||R. Isaac b. Moses Arama (c. 1420–1494), Spanish rabbi, philosopher, and preacher. As a young man R. Arama taught at Zamora and subsequently served the small communities of Tarragona and Fraga in Aragon. He was later appointed rabbi of Calatayud, where he wrote most of his works. In order to counteract the effects of conversionist sermons to which the Jews of Aragon were compelled to listen, R. Arama delivered sermons on the principles of Judaism. These sermons became the basis of his later works and contain interesting data on the history of the Jews in Spain prior to their expulsion. Arama engaged in several public disputations with Christian scholars. After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, in 1492 Arama settled in Naples where he died.
R. Arama is best known as the author of Akedat Yizhak ("Binding of Isaac") which exercised great influence on Jewish thought. Written in the form of philosophical homilies and allegorical commentaries on the Pentateuch, the work consists of 105 "Portals." Each portal forms a complete sermon which is divided into two parts: derishah ("investigation"), and perishah ("exposition"). In the derishah, the author examines a philosophical idea in the light of his chosen texts, biblical and rabbinic, with which the sermon opens. In the perishah, the Scriptural commentary predominates and the difficulties which seem to appear in the text are solved with the aid of the central idea of the derishah. Thus, the gap between the two parts of the sermon is skillfully closed, and they merge into one harmonious whole. First published in Salonika in 1522, the Akedah has since been reprinted many times.
R. Arama's sermons met the needs of his own time superbly and influenced the style and character of Jewish preaching through the subsequent centuries. The Akedat Yizhak became a classic work in Jewish homiletics and is widely read to the present day. In the history of medieval Jewish philosophy, Arama's writings represent the anti-Aristotelian trend, introduced by Crescas, which seeks to undermine Aristotle's philosophy by means of philosophic arguments.
Among Arama's other works are: Hazut Kashah ("Grievous Vision"; Sabbionetta, 1552), a polemic dealing with the relation of philosophy and religion; a commentary on the Five Scrolls (Riva di Trento, 1561); and Yad Avshalom ("Absalom's Memorial"; Constantinople, 1565?), a commentary on the Book of Proverbs, dedicated to the memory of his son-in-law. It should be noted that the commentary on Esther, extant in all editions of Akedat Yizhak since Venice, 1573, is actually the work of his son Meir Arama. Isaac's own commentary on Esther was published in Constantinople, 1518. He also wrote several poems and a commentary on Aristotle's Ethics, apparently lost.