Thursday, November 3, 2011

Rabbi David Nieto

Rabbi David Nieto (1654- 1728) was born in Venice, Italy in 1654.
He practiced as a physician and officiated as a Jewish preacher in the city Livorno, Italy. There he wrote in Italian a work entitled Paschologia in which he dealt with the differences of calculation between the Hebrew and the Roman calendars, demonstrating the errors which had crept into the Roman calendar from the first council of Nicaea until 1692.
In 1702 Rabbi David Nieto was appointed Chakham of the Sephardic Jews in London. Two years later he published Della Divina Providencia in Latin where he explained that 'nature' was a modern word, and in reality referred to the actions of God in governing natural phenomena. Rabbi David Nieto's work was praised by Chakham Tzevi and later on by Rabbi Chayim Yosef David Azulai (the 'Chida').

Rabbi Nieto most famous book is Matte Dan, or Kuzari haSheni, published in London in 1714. The book was written in Hebrew and Spanish. In this book Rabbi David Nieto defends the authenticity of the rabbinic tradition (Tora shebe'al pe) from historical, psychological and even financial angles, showing the immaculate integrity of the Rabbis of the Talmud. He also proves that the disagreements among Rabbis lay not in essential laws but in minor matters. The book was written against religious dissidents like Spinoza or more specifically, Uriel de Acosta. He also led the battle against the supporters of Shabetai Tzebi, a self-proclaimed Messias, who was tremendously popular among the the Jews in those times.
Rabbi David Nieto was one of the most accomplished Jews of his time. He was a distinguished scientist, philosopher, physician, poet, mathematician, astronomer, and theologian. Nieto was the first to fix the time for the beginning of Shabbat eve for the latitude of England.