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YAḤYA:

Portuguese family of the Middle Ages, members of which were prominent in Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Turkey. Certain individuals of the family bore the additional cognomen "Negro," with reference to the Moors, from whom several of their estates had been obtained. The more prominent members of the family are as follows:

1. Yaḥya ibn Ya'ish ():

Flourished in Lisbon in the eleventh century; died about 1150. He was held in high esteem among the Jews, and King Alfonso I. honored him for his courage. After the conquest of Santarem the king presented him with two country houses that had belonged to the Moors, wherefore he assumed the name "Negro."

2. Joseph ibn Yaḥya ha-Zaḳen:

Grandson of Yaḥya ibn Ya'ish (No. 1); lived in Lisbon in the middle of the thirteenth century, and was so wealthy that he built a synagogue at his own expense. He was the author of a Talmudic commentary that is no longer extant.

3. Solomon ibn Yaḥya ha-Zaḳen:

Son of Joseph ibn Yaḥya (No. 2); died before 1300. He endeavored to check the growing love of luxury among his coreligionists, in order that they might not incur the hatred and envy of the Christians.

4. Gedaliah ibn Yaḥya ha-Zaḳen ben Solomon:

Body-physician to King Ferdinand until 1370, when he lost the favor of his master. He thereupon entered the service of Henry of Castile, who made him the head of the Jewish communities of his realm; and he enjoyed a yearly income of 5,000 gold ducats, which sum was levied as a tax. He died at a ripe age in Toledo.

5. Joseph ibn Yaḥya ben Solomon:

Brother of Gedaliah (No. 4); famous for his physical beauty and also for his poetic ability. He left Portugal with his brother and settled in Castile. He was the author of some liturgical poems, but they were destroyed in a conflagration. Joseph was a pupil of Solomon ben Adret, at whose death he wrote an elegy in so-called echo rime that has often been reprinted. He defrayed the cost of repairing a synagogue built in Calatayud by one of his ancestors, Aaron ibn Yaḥya.

6. David ibn Yaḥya Negro ben Gedaliah (ha-Rab shel Sefarad):

A prominent figure during the war between the kings of Castile and Portugal. By divulging a secret he succeeded in frustrating the plot of Queen Leonora to murder her son-in-law, and as a reward he was appointed chief rabbi of Castile, while King João of Portugal disposed of his estates in that country. At the time of his death, which occurred at Toledo in Oct.; 1385, he held the post of "almoxarife" for King Ferdinand of Castile. His tombstone has been preserved.

7. Judah ibn Yaḥya Negro ben David:

Born in Toledo in the middle of the fourteenth century. Together with his brother Solomon he emigrated to Portugal in the year of terror, 1391. Judah was employed for a long time in the service of Queen Philippa, the consort of João I., and he had also considerable influence with the king. When Vicente Ferrer asked permission to carry on a propaganda against the Jews in Portugal, the king, at the instigation of Judah, informed him (Ferrer) that his request would be granted on condition that he place a red-hot crown upon his head. Judah was one of the most prominent poets of his time, and wrote several elegies deploring the unhappy fate of his Spanish brethren. Among these poems may be mentioned: (1) an elegy beginning with the words and written in continuous rime; (2) one beginning with the words ; (3) an elegy on the persecutions of 1319 in Seville, Andalusia, Castile, Provence, and Aragon (printed in Landshuth's "'Ammude ha-'Abodah," p. 30); (4) three poems that have been printed in Carmoly's "Dibre ha-Yamim li-Bene Yaḥya," p. 12; (5) an elegy for the Ninth of Ab. He was also the author of responsa and of several piyyuṭim; among the latter are a hymn to be recited before the prayer , and another which appeared in "Sheḳel ha-Ḳodesh," pp. 67, 68.

8. Gedaliah ibn Yaḥya ben Solomon (Mestre Guedelha Fysico e Astrologo):

Portuguese philosopher and astrologer; born in Lisbon about 1400. Before he was thirty years of age he was appointed court astrologer to João I. Upon the death of that king (1433) the latter's son Duarte prepared for his coronation, but Gedaliah warned him against it; and when the prince insisted on assuming the crown the astrologer prophesied that his reign would be brief and unhappy. Later, when Duarte fell sick he attributed his illness to this evil prophecy, and the oppressive measures against the Jews were made still more severe.

9. Solomon ibn Yaḥya ben David:

A person of prominence during the reign of Alfonso V. of Portugal, he and his entire family being admitted at court. He was rabbi of the Lisbon community, and forbade his children and relatives to accumulate property because he foresaw the coming persecutions. His death occurred before that of Alfonso V.

10. Solomon ibn Yaḥya ben David:

Prominent scholar who was highly honored by Alfonso V. He was the father of the author of "Leshon Limmudim"; he died in Lisbon, where his grave is still shown.

11. Joseph ibn Yaḥya ben David:

Born 1425; was an intimate friend of Alfonso V., who called him "the wise Jew." He was blamed by the king for not dissuading the Jews from indulgingtheir love of luxury. When some of the exiled Spanish Jews settled in Portugal, they were regarded with disfavor by the Portuguese Jews, and Joseph did his best to remove this animosity. King João at the beginning of his reign allowed the Jews to settle in the kingdom, and when he endeavored later to convert them to Christianity he chose Joseph as the first to receive baptism (1495). Joseph thereupon fled, together with his sons David Meïr and Solomon, taking with him 100,000 crusados. He cruised in the Mediterranean for some time, and finally landed in Castile, where he was sentenced to be burned at the stake. Through the intervention of Duke Alvarez de Bragança he was permitted to continue his journey; and after a five months' voyage he landed in Pisa, Italy, where he and his family were put in irons by the troops of Charles VIII., who was about to invest that city. By sacrificing enormous sums of money he obtained his liberty, and placed himself under the protection of the Duke of Ferrara. In the beginning he was well treated, but later he was accused of endeavoring to induce the Maranos to return to Judaism and was tortured. He freed himself from this charge by paying 7,000 gold pieces, but he died as a result of the tortures he had endured (1498). A legend relates that his tomb was located near that of the prophet Hosea. It is said that a copy of Maimonides' "Yad" was made for him in 1472 by Solomon ben Alsark, or Alsarkon.

12. Dinah Yaḥya:

Wife of David ibn Yaḥya ben Joseph (No. 15). Disguised in masculine attire she fled from Portugal together with her father-in-law and her husband; and during the flight she abstained from meat, subsisting on bread and water only. Arriving in Pisa, she sought refuge from the French troops on top of a tower twenty meters high; and when discovered she is said to have leaped to the ground without suffering injury. She fled to Florence, where she gave birth to her son Joseph.

13. Gedaliah ibn Yaḥya ben David:

Philosopher; born in Lisbon 1437; died at Constantinople in Oct., 1487. He was the author of "Shib'ah 'Enayim," on the seven cardinal virtues of the Jews, which appeared in Constantinople in 1543, and later in Venice. During a sojourn in Constantinople he advocated a union of the Karaites and Rabbinites.

14. David ibn Yaḥya ben Solomon:

Born-1455; died 1528. He was rabbi of the Lisbon community in 1476. Accused of inducing the Maranos to relapse into Judaism, he was sentenced by King João II. to be burned at the stake. He fled to Naples with his family, but was captured; and he was compelled to sell his library in order to secure sufficient money to purchase his liberty. On his release he fled to Corfu, and later went to Larta, where he died in extreme poverty. He was the author of a Hebrew grammar entitled "Leshon Limmudim," which was published in Constantinople (1506, 1528) and in Venice (1542). While at Larta he wrote to the wealthy Jew Isaiah Messene, asking his aid; and this letter was copied by Joseph David Sinzheim, and later published by Grätz ("Gesch." viii. 482-483). According to Carmoly, David was the author of the following works also: "Ḳab we-Naḳi" (Lisbon, n.d.), a commentary on the Mishnah; a selection of the best explanations by various commentators on the Bible (2d ed., Venice, 1518; 4th ed., Salonica, 1522); "Sheḳel ha-Ḳodesh" (Constantinople, 1520), on the rules for Hebrew poetry; "Tehillah le-Dawid," an uncompleted commentary on the Psalms; "Hilkot Ṭerefot" (ib. 1520); and a commentary on Maimonides' "Moreh," appended to his above-mentioned letter of supplication to Messene.

15. David ibn Yaḥya ben Joseph.

See Jew. Encyc. vi. 553.

16. Solomon ibn Yaḥya ben Joseph:

A Portuguese exile who fled with his family to Pisa. He left his relatives and went to Rhodes, where he died in 1533.

17. Meïr ibn Yaḥya ben Joseph:

Author of a poetic introduction to the "Cuzari" (Fano, 1506). He lived at Pisa, and later settled in Oulina (), Italy, where he died in 1530.

18. Joseph ibn Yaḥya ben David.

See Jew. Encyc. vi. 553.

19. Judah ibn Yaḥya ben Joseph:

Physician; born in Imola, Italy, 1529; died in Bologna 1560. He studied medicine at Padua, and was at the same time a pupil of Meïr Katzenellenbogen. Receiving his medical degree in 1557, he settled as a practitioner in Bologna.

20. David ibn Yaḥya ben Joseph:

President of the Jewish community of Naples; died in 1565. He was a cousin of David ibn Yaḥya (No. 14), the author of "Leshon Limmudim," under whom he studied, and was the author of a eulogy which appeared in that work.

21. Gedaliah ibn Yaḥya ben Joseph:

Talmudist; born at Imola, Italy, 1515; died, probably in Alexandria, about 1587. He studied in the yeshibah at Ferrara under Jacob Finzi and Abraham and Israel Rovigo. In 1549 he settled in Rovigo, where he remained until 1562, in which year the burning of the Talmud took place in Italy. He then went to Codiniola, and three years later to Salonica, whence he returned in 1567 to his native town. Expelled with other Jews by Pope Pius V., and suffering a loss of 10,000 gold pieces, he went to Pesaro, and thence to Ferrara, where he remained till 1575. During the ensuing eight years he led a wandering life, and finally settled in Alexandria. His chief work was the "Sefer Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah," called also "Sefer Yaḥya," on which he labored for more than forty years. This work is not without defects, having suffered either by reason of the author's itinerant mode of life or through faulty copying of the original manuscript. Its contents are as follows: (1) history and genealogy of the Jews from the time of Moses until that of Moses Norzi (1587); (2) account of the heavenly bodies, Creation, the soul, magic, and evil spirits; (3) history of the peoples among which the Jews have dwelt, and a description of the unhappy fate of the author's coreligionists up to his time. The value of this work is, however, lessened considerably by the facts that the writer has included many oral narratives which he gathered partly in his home, partly in Salonica and Alexandria, and that he often lacks the ability to distinguish truth from fiction. For these reasons the book has been called "The Chain of Lies"; but Loeb has proved that it is more accurate than many have supposed it to be. The "Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah" waspublished at Venice, 1587; Cracow, 1596; Amsterdam, 1697; Zolkiev, 1802, 1804; Polonnoye, 1814; and Lemberg, 1862.

Gedaliah was the alleged author of twenty-one other works, which he enumerates at the end of his "Shalshelet," and which are mentioned also in Benjacob's "Oẓar ha-Sefarim" (pp. 590-591).

22. Jacob Tam ibn Yaḥya ben David: Yaḥya Pedigree.

Turkish rabbi; lived from about 1475 to 1542. He was probably rabbi of Salonica, and was a Talmudist of repute. Benjamin ben Abraham Muṭal, in the preface to his "Tummat Yesharim," mentions Jacob Tam as the author of the following works: a commentary on Alfasi; the completion of Nissim Gerondi's halakot entitled "Ma'aseh Nissim"; a commentary on R. Nissim's halakot entitled "'Al ha-Nissim"; controversial writings against R. Nissim; Talmudic decisions; and responsa and derashot. All these works were destroyed in a fire at Constantinople. Jacob Tam published Leon ben Massoni's "Sefer Yosippon" (1510), and wrote an opinion of Abraham ben Solomon Treves's "Birkat Abraham" (1512). He was a member of the rabbinical conference which convened in May, 1520, to dissolve theban placed on Shaltiel, "kahijalik" ("præfectus aulæ") to Sultan Sulaiman, on account of which Shaltiel had been discharged from his office.

23. Joseph ibn Yaḥya bar Jacob Tam:

Born in Constantinople; body-physician to Sultan Sulaiman. Joseph was obliged to be in constant attendance during the sultan's travels and in time of war; and he met his death in battle (1573). The poet Saadia Lougo wrote an elegy in Joseph's honor which was printed in the "Seder Zemannim." Joseph defrayed the cost of publishing the "Shib'ah 'Enayim," the "Leshon Limmudim," and the "Sheḳel ha-Ḳodesh," all written by his ancestors.

24. Gedaliah ibn Yaḥya ben Jacob Tam:

Physician and scholar; born in Constantinople; died there 1575. He officiated as rabbi and teacher in Salonica and Adrianople until 1548, in which year he went to Constantinople and devoted himself to Hebrew literature. He left numerous manuscripts, several of which are still extant in the Orient.

25. Tam ibn Yaḥya ben Gedaliah:

Born in Constantinople in the middle of the sixteenth century. He inherited a large fortune from his father, and used his wealth to promote Jewish literature. Upon the death of his father he settled in the neighborhood of Salonica, where he was intimate with several well-known poets, among them Abraham Reuben and Saadia Lougo. His own literary efforts consisted in compiling the commentaries left by his forefathers on the writings of Alfasi, R. Nissim, and Moses ben Naḥman. He completed this task in 1595, but died before the work was published. Eliezer Shoshan and Meïr Yiẓaḳi were called to his deathbed and entrusted with the task of publishing the work, which appeared at Venice in 1622, under the title "She'elot u-Teshubot Ohole Shem."

26. Moses ibn Yaḥya ben Gedaliah:

Turkish physician of the latter half of the sixteenth century. He resided in Constantinople, and during an epidemic of the plague he not only devoted a large part of his fortune to aiding the sufferers, but also rendered medical assistance at the risk of his life. He was known throughout Turkey for his generous hospitality.

27. Gedaliah ibn Yaḥya ben Moses:

Born at Salonica in the latter half of the sixteenth century; son of Moses ibn Yaḥya (No. 26). He was a liberal patron of letters, and gathered about him no less than thirty-two littérateurs in order to cultivate Hebrew poetry. Among the most prominent members of this circle were Judah Zarḳa and Israel Najara. The names of these poets and some of the verses written by them in Gedaliah's honor have been printed in Carmoly's "Dibre ha-Yamim."

Other members of the Yaḥya family whose relationship to the persons mentioned above has not been established are as follows:

28. Bonsenior ibn Yaḥya (called also Maestro ibn Yaḥya):

Author of a poem on chess. It appeared first at Mantua (1549) and later in a Latin translation at Oxford (1702), Frankfort-on-the-Main (1767), and Presburg.

29. Judah ibn Yahya ben Gedaliah:

Italian scholar of the eighteenth century; lived in Padua and in Venice. He sought the advice of Meïr Katzenellenbogen with regard to intimate family affairs, the incident being mentioned in Meïr's responsa (No. 53).

30. Reuben ibn Yaḥya ben Solomon Hezekiah:

Born in Lugo, Italy, at the close of the seventeenth century. He was a pupil of Isaac Fano, and was appointed rabbi of Lugo during the lifetime of his teacher. He was the author of a haskamah which appears in the preface to Lampronti's "Paḥad Yiẓaḳ."

31. Samuel ibn Yaḥya:

Rabbi in Amsterdam in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; author of "Trinta Discursos" (Amsterdam, 1629), thirty sermons in Spanish.

32. Solomon ibn Yaḥya:

A Portuguese exile who settled in Ancona, where he was burned at the stake by order of Pope Paul IV.

33. Zerahiah ibn Yaḥya:

Scholar of Lugo, Italy; flourished about 1730. In his latter years he held the office of ab bet din in his native town. He is mentioned in Lampronti's "Paḥad Yiẓḥaḳ" (iii. 20a).

Bibliography:
  • Zunz, Z. G. pp. 223, 233, 381, 394, 409, 461, 465, 499, 531;
  • idem, G. V. p. 434;
  • De Rossi, Dizionario;
  • Luzzatto, Prolegomena, p. 35;
  • Geiger, Melo Chofnajim, p. 72;
  • Conforte, Ḳore ha-Dorot, ed. Cassel;
  • Azulai, Shem ha-Gedolim, i. 92; ii. 11, 15, 33, 46;
  • Orient, Lit. vii. 542, 561; xii. 455;
  • Jost's Annalen, ii. 26;
  • Carmoly, Histoire des Médecins Juifs, pp. 123, 164, Brussels, 1844;
  • Ersch and Gruber, Encyc. ii.; xxxi. 60, 80;
  • Nepi-Ghirondi, Toledot Gedole Yisrael, pp. 132, 148, 149;
  • Dukes, Naḥal Ḳedumim, p. 53;
  • Gedaliah ibn Yaḥya, Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah;
  • Delitzsch, Zur Gesch. der Jüdischen Poesie. pp. 3, 67, 70, 76, 77, 158, 174;
  • Bass, Sifte Yeshenim, ed. Zolkiev, 1800, p. 18d;
  • J. Loeb, in R. E. J. xvii. 93-95;
  • Frankel, in Zeitschrift für die Religiösen Interessen des Judenthums, ii. 78;
  • Reifmann, in Ha-Maggid, 1864, viii. 190-191;
  • Hebr. Bibl. ii. 110, vi. 458-459, xvi. 40;
  • Manasseh ben Israel, Nishmat Ḥayyim, iii. 21;
  • Landshuth, 'Ammude ha-'Abodah, xxx.;
  • Carmoly, Dibre ha-Yamim li-Bene Yaḥya, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1850;
  • Kayserling, Gesch. der Juden in Portugal;
  • idem, Bibl. Esp.-Port.-Jud. p. 53a;
  • Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. cols. 804, 864-866, 1002, 1475-1476, 2426-2467, 2665;
  • idem, Schach bei den Juden.
J. S. O.
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