Shalom Shabazi

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Rabbi Shalom ben Yosef Shabazi of the family of Mashtā (1619 – ca. 1720), also Abba Sholem Shabbezi or Salim al-Shabazi (Hebrew: שלום שבזי‎, Arabic: سالم الشبزي‎) was one of the greatest Jewish poets of all time who lived in 17th century Yemen and now considered the 'Poet of Yemen'.

Life & Works[edit]

Shabazi was born in 1619 in the town of al-Ṣaʻīd. His family's pedigree has been traced back to Zeraḥ, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob who is called Israel.[1] At the death of his father, Yosef Mashta, Shalom moved to the small town of Shabbez, near the city of Ta'izz. Not long thereafter, he again moved and settled in Ta'izz where he built a house of prayer and a ritual bath (mikveh) outside of the city, beneath Jebel Ṣabir.[2] It was from here that he and his family were expelled, along with most of the Yemenite Jews in 1679. He died in ca. 1720. His father, Yosef ben Abijad ben Khalfun, was also a Rabbi and a poet. Shabazi's extant poetic diwan, comprising some 550 poems, was published for the first time by the Ben-Zvi Institute in 1977. He wrote in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Judeo-Arabic. Shabazi's other works include a treatise on astrology and a cabbalistic commentary on the Torah. Shabazi's grave in Ta'izz is revered by Jews and Muslims alike. He is now considered by Academics as the 'Shakespeare of Yemen'.

He wrote a commentary on the Torah called Hemdath Yamim (Pleasant Days). His leadership was instrumental in helping the Jews of Yemen survive some of the worst persecution in its history. Mori (Yemenites often call their spiritual leaders "Mori" meaning "my master" or "my teacher"). Shabazi wrote a kinah (lamentation) for recitation during the Ninth of Av, recalling the terrible exile of Jews in his lifetime (known as the Exile of Mawza) from all cities and towns in Yemen to an inhospitable desert called Mawza, during which time the Jews were banished there a full 20% of their number perished. The Diwan of Mori Shabazi alludes not only to that dreadful event in 1679, but also to the Decree of the Headgear in 1667.[3] Shabazi's Diwan has become an essential part of Yemenite Jewry's spiritual and cultural lives.

According to Professor emeritus, Yosef Tobi, "the fundamental revolutionary change in the poetry of Yemen occurred with the work of Yosef ben Yisrael (17th century), when poetry became the primary tool for spiritual expression of Yemenite Jewry, and when the subject of exile and redemption took on vitality and had the most concrete political significance. Even more so, we find this change in the poetry of his younger relative, Shalom Shabazī."[4] In Shabazi's Diwan there can be found many long eschatological poems, numbered at several dozen, and which open with the words, Baraq burayq, or with compounds that are similar to these, said to be a sign of some supernatural occurrence, as one of the signs heralding the coming of the Messiah. The founder of these genres of poetic visions of redemption is Yosef ben Yisrael, in whose footsteps followed many poets, including Shabazī who is said to have refined it. An example of Shabazi's sublime poetic style is seen in the following lyric, although the rhyme has been lost in the translation:

אם תחפצה בן איש לסודות נבחרו, תקנה לך חבר ורעים יקרו, בעבור יחי לבך ותשמח נפשך שכל והנפש בטוב יתחברו. ולבש ענוה מימי בחרותך ומאס עצת ריקים אשר יתהרו.

“If you will search, O son of man, after the choicest of all secrets, you will find that nothing surpasses that of your gaining a companion, and your endearing unto yourself friends. Such an accomplishment brings with it a quickening of heart, and gives you a real cause for rejoicing within soul. Sagacity and the elevation of the inner soul will both, on its account, be indelibly bound together for good. Moreover, put on the fine attire of humility, even from the earliest days of your youth, and reject the counsel of vain persons who have vaunted themselves.”[6][a]

 —Shalom Shabazi, 17th century

Mori Shalom Shabazi is said to have written nearly 15,000 liturgical poems on nearly all topics in Judaism, of which only about 800 have survived the ravages of persecution, time and the lack of printing presses in Yemen. He wrote his Diwan (Anthology of liturgical poetry) in Judeo-Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic. When rumors reached Yemen concerning Shabbetai Zevi in 1666, many of the Jews of Yemen were drawn after him, including Shabazī himself, even though the rabbinic court at Ṣanʻā’ had completely rejected the faith in this pseudo-Messiah. In Shabazi's poem, Adon ha-kol meḥayye kol neshama, he alludes to Shabbetai Zevi in these words: "We have heard singing from the end of the earth: / A righteous gazelle has appeared in the East and West." The “righteous gazelle” (in original Hebrew: zevi ṣaddīq) is an allusion to Shabbetai Zevi. Mori Shalom Shabazi is also said to have composed several poems concerning the Exile of Mawza (Galut Mawza), which he witnessed in his day.

Currently, the Israeli government and the Chief Rabbinate are trying to bring the remains of Rabbi Shabazi to Israel[8] Many of his poems have elaborate detailed premonitions of returning to Israel, with his people.

Shabazi in Popular Culture[edit]

Shabazi's poem "Im Nin'alu" (אם ננעלו) became a hit single sung by Israeli singer Ofra Haza, whose family is of Yemenite origin, and has also been interpreted by Yemenite singer Daklon. Other songs, such as "As'alk" (أسألك), were also performed by Ofra Haza as well as Zion Golan, Aharon Amram and Shoshana Damari. Another famous poem, "Ahavat Ra'aya Retzoni", was performed by Zohar Argov. The Israeli metal band, Orphaned Land sings one of his poems in their song "Olat Ha'tamid". There is also a small street named after him in the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem.

The SONGS of SHABAZI -- A collection of abstracts

זוהר פני רעיה. לבי בסוד החיה. יום הנדוֹד
אוזל חמד קריה. אוהל לתושיה. נבחר לדוֹד
ואני בתוך שביה. חשקי רְאוֹת צביה. לה אחמוֹד

“A radiant light is the face of my companion.
My heart by [the words of] the Law he has quickened,
On [this sullen] day of wandering.

Uzal[b] is a delightful city!
A tent of sound-wisdom.
'Twas chosen for my beloved!

But I am in the midst of captivity.
My desire is to see the gazelle,[c]
[Nay], I shall ever covet her!”[d]


זאת הישיבה. המה באוזל מטיבה. שוהם וספיר ואחלמה

“This seat [of Jewish learning]; They are in Uzal,[b] working good; The onyx,[e] sapphire and garnet.”[f]


שמעתי חכמת בני אוזל
ואני בין אויבי נגזל
יקר כספי חשך ונתפרזל

“I have heard the wisdom of the sons of Uzal.[b]
Yet, I am taken away by force amongst mine enemies.
My precious silver has turned dim, [nay], has become like unto iron!”[g]

יא משתּאק לאלעלם ואלחכּמה
זור צנעא. חית פאצ'ת אלנעמה
פיהא אֲחבאר. תּפתּיךּ בכֻּל כּלמה

“O, he who would long for knowledge and wisdom, go visit San'a, for there [you will find] an endowment of happiness. Therein are wise men capable of answering your every question.”[h]


  1. ^ From the liturgical poem, Im Teḥpaṣah.[7]
  2. ^ a b c The old appellation given for the city Sana'a, and used frequently in the poetry of the Jews of Yemen.
  3. ^ A metaphor for the land of Israel; compare Ezekiel 20:15, which says: "…She is the gazelle of all lands," but which has been improperly translated in some English editions as, "glory of all lands."
  4. ^ Written by Mori Shalom Shabazi in the 17th century. These stanzas were taken from the song, אהבת צבי ברח.
  5. ^ The Hebrew word used here is שוהם, which Rabbi Saadia Gaon in his Judeo-Arabic translation of the Pentateuch translates as בלור, meaning the precious stone, "chrysoberyl," which is also called "cat's eye." It was the stone traditionally associated with Joseph. These precious and semi-precious stones allude to the tribes of Israel, namely, the tribe of Joseph, of Issachar and of Naphtali, respectively. Cf. Numbers Rabba 2:7.
  6. ^ From the song, יא טאיר אלבאן.
  7. ^ Taken from the song, אהבת דוד עזי.
  8. ^ Mori Shalom Shabazi. Taken from the song, אהבת דוד חפצי.


  1. ^ Avraham al-Nadaf, Hoveret (Composition), Jerusalem 1928 , p. 1; reprinted in Zekhor Le'Avraham, Jerusalem 1992, p. 1 of Part II (Hebrew); includes the author's note, where he adds concerning Shabazi's lineage: "Thus did R. Yefeth b. Saʻadia Sharʻabi tell me, may G-d keep him, who saw the said genealogy in a certain book belonging to our Rabbi Sholem in his house of study in the town of Taʻiz."
  2. ^ Avraham al-Nadaf, History of Rabbi Shalom ben Yosef al-Shabazi, of Blessed Memory (pub. in Zekhor Le'Avraham), Jerusalem 1992, p. 3 of Part II
  3. ^ Yosef Tobi, Politics and Poetry in the Works of Shalom Shabazi. In the poem, Be-hatkaz gazeru ʻal ha-ʻaṭarot, Shabazi writes: "In the year 5467 (of the Creation=1667 CE), the sons of the handmaid made a decree over the headgear (Heb. ʻAṭarot), so as to humiliate my elders."
  4. ^ Yosef Tobi, Politics and Poetry in the Works of Shalom Shabazi, Department of Hebrew & Comparative Literature, University of Haifa (Israel); Published online by Routledge, 14 Apr 2014, p. 5
  5. ^ Shabazi, Shalom. "Diwan Shirei Rabbi Shalom Shabazi". Y. Hasid, Jerusalem 1980 (Hebrew). 
  6. ^ Shabazi, Yemen 17th century.
  7. ^ Diwān Efteḥah Shīr, Benei Barak 1999, pp. 34-36.
  8. ^ "Rabbi Shabazi's bones to be buried in Israel?". Retrieved 2013-07-19. 

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