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FRANCES, JACOB BEN DAVID:

Italian scholar and poet; born at Mantua in 1615; died at Florence in 1667. After having been thoroughly grounded in the Talmud by his father, he continued his studies with Shemaiah de Medina () at Venice. His reputation as a poet is founded mainly on his satires, which vehemently attacked Shabbethai Ẓebi and his following and warned against his agents. Together with his brother and pupil, the poet Immanuel Frances, he vainly called upon the rabbis, especially those of Smyrna, to take measures against the impostor. The followers of Shabbethai in turn scattered pamphlets broadcast denouncing him as a heretic. His house was attacked, and attempts were even made upon his life. As Frances traced the errors of Shabbethaian teaching to cabalistic speculations on the kingdom of the Messiah, he published a poem in which he condemned the study of Cabala by the uninitiated and ridiculed the aberrations of mysticism. The cabalists, and especially the rabbis of Mantua, demanded that the poem be burned. The impending controversy was cut short by the author's death. His faithful brother Immanuel ben David Frances carried on his defense.

Bibliography:
  • Piperno, Kol 'Ugab, 78b;
  • Nepi-Ghirondi, Toledot Gedole Yisrael, p. 184;
  • Frances, Meteḳ Sefatayim, ed. Brody, pp. 66 et seq.
G. I. E.
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