Hacham Eliyahu Benamozegh


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A Short Tribute

Hacham Eliyahu Benamozegh was born to Clara and Abraham on 13 Iyyar 5583 (1823) in Livorno, Italy and was their only child. The Benamozegh family was originally from Fez, Morocco.

His father passed away when he was a baby and his mother died in 1827, when he was only four years old. Hacham Eliyahu Benamozegh was raised by his mother's brother, Hacham Yehuda Koriat, with whom he also studied Torah. While studying Bible, Talmud, Midrash and Kabbala, he expanded the scope of his studies to include secular studies and languages. In 1839, at the age of 16, he wrote the introduction to the Maor Veshemesh commentary written by his uncle. While still in his twenties, he began to work as a darshan [preacher]. He was subsequently appointed to the position of dayan, and also taught in the city's rabbinic seminary.

Hacham Benamozegh founded a printing firm in Livorno, where he had Jewish prayerbooks and scholarly books printed, many of which were authored by Moroccan sages; he also had his own works printed there.

Hacham Benamozegh confronted secular knowledge with Torah wisdom and sought to reveal the Torah's inherent truth in this way. According to him, all human knowledge contains sparks of the truth revealed to the People of Israel by the Torah. He did not hesitate in applying sciences, considered suspect by other sages of his time, in interpreting Torah.  

In 1865, three years after the first volume of his commentary on the Torah, Em La'Mikra, was published, the sages of Aram Tzova (Aleppo) burned his book because of Hacham Benamozegh's use of sciences and biblical criticism. While the Jerusalem sages avoided burning his book, they did not accept it, and it was with them in mind that he wrote the Tzori Gilead letter in its defense.

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