Rabbi Moshe ben Mordecai Zacuto

Kabbalist, known as the Ramaz

Born: Amsterdam, 1625
Died: Mantova, Italy 1697, 1697

Rabbi Moshe ben Mordecai Zacuto was a rabbi, Kabbalist, and poet. Zacuto, who was born into a Portuguese Marrano family in Amsterdam.

Zacuto applied himself with great diligence to the study of the Kabbalah under Chaim Vital's pupil Benjamin ha-Levi, who had come to Italy from Safed; and this remained the chief occupation of his life. He established a seminary for the study of the Kabbalah, and his favorite pupils, Benjamin ha-Kohen and Abraham Rovigo, often visited him for months at a time at Venice or Mantua, to investigate cabalistic mysteries. He composed forty-seven liturgical poems, chiefly Kabbalistic. Some of them have been printed in the festal hymns Hen Ḳol Ḥadash, edited by Moses Ottolenghi (Amsterdam, 1712), and others have been incorporated in different prayer-books.

He also wrote penitential poems (Tikkun Shovavim) for the service on the evening before the day of New Moon, as well as prayers for Hosha'na Rabbah and similar occasions, all in the spirit of the Kabbalah. Zacuto was, moreover, the author of a poem containing a thousand words, each beginning with the letter "א" (Elef Alpin; printed with a commentary at the end of the Iggerot ha-ReMeZ, pp. 43 et seq.), a long poem, Tofteh 'Aruk, or L'Inferno Figurato (Venice, 1715, 1744), in which he depicts the punishments of hell, and the oldest dramatic poem in the Hebrew language, which A. Berliner first edited under the title Yesod 'Olam (Berlin, 1874).

May the merit of the tzadik Rabbi Moshe ben Mordecai Zacuto protect us all. Amen

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