Shem Tov ben Abraham ibn Gaon

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Shem Tov ben Abraham ibn Gaon (1283-ca. 1330) (Hebrew: שם טוב בן אברהם אבן גאון) was a Spanish Talmudist and kabbalist.

Biography[edit]

Shem-Ṭob was born at Soria, Spain. From his genealogy given in the preface to his Keter Shem-Ṭob, Azulai (Shem ha-Gedolim, ii., s.v. Keter Shem-Ṭob) concluded that "Gaon" must have been the proper name of one of Shem-Ṭob's ancestors. Zunz (in his Zeitschrift für die Wissenschaft des Judenthums, p. 137) and Geiger (Jüd. Zeit. v. 397), however, suppose "Gaon" to be the Hebrew transliteration of "Jaén", indicating that Shem-Ṭob's family originally came from that Spanish city. After he had studied Talmud under Solomon ben Adret and Kabbala under Isaac ben Todros (RIBaṬ, which is the abbreviation, David Conforte declares in his Ḳore ha-Dorot, p. 24b, of "R. Joseph b. Tobiah"), Shem-Ṭob betook himself to Palestine in the hope of finding in the Holy Land a more suitable place for kabbalistic meditation. He sojourned for some time in Jerusalem, and then settled at Safed.

Works[edit]

At Safed Shem-Ṭob wrote the following works, of which only the first two have been published:

  • Migdal 'Oz, a commentary on Maimonides' Yad; in this he defends Maimonides against the strictures of Abraham ben David. The part covering the first volume of the Yad was printed with the text at Constantinople in 1509; and parts of other volumes, also with the text, at Venice in 1524. Certain rabbis, Gedaliah ibn Yaḥya (Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah, p. 45b, Amsterdam, 1697) among them, ascribe the Migdal 'Oz to Yom-Ṭob ben Abraham (RIṬBA).
  • Keter Shem-Ṭob (Leghorn, 1839).
  • Badde ha-Aron u-Migdal Ḥanan'el, a kabbalistic work in five parts, finished in the month of Iyyar, 1325, and named by Shem-Ṭob after his traveling companion, Hananeel b. Azkara, who died before reaching his destination.
  • 'Supercommentary on Abulafia's Ginnat Bitan, a kabalistic commentary on Genesis.
  • Commentary on Saadia Bekor Shor's cabalistic poem, which he quotes in his Badde haAron.
  • Sefer, ha-Pe'er, kabalistic treatise on phylacteries. De Rossi (Parma MS. No. 68, 8) declares the author's name to be doubtful, since the manuscript is anonymous; but Assemani (Catalogue of Hebrew MSS. in the Vatican Library, No. 235) concludes that its author was Shem-Ṭob of Soria.
  • Zibḥe Ẓedeḳ and Rosh ha-Shalishim, mentioned in the Badde ha-Aron, while in his Keter Shem-Ṭob (section "Yesode ha-Torah", ch. i.) Shem-Ṭob speaks in general terms of his "other works."

Keter Shem-Ṭob[edit]

The Keter-Shem-Ṭob is a supercommentary on and continuation of Nahmanides' commentary (particularly on the kabalistic part) on the Pentateuch, from whose interpretations those of Shem-Ṭob differ in many places. Shem-Ṭob says in his preface that at first he had entitled his work "Sitre Setarim", and that he then revised it and gave it the title "Keter Shem-Ṭob", the work having been completed at Safed in 1315. Isaac ben Samuel of Acre, in his Me'irat 'Enayim, violently attacks the Keter Shem-Ṭob, saying that most of the author's theories are not those of the older cabalists, but are simply his own inventions. This work is printed at the end of Judah Koriat's Ma'or wa-Shemesh (Leghorn, 1839), where it is entitled Perush Sodot ha-Torah; and the preface has been published in Jehiel Ashkenazi's Hekal Adonai (Venice, n.d.) under the title Perush Liḳḳuṭim.

In a manuscript containing piyyuṭim of various liturgists there is one written by a Shem-Ṭob b. Abraham, whom L. Dukes (Orient, Lit. vi. 147 et seq.) supposes to be identical with the subject of this article. But Dukes seems to have distinguished between Shem-Ṭob b. Abraham and Shem-Ṭob of Soria, the author of the Sefer ha-Pe'er. On the other hand, Conforte (l.c.) confusing Shem-Ṭob b. Abraham with Shem-Ṭob Ardotial, wrongly ascribes to the former the "widdui" (confession) recited on Yom Kippur in the Musaf prayer.

The following works are erroneously attributed to Shem-Ṭob b. Abraham ibn Gaon by Wolf (Bibl. Hebr. iii., No. 2152) and by other bibliographers: Keter Shem-Ṭob (Venice, 1601), a collection of sermons, and Ma'amar Mordekai (Constantinople, 1585), a commentary on Book of Esther, the author of both works being Shem-Ṭob Melammed; also a kabalistic treatise by an unknown author on the crowns ("taggin") of the letters.

Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography[edit]