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Benedetto Frizzi

FRIZZI, BENEDETTO (Benzion Raphael Kohen; 1756–1844), Italian physician, engineer, and scholar from Ostiano near Mantova. He graduated from Pavia and practiced in Trieste. In 1790 he founded the first Italian medical journal and published six Dissertazioni di polizia medica sul Pentateuco (Pavia and Cremona, 1787–90) on precepts of the Law, presenting them in a modern scientific and apologetic manner. He also wrote Difesa contro gli attacchi fatti alla nazione ebreanel libro intitolato dell'influenza del ghetto nello Stato (Pavia, 1784), an apologetic and polemical work, which intended to disprove the accusations by a contemporary Italian – Giovan Battista D'Arco from Mantua, author of Dell'influenza del Ghetto nello Stato (Venice, 1782) that Jews hated Christians and that their economic activities tended to impoverish the countries they lived in. He described Jewish theology, philosophy, and ethics and then analyzed in great detail and with many examples the economic role of Jews in Europe, particularly in Italy. He outlined the valuable functions they fulfilled historically and attributed their success as merchants to attention to details and quality, realistically low prices, avoidance of borrowing at interest, and trade in perennially useful products rather than luxury items for which demand varies. Frizzi enumerated markets and services opened and developed by Jews and described their business methods at length.

In Dissertazione in cui si esaminano gli usi ed abusi degli ebrei nei luoghi ed effetti sacri e si propone la maniera di renderli utili in società (Milan, 1789), he analyzed contemporary Judaism from a critical point of view, focusing in the first part on the inappropriate luxury of the synagogues and the tendency of rabbis to become preachers instead of scholars and doctors of theology; and in the second part on the prayers in general (Psalms, Amidah, etc.) and on the need to behave properly during the services. Finally, in the third part, he criticized bad sermons with their threatening manner and grammatical errors and also dealt with public and private charity.

He wrote his Hebrew work, Petaḥ Enayyim, in 3 vols. (Leghorn, 1815–25), to demonstrate that the rabbis' teachings were based on scientific knowledge, expounding the book Ein Ya'akov Ein Yisrael (Frankfurt am Main, 1723) of Ya'aov Kabyb, a masterpiece of the religious and normative culture of Italian Jewish communities. He hoped both to increase his contemporaries' respect for Torah and to attack traditionalists who saw Jewish law as untouchable and untouched by the modern spirit.

In addition, Frizzi published Giornale medico e letterario di Trieste, (4 vols., Trieste, 1790–91), Opuscoli filosofici e medici in (4 vols., Trieste, 1791–92), Accademia letteraria sul metodo degli studi ebraici nella logica e altri filosofici rami (Trieste, 1791), Dissertazione sulla lebbra degli ebrei (Trieste, 1795), and Dissertazione di biografia musicale (Trieste, 1803). A man of great learning and wide renown, Frizzi was considered one of the outstanding Jewish scholars of the Enlightenment in Western Europe.


Nissim, in: RMI, 34 (1968), 279–91; Dinaburg, in: Tarbiz, 20 (1948/49), 241–64.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.