Azariah de’ Rossi, the Italian Rabbi Who Brought Renaissance Humanism to Jewish History

Nov. 15 2016

Influenced by emerging humanist scholarship, the Italian rabbi and physician Azariah de’ Rossi (ca. 1511-1578) became best known for his historical work entitled M’or Eynayim (“The Light of the Eyes”)—which also won him no small number of detractors. Eli Kavon writes:

The great innovation of Azariah de’ Rossi was his reliance on non-Jewish sources in his investigation of Jewish history. He was bold, challenging the historical accuracy of rabbinic texts and citing the historians of ancient Greece and Rome as well as Christian scriptures and many great figures of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. He carefully weighed the evidence in his probe into Jewish history and [concluded] that many talmudic legends that dealt with events in the Jewish past were precisely that—legends.

For his time, Azariah was a rebel. Although he never abandoned Jewish faith and practice, he set the stage for a new understanding of Jewish history that broke with the past. . . .

De’ Rossi was also revolutionary in his rediscovery of ancient Jewish writings of the Hellenistic and pagan world—including the first great Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, the histories of Josephus, and the [2nd-century BCE] “Letter of Aristeas” that described the first translations of the Torah into Greek. In many cases, these texts went unrecognized by Jews and had worked their way into the cherished canon of the Church. It is impossible to think of the modern writing of the history of the Jews without acknowledging this pioneer of Mantua.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: History, History & Ideas, Humanism, Italian Jewry, Jewish Thought, Renaissance

In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan