At first rabbi and chief of the yeshivah at Thessaloniki, he later filled the same offices at İzmir, where at the beginning he shared the rabbinate with Joshua Ashkenazi Azariah. When differences of opinion arose between them in regard to matters of ritual, they appealed to the rabbis of Thessaloniki for arbitration. After his colleague's death, Escapa remained sole rabbi of İzmir until the end of his life. David Conforte says he saw Escapa when the latter was about one hundred years old.
Escapa was especially known for having been the teacher of Shabbetai Tzvi and for having afterward excommunicated him. Escapa wrote an important work called Rosh Yosef, a detailed commentary and novellæ on the Arbah Turim of Rabbi Jacob ben Asher. Part one, which has been published, contains a portion of the Ṭur Oraḥ Ḥayyim (İzmir, 1658); part two, on Ḥoshen Mishpaṭ, has been published up to ch. 76 (İzmir, 1659). He also wrote responsa; some were published under the title of Teshubot Rosh Yosef (Frankfort-on-the-Oder, 1709).
Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography
- Azulai, Shem ha-Gedolim, i.76;
- David Conforte, Kore ha-Dorot, ed. Cassel, p. 46a, Berlin, 1846;
- Moritz Steinschneider, Jewish Literature, p. 216;
- idem, Cat. Bodl. col. 1458;
- Joseph Zedner, Cat. Hebr. Books Brit. Mus. p. 350;
- Heinrich Grätz, Gesch. 3d ed., x.187, 190.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Escapa, Joseph ben Saul". Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.
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