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 low level.

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 immediate favorite.

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 Sheva.

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R. Azariah also wrote a volume of responsa, which remains unpublished.

M.G.


Source: Orthodox Union