Tag Archives: Queen Isabella

Jew of the Week: Don Isaac Abravanel

Treasurer of Torah, Treasurer of Spain

Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) is perhaps the most famous member of the illustrious Abravanel (or Abarbanel) Sephardic 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, helping the new Spanish kingdom rise to greatness. Nonetheless, the Spanish decided to expel all the Jews from their domain in 1492. Incredibly, Ferdinand and Isabella gave Don Isaac 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, had Jewish ancestry himself). Don Isaac was a huge philanthropist, supporting the Jewish community in Spain financially, and guiding them spiritually. He is most famous for writing dozens of treatises on Judaism and the Torah (the first of which he wrote before age 20), including a profound commentary on the Tanakh.

Words of the Week

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