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

April 4 2019

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.

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Read more at Jewish Telegraphic Agency

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

The Palestinian Authority Is Part of the Problem, Not the Solution

Jan. 31 2023

On Thursday, Palestinian Authority (PA) officials announced that they had ceased all security cooperation with Israel; the next two days saw two deadly terrorist attacks in Jerusalem. But the PA has in the past made numerous threats that it will sever its ties with the Israeli government, and has so far never made good on them. Efraim Inbar poses a different set of questions: does cooperation with Palestinian leaders who actively encourage—and provide financial incentives for—the murder of Jews really help Israel protect its citizens? And might there be a better alternative?

The PA leader Mahmoud Abbas seems unable to rule effectively, i.e., to maintain a modicum of law and order in the territories under his control. He lost Gaza to Hamas in 2007, and we now see the “Lebanonization” of the PA taking place in the West Bank: the emergence of myriad armed groups, with some displaying only limited loyalty to the PA, and others, especially the Islamists, trying to undermine the current regime.

[The PA’s] education system and media continue propagating tremendous hostility toward Jews while blaming Israel for all Palestinian problems. Security cooperation with Israel primarily concerns apprehending armed activists of the Islamist opposition, as the PA often turns a blind eye to terrorist activities against Israel. In short, Abbas and his coterie are part of the problem, not of the solution. Jerusalem should thus think twice about promoting efforts to preserve PA rule and prevent a descent into chaos while rejecting the reoccupation of the West Bank.

Chaos is indeed not a pleasant prospect. Chaos in the territories poses a security problem to Israel, but one that will be mitigated if the various Palestinian militias vying for influence compete with each other. A succession struggle following the death of Abbas could divert attention from fighting hated Israel and prevent coordination in the low-intensity conflict against it. In addition, anarchy in the territories may give Israel a freer hand in dealing with the terrorists.

Furthermore, chaos might ultimately yield positive results. The collapse of the PA will weaken the Palestinian national movement, which heretofore has been a source of endemic violence and is a recipe for regional instability in the future.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror