Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Another ModernityElia Benamozegh's Jewish Universalism$

Clémence Boulouque

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781503612006

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9781503612006.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM STANFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.stanford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Stanford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in SSO for personal use. Subscriber: null; date: 17 April 2021

The Moroccan World of a Livornese Jew

The Moroccan World of a Livornese Jew

(p.17) Chapter 1 The Moroccan World of a Livornese Jew
Another Modernity

Clémence Boulouque

Stanford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Chapter 1 explores how the fortunes of Livorno, Benamozegh’s place of birth and of lifelong residence, where his parents had settled after leaving Morocco, shaped his understanding of diversity, his assertive engagement with the Christian world, and his feeling of alienation from a place once vibrant, but by his time relegated to the commercial and intellectual margins of Europe. His Moroccan background exemplifies the importance of commercial and rabbinic networks in the Mediterranean and accounts for his view of Kabbalah as an essential part of the Jewish tradition in an age when it had generally fallen out of favor among the enlightened figures of Judaism.

Keywords:   Livorno, port city, Morocco, Kabbalah, networks

THE FORTUNES OF LIVORNO, Benamozegh’s place of birth and of lifelong residence, where his parents had settled after leaving Morocco before his birth, shaped his understanding of diversity, his assertive engagement with the Christian world, and his feeling of alienation from a place once vibrant, but by his time relegated to the commercial and intellectual margins of Europe. His Moroccan background also accounts for his view of Kabbalah as an essential part of the Jewish tradition in an age when it had generally fallen out of favor among the enlightened figures of Judaism.

Jewish Livorno

The free port city of Livorno was the creation of the Medici Grand Dukes of Tuscany, whose Livornine Charters, promulgated in 1591 and 1593, extended privileges to residents of any nation—from Portugal to Persia. The provisions of the charters granted the right to free and public religious practice as well as protection for religious minorities from excessive taxation, from the Inquisition, from any evangelism by Catholics, and from slander, abuse, violence, and discriminatory practices. The rationale was to attract the Sephardic diaspora: the Tuscan dukes were eager to take advantage of Mediterranean Jews’ reputed control of commerce with the Ottoman Empire.1 These rights remained unmatched elsewhere on the continent and even in the rest of Italy, where the (p.18) Inquisition still flourished in the late sixteenth century (and was to last until the nineteenth century). While Italian Jews from neighboring states were actually the earliest settlers, such freedom also drew a number of New Christians from the Iberian Peninsula.2 From the late eighteenth century onward, North African Jews, too, assumed an increasing role in the community.

The economic growth that ensued and the fortunes of the city instantiate the “mercantile philosemitism” theorized by Jonathan Karp.3 The city’s reputation led British philosopher John Toland,4 when advocating the naturalization of the Jews in England, to cite Livorno as a model.5 The figure of the rich merchant of Livorno found its way into literature with Isaac Euchel’s ’Igrot Meshulam (1790), a work often compared to Montesquieu’s Persian Letters, in which the Italian-Spanish upper class constitutes an open society with patronage of the arts and free presses.6

The port city was also a point of passage where visitors and temporary residents maintained their customs, a phenomenon that rarely failed to make an impression on outsiders throughout the nineteenth century. Upon his stay in Livorno in 1874, the German theologian and writer Avraham Berliner noted: “The various forms of dress afforded an interesting spectacle to the observer. There were European Jews in overcoats, Berbers in their bright white burnous, Orientals in turbans and many others besides.”7 Livorno’s Jewry fits the label “port Jews,” a social type found in maritime communities in Italy and in the Sepharad world, at the intersection of trade and culture, interacting with non-Jewish communities and offering a model of de facto cosmopolitanism.8 Yet recent scholarship has shown that the idea of “cosmopolitanism” needs to be reassessed.9 This picture of social integration applied primarily to the elite and the heterogeneity in such cities resulted in ethnoreligious tensions between Jews and Christians,10 as well as ethnic tensions within the Livornese Jewish community.11 These frictions abated around the time of Benamozegh’s coming of age as part of a new generation identified as Italian only. In his autobiography, Benamozegh mentions that when he was a young predicator at the Academia Beit Franco, his father-in-law authorized him to preach in Italian rather than in Spanish, at the request of the younger congregants. However fragmented, this plurality of worlds encapsulated in a single microcosm, the one through the many, resembles Benamozegh’s understanding of the world and of religion.

(p.19) Benamozegh’s lifespan coincided with a turn of the tide for Livornese wealth. Not only did the ban on commerce with England during the Napoleonic occupation harm Livorno’s economic growth, but the French colonization of Algeria after 1830 and of Tunis in 1881 further reduced Livornese Jewish merchants’ potential role as middlemen between the French and the Ottoman Empire. The weakening of the latter spelled the downfall of the Jewish merchant class, which suffered from a steep decline in trade between the eastern Mediterranean and Europe.

The city’s demographics followed suit. In fact, the Jewish proportion of the population declined first in relative terms, from 12 percent of the population (three thousand Jews) in 1725 to around 6 percent in 1822, a year before Benamozegh’s birth.12 In the second half of the century, more Jews left Livorno than settled in the city. Most of those who left went looking for new, more prosperous business ventures in Alexandria, Salonica, and above all Tunis. Livorno’s economic decline foreshadowed or accompanied its dwindling cultural influence in the Jewish world.13

Livorno had once been a hub to which celebrated figures such as the Chida (Haim Yosef David Azulai) would travel and settle.14 The intellectual exchanges that accompanied the city’s earlier heyday, however, began to wane. The history of the Livornese rabbinate remains to be written, but Benamozegh’s appraisal of his relations with the other communal leaders and the Jewish economic elite of the port is less than positive: he portrays himself as a man living “in near perfect solitude […] except for the company of [his] books and students,”15 lamenting his intellectual isolation in Livorno and the “holy apathy” (“santia apatia”) he saw as prevailing in his hometown. Writing to the philologist and Orientalist Angelo de Gubernatis (1840–1911) in 1867, Benamozegh commented, “Here lethargy reigns and whoever has less chloroform in their body, they declare him crazy—and maybe he is.”16 In his correspondence with Luzzatto, he twice nicknamed the port city “Beotia,” referring to the central province of Greece often derided for the stupidity of its inhabitants. This detachment is corroborated by the testimony of those who knew him, in which he comes across as stern, aloof, and eccentric. The testimony of an official who visited him in order to gauge his political leanings in 1857 painted him as “stern toward his family.” His disciple Pallière described him as he walked away from their first and only meeting as “absorbed (p.20) in his thoughts, which he accompanied by involuntary gestures […] some passers-by saluted him respectfully, others looked at him with curiosity and surprise because of the oddity of his appearance.”17 Livorno shaped Benamozegh’s persona as a remote figure, living in what had become a marginal city and all the more eager to insert himself into the conversation in cultural circles about the religion and the society of the future.

A lecture delivered by Benamozegh in 1893, as part of his lecture series for local Jewish schools known as Pie Scuole Israelitiche (the Pious Israelite Schools), illustrates these two poles. The rabbi offered a historical overview, a virtual guided tour, of the old cemetery of Livorno,18 and intended it not only as a tribute to the intellectual heroes of the past, as a symbolic acknowledgment of a bygone world, but also as a political injunction. When he invoked Haim Yosef David Azulai, the “luminary of Judaism,” Benamozegh highlighted a lesser-known aspect of the Chida’s thought: his attachment to freedom, which echoed Benamozegh’s own credo:

Freedom! What can you find that is better than freedom of conscience? When it is missing, you can’t observe God’s smallest commandment without exposing yourself to persecution or mockery. But when there’s freedom, you can put on your tefillin and go to the synagogue and back without being harmed, you can build your tent on the terrace without getting the smallest stone thrown at you.19

As forward-thinking as his agenda was, Benamozegh drew deeply, as a rabbi and a thinker, on his world of yesterday, with its web of Moroccan and Oriental connections.

Moroccan Genealogies

Benamozegh’s family’s itineraries exemplify the intense rabbinic circulation between the main commercial and religious cities of the Mediterranean, especially between the Maghreb and Livorno, as religious and scholarly networks were created along the lines built by the commercial ones.20 With its distinguished forebears of judges and kabbalists, Benamozegh’s ancestry is deeply rooted in Morocco. In his brief autobiography, Benamozegh traced his paternal ancestry back to Fez and highlighted an ancestor named Jehoshuah Ben Amozegh, who was granted the title “Prince of the Nation” (p.21) for having supported the King of Fez in the seventeenth century and who appears in the final pages of Jacques Basnage’s famed Histoire des Juifs, first published in the mid-eighteenth century and cited by Benamozegh.21 The patronym means “the son of the Berber,”22 suggesting an ancient presence in Morocco since the Amazighs were autochthonous Berbers living in the Maghreb before the Arab conquest who had converted to Judaism in late antiquity.23

From what can be gleaned from the autobiography, Elia Benamozegh’s father, Avraham, born in Morocco, was living childless in Livorno when, at age seventy-one, he asked for the approval of his first wife to marry a younger woman, who became Elia’s mother. In a peculiar retelling, Benamozegh adds that his father entrusted an emissary to the Holy Land to pray for him there so that he should have male progeny.

Apart from his brief, 1889 self-portrayal, Benamozegh’s accounts of his family history are rare and oblique. Mostly found in ancillary texts, they all emphasize Morocco as the family nexus. The Coriat family presumably hailed, and took its name, from the Spanish town of Coria and left around the time of the expulsion. Its uninterrupted presence in Morocco has been documented going back to the fifteenth century, in various positions of power.24 Benamozegh was well aware of his illustrious ancestry: “Know that I count, on my mother’s side, ten generations of rabbanim and geonim,”25 he wrote to one of his interlocutors.26 One of these luminaries was his great-grandfather Avraham Coriat, a renowned dayyan (a judge in a rabbinical court) active in Tetouan (Morocco) who appears in Samuel Romanelli’s 1787 Masa be-Arav (Travail in an Arab Land), a best-selling eighteenth-century travelogue.27 Benamozegh’s father, Avraham, was a student of this same maternal ancestor (also spelled Koriat) in Fez.28

Elia’s maternal grandfather, Avraham Refael Coriat, had moved to the Moroccan city Essaouira (formerly known as Mogador) around 1788.29 The Livornese Jews who resided there offered him the position of dayyan in the Tuscan city, where he went on to codirect one of the many yeshivot, the Beit Yosef Franco, at which Benamozegh would later be a student.30

Avraham died in Livorno a few months after an outbreak of yellow fever that claimed hundreds of lives, including those of his brother Itzhak (author of a short collection of responsa, Ma‘aseh Rokem) and a (p.22) younger son; he was survived by his children Clara (Elia Benamozegh’s mother) and Yehudah. Yehudah frequently traveled back and forth between Livorno and Morocco—exemplifying the intense rabbinic circulation that followed the development of commercial networks around the Mediterranean.

Benamozegh’s immediate family was small. While he mentions how his beloved mother knew “a little Bible” in translation, the key figure in Benamozegh’s life was undoubtedly his uncle Yehudah.31 From the time he lost his father at age four, he was taught by Yehudah, who treated him like a son and a student.32 The young rabbi Elia Benamozegh paid tribute to this father-figure in his correspondence with Samuel David Luzzatto, writing, “My calligraphy is African because I learned the Hebraic rudiments from the good soul of my maternal uncle, one of the honorable Coriats.”33

“The First Studies of My Youth”

This account of Benamozegh’s handwriting (where “African” means Maghrebi) offers an anecdotal yet revealing facet of his Moroccan education, which reverberated through his assessment of the Jewish tradition and canon—and crucially in the status and significance he ascribed to the Zohar. Central to Benamozegh’s thought, the Zohar—“the Book of Splendor”—is a foundational text of Jewish mysticism. It is both a commentary on the Pentateuch and a pseudepigraph written in thirteenth-century Castile by Moses de León but misattributed to the second-century Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (also known by the acronym Rashbi), a sage of the Talmud. Benamozegh’s familiarity with this literature is evident in his autobiographical sketch, in which he describes learning from his uncle as an intimate experience, in a passage replete with a web of metaphors resting on the traditional binaries of light piercing through darkness:

During the long winter nights, he read the Zohar with me, by the feeble light of a tallow candle, at least twice it seems from beginning to end, instilling in me, through words and above all through actions, the flame of the fear of God together with the observance of the precepts and the practice of mystical piety.34

Benamozegh framed his study of the Zohar as an observance of the commandments. Unlike most of his contemporaries, as he stressed in his (p.23) correspondence with Luzzatto, he rejected any possible dismissal of Kabbalah as antinomian (i.e., that its practices would serve as a substitute for, and release a person from observing, the law).35 Further evidence of Benamozegh’s kabbalistic education is the page-and-a-half-long introduction he penned, at the age of fifteen, to a collection of kabbalistic texts compiled by his uncle.36 This suggests that Benamozegh’s early education was more Moroccan than typically Italian.37 Indeed, Italian Judaism, where ecstatic Kabbalah played a significant role, had been only marginally influenced by the Zohar.

Benamozegh’s Talmudic training also reflects a Sephardic environment in an Italian context. When describing his initial encounter with Jewish law to his disciple Pallière, who was seeking a way into Judaism, the rabbi suggested a few readings, including Ein Israel (Israel’s Spring; more widely known as En Yaaqov, Jacob’s Spring), the standard manual for religious instruction among Italian Jewish communities.38 It is the text that framed Benamozegh’s understanding of the Talmud. In this, he departed from an understanding of it as a strictly legal corpus and came to emphasize its value as a book of faith.39

Other books Benamozegh suggested to Pallière include Mesilat Yesharim (The Path of the Just), a classical work of kabbalistic ethical literature by Moshe Luzzatto, and Menorat ha-Me’or (Candelabrum of Light) by the fourteenth-century Castilean Talmudic scholar Isaac Aboab,40 whose enterprise foreshadowed Ibn Habib’s Ein Israel in retrieving the aggadic materials dispersed in the Talmud that in Benamozegh’s eyes were no less theologically valuable than the halakhah (the legal system).

Another binary Benamozegh rejected was the incompatibility of halakhah and Kabbalah.41 His central and staunch belief that they were actually complementary stemmed from his Livornese learning environment: indeed, several eighteenth-century Livornese rabbis were kabbalists, including Joseph Ergas (1685–1730) and his disciple Malachi ha-Cohen (1700–1772), the greatest Livornese rabbinical authority of the eighteenth century.42 Yet Benamozegh’s stances on Kabbalah also reflected his transplanted Moroccan upbringing and training.

Because the Moroccan kingdom was largely exempt from the influence of the first attempts to alienate the Zohar from the Talmud that prevailed in Christian Kabbalah across Europe, the Zohar did not fall into disrepute there.43 The kabbalistic commentaries, their interpretations of the Mishnah (p.24) (the first redaction of the oral law around 200 CE) and of the mitzvot (the commandments binding on the Jews), were popular in Morocco—in particular sixteenth-century Alashqar’s exegesis, with its insistence on the ethical (musar) teachings of the Zohar. So were Cordovero’s Tomer Devorah (The Palm Tree of Deborah) and his student Elijah de Vidas’s Reshit Hohma (The Beginning of Wisdom), both of which were authored in the second half of the sixteenth century and modeled on concepts found in the Kabbalah of Isaac Luria.44 Benamozegh kept a hefty musar section in his library45 with works by Cordovero and Vidas as well as more contemporary examples, such as the work of the Bulgarian rabbi Eliezer Papo (1785–1826), Pele Yoetz (The Adventurous Counsel). It comes as no surprise that Benamozegh’s own press issued Reshit Hohma as one of its first titles, as early as 1856; his first published books closely reflect his upbringing and the expectations of his potential audience.

Though he eventually settled into a career as a publisher and rabbi, the nonlinear route Benamozegh followed to get there and the frustration he experienced during his detour as a merchant proved essential to his intellectual growth. In his autobiographical account, he recalled that when he reached the age of nineteen, “it was decided that I would go [into commerce] out of the sheer necessity of making a living.” The young man had to support a widowed mother and to become financially secure enough to marry. He was first indentured to the Tunisian firm of Abraham Enriques and then went on to work for the renowned merchant house Cave e Bondi.

This detour into business lasted three years, from 1842 to 1846. Recounting the period in the preface to Morale juive et morale chrétienne (1867, translated into English in 1873 as Jewish and Christian Ethics), he described his quasi-solitary intellectual formation as “these vigils of yesteryear, where, next to my dear mother, after hours devoted to professional work, I trembled with a naive joy when, reading the books I had brought from Paris, I saw confirmed conjectures that I had correctly made.”46 Here, books are the validation of Benamozegh’s intuitions, and the confession, with its accents borrowed from romanticism, linking spontaneity and revelation, often featured in his work.

His detour into business left the young man all the more dedicated to his quest for knowledge. In subsequent essays on Spinoza, he sketched a rare portrayal of himself at the age of twenty-two, stuck in an unwanted mercantile career but still an avid reader of the philosopher.47 The following year, in (p.25) 1846, Benamozegh received a scholarship that enabled him to shift careers and to pursue rabbinical studies at the Bet Josef Midrash until his official ordination in 1855. He launched his publishing house that same year. Soon thereafter, he married a cousin, Rachele Coriat, and then replaced his father-in-law as a substitute preacher before being ordained as a preacher-rabbi (rabbino predicatore) in 1856.48

Benamozegh’s years spent as an autodidact paved the way to the seminary, but they also left a mark on his self-perception and account for his desire to bridge the gap between binaries, especially between Kabbalah and philosophy.49 This trajectory is documented in the short text he penned for the introduction to Nir le-David, his 1858 commentary on Psalms, in which he admitted, apologetically, to gravitating toward philosophy.50 “Be aware that I first rolled myself in the mud of philosophy and that I have not yet come clean of its stain. My reason told me several times to keep away from it, but until now, I have not had the heart to do so.”51

In a letter to Samuel David Luzzatto in 1859, Benamozegh deferentially hastened to call his study of Psalms the work of a callow youth.52 But he also lamented that his embrace of philosophy coincided with his rejection of Kabbalah: “You don’t know how, after having relished kabbalistic books in the prime of my youth, I, too, started speaking ill of them because I had noticed what everybody was saying about them—and then I realized that without this theology [by which Benamozegh meant Kabbalah], Mosaism lacks grounding.”53

While Benamozegh was certainly idiosyncratic in his approach to Kabbalah, he did embrace a well-established early modern Italian tradition that viewed philosophy and Kabbalah as reconcilable.54 Yet the rabbi mulled over the antagonism and this is one of the instances where, betwixt and between different approaches of Judaism, he dedicated himself to reconciling opposing traditions and to finding his own articulation.

Even after taking the more traditional path, this initial spiritual turmoil appears to have shaped him and to have given him an understanding of religion in which psychology loomed large: “Your Pascal, among others, taught me the respect due to religious unrest,” Benamozegh confessed to Pallière later in his life, when his French disciple came to seek the rabbi’s spiritual guidance.55 “Everything is the fruit of long meditations, which date from (p.26) the time when the first studies of my youth impelled me irresistibly toward the path in which you aim to walk today.”56 But the unrest of Benamozegh’s youth was not only spiritual: his coming of age spanned turbulent times and was shaped by the political turmoil in Italy.

Benamozegh’s milieu and ancestry certainly made a mark on his understanding of the Jewish tradition: an experience of ethnic and religious diversity in a formerly vibrant port city, an autodidact’s appetite for philosophy and literature, and an emphasis on the narrative part of the Talmud and on Kabbalah can be attributed to his Moroccan education in Livorno. In many ways, it was as an outsider, removed from the centers of Jewish modernity, that he proposed to consider alternative paths to reconcile religion with his time.


(1.) This perception was “a mixture of myth and reality,” according to Esther Benbassa and Aron Rodrigue, Sephardi Jewry: A History of the Judeo-Spanish Community, 14th–20th Centuries (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 44.

(2.) Cecil Roth, “Notes sur les marranes de Livourne,” Revue des études juives 91 (1931): 17–21.

(3.) On the growth of Livorno, see Corey Tazzara, The Free Port of Livorno and the Transformation of the Mediterranean World 1574–1790 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017). On “mercantile philosemitism,” see Jonathan Karp, “Economic History and Jewish Modernity: Ideological versus Structural Change,” in Simon Dubnow Institute Yearbook, ed. Dan Diner and David B. Ruderman (Leipzig: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007), 249–66.

(4.) John Toland, Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews of Great Britain and Ireland on the Same Foot with All Other Nations (London: J. Roberts, 1714), 42.

(6.) Quoted in Feiner, Jewish Enlightenment, 286. The protagonist in ’Igrot Meshulam comes from Aleppo—a very conservative community. On his journey to a more enlightened community, he rebels against his father and grandfather whose world revolves around the Talmud and magic.

(7.) Avraham Berliner, in Il Vessillo Israelitico 24 (1876): 334, translated from Die Jüdische Presse, July 15, 1874.

(8.) The “port Jew” concept was introduced in the 1990s by David Sorkin and Lois Dubin. David Sorkin, “The Port Jew: Notes toward a Social Type,” Journal of Jewish Studies 50, no. 1 (Spring 1999): 87–97; Lois Dubin, The Port Jews of Habsburg Trieste (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999). See also C. S. Monaco, “Port Jews or a People of the Diaspora? A Critique of the Port Jew Concept,” Jewish Social Studies: History, Culture, Society 15, no. 2 (2009): 137–66. On Livorno, see Francesca Bregoli, Mediterranean Enlightenment: Livornese Jews, Tuscan Culture, and Eighteenth-Century Reform (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014).

(9.) Carlotta Ferrara degli Uberti, “The ‘Jewish Nation’ of Livorno: A Port Jewry on the Road to Emancipation,” Jewish Culture and History 7, no. 1–2 (2004): 160–62.

(10.) Upon his visit to Livorno in 1762, Edward Gibbon offered a less positive perspective: in “the land of Canaan for Jews,” he wrote,“religious hatred” lingered on, and he mentioned a few episodes of stones thrown at houses or a random shooting four decades earlier. Francesca Trivellato, The Familiarity of Strangers: The Sephardic Diaspora, Livorno, and Cross-Cultural Trade in the Early Modern Period (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), 71.

(11.) As Francesca Trivellato describes it, Livorno was “a highly diverse and yet highly segregated society that resembled late-Ottoman Alexandria more than today’s London or New York.” Trivellato, Familiarity of Strangers, 73.

(p.203) (12.) Ulrich Wyrwa, Emanzipation im Vergleich, Juden in der Toskana und in Preußsen im Vergleich: Aufklärung und Emanzipation in Florenz, Livorno, Berlin und Königsberg i. Pr (London: Leo Baeck Institute, Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 6; Roberto G. Salvadori, Breve storia degli Ebreitoscani (Florence: Le Lettere, 1995). Other sources include Umberto Cassuto, Universal Jewish Encyclopedia (New York: Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, Inc., 1939). The most detailed source, which analyzes the 1841 census, is Anna Sercia Gianforma, “Gli Ebrei di Livorno nel Censimento del 1841,” in Ebrei di Livorno tra due censimenti (1841–1938): Memoria familiare e identità, ed. Michele Luzzatti (Livorno: Belforte, 1990), 23–59. See also Renzo Toaff, La Nazione Ebrea a Livorno e Pisa (1591–1700) (Florence: Olschki, 1990).

(13.) On Livorno’s cultural influence, see Lois Dubin, “The Rise and Fall of the Italian Jewish Model in Germany: From Haskalah to Reform,” in Jewish History and Jewish Memory: Essays in Honor of Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, ed. Elisheva Carlebach, John M. Efron, and David N. Myers (Hanover, NH: Brandeis University Press, 1998), 271–95.

(14.) A prodigy, bibliophile, and prolific writer, Jerusalem-born Haim Yosef David Azulai (1724–1806), known as the Chida, traveled North Africa and Western Europe on fundraising missions as an emissary for the land of Israel, and died in Livorno. His work encompasses Talmud compilations, commentary on the Zohar and on the Shulchan Arukh, as well as his Encyclopedia of the Great Sages (Shem ha-Gedolim). Benamozegh was the first to publish his travelogue, which included Magal Tov (the good journey or circle), in 1879.

(15.) Elia Benamozegh, Lettere dirette a S. D. Luzzatto da Elia Benamozegh (Livorno: Benamozegh, 1890), 2.

(16.) Cited in Liana Funaro, Un tempio nuovo per una fede antica: A Cinquant’anni dall’inaugurazione del Tempio ebraico di Livorno (Livorno: Belforte, 2012), 57.

(17.) See Aimé Pallière, The Unknown Sanctuary (New York: Bloch, 1928), 178.

(18.) Guglielmo Lattes, “Sunto della V.a conferenza del Rab. Cav. E. Benamozegh,” Il Vessillo Israelitico 42 (1894): 10–14.

(20.) Avraham Coriat’s posthumous volume Zekhut ’Avot (Pisa, 1812) provides insights about Jewish life in Mogador and Livorno. On these dynamics, see Évelyne Oliel-Grausz, “La Circulation du personnel rabbinique dans les communautés de la diaspora sépharade au XVIIIè siècle,” in Transmission et passage en monde juif, ed. Esther Benbassa (Paris: Publisud, 1997), 313–34; Jonathan Ray, After Expulsion: 1492 and the Making of Sephardi Jewry (New York: New York University Press, 2013), 103–5.

(21.) Jacques Basnage, Histoire des Juifs depuis Jésus-Christ jusqu’à présent, pour servir de continuation à l’histoire de Joseph, 2nd ed., vol. 9, part 2 (La Haye: Chez Henri Scheurleer, 1726), 827.

(p.204) (22.) See the entry “Ben Amozegh” in Abraham I. Laredo, Les noms des juifs du Maroc: Essai d’onomastique judéo-marocaine (Madrid: Consejo superior de investigaciones cientificas instituto B. Arias Montano, 1978). It is also spelled Amozig or Amussech, and sometimes Ben-Amozig, in various documents.

(23.) It is unsurprising that Benamozegh made no mention of his Berber roots since research on Berber history and identity did not emerge until the first decade of the twentieth century, driven by ideological concerns. See Emily Benichou Gottreich and Daniel J. Schroeter, eds., Jewish Culture and Society in North Africa (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011). See also Daniel J. Schroeter, “On the Origins and Identity of Indigenous North African Jews,” in North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities, ed. Nabil Boudraa and Norman Krause (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007), esp. 172–77.

(24.) Sidney Corcos, “Coriat Family,” in Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World, vol. 1, ed. Norman A. Stillman (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 680–81.

(25.) Historically, the ge’onim (geniuses) were the presidents of the Babylonian Talmudic academy between the sixth and eleventh centuries, but the name came to signify “leading authorities.”

(26.) After the publication of Samuel David Luzzatto’s epistolary, which included less-than-positive accounts of Benamozegh, the latter defended himself, making this statement among others. See Yosef Colombo, “Una lettera inedita di Elia Benamozegh ad Amadio Momigliano,” La Rassegna mensile di Israel 55 (October 1969): 440–47.

(27.) Samuel Romanelli, Travail in an Arab Land, ed. and trans. Norman A. Stillman and Yedida K. Stillman (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2004). In Romanelli’s 1787 elegy for the death of Yehudah Coriat (spelled Koriat in his travelogue), the Pisaborn maskil writes positively of Coriat, a rare exception to his usual scathing depictions of superstitious masses. See pp. 138, and 201n43.

(28.) The only other mention of Benamozegh’s family history, somewhat stealthily couched in a flowery style, can be found in the preface to the 1862 edition of Berit ’Avot, by his cousin, Avraham Coriat, a rabbi and dayyan (rabbinical judge) who died in 1845 in Mogador, Morocco. This text includes an account of the siege of Mogador by the French on August 15, 1844. Coriat’s vivid description makes it hard to believe that he was not an eyewitness to the events, but he was not. It also demonstrates his propensity for stylistic hyperbole. Avraham supplemented the text with a preface and one of his few halakhic responsa. Avraham Coriat, Berit ’Avot (Livorno: Benamozegh, 1862).

(29.) See Daniel J. Schroeter, Merchants of Essaouira: Urban Society and Imperialism in Southwestern Morocco, 1844–1886 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 7. The sultan intended to revive Mogador by founding the town of Essaouira as a royal port, imitating Livorno, which was designed for commercial trade and administered by the palace.

(30.) Elia Benamozegh, fifth lecture, “Sunto della V conferenza dell’ Ecc[ellentissim]. mo Rab[bino]. Benamozegh,” Il Vessillo Israelitico 42 (1894): 13.

(p.205) (31.) Autobiography, 18. His mother also appears in the preface to Benamozegh’s Morale juive et morale chrétienne (hereinafter MJMC) (Paris: Kaufmann, 1867), 5.

(32.) In Autobiography, 18, he notes that the two sons of Yehudah lived far from him and probably remained in Mogador, since this is where they write from, and appear in Berit ’Avot.

(36.) The authors featured in this anthology, Ma’or va-Shemesh (The Luminary and the Sun), played a significant role in his nephew’s subsequent work. The volume includes the writings of Nahmanides, Isaac Luria, Ibn Attar and the first edition of the Sefer ha-Malkhut by Abraham ha-Levi. Yehudah Coriat, Ma’or va-Shemesh (Livorno: 1839).

(37.) Moshe Idel, Kabbalah in Italy, 1280–1510: A Survey (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011), esp. 113.

(38.) ‘En Ya‘aqov is a sixteenth-century anthology of aggadot (singular, aggadah: the nonlegal or narrative material, including parables, maxims, tales, and other folkloric or moral elements) from the Talmud and rabbinical literature, compiled by the Salonikan rabbi Jacob Ibn Habib and based on the Babylonian Talmud. When the Talmud was banned in Italy in 1553, the ‘En Ya‘aqov started to be used as a substitute to bypass censorship and was thus widely used; its aggadic content and a change of its name to ‘Ein Israel made this possible. See Marjorie Lehman, The En Yaaqov: Jacob ibn Habib’s Search for Faith in the Talmudic Corpus (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2012), 124.

(39.) Lehman, The En Yaaqov; Marjorie Lehman, “The Ein Yaakov: A Collection of Aggadah in Transition,” Prooftexts 19, no. 2 (1999): 21–40.

(41.) On this incompatibility and on the possible relationship between Kabbalah and halakhah, see Meir Benayahu, “The Controversy between Halakhah and Kabbalah” [in Hebrew], Da‘at 5 (1981): 61–115; Moshe Hallamish, “Kabbalah in the Legal Decisions of Joseph Karo” [in Hebrew], Da‘at 21 (1988): 85–102; Jacob Katz, “Post-Zoharic Relations between Halakhah and Kabbalah,” in Jewish Thought in the Sixteenth Century, ed. Bernard D. Cooperman (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Center for Jewish Studies, 1983), 283–307.

(42.) Ariel Lattes and Aldo Toaff, Gli studi ebraici a Livorno nel secolo XVIII: Malahì accoen (1700–1771) (Livorno: Arnaldo Forni, 1909).

(43.) Isaiah Tishby, Wisdom of the Zohar (Portland, OR: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2004), 27.

(44.) This porosity makes sense if one accepts the close connection between Safed and North Africa that Moshe Idel posits in “Jewish Mysticism among the Jews of Arab/Moslem Lands,” Journal for the Study of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jewry 1, no. 1 (February 2007): 24.

(p.206) (45.) Catalogue of books from the rabbi and author known as “the Jewish Plato,” Elia Benamozegh of Livorno, Italy (New York: Hirsch, 1900).

(47.) Elia Benamozegh, “Sopra Spinoza e la Teosofia: Lettera al direttore del Vessillo,” Il Vessillo Israelitico 28 (1880): 333–36, 365–67.

(48.) A distinction exists between a rabbi who is also a darshan (preacher) and a maggid (leader). A darshan connotes a more scholarly figure.

(50.) Even within the enlightened faction of Moroccan Jewry, the defiance was such that people like Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira (the Baba Sali) saw rationalism as yetser ha-ra (the evil inclination). See Dan Manor, Exile and Redemption in Moroccan Jewish Philosophy (Lod, Israel: Haberman, 1998).

(51.) Elia Benamozegh, Nir le David (Livorno: Benamozegh, 1858). Guetta, in Philosophy and Kabbalah, 220, views the introduction as a parody of the genre of apology by which the author “confesses his youthful transgressions and asks forgiveness for them.”