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Sepharad in Ashkenaz Medieval Knowledge and Eighteenth-Century Enlightened Jewish Discourse

Proceedings of the Colloquium, Amsterdam, February 2002

Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen Verhandelingen, Afd. Letterkunde, Nieuwe Reeks, deel 189

Sepharad in Ashkenaz Medieval Knowledge and Eighteenth-Century Enlightened Jewish Discourse

Edited by Resianne Fontaine, Andrea Schatz and Irene Zwiep

Amsterdam, 2007

© 2007 Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photo-copying, recording or other- wise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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Table of Contents





Shmuel Feiner From Renaissance to Revolution: The Eighteenth Century in Jewish History

David B. Ruderman

The Impact of Early Modern Jewish Thought on the Eighteenth Century:

A Challenge to the Notion of the Sephardi Mystique



Tangible and intangible transmissions

Gad Freudenthal

Hebrew Medieval Science in Zamosc, ca. 1730: The Early Years of Rabbi Israel

ben Moses Halevi of Zamosc


Adam Shear

Judah Halevi’s Sefer ha-Kuzari in Early Modern Ashkenaz and the Early

Haskalah: A Case Study in the Transmission of Cultural Knowledge


Steven Harvey

The Introductions of Early Enlightenment Thinkers as Harbingers of the

Renewed Interest in the Medieval Jewish Philosophers


‘What’s new?’

Raphael Jospe Moses Mendelssohn: A Medieval Modernist


Albert van der Heide The Beˆur in Progress: Salt and Spices at a Medieval Banquet


Thomas Kollatz Under the Cover of Tradition: Old and New Science in the Works of Aron

Salomon Gumpertz


Resianne Fontaine Natural Science in Sefer ha-Berit: Pinchas Hurwitz on Animals and Meteorologi-

cal Phenomena



Warren Zev Harvey Mendelssohn and Maimon on the Tree of Knowledge

Carlos Fraenkel Maimonides, Spinoza, Solomon Maimon, and the Completion of the Copernican


Revolution in Philosophy



Shlomo Berger

From Philosophy to Popular Ethics: Two Seventeenth-Century Translations of

Ibn Gabirol’s Keter Malkhut


Wout van Bekkum

Some Thoughts on the ‘Secularization’ of Hebrew Liturgical Poetry in Pre-

Modern and Modern Times


Emile G. L. Schrijver Saul of Berlin’s Besamim Rosh: The Maskilic Appreciation of Medieval Knowledge 249


Andrea Schatz Returning to Sepharad: Maskilic Reflections on Hebrew in the Diaspora

Irene Zwiep Jewish Enlightenment Reconsidered: The Dutch Eighteenth Century


Summaries 311

List of Contributors

Index of Authors

Index of Book Titles






The present volume is the result of a colloquium sponsored by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and held in the Trippenhuis in Amsterdam from 18 through 21 February 2002. The sixteen contributions collected in this volume repre- sent expanded versions of the papers that were delivered during these four days of intense scholarly exchange and discussion. The colloquium’s organizers, who now act as this volume’s editors, are most grateful to Lenn Schramm (Jerusalem) for his meticulous editing of this widely varied range of articles, and to Lies Meiboom for taking care of the indices. The editors would further like to express their deepest thanks to the Royal Nether- lands Academy of Arts and Sciences for selecting, financing and supporting their project, which enabled them to bring together an international and interdisciplinary group of experts. Steven Harvey (Bar-Ilan University) and Emile Schrijver (Univer- siteit van Amsterdam) acted as advisers in the early stages of the project’s genesis. It is a pleasure to acknowledge here their insightful comments and suggestions. Further thanks are due to the Salomon Ludwig Steinheim-Institut für deutsch-jüdische Geschichte (Duisburg) and the Menasseh ben Israel Instituut voor joodse sociaal- wetenschappelijke en cultuur-historische studies (Amsterdam) for their additional financial support of this highly stimulating enterprise.

Resianne Fontaine, Andrea Schatz and Irene Zwiep


I am unpacking my library. Yes, I am. … I must ask you to join me in the disorder of crates that have been wrenched open, the air saturated with wood dust, the floor covered with torn paper, to join me among piles of volumes that are seeing daylight again after two years of dark- ness, so that you may be ready to share with me a bit of the mood – certainly not an elegiac mood but, rather, one of anticipation …

Walter Benjamin (1931)*


library is not supposed to move. It defines the place where a book can be found, so


should not itself change places. And if it does – what will become of the books?

For some time they will be inaccessible. They will be tucked away in boxes that are securely closed. The order that once was imposed on them is disrupted. Even though

it will be restored in a new place, it will never be quite the same. The shelves are

arranged in a different manner. The boxes will be opened and several books will be missing – an entire box may have disappeared, while books that were long consid- ered lost suddenly reappear among the piles of displaced volumes. A number of books will be set aside for repair. The books will be rearranged. The new place cre- ates new proximities and new distances. Books that previously were consigned to an obscure corner are now sitting proudly in the middle of the shelf, right in front of the curious reader’s eyes. Books that may have looked obsolete return to the shelves sol-

idly bound and in new covers, attracting the attention of the wandering mind. The library has moved. The catalogue remains valid. Yet many changes have taken place. What has a library to do with tradition? This question has occupied a prominent place in recent research on the transformations of Jewish culture in the early modern period. In Ashkenaz, tradition as a canon and as a method of defining and transmit- ting the canon was radically refashioned with the advent of the printing press and the dissemination of a Sephardi canon of learning and scholarship, including philosophi- cal and exegetical writings and the ShulÌan ¨arukh. Elchanan Reiner has character- ized the changes that took place in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries as the result not of a struggle with a New Science, but with a ‘New Library’. 1 We may

* ‘Unpacking My Library', trans. Harry Zohn, in Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings, vol. 2.2, ed. Michael W. Jennings, Howard Eiland, and Gary Smith (Cambridge, MA, 1999), p. 486. 1 Elchanan Reiner, ‘The Attitude of Ashkenazi Society to the New Science in the Sixteenth Century’, Science in Context 10 (1997): 589–603. The tensions or convergence between the conceptual library of

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add, however, that this ‘New Library’ was not a universal library: it was not con- ceived as a comprehensive collection providing insight into the history and present state of human knowledge (from a Jewish point of view or from other perspectives). 2 Rather, it constituted an alternative canon with new and contested criteria for defin- ing the fields of knowledge that it would make accessible. 3 What we can observe then at the beginning of the eighteenth century may be characterized as a further shift: tradition moved from the ‘New Library’ of the Jewish early modern world to the universal library of the Jewish enlightenment. The year 1742 is mentioned several times in the present volume, because it has assumed an almost emblematic character, encapsulating the new intellectual possi- bilities that presented themselves as the result of the complex and fruitful encounter between medieval knowledge 4 and early Jewish enlightened discourse. Maimonides’ halakhic code, the Mishneh torah, had been reprinted in Jessnitz between 1739 and 1742 at the initiative of David Fraenkel, who served as rabbi of the Jewish commu- nity in nearby Dessau and was revered by his young student Moses Mendelssohn. When the new edition of the Mishneh torah was complete, another work was added to this already impressive achievement: in 1742, Maimonides’ contested philosophi- cal treatise Guide of the Perplexed was reprinted for the first time in almost two hun- dred years. At about the same time, Mendelssohn set out to study the Guide; it has often been assumed that it was the Jessnitz edition that allowed him to become ac- quainted with Maimonides’ philosophical thought. However, annotations in his hand can be found in a copy of the Sabbioneta edition of 1553 – a fact that, far from de- tracting from the importance of this particular moment in Ashkenazi cultural history, adds to its complex texture 5 and allows us to study a number of features that seem to be characteristic of the encounter between medieval knowledge and enlightened dis- course in the eighteenth century.

the ‘canon’ and actual – private or semi-public – book collections deserve further attention. See, for ex- ample, Zeev Gries’ discussion of the large and varied book collections of individual scholars as well as battei midrash, which provide interesting insights in the limitations as well as the flexibility of ‘canon’, in Ha-sefer ke-sokhen tarbut ba-shanim t”s–t”rs (1700–1900) (Tel Aviv, 2002), pp. 65–77.

2 On the emergence of the idea of the ‘universal library’ that transcended confessional boundaries, see Roger Chartier, The Order of Books: Readers, Authors, and Libraries in Europe between the Fourteenth and Eighteenth Centuries, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Stanford, 1992), pp. 61–88; Jonathan Israel, Radi- cal Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650–1750 (Oxford, 2001), pp. 119–21. On the humanist library and its ‘centrifugal elements’ see Anthony Grafton, Commerce with the Clas- sics: Ancient Books and Renaissance Readers (Ann Arbor, 1997), pp. 19–35.

3 On early modern debates regarding the place of metaphysics and the sciences in Jewish learning, see David Ruderman, Jewish Thought and Scientific Discovery in Early Modern Europe (New Haven, 1995), ch. 2, pp. 54–99.

4 For the purposes of this volume, we suggest a rather broad definition of ‘knowledge’ as ‘any and every set of ideas and acts accepted by one or another social group or society of people – ideas and acts pertaining to what they accept as real for them and for others’, see E. Doyle McCarthy, Knowledge as Culture: The New Sociology of Knowledge (London and New York, 1996), p. 23. This definition em- phasizes the social embeddedness and historical fluidity of knowledge and allows us to refer to various ‘sets of ideas and acts’ without imposing hierarchical claims as to their validity.

5 This copy can be examined today in the British Library (C. 49. e. 13.). See Moses Mendelssohn, Gesammelte Schriften: Jubiläumsausgabe, ed. Alexander Altmann et al., 14: 271 (Hebrew text) and 20.1: LXXXIV–LXXXV.

While Ashkenazi scholars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were con- cerned with the selection of books that would constitute a new canon, an authorita- tive source of religious knowledge, the intellectuals of the eighteenth century had something different on their minds. They did not select books; rather, they wished to bring books together in a different place. They no longer defined tradition as a canon, but as the Jewish section of a universal library. 6 Thus they were reluctant to discuss matters of exclusion and instead focused on strategies of inclusion, juxtapo- sition, and critical discernment. They printed Maimonides’ Mishneh torah along with his Guide of the Perplexed and advocated the study of the Bible as well as the study of philosophy and history. They cited Judah Halevi alongside Christian Wolf and the Talmud alongside Kant. As a glimpse at Mendelssohn’s copy of the Guide reveals, the fact that the early Jewish Enlightenment made a number of medieval works available in new editions does not imply that all of these works had previ- ously been inaccessible. However, they were certainly deemed to be less accessible than was desirable. The rabbis, scholars, and printers of the early Jewish Enlighten- ment attempted to define the outlines of a new cultural space in which more books would become available to a larger number of readers, in which new proximities and new possibilities for study and comparison would emerge, in which readings would be unpredictable, and in which tradition and critique would meet, producing innova- tive ‘uses of tradition’. For the authors of the early Jewish Enlightenment, the transi- tion to modernity was inextricably linked to this effort to establish tradition in a new place, to move a library, to unpack its volumes in a different environment, to open them in changed contexts, to cope with dust, loss, and disorder and to restore the books to visibility in a ‘mood’ of ‘anticipation’. The promise associated with this moment found perfect expression in the words of the printer of the Jessnitz edition of the Guide, Israel bar Abraham, in his preface: ‘u-vkhen eÒ ha-da¨at ha-zot eÒ Ìayyim hi la-maÌaziqim bah’. 7 This volume begins by juxtaposing two contributions that reflect two widely di- verging interpretations of this transition to modernity. Together, the essays by Shmuel Feiner and David Ruderman invite us to a midrashic reading of the present volume, forcing us to make sense of the tensions that arise from the presence of tradi- tion in modernity and encouraging us to read the remaining essays with a new and less static understanding of the role of both tradition and critique in shaping the intel- lectual worlds of modern Judaism. Elaborating upon Isaiah Berlin’s characterization of the eighteenth century as a highly complex and confused – rather than rational and harmonious – epoch, Shmuel Feiner draws our attention to the particular dynamic and turbulence of the ‘Jewish eighteenth century’. In this troubled era, when science was counterbalanced by mys- ticism and Haskalah by Hasidism, the rise of a Jewish enlightened discourse repre-

6 The term ‘alternative library’ that Shmuel Feiner suggested in his description of the ‘bookshelf of the early maskilim’ points to significant changes in the evaluation of languages, genres and books in the eighteenth century, but detracts from the underlying decisive shift in the understanding of the concept of the ‘library’ itself, which we would like to emphasize here. Cf. Shmuel Feiner, The Jewish Enlighten- ment, trans. Chaya Naor (Philadelphia, 2004), p. 44.

7 Moses Maimonides, Moreh nevukhim, Jessnitz 1742, Printer's preface.

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sented only one revolution among many. Feiner documents this rise in terms of a lin- ear development, from a growing interest in medieval Sephardi philosophy among Ashkenazi scholars, via new and revolutionary approaches to intellectual and social issues, to the maskilic rejection of rabbinic genres and authority. Medieval Sephardi books formed part of a library where individuals developed readings of Jewish reli- gion, culture, and society that transcended the interpretative frameworks provided by the rabbinic élite. Feiner’s narrative gives prominence to struggle, rupture, and con- comitant pain; the maskilim are revealed to be the instigators of a Jewish Kultur- kampf that has lasted down to the present time Whereas Shmuel Feiner draws our attention to the Jews’ potential for revolution, David Ruderman emphasizes the revolutionary potential of the Jewish tradition. He argues that earlier Jewish scholars, notably in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italy, forged a modernity in which tradition and innovation (epitomized in Kabbalah and science) were essentially compatible. If on the surface Ruderman’s picture ap- pears to be more positive and tranquil than Feiner’s, it certainly is no less dynamic. Here, however, the dynamic is not presented as a result of the clash between tradi- tional and revolutionary forces, but as an intrinsic part of tradition per se. When re- shaping itself, Ruderman seems to imply, tradition has no need for crisis and critique. It can rely on its own originality, especially when seasoned by occasional stimuli from the outside, non-Jewish world. The tension between these two conceptions of tradition vis-à-vis modernity is illu- minating, because it helps us perceive a diversity that usually remains hidden behind a too-rigid terminology. Thus we learn that innovation and the shaping of a new in- tellectual sphere may depend as much on the embracing of tradition as on its rejec- tion; that, in fact, tradition is not a single uniform structure, but a constellation of tra- ditions from which Jewish authors could choose, if only to challenge and subvert what they had found. Moreover, it seems to have made a difference in which section of the new library old books were unpacked: the selection of books that received par- ticular attention and the ways in which these were introduced, cited, and contextua- lized vary according to the area of knowledge that was at stake. Feiner is concerned mainly with religious and philosophical thought, while Ruderman addresses prima- rily the sciences and natural philosophy. Finally, in both accounts Sepharad appears in two different guises. Whereas Feiner identifies the contemporary Sephardi ‘port- culture’ as the chief model of the Ashkenazi cultural critique and medieval Sephardi science and philosophy as its principal source, Ruderman reduces the medieval Sephardi scholars to distant cultural icons who had once succeeded in performing an intellectual balancing act but whose work was now found wanting in the face of con- temporary scientific endeavour. Throughout this volume, we shall witness Sepharad assuming these alternative and indeed conflicting roles. Unpacking the works of me- dieval Sepharad could mean a proud presentation of a splendid history of Jewish in- volvement with philosophy and the sciences, documenting a development that led from Sepharad to the eighteenth century and implying that contemporary achieve- ments had their roots in Jewish tradition. It could also mean reflecting, with no less pride, on innovation as a step beyond the limitations of even the greatest authors of the past.

The three case studies that follow take us to the entrance doors of the library. What were the tangible and intangible processes of transmission that made it possible for medieval Sephardi books to enter the library of the Jewish Enlightenment? Israel of Zamosc, the protagonist of the first of these three studies, is a special case in the his- tory of the encounter between Sepharad and Ashkenaz; and, given the fact that he was among the early mentors of Mendelssohn and other maskilim in Berlin, a highly significant case as well. As argued by Gad Freudenthal, for Israel of Zamosc Sephardi culture was not at all remote, given the physical presence, in Zamosc’s ear- lier history, of a Sephardi community and its legacy – an unusually rich Sephardi li- brary. Freudenthal places Israel within the intellectual context of neo-Maimonidean scholarship and a ‘largely invisible scientific sub-culture’ in Jewish Poland. How- ever, Israel’s approach to the halakhic text and his subversive interpretations tran- scend the innovative, scientific readings of the Talmud that he could find elsewhere. He presents scientific knowledge as a source of authority that is superior to the halakhic text. Adam Shear traces the transmission and representation of one particularly promi- nent Sephardi text, Judah Halevi’s Kuzari, in Ashkenaz of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. Shear’s narrative shows that until well into the eighteenth century Ashkenazi scholars used the book mainly as a repository of useful information on various subjects, whereas early maskilim like Wetzlar were interested in its overall thesis about the relationship between revelation and philosophy. The maskilic com- mentaries of Zamosc and Satanow, which combine the two earlier approaches, repre- sent a true transformation of Halevi’s Kuzari into a work to be taught to others. Shear argues that it was the combination of many heterogeneous factors that led to the even- tual transformation of this Sephardi text into a maskilic vehicle for discussing new scientific theories. Its ‘availability’ rested on the image of the work and on the catego- ries in which it was interpreted as well as on the physical transmission of the book. Steven Harvey explores the presence of medieval Sephardi texts from a slightly different angle, emphasizing the role of the Hebrew printing press and the importance of new editions, given the paucity of printed editions of philosophical works in the period following Spinoza’s challenge. Examining the introductions to the writings of Israel of Zamosc, Naphtali Hirsch Goslar, Judah Loeb Margolioth, and Pinchas Elias Hurwitz, Harvey suggests that these introductions be viewed as harbingers of a re- newed interest in the writings of medieval Jewish philosophy that was to be followed by a wider interest in these works themselves. The introductions are the more instruc- tive in that they display very different, even conflicting reports about the familiarity with the sciences among eighteenth-century Jews as well as widely divergent atti- tudes toward the medieval rationalists. The reception of the Sephardi heritage was anything but uniform, with enthusiasm, criticism, and scepticism all manifested in various degrees. These detailed studies of the transmission of medieval Sephardi texts allow us to trace moments of innovation in the often neglected liminal spaces where new ap- proaches and concepts are about to emerge but are still articulated in an ambiguous or contradictory manner, because they still rely, in part, on previous models of thought and speech. It is not always an easy task to identify ‘what is new’ even in the work of

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those scholars who are most frequently cited as symbols of innovation and renewal. Raphael Jospe portrays Mendelssohn, often perceived as the very embodiment of Ger- man Haskalah, as a ‘medieval modernist’. This appellation reflects Mendelssohn’s in- debtedness to medieval Jewish philosophers along with his attempt to reinterpret and transform their theories and apply them within contemporary political contexts. While Mendelssohn’s approach to political thought and to the separation of church and state reveals the elasticity of tradition and may serve as an example of innovative exegesis, the philosopher takes a conservative stance on core questions of biblical criticism, to the extent of ignoring the more audacious views of one of his medieval sources, Abraham Ibn Ezra. Albert van der Heide confirms the portrait of Mendelssohn as a medievalist in his case study of Mendelssohn’s commentary on Exodus 19, comparing this chapter of the Beˆur with Dubno’s commentary on Genesis 22. Rabbinic exegesis and medieval commentators, whether mentioned by name or not, take pride of place in both chapters. The medieval flavour of the Beˆur is further accentuated by the fact that Mendelssohn follows the medieval model of the topically arranged commentary instead of embracing the more discursive approach widely adopted by contemporary Christian scholars. The combination of fairly conservative readings of Sephardi texts with interpretations that led to radical innovation clearly illustrates that the new li- brary allowed for a variety of interpretative practices: some could actually be consid- ered a part of the medieval Sephardi heritage; others, like Mendelssohn’s reading strategies in Jerusalem, clearly transcended it. Thomas Kollatz further elaborates on the often very circumspect ways in which readers moved about in the new library. Aron Gumpertz, scholar, physician, and friend of Moses Mendelssohn’s, published a revised edition of Loeseke’s compen- dium on pharmaceutics and a supercommentary on Abraham Ibn Ezra’s commentary on the Five Megillot. In both works Gumpertz adopts a historicizing strategy, empha- sizing the inherent progress of science since the days of medieval authorities like Galen and Ibn Ezra. Thus, instead of openly confronting and repudiating the views of the older scholars, he takes these as a point of departure for his explanations of con- temporary achievements in the sciences, based on experiment, exploration, and new discoveries. Gumpertz decides to use revision and commentary as a writing space in which tradition and critique are not contradictory forces. The older works become accessible to the extent that they can be integrated into a dynamic history of the sci- ences and inspire the writing of supplements that reflect the best of contemporary knowledge. In Resianne Fontaine’s contribution on Pinchas Hurwitz’s encyclopaedia Sefer ha- Berit we encounter a quite different evaluation of the Sephardi heritage. Unlike Gumpertz, Hurwitz challenges the very idea of progress. He does not hesitate to de- clare that medieval science has become obsolete in the light of modern scientific dis- coveries. However, the new concepts, too, are likely to be replaced by other notions sooner or later. Therefore, true knowledge is provided solely by rabbinic and kabba- listic sources. Incidentally, these sources happen to contain many views that are in accordance with modern theories. Thus Hurwitz presents a rather original approach to the new library. He takes books from many different crates and looks for a place for them on the shelves, while at the same time establishing criteria to contain and

control the many facets of change. In this effort, he relies on works that the authors of the Jewish Enlightenment rarely touched – medieval and early modern kabbalistic texts. Hurwitz’s work, written towards the end of the eighteenth century, clearly re- flects the turbulence of a new age and the impact of the revolution wreaked on con- temporary Jewry by new discoveries and experiments. Being dynamic as well as con- servative, Sefer ha-Berit can be viewed as supporting both Feiner’s and Ruderman’s perceptions of the eighteenth century. While this may sound contradictory, the pic- ture that arises from Sefer ha-Berit is that of a self-confident author who is able to formulate a meaningful answer to the challenge of his day. We have already noted that Maimonides’ Guide occupied a particularly prominent place in the early Jewish Enlightenment. Reading his work in the context of the new library could lead to surprising and highly consequential revisions of Maimonidean as well as contemporary philosophical contentions. Warren Zev Harvey examines Moses Mendelssohn’s rejection and Salomon Maimon’s subversion of Maimonides’ classification of moral rules as ‘generally accepted opinions’. Whereas Mendelssohn builds his argument against Maimonides on Halevi, Maimon turns to Kant. Harvey captures the intensity and fluidity of readings in the new library when he outlines the dense texture within which Mendelssohn formulated his thoughts on the epistemo- logical foundations of moral rules: ‘with the help of Judah Halevi, [Mendelssohn] platonized NaÌmanides’ Augustinian version of Maimonides’ Aristotelian interpreta- tion of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil’. A particularly creative reader, Maimon inscribes in Maimonides’ text notions that contradict Maimonides but are in line with Kant. Carlos Fraenkel, stressing the intellectual union between Sepharad and Ashkenaz, demonstrates that Maimon’s interest in Kantian philosophy culmi- nates in his attempt to reformulate Maimonides’ concept of the divine intellect in terms of Spinoza’s doctrine of Deus sive Natura in order to complete the Copernican revolution in Kant’s theory of knowledge. For Mendelssohn and Maimon, the philo- sophical works of Sepharad – including the writings of Maimonides, Halevi, and Spinoza – remain cornerstones of contemporary philosophical reflection. Their rel- evance does not depend on modern supplements and appendices, as is the case in the sciences. Quite the contrary: the elucidation of key issues in modern thought de- pends, according to Mendelssohn and Maimon, on a creative re-reading of the medi- eval and early modern Sephardi masters. While philosophy and the sciences constituted fields of study that were considered to be essential for the enlightened mind, other fields that were not prominent in the Christian world but had always attracted great attention in the Jewish world remained relevant as well. Many of the most important exponents of the Jewish Enlightenment were interested in the liturgy – they edited, translated, and wrote commentaries on the prayer book. But while they admired some liturgical poetry, such as Judah Halevi’s iyyon ha-lo tishˆali, which had become part of the liturgy for Tish¨ah be- av, they were reluctant to restore another genre – rhymed Ashkenazi piyyu– to the shelves of the new library. Before the ‘literary rediscovery’ of liturgical poetry by the maskilim in Berlin, other strategies of accommodation prevailed. Shlomo Berger presents two early modern Yiddish translations of Solomon Ibn Gabirol’s Keter malkhut, a poem that had become part of the Sephardi liturgy for Yom Kippur, and

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traces the ways in which this philosophically inspired poem was transformed into an expression of popular ethics. Thus, a Hebrew poem from Sepharad could be accom- modated in an Ashkenazi library via translation into Yiddish and transposition into a different genre. But when Zeev Wolf Buchner, an author of the Jewish Enlighten- ment, became interested in the medieval poem, he chose to rewrite it in Hebrew, re- storing its philosophical character and adding a distinctively Jewish national perspec- tive. In contrast, the Ashkenazi piyyuim tended to resist accommodation. Wout van Bekkum turns to the early proponents of the Science of Judaism and demonstrates that whereas the Sephardi poems could be described in the aesthetic terms of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Ashkenazi piyyuim could be analysed only in historical terms. Both the aesthetic and the historical re-evaluation of liturgi- cal poetry point to the intricate relationship between religious reform and secular- izing scholarship. As emerges from Emile Schrijver’s contribution, an opposite strat- egy of accommodation was followed by Saul of Berlin, who sought to promulgate new ideas through an ‘original’ medieval genre. Invoking the authority of the four- teenth-century Talmudic scholar Asher ben YeÌiel, his pseudo-epigraphic responsa- collection Besamim rosh (Berlin 1793) exploited the accommodative potential of the traditional she’elot u-teshuvot genre, thus introducing Ashkenaz on the Sephardi bookshelf. In this volume ‘Sepharad’ denotes not only medieval texts that were rearranged into a modern library, but also a contemporary context that shaped the interest in the medieval books: Wetzlar points to the Sephardi community of Amsterdam as a model for Ashkenaz; Wessely wishes to be buried in the Sephardi cemetery of Altona; and Gumpertz, in his medical writings, mentions Mendez d’Acosta and Jacob de Castro Sarmento, both fellows of the Royal Society in London. Andrea Schatz and Irene Zwiep explore the relation between medieval and contemporary Sepharad, the impact of the latter on Jewish enlightened discourse, and the ways in which the image of Sepharad in the eighteenth century facilitated and informed the construction of ‘bridges’ between medieval and contemporary practices of Jewish reading and writing. Schatz addresses the various manifestations of ‘Sepharad’ in maskilic writings on the Hebrew language: medieval Sepharad, Christian Spain and the contemporary Sephardi communities in Europe and the Ottoman Empire were evoked not as isolated historical models, but as distinct configurations in a series of historical recurrences that reflected and supported each other and formed the multi- layered basis for the maskilic project of creating a bilingual, diasporic Jewish moder- nity. Zwiep presents the intellectual strategies and attitudes that played a role in the formation of a series of new Hebrew canons in the eighteenth-century Dutch Repub- lic. She points to the parallels and, in a number of instances, even productive dy- namic between the contemporary spheres of Sepharad and Ashkenaz and examines their different roles as catalyst, instigator, and appreciative audience. The creative interaction between Sepharad and Ashkenaz in Amsterdam stands out as yet another example of the local specificity of the processes of transition that we can observe in European Jewish communities between 1700 and 1800. 8 The Jewish Enlightenment

8 See, for example, the contributions to the volume Ha-haskalah li-gevanehah: ¨iyyunim Ìadashim be- toldot ha-haskalah u-ve-sifrutah, ed. Shmuel Feiner and Israel Bartal (Jerusalem, 2005).

in Berlin and Königsberg has to be analyzed within a diasporic network in which many paths could lead to modernity; and although most of them intersected at one point or another, not all of them may have formed part of the Jewish Enlightenment. One of the most ambitious projects of the Jewish Enlightenment in Berlin was the establishment of a Hebrew printing press under the auspices of the Jüdische Freischule. A significant fraction of the books that bear its imprint are new editions of medieval and early modern works, among them Saadia’s Emunot ve-de¨ot (1789), Alguadez’ translation of the Nicomachean Ethics as Sefer ha-Middot (1790), Maimonides’ Moreh nevukhim (1791–1795), and Judah Halevi’s Kuzari (1795). Works that had already become available include BaÌya’s Îovot ha-levavot (Jessnitz 1744), Maimonides’ Millot ha-higgayon (Berlin 1765), Benjamin Mussaphia’s Zekher rav (Berlin 1765/66), Abraham Ibn Ezra’s Sefer aÌot (Berlin 1769), and Isaac Israeli’s Yesod ¨olam (Berlin 1777). In addition we also find a significant number of newly edited works from Italy, such as Elijah Levita’s Sefer ha-BaÌur (1767), Moshe Îayyim Luzzato’s La-yesharim tehillah (1780), and Azariah de’ Rossi’s Meˆor ¨enayim (1793/94). These and many other volumes indicate that the maskilim – in collaboration with wealthy owners of rare manuscripts, rabbinic schol- ars who provided approbations, and a community of subscribers – wished to establish a new library in a quite literal sense. The contributions to the present volume, how- ever, make it clear that these efforts were merely the culmination of many different and contradictory trends and that they assume meaning within a much broader his- torical context. They can be traced back to Israel’s Zamosc, Goslar’s Halberstadt, Gumpertz’ Berlin, and David Franco Mendes’ Amsterdam. They emerge from a complex history of re-reading medieval and early modern scientific and philosophi- cal concepts. They articulate the desire to ground tradition in modernity and moder- nity in tradition. The effects of the changes that took place in the age of transition between 1700 and 1800 far surpassed this particular moment when the library that had moved was taking tangible shape. The proponents of the Science of Judaism ar- ticulated the fascination with both medieval Sepharad and the world of libraries in new political and cultural contexts. Like the proponents of Jewish enlightened dis- course in the eighteenth century, they heeded the advice of Judah Ibn Tibbon, who admonished his son, the translator of Maimonides’ Moreh nevukhim: ‘Make thy books thy companions, let thy cases and shelves be their pleasure-grounds and gar- dens. Bask in their paradise, gather their fruit, pluck their roses, take their spices and their myrrh.’ 9

Andrea Schatz, Irene E. Zwiep and Resianne Fontaine

9 Translation from Israel Abrahams, ed., Hebrew Ethical Wills, part I (Philadelphia, 1926), p. 63.

The Editors


Shmuel Feiner

From Renaissance to Revolution:

The Eighteenth Century in Jewish History

In the old Sephardi cemetery in Altona, tombstone No. 1308, decorated with a draw- ing of a deer and inscribed with Hebrew verse, marks the grave of an Ashkenazi Jew of Ukrainian descent who was buried there in 1805. This is neither a coincidence nor a mistake. Naphtali Herz Wessely, the Hebrew poet and philologist, one of the fa- thers of the cultural renaissance of eighteenth-century Ashkenazi Jewry, spent his last years in Hamburg. There he made a surprising, unconventional request of the com- munity: he asked to be laid to rest in the Sephardi section of the cemetery, deliber- ately forgoing burial in the Ashkenazi section where he would have been interred near two of the most prominent rabbis of the previous generation – Jonathan Eybeschuetz and Jacob Emden. 1 This was far more than a symbolic act. It was a two- fold statement, through which Wessely disassociated himself from the contemporary Ashkenazi culture and identified with what he considered to be the source of inspira- tion best fitted to a new direction in intellectual life. Wessely had already chosen the Sephardim as his cultural reference group in the formative stage of his life when, in the 1740s, he joined the circle of Amsterdam Jewish scholars who cultivated the He- brew language, the Bible, poetry, and philosophy. According to one of his biogra- phers, his identification with the Sephardim was so strong that, in his old age, the Portuguese community in London invited him to serve as its Ìakham (rabbi). 2 About half a century earlier, in 1749, Isaac Wetzlar, a wealthy merchant from Celle, completed his Libes briv, a surprising and radical critique, in Yiddish, of the flaws of Ashkenazi Jewish society, in particular of the religious elite. 3 His impressive knowledge of religious literature, especially medieval ethical and philosophical writ- ings, along with his experience as a broad-minded businessmen who traveled widely throughout Europe, enabled him to observe the rabbis from outside their circle and to criticize, often with sharp cynicism, their low intellectual level and moral corruption. Since this work remained in manuscript and was never published, it did not provoke any outrage at the time. It is, however, a fascinating and subversive document by one of the lesser-known figures in the early modernist awakening. For example, Wetzlar attacked the tendency to study only the Talmud and halakhah. He saw it as a deplor- able evil and linked it to dishonesty in commerce, which, he believed, was being given religious justification and was economically disastrous for the Jews: ‘Today,

1 YoÌanan Witkover, Aguddat peraÌim (Altona, 1880), pp. 303–4.

Sepharad in Ashkenaz Shmuel Royal Netherlands Feiner Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2007


however, because of our many sins, our holy Torah is unfortunately turned into a fraud by many evil scholars. The truth is hard to find. Similarly, God have mercy, our income and livelihood are difficult and business is fraud and wealth is very unstable’. In confrontations with scholars, Wetzlar writes, he leveled grave accusations at them; for example, he decried their disgraceful inability to represent the Jewish religion properly: ‘In their relations with nobles and gentile scholars, could they defend their faith and sanctify the name of God?’ His recommended remedy is the study of phi- losophy and ethics, in particular the writings of Saadia Gaon and Maimonides, as well as BaÌya Ibn Paquda’s Îovot ha-levavot (his favourite book, which had been reprinted only a short time earlier, after a long absence from the Jewish library). He also praised the curriculum of the Sephardi communities: ‘In contrast, among the Sephardim the curriculum is as God desires. … I believe that because of this, the abundance of wealth and business have permanence among the Sephardim. … I do not want to write the truth about who is responsible for this. Let everyone decide and arrive at the truth for himself’. 4 Several years after Wetzlar’s death in 1749, a most astonishing text, an anomaly in the world of Hebrew books, was published in Berlin. It was, in effect, a kind of so- phisticated secular sermon addressed to young Jewish men – students in batei midrash who were fulfilling the precept of Torah study or embarking on a rabbinical career. This secular sermon, one of the most interesting texts of the early Jewish En- lightenment, promoted two values that had been intrinsic to the European humanistic ethos since the Renaissance and to the contemporary Enlightenment culture: pleasure and the centrality of man. In the sermon, written by the young Moses Mendelssohn and published pseudonymously as the first article in the unprecedented periodical, Qohelet musar, Jews were called on to fill their lungs with the air of natural life, to notice the beauty of nature, to smell the fragrance of the blossoms, to nurture their aesthetic sense and to delight in the perfect harmony prevailing in the world, which, as Leibniz taught, is the best of all possible worlds. Autonomous man, ‘God’s finest creature’, is at the center of nature, and it is unthinkable that the Jews, of all people, should repress their human traits. This secular sermon pushes its readers out the doors of the beit midrash and lowers their gaze from the heavens earthward, to the sensual world, which, although the marvellous creation of God, is also the arena of man’s earthly activity, an inviting, exciting, seductive, thrilling world. Mendelssohn, then in his twenties, rebukes his readers, all of whom certainly belonged to the reli- gious elite: ‘In all my days on this earth, I have never seen a man pass through a pleasant field in which the buds have appeared whose eyes did not roam from its be- ginning to its end. God gave man an eye with which to see, to feast on the rich pleas- ure of the glory of all creatures’. 5

2 On Wessely, see: Moshe Pelli, The Age of Haskalah: Studies in the Hebrew Literature of the Enlight- enment in Germany (Leiden, 1979), pp. 113–30; Edward Breuer, ‘Naphtali Herz Wessely and the Cul- tural Dislocations of an Eighteenth-Century Maskil’, in New Perspectives on the Haskalah, ed. Shmuel Feiner and David Sorkin (London and Portland, Oregon, 2001), pp. 27–47.

3 The Libes briv of Isaac Wetzlar, ed. and trans. Morris M. Faierstein (Atlanta, Ga., 1996).

4 Ibid., Chapter 13.

Meir Gilon, Mendelssohn’s Qohelet musar in its Historical Context (Heb.) (Jerusalem, 1979), p. 158.

What is the textual basis for this view? Where does he find legitimation for the experience of pleasure, observation, and hedonism, which seem to be so alien to the ethos of talmudic and halakhic study? He has two sources: the Sages who composed the blessing on trees when they bud in the spring, and, of course, Maimonides, the solid twelfth-century foundation for the workers of the eighteenth-century renais- sance: ‘Maimonides explained that everything the Almighty created, He created in the best, most perfect, and most attractive manner. … He said further that this too is a great principle. A man who contemplates all of these will know and recognize God’s benevolence to him’. 6 The quotation from The Guide of the Perplexed is not entirely accurate, but the message is clear: the harmonious world view and the duty to look at nature are val- ues clearly implied in legitimate Jewish texts; hence there is nothing to prevent their adoption – especially since the pleasure Mendelssohn recommended was not merely sensual, but culminated in a philosophical experience, a coherent, analytical observa- tion, a sense of excitement at the perfection of creation as a whole. Before returning to that secular sermon in Qohelet musar, I want to emphasize that Wessely’s burial in the Sephardi cemetery, Wetzlar’s criticism of the scholars and the Ashkenazi curriculum and preference for the Sephardi model, and Maimonides’ role in Mendelssohn’s text are only three of the many milestones on the road to the revo- lution that reshaped the cultural and social world of Ashkenazi Jewry in the modern era. It began with a Jewish renaissance, the project of recovering neglected texts and scientific, linguistic and philosophical knowledge – a task that had not been consid- ered relevant in what David Sorkin defined as ‘the Baroque culture’ of pre-modern European Jewry – and the return to the Jewish library of works such as Maimonides’ Moreh nevukhim and Millot ha-higgayon, BaÌya’s Îovot ha-levavot, and Halevi’s Kuzari. In the 1740s, Wessely, Wetzlar, and Mendelssohn could read the Moreh nevukhim because it had been reprinted, for the first time in two hundred years, in Jesnitz near Dessau in 1742. Starting in the 1780s, there were signs of a revolution that gave rise to the first modern Jewish ideology, the Haskalah, created the Jewish public sphere, and also set off a Jewish Kulturkampf. All of this took place in the fascinating, contradiction-filled eighteenth century. What didn’t happen in that century? Throughout the century, among the million to a million and a half Jews of Europe, there existed an underground Sabbatean move- ment that legitimized religious-radical permissiveness and caused frequent scandals. Study circles of scholars and kabbalists were opened under the auspices of philan- thropists. Messianic expectations and calculations of the ‘end of days’ excited mys- tics and rationalists alike. At an accelerating pace, the members of the wealthy elite were becoming acculturated, first to the lifestyle of the aristocratic Baroque culture and later to the European bourgeois ethos. And unbeknownst to the historians, Jewish deists and atheists appeared and became the target of an early Orthodox offensive. In my recent studies on the formation of the early Haskalah in the eighteenth century, which, among other things, rejected kabbalistic enthusiasm, I concluded that one can- not achieve a full understanding of a phenomenon such as the Haskalah without look-

6 Ibid., p. 159.

ing at the overall historical picture, and in particular without an understanding of the power of kabbalistic groups or the strength of the Sabbatean libertine threat to the religious and social order. Everyone – Frankists, Hasidim of the Ba¨al Shem ov, early maskilim, community rabbis, mitnaggedim, later maskilim like Mendelssohn, the economic elite composed of successful merchants, including Italian and western Sephardi ‘Port Jews’ – played a role on the historical stage of the eighteenth century. Their interactions are often the key to understanding the special role of each group. Indeed, this was a century of great political and spiritual expectations of a religious revival, of transformation and rationalization, of divine and earthly redemption, of religious tolerance and cosmopolitanism. But it was also a century of great anxieties and an awareness of crisis. Those who view the eighteenth century as a relatively sta- ble century, the end of the Middle Ages (as Jacob Katz put it), in which processes of change began to emerge only during its last third, must, in my view, adopt a much more complex and dynamic picture, full of conflicts and schisms. For a long time, I have been suggesting that various historical phenomena in Jew- ish history should be examined through the organizing term ‘the eighteenth century’. I believe that many conundrums of the Jews’ enormously significant transition from the old world to the modern world can be understood in a new way if scholars can take in a broad, synchronic, and polyphonal view of the entire sweep of processes experienced by the Jews in the eighteenth century. The historical research on the cen- tury is primarily thematic. Historians have divided the story of European Jews geo- graphically – Western, Central, and Eastern European Jewry – or according to key processes – the history of Ìasidim and mitnaggedim, of Sabbateanism, of the Haskalah, of the emancipation, and the roots of antisemitism. Only a few scholars have dared to suggest an overall, integrated picture. The most prominent among them is, of course, Jacob Katz, who, beginning with his Tradition and Crisis, tried to present the face of Jewish society as a whole. His less well-known article, ‘The Eighteenth Century as a Turning Point of Modern Jewish History’, is one of the few in which he tried to propose an overall thesis about the course of Jewish history in the eighteenth century. In that essay, Katz refined his ‘tradition and crisis’ model and argued that maskilic rationalism and hasidic mysticism (with their subversive social expressions in the form of maskilic groups and hasidic courts with their charismatic leaders) devastated the patterns of traditional life. The eighteenth century, in his view, was a turning point in Jewish history. The age of the traditional society passed; from then on, the Jews would voluntarily live in totally different circumstances. 7 But the historian who listens to the voices of the eighteenth century, who reads the various texts and attempts to distinguish processes of renewal from desperate at- tempts to hold on to the old world can no longer be completely satisfied with the con- cepts provided by Katz’s model of modernization. The main critics of this model are Todd Endelman, Yosef Kaplan, and David Sorkin, who argue that the tradition and crisis model is not appropriate for cases such as the Jews of England or western

7 See Jacob Katz, ‘The Eighteenth Century as a Turning Point of Modern Jewish History’, in Vision Confronts Reality: Historical Perspectives on the Contemporary Jewish Agenda, ed. David Sidorsky, Ruth Kozodoy, and Kalman Sultanik (Madison, NJ, 1989), pp. 40–55.

Sephardi Jewry, who did not need an enlightenment movement to become modern; Katz, they allege, failed to take account of their non-ideological process of accultura- tion or of the ‘Port Jew’ type. 8 Indeed, Katz asserted that until the 1770s no Jew felt he was witnessing a meaningful shift. 9 This problematic claim overlooks a series of turbulent political, cultural, and social events and presents too shallow a picture of the period. In particular, it fails to see the renaissance of the early Haskalah and is insensitive to the dissatisfaction and the sense of flux typical of many Jews who put their thoughts in writing. Katz’s narrative is fundamentally tragic and draws a picture of collapse, notably the collapse of the community structure and the decline of a soci- ety that, in his view, was firmly grounded on the authoritative organizational and po- litical order and on traditional values but now crumbled under a series of blows. He failed to notice the intellectual renaissance; he tried to fit the dream of moderniza- tion, with its hopes and traumas, into Weberian paradigms; and he only partially identified the power of the Haskalah revolution, a subject he dealt with rather super- ficially. Even in the more sophisticated narrative of Jonathan Israel, the eighteenth century is presented only partially, backed up by minimal documentation and tightly linked to Katz’s framework of ‘tradition and crisis’. In his European Jewry in the Age of Mer- cantilism, Israel asserts that the golden age of European Jewry was when western Spanish Jewry flourished in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; the eighteenth century was marked by decline – both demographic and economic – and intellectual stagnation. 10 Although he did point to several phenomena of revival (such as Hasidism) in the second edition of his book (1989), the concession was made grudg- ingly and with many reservations. He argued that the drift away from traditional Judaism was a mass movement even before Mendelssohn. The Haskalah, whose value he greatly understates, is viewed as a movement that repudiates tradition and moves towards assimilation. This image is at variance with that proposed by newer research and is more in keeping with the stereotype nurtured by the assimilated, on the one hand, and by the Ultraorthodox, on the other. In general, Israel makes some very sharp observations about the intellectual decadence of Jewish life that he viewed as a more or less universal phenomenon during the first half of the eighteenth cen- tury. His conclusions also contradict the view of themselves held by many persons in the eighteenth century. For example, Wessely’s optimistic take on the last quarter of the century was that many changes were taking place in the lives of the Jews in exile, right before his eyes. They were no longer persecuted as in the past. And although still a nation of merchants, many new economic opportunities were opening up for them. With regard to culture, language, and educational patterns, Wessely drew a line

8 See: Todd Endelman, The Jews of Georgian England, 1714–1830: Tradition and Change in a Liberal Society (Ann Arbor, 1999); Yosef Kaplan, An Alternative Path to Modernity: The Sephardi Diaspora in Western Europe (Leiden, 2000); David Sorkin, ‘The Port Jew: Notes Toward a Social Type’, Journal of Jewish Studies 1 (1999): 87–97.

9 See Jacob Katz, Tradition and Crisis: Jewish Society at the End of the Middle Ages, trans. Bernard D. Cooperman (New York, 1993), Ch. 24.

10 See Jonathan I. Israel, European Jewry in the Age of Mercantilism 1550–1750 (Oxford, 1989), Ch. 10 and 11.

to separate the Jewish communities in the Muslim East and Sephardi communities of Western Europe from Ashkenazi Jewry. Whereas the latter, especially in Poland, was backward, living in the past in isolation and according to the old norms, Sephardi and Eastern Jewry were living in the present and ready for the future. The members of these communities spoke the vernacular naturally; their commercial ties with gentiles were very strong and their manners appropriate to the norms of the surrounding soci- ety. What was needed now was a joint effort by enlightened rulers and Jews to trans- form the Ashkenazim (especially those in Poland, whose cultural situation was the worst). Thanks to education, they too would be fit to be counted as people of the present, people of the eighteenth century. 11 It is true that Wessely observed the contemporary scene through rose-colored glasses. Nonetheless, his is historical testimony that cannot be overlooked. Instead of the ‘Tradition and Crisis’ model, perhaps we should interpret the Jewish eighteenth century through the lens of complex and multifaceted Jewish modernization. Straight lines of development cannot always be identified. Elements of the old and the new world intermingled and sometimes engaged in a conflict that was not resolved, even for individuals. It was a far more complex age than the label ‘century of enlighten- ment’ can depict. In fact, it was an unstable century, which can perhaps be called the ‘melting pot’ of the modern Jewish world. Everything began in it but nothing really ended. It was a fascinating century of innovations, struggles, contradictions, disputes, uncertainties, and hesitations. It included Joseph II in Vienna and the emancipation in Paris, blood libels in Poland and the Uman massacre in the Ukraine, a deist philoso- pher like Solomon Maimon and an eccentric fideistic kabbalist like Rabbi NaÌman of Bratzlav. The status of Jewish women did not change fundamentally and they did not play an active role in the public sphere. Gender differences remained as rigid as ever and women were absent from the ranks of Haskalah. But they did play a key eco- nomic role; some of them were businesswomen like Glueckel of Hameln and Esther Liebman. The library of books intended to enhance women’s knowledge of Judaism expanded – particularly in Yiddish. Thanks to private tutoring, women of the upper and middle classes in Central and Western Europe learned European languages and became more acculturated. Towards the end of the century a group of salon women emerged; some of them, such as Rahel Levin Varnhagen and Dorothea Schlegel, were also intellectuals and key figures in the cultural shift from enlightenment to ro- manticism. Ada Rapoport-Albert has recently shown how the gender boundaries be- tween men and women were broken down in the Sabbatean movement and how egalitarian trends, supported by kabbalist ideas, emerged, notably in Jacob Frank’s anarchist sect. 12 As David Ruderman demonstrated about England, not all intellectu- als were affiliated with the Haskalah and the Anglo-Jewish intelligentsia was not identical to the Haskalah movement. 13 But nothing that began in this century reached

11 Naphtali Herz Wessely, Divrei shalom ve-emet (Berlin, 1782).

12 See Ada Rapoport-Albert, ‘On the Position of Women in Sabbateanism’ (Heb.), pp. 143–327 in The Sabbatean Movement and its Aftermath: Messianism, Sabbateanism and Frankism, ed. Rachel Elior, vol. 1 (Jerusalem, 2001).

13 See David Ruderman, Jewish Enlightenment in an English Key: Anglo-Jewry’s Construction of Mod- ern Jewish Thought (Princeton, 2000).

maturity by its end: Hasidism, the Emancipation, the question of the rabbinical lead- ership, the replacement of rabbinical hegemony by secular intellectuals, even the les- sons to be learned from Sabbateanism – none of these fully crystallized. When we focus the historian’s spotlight on the intellectual elite, we can discern, amidst all the complex events that affected European Jewry during this century, first a renaissance, manifested by the early Haskalah, and later a revolution worked by the maskilim in its last two decades. I have already written extensively about the early Haskalah; here I will merely point to several of its major trends:

– a quasi-erotic attraction to science and philosophy felt by young men of the talmudic elite;

– an attempt to grapple with the legitimacy of this science vis-à-vis the exclusive role of religious knowledge, as principle and as precept, in the pre-modern Ashkenazi culture;

– the production of a new library, alongside the talmudic literature, containing books on science, philosophy, ethics, and the Hebrew language;

– a struggle against superstition, folly, and ignorance, and the ecstatic pietism of the Sabbateans and the enthusiastic Ìasidim, on the one hand, and against trends of skepticism and heresy on the other;

– a consciousness of intellectual inferiority to the European cultural world, accom- panied by an endeavor to redeem the neglected knowledge of science and philoso- phy at a time of crisis in Jewish culture. 14

It is important to realize that the early Haskalah was far from being a united and cohesive movement. It was characterized by many internal contradictions, by uncer- tainty, and by unusual personalities. Rabbi Jacob Emden, for example, who – consid- ering his curiosity about and immense attraction to secular knowledge, his obsessive fight against Sabbatean apostasy, and his individualism – could be taken for a Jewish renaissance figure, was one of the fiercest enemies of the philosophers. In his po- lemic against philosophy, in his MitpaÌat sefarim, he stated, for example, that he simply could not believe that Maimonides had written the Guide of the Perplexed. 15 Although I regard the early Haskalah as a renaissance phenomenon that wanted to restore a vanished world, it also pointed toward revolution. If we return for a moment to Qohelet musar, we should note two important features of this special text. First, it marks a dramatic shift in the description of the world and life from that of the then- popular musar literature. Whereas best-selling, widely distributed books like Qav ha- yashar by Zevi Hirsch Koidonover of Vilna and Shevet musar by Elijah ha-Kohen of Izmir depicted a demonic and threatening world and called upon the Jew to suppress his earthly passions, struggle ceaselessly against his evil instincts, and ponder the horrible punishments of Hell that await all sinners, Qohelet musar’s secular message is optimistic, inviting the Jews to experience a world of earthly pleasures and depict- ing God as desiring the good of His creatures. Second, the secular sermon did not

14 Shmuel Feiner, The Jewish Enlightenment (Philadelphia, 2003), Ch. 1–3; idem, ‘Seductive Science and the Emergence of the Secular Jewish Intellectual’, Science in Context, 15(1) (2002): 121–36.


Jacob Emden, MipaÌat sefarim (1768) (Lvov, 1871).

have the backing of the talmudic elite, but rather of the new secular elite of writers. This fact, which marks the incipient breakdown of the former’s monopoly on knowl- edge and the public sphere, has revolutionary implications. This revolution reached its peak in the last quarter of the century in Berlin and Königsberg in Prussia. Its well-known heroes included Isaac Euchel, Isaac Satanow, Aaron Wolfsohn, David Friedländer, Moses Mendelssohn, and Naphtali Herz Wessely. The new secular maskilic elite penetrated the public sphere, undermined the talmudic elite’s dominance of culture, knowledge, and public indoctrination, in- vented the ‘new era’ as a powerful modernist ethos, demanded the application of reli- gious tolerance to the Jews both from without (the state, with regard to civil rights) and from within (the rabbis, with regard to their coercive powers), established mod- ern educational institutions, and fought the initial battles of a Jewish Kulturkampf. I have written about the course and significance of this revolution at length in my book The Jewish Enlightenment. Here I shall cite one example of a motif that is rarely mentioned – the anticlericalism of the Haskalah. In Aaron Wolfsohn’s radical play, SiÌah be-ereÒ ha-Ìayyim (‘A conversation in the land of the living’), published in Ha-meˆassef in the 1790s, the culture war is brought for a decision by no less an authority than the Heavenly Court, but first be- fore the medieval philosopher, Maimonides. The litigation pits Rabbi Raphael Kohen of Hamburg against Moses Mendelssohn, with Maimonides as the arbiter. The rabbi appeals for Maimonides’ approval. But as he describes the world view of the rabbinical elite that claims a monopoly on the Torah and its interpretation, on the Jewish bookshelf, and on knowledge itself, Maimonides becomes more and more repelled by him: ‘Woe to the generation whose leader you are! God’s people, how grievously you have stumbled and declined!’ 16 Wolfsohn scathingly criticizes the narrow-mindedness, fanaticism, and ignorance of the rabbinical elite with the aim of challenging its pretension to continued hegemony. Even in this fictional posthumous confrontation, the rabbi continues to cling to rigidly Orthodox anti-maskilic posi- tions, while Mendelssohn gains Maimonides’ full support and recognition as a kin- dred soul. The two join the great Greek philosophers in the universal world of souls. God Himself decides the Kulturkampf in favor of the maskilim, declaring: ‘My dear son, Moses [Mendelssohn] has brought to naught the counsel of the evil men of the land who do not understand the actions of the Almighty and the work of His hands’. 17 At the end of the play, the rabbi is left standing alone on the stage. The message is unmistakable: the rabbinical elite will soon admit its failure and, mortified, disappear from history, in the Haskalah’s ultimate triumph. While these trends, which ultimately led to the secularization of Jewish culture and the emergence of a secular intellectual elite, were proceeding, the hasidic revolu- tion was taking place in Poland. It developed an alluring new model of religious life and proposed an alternative leadership that captivated many hearts. The old-style rab-

16 Aaron Wolfsohn-Halle, ‘SiÌah be-ereÒ ha-Ìayyim’, in Studies in Hebrew Satire, I: Hebrew Satire in Germany (Heb.), ed. Y. Friedlander, (Tel Aviv, 1979), p. 151.

17 Ibid., p. 176.

bis were rejected in favor of religious leaders who placed the religious experience at the center of life. A counter-revolution began in the early 1770s, a stormy battle waged by those we usually call ‘Mitnaggedim’. They rightly identified among the Ìasidim trends of openness to earthly life and a rejection of the intellectual religiosity of the talmudic scholars. Ultimately, though, when the early nineteenth century re- vealed that the confrontation with modernity was the crucial story of the new era in Jewish history, Hasidism proved to be the best bulwark to safeguard Orthodoxy. In the struggle against the enticements of Europe, the new knowledge and the culture of the Haskalah, mystical Hasidism evidently wielded the best weapons for waging the Orthodox battle. Its rejection of modernity was more absolute, underpinned by a reli- gious view that dismissed corporeal existence and rationalist thought. The Hasidim were among the first to adopt unyielding anti-maskilic positions. Hasidism added magic to the world at the very time when secularization was at its height in Europe and the magic of religion rapidly vanishing from it. The eighteenth century, then, also holds the key to understanding why and how Orthodoxy took the position it did. The roots of Orthodoxy, according to the usual definition of the traditionalists’ defensive, negative counter-reaction when confronted by the threats of modernity and alternative Jewish ideologies, lie in the anti- Sabbatean and anti-maskilic struggles of the eighteenth century. That is in fact how things look retrospectively from the end of that century. During that century, several opposing revolutions took place. The revolution of religious revival, influenced by the Kabbalah, split into two: Sabbateanism and Hasidism. Both offered a promise of freedom – namely, the possibility of a direct or dialectic contribution to the ethos of modernity, to the destruction of traditional rabbinical and community authority, to autonomy and secularization. Sabbateanism, denounced as soon as its destructive potential became apparent, went underground and finally disappeared. Hasidism was persecuted at first but ultimately triumphed in Eastern Europe, where it won over the hearts of the masses and gained religious legitimacy. At the same time, the Haskalah’s revolution was proceeding, fed by the principle of religious tolerance, faith in absolutist rulers, a new reading of universal history, and above all a belief in the Enlightenment. This revolution, too, was perceived as a threat to the rabbinical elite and met by an Orthodox reaction. The hasidic revolution did not fulfill its subversive potential and merged into Or- thodoxy, with which it turned out to have much in common: the religious leader wielded great authority and his followers were dependent on him; it isolated itself from everything modern and external; and it introduced even stricter norms of reli- gious behavior. The early Haskalah fought a two-front battle, against the extreme ra- tionalists and ecstatic kabbalistic religiosity. Similarly, the Haskalah at the end of the century fought against religious hypocrisy and clericalism, but also denounced he- donists, libertines, and assimilationists. The germ of the Kulturkampf and schisms that mark the Jewish world at the beginning of the twentieth-first century was already present beneath the surface at the end of the eighteenth century. In his lectures in the 1960s on the roots of Romanticism, Isaiah Berlin pointed to the complexity of the eighteenth century:

[P]erhaps somewhat to the surprise of people who believe the eighteenth century to have been a harmonious, symmetrical, infinitely rational, elegant, glassy sort of century, a kind of peaceful mirror of human reason and human beauty not disturbed by anything deeper and darker, we find that never in the history of Europe had so many irrational persons wandered over its surface claiming adherence. 18

Those who lived at the time knew that even better than we do. Voltaire, for exam- ple, perhaps the most fascinating figure of the eighteenth century, exposed the reli- gious fanaticism of Catholicism as manifested in France in the 1760s in the trials and barbarous executions of Jean Calas and of the Chevalier de La Barre. 19 Mendelssohn was skeptical about the possibility of combating prejudice and imbuing the masses with the principle of religious tolerance. In 1784, in his ‘Was ist Aufklärung?’ Immanuel Kant concluded that his was not an ‘enlightened age’. At best, he main- tained, it is an age in which there is ‘Aufklärung’. 20 Even though he was more knowledgeable and cultured than many of his Jewish brethren, Naphtali Herz Wessely, with whom I began, was not acquainted with all the contradictory trends at work during his generation. He was, however, certainly aware of his own role in the cultural renaissance of the early Haskalah and believed that he himself was responsible for the breakthrough that produced the cultural shift in Ashkenazi Jewry. Nonetheless, to judge by his reactions during the 1782 Kultur- kampf he instigated with the publication of Divrei shalom ve-emet, it is doubtful that he understood the revolutionary meaning of his challenge to the rabbinical elite and of his demand for a rethinking of all aspects of the social, economic, educational, and cultural life of the Jews. In any event, his request to be buried in the Sephardi section of the Altona cemetery is a historical episode that signifies the emergence of inde- pendent, individualistic thinking, critical audacity, and openness to innovative op- tions of living. In this sense, his link to the Sephardi cultural model is emblematic of one of the most fascinating trends of the Jewish eighteenth century.

18 Isaiah Berlin, The Roots of Romanticism, ed. Henry Hardy (Princeton, 1999), p. 47.

19 Voltaire, Treatise on Tolerance and Other Writings, ed. Simon Harvey, trans. Simon Harvey and Brian Masters (Cambridge and New York, 2000).

20 Immanuel Kant, ‘Beantwortung der Frage: Was ist Aufklärung?’ Berlinische Monatsschrift 4 (1784): 481–94.

David B. Ruderman

The Impact of Early Modern Jewish Thought on the Eighteenth Century:

A Challenge to the Notion of the Sephardi Mystique

In one of the most dramatic introductions to an elementary manual on the natural sciences, Judah Loeb Margolioth (1747–1811) opens his Or ¨olam ¨al Ìokhmat ha-eva¨ (1782) with the provocative words of a woman in black personifying the science of nature. She proclaims:

Who will listen and pay attention to me? Wait. I am the science of nature who in the past was the cornerstone but now I have become like a lost vessel and like a rejected defini- tion, abandoned and forgotten and forsaken. Canals run dry [Isa. 19:6] and there is no one on the earth who cures [or heals] from my light and my precious lights. … Why is philosophy open and uncovered, peering through the window [Judg. 5:28], saturating its plump furrows [after Ps. 65:11]… while I am estranged. … I am astonished most of all by the officer of the Torah, the author of the Guide [Maimonides], notwithstanding the wonders he accomplished for the Torah and the law and the hidden lights his hand un- covered and the philosophy he seized with violent trembling [Gen. 27:33]. For from the time he wondrously made a praiseworthy name for it [philosophy], the task became oner- ous [echoing Exod. 5:9]. What perverseness did he find in the science of nature such that he left it bereaved and abandoned, proven displeasing by the fact that he did not desig- nate her [see Exod. 21:8] because he went after philosophy whose buds are blown away like dust [Isa. 5:24]. 1

Margolioth’s open contempt for Maimonides’ privileging metaphysics over phys- ics might be meaningfully compared with another remarkable declaration composed some fifty years earlier by the Italian Jewish Kabbalist Solomon Aviad Sar-Shalom Basilea in his Emunat Ìakhamim (1730). In this passage, Basilea describes an old sage in Mantua who had apparently accumulated much ‘old-fashioned’ learning which rendered him incapable of having any new insight other than what he had pre- viously learned. Basilea cleverly offered to perform an experiment on him using the eyeglasses on the bridge of his nose. He said to him: ‘Master, the spectacles on your nose can make people appear so that their heads are below and their feet are above; that they can extend their heads to the ground and their lower extremities toward heaven, so that when a person walks to the east, it will appear to him that he goes to

1 Judah Loeb Margolioth, Sefer Or ¨olam ¨al Ìokhmat ha-eva¨ (Warsaw, 1842), pp. 3a–3b. On Margolioth, see Shmuel Feiner, ‘The Dragon Attached to the Beehive: Y. L. Margolioth and the Para- dox of the Early Haskalah’, (Hebrew) Zion 63 (1997/98): 39–74.

Sepharad in Ashkenaz David Royal B. Netherlands Ruderman Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2007


the west. So all things might appear to be opposite of what they actually are’. The old philosopher dismissed Basilea’s offer as nonsensical and attempted to offer philo- sophical proofs demonstrating the impossibility of what he was claiming to accom- plish. Basilea continues:

I then asked him to hand me his glasses and I placed them far from his eyes at the point where the image breaks up [the focal point] and beyond it. He then observed … what was impossible for him to believe. This was because he had not studied the science of optics even though he was a great scholar, and he did not understand how the lens works and how the rays [entering] the eyes or any rays are bent. … On the contrary, he always imagined the opposite to be the case, for with the spectacles on his nose he read a book and perceived everything to be in order. Maimonides’ case is similar, since he learned only the doctrines of Aristotle in these matters and could not understand that our voice from below works above; thus he denied the power of using God’s names. 2

Reflecting on this fascinating passage, I once wrote:

Like the Mantuan scholar, Maimonides had understood the world through the lens of a scholastic conceptual scheme. Despite his intellectual accomplishments, Maimonides could not be expected to understand the cultural and scientific world of the eighteenth century, a world where the potency of forces not understood by the intellect was deemed possible and even regularly observed. It wasn’t that ‘the great eagle’ was dead wrong; he was simply wearing the wrong lens. 3

From Basilea’s perspective, the empirical study of nature could now become a tool to subvert the rational orthodoxies of the medievals while reconfirming the previously discounted sapience of ancient rabbinic and kabbalistic traditions. I began this essay by citing two eighteenth-century Hebrew writers, Margolioth and Basilea, to reflect on the Jewish intellectual world of their era from an apparently different vantage point than most of the essays in this volume. In focusing primarily on texts written on scientific and medical subjects, several of which reflect a kabba- listic bent as well, I am struck by how an expected appreciation and even veneration for the Jewish tradition of medieval philosophy, especially the vaunted Maimonides, had worn thin. Maimonides and his philosophical colleagues – Ibn Tibbon, Ibn Ezra, even Saadia – might be revered as cultural heroes; their Sephardi mystique might appear alluring to an intellectual community trying to balance the religious with the secular, the external with the internal. But as a source of real knowledge about the material, natural world, the medieval philosophers had become more liable to error and more vulnerable than ever before. Maimonides might still be embraced for his metaphysical insight and his legal brilliance, but he was painfully out of date in the light of new scientific information, and he was woefully myopic because he was wearing the wrong epistemological lens, to borrow Basilea’s metaphor once more.

2 Solomon Aviad Sar-Shalom Basilea, Sefer Emunat Ìakhamim (Mantua, 1730), p. 17a. The full pas- sage is translated and discussed in David Ruderman, Jewish Thought and Scientific Discovery in Early Modern Europe (New Haven, 1995; Detroit, 2001), p. 221.

3 Ibid., p. 222.

To a community of maskilim enamoured of the natural world, cautiously and tim- idly exploring the new emerging scientific literature of their day, the need to present science in a manner uncorrosive to Jewish faith was paramount. As Shmuel Feiner has pointed out, their enlightened positions would not be advanced by sacrificing Judaism. They sought a balance between the Torah of God and the knowledge of man, so their secularism was always limited, moderate, and controlled. 4 To justify and legitimate the novelty of their new probings into the natural world and to argue that the latter were essential to the education of a new generation of Jewish students, they turned not to the Maimonidean corpus but to one more recent, more up-to-date, more in line with their own emerging epistemological positions: that of a group of thinkers and writers in early modern Europe, especially those trained in medicine and the new sciences in Italian universities. In their discovery of a group of authors who had already abandoned for the most part the presuppositions of medieval thought in favour of a new experimental philosophy of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, 5 they found a means of embracing the new without abandoning the old. Rather than invent a new tradition ex nihilo to pursue scientific knowledge, they found ready-made a literature of their most recent intellectual ancestors, composed in Hebrew, written from a respectable traditional pedigree, and insightful in addressing some of the same religious and intellectual issues the maskilim were now facing. In- stead of Maimonides and Ibn Ezra, many of them would draw profit and inspiration instead from Joseph Delmedigo (Yashar mi-Candia), Tobias Cohen, David Gans, or Jacob Zahalon in the area of natural sciences. And in the not-unrelated area of history and historical scholarship, Solomon Ibn Verga, David Gans, Azariah de’ Rossi, and Menasseh ben Israel would be consulted and cited, since, in many ways, their intel- lectual achievements were relevant to an age where science and history had been el- evated to the highest level of human consciousness. To draw unambiguous conclusions from the vast literary output of European Jew- ish writers who wrote in the eighteenth century is most hazardous. Because I have utilized only some dozen authors who focused primarily on theological and scientific issues, including several German Jews as well as Jews on the margins of Ashkenazi Jewish culture such as those in Italy and England, my very tentative impressions are subject to careful scrutiny and evaluation. I do not mean to suggest the medieval writers did not occupy a significant role in eighteenth-century Jewish thought. I only wish to indicate by my limited probings that both medieval and early modern au- thorities were consulted seriously in this century; that both Italy as well as Sepharad caught the serious attention of the maskilim; and that the impact of pre-modern Jew- ish thought was not limited to rational and philosophical writing. Kabbalistic sources and ideas are not lacking even among the most rational and secularized writers well into the nineteenth century. On the basis of my small sampling of authors and their writing, let me suggest four possible relations that emerge between the medieval/early modern authorities and their eighteenth-century interlocutors and illustrate them with several examples.

4 Shmuel Feiner, ‘Towards a Historical Definition of the Haskalah’, in New Perspectives on the Haskalah, ed. Shmuel Feiner and David Sorkin (London, 2001), pp. 206–19.

In the first case, I would suggest that several eighteenth-century Jewish writers openly cite medieval authors, even writing commentaries on their work, but ulti- mately challenge their assumptions, significantly update their knowledge, and sub- vert the actual meaning of the texts they are using for their own purposes. Israel of Zamosc’s commentary on Judah Ibn Tibbon’s RuaÌ Ìen, published in 1744, is a case in point. One of its overriding themes is to demonstrate how modern knowledge has outstripped that of the ancients, through its reliance on the most advanced philoso- phies of nature challenging longstanding Aristotelian notions, and through its use of modern instruments such as the microscope and air-pump. 6 Even more devastating is Mordecai Schnaber Levisohn’s commentary on Maimonides’ thirteen principles of faith. Only the bare skeleton of thirteen subsections remains to remind the reader that Levisohn is indeed commenting on Maimonides’ conceptions. Beyond this, the reader enters the world of Locke and Linnaeus and their epistemological categories, underscoring Levisohn’s commitment to the fashionable physico-theology of the eighteenth century. When Levisohn does mention Maimonides, he almost always challenges or dismisses his antiquated notions. More useful to him is an array of kab- balistic sources that can be more easily conjoined to his modernist conclusions. 7 More common than subverting the medieval authorities is citing them – not as the last word, but rather together with more updated and informative early modern sources. Aaron Gumpertz’ highly moving introduction to Megalleh sod, his supercommen- tary on Ibn Ezra’s commentary on the five scrolls, acknowledges from the beginning the author’s indebtedness to Maimonides and Joseph Delmedigo. 8 His genealogy of ‘geonim’ who have pursued medicine and science before him begin with the medievals – Saadia, Maimonides, Ibn Ezra, Gersonides – but concludes with those closer to his own generation – Arama, Abravanel, Isserles, Mordecai Jaffe, and again closing with Delmedigo. 9 Levisohn’s aforementioned treatise on the thirteen princi- ples is not adverse to citing such medieval luminaries as BaÌya Ibn Paquda, Joseph Albo, and Judah Halevi, but the number of early modern authorities – Moses Isserles, Isaiah Horowitz, Eliezer Ashkenazi, Abraham Bibago, Joseph Delmedigo, Jacob Emden, and more – far outweighs the earlier thinkers. And most revealing in a thinker who reads Locke seriously is the ample citation of kabbalistic sages, from the Zohar and Gikatilla to Mattathias Delacrut and Immanuel Îai Ricchi. 10 Similarly, the

5 These thinkers are treated in Ruderman, Jewish Thought; see also David Ruderman, Kabbalah, Magic, and Science: The Cultural Universe of a Sixteenth-Century Jewish Physician (Cambridge, Mass., 1988).

6 Israel ben Moses ha-Levi of Zamosc, Sefer RuaÌ Ìen (Warsaw, 1826; repr. Jerusalem, 1970, origi- nally published in Jessnitz, 1744). For a discussion of this text and early bibliography, see Ruderman, Jewish Thought, pp. 332–4, 341–3.

7 Mordecai Gumpel Schnaber Levisohn, Shelosh ¨esreh yesodei ha-torah (Altona[?], 1792). The work is discussed in Ruderman, Jewish Thought, pp. 345–68. For examples of his dismissive attitude towards Maimonides, see pp. 8a, 14a, 21a, 44b.

8 Aaron Salomon Gumpertz, Sefer Megalleh sod (Lemberg, 1910; originally published in Hamburg, 1765), p. 3a. On Gumpertz, see Ruderman, Jewish Thought, pp. 334–5, 343–4.

9 Gumpertz, Sefer Megalleh sod, p. 3b. 10 See Levisohn, Shelosh ¨esreh yesodei ha-torah, for example, pp. 2a (Albo); 3a (BaÌya); 33b (Pseudo-Ravad and Ma¨arekhet ha-elohut); 39a (Gikatilla, Isserles, Isaiah Horowitz, Eliezer Ashke-

aforementioned Judah Loeb Margolioth quotes Saadia and Maimonides but amply cites their successors, from Bibago and Jaffe to Delmedigo and Israel of Zamosc. 11 Moses Mendelssohn’s use of the medievals has been amply discussed by David Sorkin and others. 12 But Mendelssohn’s wide familiarity with early modern Jewish thought also suggests that for him, medieval sources needed to be supplemented by more recent ones such as Abravanel, Ibn Verga, Sforno, de’ Rossi, Menasseh ben Israel, and others. 13 Sorkin’s emphasis on the medieval foundations of Mendels- sohn’s thinking clearly understates the significant impact of these later thinkers of the Jewish tradition on his Hebrew commentaries. In a few cases, a medieval thinker might serve as a bridge in asserting a thor- oughly modern position. Take the interesting example of Israel of Zamosc’s use of Judah Halevi in RuaÌ Ìen. Halevi’s brief remarks questioning the validity of Aristo- tle’s four elements offer him a pretext to adopt the new scheme of five elements ad- vocated by the chemical philosophers. 14 In an even larger sense, David Nieto’s Kuzari sheni is simply a convenient way of offering a new philosophy for his age, utilizing the structure of Halevi’s classic work to rethink the meaning of the Jewish faith in the context of an intellectual climate radically transformed by the new phi- losophies of Descartes, Newton, Boyle, and Gassendi. 15 Most common of all, at least among the eighteenth-century writers on nature and science, is a clear recognition, as in the case of Margolioth and Basilea, that the Jew- ish tradition of early modern writers is more usable and relevant than that of their medieval predecessors. The former not only supersedes the latter in the accuracy and expansiveness of its formulations; it is closer to the scientific assumptions shared by most eighteenth-century Jewish writers. One might even argue that the excessive reli- ance on these authors of the preceding generation or two hampered their quest to in- vestigate more modern and up-to-date sources. In comparison with the early modern authors themselves, eighteenth-century writers on scientific matters are less informed and less up-to-date. They know more about the scientific discoveries of the seven- teenth century than their own century, in revealing contrast to several early modern thinkers like Tobias Cohen and Joseph Delmedigo, who were remarkably up-to-date. Like Basilea, his early eighteenth-century Jewish contemporaries Tobias Cohen and David Nieto are enamoured of contemporary philosophy and science. In a real sense, they have distanced themselves almost completely from medieval philosophi-

nazi); 43b (Abravanel, Eliezer Ashkenazi); 44b (Bibago); 45b (Kabbalists cited); 74a and 76a (Joseph Delmedigo); 87b (Immanuel Îai Ricchi); 97a (Delacrut); and 101a (Jacob Emden).

11 See Margolioth, Or ¨olam, e.g., 4a (Jaffe); 4b (Arama); 6a (Delmedigo, Jaffe); 6b (Delmedigo); 7b (Saadia); 8a (Bibago); 9a (Jaffe); 11a (Isserles); 14a (Delmedigo); 18b (Delmedigo); 19b (Jaffe, Israel of Zamosc): 22a and 23a–23b (Saadia); 22b (Israel of Zamosc).

12 David Sorkin, Moses Mendelssohn and the Religious Enlightenment (Berkeley, 1996), especially pp. xxii–xxiii; Alexander Altmann, Moses Mendelssohn: A Biographical Study (University of Alabama,


13 See Sorkin, Moses Mendelssohn, pp. 76–7 (on de’ Rossi, Sforno, and Abravanel); Altmann, Moses Mendelssohn, pp. 463–74 (on Menasseh ben Israel); 575–7 (on Ibn Verga). See also Rivka Horwitz, ‘Kabbalah in the Writings of Mendelssohn and the Berlin Circle of Maskilim’, Leo Baeck Year Book 45 (2000): 3–24.

14 Israel of Zamosc, Sefer RuaÌ Ìen, p. 3a, citing Kuzari 5:14.

On Nieto, see Ruderman, Jewish Thought, pp. 310–31.

cal authorities whom they consider unreliable and incomplete. 16 The late eighteenth- century authors on science who follow them, Judah Loeb Margolioth and Baruch Lindau, continue the process of liberating themselves from the hegemony of Maimo- nides and medieval philosophy in favour of early modern authorities. Lindau’s Reshit limmudim (1789) is a more comprehensive and informed view of the sciences than Margolioth’s more amateurish Or ¨olam, published only seven years earlier. It relies almost exclusively on contemporary authorities, both Jews such as Marcus Herz and Marcus Bloch and non-Jews like Buffon, Newton, and Andreas Bünger. It is a clear statement that when it comes to science, Jews have much to learn from contemporary authorities, not medieval or even early modern ones. 17 Pinchas Hurwitz’s unusual compendium of Kabbalah and science, Sefer ha-Berit (1797), strongly privileges early modern authorities over medieval ones. Hurwitz transparently felt the need to justify his forays into science by using Jewish authori- ties who wrote in Hebrew. An index of his citations through the large encyclopaedia testifies to his wide and extensive knowledge of early modern and contemporary Jewish literature and his heavy reliance on more recent authorities in creating his massive tome. He cites, for example the following authors: Azariah de’ Rossi, Baruch Lindau, Nathan Spira, Isaac Satanow, Moses Mendelssohn, Moses Îayyim Luzzatto, Yair Bacharach, Solomon Maimon, Joseph Ergas, David Gans, Joseph Delmedigo, Moses Isserles, Tobias Cohen, Eliakim Hart, Sar-Shalom Basilea, Jacob Emden, Moses Cordovero, Mordecai Schnaber Levisohn, Israel of Zamosc, Moses Îefetz Gentili, Abraham Herrera, Eliezer Ashkenazi, and others. 18 Hurwitz’s work underscores, more than any other, both the interesting dialectic between early modern thinking and that of the later eighteenth century and the fascinating juxtaposition of kabbalistic and Enlightenment thought. 19 One final example of this last category of privileging early modern over medieval thought is the emergence of commentaries or editions of early modern works pub- lished by eighteenth-century Jewish authors. Mendelssohn’s edition of Menasseh ben Israel’s Vindiciae Judaeorum is the most prominent example of this new genre. 20 We might also mention two other more obscure but nevertheless unusual cases of the eighteenth century’s fascination with its most immediate past. My first example is the publication of YoÌanan Alemanno’s Sha¨ar ha-Ìesheq by Jacob Baruch in Livorno in 1790. Allemanno’s important role as the teacher of Pico della Mirandola and his critical place in the history of Christian Kabbalah and Renaissance thinking

16 On Tobias Cohen and his sources, see ibid., pp. 229–55.

17 I have used the 1821 Cracow edition of Baruch Lindau, Reshit limmudim. The contemporary authori- ties are cited in his introduction, and see the approbations of Herz, Bloch, and Wessely.

18 Pinchas Hurwitz, Sefer ha-Berit ha-shalem (Jerusalem, 1989/90), pp. 157 (de’ Rossi); 199, 222, 223 (Lindau); 205 (Spira); 358 (Satanow); 471 (Mendelssohn); 435 (Luzzatto); 6, 15 (Bacharach); 41, 189, 362, 392 (Maimon); 45, 340, 498, 504 (Ergas); 47, 157, 159, 504–5 (Gans); 47, 299, 314 (Delmedigo); 47 (Isserles); 54, 89, 91, 92, 183, 290, 484 (Cohen); 56, 156, 193, 252 (Hart); 70, 71 (Basilea); 71, 95, 232, 377, 499, 502, 541 (Emden); 75 (Cordovero); 88 (Levisohn); 104, 109, 119, 204 (Israel of Zamosc); 131, 154, 239 (Gentili); 141, 143 (Herrera); 143 (Ashkenazi).

19 On Hurwitz, see David Ruderman, ‘Some Jewish Responses to Smallpox Prevention in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries: A New Perspective on the Modernization of European Jewry’, Aleph 2 (2002): 111–44, where previous works are cited.

20 On this, see Altmann, Moses Mendelssohn, pp. 463–74.

has been grasped only by recent scholarship. 21 Baruch not only rescued him from oblivion in 1790, he also argued for the relevance of his syncretistic philosophy for his own day. Similarly unique is the brief compendium of Eliakim ben Abraham Hart, uf novelot, a brief anthology of the writing of Joseph Delmedigo. Hart, an English Jew and close associate of Pinchas Hurwitz, initiated an ambitious publish- ing program of brief and accessible anthologies on a wide array of subjects from messianic prophecies, to Gikatilla, to Hebrew grammar. The project was apparently aborted but his edition of Delmedigo was published. 22 Given the many examples we have already seen of citations from Delmedigo’s writing, this ‘portable’ Yashar might not seem so remarkable for a late eighteenth-century Jew. It underscored yet again the esteem acquired by this complex, restless, and hardly understood seven- teenth-century thinker a century after his death. Another way of capturing the significant impact of early modern Jewish writers on their counterparts of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is to consider the career of several seminal and repercussive early modern texts during these two centu- ries. In considering the impact of my modest list of eight ‘best-sellers’, it is important to consider an enlarged readership of Christians as well as Jews. While no one, to my knowledge, has studied the issue carefully, it stands to reason that the popularity of a Hebrew text with Christian readers might enhance its popularity among Jews. Indeed, one of the goals of our collective probings in this volume should be a consideration of how the eighteenth-century Christian reading public was aware of and appreciative of medieval and early modern Hebrew works and how this correlates with the Jewish reading public. Certainly by the eighteenth century, if not earlier, enlightened Chris- tians’ significant interest in Hebraica had created a market quite independent of though not unrelated to that available to Jewish readers. If my modest exploration of Anglo-Jewish thinkers at the end of the eighteenth century is any indication, Jews were also consulting works by Christian Hebraists as authorities on their own Jewish history and culture. 23 If one can then make a case that Christian reading tastes could influence those of Jews in the eighteenth century, then the ‘best-sellers’ I am men- tioning were most likely prominent not only because Jews were reading them, but Christians as well. I have not done exhaustive bibliographical research on any of these books. Never- theless, it would be safe to say, on the basis of what I have already mentioned, that Joseph Delmedigo was well read and cited by the late eighteenth century, at least his scientific work Sefer Elim. Even the cursory list I have compiled of authors who cite him – Aaron Gumpertz, Mordecai Schnaber Levisohn, Judah Margolioth, Pinchas Hurwitz, Baruch Lindau, and Eliakim Hart – suggests his prominent place among the maskilim as a trusted authority on the natural world. 24 I find fewer references to

21 See Fabrizzio Lelli, ‘Alemanno, Yohanan ben Isaac’, Encyclopedia of the Renaissance (New York, 1999), 1: 40–2, and the bibliography cited there.

22 On Hart and his publications, see David Ruderman, Jewish Enlightenment in an English Key: Anglo- Jewry’s Construction of Modern Jewish Thought (Princeton, 2000), pp. 188–200.

23 Ibid. See, for example, Emanuel Mendes da Costa’s citations of Christian authorities (p. 207) or David Levi’s citations of Humphrey Prideaux (pp. 245, 248) as well as many other Christian authors.

24 I have already cited these references in earlier notes under the relevant authors.

Tobias Cohen’s Ma¨aseh uviyyah in these same authors; but its five separate edi- tions in the eighteenth century testify to its usefulness and circulation as a handbook of medical information. 25 The creativity of early modern Jewish authors in medicine and science represented only one avenue of influence on their eighteenth-century readers. History, antiquari- anism, and apologetics, pioneered by early modern Jews in Italy and Holland, also resonated deeply among a later generation of enlightened readers. Hardly a best- seller, given its vast erudition and complexity, Azariah de’ Rossi’s Meˆor ¨enayim, was well known, quoted, and deeply admired by Jewish and Christian writers well into the nineteenth century. Cited by Christian authors from as early as the sixteenth century, here is a good example of how a Hebrew text crossed over into the Christian world and then eventually stimulated a Jewish scholarly readership as well. Jewish readers of de’ Rossi begin with Menasseh ben Israel and Joseph Delmedigo of the seventeenth century and then include, Raphael Levi Hannover, Zalman Hanau, Isaiah Bassani, Isaac Lampronti, Asher Anshel Worms, Malachi ha-Kohen, Menachem Novara, Naphtali Herz Wessely, Moses Mendelssohn, Saul Berlin, Pinchas Hurwitz, Judah Margolioth, Eliezer Fleckeles, and more. 26 Solomon Ibn Verga’s Shevet Yehudah, first printed in the middle of the sixteenth century, was republished often in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in its original Hebrew as well as in Yiddish, Spanish, and Latin. While in the eighteenth century the book was especially well known in Yiddish, by the next century the book regained its popularity among Hebrew readers, with fifteen separate editions. 27 Michael Stanislawski has recently delineated the significant differences between the Hebrew and Yiddish editions and their different audiences. 28 From the perspective of the Haskalah, however, Ibn Verga’s meditations on Jewish-Christian relations and on the causes of Jew-hatred, and even his implicit criticisms of his co-religionists were apparently noticed and appreciated. A more careful study of the uses of Ibn Verga’s powerful narrative, especially the seventh chapter, would be useful in understanding more clearly how the critical mindset of a sixteenth-century Jewish author was re- ceived several hundred years later in Western and Eastern Europe. Shmuel Feiner has already pointed out the remarkable publishing history of other sixteenth-century historical works in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries:

Gedaliah Ibn YaÌya’s Shalshelet ha-qabbalah, David Gans’ emaÌ David, and YeÌiel Heilprin’s later Seder ha-dorot. Editions of all these works multiply as the nineteenth century unfolds. As was the case in the sixteenth century, Sefer Yosippon retained its primary place as the most widely read account of the ancient Jewish

25 He is amply cited by Pinchas Hurwitz, who also cites Gans’ astronomical work NeÌmad ve-na¨im. See n. 19 above. His book was published in Venice in 1707, 1715, 1728, 1769, and 1850 and in Jessnitz in 1721.

26 This information is gleaned from Joanna Weinberg’s edition of Azariah de’ Rossi, The Light of the Eyes (New Haven, 2001), introduction, pp. xx–xxii.

27 See Shmuel Feiner, Haskalah ve-historiyah (Jerusalem, 1995), p. 277.

28 Michael Stanislawski, ‘The Yiddish Shevet Yehudah: A Study in the “Ashkenization” of a Spanish- Jewish Classic’, in Jewish History and Jewish Memory: Essays in Honor of Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, ed. Elisheva Carlebach, John Efron, and David Myers (Hanover, N.H., 1998), pp. 134–49.

past. 29 Nevertheless, it was read together with the rest of the library of early modern works, not instead of them. If the Haskalah discovered the uses of the study of the past as a dimension of modern Jewish consciousness, it was facilitated in this discov- ery by these writings of its early modern ancestors. History as a resource for modern Jewish self-definition cannot be fully comprehended without a recognition of the place of de’ Rossi, Gans, Ibn Verga, and Ibn YaÌya in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The beginnings of Jewish apologetic works, manuals of instruction, and even cat- echisms, both in Hebrew and in Western languages, can be located in the seventeenth century in Italy and Amsterdam. I refer especially to the writings of Leone Modena and Menasseh ben Israel, but the list of such books could be amplified. The well- known dissemination of Modena’s Historia dei riti ebraici includes several English editions and its inclusion in the first volume of Bernard Picart’s Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses (1733). The history of this book alone is a study of the self- presentation of Judaism to a learned Christian audience, first in Italy and then throughout Western Europe. By the late eighteenth century, the work becomes a model for the production of similar manuals summarizing the Jewish faith in Eng- land, written for both Jewish and Christian consumption. In a similar manner, Menasseh ben Israel’s apologetic writings left their mark on subsequent readers in both the Jewish and Christian communities. The proliferation of compendia, religious guides, and catechisms in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, for Jew- ish and Christian usage, should be seen as the culmination of a process initiated in Venice and Amsterdam 150 years earlier. 30 One final subject that requires attention here is the impact of kabbalistic texts on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Conventional wisdom views the Haskalah as a repudiation of kabbalistic and hasidic sapience. The hasidic rebbe epitomizes the dark, irrational, and contemptible aspects of Jewish spirituality and cultural back- wardness, to be overcome by the new rationality and its accompanying pedagogic reform. Yet recent scholarship has not sustained this impression. The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries mark the age of a remarkable creativity in kabbalistic thinking, culminating in the great thinkers of the first generations of Hasidic writers. And the impact of the Kabbalah on the Gaon Elijah of Vilna and his disciples has long been documented. 31 More recently, we have become aware of the impact of kab- balistic ideas and praxis on the enlightened rabbi of Prague, Ezekiel Landau. 32

29 Feiner, Haskalah ve-historiyah, pp. 277–8.

30 See Mark R. Cohen, ‘Leone da Modena’s Riti: A Seventeenth Century Plea for Social Toleration of Jews’, Jewish Social Studies 34 (1972): 287–321; repr. in David Ruderman, ed., Essential Papers on Jewish Culture in Renaissance and Baroque Italy (New York, 1992), pp. 429–73. See also: Richard Cohen, Jewish Icons: Art and Society in Modern Europe (Berkeley, 1998), pp. 10–67; Ruderman, Jew- ish Enlightenment, pp. 240–60; Jacob Petuchowski, ‘Manuals and Catechisms of the Jewish Religion in the Early Period of Emancipation’, in Studies in Nineteenth-Century Jewish Intellectual History, ed. Alexander Altmann (Cambridge, Mass., 1964), pp. 47–64.

31 See Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson, ‘The Personality of the Gra and his Historical Influence’, (Heb.) Zion 31 (1965/66): 39–86, 197–216; Emanuel Etkes, YaÌid be-doro: Ha-gaˆon mi-Vilna, demut ve-dimmui (Jerusalem, 1998).

32 See Sharon Flatto’s recent Yale dissertation on Landau’s attitude to the Kabbalah.

More difficult to reconcile with our own preconceptions of Jewish enlightenment figures is their continued interest in and citation of kabbalistic authorities. Rivka Horwitz and Moshe Idel, among others, have noticed the Kabbalah’s place in the thinking of several enlightened figures, including Moses Mendelssohn. Horwitz rightly contends that attacks on the Frankists – or in Mendelssohn’s case, on Spinoza – should not be mistaken for attacks on kabbalistic lore as a whole. In his multiple citations of kabbalistic writers, Mendelssohn shared an appreciation in common with Jacob Emden, but also with Salomon Maimon, NaÌman Krochmal, Isaac Satanow, and Mordecai Schnaber Levisohn. He was especially attracted to the writing of Mo- ses Îayyim Luzzatto. In the case of Maimon, his interest in Kabbalah was no doubt stimulated by kabbalist elements in the thought of Leibniz, which in turn drew on the still powerful currents of Christian kabbalistic writers from Pico and Reuchlin though Knorr von Rosenroth. Maimon composed an entire book on Kabbalah, associating it with science. 33 Rivka Horwitz also discusses the impact of Menasseh ben Israel’s Nishmat Ìayyim, a work infused with kabbalistic doctrines on the immortality of the soul, transposed into a neoplatonic key, on Mendelssohn. 34 This should remind us again of the indebtedness of the eighteenth century to Jewish thinkers, this time kabbalistic ones, of the early modern period. I refer not only to the references to Luria and Cordovero but also to the particular merger of kabbalah and philosophy, especially natural philosophy, in such Jewish thinkers as YoÌanan Alemanno, Abraham Jagel, Joseph Delmedigo, Abraham Herrera, and Menasseh ben Israel from the late fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries. 35 Surely the repercussions of this integration of Kabbalah and science left their mark on subsequent Jewish and Christian thought. The belated influence of this approach to knowledge can be traced not only to Mendelssohn, but certainly to Basilea, to Maimon, and even to Pinchas Hurwitz’s strange amalgamation of the Kabbalah and natural science. Despite the decline of Hermeticism and the occult by the late eighteenth century, kabbalistic modes of thinking were never absent from modern Jewish thought in the period we are consid- ering. Moreover, the particular systems of kabbalistic thought of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were themselves directly shaped by the creative thinking of early modern Kabbalists, particularly those filtered through the unique ambience of Italian Jewish culture in the preceding centuries. In the light of the above, we might summarize our conclusions as follows:

1. While the eighteenth century paid homage to Jewish medieval thinkers like Maimonides and Ibn Ezra, in many respects they were proving inadequate as sources of knowledge and insight. In the area of natural philosophy they were obsolete. In search of a traditional pedigree for their strong scientific proclivi- ties, eighteenth-century writers on nature turned to the early modern writers

33 Horwitz, ‘Kabbalah in the Writings of Mendelssohn’; Moshe Idel, Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic (New York, 1995), pp. 37–43, cites Maimon’s kabbalistic work in manuscript, Îesheq Shelomo.

34 Horwitz, ‘Kabbalah in the Writings of Mendelssohn’, pp. 18–24.

35 See Moshe Idel, ‘Major Currents in Italian Kabbalah between 1560 and 1660’, in Ruderman, Essen- tial Papers, pp. 346–67.

whose physics had already been divorced from an outdated and repudiated Aristotelian metaphysics.

2. Similarly, in the areas of history and apologetics, eighteenth- and nineteenth- century Jewish thinkers read with great interest the literary creations of their early modern ancestors. As in the case of science, their own interests coincided more directly with the latter, whose social and cultural concerns were indeed closer.

3. For some eighteenth- and nineteenth-century thinkers, kabbalistic thinking was compatible with modernity, certainly more so than medieval philosophy. Al- though anchored in a remote past, its epistemological pliability and its correla- tions with other philosophies, ancient and modern, allowed for a creative dia- logue between the Jewish tradition and modernist thinking. In this respect, the creative merger of Kabbalah and science in Maimon, Hurwitz, Schick, 36 and others was a direct continuation of similar efforts by Jewish (and Christian) writers in the preceding centuries.

4. Medieval Sephardi thinkers become more important as cultural icons for mod- ern Jewish thinkers than as actual sources of knowledge and insight. At least with respect to science, history, apologetics, and Kabbalah, early modern Jewish thought, especially in Italy, leaves a more significant mark on their thinking.

5. The dialogue I am describing between early modern and modern Jewish thought was also shaped in the context of a new factor relevant to both periods:

Christian Hebraism. With an increasing awareness of the ‘other’, Jewish ideas circulated widely between the two communities. It is not uncommon to witness the impact of an early Jewish idea on a later Jewish thinker through the media- tion of a Christian author. This is dramatically illustrated in the case of the highly assimilated and intellectually open Jewish community of England in the late eighteenth century.

I would like to add one final thought, which perhaps transcends the particular agenda of this volume but seems somehow to follow from the observations made here. If I am correct in calling for a re-evaluation of the impact of early modern Jew- ish thought on the eighteenth century and beyond, perhaps such a re-evaluation also calls into question the originality and the overall intellectual creativity usually associ- ated with the Haskalah in Jewish historiography. Here I am asking, rather insolently, a question only an early modern intellectual historian could ask: So what’s new here?! Why is the ideational world of the Haskalah traditionally perceived as a radi- cal break from the past, iconoclastically shaping a new secular consciousness, a new intellectual elite, and a new construction of Jewish identity? How novel, how revolu- tionary was its intellectual production? From the perspective of the dynamic intellec- tual universe of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the eighteenth century in Jewish thought seems rather unspectacular in the novelty of its formulations regard- ing the modern age. Its significance lies rather in its radical impact within the politi-

36 On him, see David Fishman, Russia’s First Modern Jews (New York, 1995).

cal, social, and cultural spheres, and not necessarily the intellectual, even when one considers such exceptional thinkers as Mendelssohn or Maimon. In the fields I have discussed in this essay – natural philosophy, Kabbalah, history, and apologetics – the seeds of much of what emerges in Jewish writing in this era can be located centuries earlier. If one compares how thoroughly up-to-date and how genuinely aware such writers as Delmedigo, Cohen, and de’ Rossi were of their immediate intellectual sur- roundings with the limited cognisance of their counterparts some 150 years later, the contrast is truly striking. With the weight of several centuries of relative intellectual isolation from the centres of European culture on their shoulders, Ashkenazi maskilim were struggling to keep up, to regain what their ancestors had achieved, es- pecially in Italy, centuries before. One of the best means at their disposal was to read and absorb some of the earlier insights of their remarkably precocious early modern ancestors.

Gad Freudenthal 1

Hebrew Medieval Science in Zamos´c´, ca. 1730:

The Early Years of Rabbi Israel ben Moses Halevi of Zamos´c´

‘Wo immer so ein Funke entglimmt, oft mitten im tiefsten Dunkel, und zur Leuchte wird, ist auch etwas Rätselhaftes dabei – den letzten Grund kennen wir nicht.’

Karl Emil Franzos 2

‘Every scholar is permitted to think according to his own understand- ing, without relying on someone else’s understanding. This has been done by the modern astronomers who came after Ptolemy.’ Israel b. Moses Halevi of Zamosc 3


Israel b. Moses Halevi (or Segal) of Zamosc has been immortalized in a way that not even Maimonides can boast: he is the subject of two separate entries in the Encyclo- pedia Judaica – one, written by the Editors, under ‘Segal, Israel ben Moses of Zamosc’, the other, under ‘Zamosc, Israel ben Moses Halevi’, written by G[etzel] K[ressel]. 4 To judge by medieval theories of the immortality of the soul, Israel’s in- tellectual accomplishments were exceptional; thus they warrant a closer look. R. Israel b. Moses 5 gained his renown from his two-fold role in the early history of the Haskalah. While still in Zamosc, he wrote his first book, which applies science to

1 Acknowledgements: For helpful discussions of points treated here and/or for having read and com- mented on an earlier version of this paper I am grateful to Abraham David, Gideon Freudenthal, Ruth Glasner, Bernard R. Goldstein, and David B. Ruderman. Special thanks go to Mr. Lenn Schramm who embellished my English style and whose close and learned reading saved me from more blunders than I like to recall. It is a pleasure to thank the Jewish and University Library in Jerusalem for its hospitality, and the Sidney M. Edelstein Center for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem for the facilities it generously puts at my disposal during my stays in Jerusalem. Bibliographical references to articles and books in Hebrew: when the article or the book were given an English title by the author, this title is used, followed by the indication ‘(Hebrew)’; otherwise, the He- brew title itself is given in transliteration.

2 Der Pojaz. Eine Geschichte aus dem Osten (1905) (Hamburg, 1994), p. 214. I am very grateful to Prof. Delphine Bechtel (Paris) for drawing my attention to this little known but very interesting and moving novel by Karl Emil Franzos (1848–1904).

3 Arubbot ha-shamayim, New York, Jewish Theological Seminary, MS 2612 (= Institute for Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts, Jerusalem, No. 28865), fol. 76b (Hebrew numerals) (all subsequent references to this work are to this manuscript). See the description of this manuscript in Yosef Avivi, Rabbinic Manu- scripts. Mendel Gottesman Library Yeshiva University (New York, 1998), pp. 166–7 (No. 312).

4 Encyclopedia Judaica (Jerusalem, 1972; hereafter: EJ), 14: 1106–7 and 16: 929. I am grateful to Prof. Daniel Lasker for calling this to my attention.

5 Since in this paper I often refer to the town of Zamosc, I cannot refer to Israel b. Moses by the name of his town as ‘Zamosc’; to use his first name seemed simplest.

Sepharad in Ashkenaz Gad Royal Freudenthal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2007


the interpretation of the Talmud, both halakhah and aggadah: NeÒaÌ Yisraˆel (= The Eternity of Israel; hereafter NY; all folio numbers given in brackets in the body of this paper refer to this work). 6 After its publication in 1741, Israel settled in Berlin. It is generally believed that he left Zamosc to avoid persecution on account of his pre- dilection for science, a view that has turned him into an early martyr of the Haskalah. In Berlin, Israel was for a while Moses Mendelssohn’s teacher of philosophy. There he also wrote his second book, a commentary on the medieval classic RuaÌ Ìen (1744); in this work Israel presented, for the first time in Hebrew, some facets of early modern (qualitative) science. Even more than the Zamosc chapter in his life, his activity in Berlin secured Israel a place in all histories of the early Haskalah. Israel became one of the first thinkers of Polish origin to enter the history of Haskalah thanks to his interest in and commitment to science, especially astronomy and mathematics. Given the general state of scientific education among Jews in Poland in the early eighteenth century, Israel’s engagement with mathematical science comes as a surprise. In this paper, I will focus on the formation of Israel’s scientifically moulded frame of mind. I will argue that, to account for it, Israel should be set in his local con- text, the town of Zamosc, which, I will suggest, was a centre of learning where the Sephardi tradition of science study may have been perpetuated on Polish soil. Conse- quently, I will consider only the early part of Israel’s life, passed in Zamosc. 7

R. Israel b. Moses Halevi in Zamosc 8

Israel b. Moses was born around 5460/1700 9 in the small Galician town of Bóbrka, 10 some 30 kilometres southeast of Lvov (Lemberg), now in Ukraine. Nothing is known

6 Frankfurt on the Oder, 1741.

7 For Israel’s later scientific activity in Berlin, see: David B. Ruderman, Jewish Thought and Scientific Discovery in Early Modern Europe (New Haven and London, 1995), pp. 332 ff.; David Sorkin, ‘The Early Haskalah’, in New Perspectives on the Haskalah, ed. Shmuel Feiner and David Sorkin (London, 2001), pp. 9–26, on pp. 17–9. Discussions of Israel often draw on statements collected from all his works. This is misguided, for during his life Israel’s thought evolved, while yet maintaining a certain continuity. His two posthumous works, the commentaries on the Kuzari and on Îovot ha-levavot (the dates of com- position are uncertain), in particular, seem to reflect a relatively traditionalist attitude. See Gad Freuden- thal, ‘Jisrael ben Moshe Halewi Zamosc’, in Lexikon jüdischer Philosophen und Theologen, ed. Andreas Kilcher and Otfried Fraisse (Stuttgart, 2003), pp. 174–6; idem, ‘Zamosc, Israel ben Moses Halevi’, YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe (forthcoming), as well as n. 137 below. Israel’s later works thus have only indirect bearing for the understanding of the scientific tradition among Jews in Poland.

8 Useful accounts of Israel’s life and works are the following: Isaac Baer Levinsohn, Te¨udah be-Yisraˆel (Warsaw, 1878), p. 146; Samuel Joseph Fuenn, Knesseth Yisra}el (Warsaw, 1886), pp. 690–2; C. Stanislavsky, ‘Israel Zamosc’ (in Russian), Voskod 6 (1886): 131–7; Salomon Wininger, Grosse jüdische National-Biographie, 7 vols. (Cernaui, 1925–1936), 3: 210; Israel Zinberg, A History of Jewish Literature, vol. 6: The German-Polish Cultural Center, trans. and ed. Bernard Martin (Cincinnati and New York, 1975), pp. 244–5; Ben-Zion Katz, Rabbanut, Ìasidut, haskalah (Tel Aviv, 1956), 1: 142–4, 185–7, 209–10; Raphael Mahler, Divrei yemei Yisraˆel ha-aÌaronim (MerÌavia, 1956), 1: IV-26–30; Jacob Dov Mandelboim, ‘Îakhmei Zamoshtsh’ (Hebrew), in Pinqas Zamosc (Buenos Aires, 1957), pp. 221–316, on p. 270; G[edaliahu] A[lkoshi] in Encyclopedia Hebraica (Hebrew), vol. 16 (Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, 1963), col. 867; Getzel Kressel, Cyclopedia of Modern Hebrew Literature (Hebrew), vol. 1 (MerÌavia, 1965), p. 755; see also the two entries by the present writer referred to at the end of n. 7.

9 All the works in the previous note indicate ‘c. 1700’, except Mahler and one of the two articles in EJ, which have ‘1710’ (without argument). 10 Also known as Bibrka (Ukrainian), Boiberke (Yiddish), and Prachnik (German); by contrast, ‘Boiberik’ is a misnomer deriving from the name of a fictional town in Shalom Aleichem’s stories.

about his family, but it seems to have been without distinction or scholarly anteced- ents. 11 Jews first settled in Bóbrka around 1625, when the town began to prosper; a century later (in 1765), the community numbered only 713. 12 Educational opportuni- ties in Bóbrka were obviously quite limited, and so it is not surprising that early in his life Israel moved to Zamosc, the town with which his name was to be associ- ated. 13 He moved to Zamosc, halfway between Lvov and Lublin, because the town was a rising economic and intellectual centre, as we shall see. The only source of in- formation about Israel’s life in Zamosc is his book NY, especially its introduction, written in rhymed prose. 14 We do not know where and under whom Israel studied, 15 but in midlife he had al- ready acquired the reputation of a great scholar. In his haskamah (letter of approba- tion) to NY (1737), Joel Ba{al Shem (on whom more below) refers to Israel as ‘one of the worthies [yaqqirei] of our community’ and says that he agreed to write the appro- bation because ‘it is unfitting to turn down a great sage [gadol]’ (fol. 3a). Other rab- bis, too, describe him in their approbations to NY as ‘great in knowledge’, ‘erudite’ (Ìarif), 16 and ‘an astronomer’ (tokhen). While living in Zamosc (until 1741), Israel completed his major work, NY, as well as three other books: Arubbot ha-shamayim (The Windows of Heaven) an astro- nomical treatise (extant in two incomplete manuscripts); 17 a commentary on Sefer

11 Israel puts into the mouth of a contemporary the following words, suggesting he came from a humble origin: ‘Whose son is this youngster who talks to us so highly?… I searched in the books of all the lords of the land and found not a single word on his past’ (fol. 2ba).

12 Le-zekher qehilat Bobrka u-venoteha (Boiberke memorial book), ed. Shraga F. Kallay (Jerusalem, 1964); English translation (excerpts) at; Pinkas Hakehilot, partial English translation at Other sources give slightly different figures.

13 He apparently did not move to Zamosc with all his family, for in NY he thanks his ‘eminent’ brother PinÌas Lafanir of Brody for his financial help (fol. 3a); see also below, n. 121. The record of Israel’s funeral in the Brody cemetary notes that Israel was ‘the brother of R. PinÌas Lefiner (or: Lapiner, Lapinar)’; see: Nathan M. Gelber, ‘Aus dem “Pinax des alten Judenfriedhofes in Brody” (1699–1831)’, Jahrbuch der jüdisch-literarischen Gesellschaft 13 (1920): 130 (No. 115).

14 On the tradition of this genre in Ashkenaz, see Nurith Govrin, ‘Signon ha-maqqamah ba-sifrut ha- ¨ivrit ba-dorot ha-aÌaronim’, Meˆassef le-divrei sifrut, biqqoret ve-hagut 7–8 (1968): 394–417 (NY is briefly mentioned on p. 397). Govrin also refers to Israel’s much discussed Nezed ha-dema¨. She is ex- ceptional in noting that there is a similarity between the latter and the introduction to NY, but does not systematically bring the latter to bear on the former. Curiously, the recent and most detailed study of Nezed ha-dema¨ does not draw on the introduction to NY, but instead on that of Solomon b. Moses of Chelm’s Mirkevet ha-mishneh (below, p. 44), published ten years later; see Yehuda Friedlander, Be- misterei ha-sairah. Hebrew Satire in Europe in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (Hebrew), vol. 2 (Ramat Gan, 1989), pp. 9–110. Future research on Nezed ha-dema¨ should take the introduction to NY into consideration.

15 In NY, Israel often alludes to his ‘friends’ and names them (see below), but mentions none of his teachers.

16 Îarif is often understood as ‘sharp-witted’; but when R. Jacob Isaac Îarif took a German name he chose ‘Hochgelernter’ (below, p. 41), signalling that the term’s primary signification was ‘erudite’.

17 See n. 3; the second manuscript is London, Jews’ College, Montefiore Collection, MS 427 (= Insti- tute for Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts, Jerusalem, No. 8752). The two manuscripts cover the same text, but have numerous variants due to scribal errors. Both are incomplete, for in NY (fol. 2ba) Israel explicitly refers to the introduction to Arubbot, which neither manuscript has; he also refers to a geo- metrical section of Arubbot (see below) and to ‘tables’ (presumably astronomical tables) that it included (fol. 52bb); but these are not in either of the two extant manuscripts. Isaac Baer Levinsohn (Zerubbavel [Warsaw, 1901], 1: 68, n. 3) refers to an ‘autograph manuscript’ of Arubbot that he has seen, ‘written in

Yesod ¨olam by Isaac Israeli of Toledo (a work from the 1320s that Israel read in manuscript); and a commentary on Sefer Elim by Joseph Solomon Delmedigo (pub- lished in Amsterdam in 1629). 18 The last two works seem to be lost. 19 They were written before 1737, for on Tuesday, 7 Elul [5]497 (= Sept. 3, 1737), Joel Ba¨al Shem mentions both of them by name and describes them as ‘clear and transparent’ (3a). 20 In NY, Israel himself mentions only Arubbot ha-shamayim. In the (undated) preface he refers to it as ‘a composition I wrote in mathematical science [Ìokhmat ha- limmudim], including all the branches of mathematics, such as geometry, optics and trigonometry [reˆiyah u-Òelalim], 21 as well as astronomy, all by clear proofs from top to bottom, none is absent, and it will be revealed when I can afford the printing costs’ (3aa). 22 In the body of NY, too, Israel refers to Arubbot explicitly. 23 From this we

the author’s own hand’, in the possession of Nachman Krochmal, to whom, he says, it was given to pre- pare for publication; he adds that the handwriting has become blurred by time and that the last two leaves are missing. Can this manuscript be one of the two extant ones? Israel spent his last years in Brody; and Krochmal, too, had ties with this town (his father lived there). Nachman Krochmal was in close contact with Leopold Zunz, who prepared Moreh nevukhei ha-zeman for posthumous publication (1851). Seeing that the London manuscript of Arubbot was at one time owned by Zunz (the notation ‘Zunz cod 25’ is on the recto of the page after the cover; noted in Hartwig Hirschfeld, Descriptive Cata- logue of the Hebrew Manuscripts of the Montefiore Collection [London, 1903], 127, No. 427), the sus- picion arises that this is the autograph manuscript that Levinsohn believed he saw. It can be stated with confidence, however, that neither this nor the New York manuscript is an autograph: comparison estab- lishes that neither derives from the other, so that both are (quite faulty) copies, direct or indirect, of an archetype. Similarly, although neither manuscript contains the introduction that Israel says he wrote, the numbering of the folios, which seems original, begins with 1. Although it is not excluded that the manu- script that Levinsohn saw in the hands of Krochmal is the one now in London (Levinsohn may have simply mistaken it for an autograph), this seems unlikely, for the manuscript is not particularly blurred. Since both the London and New York manuscripts end at the same spot, quite abruptly, and may lack the end, they could both derive from the manuscript seen by Levinsohn (which he noted was missing the last two leaves). It would thus seem that at least the London manuscript was copied from the one in the possession of Krochmal, a surmise that explains how it reached Zunz.

18 It should be noted that writing a commentary on the traditional Sefer Yesod ¨olam by Isaac Israeli, the venerated student of R. Asher ben YeÌiel (the Rosh), was a relatively standard exercise, for similar com- mentaries had been written earlier; see e.g. Jacob Elbaum, Openness and Insularity: Late Sixteenth- Century Jewish Literature in Poland and Ashkenaz (Hebrew) (Jerusalem, 1990), p. 77 (see also p. 91, n. 24). By contrast, devoting a commentary to the more recent Sefer Elim was an innovative and daring enterprise.

19 In 1782, the Berlin maskil Naphtali Herz Wessely (1725–1805) wrote of ‘great Torah scholars’ who came to Berlin after having studied the sciences in Poland out of ‘the few books which were written by scholars of our nation, such as Yesod ¨olam by Isaac Israeli and Elim by Joseph of Kandiah’ (Divrei shalom we-emet [Berlin, 3 rd ed., 1898], Second Letter, 20a, translation quoted from David E. Fishman, Russia’s First Modern Jews: The Jews of Shklov [New York, 1995], p. 35). The precise coincidence of these two titles with the two commentaries written by Israel (as well as some further indications) make it quite certain that Wessely had Israel in mind (rather than Barukh of Shklov, as Fishman [p. 36] sur- mises). See also below, n. 65.

20 The approbation by Moses b. Aaron of Lvov, given in Frankfort on the Oder in June 1741, refers in general terms to ‘various ample [muflagim] writings [by Israel] that I have seen’, but gives no details. The other approbations do not mention any other compositions.

21 See Ben Yehuda’s Dictionary, vol. 11, p. 5482.

22 Israel may have borrowed the title Arubbot ha-shamayim from Joseph Solomon Delmedigo who, in his Ma¨ayan ganim, says he had composed a work by that name bearing on geometry (‘the solution of triangles’). See Sefer Elim (Odessa, 1865), p. 136.

23 E.g. fol. 54ba; at fol. 52ba the reference to ‘Sefer ha-yesodot [Book of Elements] that I composed’ is perhaps an allusion to the first, mathematical part of Arubbot, now lost, for Israel elsewhere refers to ‘my book Arubbot ha-shamayim, Part One, which is a composition that I wrote on the science of math-

may infer that when NY was completed Arubbot existed already, at least in part, and that both works were quickly followed by the two lost commentaries. 24 This recon- struction is consistent with the fact that Arubbot does not mention any of the other three works and that Israel refers to NY as his ‘first fruit’ (reˆshit peri ra¨yonotay) (fol. 2bb). The end of 1737 is the date ante quem for the completion of all four books. 25 NY, whose title plays on the double meaning of ‘Israel’ as both the Jewish people and (following a long tradition) the author’s name (‘it is appropriate to call the effect by the name of its cause’ [fol. 3ab]), is the work of a scholar deeply versed in Talmud and halakhah and at the same time also very knowledgeable in philosophy and math- ematics and animated by a critical scientific spirit. Israel’s frame of mind is distinc- tively Maimonidean: ably playing with metaphors, Israel likens the effect of the Guide of the Perplexed on readers like himself to a resurrection – it brought to life many who ‘slumbered in the dust of ignorance’. 26 Israel stresses that he combines Talmud study with science, that he ‘is filled with the love of the sciences, after hav- ing been replete with the bread of the Talmud’ (fol. 1aa). Israel thus reads the Tal- mud and the halakhic literature of his day from the perspective of a scholar who has mastered the sciences available in Hebrew. Formally, NY remains a decidedly con- servative book, for its ostensible ambition is limited to contributing to the classic lit- erary genre of resolving talmudic sugyot, specifically (but not exclusively) those on which light derived from science can be shed. But NY is subversive, indeed explo- sive, on another plane; namely, that of the texts it accepts as authoritative. Whereas halakhic scholars traditionally appeal only to earlier halakhic authorities, Israel re- gards science as another, indeed superior, source of knowledge and authority. Conse- quently, many of his Ìiddushim (novellae) result not from inner textual analyses of the traditional corpus, but from adducing knowledge derived from external sources to illuminate it. We will come back to this below. Israel’s vehement rejection of contemporary methods of Talmud study, which he describes as being largely senseless pilpul (fol. 2ab–2ba), goes hand in hand with this scientifically motivated criticism. 27 The debate about pilpul has been around for a long time, 28 but Israel gives his criticism a social twist. As a result of the exile and the troubles that came in its wake, he charges, many scholars found it difficult to make a living. They resorted to using the Torah as a means to support themselves and

ematics and astronomy’ (fol. 54ba). See also below, n. 150. The reference to ‘the book that I wrote’ on fol. 52bb may also refer to Arubbot.

24 NY contains a clear, although implicit, allusion to the commentary on Elim as a forthcoming book:

‘This matter has been explained by R. Joseph of Candia in the book Ma¨ayan Ìatum [a part of Elim], and you will see its proof in a book I intend to write’ (fol. 40ab).

25 In his haskamah, Joel Ba¨al Shem does not mention Arubbot ha-shamayim by name. But he refers to Israel as ‘the great astronomer’ who ‘rose to the heaven’, probably an allusion to that astronomical work.

26 Ve-rabbim mi-yeshenei admat ¨afar ha-ivvelet heqiÒu we-¨amedu ¨al maˆamarav ha-nikhbadim (NY, fol. 42bb); cf. Dan. 12:2.

27 See on this Jay M. Harris, How Do We Know This? Midrash and the Fragmentation of Modern Judaism (Albany, 1995), pp. 137–41 and n. 118 below.

28 For an overview, see Mordecai Breuer, Oholei Torah (The Tents of Torah): The Yeshiva, Its Struc- ture and History (Hebrew) (Jerusalem, 2003), pp. 186–227.

made simple things appear complicated in order to give their own work added eco- nomic value. These dishonest scholars gathered haphazard premises, Israel accuses, and wove them together into a spider’s web (2ab). ‘Lakhen hitÌilu ofanei ha-limmud lihyot ¨aqalqalot we-darkhei ha-Ìokhmah avelot’ (thus the modes of inquiry turned crooked, and the ways of knowledge became sorrowful [cf. Lam. 1:4]). He goes to great lengths to castigate those who have no respect for truth and whose Torah is grounded in false premises and suppositions. He mentions, however, some halakhists whom he believed to have held positions akin to his own, notably the fourteenth-cen- tury Tosaphist Samson b. Isaac of Chinon, author of the methodological work Sefer ha-keritut (Cremona, 1558) and, more importantly, Solomon Ephraim b. Aaron of Luntshits (Leczyca, 1550–1619) and his books Keli yaqar and ¨Ammudei Shesh (fol. 2ba). 29 His criticisms notwithstanding, Israel’s image of himself is that of a traditional Halakhic scholar. This image is in tune with and underscored by the fact that NY was printed in Frankfurt on the Oder in 1741. 30 That town was a rising centre of Jewish printing: from only ten titles before 1650, to 139 in the second half of the seven- teenth century, 264 in the first quarter of the eighteenth century, 309 in the second quarter (including NY), and 373 in the third quarter. But quality, too, is important here. All the books printed in Frankfurt on the Oder were strictly traditionalist: their titles typically include the terms tosafot, pilpulim, Ìiddushim, perushim, etc. – all of them bearing on halakhah and on Talmud study. 31 That Israel had his book printed in Frankfurt on the Oder thus reflects the fact that, despite his criticism of contemporary scholarship, his reference group remained that of the halakhists and he wanted it to be viewed as a contribution to the traditional genre of halakhah and Talmud study. Still, Israel’s critical attitude and the seditious potential of his talmudic herme- neutics did not go unheeded. Long before the publication of NY, he was in bitter con- flict with parts of his environment. In the preface to NY he expresses in strong and moving words his exasperation, indeed his despair, over how his ideas are received:

‘I can no longer bear the tongues of the human-looking oxen,… who are seasoned with the mustard of foolishness, 32 … whose tongues are like pointed arrows, like whips and scorpions,… which are stuck in the hearts of those who study the Torah for its own sake’ (fol. 1aa). Israel’s emotional reaction to the situation as he perceives

29 It is not surprising that Israel found a kindred spirit in R. Solomon Ephraim: like Israel, the latter, who apparently belonged to a low social stratum, was favourably inclined to the study of philosophy and gave approbations to several rationalist books, including David Gans’ Magen David (1612; a pro- spectus for NeÌmad ve-na¨im, Gans’ full-scale astronomical work printed only much later). See Elbaum, Openness and Insularity, notably pp. 97–105, 175, 314, 322 (views), 175, 250 (n. 7) (approbations; on the approbation for Magen David see also André Néher, David Gans u-zemano, trans. from the French by Avital Inbar [Jerusalem, 1982], pp. 107–8). On Keli yaqar see Elbaum, Openness and Insularity, no- tably pp. 82–4 (n. 4), 97–9. R. Ephraim had a student who became interested in astronomy; ibid. 255 (n. 22). See also: EJ 6: 814–15; Simcha Assaf, Meqorot le-toledot ha-Ìinnukh be-Yisra}el, ed. Shmuel Glick, vol. 1 (New York and Jerusalem, 2002), pp. 27–30.

30 Printing began on 4 Sivan [5]501 (= Friday, May 19, 1741) and ended on Tuesday, 20 Tammuz of the same year (= July 4, 1741); NY, fol. 59a.

31 Yeshayahu Vinograd, Thesaurus of the Hebrew Book, Pt. II (Jerusalem, 1993), pp. 568–79.

32 The expression ‘mustard of foolishness’ apparently means that their ignorance is mordant to the oth- ers.

it is characterized by two words he uses: qineˆah and qinah, zealousness and lamen- tation: ‘On account of this I will wrap myself in zealousness like a cloak // and raise lamentation on the heights’ (fol. 2ba). 33 On the one hand, he is zealous to defend the ‘true learning’: he is in an offensive mood, and his book is his first move in the battle he wages. But at the same time there is also discouragement – qinah. Israel describes how an onlooker must perceive him and refers in one breath to his courage and to his deep despondency: ‘Have you seen that one, the man and his ranting // his valorous heart and stubborn spirit?’ 34 There are many other expressions of depression: he re- fers to his fountains of sorrow and the floodgates of his griefs 35 and beseeches God to take his soul and deliver him from his tribulations. 36 ‘Better to render it [the soul] to You, rather than to tribulations’ (fol. 1aa). Why should I live, he asks rhetorically, if this intellect, which I called ‘my son’, is the source of my troubles (fol. 1ab)? These are not rhetorical flourishes and still less conventional elements in an author’s intro- duction to a work of talmudic exegesis. Rather, they give us a window onto Israel’s personality: prepared to struggle for his ideas and ideals, he is also beset by a gloom that threatens to gain the upper hand at any moment and push him into deep melan- choly. To paraphrase Goethe’s Faust, qineˆah and qinah are the two souls dwelling in his breast. 37 Unfortunately, of all his introductions, only that to NY survives, leaving it almost the only window onto Israel’s mood in that period. 38 Although we have no contemporary documents from Zamosc that refer to Israel, there can be no doubt that his complaints are not imaginary and that he was indeed hounded in Zamosc. The writer Isaac Leib Peretz (1852–1915), one of the best- known sons of Zamosc, reports in his memoirs that in his childhood it was not re- garded as bon ton to mention Israel’s name. 39 The fact that in his whole life Israel gave only two approbations to books by other scholars (both after he left Zamosc 40 )

33 ¨Al zeh ani e¨eeh ka-me¨il qineˆah // we-esaˆ ¨al shefayim qinah (cf. Isa. 59:17 and Jer. 7:29).

34 Ha-reˆitem peloni ha-ish we-siÌo // omeÒ libo u-qeshi ruÌo? On the source of this phrase see below,

p. 65.

Ma¨ayanot yegonotav, arubbot shemei tugotav niftaÌu – the latter is an echo of Gen. 7:11 and at the same time alludes to the title of Israel’s astronomical book.

36 Ve-atta ha-Shem qaÌ-naˆ nafshi ve-hoÒiˆah mi-telaˆot.

37 Evidence from a number of Israel’s writings suggests that he had alternate periods of melancholy and great elation.

38 As already mentioned (above, n. 17), Israel alludes to the introduction he wrote to Arubbot ha- shamayim, of which he says that it also criticized contemporaries (tokhaÌah megullah; fol. 2ba). This introduction is not found in either of the surviving manuscripts of the work. Nor do any of Israel’s

printed works (except NY) have an introduction.

39 I. L. Peretz, Ale verk fun Y. L. Peretz, vol. 11: Zikhroynes, briv un redn (New York, 1948), p. 71;

I also used the (very accurate) Hebrew translation: Kol kitvei Y. L. Peretz, vol. 9: Zikhronotay, trans.

S. Melzer (Tel Aviv, 1957), p. 87. The English translation, by Fred Goldberg, is rarely faithful to the

original; see My Memories (New York, 1964), p. 124. Peretz writes: ‘About Israel Zamosc … people talk very little. He was the teacher of the one from Dessau [= Moses Mendelssohn]; better remain silent. [Say] no good things, no bad things’. The fact that Peretz alludes to Mendelssohn in this context sug- gests the possibility that it was also his association with the latter in Berlin that induced the people in Zamosc to avoid talking about Israel, and not only events related to his life in Zamosc.

40 The two works are: Mordecai b. Meir Kalmanns, Sefer Tavnit ha-bayit (Frankfurt on the Oder, 1747); and SimÌah b. Joshua Haas, Lev SimÌah (Zó¥kiew, 1754). The former was given on Friday, 19 Sheva[5]505 (= January 22, 1745), the latter in Brody on Thursday, 2 Kislev [5]517 (= November 25,



confirms his marginal status. These conflicts, the reasons for which are less clear than is usually thought (see below, pp. 49 ff.), are probably what induced Israel to leave Zamosc. In mid-1741 he was in Frankfurt on the Oder, overseeing the printing of NY. The next year we already find him in Berlin. Presumably he never returned to Zamosc after the publication of what conservative circles were quick to disparage as ReÒaÌ Yisrael (The Assassination of Israel). 41 His arrival in Berlin opens a radically new chapter in Israel’s life; but that is beyond the scope of the present article.

Illuminating the Talmud with the Light of Science:

The Hermeneutic Method of NY

In sixteenth-century Poland, a (thin) Hebrew scientific tradition, which largely con- tinued the medieval one, was alive; a number of distinguished halakhic scholars, no- tably R. Moses Isserles (1525–1572) and R. Mordecai Jaffe (ca. 1535–1612), re- garded scientific knowledge as legitimate. 42 This tradition faded away during the seventeenth century – or, if it was alive, it was not so much in the open. Hence some words of justification were required to draw on science to clarify the text of the Tal- mud in Zamosc of the 1730s. Israel offers us a hermeneutic theory that explains his method of interpreting talmudic texts in the light of science and legitimizes the ap- peal to the ‘foreign’ sciences. I shall consider separately his scientifically informed halakhic discussions and his interpretation of aggadah.

Shedding the Light of Mathematics on Halakhah

After declaring (fol. 1ab) that he has things of great importance to add to the earlier literature discussing talmudic sugyot, Israel defines the specific locus of his contribu- tion through a series of recursive divisions (themselves a clear indication of his thor- ough philosophic training). The Torah as a whole is divided into a practical part and a theoretical (¨iyyuni) part. The former is the practice of observing the precepts and is not at issue. The remaining, theoretical, part is again divided into two. One part is purely theoretical, with no bearing on practice; this is what Maimonides called ma¨aseh merkavah and ma¨aseh bereshit, and Israel will not consider it. We are thus left with theory that has implications for practice; this will be at the centre of his interest. This is in turn divided into two. One part is concerned with the interpretation of the pre- cepts: this interpretative effort, Israel claims, has become necessary merely because matters that the talmudic Sages considered to be simple and readily comprehensible are obscure for the later, less perceptive generations. The entire enterprise of Talmud study and exegesis is thus a result of the low spiritual level of the recent generations and has no intrinsic value in itself; a great sage (moreh Òedeq), were he to appear, would be

41 D. H., [Review of: Isaac Baer Levinsohn, Te¨udah be-Yisraˆel], in Sulamith 8 (1833): 94–8, on p. 96n.

42 On this tradition and its influence see David Fishman, ‘Rabbi Moshe Isserles and the Study of Sci- ence Among Polish Rabbis’, Science in Context 10 (1997): 571–88; Ruderman, Jewish Thought and Scientific Discovery, chap. 2, and the literature indicated there. On Isserles’ astronomy, see Y. Tzvi Langermann, ‘The Astronomy of Rabbi Moses Isserles’, in Physics, Cosmology and Astronomy, 1300– 1700: Tension and Accommodation, Sabetai Unguru (= Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, vol. 126) (Dordrecht, 1991), pp. 83–98.

able to explicate all the precepts, making pilpul and its cognates redundant. The other part of theory that has a bearing on practice is distinguished by having its own intrinsic value. This part includes, for example, the precepts concerning the calculation of ‘equi- noxes and solstices and new moons’: inherent (if implicit) in these precepts is an in- junction to study astronomy. Here the theoretical effort (¨iyyun) is not devoted to the explication of a text that has become obscure, but rather to the application of a general precept to empirical reality. This task does not require hermeneutics, but rather ‘a deep inquiry into the science of astronomy’, as was stated by no lesser than Maimonides (fol. 1ab). Thus this part of Torah is intrinsically bound up with scientific inquiry; ad- herence to the Torah ipso facto implies an involvement with science. A telling instance of such an inquiry is introduced by Israel apropos of a cosmological passage in tractate PesaÌim. Israel remarks that Rashi’s cosmology is entirely wrong, whereas that of the Sages is correct. One of Israel’s guiding princi- ples is the general assumption that the Sages were ‘accomplished astronomers’ and held true cosmological beliefs (fol. 56bb; see also 2bb, 49aa). He is outraged by in- terpretations that ascribe long-refuted views to them – for example, that the earth is flat: ‘Heaven forbid that we say the Sages were ignorant of astronomy and knew nothing of it!’ (fol. 24ba). They ‘had ten shares in natural science’ as well (fol. 52bb). Later scholars, because of their ignorance of scientific matters, have attributed false views to the Sages, and, occasionally, to the Tosafists as well (fols. 37ab, 38bb). Israel harshly castigates those who propound such calumnious interpretations. Israel thereupon makes the following methodological declaration of intentions:

I set myself the aim of explaining all the statements in the Talmud bearing on astronomy according to my own understanding, which conflicts with Rashi, but which follows the deep fundamentals of the astronomy accepted (nehugah) at present in the world. [I do so] in order that they [the astronomical statements] conform to [lit. are one with] the state- ments of the Sages. Indeed, the statements of the astronomy that is well-known [or: gen- erally accepted; ha-mefursam] among us now are almost all grounded in strong math- ematical proofs that no created being can possibly reject. (Fol. 55ab)

Israel proceeds to enunciate the fundamental principles of astronomy, which turn out to be four premises of standard Ptolemaic astronomy. Clearly, his endorsement of the Sages at once legitimizes his own work and discredits the traditional authorities whom he criticizes for their erroneous scientific views. Breaking at last with his successive bifurcations, Israel identifies (fol. 1ba) two further kinds of theoretical study with a bearing on practice. The first again involves science: whenever we identify a crux (qushiyyah) in the words of the Sages or of later great scholars, we are obliged, Israel says, to resolve it (fol. 1bb). This obliga- tion holds in particular ‘when we see that the words of the Talmud must be expli- cated according to one of the foreign sciences, i.e., one of the seven sciences’ 43 (fol.

43 In the Middle Ages, the seven sciences were identified as the trivium and the quadrivium. There were different views, however, on precisely which sciences belonged to these two groups. See, e.g., Harry Austryn Wolfson, ‘The Classification of Sciences in Medieval Jewish Philosophy’, Hebrew Union Col- lege Jubilee Volume (Cincinnati, 1925), pp. 263–315; Dov Rappel, Sheva¨ ha-Ìokhmot: Ha-vikkuaÌ ¨al limmudei Ìol ba-yahadut (Jerusalem, 1990).

1ba). The sciences in question are those ‘whose statements cannot possibly be denied and whose foundations cannot be uprooted, namely, mathematical science, which in- cludes [in addition to astronomy] geometry and optics. For all the statements of mathematical science are grounded in strong and evident proofs … that cannot be rejected by any means’ (fol. 1ba). By contrast, Israel adds, the proofs of the other profane disciplines, like logic and natural science, are not so certain; hence, if they contradict the Talmud, their statements are to be rejected in favour of the Talmud (fol. 1ba). Lastly, the second kind of theoretical inquiry with a bearing on reality is purely halakhic and will not detain us here. Israel has thus defined a twofold role for science in the study of the Talmud. For one thing, the study of astronomy, notably, is ‘programmed’ into the precepts con- cerning the calendar. For another, when Talmudic statements seem to contradict truths established by the exact sciences, one must accept the latter because they have been apodictically established, and the Talmudic text must be interpreted accord- ingly. The Maimonidean inspiration is visible at every turn.

Understanding ‘Strange Aggadot’ in the Light of Science.

We now come to Israel’s understanding of very different texts, namely ‘strange aggadot’ – specifically those that, taken literally, conflict with science. 44 The hermeneutic theory here differs from the one just considered. The point of departure is talmudic statements (B Sukkah 29a) that eclipses are the consequence of various immoral actions (e.g., the rape of a betrothed girl, homo- sexual acts, false testimony, and the cutting down of useful trees).This passage ‘has raised in us numerous and huge doubts’, Israel says (fol. 40ba), inasmuch as it makes eclipses depend on men’s actions and thus on their choices and free will. It is well known, however, that ‘in truth the cause of the eclipse … follows with necessity from the heavenly bodies, [i.e.,] it is made necessary by their motions’ (fol. 40ba). Israel briefly describes the astronomical conditions for an eclipse and adds: ‘[the as- tronomers’] affirmations are tested [yibbaÌanu] publicly, for they foretell when the eclipse will take place – in what month, on what day, at what time, and at which po- sition the Sun will be eclipsed and what parts of it will be eclipsed’ (fol. 40ba). Taken literally, the aggadah is thus patently absurd. This is all the more embarrassing as the gentiles ‘mock us’, saying ‘where is your wisdom?’ and allege that the Sages were ignorant (fol. 40ba). Fortunately, Israel writes, ‘God has granted me a true interpretation’ for this aggadah (fol. 40ba). To convey it to his readers, he introduces two distinctions. The first is between the two parts of the Torah: Wisdom, which is ‘the concealed part, I mean the Wisdom of the Kabbalah’; and ‘Torah’ (in a narrower sense) ‘which is vis-

44 The interpretation of ‘strange’ aggadot had been much discussed in earlier Polish rabbinic literature (see, e.g., Elbaum, Openness and Insularity, pp. 95–142, 162, 252–3). Israel’s discussions belong to this established genre. It will not be possible to discuss here how he relates to his predecessors, although it appears likely that he went beyond them in assessing the aggadot from the viewpoint offered by sci- ence. David Nieto, too, felt a need to interpret some aggadot rationally; see Kuzari ha-sheni [or] Ma††eh Dan IV, §§291–318 ([Jerusalem, 1958], pp. 159–72).

ible, namely the accomplishment of the precepts’. People differ in their attitudes to- ward these two parts of the Torah, and in fact are divided into several classes (named for three of the four sons in the PesaÌ Haggadah):

(1) The wicked, those who deny the reality of Wisdom, believing it to be the very opposite of Tradition (dat). ‘Because they do not believe what is concealed they deny the fundamental tenet’. 45 (2) The simple-minded, who believe that ‘God has nothing in His world but the practical part’ (cf. B Berakhot 8a): in their eyes Wisdom is redundant. Of them, Israel suggests, Scripture says that they walk in darkness (Ps. 82:5). (3) The Wise, namely those who understand that ‘Wisdom and Tradition are the two great luminaries (cf. Gen. 1:16): the Great Luminary is Wisdom, the Small Luminary is Tradition’.

Let us consider the worldview of ‘the Wise’, Israel’s own group. To characterize the relationship between the traditional texts and what he calls ‘Wisdom’ (Ìokhmah, a term whose precise denotation we shall consider later), Israel offers an audacious metaphor (fol. 40bb). ‘Wisdom’, he says, bears the same relation to ‘Tradition’ (dat 46 ) as the sun to the moon: the latter, the small luminary, has no light of its own and illuminates by virtue of the light it receives from the great luminary: ‘as the moon receives light from the sun, which actualizes its potential light, so too the Tra- dition receives its light from Wisdom’ (fol. 40bb). 47 Israel’s thesis is thus that Tradi- tion shines only when illuminated by Wisdom. Indeed, human beings, being consti- tuted of matter, cannot apprehend Wisdom directly, just as they cannot look directly at the sun. The purpose of the God-given ‘Torah of Truth’ is to allow us to receive the light of Wisdom and to benefit from it, just as we can look at the moon (fol. 40bb). ‘You, the inquirer’, Israel tells his reader, ‘please understand how deep this analogy is, and how the relationship of Wisdom to Tradition is wonderfully like that between the sun and the moon’ (ibid.). Israel confirms the analogy by adducing the midrashic statement that the light created on the first day allowed Adam to see from one end of the world to the other (B Îagigah 12a): this cannot refer to light in the ordinary sense, Israel observes, because we know from optics that stronger light does not allow one to see farther. Necessarily, then, ‘light is here a designation for Wis- dom’ and the ‘seeing’ in question is intellectual, not sensual (ibid.). The same applies to the talmudic statement that the face of Moses was like that of the sun, that of Joshua like that of the moon (B Baba Batra 75a): Moses having been ‘the choicest of the human species’ he apprehended Wisdom itself, whereas Joshua received the To- rah from him, just as the moon receives the light from the sun. Similarly, Israel adds, in the verse that identifies God with ‘the sun and a shield’ (after Ps. 84:12–13), the

45 I.e., the very existence of God.

46 The word dat often means ‘law’, but in the present context its meaning is much wider and denotes the totality of Jewish beliefs and practices, as we shall see.

47 Israel alleges that this view was taken by Shem ov b. Joseph in the introduction to his commentary on the Guide of the Perplexed. He is not being fair, however, for in fact R. Shem ov used the metaphor of the two luminaries simply to characterize one of three possible positions on the relationship between Wisdom and Tradition, but without endorsing it himself.

sun again stands for Wisdom: the verse states that the deity ‘is the utmost Wisdom’; ‘He and His Wisdom are one and the same thing, as is known to those who delve into what is hidden [ha-ma¨amiqim ba-nistar]’. 48 The upshot of the discussion is that in the passage about the causes of eclipses, ‘sun’ and ‘moon’ do not denote the heav- enly bodies, but rather Wisdom and Tradition. In this reading, the aggadah is no longer ‘strange’. Israel’s point of departure is thus a particular aggadah that is absurd if understood literally as relating to the natural world. Uncovering its ‘hidden’ meaning requires the light of ‘Wisdom’. But what does Israel mean by ‘Wisdom’? For an answer we turn to another methodological discussion. Israel reflects at considerable length on the very notion of ‘strange aggadot’, which he characterizes as ‘those that are at variance with what has been established by philosophical [rational] inquiry (heqqesh) and which are found in the Talmud’ (fol. 42bb). He reminds the reader that Maimonides himself – ‘the Glory of the Sages’ – stated that such aggadot must not be taken literally; rather they conceal a secret or inner meaning. 49 Why did the Sages choose to conceal their knowledge? The answer is that they wished to make it accessible only to the truly learned of every generation – a prudence all the more necessary because their statements were divinely inspired (ibid.). Israel argues that not only the Sages of Israel, but also those of the nations, notably Plato, wrote in ‘parables and riddles’. 50 Why, then, does Israel feel free to disclose the Sages’ secrets? Because, he writes (fol. 43aa), in the time of the talmudic Sages people were either extremely learned or totally ignorant; the former understood the secrets of the strange aggadot on their own, whereas the latter were not even troubled by them and did not realize that they cannot be understood literally. At present, however, there is a large intermediate class of people who are clever enough to be troubled by strange aggadot but not clever enough to understand them without help. The existence of this new class led great sages, beginning with Rabbenu Nissim, Saadia Gaon, and Samuel b. Îofni Gaon, to elucidate some of them. Israel ends his apology for interpreting aggadot with the following significant statement:

In their footsteps [of the aforementioned scholars] followed all the ancients, offering in- terpretations of some of the aggadot, above all the Great Eagle, Maimonides of blessed memory. The divine kabbalist, the A.R.I. [= Isaac Luria] of blessed memory, too, per- formed wonders in his writings in the interpretation of some of the strange aggadot. Both these and those [Maimonides’ and Luria’s] are statements of the Living God. They made the splendour of the aggadot [ziv nogah ha-aggadot] shine from one end of the world to the other, and until this very day wise men walk in their powerful light. (fol. 43aa)

48 See below, n. 51.

49 Israel uses two terms: sod and tokhiyyut. The former is common, the latter not. Israel presumably has in mind Guide III, 43. See also Harris, How Do We Know This?, pp. 138–9.

Israel comments that esoteric writing is also used in astronomy and adduces an interesting example:

‘Hipparchus, the first astronomer, wrote as follows: “pay heed to the vessel [sefinah] suspended in the air and moving forward and backward in four hundred years” ’ (42bb). The allusion, it turns out, is to the motion of precession. Israel repeats the example in Arubbot ha-shamayim, fol. 12a, where he indi- cates that it is borrowed (almost literally) from Yesod ¨olam (II 6; ed. Baer Goldberg and Leo Rosenkranz, vol. 1 [Berlin, 1848], p. 21).


The theoretical basis for interpreting strange aggadot is thus twofold: science and philosophy on the one hand, Kabbalah on the other. Both are equally valid. In Isra- el’s usage, ‘Kabbalah’ and ‘Wisdom’ (Ìokhmah) both refer to the doctrines of any discipline that searches for ‘what is hidden’; he refers to metaphysics, too, as a sci- ence of ‘the hidden’. 51 This was in all likelihood an intentional amalgamation, aimed at legitimizing the ‘foreign’ and profane philosophy by associating it with the vener- ated, authentically Jewish Kabbalah. That Israel considered Kabbalah to be a source of knowledge on equal footing with philosophy is noteworthy, for it is belies the usual view of him as a staunch rationalist forerunner of the Haskalah. 52 More than once he alludes with respect and accords authority to kabbalistic works: in addition to Luria, he mentions ‘the holy Zohar’ (fol. 2ba) and ‘our Master Abraham of Gre- nada’ (Rabbenu Avraham me-Rimmon) (fol. 3ab), i.e. Abraham b. Isaac, the author of Berit menuÌah. 53 He refers deferentially to the doctrines of ‘those who are knowl- edgeable in the science of the hidden, i.e., the Kabbalists [yode¨ei Ì“n ha- mequbbalim]’ (fol. 43ab; similarly, fols. 24bb, 25aa and passim). 54 As far as I can see, however, Israel himself offers very few kabbalistic interpretations (see however fol. 43ab). Although Kabbalah’s precise impact on him will have to be assessed through further research, it is clear that as a rule he interprets aggadot from the view- point of science alone: this is where his interests lay, as well as his originality and strength. The discussions of astronomical and mathematical matters thus typically draw on four types of texts: one or more passages from the Mishnah or Gemara, a medieval authority such as Maimonides, a recent commentator on the Talmud or on Maimonides, and scientific works. Israel did not claim absolute truth for his views: ‘I do not state that my interpreta- tion of the Sages is compulsory. It is possible that they intended deep things that have remained concealed from me. Rather, my intention is to show that their [prima facie strange] statements can be interpreted without any difficulty’ (fol. 43aa). Having noted the grounds Israel offers for thinking that science can ‘illuminate’ the Talmud, let us now look at how he does so in practice. NY is composed of two

51 We already came across Israel’s remark (above, p. 36) that ‘God, blessed be He, is the utmost Wis- dom, and He and His Wisdom are one and the same thing, as is known to those who delve into what is hidden [le-ha-ma¨amiqim ba-nistar]’ (fol. 40bb): the attribution of the famous philosophic dictum (e.g. Guide I, 68) to those ‘who delve into what is hidden’ puts philosophers and kabbalists in one bag.

52 It is consonant with a not uncommon tendency in the sixteenth century to ‘harmonize’ philosophy and Kabbalah; see Elbaum, Openness and Insularity, pp. 180–1, 184 n. 3, 286–92. R. Mordecai Jaffe, for one, studied and wrote commentaries on both Sha¨arei orah and the Guide (ibid., pp. 41, 146, 169).

See Gershom Scholem in EJ 2: 145–6. This identification is borne out by Haqdamat sha¨ar ha- haqdamot, by Îayyim Vital. (I am grateful to Prof. Ronit Meroz for this information.) Mahler, Divrei yemei Yisraˆel, p. 27n., wrongly identifies ‘Abraham of Rimmon’ as Abraham b. Shem ov Bibago, the author of Derekh emunah. Israel here quotes R. Abraham as affirming that the verse Isaiah 33:6 enu- merates the seven sciences. This sentence is quoted verbatim in Isaac Baer Levinsohn, Te¨udah be- Yisraˆel (Warsaw, 1878), p. 92 (who apparently quotes from NY and did not see Berit menuÌah).

Israel was also acquainted with ¨Asarah maˆamarot (Venice, 1597) by MenaÌem Azaria of Fano (1548–1620) (fol. 37ab, 56aa, 56ab), but the ideas to which he alludes are not distinctly kabbalistic. While Israel respected Kabbalah, he was critical of contemporaries who pretended to be kabbalists. Arubbot ha-shamayim (fol. 12a) makes sarcastic remarks about those whose intellect does not suffice for Talmud study and who therefore ‘take refuge’ in the Kabbalah and look down on talmudists. This passage may shed light on the enigmas of Israel’s much discussed Nezed ha-dema¨ (see above, n. 14).



unequal parts. The bulk (fols. 3b–51b) is followed by a few supplementary folios (51a–57b), labelled the ‘last quire’ (qunres aÌaron). According to Israel, the latter is specifically devoted to the discussion of ‘profound parables (aggadot Ìamurot) in the Talmud, namely those with a bearing on astronomy and the other mathematical sci- ences’, which not all scholars have understood (fol. 52aa). In fact, however, aggadot are discussed in the first part of NY no less than in the ‘last quire’, which in turn con- tains discussions of both aggadot and Halakhah. Closer scrutiny discloses that the two parts are distinguished not by the type of Talmudic passages discussed (halakhah vs. aggadah), but rather by the role played in each by scientific discourse. The main part of NY is devoted to discussing sugyot, most of which have nothing to do with science; in those discussions that do, Israel only briefly draws on, but does not de- velop, the relevant science. In the ‘last quire’, by contrast, the discussions all involve science, and the relevant scientific material is presented in detail (notably by means of geometric proofs). 55 The ‘last quire’, Israel explains, was separated from the bulk of NY because the discussions of sacred matters should be separate from profane ones; in addition, many of ‘our contemporaries’ are ignorant of scientific matters and shun them, and for them scientific discussions would have been ‘burdensome and tir- ing’ (fol. 3aa). (We find a similar separation of the sacred from the profane in Mirkevet ha-mishneh by R. Solomon b. Moses of Chelm; see below, p. 44.) Israel, we see, was intent on addressing all quarters. Consequently, the two parts of the book are arranged in parallel, each taking up selected sugyot from the talmudic tractates taken in order. In their literary form, we again note, Israel’s discussions conform to the traditional genre of the talmudic novella.

R. Israel b. Moses Halevi’s Scientific Learning

In the appendix to this article I give examples of the issues that Israel identified as requiring elucidation in the light of science (below, pp. 59–62). These discussions clearly evince his interest and competence in science, especially mathematics and as- tronomy, as well as in philosophy (essentially medieval). We should now realize that the very presence in Zamosc of a scholar competent in the sciences and in philosophy is surprising and calls for an explanation.

Indeed, Israel’s scientific bookshelf (in which we are primarily interested), all of it in Hebrew, turns out to be surprisingly rich (below, pp. 62–67): Euclid, Ptolemy, Abraham bar Îiyya, Abraham Ibn Ezra, Maimonides, Averroes, Meir Aldabi, Gers- onides, Joseph Solomon Delmedigo, etc. (in addition, of course, to a large body of halakhic literature). To be sure, this rich bookshelf was accessible to Israel thanks to the spread of Hebrew printing, which was one of the factors that helped disseminate Hebrew science and rationalist thought in Ashkenaz from the sixteenth century on- ward. 56 Still, the benefits of the printing of profane works were unevenly distributed

55 Note that in the bulk of NY, Israel at times refers the reader forward to the ‘last quire’, and vice versa. 56 See Elbaum, Openness and Insularity, pp. 25, 42–5, 180; Elchanan Reiner, ‘The Attitude of Ashke- nazi Society to the New Science in the Sixteenth Century’, Science in Context 10 (1997): 589–603.

and Israel’s bookshelf was certainly not that of the ordinary scholar in Poland. A list of books, drawn up in 1747 by R. PinÌas Katzenellenbogen, who was a rabbi in Moravia, includes more than 500 titles, of which only five are elementary philosophi- cal or scientific works. 57 Similarly, Salomon Maimon, five decades after Israel, had to walk ‘thirty miles’ in order to have a look at ‘a Hebrew Peripatetic philosophical book of the tenth century’ and had great difficulty acquiring a modicum of philo- sophical and scientific knowledge in his native shtetl of Nieszwicz. 58 Israel’s easy access to philosophical works was thus no trifling matter. That there is something here calling for explanation becomes even clearer when we note that Israel also had at his disposal works that were available in manuscript only: most importantly, the medieval Hebrew translations of Euclid’s Elements and Ptolemy’s Almagest (both of them unpublished to this very day), as well as Abraham Ibn Ezra’s Keli ha-neÌoshet and Isaac Israeli’s Yesod ¨olam. Although no systematic study has been conducted of the availability of these manuscript works in Poland in that era, 59 we may note that David Gans (1541–1613), writing ca. 1601, after a whole life devoted to science in a major city like Prague, informs us that he had not been able to read Ibn Ezra’s astronomical works and the astronomical part of Gersonides’ MilÌamot ha-Shem (none of them printed at the time) and that, in general, copies of Hebrew books on astronomical matters were ‘scarce’ then. 60 Gans also considered the fact that he had access to a copy of the Elements as worth of special mention: ‘I saw a copy of Euclid’s book … and I studied it in the state of Saxony, in the town of Northeim [in the duchy of Brunswick], in the home of my father-in-law, R. Mann of blessed memory’. 61 Moreover, the availability of texts is one thing, but understanding them is still an- other. There is some evidence that these scientific works were largely impenetrable without proper preparation, meaning study with a competent teacher. Thus ZeraÌ b. Nathan of Troki (near Vilna), the learned Karaite scholar whose correspondence with Joseph Solomon Delmedigo gave rise to Sefer Elim, reports of the largely fruitless efforts by himself and three other scholars to study Ptolemy’s Almagest. 62 ‘These

57 See his Sefer Yesh manÌilin, ed. Isaac Dov Feld (Jerusalem, [5]746 [= 1986]), pp. 41–51. Some ob- servations on Katzenellenbogen’s list can now be found in Zeev Gries, The Book as an Agent of Cul- ture. 1700–1900 (Hebrew) (Tel Aviv, 2002), pp. 65–70, where, however, the few scientific books go unmentioned.

58 Salomon Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, I, 14, ed. Zwi Batscha (Frankfurt a.M., 1995), p. 86. The refer- ence is presumably to Saadia Gaon’s Emunot ve-de¨ot (latest printing: Amsterdam, 1608).

59 It would indeed be interesting to make a systematic survey of extant scientific manuscripts that were copied or owned in Eastern Europe during this period.

60 David Gans, NeÌmad ve-na¨im (Jessnitz, 1743), 8aa, 9ab.

61 David Gans, emaÌ David, ed. Mordecai Breuer (Jerusalem, 1983), p. 127 (§30); quoted in Elbaum, Openness and Insularity, p. 255. Other authors noted by Elbaum as having been acquainted with Eu- clid’s work are the extremely well-read R. Shemarya b. ManoaÌ Hendel, R. Yom ov Lipmann Heller, and R. MenaÌem b. Isaac Îayut (pp. 77, 256–7, n. 31). R. Shemarya b. ManoaÌ Hendel had at his dis- posal a particularly large library; see ibid., pp. 76–8, as well as Yizchak Levine, ‘Rabbi ManoaÌ Hendel ben Shemaryahu: Author of the ManoaÌ Halevavot’ (Hebrew), in: Jubilee Volume in Honor of… Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, ed. Shaul Israeli, Norman Lamm, and Yitzchak Raphael (Jerusalem and New York, 1984), pp. 961–5, esp. 962–3 on the books read and 969–70 (n. 17) on the chronology of his stud- ies. This neglected figure certainly calls for research.

62 Sefer Elim, p. 19. On ZeraÌ, see EJ 16: 996.

things cannot be learned from books and from mute teachers’ (i.e. books), he com- ments, ‘but only from live scholars, through oral transmission. And whoever, owing to lack of luck or to poverty, has not had a teacher, will fail throughout his life and waste his time’. 63 Similarly, in ¨Eder ha-yaqar, a commentary on Maimonides’ Hilkhot qiddush ha-Ìodesh (see appendix), R. Mordecai b. Abraham Jaffe considers the fact that he studied astronomy on his own, ‘without any master’, as an excep- tional accomplishment, thereby suggesting that this was uncommon although not to- tally impossible. 64 (Israel would probably have commented that Jaffe’s auto-didacti- cism indeed did not take him very far.) Assuming, then, that it was difficult to become a scientific autodidact, the question of how Israel acquired his considerable scientific competence arises. 65 It thus seems that the very presence in Zamosc of a scholar competent in (medi- eval Hebrew) science no less than in Halakhah calls for an explanation. The mystery is enhanced when we note that Israel was not a solitary figure. In the next section I will provide some information about Israel’s social network and the interest in sci- ence in contemporary Zamosc. Then I will try to account for the observed facts.

R. Israel b. Moses Halevi and His Allies: Amateurs of Science in Zamosc, ca. 1735

Contrary to what Israel’s bitter complaints in the Introduction to NY might lead one to think, and contrary also to what has been widely held, Israel was not altogether isolated in Zamosc. He himself says that he writes in order to satisfy ‘the desire of the friends who listen to me’ (ha-Ìaverim ha-maqshivim le-qoli; e.g. 3ab, 52aa), ‘scholars’ (maskilim; fol. 54ab), among whom are ‘many great and excellent ones’ (gedolim ve-ovim; fol. 52aa; also fol. 2bb, 3ab). He gives an inkling of their intellec-

63 Sefer Elim, p. 19.

64 Yeshu¨ah be-Yisraˆel, p. 34aa. According to other accounts, Jaffe studied mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy during a ten-year stay in Italy; see Elbaum, Openness and Insularity, 41. Furthermore, according to Elbaum, Jaffe was not only a student of Isserles, himself a competent astronomer, but also of R. Matityahu Delacrut, an astronomer as well; see ibid., pp. 149, 215 (with n. 118). Delacrut trans- lated into Hebrew the Image du monde by Gauthier de Metz, under the title el ha-¨olam, a work that enjoyed great popularity after its first printing in 1733; see Rappel, Sheva¨ ha-Ìokhmot, pp. 95–7, 212– 3; Jacob Elbaum, ‘The Editions of Sefer el ha-¨olam’ (Hebrew) Kiryat Sefer 47 (1972): 162–8. On Delacrut, see Fishman, ‘Rabbi Moshe Isserles and the Study of Science Among Polish Rabbis’, p. 575–6. The significance of Jaffe’s affirmation concerning his autodidactic mastery of astronomy thus needs in- vestigation. In any event, Jaffe had a positive attitude to the study of philosophy and to astronomy (Elbaum, ibid., pp. 146, 169, 215, 263).

65 Israel himself never names any of his teachers, in either traditional or secular sciences. Wessely (above, n. 19), referring to Jewish scholars who came to Berlin after having mastered Hebrew works of science in Poland, writes that they were autodidacts. I suggest that he is referring exclusively to Israel. Should we conclude that Wessely had reliable information that Israel was an autodidact? I do not think so. Wessely apparently did not know Israel personally and seems to have derived his information from literary sources only: NY (the references to Yesod ¨olam and Elim) and Friedrich Nicolai’s well-known remarks about Israel, which he slightly misstated, however (see ‘Friedrich Nicolai’s Anmerkungen zu Moses Mendelsohn’s Briefwechsel mit Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’, in Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Sämtliche Schriften, vol. 29 [Berlin and Stettin, 1828], p. 373). Wessely mentions ‘the sages of the Na- tions [who] have marvelled’ at the accomplishment of the Polish scholars, a remark that fits Nicolai’s observation on Israel.

tual profile when he warns that his analyses in NY are not addressed to those who ‘have not mastered mathematics, still less to those who have no knowledge at all of

this science’; rather, he says, ‘I address myself only to those who have studied the mathematical sciences in depth’ (52ab). Clearly, then, contemporary Zamosc counted some amateurs of science. Although the information at our disposal is scant, we can identify five or six persons with whom Israel had scientific and friendly exchanges.

1. One person whom Israel explicitly describes (fols. 15bb, 31bb, 41aa) as one

‘who listens to me’ is R. Eleazar Katz, originally from Stry but resident in Zamosc, ‘the son-in-law of the late rabbi of Zamosc’, meaning Aryeh Judah Leib b. YeÌiel of

Lublin (see below). 66 Israel describes Eleazar as extremely learned and possessed of ‘true erudition’, and he names him frequently (although only in halakhic, not scien- tific, contexts); in fact, NY includes some of the Eleazar’s novellae, which Israel learned by word of mouth (e.g. fols. 15bb, 41aa), as well as answers to queries raised by him (e.g. fols. 31bb, 45ab). Despite his erudition, Eleazar apparently never pub- lished anything. 67

2. The only other person whom Israel explicitly describes as a friend ‘who listens

to me’ is Dov Baer, the ‘son of the late rabbi of Zamosc’ (fols. 15bb, 31bb, 41aa, 45ba) – the same Aryeh Judah Leib b. YeÌiel of Lublin. Dov Baer, too, never seems to have written a book, but he gave approbations in 1747 (when he served as av bet din [head of the rabbinical court] in Kaznitz [Lublin district]), in 1775, and in 1777 (by which time he was av bet din in Lvov). 68

3. Another scholar who was close to Israel is Aryeh Judah Leib b. YeÌiel of

Lublin himself, the father-in-law and father of the two just mentioned, who headed the Zamosc rabbinical court for some four decades and held politically influential positions. 69 He wrote one of the six approbations to NY, in which he refers not only to Israel’s erudition and commitment to learning, but also to conversations with him. He died a short time after writing that approbation (which is dated Monday, 9 Sivan [5]499 = June 15, 1739). In his Memories, 70 Isaac Leib Peretz reports rumours he

heard in his youth, according to which Israel used to spend time with two scholars,

one of whom was ‘the rabbi of Zamosc’, who was versed ‘in all seven sciences’ (see below, p. 43): this probably refers to Aryeh Judah Leib rather than to his successor, R. Jacob Îarif, who arrived in Zamosc only shortly before Israel left it (see next paragraph).

4. NY also received an approbation from R. Jacob Isaac Îarif (Hochgelernter; ca.

1710–1770), 71 who succeeded Aryeh Judah Leib b. YeÌiel as av bet din in Zamosc in

66 So too the heading of Aryeh Judah Leib’s approbation to NY refers to him as ‘ha-rav ha-manoaÌ(NY, back of title page).

67 He does not appear in Mandelboim, ‘Îakhmei Zamoshtsh’ (n. 8). Mandelboim’s very detailed bibli- ography, with its rich annotation, is an extremely useful resource for the study of the intellectual history of Zamosc.

68 Mandelboim, ‘Îakhmei Zamoshtsh’, pp. 287 (No. 69), 246 (No. 20), 257 (No. 36).

69 Israel Lewin, ‘Le-toledot ha-yehudim be-Zamoshtsh’, in Zamoshtsh bi-geˆonah u-ve-shivrah, Moshe Tamari, ed. (Tel Aviv, 1953), pp. 33–73, on p. 45.

70 Peretz, Zikhroynes, p. 70; Zikhronotay, p. 86–7; My Memories, pp. 124 (truncated).

71 See Mandelboim, ‘Îakhmei Zamoshtsh’, 270; EJ, 7: 1338.

1740 (the approbation is dated Tuesday, 25 Nissan [5]501 = April 11, 1741) and founded the dynasty of rabbis who would hold that position for almost a century. 72 5. The friend about whom we know the most is R. Joel b. Uri Ba¨al Shem (the younger), who gave a warm haskamah to NY and who is described in its heading as ‘the author’s ally’ (ba¨al berit ha-meÌabber; fol. 3a). Joel Ba¨al Shem appreciated Israel’s scientific competence, for he describes his unpublished writings – with which he was obviously familiar – as ‘wondrous and precious’: Israel, he writes, ‘went up to the heaven and descended to the waters;… he reached from the ocean of the Tal- mud to the ocean of the lofty and occult [secular] sciences’ (fol. 3aa). 73 This associa- tion between a ba¨al shem and the follower of Maimonides is less an alliance contre nature than one might think. It is true that Joel was not a staunch rationalist, but a healer and practitioner of folk-medicine, who used practical Kabbalah, amulets, and segullot. 74 Still, he did not entirely shun rationalist philosophy and obviously had some sympathy for scientific study. The Sefer Toledot adam, to which he gave two approbations and which reports many of his own remedies, contains indications of his familiarity with and positive attitude toward rational knowledge. In his second approbation, Joel points out that the book describes not only remedies founded on tradition (such as amulets and segullot), but also ‘natural remedies, [i.e.,] remedies grounded in natural science [heqqesh ha-eva¨, i.e., logically deduced from medical theory], which are true too, insofar as I could gather from the books composed by scholars of natural science’; he adds that it is needless to dwell on ‘the potency of the philosophizing’ of the latter. 75 The (anonymous) compiler of Toledot adam also men- tions biblical exegesis by Joel, drawing on Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed, and discussions based on information gleaned from Delmedigo’s Sefer Elim, indicating his familiarity with that book as well. 76 Joel gave an approbation to the ethical trea- tise Tavnit ha-bayit (Frankfurt on the Oder, 1747) by the Zamosc resident Mordecai b. Meir Kalmanns; that book also received approbations from two other scholars with rationalist inclinations: Israel himself and R. David Fraenkel 77 (1707–1762;

72 Zevi Halevi Horowitz, Sefer Kitvei ha-geˆonim (Piarkov, 1828), p. 140 (No. 6). Horowitz, a grandson of Jacob Hochgelernter, refers to Israel in approving terms, thus confirming that his image in the family was positive. See also Mandelboim, ‘Îakhmei Zamoshtsh’, pp. 266–7 (No. 45), 246–7 (No. 21); these entries make clear that Jacob Isaac Hochgelernter did not compose any works.

73 R. Joel’s approbation is dated Tuesday, 7 Elul [5]497 (= Sept. 3, 1737), misread in Shatzky, ‘Haskalah in Zamoshtsh’ (Yidd.), YIVO Bleter 36 (1952): 24–63, on p. 25 n. 2.

74 The ba¨alei shem, and in particular Joel Ba¨al Shem II (his grandfather’s name was also Joel), have been the subject of some scholarly interest recently. See: Immanuel Etkes, Ba¨al Hashem. The Besht:

Magic Mysticism Leadership (Hebrew) (Jerusalem, 2000), pp. 15–53 (41–50 on Joel); Michal Oron, Samuel Falk: The Baal Shem of London (Hebrew) (Jerusalem, 2002); Karl Grözinger, ‘Jüdische Wundermänner in Deutschland’, in Judentum im deutschen Sprachraum, ed. Karl Grözinger (Frankfurt, 1991), pp. 190–221. Valuable material on Joel has been collected in Ba¨alei Shem, ed. Moshe Hillel (Je- rusalem, [5]753 [= 1993]), pp. 155–79.

75 Sefer Toledot adam , ed. Moshe Hillel (Jerusalem, [5]754 [= 1994]), p. 157. Joel was not the author of Sefer Toledot adam, but it describes many of his own remedies and he was involved in its printing.

76 Ibid., pp. 49, 50.

77 Mandelboim, ‘Îakhmei Zamoshtsh’, pp. 287–8. Note that Joel gave an approbation also to the com- mentary on Avot by the Zamosc scholar Eliezer Lippman (Zó¥kiew, 1723), which had another approba- tion also from Aryeh Judah Leib of Lublin, one of Israel’s ‘friends’ (ibid., p. 275 [No. 52]). The social networks reflected in approbations are an important source for historical research, but which has hardly been used so far.

Fraenkel was Moses Mendelssohn’s teacher in Dessau and the instigator of the 1742 Jessnitz printing of the Guide of the Perplexed). An early historian of Zamosc, Zevi Halevi Horowitz, lists Israel and Joel among the four Zamosc scholars who were the first to combine Torah study with science. 78 All this, together with Joel’s approbation for NY, praising its author’s scientific competence, suggests that Joel was at home in rationalist literature and did not consider it incompatible with his activities as a ba¨al shem. 79 Israel, for his part, took some steps in the direction of his ‘ally’: as we have seen, he was not hostile to Kabbalah, and, like most persons of the time, accepted the existence of demons (shedim) as factual and endorsed astrology. 80 Rationalist phi- losophy and popular mysticism and shamanism were not as opposed as their essen- tialist definitions sometimes (mis-)lead us to think: Israel and Joel were fellow trav- ellers who shared some interests and commitments. Yet another of Israel’s associates was a synagogue sexton said to be competent in mathematics and astronomy but who unfortunately remains unidentifiable. This man is mentioned by I. L. Peretz in the course of a lively description of nightly scientific gatherings of Israel and his scientifically-minded friends. Although not an eyewitness account, it probably reflects the reality to some extent. After a story illustrating the absentmindedness of the rabbi of Zamosc – to whom he refers as ‘the Gaon’ and ‘Iron Head’ (aizerner kop) – Peretz writes:

And that very same Gaon was knowledgeable in seven sciences. He engaged, they tell, in disputations with the priest, in which the latter was always defeated…. And then there was also a synagogue sexton, a very poor fellow, with many children. And nobody knew what a figure this man in fact cut. For this Jew had devised ‘a new method of calcula- tion’, allowing one to predict, ‘centuries in advance’, all the eclipses of the sun and all those of the moon. After his death, a correspondence on this subject which he conducted with the Paris Academy was discovered. 81 How much of all this is true, and what be- came of these writings, nobody knows. It is told that at midnight, this sexton and Rabbi Israel Zamosc, the author of the book On Nature (if I am not mistaken), would meet at the house of the ‘Iron Head’ and, after mid- night, before dawn, discuss science. 82

78 Horowitz, Sefer Kitvei ha-geˆonim, p. 138 n. b. The other two scholars are R. Solomon Chelm and R. Abraham ha-Kohen, on whom more below. Hayyim Dembitzer follows Horowitz in associating these four scholars; see his Sefer Kelilat yofi (Cracow, 1888), p. 180b. R. David Fraenkel was among those who gave approbations both to Chelm’s Mirkevet ha-mishneh and to Abraham ha-Kohen’s Bet Avraham: this, too, links together all these scholars in a social web with shared intellectual preferences.

79 Joel’s grandson, R. Wolff Baer Schiff, wrote a commentary on the tractate ¨Eruvin (Sefer MinÌat zikkaron ¨al Masekhet ¨Eruvin [Cracow, 1894]), in which he treats inter alia mathematical topics, as the title page explicitly states. In rabbinic families, traditions are usually long-lived, so Schiff’s interest in mathematics is not insignificant. Schiff, who was born in Zamosc in 1768 and is said in one approbation to have been great both in Torah scholarship and in ‘the science of arithmetic and geometry’ (p. Ib, [un- numbered]), began work on this book in 1792 (see p. IVb [unnumbered]), i.e. only half a century after the period here considered.

80 Demons: fol. 15ba; astrology: fol. 43ab.

81 Taken literally, this phrase refers to the Académie royale des sciences in Paris; but in the absence of any further information, this must remain very uncertain. Although we know nothing more about this figure, and although Peretz himself expresses doubts concerning the veracity of the reports he had heard, thei probably contain a grain of truth.

82 Peretz, Zikhroynes, pp. 70–1; Zikhronotay, pp. 87; truncated in Memories, p. 124. Peretz of course was mistaken with respect to the title of Israel’s work.

Israel, then, was certainly not altogether isolated in Zamosc. Far from it. He counted among his friends a number of persons who belonged to the local elite: the old av bet din, Aryeh Judah Leib b. YeÌiel, as well as his son and his son-in-law; the new av bet din, Jacob Hochgelernter; the famous Joel Ba¨al Shem; and perhaps also the elusive, humble, but gifted synagogue sexton. 83 Israel regularly discussed the problems that interested him with at least some of them: we noted that NY bears the stamp of his discussions with Eleazar Katz; more generally, Israel explicitly says that the ideas expounded in NY ‘have been winnowed through my own humble intellect and the intellect of the friends who listen to me’ (fol. 3ab). NY, we see clearly, was subjected to the critical scrutiny of Israel’s friends and is not the work of an isolated individual entirely cut off from his surrounding. The existence of a scientific ‘sub-culture’ in contemporary Zamosc is confirmed by R. Solomon b. Moses of Chelm (1717–1781), an outstanding scholar who was born and educated in Zamosc less than two decades after Israel. 84 In a well-known passage in the introduction to his magnum opus, Mirkevet ha-mishneh (a commentary on Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah), Chelm writes that in his youth he studied arithmetic (‘integers and fractions’), algebra (‘pretty and handsome’), 85 geometry (‘a touchstone and a founda- tion’), astronomy (‘a gate of hope in calculations and measurements prescribed by the Law’), natural science, philosophy, grammar, and logic. 86 Chelm was also versed in medicine and knew a number of European languages, including Latin. 87 His mathemati- cal competence is confirmed by the Qunres berekhot be-Ìeshbon, which is appended at the end of Mirkevet ha-mishneh (i.e., after the commentary on Hilkhot melakhim) and which discusses various talmudic passages of mathematical significance. 88 More gener-

83 The other approbations to NY come from scholars who were not residents of Zamosc: One (dated

Wednesday 7 Tammuz [5]501 = June 21, 1741) is by R. Moses b. Aaron of Lvov, who was living at the time in Frankfurt on the Oder; obviously it was acquired just prior Israel went to print there. A second haskamah (dated Friday, Rosh Ìodesh Îeshvan [5]501 = Oct. 21, 1740) is by Joseph b. Avigdor, av bet din in Treninrad, who clearly discerned that NY was ‘grounded on the foundations of truth and reason’.


third is by R. Aryeh Leib, who at the time of the approbation (dated Rosh Ìodesh MarÌeshvan [5]500


Monday, Nov. 2, 1739) was chief rabbi of Amsterdam and only ‘passed through Zamosc’ on his way


Lublin; he takes care to emphasize, however, that he had subjected Israel to a close scrutiny (tahiti ¨al

qanqano). See NY, unnumbered folio, on the back of the title page.

84 The most detailed account of R. Solomon Chelm is Abraham Brik, Rabbi Shelomo Îalma Ba¨al ‘Mirkevet ha-mishneh’ (Jerusalem, 5745 [= 1985]). Although rich in information, it is not entirely reli- able. Very valuable is Joel Qaan, ‘Introduction’, to Chelm’s Sefer ShulÌan tamid, vol. 1 (Jerusalem, 5760 [=2000]), 18–34. See also Mahler, Divrei yemei Yisraˆel, 1: IV-25–6; Zinberg, History of Jewish Literature, 6: 241–3.

85 Chelm is certainly referring to MafteaÌ ha-algebra by Anschel Worms (Offenbach, 1722).

86 Mirkevet ha-mishneh (Frankfurt on the Oder, 1751), Introduction.

87 Solomon Chelm, Lev Shelomo 3:6 (Jerusalem, 5732 [= 1972]), p. 33b: ‘va-ani yada¨ti me¨abirfuˆot’, followed by a discussion of Latin medical terminology; Qaan, in Sefer ShulÌan tamid, p. 19.

In the introduction to his famous map of the Land of Israel, Chelm explicitly states that it is his own

translation ‘from a foreign language’ (leshon lo¨ez); see Îug ha-areÒ ha-shalem, ed. Shabbetai Rosenthal (Jerusalem, 5748 [= 1988]), p. 47. The sources of this map call for research.

88 The objective and method of this Qunres obviously recall those of the ‘last quire’ of NY, which how- ever is not mentioned. (Solomon Chelm seems to mention NY, albeit in a purely halakhic context, in Lev Shelomo 21:3, 121b–122a.). Brik (Rabbi Shelomo Îalma, p. 62, n. 76) states that the Qunres berekhot be-Ìeshbon had been printed separately, before Mirkevet ha-mishneh, and was appended to the latter after it was printed. Qaan rejects this claim as unfounded (Sefer ShulÌan tamid, p. 23 n. 27). In any event, just like Israel, R. Solomon Chelm believed that mathematical discussions were out of place in a work of halakhah.

ally, numerous passages drawing on almost all the sciences are interspersed throughout Chelm’s writings. 89 Unlike Israel, and despite his dabbling in science, Chelm never found himself in conflict with his surroundings and continued to pursue a distinguished scholarly and political career in the very heart of the establishment (he was the rabbi of the district of Chelm, the town after he which he came to be called). Despite the (mis- guided) attempts of later maskilim and historians to enlist him in their cause and see him as a forerunner of the Haskalah, 90 he remains venerated in Orthodox circles to this day. From our perspective, the salient point is that Chelm acquired a thorough scientific edu- cation in the town of Zamosc less than two decades after Israel. We have information on one further Zamosc scholar of that era who is reported to have had a profound knowledge of philosophy and astronomy: Abraham ha-Kohen, the author of a volume of responsa entitled Beit Avraham. 91 A brother-in-law of R. Solomon Chelm, 92 he is clearly related to the circle of Zamosc amateurs of science. We should now consider another facet of Zamosc as a cultural centre, namely the existence of particularly large book collections in that town, and specifically the ex- istence of a well-stocked public library. 93 We have an explicit report from the mid- nineteenth century that the library of the local bet midrash possessed not only reli- gious books but also ‘books of philosophy, Hebrew compositions on astronomy and mathematics – of course the ancient ones’. 94 Somewhat later, in 1878, David Shiffman wrote that the library of the bet midrash contained 4,000 books: in addition to the traditional literature, also ‘philosophy and everything of learning and math- ematics [Ìeshbon]’. 95 This library was public property and administered by a volun- tary society, which acquired new books and saw to the conservation of old ones. 96 We do not know when this society was established, but it may well go back to the eighteenth century. There were also private book collections; that of R. Solomon Chelm is known to have been particularly large. Zamosc, then, was far from being a monolithic conservative stronghold in which Israel unaccountably blazed like a lone meteor in a dark sky. Rather, Israel had a number of allies with knowledge of secular sciences and we know of at least one other scholar who became well-versed in mathematics only a few years later. It has indeed long been noted that not long after the period studied here, Zamosc was one of the first Polish towns in which the Haskalah (or what was to become the Haskalah) appeared. In 1828, R. Zevi Halevi Horowitz, a grandson of Jacob Hochgelernter, wrote that Zamosc was ‘the first town in Poland in which philosophy and science found a home. Many of its greatest scholars studied religious philosophy, as well as

89 Brik, Rabbi Shelomo Îalma, pp. 61–7, 109–10, collected many passages.

90 For a survey see ibid., pp. 112–19.

91 Horowitz, Sefer Kitvei ha-geˆonim, p. 138 n. b. On Beit Avraham (Berlin, 1753) (non vidi), see Mandelboim, ‘Îakhmei Zamoshtsh’, p. 239.

92 Dembitzer, Sefer Kelilat yofi, p. 184b.

93 Shatzky, ‘Sfardim in Zamoshtsh’ (Yidd.), in Pinqas Zamoshtsh (Buenos Aires, 1957), p. 56.

94 Quoted in Judah Aryeh Klausner, ‘Zamoshtsh – the Birthplace of Peretz’ (Hebrew), He-¨avar 13 (Iyyar 5726 [= 1966]): 98–117, on p. 107 (a statement from 1869).


Quoted in ibid., p. 107.

96 Lewin, ‘Le-toledot ha-yehudim be-Zamoshtsh’, p. 57. See also Jacob Shatzky, ‘Haskalah in Zamoshtsh’, p. 26.

arithmetic, geometry, medicine, in addition to their Torah scholarship’. 97 This was long before the German, Mendelssohnian, Haskalah spread to Poland. 98 The question is: why Zamosc? What gave Jewish Zamosc this singularity? Specifically, how did Israel and his associates acquire their scientific instruction? I suggest that the answer to these questions is to be found in some distinctive characteristics of its history.

Zamosc: The Sephardi Heritage

Zamosc was founded by Jan Zamoyski (1541–1605), the future royal chancellor and grand hetman (commander in chief) of Poland. 99 The son of a Calvinist senator, Zamoyski (who converted to Catholicism) was educated in France and Italy, espe- cially Padua, where he served as rector of the university. Imbued with humanist cul- ture, Zamoyski decided to found Zamosc as a town modelled on the ideas of the theorists of the Italian Quattrocento. He himself, together with the Paduan architect Bernardo Morando (1540 or 1541–1600), drew up the plan for the town in 1578. The new town, consisting of a fortress, a palace, a collegiate church, a court, and the cen- tres of intellectual life (an academy and a printing-house), satisfied both ideological intentions (its plan reflects the harmonious structure of Zamoyski’s domain, ruled in accordance with the law by a wise and learned prince) and aesthetic values (its pro- portions are simple and harmonious, expressed in mathematical ratios). 100 An integral part of this model town was the famous academy founded by Zamoyski, the third university in Poland: its statutes were approved in 1594 by Pope Clement VIII, one year before it opened (it closed in 1784). 101 In an attempt to make Zamosc a centre of learning, Zamoyski brought scholars from Italy and elsewhere to teach the new sci- ence and humanism. To attract dynamic elements to the town, foreigners who settled in Zamosc were granted special privileges. In 1588 Zamoyski (who had encountered Jewish students in Padua) granted Jews of Iberian origin the right to settle in Zamosc and enjoy the same privileges as the other citizens. 102 These privileges were extended only to

97 Horowitz, Sefer Kitvei ha-geˆonim, p. 138 n. b.

98 A generation later, the town of Zamosc became a centre of early Haskalah; the first Jewish poet who wrote in German, Issachar Falkensohn Behr (1746–1817), the author of Gedichte von einem polnischen Juden (1772; see the recent edition by Andreas Wittbrodt [Göttingen, 2002], is held to have been born

in Zamosc and to have been a relative of Israel’s. Raphael Mahler, Hasidism and the Jewish Enlighten- ment: Their Confrontation in Galicia and Poland in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century (Philadel- phia, 1985), pp. 233–8, notes that Haskalah came early to Zamosc. But although he mentions Israel and

R. Solomon Chelm, he deals with a later period than that treated here.

99 Zamoyski played an important role in bringing about the election of Stephen Báthory as king of Po- land (Dec. 14, 1575) and subsequently in making Poland into a ‘democracy of the nobility’ grounded in

the equality of all noblemen, the powers of the Sejm, the latter’s control over royal power, and religious tolerance. The following quotation is often attributed to him: ‘The king reigns, but does not govern’.

100 See Zamosc (about 90 km southeast of Lublin) is today on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

101 On the Zamoyska Academy, see W kregu Akademickiego Zamoscia, ed. Henryk Gmiterek (Lublin:

Wydawn. Uniwersytetu Marii Curie-Sklodowskiej, 1996). For this reference I am indebted to Michael

G. Müller (Halle).

102 For this and for what follows see Jacob Shatzki, ‘Sephardi Jews in Poland’ (Hebrew), in Tamari, Zamoshtsh bi-geˆonah u-ve-shivrah, pp. 11–28; Nathan M. Gelber, ‘On the History of the Sephardim in

Sephardi Jews because, unlike the local Ashkenazim, they were merchants with inter- national connections and a general culture already informed by the Renaissance. A specific provision allowed Jewish physicians who passed an examination before the Zamosc Academy and were awarded the title of ‘doctor’ to practice medicine and op- erate pharmacies. 103 Thus, beginning in the late sixteenth century, Sephardi Jews from Turkey, Italy, and the Netherlands settled in Zamosc, creating an organized, though not very large, Sephardi community. Wealthy Jewish merchants from Con- stantinople, who had been living in Lvov, moved to Zamosc and ‘elevated it to the highest development’. 104 This Sephardi community maintained a separate existence until sometime in the middle of the seventeenth century (the exact date is a matter of dispute), after which it merged into the Ashkenazi community through intermarriage. The intellectual legacy, however, seems to have survived its disappearance as a dis- tinct organized body: R. Solomon Chelm, for one, is known to have had great inter- est in, and first-hand knowledge of, Sephardi rulings and customs and to have been in contact with Sephardi scholars. 105 A number of Zamosc families, notably that of the writer I. L. Peretz (originally Pérez), kept the memory of their Sephardi origins alive. 106 This all-too-brief account of the history of Zamosc, in particular of Jewish Zamosc, is sufficient to suggest several aspects of an answer to our question. The first is the presence in Zamosc of a Sephardi community, whose members arrived from three important Jewish centres of learning – Turkey in the Muslim East and Italy and the Netherlands in the Christian West. These immigrants may be assumed to have brought with them the legacy of the medieval Jewish culture that flourished in Spain:

They were open to the study of the ‘foreign sciences’ and they helped diffuse medi- eval and post-medieval Hebrew texts printed in the three Jewish centres of learning. Presumably they also brought with them manuscripts of still-unprinted works. 107 Last but not least, they may have perpetuated oral traditions of the study of the various sciences. The last two points bear special emphasis: as noted, Israel used manuscripts of scientific works, the fruits of the medieval Sephardi heritage, which were rather rare in Eastern Europe at the time (above, p. 39). These manuscripts may very well have been brought to Zamosc by the Sephardim. Assuming, furthermore, that it is very difficult or impossible to study mathematics and astronomy without a teacher,

Poland’ (Hebrew), in: OÒar yehudei Sefarad, vol. 6 (Jerusalem, 1963), pp. 88–98, on pp. 94–8; Alexan- der Gutterman, ‘Sephardi Jews on the Polish Soil’ (Hebrew), Pe¨amim 18 (1984): 53–79; Klausner, ‘Zamoshtsh’.

103 Shatzki, ‘Sephardi Jews in Poland’, p. 24; Gelber, ‘On the History’, p. 95; Gutterman, ‘Sephardi Jews’, p. 64.

104 Horowitz, Sefer Kitvei ha-geˆonim, p. 139.

105 Brik, Rabbi Shelomo Îalma, pp. 32ff. This of course refers to Chelm’s knowledge prior to his leav- ing Poland on his way east. The fact that Chelm chose to have the second edition of Mirkevet ha- mishneh printed in the east also points to his ties with Sephardi Judaism.

106 Gutterman, ‘Sephardi Jews’, p. 70. No attempt has been made to study systematically the Sephardi intellectual legacy in Zamosc. This subject calls for further research.

107 In his well-known ethical will, R. Judah Ibn Tibbon makes clear the supreme value he ascribes to the transmission of books from father to son. See Israel Abrahams, Hebrew Ethical Wills (Philadelphia, 1926; repr. 1976), pp. 51–99, on 57–8, 80–2. This document was composed in the middle of the twelfth century, but presumably reflects an enduring social norm.

we may conjecture that the population of Zamosc included families of Sephardi ex- traction that owned scientific manuscripts and passed down the tradition of studying them from father to son. This hypothesis – and at this stage it is no more than that – allows us to understand how Israel was introduced to the study of science and how he had access to a comprehensive collection of Hebrew scientific works of science, in- cluding some that existed in manuscript only. Another aspect is the possible influence of the non-Jewish environment on Jewish learning. Zamosc of the early eighteenth century was still a relatively important cen- tre with a cosmopolitan atmosphere, in which some Jews had far-flung international commercial connections. This may have had consequences for Jewish intellectual life. For one thing, although most Polish Jews could read only Hebrew and Yid- dish, 108 things were different in Zamosc. We have already mentioned that Solomon Chelm knew a number of languages; so, evidently, did others educated in the town. 109 Peretz gives us an idea of the social mechanism that may have been at work and may have allowed the progressive cultural climate in Zamosc to affect the Jews, too. His maternal great-grandfather, he recounts, who owned a warehouse for goods imported from overseas and from Leipzig, dealt with ‘Prince Zamoyski’ (apparently

a descendant of the founder of the town) as an equal (‘face to face’) and spoke Ger-

man ‘like a stream of water flowing downhill’. 110 We also have some information about Jewish physicians in Zamosc who had studied in Padua and in Frankfurt on the Oder 111 : no details are available, but we can surmise that those of them who passed the examination set by the Zamosc Academy (p. 47) had studied at a university. Peretz’s report of the alleged exchange of letters between the synagogue sexton and the ‘Academy in Paris’ (above, p. 43) and of discussions between the local rabbi and

a priest (in which the latter was regularly bested, of course), 112 whatever their histori-

cal kernel, also reflect a relatively open atmosphere. All this suggests that some members of the Jewish community may have interacted with their non-Jewish sur- rounding. Nevertheless, the Zamosc Academy never enrolled any Jewish students (except for five converted ones) 113 and the path to serious intellectual exchanges was fraught with difficulties. 114 It is indeed important to emphasize that the body of scien- tific knowledge itself reflected in NY was clearly limited to that transmitted by the

108 The paper by Daniel Stone, ‘Knowledge of Foreign Languages among Eighteenth-Century Polish Jews’, in Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, vol. 10: Jews in Early Modern Poland, ed. Gershon David Hundert (London, 1997), pp. 200–18, is not very helpful here.

109 R. Abraham Cohen, the author of the responsa Bet Avraham (above, n. 91) knew Latin; see Horowitz, Sefer kitvei ha-geˆonim, p. 138 n. b.

110 Peretz, Zikhroynes, p. 50; Zikhronotay, pp. 61–2; My Memories, pp. 91–2.

111 Shatzky, ‘Haskalah in Zamosc’, pp. 26–7. One of the physicians who studied in Frankfurt informs us that he had studied ‘medicine’ in the yeshiva in Zamosc (ibid., p. 27), which may refer to popular medi- cine practised by ba¨alei shem, one of whom, as we saw, was Israel’s ‘ally’.

112 Peretz, Zikhroynes, p. 70; Zikhronotay, p. 87; My Memories, p. 124. See above, p. 43.

113 Henryk Gmiterek, ‘Ze studiów nad struktura wyznaniowa mlodziezy Akademii Zamoyskiej (1595– 1784)’, Res Historica (Lublin) 10 (2000): 221–31, on p. 231. I am indebted to Sebastian Sobecki (Cam- bridge) for his helpful advice on this subject.

114 See, e.g., Salomon Maimon’s remarks in his Lebensgeschichte, I, 13, ed. Batscha, p. 73. Franzos, Der Pojaz (n. 2), impressively describes the obstacles in the path of a Jewish youth who wanted to learn a foreign language.

Hebrew textual corpus: no traces of knowledge appropriated from the non-Jewish culture are discernible in NY and Israel knew only Hebrew and Yiddish. Israel occa- sionally alludes to Gentiles who ‘mock us’, saying, ‘where is your wisdom?’ (fols. 24bb, 40ba), but this sounds more like the repetition of an entrenched literary topos than a product of his personal experience. 115 It thus seems that the non-Jewish envi- ronment at most kindled or encouraged the Zamosc Jews’ interest in science, but did not contribute to it substantively. The issue obviously calls for further study. The Polish town of Zamosc, then, especially Jewish Zamosc, was sui generis. Es- tablished by a prince imbued with the enlightened spirit of the Italian Renaissance, the prevailing social and intellectual conditions were unique. Its Sephardi community presumably brought with it a tradition of studying the profane sciences, which was sustained by its enduring international connections. As a result, a sub-culture charac- terized by an attitude of (relative) openness toward science and philosophy appar- ently existed within the more traditionalist, ‘mainstream’, Jewish culture of Zamosc. It is within this sub-culture that Israel could emerge and find his ‘allies’ and friends who ‘listened’ to him. In a word, the Sephardi heritage created the conditions neces- sary for acquiring knowledge of philosophy and science in eighteenth-century Zamosc.

Why was R. Israel b. Moses Halevi Hounded out of Zamosc?

Despite the Sephardi heritage, not everyone in Zamosc shared Israel’s passion for science. Far from it. As we saw, the strong opposition to Israel in Zamosc, of which he complains bitterly in the Introduction to NY, ultimately induced him to leave the town for good. Unfortunately, what we know about this conflict derives exclusively from Israel himself, and no independent sources are known. The fact that Israel does not name any of his detractors makes it impossible to identify the conservative indi- viduals or circles that harassed him. Still, we should ask what caused the antagonism he experienced? The answer is less obvious than has been assumed. It stands to reason that the antagonism toward Israel had something to do with his commitment to science. Note that none of the haskamot, except that of Joel Ba¨al Shem, specifically lauded his scientific erudition and efforts to bring the Talmud and science together. Certainly many of his contemporaries were suspicious of the very study of ‘foreign sciences’: in these circles, drawing on mathematics in a halakhic work was perceived as ipso facto subversive, whether or not it was so intended. 116 But his scientifically inspired talmudic exegesis cannot be the sole cause of the an- tipathy shown Israel. This traditional notion of the causes for his feud with his native town is refuted by the fact that, as we saw, he had a number of influential ‘friends’

115 Cf. Harris, How Do We Know This? p. 140: ‘Zamosc’s response shows little awareness of, or con- cern for, the judgment of the outside world…. I can see no concern for that world’s view of Jews and Judaism’.

116 Salomon Maimon, writing half a century after the events, seems to have sensed this: ‘Natür- licherweise war unserem Rabbi Israel mehr an Verbreitung nützlicher Kenntnisse unter seiner Nation als an der Erklärung oder Bestimmung eines Gesetzes gelegen, dessen er sich bloss als eines Vehikels bediente’ (Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 158).

who ‘listened’ to him. It is also contradicted by the case of R. Solomon Chelm, only 17 years younger than Israel, who, like Israel, studied the sciences and even ap- pended a mathematical disquisition to his major halakhic work – which did not pre- vent him from having had a distinguished career in which he became the rabbi of the whole district of Chelm, and for several years even of Zamosc itself. We must con- clude that Israel’s exclusion was not a consequence of his interest in science as such. In an approbation he gave in 1745, Israel provides an insightful analysis of social reactions to innovation. There can be little doubt that here he expressed his personal experience. Someone who wants to publish a halakhic novella (devar halakhah), he notes, is met with an outcry: ‘How does today differ from yesterday, that you want your name to be applied to a [new] truth? You are young; how dare you speak up in front of the elders? Do you know something we do not know?’ Should this scholar ‘persist in his innocent wish to teach what God has put in his heart and ignore the gossipmongers’, he is slandered and vilified. ‘In sum: the newcomer is beaten and battered from all sides’. 117 Innovation per se was badly received in some quarters, those of which Israel complains so bitterly in the Introduction to NY. ‘Ìadash asur min ha-Torah’ – ‘the Torah forbids innovation’ – the Îatam Sofer (1762–1839) would say half a century later, epitomizing a certain dominant mentality. But this is not the whole story and the usual resistance to innovation is not the only reason for the opposition Israel encountered. Israel’s innovations, we must appreci- ate, were not on a par with those of other talmudic scholars. At issue were above all the sources of legitimate knowledge. We saw that Israel considered science to be the Great Luminary that allows the light of Tradition, the Small Luminary, to pass from potentiality to actuality. The view that in order to be apprehended Tradition requires the light of science introduced a difference of principle between Israel’s innovations and those of the other scholars. The latter all debated sugyot within a closed universe of discourse – that of the Talmud and its interpreters and codifiers. Arguments could be constructed only out of premises derived from and sanctioned by the traditional authoritative texts of Judaism. Israel, by contrast, drew on external premises, not part of the talmudic discourse itself, but rather derived from science. Furthermore, as a faithful student of Maimonides and the rationalist Hebrew philosophical tradition, he regarded the mathematical sciences as affording certain, incontrovertible truths that were not open to doubt or discussion. The basis for Israel’s interpretations of tal- mudic passages (both halakhah and aggadah) is thus a sort of Archimedean point lo- cated outside the Talmud itself. For him, not only the traditional Jewish texts are au- thoritative; so too are scientific works – and their authority is, indeed, superior. It is precisely the validity and legitimacy of this interpretive horizon that were rejected by the traditionalists, few of whom could hope to benefit from the light afforded by sci- ence. They interpreted the same texts as Israel did, but from an utterly incompatible stance. Israel was thus, literally, an outsider to the community of most students of the Talmud in Zamosc, his few allies excluded. Little wonder that he regarded his critics as ‘imbeciles’ and ‘idiots’, who, the less they were learned, the more they hated him (fol. 1aa). ‘This is the way of our fellowmen: with the whip of their treacherous

117 Tavnit ha-bayit, fol. 56a.

tongues they put to death each and every [scholar] who has penetrated into the inner court of investigation [an allusion to the Guide 3:51]’ (fol. 1aa). 118 These scholars ‘disparage all science and all knowledge that is hidden from them’ and call the sci- ences ‘foolishness’. Israel comments with sarcasm that they hope to merit the World to Come by virtue of ‘not having ever tasted the taste of any science, nor ever seen the light of reason. They think that by virtue of this [ignorance] they deserve a great reward. So far did the stupidity and the jealousy of these people reach’ (fol. 3aa). A small detail noted by Israel is telling in this context. The famous allegedly talmudic dictum asserting that, in the dispute about the correct cosmology, ‘the sages of the nations of the world vanquished [those of Israel]’ – a classic proof-text ad- duced by Maimonides and many later writers to legitimate the ‘foreign’ sciences – ‘is not found in our books here’, Israel writes, adding that he knows it only through the citation in Maimonides’ Guide (2:8) (fol. 33bb). 119 Thus, even the talmudic text itself was in dispute. The trust in the infallibility of science – recall that he referred to the intellect as ‘my son’ (above, p. 31) – gave Israel an immoderate measure of self-assurance when dealing with interpretations based on it. We noted that Israel believed the Sages to have held true cosmological views, which had been misinterpreted by cer- tain later authorities. Particularly outrageous for Israel were comments by Rashi and R. Samuel Ashkenazi suggesting that the Sages held the earth to be flat, 120 a cosmo- logical stance Israel describes in no uncertain terms as ‘an extremely specious and wicked view’ (fol. 56ab). Israel realized, of course, that these scholars ascribed to the Sages the cosmology they themselves thought correct (fol. 49aa–ab) and was thus aware that he was criticizing both their cosmology and their talmudic scholar- ship. ‘How can a marvellous scholar like [the Yefeh toˆar, i.e., R. Samuel Ashke- nazi]… be led to ascribe to the Sages such a bizarre and outrageous view, which is as far from the truth as the apex of the daily sphere is from the centre of the earth?’ (fol. 24bb), he asks rhetorically. ‘Would that the Yefeh toˆar