Page 155 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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important code of Jewish law,
Mishneh Torah,
which had a major
impact on Caro.
After the death of his father, Caro was raised by his uncle Isaac
Caro, a Spanish scholar who had lived in Portugal and Turkey.
Isaac Caro had published a commentary on the Torah,
a popular work which drew upon many methods of tex­
tual analysis — literal, homiletical, kabbalistic, and philosophical.
Isaac also wrote responsa, some of which were published together
with writings of his nephew, Joseph, while others are extant in
manuscript. No information about other teachers ofJoseph Caro
is available. An important influence on him was Solomon Molcho
(1501-1532), who was in Turkey around 1530. Molcho was a Por­
tuguese Christian courtier (Diogo Pires) who, after meeting the
messianic adventurer David Reuveni (d. c. 1538), in Portugal
during the 1520s, converted to Judaism by circumcising himself.
After several years of dreams, visions, and prophecies, Molcho
approached Emperor Charles V (1519-1556), probably to discuss
a plan for Jews and Marranos to receive arms and join the war
against the Turks. Charles had him arrested and he was burned
at the stake by the Inquisition in Mantua in 1532. As usual, there
is much uncertainty surrounding even such basic information
concerning their relationship as whether the two men ever actu­
ally met. Molcho made a lasting impression on Caro, who began
soon thereafter to envision his own martyrdom. Other influences
on the man included Joseph Taitatzak (c. 1477-1540), a rabbi and
kabbalist who attracted a large following of mystics and rabbis in
Turkey, and Solomon Alkabetz (c. 1505-1584), a student of
Taitatzak and himself a kabbalist, poet (he authored the Sabbath
hymn “Lekhah Dodi”), and enthusiast for settlement in the Land
of Israel.
At about the age of thirty-four, in 1522, the first substantiated
date in his writings, Caro reported that, in Adrianople, he had
begun to write
Beit Yosef,
“House of Joseph,” a title which, like
many of those of traditional Jewish authors, includes his own
name. This, his magnum opus, was a commentary on the
“The Four Rows” (of the ephod) — the
—ofJacob ben
Asher (c. 1280-1340). Jacob ben Asher’s exhaustively covered all
areas of lawwhich were currently operative, but did not give fully