Azaria dei Rossi

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Meor Enajim , Mantua 1574 (title page)

Azaria (h) (Bonaiuto) dei Rossi ben Moses (* around 1511 in Mantua ; † 1578 ibid.) Was an Italian-Jewish humanist , doctor and historian. He is considered the most important Jewish scholar of the Italian Renaissance .


Azaria was born in Mantua around 1511 as the son of the Min ha-Adummim family (= of the Reds), one of the most important families of Italian Jewry. According to him, the family had been brought to Italy by Emperor Titus after the Second Temple was destroyed . Azaria received his basic training in Mantua. After studying medical and historical sciences, he settled as a doctor in Ferrara, then lived in Ancona , Sabbioneta and Bologna . When Pius V drove the Jews out of his domain in 1569, he moved again to Ferrara, where he wrote his main work. Here he experienced the great earthquake of 1570. Towards the end of his life he returned to Mantua, where he supervised the printing of his Meor Enajim . He died in 1578.


Azaria was the first to use the works of Jewish-Hellenistic literature, which had been forgotten in Judaism, to control the Talmudic - rabbinical tradition and - hostile to contemporaries - became a forerunner of the scientific debate on Judaism. Among other things, he proved that the Jewish year count "since the creation of the world" only came from the Middle Ages, as did Josippon , who was believed to be an ancient source .

Meor Enajim

His most famous and important work is the three-part MEOR Enaim ( enlightenment of the eyes , ophthalmoscope , Mantua 1573-1575) containing reports, a translation of the Aristeasbriefes and various treatises:

  • Part 1: Kol elohim ("God's voice"): about the earthquake, which he did not see as a natural phenomenon but as a divine visitation;
  • Part 2: Hadrat sekenim ("Glory of the Ancients"): Translation of Aristeas' letter from Latin into Hebrew;
  • Part 3: Imra bina ("Words of Research"): includes 60 chapters on the history and chronology of antiquity and other learned subjects.

In Safed the ban (cherem) was planned over the book to be burned, but was no longer carried out because of the death of Josef Karo . Finally, the rabbis in Mantua forbade all youths from studying the book before they turned 25 (and even after that it was only allowed with the consent of the local rabbinate).

Only the enlightened contemporaries of Mendelssohn knew how to appreciate dei Rossi's achievement. No medieval Jewish script was drawn upon by Christian scholars to a greater extent than that book.

  • First edition Mantua 1574–1575
  • Second edition Berlin 1794
  • Meor Enajim , Vienna 1829
  • Sefer Me'or Enayim . Edited and introduced by David Cassel , Wilna 1864–1866 (reprinted in three volumes Jerusalem 1970)
  • The Light of the Eyes . Translated and edited by Joanna Weinberg. New Haven 2001. ISBN 978-0-300-07906-7

Other works (selection)

  • Mazref lakessef ("silver crucible "), containing chronological additions and defenses
  • Hirsch Filipowski, Mazref ... , Edinbourg 1854, with a biography of dei Rossi by Leopold Zunz

Literature (selection)

  • Salo W. Baron : Azaria de 'Rossi's Attitude to Life . In: Jewish Studies in Memory of Israel Abrahams . New York 1927, pp. 12-52.
  • Salo W. Baron: La methode historique d'Azaria de Rossi . In: Revue des Etudes Juives 86 (1928), pp. 34-78.
  • Salo W. Baron: Azariah de 'Rossi: A Biographical Sketch . In: Ders .: History and Jewish Historians , Philadelphia 1964, pp. 167-173.
  • Robert Bonfil: Some Reflections on the Place of Azariah de Rossi's Meor Enayim in the Cultural Milieu of Italian Renaissance Jewry . In: Cooperman (ed.): Jewish Thought in the Sixteenth Century . London 1983, pp. 23-48.
  • Joseph Dan:  Azaria dei Rossi. In: Encyclopaedia Judaica . 2nd Edition. Volume 17, Detroit / New York a. a. 2007, ISBN 978-0-02-865945-9 , pp. 471-473 (English).
  • Hanna Liss : Ars Rhetorica as Peshat? Jewish interpretation of the Bible in the Renaissance using the example of Juda Messer Leon and Asaria de Rossi , in: Trumah 9, 1999, 103–124
  • Giuseppe Veltri : Presence of Tradition : Studies on Jewish Literature and Cultural History, Supplements to the Journal for the study of Judaism 69, Brill, Leiden 2002, ISBN 90-04-11686-9 , pp. 272ff, 282ff. (Lit.)
  • Ders .: Azaria de 'Rossi . In: Andreas Kilcher (ed.): Metzler Lexicon of Jewish Philosophers . Philosophical thinking of Judaism from antiquity to the present, JB Metzler, Stuttgart-Weimar 2003, pp. 125–126.
  • Ders .: The Humanist Sense of History and the Jewish Idea of ​​Tradition: Azaria de 'Rossi's Critique of Philo Alexandrinus . In: Jewish Studies Quarterly 2 (1995), pp. 372-393.
  • Joanna Weinberg: Azariah dei Rossi: Towards a Reappraisal of the Last Years of His Life . In: Annali delta Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa , Ser 3, 8, 12 (1978), pp. 493-511.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. See Joseph Dan (2007), p. 471. "... the greatest scholar of Hebrew letters during the Italian Renaissance."
  2. It "caused great excitement among the rabbis [...] When the book appeared, the believing Jews were filled with pain and grief because of the loss of valuable traditions that threatened them", Wininger, lc, page 259