Rabbi Azariah Figo
(1579 - 1647)
In the introduction to R. Azariah's classic halachic
work Giddulei Trumah
he bemoans the fact that in his early youth
he had been excessively preoccupied with alien studies.
However, he had learned to concentrate on what was
the primary field of study — Talmud.
R. Azariah was born in Venice not long after the burning of the Talmud
in Italy in 1553, when the state
of Italian Jewish religious life and scholarship was at a decidedly
It is a testament to R. Azariah's passionate devotion
to his studies that though he frequently lacked the necessary texts
to pursue his studies he nevertheless composed a work which became an
Most of the Giddulei Trumah was written while
he served as Rabbi in Pisa as a
young man. During this period he wrote a number of questions to the
great scholar R. Yissachar Ber Eilenburg, who included them in his B'eir
In 1627, he returned to Venice to become Rabbi and preacher.
His sermons were exceptional for their exquisite form
as well as for their relevance to contemporary defects and problems.
R. Azariah wrote them down in a rich, moving style but died before they
were published. Seventy-six sermons (derashot) in all, mainly
devoted to the different seasons and holidays, they were published the
year after his death. In the forty-eighth sermon he sees three causes
for the ills that beset the Jewish people of his day: the contention
and strife between one Jew and another: the failure to sense and recognize
that they were in galut and the self-indulgence and pursuit of material
pleasure; the shameless immodesty. The volume was called Bina L'Ittim and has had fifty editions.
Several years ago Rabbi Binyamin Efrati published Ittim,
a 161-page volume presenting the essence of the ideas contained in the Bina L'Ittim.
R. Azariah also wrote a volume of responsa, which remains