The Talmudic Era

Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai, 3713-3833 (47 BCE-73 CE). He received from Hillel and Shammai and their courts. Rabbi Yochanan had five main disciples: Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Yose HaKohen, Rabbi Shimon ben Netanel and Rabbi Elazar ben Arach. He was also a student of Rabbi Nechunia ben HaKana and was a teacher of Rabbi Akiva. Expert in Kabbala. Rabbi Akiva apparently also studied under Rabbi Yochanan. See Pirkei Avot 2:8; Chagiga 14b, Tosefta 2; Sanhedrin 68a; Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 7:13 (41a). The manuscript versions of this text state, "I can take squashes and pumpkins, and with the Sefer Yetzira, make them into beautiful trees.

Rabbi Nechunia ben HaKana, Tanna of the second half of 1st Century CE A disciple of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai. Teacher of Rabbi Yishmael, Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol. Wrote the Bahir; Sefer HaTemuna (together with Rabbi Yishmael).

Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol (author of Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer) was one of the five main disciples of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai.

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya, (1st and 2nd C Tanna) One of the five main disciples of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai.

Rabbi Akiva, c. 3810-c. 3895 (150 CE-35 CE) A very important Tanna who received from Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol. Rabbi Akiva was one of four Tannaitic sages who entered the Pardes. The others were Ben Azzai (early 2nd Century CE), Ben Zoma - who was also a student of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya - (2nd Century CE), and Elisha ben Avuya, known as Acher (the Other), (first half of 2nd Century CE). See the article: Four Who Entered Paradise. He was one of the Ten Martyrs killed by the Romans. According to some, Rabbi Akiva was the redactor of the Sefer Yetzira.

Rabbi Yishmael, Tanna during the first and second century. Died c. 3893 (133 CE) after the fall of Betar. Rabbi Yishmael was one of the first of the Ten Martyrs killed by the Romans. Author of the Heichalot - a mystical manual describing the ascent to higher worlds and the means to achieve it. See M Kantor, Jewish Time Line Encyclopedia p. 287-8.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi) (2nd Century CE) and his circle. Author of the Zohar, Rabbi Shimon was one of the main students of Rabbi Akiva. According to the Gemara, Shabbat 33b, Rabbi Shimon and his son Rabbi Elazar hid in a cave to escape Roman persecution in 3909 (149 CE). Buried at Meron in the Galilee, west of Safed

Rabbi Elazar (2nd and 3rd Century CE) son of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Buried at Meron in the Galilee, west of Safed.

The Gaonic Period: 6th-11th Centuries.

Rabbi Amram Gaon, author of Siddur R. Amram. Recognized as a gaon in Sura 858. Died c. 875 CE.

Aharon Ben Shmuel HaNassi of Baghdad (mid 9th Century CE). Brought teachings of Kabbala from Iraq to Italy and Germany. Mentioned in Megilat Achima'atz (1054) and later in the writings of R. Eliezer of Worms.

Rabbi Saadia Gaon, b. 882 in Egypt; d. 942 in Sura (Babylon). Author of Emunot v'De'ot; Commentary on Sefer Yetzira. Was appointed Gaon of Sura in 928Rabbi Sherira Gaon appointed Gaon of Pumbedita in 4728 (968 CE)

Rabbi Hai Gaon became Gaon of Pumbedita in 4757 (997 CE). Died 4798 (1038 CE).

Yehudah ben Barzilai, (1035-1105) Author of a commentary on Sefer Yetzira.

The Rishonim

Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, 4800-4865 (1040-1105 CE) Better known as Rashi. Born in Troyes, France. Foremost commentator and Talmudist. Also knew and practiced Kabbala, as is evident from his commentary to Succah 45a et al.

Baalei Tosafot, sons-in-law and grandsons of Rashi. The Baalei HaTosefot lived in France and Germany in the 12-13th centuries CE. Rabbeinu Yaakov of Marvege, France wrote Responsa from Heaven 4963 (1203 CE).

Rabbi Avraham ben Yitzchak, (1110-1179) Av Beit Din of Narbonne, author of Sefer HaEshkol. Student of Yehuda ben Barzilai of Barcelona. Some identify him as the kabbalist Avraham ben Yitzchak of Granada, reputedly the author of Brit Menuchah (see below).

Rabbi Avraham ben Yitzchak of Granada (Rimon), Late 13th early 14th Century CE. He is thought to be the author of Brit Menucha. He is one of the earliest kabbalists to quote the Zohar; his citations, however, vary from the extant copies of the Zohar. Some identify him with Rabbi Avraham ben Yitzchak of Narbonne; Scholem disagrees (possibly because it contradicts his thesis that the author of the Zohar is Moshe de Leon?).

Rabbi Avraham ben David, the Ra'avad (Rabad of Posquieres, Provence) c. 4880-4958 (1120 -1198 CE). Son-in-law of Rabbi Avraham ben Yitzchak.

Rabbi Yitzchak Sagi-Nahor (the Blind), c. 12th C. CE. Son of Raavad (Rabad of Posquieres), grandson of Rabbi Avraham ben Yitzchak.

Rabbi Yehudah ben Yakar, c. 4910 - c. 4985 (c. 1150 - c. 1225). Born in Provence, France; died in Spain. Disciple in Kabbala of R. Yitzchak Sagi-Nahor. Colleague of R. Ezra and R. Azriel of Gerona. Had a great influence on the Ramban.

Rabbi Yehuda HaChassid, c. 4910-4977 (c. 1150-1217 CE) of Regensburg. Author of Sefer Chasidim. He headed the movement of Chasidei Ashkenaz. He learned Kabbala from his father, Rabbi Samuel ben Klonymos.

Rabbi Elazar of Worms, c. 4920-4998 (c. 1160-1237 CE), also known as the Rokeach. Born in Speyer, Germany; died in Worms. He was a student of Rabbi Yehudah HaChassid. Wrote a commentary on Sefer Yetzira.

Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (Ramban), Born c. 4955 (1195 CE) in Gerona. Died 5030 (1270 CE) in Acco, Israel.

Rabbeinu Yona Gerondi, 4940-5023 (c. 1180-1263 CE)

Rabbi Menachem of Recanati,4983-5050 (1223-1290). Wrote a mystical commentary on the Torah. He quotes frequently from Ramban.

Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (Rashba), c. 4995-5070 (1235-1310 CE). Born in Barcelona. Student of Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerondi and Ramban.

Rabbi Asher ben David, 13th c. CE. Grandson of Raavad. Studied under his uncle R. Yitzchak Sagi-Nahor. Wrote Sefer HaYichud; Tikkun Yud Gimmel Middot.

Rabbi Ezra ben Shlomo of Gerona, born in the last 3rd of the 12 Century CE., died 4998 (1238 CE. 1245 according to others). Not to be confused with Rabbi Azriel below. He was a student of Yitzchak Sagi-Nahor. Wrote a commentary on Sefer Yetzira that is no longer existant; wrote a commentary on Shir HaShirim. Wrote commentaries and explanations of Aggadata. Had a great influence on Rabbeinu Bachya and on Rabbi Yitzchak of Acco.

Rabbi Azriel of Gerona, c. 4920-c. 4998 (c.1160- c. 1238) Student of Rabbi Yitzchak Sagi-Nahor. Wrote among others Shaar HaSho'el, a commentary on Sefer Yetzira, a commentary to Talmudic Aggadata, a commentary on the liturgy (mystical meditations), and Sod HaKorban on the mystical meaning of the sacrifices.

Rabbi Avraham ben Yitzchak Gerondi, (mid 13th Century CE) He studied under Rabbi Yitzchak Sagi-Nahor and was held in great esteem by the Ramban.

Abraham Abulafia, 5000-5051 (1240- after 1291 CE) and his school. A leading Kabbalist in Spain and Italy, R. Abulafia was one of the chief proponents and innovators of "prophetic Kabbala." Rabbi Yehuda Chayat and Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (the Rashba) vigorously opposed Rabbi Abraham. For Rashba's controversy with him see Rashba, Responsa 458.

Moshe de Leon c. 5000-c. 5065 (c. 1240-c. 1305 CE) in Leon near Castile. Distributed copies of manuscripts of the Zohar that had come into his possession.

Rabbi Yaakov ben Sheshet of Gerondi, early 13th century. He was a colleague of R. Ezra, R. Azriel and Ramban. Reputed to be the author of the kabbalistic work Shaar HaShamayim.

Rabbi Yitzchak of Acco, 5010-5100 (1250-1340 CE). Possibly a student of Ramban, after the latter came to the came to the Holy Land.

Rabbi Yosef Gikatilia, 5008-c. 5070 (1248-c. 1310) Born in Medinaceli, Castile and lived in Segovia for many years. During the years between 1272-1274, he studied with Avraham Abulafia, who praised him as his most successful student. Wrote Ginat Egoz; Shaarei Orah; Saarei Tzedek; Shaar HaNikud. Was apparently friendly with Moshe de Leon in the 1280s.

Rabbeinu Bachya ben Asher, c. 5025-c. 5100 (c. 1265 - c. 1340 CE). Disciple of Rashba. Author of a mystical commentary on the Torah.

Shem Tov ibn Gaon, 5043-5100 (1283-c.1340 CE). Disciple of the Rashba and the Raavad; studied Kabbala under R. Yitzchak ben Todros. Spent some time in Safed, Israel. Author of kabbalistic works Kesser Shem Tov (a super-commentary on the mystical sections of Ramban's commentary on Torah), Badei HaAron, and Sefer HaPe'er among others.

Rabbi Shmuel Motot, 14th C. Wrote Meshovev Netivot, an unpublished commentary on Sefer Yetzira.

Rabbi Avraham Zacuto, 5185- c. 5275 (1425- c. 1515 CE). Author of Sefer HaYuchasin.

The next article in this series on the History of Kabbala:
Mystical Sages from the Inquisition through the 19th century