Shem Tov ibn Shem Tov

Shem Tov ibn Shem Tov

Shem Tov ibn Shem Tov (c. 1390 – c. 1440) (Hebrew: שם טוב אבן שם טוב) was a Spanish kabbalist and fierce opponent of rationalistic philosophy.


Shem Tov was president of a yeshivah in Spain. He lived about 1390-1440 (Gedaliah ibn Yaḥya, "Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah," ed. Venice, p. 62b). He was the father of Joseph ibn Shem-Tov and Isaac ibn Shem-Tov.


He wrote: "Sefer ha-Emunot," on religious dogmas (Ferrara, 1556); "Sefer Yesodot" (perhaps only another title for the preceding); a commentary on the "Pesach 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 speculative conception of Judaism in vogue in the author's day. It is also a eulogy of the Kabbala, "the true teaching, which has lived on through tradition and which alone can help Israel." Shem Tov 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 Kabbala, Shem Tov cites a number of older kabbalistic 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 Tov's dogmatic system in his "Hassagot Al Mah She-Katab R. Shem-Tov 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 Kabbala. To judge from a remark on page 31b it would seem that Ibn Shem-Tov wrote other works, but nothing is known concerning them.

Jewish Encyclopedia 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

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