Page 73 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

Basic HTML Version

Eighteenth Century Bibliographer
T h e o d o r e F r i e d m a n
1HE year 1956 marks the sesquicentennial of the death of
Rabbi Hayyim Joseph David Azulai (1724-1806), a many-
we can trace no less than seven unbroken generations of rabbinic
ancestors prior to his own birth in Jerusalem — his career and
achievements are as noteworthy for their scope as they are for
their variety. His published works, about fifty in number, range
over the entire field of rabbinic literature. They include volumes
of responsa, commentaries and
on various Talmudic
treatises as well as on the standard codes, works on Talmudic
methodology, volumes of sermons, a two volume commentary on
Eyn Yaakov
, devotional manuals, commentaries on the Passover
Haggadah, and others. An assiduous student and devotee of the
, his notes on the
are to be found in the Vilna
edition. To this prodigious published output, there must be added
a score of unpublished writings. Not of least interest in his pub-
lished works is the profusion of quotations from manuscripts, many
of which have yet to be identified as to author and title.
His career as scholar was in part superimposed on his career
as a wide-ranging emissary and fund collector for the community
of Hebron and its Yeshivah. His first tour, begun in 1753, con-
sumed six years and took him through the Jewish communities
of Egypt, Italy, France, Holland and England. In 1773, he under-
took his second tour, which extended to the Jewish communities
of Morocco and the Low Countries, in addition to the countries
already mentioned. He returned to Leghorn in 1779, where he
spent the remainder of his life, though he often expressed the hope
of returning to the Holy Land. As a
(fund collector) he
bequeathed to Jewish literature its most extensive and, perhaps,
its most vivid travelogue diary, his
Maagal Tob.
This book,
though never intended for publication, records in realistic and
often piquant detail his vicissitudes and his impressions of people,
customs and places as he journeyed from community to commu-
nity. I t gives us a first-hand picture of Azulai as a
describes the relationship of the Jewish world to Palestine in the
faceted Jewish scholar who occupies a unique place in the annals
of Jewish bibliography. Scion of a distinguished rabbinic family —