October 7, 2015
Rabbi, Don Isaac Abarbanel
Yitzchak Abarbanel was born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1437, into a family descended from King David that ranked in the forefront of the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula. They were distinguished by their financial, political and Jewish communal leadership achievements.
In addition they were known as a family that loved scholarship, and piety, and had strong moral convictions. All these as well as their commercial and financial strengths Don Yitzchak inherited. Then in 1483, with the ascension of the anti Semitic king Joao, he was forced to flee to Spain, where he re-established himself till the expulsion of Spanish Jewry in 1492. Ultimately he made his way to Italy, where he lived in Naples and Venice till his death in 1508.
This Torah scholar, diplomat, financier, mystic and leader of his people, although living over 500 years ago, is particularly pertinent to the modern open society and global village in which we live, in a way that no other scholar seems to be. He is probably the last person to combine within his person 4 major and long existent Jewish traditions; philosopher, statesman, torah scholarship and cabbalist. His commentary on the Torah seems particularly suitable to those who earn their livelihoods, engage in business or professions and are confronted with the challenges of living globally, for the first time since his period, in free societies.
Faced with the challenges inherent in the cultural and religious free market of his time – 15th century Spain, his knowledge of Torah, philosophy, both Jewish and that of classical Greece and European Renaissance, and mystical sources, he wrote a commentary suitable to those living in a similar assimilatory prone, open and spiritually free society. As a scion of traumatic Jewish expulsion, persecution and suffering, his ideas of galut, redemption and messianism are extremely relevant to our post holocaust generation.
Adopting a special style of detailed questions and answers, he produces a commentary on the Chumash and the Nach that is familiar and convenient for us trained as we are, knowingly or unknowingly, in Greek methods of thought and those of science and technology. Furthermore, he constantly refers to the classical commentators who preceded him- Rashi, Rambam, Ibn Ezra, Ralbag and Ramban. However, he then goes on to supply his own comments reflecting his own very specific approach.
In my survey, the Abarbanel got the most votes and iyh we will be studying his commentary each week this year.
A guten winter