Wednesday, October 17, 2012

SEPHARDIC RABBIS: Rabbi Moshe Chefetz (or Hefes) 1663-1711

Rabbi Moshe ben Gershom (1663-1711) known as Rabbi Moshe Chefetz (of Hefes)  was a rabbinic scholar from Italy. Born in Trieste, raised in Venice, he lived as a private tutor teaching Talmud and Midrash. He wrote poetry, and dealt with philosophy, math, and natural sciences.

A member of the prominent Chefetz family (or Gentili, in Italian) of Northern Italy, he was considered a child prodigy and studied under the renowned R. Solomon Nizza. One of his poetic works written at age 13, appeared in the famous Venice edition of the Bible (1675-78). 

Among the writings of Rabbi Chefetz we could mention:  

  • Chanukkat HaBayit (lit. Dedication of the Temple), a book that details the construction of the Second Temple and all of his vessels and utensils (Venice, 1696). The book includes illustrations and tables by the hand of the author. 
  • Melekhet Machasebet (Intentful Work), a superb commentary on the Torah (Venice, 1710) based on traditional interpretations but also upon the principles of secular science. The book includes a portrait of the author.  His portrait  in Melekhet Machashebet (see below) was the first ever published in a Hebrew book (first edition, 1710). The name of the book, Melekhet Machashebet was also a sophisticated way to seal the name of the author, common practice among Sephardic Rabbis of the time: the word machasehbet in Hebrew is the acronym of: Moshe Chefetz shokhen be'ir Trieste, Moshe Chefetz, who lives in the city of Trieste.    
At the bottom of the portrait it says: "ben me-a shana... anokhi hayom", which literally means: "I'm one today hundred years old". When you see the portrait you notice that rabbi Chefetz was obviously younger. The numerical value of the Hebrew wordme-a (=40, 1, 5)) is 46, i.e., the real age of rabbi Moshe Cheftez in this portrait.   

See  HERE  the book Chanukkat haBayit