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IBN SHEM-ṬOB, SHEM-ṬOB (BEN JOSEPH?):

Spanish cabalist; a fanatical opponent of rationalistic philosophy; president of a yeshibah in Spain; lived about 1390-1440 (Gedaliah ibn Yaḥya, "Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah," ed. Venice, p. 62b). He was the father of Joseph and Isaac ibn Shem-Ṭob. He wrote: "Sefer ha-Emunot," on religious dogmas (Ferrara, 1556); "Sefer Yesodot" (perhaps only another title for the preceding); a commentary on the Pesaḥ Haggadah (Steinschneider, "Cat. Munich," 264, 3; idem, "Cat. Bodl." col. 99). The "Sefer ha-Emunot" is an attack on the Aristotelian philosophy and on the rationalistic and speculativeconception of Judaism in vogue in the author's day. It is also a eulogy of the Cabala," the true teaching, which has lived on through tradition and which alone can help Israel." Shem-Ṭob endeavors to prove that, from the standpoint of positive Judaism, there is not the agreement between religion and philosophy that is claimed by many Jewish philosophers. In the introduction he makes the philosophical investigators and the "enlightenment" brought about by them responsible for the defection from Judaism and for the political persecutions of the times. He renders especially severe judgments upon Maimonides (who withheld belief in resurrection), upon Abraham ibn Ezra, upon Levi ben Gershon, and upon other men of liberal views.

In his survey of the historical development of the Cabala Ibn Shem-Ṭob cites a number of older cabalistic writers, whose existence, however, is not thereby proved. This reference to them is appended to a short passage from the Zohar. Moses Alashkar violently opposed Shem-Ṭob's dogmatic system in his "Hassagot 'Al Mah She-Katab R. Shem-Ṭob Neged ha-RaMbaM" (Ferrara, 1556). The "Sefer ha-Emunot" has been much cited by both old and modern authors, and is valuable for the history of the Cabala. To judge from a remark on page 31b it would seem that Ibn Shem-Ṭob wrote other works, but nothing is known concerning them.

Bibliography:
  • Grätz, Gesch. Hebr. ed. of Rabbinowitz, vi. 99-100;
  • Kaufmann, Die Attributenlehre, Index;
  • Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. cols. 2558 et seq.;
  • idem, Jewish Literature, pp. 94, 304;
  • idem, Die Polemische und Apologetische Litteratur, pp. 321, 367;
  • idem, Hebr. Uebers. p. 120;
  • M. Straschon, in Pirḥe Ẓafon, ii. 77 et seq.;
  • Winter and Wünsche, Die Jüdische Litteratur, iii. 281, 365.
J. M. Sc.
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