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AL-TABBAN, LEVI B. JACOB IBN, with the Arabic surname Abu l'Fihm:

Grammarian and poet, flourished at Saragossa in the beginning of the twelfth century. He was the friend and elder contemporary of Judah ha-Levi, who probably was governed more by affection than by critical judgment, when he styled Al-Tabban "King of Song." Al-Ḥarizi's opinion of his poetic talent was not so high, for, in his enumeration of contemporary poets, he refers to "Levi and Jacob [which, as it has been suggested, may be a corruption of Levi ben Jacob] ibn Tabban" as verse-makers who "thresh poetry like straw" (compare "TaḦkemoni," chap. iii.). He is also alluded to by Abraham ibn Ezra in the preface to "Moznayim." He was the author of a grammatical work in Arabic, called "MiftaḦ" (The Key), of which only the title has been preserved. Of his liturgic poems a number are extant in the festival liturgies of Tripoli, Avignon, and Algeria, and can usually be easily identified by his customary acrostic, or . The spirit of melancholy which pervades his penitential poem in the Tripoli prayer-book (p. 63a), "To you, O men, I call," as well as the dirge-like recital of abuse and misery which it contains, shows the poem to have been produced in an age of persecution and tyranny practised against the Jews. To such circumstances point also others of his literary products, which are marked by distress and gloom. No doubt the allusions in them all are to the devastation of the province of Saragossa carried on by the Christians under Alfonso VI., whose triumphant advance Yusuf ibn Tashfin was called from Africa to check.

Bibliography:
  • Sachs, Die Religiōse Poesie der Juden in Spanien, p. 290; Blumenfeld, Oẓar NeḦmad, ii. 81 et seq.; Edelmann and Dukes, Treasures of Oxford, p. 23, London, 1850;
  • Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. col. 1616; idem, in Jew. Quart. Rev., xi. 621, translates the name Al-Tabban as "straw-merchant";
  • Zunz, Literaturgesch. pp. 217 et seq.;
  • Grätz, Gesch. d. Juden, 2d ed., vi. 120;
  • Bacher, Abraham ibn Esra als Grammatiker, p. 187;
  • Kokowzoff, Kitâb-al Muwâzana, p. 8, St. Petersburg, 1893;
  • Steinschneider, Jewish Literature (1857);
  • Berliner's Magazin, iv. 103;
  • Michael, Or ha-Ḥayyim, No. 46;
  • Fürst, Bibl. Jud. ii. 289, note to Sol. Franco.
H. G. E.
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