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Taku, Moses ben Ḥisdai

TAKU, MOSES BEN ḤISDAI (13th century), tosafist, commentator on piyyutim, and author of the polemical treatise, Ketav Tammim. Taku probably wrote in the fourth and fifth decades of the 13th century. The surname "Taku" has not been explained satisfactorily; it may be derived from the town Dachau; or it may be assumed that it comes from Tachov (Tachau) in Bohemia, but neither conjecture has been proved. There have been some doubts whether the same Moses b. Ḥisdai wrote all the halakhic, exegetical, and polemical works ascribed to him. It has been suggested that there was more than one writer of this name in the 13th century. However, comparison of the quotations from his writings in the Arugat ha-Bosem of *Abraham b. Azriel prove conclusively that the writer in the three fields of scholarship is the same person. Only one fragment of Ketav Tammim has survived, the end of the second part of the work and the beginning of the third. Quotations from the book are also found in Ashkenazi literature of the 13th century. Taku's polemic is unique in medieval European Hebrew literature. He fiercely opposed any innovation in the realm of beliefs and theology, rejecting both philosophy and the esoteric doctrines of the Ḥasidei Ashkenaz, and stated his unqualified acceptance of talmudic tradition at its face value. The main target of his attack was *Saadiah Gaon. He quoted extensively from his Emunot ve-De'ot and from his commentary on *Sefer Yeẓirah, to prove the heresy inherent in the Saadianic doctrine of the revelation of the Divine Glory. Taku thought that Saadiah's teachings were the source of the doctrines of the Ashkenazi Ḥasidim, Abraham *Ibn Ezra, and *Maimonides, which include ideas which seem to him to threaten Orthodox belief – especially the doctrine of the immanence of God, which he understood to approach pagan pantheism. He mourns the new phenomenon of theological study in Judaism, and points at the catastrophic results for Judaism of previous theological inquiry – namely, Christianity and Karaism. His opposition to theological speculation caused him to suspect the authenticity of some parts of the traditional literature on the subject, mainly the *Shi'ur Komah and other early speculative and mystical works. He calls upon the reader to accept literally the main body of talmudic tradition, to believe in what is explicitly stated there, and to reject any speculation about what is not explicit. It is unknown whether Taku's polemical work had any direct results on Ashkenazi Jewry. However, it is very probable that his arguments reflect the attitude of a considerable segment of the Jewish people of the time, who took no part in the then current controversies.


R. Kirchheim, in: Oẓar Neḥmad, 3 (1860), 54–99; E.E. Urbach, in: Tarbiz, 10 (1938/39), 47–50; Urbach, Tosafot, 348–52 and passim; idem, in: Zion, 12 (1947), 150–4; idem, Arugat ha-Bosem, 4 (1963), 78–81, 177–9; Scholem, Mysticism, 109, 114; idem, in: Tarbiz, 28 (1959), 60; Y. Dan, in: Koveẓ al Yad, 6 pt. 1 (1966), 201–2; J.N. Epstein, in: REJ, 61 (1911), 60–70.

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