Azariah dei Rossi

Azariah dei Rossi

Azariah ben Moses dei Rossi (Hebrew: עזריה מן האדומים) was an Italian-Jewish physician and scholar. He was born at Mantua in 1513 or 1514; and died in 1578. He was descended from an old Jewish family which, according to a tradition, was brought by Titus from Jerusalem. He was known among Jews as Azariah min-Ha'adumim (Azariah of the Red Family), a play on his name as well as a possible allusion to the fact that he lived in Catholic Italy, Rome being regarded as a spiritual heir of Esau (Edom, from Hebrew `-d-m, red). Combining an insatiable desire for learning with remarkable mental power, Dei Rossi early in life became exceptionally proficient in Hebrew, Latin, and Italian literature. He studied simultaneously medicine, archeology, history, Greek and Roman antiquities, and Christian ecclesiastical history. When about the age of thirty he married and settled for a time at Ferrara. Later he was found at Ancona, Bologna, Sabbionetta, and again at Ferrara. In 1570 a terrible earthquake visited the last-named city (see 1570 Ferrara earthquake) and caused the death of about 200 persons. The house in which Dei Rossi lived was partly destroyed; but it happened that at the moment he and his wife were in their daughter's room, which remained uninjured. During the disturbances consequent upon the earthquake Dei Rossi lived in an outlying village, where he was thrown into association with a Christian scholar, who asked him if there existed a Hebrew translation of the Letter of Aristeas. Dei Rossi answered in the negative, but in twenty days he prepared the desired translation, which he entitled Hadrat Zekenim. His account of the earthquake, written shortly after, is entitled Kol Elohim; he regarded the earthquake as a visitation of God, and not merely as a natural phenomenon.


Me'or Enayim

Meor Einayim

He is known chiefly for his book Me'or Enayim (Hebrew, Light of the Eyes) in which he used critical methods to test the literal truth of the Aggadah, the non legalistic and narrative portions of the Talmud. His views were sharply criticised by Judah Loew ben Bezalel (the Maharal of Prague) in the latter's Be'er ha-Golah.

Dei Rossi's great work, Me'or Enayim ("Light of the Eyes") (Mantua, 1573-75; Berlin, 1794; Vienna, 1829; Vilna, 1863-66), includes the two works already mentioned and a third entitled Imre Binah. The latter is divided into four parts; the first part contains a survey of the Jews at the time of the Second Temple, narrates the origin of the Septuagint, points out the contradictions between some of the beliefs of the Talmudists and the proved results of scientific research, records the origin of the Jewish colonies in Alexandria and Cyrene, chronicles the wars of Bar Kokhba against the Romans, etc. Dei Rossi quotes from the writings of Philo, whose orthodoxy he questions. He criticizes him for having allegorized Biblical narratives of facts, and points out that the Alexandrian philosopher never gives the traditional interpretation of the Biblical text.

In the second part Dei Rossi criticizes a number of the assertions of the Talmudists (some of the criticisms were already extant and many of his criticisms were repeated by later commentators), and gives explanations of various aggadic passages which can not be taken literally (as, for instance, the aggadah which attributes the death of Titus to a gnat which entered his brain while he was returning to Rome). The third part is devoted to a study of Jewish chronology and translations from the writings of Philo, Josephus, and others, with commentaries. The fourth part deals with Jewish archeology, describing the shapes of the priestly garments and the glory of the Second Temple, and giving the history of Queen Helen and her two sons.

Attitude of his contemporaries

Dei Rossi's followed the burgeoning scientific method of inquiry in his work and did not rely solely upon tradition. But this way of dealing with subjects which the multitude reverenced as sacred called forth many criticisms on the part of his contemporaries. Prominent among his critics were Moses Provençal of Mantua (to whom Dei Rossi had submitted his work in manuscript), Isaac Finzi of Pesaro, and David Provençal, who endeavored to defend Philo. Dei Rossi appended to some copies of the Me'or Enayim an answer to the criticisms of Moses Provençal, and a dissertation entitled Tzedek Olamim, in which latter he refuted the arguments of Isaac Finzi. Later he wrote a special work entitled Matzref la-Kesef (published by Hirsch Filipowski at Edinburgh, 1854, and included by Zunz in the Vilna edition of the "Me'or"), in which he defended his "Yeme 'Olam" against its critics. Dei Rossi, however, also had to contend with those who considered his "Me'or 'Enayim" as a heretical work. Joseph Caro commissioned Elisha Gallico to draw up a decree to be distributed among all Jews, ordering that the "Me'or 'Enayim" be burned. But, Joseph Caro dying before it was ready for him to sign, the decree was not promulgated, and the rabbis of Mantua contented themselves with forbidding the reading of the work by Jews under twenty-five years of age.

The "Me'or 'Enayim" attracted the attention of many Christian Hebraists, who translated parts of it into Latin[1].

Dei Rossi was the author of a collection of poems (Venice, n.d.), among which are several of a liturgical character.

  • Giovanni Bernardo De Rossi, Dizionario, p. 280;
  • Zunz, in Kerem Ḥemed, v. 131-138, vii. 119-124;
  • Rapoport, ib. v. 159-162;
  • Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. col. 747;
  • Jost, Gesch. des Judenthums und Seiner Sekten, iii. 123;
  • Grätz, Gesch. ix. 405 et seq.;
  • Zunz, Literaturgeschichte, p. 417;
  • Ginsburg, Levita's Massoreth ha-Massoreth, p. 52.


  1. ^ Giulio Bartolocci translated ch. ix. and xxii., in his "Bibliotheca Magna Rabbinica"; Samuel Bochart,ch. xvi. and xxi., in his "Hierozoicon" (Leyden, 1712); Buxtorf, ch. ix., xlii., and lix., in his "Tractatus de Antiquitate Punctorum" (Basel, 1648); idem, ch. l. and lx., in his translation of the "Cuzari" (ib. 1660); idem, ch. lvi. and lviii., in his "Dissertatio de Letteris Hebraicis" (ib. 1662); Hottinger, ch. lvi., in his "Cippi Hebræi" (Heidelberg, 1662); Meyer, ch. viii., xiv., and xix., in his version of the "Seder 'Olam" (Amsterdam, 1699); Morin, ch. iii., v., vii., viii., ix., xix., xx., and xlviii., in his "Exercitationes Biblica" (Paris, 1638); Anton van Dale, ch. ix., in his "Dissertatio Super Aristeam" (Amsterdam, 1708); Voisin, ch. ii., viii., xv., xvi., xxii., xlv., li., lvi., lvii., and lix., in his edition of Raymund Martin's "Pugio Fidei" (Paris, 1651); Voorst, ch. xxiii., xxv., xxxiii., and xxxv., in his translation of the "Ẓemaḥ Dawid" (Leyden, 1644). Ch. xvi. has been translated into English by Raphall ("Hebrew Review and Magazine," ii. 170), and ch. lx. by Bishop Lowth, in the introduction to his translation of Isaiah (London, 1835).


Azariah de Rossi, The Light of the Eyes (Baltimore, John Hopkins UP, 2001), 864 pp. (Yale Judaica).

External links

This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, a publication now in the public domain.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Rossi, Azariah ben Moses dei (Adummim; Azariah dei Rossi) — (c. 1511 c. 1578)    Italian scholar. He was born in Mantua, and lived in Bologna, Ferrara, and Mantua. His Meor Enayim shows how classical sources cast light on Jewish history and literature in the classical period. In the third part of this… …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

  • Azaria dei Rossi — Meor Enajim, Mantua 1574 (Titelblatt) Azaria(h) (Bonaiuto) dei Rossi ben Moses (* um 1511 in Mantua; † 1578 in Mantua) war ein italienisch jüdischer Humanist, Arzt und Historiker. Er gilt als bedeutendster jüdischer Gelehrter der italienischen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Rossi — is an Italian surname, said to be the most common surname in Italy. Due to Italian emigration, it is also very common in other countries, including the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. Rossi is the plural of Rosso (meaning red …   Wikipedia

  • ROSSI, AZARIAH (Bonaiuto) BEN MOSES DEI — (c. 1511–c. 1578), the greatest scholar of Hebrew letters during the Italian Renaissance. He was born in Mantua to the Min ha Adummim family, one of the most eminent families in the history of Italian Jewry. According to a legend quoted by Rossi… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • De Rossi — is a surname, and may refer to: Bernardo de Rossi, Italian theologian and historian Bernardo de Rossi, Italian bishop Properzia de Rossi, Italian Renaissance sculptor Fabrizio De Rossi, a fictional character in the 1997 film Titanic Giovanni… …   Wikipedia

  • Azaria di Rossi — Azaria (Benaiuto) di Rossi, dit Azarya min HaAdoumim (hébreu : עזריה מן האדומים « Azaria des Rouges, » c est à dire d Italie[1]), est un rabbin et médecin italien du XVIe siècle (v. 1511 – 1588), considéré comme l un des plus… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Menahem Azariah da Fano — (also called Immanuel da Fano, and Rema MiPano) (1548, Fano – Mantua, 1620) was an Italian rabbi, Talmudist, and Kabbalist. Contents 1 Life 2 Works 3 References …   Wikipedia

  • Josippon — is the name usually given to a popular chronicle of Jewish history from Adam to the age of Titus, attributed to an author Josippon or Joseph ben Gorion. The chronicle was probably compiled in Hebrew early in the 10th century, by a Jewish native… …   Wikipedia

  • PROVENÇAL, DAVID BEN ABRAHAM — (b. 1506), rabbi of Mantua, preacher, and linguist. He was the brother of Moses Provençal . Provençal had the idea of establishing a Jewish university in Mantua because he feared a decline in the study of Torah in Italy after the burning of the… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • ARISTOTLE° — (fourth century B.C.E.), Greek philosopher and founder of the peripatetic school. Aristotle achieved a unique rank in the estimation of Muslim and Jewish medieval philosophers, who often refer to him simply as the philosopher. Maimonides stated… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.