How a 16th-Century Italian Earthquake Led a Jew to the Renaissance

In 1570, a severe earthquake struck the city of Ferrara; among the survivors was a learned Jew named Azariah de’ Rossi, who thereafter began composing controversial, but widely read, works on Judaism and Jewish history. Henry Abramson describes the disaster’s impact on de’ Rossi’s thinking, and argues that his ideas adumbrated what would now be considered “Modern Orthodoxy.”

Narrowly escaping the collapse of his home, [de’ Rossi] and his family sought refuge with other survivors, Jews and Christians alike, in open fields and even aboard boats on the Po River. His encounter with Christian scholars in the aftermath of the earthquake convinced him to write a religious book, inspired by the earthquake, that described the majesty of God’s universe. [T]itled The Voice of God, [it] was a religious-scientific exploration of the nature and purpose of earthquakes. He surveyed the extant knowledge of the phenomenon from a wide variety of non-Jewish sources, folding it into detailed discussions of rabbinic and biblical passages in a sometimes disjointed and lumpy whole.

[Soon thereafter he began work on his] 700-page magnum opus, titled Light of the Eyes, which caused an intellectually seismic event whose aftershocks would reverberate for the next 500 years. De’ Rossi was broadly inclusive of all wisdoms, regardless of their source. Elements of this orientation are evident in isolated works of Jewish physicians such as Maimonides, but de’ Rossi was much more radical, consulting controversial Jewish thinkers like Philo and Christian ones like Augustine of Hippo.

A child of the burgeoning rationalist humanism of the 16th century, he saw the nondenominational advancement of human wisdom as a garden of intellectual delights, open to visitors of all persuasions and welcoming whatever beneficial seeds might be planted there. Many [devout Jews] would toil in that garden over the next five centuries, but Azariah de’ Rossi was arguably the first to seed the landscape.

Read more at Jewish Telegraphic Agency

More about: Azariah de Rossi, Italian Jewry, Modern Orthodoxy, Renaissance, Science and Religion

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University