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Maimonides, David ben Abraham

(280 words)

Author(s): Paul Fenton
David ben Abraham Maimonides (1222–1300) was the leader of Egyptian Jewry and a grandson of Moses Maimonides. Following the demise of his father in 1237, David was appointed head of Egyptian Jewry (Heb. nagid; Ar. raʾīs al-Yahūd) at a tender age. Deposed, possibly because of his youth, and restored in 1225, he remained in office for several decades. An able communal leader and scholar, possibly also a physician, he was reputedly the author of a collection of Judeo-Arabic sermons on the weekly portions of the Torah, as well as a Ju…

Ibn Malka, Judah ben Nissim

(328 words)

Author(s): Paul Fenton
Judah ben Nissim ibn Malkawas a thirteenth-century philosopher, kabbalist, and astrologer who lived in either Spain or Morocco. Little is known of his biography except that his father, Nissim, was supposed to have been a great kabbalist in Fez. One of the few authors to have written on the Kabbala in Arabic, Judah composed commentaries on two important texts of the esoteric tradition: a Judeo-Arabic commentary on the Pirqe de-Rabbi Eliezer, of which there exists a Hebrew abridgement and a Hebrew supercommentary by Isaac of Acre, and a Judeo-Arabic commentary on the Sefer Yeṣira (Book of…

Maimonides, Obadiah ben Abraham

(390 words)

Author(s): Paul Fenton
Obadiah ben Abraham Maimonides (1228–1265), one of the three known grandchildren of Moses Maimonides, was a pietistic mystic who lived in Cairo. Very little is known about him, the only substantial account having been written in the seventeenth century by the Egyptian Jewish chronicler Joseph Sambari. More is known about his elder brother David (1222–1300), who succeeded their father, Abraham, as head of Egyptian Jewry (Heb. nagid; Ar. raʾīs al-yahūd). Although mentioned together with David in a letter found in the Cairo Geniza as one of “the two great luminaries, the two ta…

Emsellem, Makhlūf ben Isaac

(313 words)

Author(s): Paul Fenton
Makhlūf ben Isaac Emsellem (1837–1928) was a North African kabbalist and alchemist. Of French nationality, he may have been born in Oran, but his family moved to Fez when he was a child, and except for a short period in Tangier, that is where he spent most of his life and was initiated into the Kabbala. Having taught himself the Arabic script at the age of fourteen, Emsellem began to read and collect Arabic works on alchemy and to associate with Muslim practitioners of the art, which was still much in vogue in Fez in his time. He acquired the necess…