), 58, 75, 139; S. Bernfeld, Sefer ha-Dema'ot, 2 (1924), 159–64; Davidson, Oẓar, 4 (1933), 347; Kamelhar, in: Sinai, 5 (1939), 122–48; Scholem, Shabbetai Ẓevi, 1 (1957), 93f.

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