Gedaliah ibn Yahya ben Joseph

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Gedaliah (Eanes/Ben Yohanan) ibn Yahya ben Joseph (c. 1526 – c. 1587) (Hebrew: גדליה בן יוסף אבן יחייא) was a talmudist born at Imola, Italy. He studied in the yeshibah at Ferrara under Jacob Finzi and Abraham Rovigo and Israel Rovigo. In 1549 he settled in Rovigo, where he remained until 1562, in which year the burning of the Talmud took place in Italy. He then went to Codiniola, and three years later to Salonica, whence he returned in 1567 to his native town. Expelled with other Jews by Pope Pius V, and suffering a loss of 10,000 gold pieces, he went to Pesaro, and thence to Ferrara, where he remained till 1575. During the ensuing eight years he led a wandering life, and finally settled in Alexandria, which is probably where he died in 1587.

His chief work was the Sefer Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah, called also Sefer Yaḥya, on which he labored for more than forty years. This work is not without defects, having suffered either by reason of the author's itinerant mode of life or through faulty copying of the original manuscript. Its contents are as follows:

  • History and genealogy of the Jews from the time of Moses until that of Moses Norzi (1587)
  • Account of the heavenly bodies, Creation, the soul, magic, and evil spirits
  • History of the peoples among which the Jews have dwelt, and a description of the unhappy fate of the author's coreligionists up to his time.

The value of this work is, however, lessened considerably by the facts that the writer has included many oral narratives which he gathered partly in his home, partly in Salonica and Alexandria, and that he often lacks the ability to distinguish truth from fiction. For these reasons the book has been called "The Chain of Lies"; but Loeb has proved that it is more accurate than many have supposed it to be. The Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah was published at Venice, 1587; Cracow, 1596; Amsterdam, 1697; Zolkiev, 1802, 1804; Polonnoye, 1814; and Lemberg, 1862.

Gedaliah was the alleged author of twenty-one other works, which he enumerates at the end of his Shalshelet, and which are mentioned also in Benjacob's Oẓar ha-Sefarim (pp. 590–591).

Members of the Charlap family claim to be descended from Gedaliah, and through him, to the Exilarchs of Babylonia who claimed descent from King David.

Well-known descendants include:

References[edit]