PORTO (Rafa-Rapaport), ABRAHAM MENAHEM BEN JACOB HA-KOHEN (1520–after 1594), one of the important rabbis of Verona. In his youth he studied in Venice where he became acquainted with Elijah *Levita and where he was a proofreader for the printing press of *Bragadini. Porto witnessed the burning of the Talmud in Venice on the 13th and 14th of Marḥeshvan 1553, and appointed these days annually as days of mourning and fasting. In 1555 he published his Ẓafenat Pane'aḥ, containing a cypher-code of his own invention. He left Venice not later than 1574 and may have gone to Cremona where he is known to have been in 1574 and where he stayed until at least 1582. From 1584 to 1592 he was rabbi of Verona. The period of his rabbinate in Verona was that of its crowning glory, and the yeshivah which he conducted there became famous. In 1593 he was in Cologne (Germany).
He was the author of Minḥah Belulah (Verona, 1594), a commentary on the Pentateuch based upon the Midrashim. It was reprinted together with the text of the Pentateuch (Hamburg, 1795). He compiled similar commentaries on several other books of the Bible and on Avot which have never been published, although they have been preserved in manuscript with some of his writings (the ms. is in Hekhal Shelomo, Jerusalem). Some of his responsa and rulings are scattered in the works of contemporary scholars; additional responsa are extant in manuscript (H. Hirschfeld, Descriptive Catalogue of the Hebrew Mss. of the Montefiore Library (1904) nos. 480–481).
Abraham Menahem Porto was among those who forbade the reading of Azariah de *Rossi's work, Me'or Einayim, which had been published in Mantua in 1573 (his letter to Menahem Azariah *Fano). However, after the rabbis of Mantua, David b. Abraham *Provencal and Judah b. Joseph *Moscato, allowed it to be read, he retracted and joined them in permitting this (his letter to Azariah de Rossi). His signature appears on takkanot forbidding gambling (1573) and the infringement of moneylending franchises held by fellow Jews.
E. Carmoly, Ha-Orevim u-Venei Yonah (1861), 1, 5–8; J. Reifmann, in: Ha-Shaḥar, 3 (1872), 353–76; S.Z.H. Halberstam, in: Tehillah le-Moshe dedicated to M. Steinschneider (1896), 1–3 (Heb. part); A. Kahane, Sifrut ha-Historyah ha-Yisre'elit, 2 (1923), 252–5; D. Kaufmann, Gesammelte Schriften 3 (1915), 86ff; I.T. Eisenstadt and S. Wiener, Da'at Kedoshim (1897–98), 144; I. Sonne, in: Kobez al Jad, 3 (1940), 147, 169–78; S. Simonsohn, in: KS, 35 (1960), 265.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.