Rossi, Azariah (Ben-moses) De
Rossi, Azariah (Ben-Moses) De, a Jewish scholar of the celebrated family called in Hebrew Min ha- Adomim, was born in Mantua about 1514. Naturally endowed with extraordinary powers of mind, keenness of perception, refinement of taste, and with an insatiable desire for the acquisition of knowledge, De Rossi devoted himself with unwearied assiduity and zeal to the study of Hebrew literature, archaeology, history, the writings of ancient Greece and Rome, and even the fathers, which knowledge was of great use to him afterwards, when he devoted himself more especially to the criticizm of the Hebrew language and the sacred text. Having prosecuted his studies in Mantua, Ferrara, Ancona, Sabionetta, Bologna, etc., he went back to Ferrara with the accumulated learning of more than half a century, the results of which he now communicated to the world in his celebrated work entitled מאוֹר עֵינִיַ, The Light of the Eyes (Mantua, 1574-75). The work consists of three parts, subdivided into chapters as follows:
Part I, which is entitled קוֹל אֶלֹהַי ם, The Voice of God (republished at Vienna in 1829), which was occasioned by the terrible earthquake at Ferrara, Nov. 18, 1570, and which De Rossi himself witnessed, contains, in easy style, a graphic description of the event. He believes it a duty to relate to posterity how the power of the Creator had manifested itself. He dilates on the subject, to prove that he does snot altogether agree with Greek philosophers, who attribute sudden disasters to natural causes, but argues forcibly and (quoting also Scriptural and Rabbinical authorities) concludes that the invisible hand of God uses nature — its own creation — to mete out men's deserts. He then branches out to comment scientifically on narratives in sacred and secular works relative to earthquakes, Land remarks that what happened to his wife would have confounded an AEsculapius and a Hippocrates. She had moved into her daughter's room shortly before the roof of the house fell, by a sudden shock, into her own chambers. The fright occasioned turned the color of her skin into a deep yellow, and from that moment she craved for nothing but salt. Bread and salt became to her a most delicious food. Yet that morbid desire he holds to have been her cure. Without taking any medicine, it gradually decreased, and her natural color returned. Thereupon De Rossi reasons out our ignorance of the wonders of nature, and suggests the possibility that the quantity of pure salt his wife ate destroyed the effect of the saline and sulphuric particles which may have entered her system at the upheaving of the earth.
Part 2, which is entitled הִדרִת זקֵנַי ם, The Story of the Aged (republished at Vienna 3, 1829), contains an account of the Sept. version of the Bible, chiefly from the letter of Aristeas, a confidential friend of king Ptolemy Philadelphus, communicated to his brother Phylocrates. De Rossi accepted it as true in all its details. Modern criticizm has seen where it is at fault, and declared it spurious. That a Greek translation of the Pentateuch — not of the whole Bible — was made under the auspices of king Ptolemy cannot be doubted. Besides Josephus, Philo, and the fathers of the Christian Church, the Talmud has recorded the incident, somewhat hyperbolically, in the treatise Megillah. But that the so called Sept. version of the entire Scriptures should have had the origin related above is impossible. SEE SEPTUAGINT.
Part III, which is divided into two divisions, respectively called אַמרֵי בַינָה, Word of Understanding, and ימֵי עוֹלָ, Chronology, consists of four sections, subdivided again into sixty chapters. The first division, with its two sections (מִאֲמָרַי ם), treats, in ch. 1-13, of the use of the fathers; the heathen writings; Philo: the Jewish sects, especially the Essenes; the Sept. and the Aramaic versions; the history of the Jews in Alexandria and Cyrene; the Bar Kochba revolts; the Ten Tribes; the Talmudic story about Alexander the Great's entry into Jerusalem; and of the Talmudic theory of nature. The second section, embracing ch. 14-28, contains treatises on the explanation of Scripture by ancient sages: on the Midrash and Hagadic exegesis; on sundry striking differences between Christian and Jewish writers; the old Persian list of kings; on the different eras of the Jewish chronology; Josephus; Seder Olam; on the series of high priests during the second Temple, etc., published with the second part (Vienna, 1829-30). The third section treats, in ch. 29-44, of the Biblical chronology and the Jewish Calendar; of old Persian kings; extracts from and criticizms on Phlilo, Josephus, etc. The fourth section, embracing ch. 45-55, descants upon Jewish antiquities; Aquila and (Onkelos; the antiquity of the letters and the vowel points; Hebrew poetry, etc.
This work, considered as a whole, though not distinguished by scientific correctness or historical accuracy, has nevertheless always been a favorite among Hebrew scholars, and parts of it have been translated into Latin, as ch. 23, 25, 33, 35, by Voorst, in his translation of the צֶמִח דָּוַד (Leyden, 1644); ch. 8, 14, 19, by Meyer, in his version of the עוֹלָ סֶדֶר (Amst. 1699); ch. 9, 42, 59, by Buxtorf. in his Tiractatus de Antiquitate Punctorum (Basel, 1648); ch. 1, 55, by the same. in his translation of Kuzari (ibid. 1660), and ch. 56, 58, in his Dissertatio de Litferis Heb. (ibid. 1662); ch. 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 19, 20, 48, by Morin, in his Exercitationes Biblicoe (Paris, 1638), p. 185, 188, 190, 191, 230, 287, 314, 342, 563; ch. 2, 8, 15, 16, 22, 45, 51, 56, 57, 59, by De Voisin, in his edition of Martini's Pusgio Fidei adversus Maurus et Judoeos, etc. (ibid. 1651), p. 75, 77, 113, 122, 127, 128, 129. 142, 144, 373; ch. 9; by Van Dale, in his Dissertatio super Aristeam, etc. (Amst. 1705), p. 174; ch. 9; 22; by Bartolocci, in his Bibliotheca Magna Rabbinica (Rome, 1675-93), 1, 680; 2, 800; ch. 16 and 21, by Bochart, in his Hierozoicon (Leyden, 1712), pt. 1, ch. 6; 2, 569; and ch. 56, by Hottinger, in his Cippi Hebroei (Heidelb. 1662), p. 123. The sixteenth chapter has been translated into English by Raphall, in the Hebrew Review and Magazine, 2, 170 (treating "of the gnat which entered the skull of Titus, "as related in the Talmud); while the sixtieth chapter has been translated by bishop Lowth, in the preliminary dissertation to his transl. of Isaiah (Lond. 1835), p. 28, etc. De Rossi has criticized his material in so liberal a manner that many of the Jews proscribed the work, while others wrote in refutation of some of his liberal criticisms. Prominent among these were R. Moses Provenuale, of Mantua, and R. Isaac Finzi, of Pesaro. De Rossi subjoined to some copies of the Meor Esnayim itself a reply to the former, and wrote a separate work entitled ס8 מִצרֵŠ לִכֶּסֶŠ, The Refining pot for Silver, after Pr 17:3. This work, which is an essential supplement to the Meor Enayim, has recently been published by Filipowski (Edinb. 1854), and by L. Zunz, with the Meor Enayime (Wilna, 1863-66, 3 vols.). De Rossi also wrote Poems and Epigraphs, שַׁירַי ם וחִרוּזַי ם (Venice, 1586). Three years before his death, De Rossi had a dream. A man stood by him, and voices cried, "Dost thou not see the personage looking on thee? He is a prophet." "If so," said Azariah, addressing the stranger, "if thou art indeed inspired, let me know how long I have to live." "Three years yet," was the answer. By the wayside of Mantua the bones of the illustrious writer rested, and on his grave a significant inscription was placed, when the dream proved true, in Kislev, 5338 (i.e. 1577). The stone shared the fate of him who lay buried beneath. Both were rudely cast away to some unknown spot by the Italian monks, who sought for more space to build up monasteries.
See Furst, Bibl. Jud. 3, 171 sq.; De Rossi, Dizionario Storico, p. 280 sq. (Germ. transl.); Steinschneider, Catalogus Libr. Hebr. in Bibl. Bodl. col. 747; Ginsburg in Kitto, s.v.; the same, Levita's Massoreth hal-Malssoreth, p. 52 sq., and Essenes, p. 59 sq.; Wolf, Bibl. Hebr. 1, 944; 3, 871; Etheridge, Introd. to Heb. Literature, p. 455; Cassel, Leitfaden fur Gesch. u. Literatur, p. 97; (Gratz, Gesch. d. Juden, 9, 432 sq. 435.; Jost, Gesch. d. Judenth. u. s. Secten, 3, 123; Da Costa, Israel and the Gentiles, p. 488; Zunz, Literaturgesch. zur synagogalen Poesie, p. 417; id. Biography of De Rossi in Kerem Chemed (Prague, 1841-42), 5, 131-138; 7, 119-124; id. Zur Gesch. d. Literatur, p. 233, 249, 536; Rapaport in Kerem Chemed (ibid. 1842), 5, 159-162; Jewish Messenger (N.Y. March, 1875). (B.P.)