Jew of the Week: Don Isaac Abravanel

Treasurer of Torah, Treasurer of Spain

Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) Perhaps the most famous member of the illustrious Abravanel (or Abarbanel) dynasty, which traces its lineage back to King David, he served as Royal Treasurer for both King Afonso V of Portugal, and later, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. It was during his tenure that the Spanish decided to expel all Jews from their domain (in 1492). Incredibly, Ferdinand and Isabella gave him an exemption and begged him to stay in Spain as their treasurer. Don Isaac refused, and chose to go with his people. A man of vast wealth, he offered 600,000 crowns to the Spanish monarchy to rescind the expulsion of the Jews. The offer would have been accepted were it not for Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor (murder of thousands of Jews, who, ironically, descends from Jewish ancestry). Don Isaac is most famous for dozens of treatises on the Torah (the first of which he wrote by age 20), including a profound commentary of the Tanakh.

Words of the Week

Character is a person’s only real possession.
– Rabbi Israel Salanter

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