||Abridgement of R. Bahya ben Joseph ibn Paquda’s classic ethical work, Hovot ha-Levavot by R. Jacob ben Isaac Zahalon (1630–1693). R. Zahalon was born in Rome and served, from 1682, as rabbi in Ferrara. He acquired a medical degree in the former location and was known for his medical expertise. The title, Margaliyyot Tovot (precious pearls), is from Midrash Rabbah on Shir ha-shirim (parashah 4) and on Kohelet (parashah 1). The title page states that Margaliyyot Tovot is an abridgement of Hovot ha-Levavot, beginning with prayers for preachers and, doctors, fathers for their children, mohelim, on sustenance, and the acceptance of prayer. Each chapter concludes with a prayer appropriate to its contents. It is dated, “an anointed prince משיח נגיד (425 = 1665)” (Daniel 9:25). The title page is followed by prefatory remarks from R. Joab ben Baruch Malpiatili, who bought the book to press. He praises the work, enumerating his reasons for printing it, describing it in successive paragraphs as “the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob” (Deuteronomy 33:4), “deliverance for Jacob” (Psalms 44:5), “You will show truth to Jacob” (Micah 7:20), “Jacob’s voice” (Genesis 27:22), and margaliyyot tovot, concluding with a prayer that he may be able to publish the remainder of Zahalon’s works. Next is a prayer from Zahalon, followed by his introduction, and the text, which is in a single column in square letters.
Margaliyyot Tovot is arranged so that it can be read and completed in a monthly cycle of thirty days. Each of the daily chapters concludes with prayers for different occasions. The volume concludes with allusions (remazim) to Maimonides enumeration of the taryag (613) mitzvot and a final page in Latin headed Noi Refformatori dello Studiio di Pados, referring to a Venetian organization, founded in 1517, of commissioners from the University of Padua to review books. Margaliyyot Tovot is but one of several abridgements of Hovot ha-Levavot. R. Zahalon’s version has been reprinted several times. However, reported prior Venice (1645) and later Amsterdam (1695) editions are unlikely. R. Zahalon was also the author of Ozar ha-Hayyim, an encyclopedic treatise on medicine. Many of his responsa can be found in Pahad Yizhak, the responsa of R. Isaac Lampronti, and of other Italian rabbis. In addition, Zahalon notes several works in the introduction to Margaliyyot Tovot, primarily commentaries on books of the Bible and prayer, which remain unpublished.