Yosef Escapa

(1570 – 1662)

Escapa was the descendant of a family from Castile which settled in *Salonika. He served there as head of a yeshivah, and was a colleague of Ḥ ayyim *Shabbetai. From about 1620 he was rabbi of the Salonikan community in Smyrna, and in 1648 was appointed rabbi of all the congregations of the city. Under his leadership, the united Smyrna community became one of the most important in Turkey. Gifted with administrative ability, he introduced regulations concerning the collection of taxes and the supervision of communal affairs; these practices are followed to the present day by the community of Smyrna and surrounding territory. Escapa’s enactments were collected by R. Joshua Judah and published in his Avodat Massa (Salonika, 1846). Escapa was one of the most vehement opponents of Shabbetai Ẓevi, who was his disciple and whom he had ordained, and proclaimed it a religious duty to put Shabbetai Ẓevi to death. Escapa wrote a commentary on the Shulḥan Arukh, called Rosh Yosef, of which only sections – on Oraḥ Ḥ ayyim (Smyrna, 1657), and Ḥ oshen Mishpat (ibid., 1659) – were published. He also wrote responsa (Frankfurt on the Oder, 1709), and a work on *Maimonides which has remained in manuscript.