Rabbi Andy Eichenholz
(1437-1508) from an article
Don Isaac Abravanel was one of the greatest Jewish statesmen in European history. He was not merely a loyal and strictly religious Jew, but a great scholar, Bible commentator and philosopher. He was the last of the long line of great Jewish leaders and heroes of the Spanish Golden Age.
Isaac was born into a wealthy and learned family in Portugal. His father Judah was state treasurer of Portugal, and a great favorite of Alfonso V, king of Portugal. Isaac received a thorough Jewish education, and took a keen interest in languages and philosophy. Later he succeeded his father in the service of the king.
In his greatness, Isaac never forgot his humble brethren. He used his vast wealth to support the needy. Abravanel also used his great influence to better the position of his brethren in other lands.
. In the year 5243, Don Joao II began a policy that aimed at getting rid of the nobility, particularly the ministers of state that served his father. Abravanel learned just in time that the king beheaded several of the highest ranking officers, and that he was slated -to share a similar fate. He was on the way to answer the king's call, but on learning what awaited him, Abravanel fled to Toledo in Spain, where his family had once lived. Accompanied by his wife and two children, Abravanel arrived in Toledo almost penniless, as the ungrateful. John had confiscated all his wealth.
In Spain Ferdinand and Isabella in the very same year when the notorious Torquemada became head of the Inquisition in Spain, Abarvanel officially became treasurer to the king and queen (two years before the expulsion of the Jews from Spain.
On the 9th of Av, 5252 (July 30, 1492), Abravanel and his family were on the march with the rest of their co-religionists He gave up his exalted position and joined his beloved brethren in exile and suffering. The young king of Naples, however, ignored the protest and demands of the cruel rulers of Spain invited Abravanel to the royal house and appointed him as his adviser. Unfortunately Naples was captured by King Charles of France in the following year, and King Alfonso II fled to Sicily and Abravanel accompanied his Majesty in exile, and continued to serve him with a fatherly devotion.
Having lost all his wealth to the French conquerors, Abravanel suffered poverty and hardship. He finally settled in Venice where. the rulers of Venice invited him to become a leading statesmen of that Venetian Republic where he died in the year 5269, at the age of 71, deeply mourned by the Jewish and non-Jewish citizens of Venice. The leading rulers of Venice attended his funeral, and he was laid to rest in Padua.
Abarbanel on our Portion explains that the people's complaints in the Sinai Desert were Offhanded comments - and these can be as corrosive as outright attacks, This idea from the Torah teaches us how careful we must be to avoid even joking speech that will be damaging, and instead use words that will be rewarding.
(thanks for this note - and also to Shlomo Ressler's
Quotation of the Week: "Judaism is not a religion, it's a relationship." in his