||First edition of this bi-lingual Hebrew, German edition of this systematic attack on the views of Uriel da Costa, and defence of the oral tradition and talmudic literature by R. Judah Aryeh (Leone) Modena. It it Modena answers eleven objections to rabbinical interpretation of the Law brought by da Costa. This edition was brought to press by Abraham Geiger who also contributed an introduction.
Uriel Da Costa (1585–1640) was born Gabriel da Costa in Oporto, Portugal, into a Marrano family, his father being a devout Catholic. After studying at Coimbra, he became a minor church official. In his autobiography Da Costa claimed that examining the Bible brought him back to Judaism. Then, he said, he converted his family to the version of Judaism he had worked out from the Bible. They fled to Amsterdam to avoid persecution by the Inquisition and to practice their religion freely. There, Da Costa discovered that his version of Judaism was at variance with that of the community. He criticized the "Pharisees of Amsterdam," as too rigid and ritualistic, and argued that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul was both questionable and not derived from the Bible. Even before he finished his work on the subject, an answer appeared by Samuel da Silva, Tratado da Immortalidade da Alma (1623). A year later Da Costa finished his Examen dos Tradioens Phariseas Conferidas con a Ley Escrita (1624), for which he was excommunicated, arrested, fined, and the book burned. Da Costa apparently fled to Hamburg, where he argued his case with the Venetian rabbi, Leone Modena. He returned to Amsterdam and, in 1633 sought reconciliation with the Jewish community, though he had not altered his opinions. He felt the need to belong to the group and said that he would "become an ape among apes." Having rejoined the synagogue, he soon began doubting whether there was Divine sanction for the Mosaic Law, and whether religions were more than human inventions. He was led to deism or some kind of natural religion, denying any value to institutional religion. He gave up Jewish practices, and tried to prevent two Christians from converting to Judaism. This led to his second excommunication, after which he continued to live for seven years in Amsterdam. In 1640, he rejoined the Jewish community, submitted to a public recantation of his views, received 39 lashes, and prostrated himself so that the entire congregation could tread over him. He was so shocked by what was required of him that he wrote a few pages of his autobiography, Exemplar Humanae Vitae (published in Limborch's Amica collatio... 1687, repr. 1847), and then committed suicide.
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 has been described as an “infant prodigy and hoary prodigal.” 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. Priests, diplomats and princes listened to them and were eager to receive his instruction. In the manner of his age, Leone also practiced a number of other occupations, such as teacher, interpreter, musician, editor-printer, proof-corrector, bookseller and letter-writer. His writings seem to express the conflict between Jewish tradition and the rational criticism of a seventeenth-century humanist. His life was marred by personal instability and ill fortune. Not only was he in perennial difficulties because of gambling, 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 works include religious poems, biblical exegesis, a defense of traditional Judaism, an attack on traditional Judaism, a Hebrew-Italian dictionary, and one of the earliest autobiographies written in Hebrew. Well educated in rabbinic and secular subjects, including music and dance, Modena had, by early adolescence, written a rabbinic responsum on prayer, translated Ariosto’s Orlando furioso and prepared a work on gambling (Sur Mera, Venice, 1595). In 1592 R. Modena moved to Venice where, among the twenty six occupations listed in his autobiography, are serving in the rabbinate, teaching, writing letters, and preaching regularly. He was a prolific writer on a wide variety of subjects.