יום שלישי ט"ז בשבט תשפ"ב 18/01/2022
Search
  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

    Read More...

בראי היום

  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

    Read More...

Place

  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

    Read More...

Join Our Mailing List!

Please add a Valid Email Address
Join
Thanks!

Reflections

Rabbi Don Yitzchak Abarbanel

The life and times of Rabbi Yitzchak ben Yehuda Abarbanel, minister in several royal courts and author of the all-encompassing commentary on Tanach.

Motty Meringer 26/10/2009 11:40
Don Yitzchak was born in the year 5197 (1437) in the city of Lisbon, capital of Portugal, to his father Reb Yehuda who served as Treasurer for King Alfonso V. The Abarbanel family can be traced back to David Hamelech; in fact the family held documentation that shows they descended from the tribe of Yehuda. As a mark of their prestige they had their own coat of arms. Some say that the name Abarbanel is derived from the combination of the words ‘Av Rav Bnei Kel’ (the great Rav of the sons of G-d), but there is no recorded proof of this.

Don Yitzchak was brought up by his father Reb Yehuda and learnt Torah from his teacher Rabbi Yosef ben Avraham Chayoun. At a young age he began to write several compilations – such as ‘Ateres Z’keinim’ and ‘Tzuras HaYesodos’, which are works on philosophy and faith, including discussions of Divine Providence and the World to Come.
Don Yitzchak also began to compile a commentary on Sefer Devarim (Deuteronomy) called ‘Mirkeves HaMishna’, but was forced to stop after his father Reb Yehuda passed away, and he was called upon by King Alfonso to take over the position of Treasurer in his father’s stead.

In the year 5231 (1471), King Alfonso of Portugal conquered areas in Islamic Morocco. When his troops reached the town Arzila, two hundred-fifty Jewish captives fell into their hands. As soon as Don Yitzchak heard about his brethren who were being held captive, he set to work to obtain their release. He appointed twelve men as delegates to go from one Jewish community to the next, and raise money to use as ransom. The lion’s share of the ransom came from his own personal funds. Once he had secured their release, Don Yitzchak provided for them and saw to it that they lacked for nothing; he did so for two years until they had mastered the local language and learned a profession they could support themselves with.
In the year 5243-1483 King Alfonso V of Portugal died, and in his place Johanne II was crowned as king. With his rise to the throne, Johanne exposed a ring of opponents to the royal court, with the cardinal of Bragentzia at their helm. King Johanne suspected Don Yitzchak of being an accomplice to this group of rebels, and issued a decree to execute all suspects – including Don Yitzchak. At the very last moment Don Yitzchak succeeded in escaping Portugal, with only the clothes on his back, crossing the border into Spain. There, he settled in the city of Toledo whereupon he sent a letter to King Johanne proving that he was not involved in the circle of rebels. However King Johanne was not mollified by this letter and subsequently issued an edict for the confiscation of all Don Yitzchak’s property.

Don Yitzchak Abarbanel remained in Spain and began to invest all his energy in the compilation of his commentary on the Tanach. He completed his commentary to the books of Yehoshua, Shoftim, and Shmuel (Joshua, Judges and Samuel) – and as he was about to complete his work on Sefer Melachim (Kings), Don Yitzchak was called upon by King Ferdinand I of Oregon and Queen Isabella of Castille to serve as Treasurer for the two kingdoms. Later, in wake of the marriage of these two monarchs, the two kingdoms merged together to become what was known as Christian Spain.

In those days, there were areas in southern Spain that were still under Islamic rule, and the Christian rulers set themselves a goal of the highest priority to drive away these Moslems. Upon Don Yitzchak’s appointment as Treasurer, he loaned the King the enormous sum of one million gilden to finance this war. After eight years during which Don Yitzchak faithfully served the King and Queen as Treasurer, Spain was finally conquered in its entirety by the Christians.

Two months after the triumphant victory, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella issued the fateful expulsion decree against all the Jews of Spain. Don Yitzchak tried desperately to appeal to the two rulers to rescind the decree; he even offered an enormous sum in exchange for the cancellation of the edict. But all this was of no avail, the King and Queen were not to be swayed. Their only concession was to allow Don Yitzchak and nine other Jews to remain in Spain as Jews; however the righteous Don Yitzchak scorned the offer, preferring to be exiled together with his brethren. He was able to take out most of his vast wealth, on special permit from the King.

The newly exiled Don Yitzchak, together with thousands of other exiles, turned to the city of Naples in Italy. At that time King Alfonso ruled over Italy, and he befriended Don Yitzchak and appointed him as advisor of his court. When King Ferdinand of Spain heard that Alfonso was allowing the Jews to settle in his land, he demanded that King Alfonso return all the money that the Jews had brought into his country. Alfonso refused, and the scant possessions that the exiles still owned remained in their hands.

In the year 5254 (1494) Alfonso the First died, and his son Alfonso II succeeded him to the throne. In that same year a war broke out between Italy and France, and the French king Karl VIII conquered Naples, forcing Alfonso to escape. King Alfonso sought asylum in the Sicilian Isles, and Don Yitzchak escaped with him, leaving all his possessions behind. Don Yitzchak continued to faithfully accompany the king until the latter’s death a year later. After the king’s death, Don Yitzchak left Sicily and moved to the island of Corfu where he lived in abject poverty, having left his wealth in Italy. Despite the intense difficulty, he continued writing his commentary on the Tanach, until its final completion.

After another few years had passed, Don Yitzchak moved to the city of Monopol, where he wrote his commentary on the Hagada - ‘Zevach Pesach’, which he finished on Erev Pesach 5256 (1496). Seven years later Don Yitzchak left Monopol and moved to Venice, upon the request of a group of spice traders that he serve as mediator between themselves and the king of Portugal, regarding a dispute that had erupted between them. Don Yitzchak lived in Venice for five years, until his passing on the 8th of Cheshvan 5269 (1509), at the age of seventy-one. He was laid to rest in Padwa, Italy; however, a year later the cemetery was destroyed during a battle that took place in the area, and his burial place was lost forever.

The extensive works of Don Yitzchak Abarbanel were eventually disbursed throughout all Jewish communities, and became a cornerstone in the elucidation of the Torah and in Jewish philosophy. He used a very specific method of explanation: he would begin every subject with a number of questions, and end with one answer that solves all the questions at once. At the beginning of every Sefer, Don Yitzchak wrote an introduction that outlined the contents of the Sefer in brief. Aside from his commentary on the Tanach, Don Yitzchak authored close to twenty other Sefarim, in which he emphasizes the basic tenets of Judaism and discusses sharply the many contestants and opponents to Judaism, in particular Christianity. Don Yitzchak also dealt at great length with the subject of the Final Redemption, and wrote many works on this topic including the Sefarim ‘Mashmia Yeshua’ and ‘Maaynai Hayeshua’.