chapter  5
12 Pages

Maharal against Azariah de’ Rossi: the other side of scepticism


In 1638 in Venice, Rabbi Simone (Simha) Luzzatto published a small, apologetic but highly valuable book on the status of the Jews. It was an absolute novelty in the history of Jewish political thought: the Rabbi defined the function/s of the Jewish minority in the economy of the Serenissima and mapped its scattered geographical world, its number and traditions, as well as its stratification in the Jewish population in the Diaspora.1 In this treatise, the Rabbi of the ‘Scuola Grande Tedesca,’ the Great German Synagogue, introduces the non-Jewish audience to the intellectual subdivisions of the Jewish academics, enumerating among them the élite rabbis, the philosopher-theologians and the Kabalists. Referring to the second group he comments:

And with all that the Jews so much refer to the doctors of the second class, they do not fail however to recall the sayings and pronouncements of the ancients in conformity with the commonly held doctrines. And although they firmly hold that the truths do not contradict each other, and that the simple opinion of the ancient sages should not be opposed to the evidence, nevertheless in cases where human reason, deficient and defective of power, does not arrive with its argument, their (the Rabbis’) authority helps the Jews.2