Rabbi Saul Levi Morteira

Rabbi Saul Levi Morteira or Mortera (c. 1596  – 10 February 1660) was a Dutch rabbi of Portuguese descent.

Born: c. 1596 Venice, Republic of Venice
Died: Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1660

Rabbi Saul Levi Morteira or Mortera (c. 1596  – 10 February 1660) was a Dutch rabbi of Portuguese descent.


His life

In a Spanish poem Daniel Levi de Barrios speaks of him as being a native of Germany ("de Alemania natural"). When in 1616 Morteira escorted the body of the physician Elijah Montalto from France to Amsterdam, the Sephardic congregation Beth Jaacob in Amsterdam (House of Jacob) elected him hakham in succession to Moses ben Aroyo.

Morteira was the founder of the congregational school Keter Torah, in the highest class of which he taught Talmud and Jewish philosophy. He had also to preach three times a month, and received an annual remuneration of 600 guilders and 100 baskets of turf. Among his most distinguished pupils were Baruch Spinoza, Moses Zacuto and Abraham Cohen Pimentel. Morteira and Isaac da Fonseca Aboab (Manasseh ben Israel was at that time in England) were the members of the mahamad, the political arm of the community, which pronounced on 27 July 1656 the decree of excommunication ("cherem") against Spinoza.


Some of Morteira's pupils published Gibeat Shaul (Amsterdam, 1645), a collection of fifty sermons on the Pentateuch, selected from 500 derashot written by Morteira.

Morteira wrote in Spanish Tractado de la Verdad de la Ley (translated into Hebrew by Isaac Gomez de Gosa under the title Torat Moshch, in 66 chapters), apologetics of Judaism and attacks against Christianity. This work (excerpts from which are given in Jacques Basnage, Histoire de la Religion des Juifs) and other writings of Morteira, on immortality, revelation, etc., are still in manuscript.

Morteira's polemical sermons in Hebrew against the Catholic Church were published, but his Portuguese writings against Calvinism remained unpublished.


May the merit of the tzadik  Rabbi Saul Levi Morteira protect us all. Amen

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