- (12–14th centuries)Spanish family. The members of the Abulafia family were community leaders, poets, rabbis and Cabbalists in medieval Spain. The most important branch of the family lived in Toledo. Especially significant were the following.Todros ben-Joseph (d. 1225), an aristocrat living in Burgos, mingled in court circles. In his day he was highly esteemed as a generous patron of letters. His son Meir (?1170–1244) was the best-known rabbi in Spain in the early 13 century. He spent his formative years in Burgos, but as a young man went to Toledo, where he remained for the rest of his life. He was a member of the rabbinical court from 1204 and wrote a large commentary in Aramaic on half of the Talmud. He was best known during his lifetime for his denunciations of the view of MAIMONIDES on resurrection. He also composed Hebrew poetry somewhat in the style of Moses IBN-EZRA.His brother Joseph (early 13 century), a rabbi like Meir, was also involved in the controversy over Maimonides’ philosophical works. His main adversary was David KIMCHI, a Provençal scholar. To Joseph’s dismay, the Christian clerics intervened in the controversy and Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed was burned by the ecclesiastical authorities.Joseph’s son, Todros (c. 1220–98), who was born in Burgos, followed the family tradition by becoming a rabbi. He was also a scholar of Jewish mysticism, the Cabbala, and his gifts made him the spiritual leader of the Castilian Jewish community. A wealthy man, he had influence at the court of King Alfonso x, who granted him estates in Seville and with whom he travelled to France in 1275. Five years later the esteem in which the king held Todros proved to be of value. Alfonso had arrested all the Jewish tax-farmers and forced them by torture into accepting baptism. On Todros’ appeal, the tax-farmers were released. His son, Joseph, also a Cabbalist, was friendly with Moses de LEON, the probable author of the Zohar (‘Book of Splendour’) and between 1287 and 1292 dedicated a number of works to him, although none of these books has survived. Important members of other branches of the Abulafia family in Spain, in addition to the Cabbalist Abraham Abulafia (see Abulafia, Abraham ben-Samuel), were the following.Samuel ha-Levi (13th century), a scientist and engineer at the court of Alfonso x of Castile. Samuel was particularly interested in clocks and built a water-clock.Todros ben-Judah (1247–after 1295), who was born in Toledo and was later a member of the court circles in Castile, was a poet and financier. He was one of the wealthy Jewish tax-farmers arrested in 1280 and released on the appeal of Todros ben-Joseph. In 1289 he figured in court circles once more. Charged with frequent liaisons with Christian and Moslem women, he lived a life of prosperous sensuality, candidly recounting his adventures in a prolific output of Hebrew verse which must have deeply shocked his rabbinical kinsmen. Samuel ben-Meir ha-Levi (c. 1320– 61), was a communal leader and financier who endowed several synagogues in Castile. His magnificent building in Toledo was later converted into a church and still stands today. Samuel became the financial adviser to Pedro the Cruel of Castile and subsequently his treasurer, supported him in the revolt of the nobles in 1354 and gave the monarchy a more secure foundation by reforming the kingdom’s finances. But Pedro’s favour was capricious and the wealth of his treasurer tempting. In 1360 Samuel was arrested and tortured to death in Seville. His fortune was confiscated by the crown and his relatives’ assets were also seized. After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, bearers of the name of Abulafia spread throughout the Orient and were especially prominent in Tiberias, Hebron, Jerusalem, Italy and Damascus, where they were renowned as rabbis, mystics, scholars and poets. Moses Abulafia, a leader of the Damascus community, was accused in the infamous ritual murder accusation which stunned the Jewish community in 1840 and resulted in the direct intervention of Moses MONTEFIORE and Isaac Adolphe CRÉMIEUX.
Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. Joan Comay . 2012.