Jacob Ṣemaḥ, Humanist

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Jacob Semah (ca. 1578-1667), an erudite physician-kabbalist, was raised amongst the conversos of Viana de Caminha in northwest Portugal. He fled the country in his mid-thirties to live openly as a Jew, arriving first in Salonica. .ema. was responsible for the consolidation of the Lurianic literary corpus in the second third of the seventeenth century. His contribution, I argue, should be situated in the broader context of a scholarly curriculum vitae that began decades before his flight from Portugal, as .ema. embraced Jewish life as a humanist. Coupled with his natural gifts and genius, .ema.'s humanist education served him remarkably well in his new life. The interesting question is therefore not "how might he have learned Torah in Portugal"but "how did his Portuguese educational background affect-indeed, effect may be the more apt term-his Jewish scholarship?".

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Jewish Studies
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Brill Academic Publishers. All rights reserved.


  • converso
  • humanism
  • Jacob Semah
  • Lurianic Kabbalah

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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