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TOBIA BEN MOSES HA-ABEL (surnamed also Ha-'Obed = "the worshiper," Ha-Baḳi = "the erudite," Ha-Maskil = "the teacher," and Ha-Ma'tiḳ = "the translator"):

Epoch and Attainments.

Karaite scholar, Biblical commentator, liturgical poet, and translator; flourished at Constantinople in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Fürst ("Gesch. des Karäert." ii. 198 et seq.) conjectures Tobia's dates to have been about 1070 to 1140; but it will be seen later that he was born earlier (see also Steinschneider, "Hebr. Uebers." p. 457). Tobia's last three surnames indicate the range of his erudition and literary activity; indeed, his works themselves show his thorough knowledge of rabbinics, philosophy, and theology. He moreover went to Jerusalem, where he studied for some time under Jeshua b. Judah, and where he became acquainted with the Arabic writings of the latter as well as with those of Joseph b. Abraham ha-Ro'eh, afterward translating into Hebrew many of the works of both. In one of his books, entitled "Yehi Me'orot," Tobia declares that he was a propagandist of Karaism, owing to which he suffered many persecutions from his own family as well as from his opponents. But, he says, when one is fully convinced of the truth he must regard neither family nor his own life. It would thus appear that Tobia was of a Rabbinite family and that through studying Karaite works he became an adherent of Karaism, in consequence of which his family turned against him. Possibly the writings of no other scholar were the subject of so much dispute as those of Tobia ben Moses. The following is a list of them as may be gathered from various sources:


(1) "Yehi Me'orot," a work on the commandments, so called after the opening sentence; it is called also "Sefer ha-Miẓwot." Firkovich ascribed it to Judah Hadassi; but Aaron b. Joseph inhis "Mibḥar" (on Emor) and Elijah Bashyaẓi in his "Adderet Eliyahu" clearly show Tobia to have been its author. The earliest Rabbinite authority quoted therein is Hai b. David, whose anti-Karaite work with regard to the Rabbinite calendar is repeated; then comes Saadia, many of whose anti-Karaite passages are repeated and refuted; and of Saadia's successors may be mentioned Tobiah b. Eliezer ("Leḳaḥ Ṭob"). It may be concluded from the latter's work that Tobia wrote the "Yehi Me'orot" not earlier than 1100. (2) "Zot ha-Torah," commentary on the Pentateuch, a manuscript of which was found in the library of Eupatoria (Kozlov), but was lost during the Crimean war of 1853-56.

Another important work by Tobia was (3) "Oẓar Neḥmad," described by Simḥah Luzki ("Oraḥ Ẓaddiḳim," p. 22b) as in two parts, the first treating of lawful and forbidden foods, and the second of the laws regarding cleanness and uncleanness. In reality this work deals with all the laws contained in Leviticus, as appears from Bashyaẓi (l.c. pp. 41d, 43b). The author quotes all the Karaite Biblical commentators; and he particularly refutes the doctrines of Meshwi al-'Ukbari, or Moses of Baalbek, whom he declares to have embraced Christianity toward the end of his life. The main authority upon whom the work is based is David b. Boaz ha-Nasi. Besides Simḥah Luzki (l.c.), who asserts that the "Oẓar Neḥmad" was the work of Tobia, Delmedigo ("Nobelot Ḥokmah," p. 56a, Basel, 1631) and Aaron b. Joseph (in his "Sefer ha-Miẓwot," quoted by Mordecai b. Nissan in his "Dod Mordekai") ascribe it to him. Pinsker ("Liḳḳuṭe Ḳadmoniyyot," Appendix, pp. 93-94), however, thinks that the work belongs to Jeshua b. Judah, as is indicated by Bashyaẓi. (l.c.), and that as Tobia translated this work from Arabic into Hebrew, Luzki mistook him for its author. It must be said, however, that Luzki distinguishes between the "Oẓar Neḥmad" of Tobia and Jeshua's work which bears the same title and which was actually translated by Tobia.

Other works by Tobia were: (4) "Teshubat ha-'lḳḳar" (Eupatoria, 1834), which, according to Fürst (l.c.), is a compendium of Jeshua's "Kitab al-'Arayot" (but see Steinschneider, l.c. p. 943). In the introduction the author speaks of the four kinds of intellect ("da'at"), termed in Hebrew "sekel," "Ḥokmah," "tushiyyah," and "binah"; he then gives the rules for exegesis, the thirteen hermeneutic rules ("middot") of R. Ishmael, and the twelve of the Greeks. (5) Religio-philosophical questions ("she'elot") addressed to his teacher Jeshua b. Judah in Jerusalem (see Judah Hadassi, "Eshkol ha-Kofer," p. 76a). (6) Addition ("tosafah") to Joseph ha-Ro'eh's "Kitab al-Manṣuri," which he translated into Hebrew under the title "Maḥkimat Peti."


Tobia's surname "Ha-Ma'tiḳ" shows his great activity in translating. Steinschneider (l.c. p. 457) supposes that this activity began about the middle of the eleventh century; Tobia would then be the first known translator from Arabic into Hebrew. Fürst enumerates the following thirteen works of Joseph ha-Ro'eh and five of Jeshua b. Judah which were translated by Tobia: (1) "Kitab al-Ṣiḥḥah"; (2) "Kitab al-Shira'"; (3) "Kitab al-'Arayot"; (4) "Kitab al-Tauḥid," which Steinschneider supposes to be a mistake for "al-Tamyiz"; (5) "Kitab al-Siraj" under the Hebrew title "Sefer ha-Ma'or" or "Sefer ha-Me'orot" or "Sefer ha-Urim"; (6) a work on "Abib" written against Saadia; (7) one on feasts under the Hebrew title "Sefer ha-Mo'adim"; (8) "Kitab al-Manṣuri" under the Hebrew title "Maḥkimat Peti" (see above); (9) "Kitab al-Rudd 'Ala Abi Ghalib Thabit"; (10) "Aḥwal al-Fa'il"; (11) "Ẓidduḳ ha-Din"; (12) "Al-Muḥtawi," in Hebrew "Sefer ha-Ne'imot" or "Zikron ha-Datot"; (13) "Masa'il wa-Jawa'ib," in Hebrew "She'elot u-Teshubot." Jeshua's works translated by Tobia were: (1) the first part of his religious philosophy, under the Hebrew title "Marpe la-'Eẓem"; (2) "Meshibat Nefesh"; (3) "Oẓar Neḥmad"; (4) a work on speculation under the Hebrew title "Sefer ha-Ra'yon"; (5) Jeshua's completion of Joseph's "Al-Muḥtawi." Fürst, however, omits mention of (6) Jeshua's commentary on the Decalogue translated by Tobia under the title "Pitron 'Aseret ha-Debarim" (see P. Frankl in "Monatsschrift," xxix. 472).

The "Ḥazanya" (old Karaite ritual) contains two piyyuṭim by Tobia: one beginning "Elohenu mi-kol ummah ahabtanu," arranged in alphabetical order, and signed "Tobia b. Moses Ḥazaḳ"; the other beginning "Esh'alah me-El," and being an acrostic on "Tobia b. Moses ha-'Obed." The "Siddur ha-Ḳara'im" (iv. 88) also contains a piyyuṭ by Tobia. It may be added that Firkovich, in a note to Gottlober's "Biḳḳoret le-Toledot ha-Ḳara'im" (p. 169), distinguishes between Tobia ha-Baḳi, the author of "Zot ha-Torah" and of a metrical piyyuṭ beginning "Ṭahor'en sefatai tiftaḥ," and Tobia ha-'Obed, the former having lived about a century earlier than the latter. Firkovich thinks that Tobia ha-'Obed was a descendant of Tobia ha-Baḳi and was the author of "Zot ha-Ḥayyah," a work on clean and unclean animals. Still, Firkovich, in a letter to Pinsker ("Liḳḳuṭe Ḳadmoniyyot," Appendix, p. 94, note 1), contradicts himself in this matter.

  • Fürst, Gesch. des Karäert. ii. 198-207;
  • Gottlober, Biḳḳoret le-Toledot ha-Ḳara'im, pp. 169-170;
  • S. Pinsker, Liḳḳuṭe Ḳadmoniyyot, p. 219, Appendix, pp. 93 et seq., 139;
  • Steinschneider, Hebr. Uebers. pp. 154 et seq., 940 et seq.
E. C. M. Sel.
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