LABI, SIMEON (16th century), Moroccan kabbalist of Spanish origin. He grew up in *Fez. In 1549, on his way to Ereẓ Israel, he reached *Tripoli in North Africa where, finding the Jewish community completely ignorant of Torah, he stayed as a teacher. The Jews of Tripoli always considered him as their greatest scholar. According to a tradition of Spanish kabbalists, Labi wrote in the middle of the 16th century a detailed commentary to the *Zohar on Genesis and Exodus. Only the commentary Ketem Paz on Zohar Genesis was published (Leghorn, 1795). It includes, at the end, several of Labi's piyyutim. His poem "Bar Yoḥai Nimshaḥta Ashrekha" in honor of *Simeon b. Yoḥai the alleged author of the Zohar has become the most popular kabbalistic poem and is still sung by Oriental Jews on the Sabbath eve and on *Lag ba-Omer, at the tomb of Bar Yoḥai in Meron, in Galilee. Many kabbalists imitated this song, which was also adopted by the Ḥasidim. For the Tripoli community, Labi also wrote "Seder Tikkunei Kallah" for Shavuot eve (Venice, 1680). His "Be'ur Millot Zarot she-be-Sefer ha-Zohar" was published in the collection Yad Ne'man of Abraham Miranda (Salonika, 1804). Labi's commentary on the Zohar was taken to Venice by Joseph *Ḥamiẓ and was the basis for Ḥamiẓ' own book on the Zohar Yodei Binah (Venice, 1663). According to Malkhei Rabbanan, Labi died in 1585, but Abraham Ḥalfon, one of the scholars of Tripoli, dates his death at 1580 (Ma'asei Ẓaddikim, manuscript in the Ben-Zvi Institute, 1807, fol. 9b).
Azulai, 1 (1852), 179 no. 166; Davidson, Oẓar, 2 (1929), 58, no. 1340; S. Seeligman, Catalog… N.H. Van Biema (1904), 3027; G. Scholem, Kitvei Yad ba-Kabbalah (1930), 151; Y. Ben-Naim, Malkhei Rabbanan (1931), 126a.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.