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

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

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict