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Elisha ben Samuel (Rāghib)

(433 words)

Author(s): Dalia Yasharpour
Elisha ben Samuel, the Iranian Jewish poet active in the latter half of the seventeenth century, was a versatile author inspired by the Jewish poets of medieval Spain and his Iranian Jewish predecessors. He wrote Judeo-Persian narrative verse, Hebrew religious poetry, and Judeo-Persian prose and verse commentaries on liturgical poems. His pen-name, Rāghib (Jud. Pers. The desirous one), which appears in his narrative compositions, has mystical connotations. No definitive information has been found re…

Daniel, Tomb of

(336 words)

Author(s): Dalia Yasharpour
The biblical Book of Daniel relates how the prophet, taken into Babylonian exile, predicted Iran’s rise to power and came to occupy a prominent position at the Persian court in Susa (biblical Shushan). It does not mention, however, where Daniel was laid to rest. Early rabbinic sources state that Daniel returned to his homeland when Cyrus issued his edict (ca. 538 B.C.E) and died there. Another Jewish tradition locates his tomb in modern-day Uzbekistan. The first-century Jewish historian Josephus is the earliest known source to locate Daniel’s tomb in Iran. He places the t…

Esther and Mordechai - Tomb of

(410 words)

Author(s): Dalia Yasharpour
The biblical book of Esther culminates in the successful intervention of Queen Esther and her cousin Mordechai to save their people from the destruction planned for them by the wicked vizier Haman, but gives no report on the death of either of them. To this day, a tradition persists that Esther and Mordechai are buried in a tomb located at the center of Hamadan (ancient Ecbatana) in western Iran. Benjamin of Tudela in the mid-twelfth century mentions that Esther and Mordechai were buried in Hamadan and that their tomb was “in front of a certain synagogue,” but th…

Shāhzada va Ṣūfī

(381 words)

Author(s): Dalia Yasharpour
Ancient Sanskrit stories of the life of Prince Siddhārtha described how he abandoned his life as a prince to eventually become Gautama Buddha. As the stories circulated over the course of centuries and were rendered in many different languages, the figure of a wise man who guided the prince’s spiritual development became a prominent element. The basic framework of the stories was constant—a prince, with the guidance of a wise man, chooses a life of enlightenment and piety over worldly wealth and power—but the various…

Ḥovot Yehuda

(506 words)

Author(s): Dalia Yasharpour
Several Iranian Jewish writers and thinkers responded to the explication of the Thirteen Principles of the Jewish faith by Moses Maimonides in Pereq Ḥeleq of his Commentary on the Mishna by delineating what they believed to be the essential tenets of Judaism. Among them was the sixteenth-century poet Imrānī, who composed a Judeo-Persian versified commentary to the Principles entitled Vājibāt va arkān-i sīzdahgānih-yi īmān-i Israʾel (Thirteen Principles and Pillars of the Faith of Israel). Another was Elisha ben Samuel, who incorporated a brief listing of the…

Judah ben Eleazar

(438 words)

Author(s): Dalia Yasharpour | Vera B. Moreen
Judah ben Eleazar, the author of Ḥovot Yehuda (Heb. The Duties of Judah), the only known Judeo-Persian philosophical work, lived in the seventeenth century.  As is the case for most Judeo-Persian intellectuals, there is very little biographical information about him. He lived in Kāshān and practiced medicine. His father, Rabbi Eleazar, is believed to have been one of the religious leaders and judges of Kāshān who, along with his son and the rest of the Jews of Kashan, were forced to publicly convert to Islam during the anti-Jewish persecut…

Bible Translations

(8,318 words)

Author(s): Benjamin Hary | David Bunis | Dalia Yasharpour | Meira Polliack
1. Judeo-Arabic (Ninth to Thirteenth Century) In ancient and medieval times, Jews translated the Hebrew Bible into their spoken tongues, such as Greek, Aramaic, and Arabic (as well as many other languages and vernaculars employed in specific periods and places). Unlike the various degrees of prohibition regarding scriptural translation in Islamic (as well as Christian) medieval lore and theology, there was no halakhic or theological prohibition of scriptural translation per se among the Jews, although ther…