Moses de León

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Statue of Moshe in Guadalajara, Spain.
Title page of first edition of the Zohar, Mantua, 1558. Library of Congress.

Moses de León (c. 1240 – 1305), known in Hebrew as Moshe ben Shem-Tov (משה בן שם-טוב די-ליאון‎), was a Spanish rabbi and Kabbalist who first publicized the Zohar. Modern scholars believe the Zohar is his own work, despite his claim that he took traditions going back to Shimon bar Yohai and committed them to writing. His other works include Sefer ha-Rimon, written in Hebrew, and hundreds of pseudepigraphic responsa, commentaries, and Kabbalistic tracts which he falsely attributed to earlier authorities.[1]


Moses de León was born in León, Kingdom of León in modern day Spain, then united with the Crown of Castile.[2] He might have been born in Guadalajara and his surname, then, comes from his father, Shem-Tov de León. He spent 30 years in Guadalajara and Valladolid before moving to Ávila, where he spent the rest of his life. Moses de León died at Arévalo in 1305 while returning to his home.


  1. ^ See Elliot R. Wolfson, “Hai Gaon’s Letter and Commentary on Aleynu: Further Evidence of Moses de León’s Pseudepigraphic Activity,” JQR 81 (1991), pp. 365-409 and the sources he cites; also the sources cited by Shmuel Glick, Eshnav le-Sifrut ha-Teshuvot (New York, 2012), pp. 237-238.
  2. ^ The Jewish Encyclopedia