||Part one of R. Elijah ben Abraham Benamozegh’s refutation of R. Leone (Judah Aryeh) Modena’s Anti-kabbalistic treatise, Ari Nohem. In that work R. Modena, one of the most prominent Jews of the Renaissance, questions the authenticity of the Kabbalah, seen therefore by many as an attack on rabbinic Judaism and a proof of R. Modena’s heretical views. This position was resoundingly disproved by Ellis Rivkin. In his autobiography, R. Modena writes that he entitled it Ari Nohem – the Roaring Lion – because of his great anger at a kabbalist for speaking against great luminaries, particularly Maimonides. R. Modena’s anti-kabbalistic views developed gradually after meeting the kabbalistic emissary from Safed, R. Israel Sarug. Despite his views on Kabbalah, R. Modena had many intimate friends who were kabbalists, as was his son-in-law. In Emat Mafgia R. Benamozegh responds and in twelve chapters offers refutations to R. Modena’s position.
R. Elijah Benamozegh was an Italian rabbi; born at Leghorn in 1822 where he died on Feb. 6, 1900. His father (Abraham) and mother (Clara), natives of Fez, Morocco, died when Elijah was only four years old. The orphan early entered school, where, besides instruction in the elementary sciences, he received tuition in Hebrew, English, and French, excelling in the last-named language. R. Benamozegh devoted himself later to the study of philosophy and theology, which he endeavored to reconcile with each other.
At the age of twenty-five he entered upon a commercial career, spending all his leisure in study; but his natural tendency toward science and an active religious life soon caused him to abandon the pursuit of wealth. He then began to publish scientific and apologetic works, in which he revealed a great at tachment to the Jewish religion, exhibiting at the same time a broad and liberal mind. His solicitude for Jewish traditions caused him to defend even the much-decried Kabbalah. Later, R. Benamozegh was appointed rabbi and professor of theology at the rabbinical school of his native town; and, notwithstanding his multifarious occupations from that time, he continued to defend Jewish traditions by his pen until his death. R. Benamozegh was a prolific writer and Emat Mafgia is but one of his works.
R. Judah Aryeh (Leone) Modena (1571–1648), Italian rabbi, scholar, and writer, is one of, if not the most fascinating Jewish personality of the Italian Renaissance. He was a child prodigy in both Jewish religious studies and music, becoming a scholar of stupendous productivity and a famous rabbi of the Venetian community. He wrote many books, in Hebrew and Italian, and his fame spread far beyond Venice. His eloquent sermons gained popularity even among non-Jews. His life was marred by personal instability and ill fortune. Not only was he in perennial difficulties because of gambling, but he also lived to see three of his five children die and his wife become insane. Despite these tribulations, he was a prolific writer. His Magen va-Herev is one of the most effective anti-Christian polemics to be written in Hebrew (even in the incomplete form in which the work has been preserved). R. Modena used contemporary scientific and historical critical methods, as well as traditional exegesis, to show the superficiality of the Christian interpretation of Scripture and the illogicalities in its dogma. R. Modena regarded his life as a failure, especially because he felt that he had lost the battle against his own shortcomings. However, his literary achievements disprove his own evaluation.