Jacob Emden Ashkenasi

Jacob Emden Ashkenasi (shortened Jabez), a Jewish Rabbi of great distinction among the Hebrews of the last century was born at Amsterdam in 1696. He was the son of Chacham Zewi, another Rabbi of the celebrated Zewi family. Being banished from their homes, his father's family sought a refuge first in Poland, later in Moravia. Possessed of a considerable fortune, Jacob devoted most of his time to the study of the Jewish traditions. to the exclusion of all secular studies, which he considered likely to be derogatory to his firm belief in the authenticity of Rabbinical writings. Even the position of Rabbi, which was frequently offered him, he hesitated to accept, lest it should in the least interfere with his studies. But, once persuaded to assume the sacred duties at Emden, he was thereafter always called Jacob Emden, although in the official papers of the Danish government he is called Herschel. He soon returned to private life, and became a resident at Altona (about 1730), near Hamburg. But, if Jacob did not retain an official position in the synagogue, he certainly continued to work actively for the good of Israel; and as, by his zeal for the cause of the Jewish religion, he often censured, both by pen and tongue, those who departed from the old and wonted way, he thus made it possible for his adversaries, of whom, like his father, he had not a few, to stigmatize him as the Jewish "grand inquisitor," etc. If Jacob Emden ever deserved to be criticized for improper conduct, it is for his relation towards Rabbi Eibeschutz, who was his competitor for the rabbiship of the Altona, Hamburg, and Wandsbeck congregations, which Jacob did not care to fill, but which he would gladly have had the honor to decline., (Compare Grätz, 5, 397 sq.) Emden was especially severe against all the Cabalists, and many were the books that he issued to contradict their teachings. He even denied the authorship of some of the cabalistic writings; thus he pronounced the book Zohar to be a spurious production of his own century, etc. He placed himself in a very ridiculous light by a judgment which he gave on Jewish traditional law, upon which the advice of Moses Mendelssohn had also been obtained, and in which, differing from this great man; he addressed him more like a teacher than a pupil. Jacob Emden died in 1776. One of his pupils was the celebrated Samuel Dubno. His writings, according to his own statement, cover no less than 34 different works. The most important of them are his contributions to the history of the fanatics of the last century, known as the followers of Sabbatai Zewi (q.v.). They are, צבַי קצּוּר צַיצִת נוֹבֵל, taken from the celebrated polemical work by Jacob Sasportas, on the sad fate of Sabbatai Zewi (Amst. 1737, 4to): — סֵ8 הִשַּׁמּוֹשׁ, the most ably conducted polemic against Zoharites and Sabbatians, consisting of different brochures (Alton. 1758, 4to): — תּוֹרִת הִקַנָאוֹת, another collection against S. Zewi and his followers (Altona, 1752, 4to): — — תָּשׁוּבָה אִל אוֹדוֹת הִמַּינַין, on the Sabbatians who espoused the Christian faith (Altona 1757, 8vo). Of his other works, the most able are, perhaps, סֵדֶר עֲבוֹדָה, on the Temple service, the sacrifice, etc. (Altona, 1745-69, 8vo; extract by S. Deutsch, Presb. 1835, 8vo): — עִמּגדֵי שָׁמִיַם, first part of a great work on the Jewish ritual (Altona, 1745, 8vo, and often): עֵוֹ אָבוֹת the Mishnic tract Aboth, with commentaries by celebrated Jewish savans, etc. (Amst. 1751, 4to); etc. See Grätz, Gesch. d. Juden, x (Index); Jost, Gesch. d. Judenthums, 3:194, 252, 308; First, Biblioth. Jud. 1, 241 sq. (contains a list of all his writings); Samuel Dubno, יָחַיד אֵבֶל (Berl. 1776,8vo); Furst, Jacob Ernden in the Lib. d. Or., 1846, c. 442. SEE LUZATO; SEE JEWS (MODERN). (J.H.W.)

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