ABBASI (incorrectly Akasi and Aksai), JACOB BEN MOSES IBN

ABBASI (incorrectly Akasi and Aksai), JACOB BEN MOSES IBN (second half of 13th century), Hebrew translator. Abbasi was born probably in Béziers in southern France, but he lived in huesca , Spain. There in 1297–98 he translated Maimonides' commentary on the third order of the Mishnah (Nashim) from the original Arabic into Hebrew. As he relates in his introduction, the Jews of Rome had sent an emissary, R. Simḥah, to Spain to obtain a translation of the Mishnah commentary; the emissary was directed to Huesca with recommendations from solomon b. abraham adret of Barcelona and other Spanish rabbinical authorities. The Huesca   community agreed to provide translations of the first three orders of Maimonides' commentary, and commissioned the third to Abbasi with the assistance of Ḥayyim b. Solomon b. Baka, the physician. In his introduction Abbasi set down his views on the relation of Judaism to philosophy. Citing Ecclesiastes 7:23, "… I said: 'I will get wisdom'; but it was far from me," he declared that the powers of man's mind are limited; neither philosophy nor natural science can reveal the essence of things. The Greek philosophers, whom Abbasi quotes, admitted this. Perfection can be achieved only by the study of the Torah and the observance of its commandments. There are secrets in prophecy that man cannot always penetrate, but the merit of divinely commanded action is evident and leads to deeper knowledge. Abbasi considered men in relation to the Torah in three categories: those who study and observe it, those who study but do not observe it, and those who observe but do not study it. He classified the commandments of the Torah in three categories as well; commandments involving the mind and the soul, commandments pertaining to the body, and commandments dealing with one's possessions. Abbasi continued his discussion describing the importance of the Oral Law as the indispensable and authoritative interpretation of Scripture; he explained the nature of Mishnah, Gemara, and certain works codifying the law, and stressed the importance of Maimonides' commentary for the understanding of the Mishnah and establishing halakhah. Thus, he praised the Jewish community of Rome for their initiative in commissioning the translation, which he considered of great importance for the future as well. Abbasi wrote a short preface in which he explained the principles followed in his work, which for the most part are the same as those followed by other contemporary translators. He states that the translation is strictly literal; only rarely did he expand the text for clarity. He corrected obvious mistakes of transcription in the Arabic manuscript according to talmudic sources and Maimonides' other writings, but did not attempt to harmonize this commentary with Maimonides' Mishneh Torah. He also wrote a letter to Solomon b. Abraham Adret submitting his translation for approval. Abbasi's translation was included in the first edition of the complete Mishnah commentary (Naples, 1492), and after that often appeared in editions of the Mishnah and Talmud. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Steinschneider, Uebersetzungen, 924; idem, in: JQR, 11 (1898/99), 333; Vogelstein-Rieger, 420 ff.; Gross, Gal Jud, 105.

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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