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Between Worlds

The Life and Thought of Rabbi David ben Judah Messer Leon

Hava Tirosh-Rothschild

Publication Year: 1991

It is a work of sound scholarship dealing with an interesting historical figure and his unique cultural world. The author focuses correctly on the transition from Italian to Ottoman Jewish culture in the life of David Messer Leon and reveals much about the continuities and discontinuities between both societies. He nicely fuses social and intellectual history, and uses a life to illuminate a number of interesting and important cultural trends among early modern Jews, particularly the integration of kabbalah and philosophy, Humanism and Thomism. The presentation of the symbiotic nature of Jewish culture with contemporary intellectual trends and the appropriation of Christian theological strategies by a Jewish thinker to explain Judaism make this study a fascinating one.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Judaica: Hermeneutics, Mysticism, and Religion

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

This study originated in my Ph.D. dissertation at the Hebrew University written under the guidance of the late Prof. Shlomo Pines. I thank Prof. Pines for initiating me into medieval Jewish philosophy. His impeccable scholarship will always remain my ideal. My original dissertation focused on the relationship...

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pp. 1-10

The turn of the sixteenth century was a period of upheaval and transition in Jewish history. Persecutions culminating in local and general expulsions virtually ended the presence of professing Jews in Western Europe. The map of Jewish diaspora was redrawn. Jews migrated eastward to the Ottoman Empire...

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1. The Italian Setting

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pp. 11-33

Italian Jewry underwent a major transformation at the close of the thirteenth century. In 1291 the Church launched a two-year campaign for the total conversion of the Jews in Apulia. l About halfthe Jews were forcibly converted, and many were killed. Study in the distinguished academies of Bari and Otranto was brought...

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2. Educating an Italian Jewish Gentleman

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pp. 34-54

R. David was born in Venice to R. Judah ben Yehiel Messer Leon and his second wife, Stella, the daughter of Benjamin ben Joab of Fano.1 Most scholars fix R. David's date of birth at about 10 December 1471, calculating...

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3. Italian Exile in the Ottoman Empire

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pp. 55-77

R. David ben Judah Messer Leon, the privileged and wellconnected Italian rabbi and gentleman, arrived in Constantinople in 1495-96 an uprooted exile, forced to struggle for his public stature and even his livelihood...

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4. Communal Tensions

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pp. 78-104

Inter-communal tensions frequently erupted into open controversies as Ottoman Jewry struggled to consolidate its collective identity. R. David ben Judah became involved in three such controversies, in addition to the loss of his Constantinople pulpit...

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5. Hakham Kalel: A Comprehensive Scholar

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pp. 105-138

In his own day R. David ben Judah Messer Leon was famous as a hakham kolel, a scholar who excelled in both rabbinic and secular studies. As noted in Chapter Two above, this type of Jewish scholarship flourished in Renaissance...

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6. A Jewish Dogmatist

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pp. 139-183

In medieval culture, theology was "the queen of the sciences." Medieval intellectuals, among them R. David ben Judah Messer Leon, regarded theology the most abstract and intellectually demanding science, requiring prior mastery of all other branches...

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7. A Systematic Theologian

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pp. 184-230

God is per se the subject of theology. R. David's literary activity culminated in a systematic exposition of the concept of God in the last section of Tehillah Ie-David. The work was written in Salonika in the 1530s, but R. David died before he finished...

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pp. 231-238

R. David ben Judah Messer Leon died some time before 1536, and before completing Tehillah Ie-David. J The manuscript was published in Constantinople in 1576 by R. David's grandson, R. Aharon, on the printing press of R. Joseph Ya'abez...


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pp. 239-242


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pp. 243-376


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pp. 377-385

E-ISBN-13: 9781438422220
E-ISBN-10: 1438422229
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791404478
Print-ISBN-10: 0791404471

Page Count: 385
Publication Year: 1991

Series Title: SUNY series in Judaica: Hermeneutics, Mysticism, and Religion