Ya'akov Lattes - "Rabbi Moshe Zacut: his Life and his Works"
from Hebrew by
One of the central and most exemplary
figures in Jewish life in
The only certain detail about his birth
is the city where he was born -
Most follow Berliner who determined the Remez was born in 1625, though he did not come forward with any proof.
This date however, was already contradicted by Appelbaum who wrote: "This [date] is completely impossible, since in his book "Kol Ha-Remez" he mentions the Maharasha twice with the addition "May he live a long life", showing that the Maharasha was still alive. Since we know that the Maharasha died in the year 1632, if the Remez were born in 1625, he would have been under 6 or 7 years old when he wrote this very detailed book, that shows great wisdom and wide knowledge fitting a man of adulthood. Therefore we have to place his date of birth earlier, approximately to the year 1612, so that at the time he wrote this book he would have been 20 at least."
Melkman came to the same conclusion, though by a different calculation.
He proves that "Rabbi Moshe Zacut
was born shortly after the year 1610, apparently in
From all this we have to conclude that the more likely date of birth of the Remez is around 1610.
About his family we almost don't know anything. He always signed as "Moshe ben Mordechai", and from this we know his father's name.
The family was of Portuguese origin and apparently the Remez was a descendant of Rabbi Abraham Zacut who wrote the "Sefer Ha-Yohassin".
The relations between the Remez and Rabbi
HaLevi Mortira stayed strong until the latter's
death. The Remeze continued to write to him from
When Rabbi Mortira died in the year 1660,
the Remez wrote from
Gertz assumed that the Remez was a fellow student with Spinoza, since both studied with Rabbi Mortira. This mistake apparently stems from the assumption that the Remez was born in 1630. After all Spinoza was born in 1632, and since it is knows both were students of Rabbi Mortira, one might easily be thought to believe they studied together.
However, this has been shown to be impossible, as Appelbaum and Nahum Sokolov already pointed out, since the Remez was born some twenty years before Spinoza.
No further details about his family are known: did he have brothers, what was his mother's name, was his father a Rabbi? It is interesting to notice that he hardly mentions his family at all, in all of his works.
In one letter from 1680, the Remez writes
his wife is ill and this is one of the reasons preventing him from making Aliya to the
Then again we hear that at his death in 1697 his widow is called Rachel, maybe a second wife, and she is allotted an allowance from the community.
This period is quite vague in the Remez's life and his movements between several cities in not clear. Therefore we have to differentiate between the details that we know for certain and those that are assumptions only.
The certain information is that before
Except for this it is very difficult to reconstruct his movements between these cities and the rest is pure speculations.
One possibility is that the father of the
Remez, who dealt in diamonds, attempted in the year 1617 to trade with the city
From there the family moved to
Another possibility is that the family
In any case we know that in the year 1642
Rabbi Moshe Zacut resided in
This was an important period in the Remez's life, because of its influences on him and because these were the years that shaped his personality.
"Yesod Olam" with a forword in German by Abraham Ben Zvi Berliner, Altuna 1874, Introdution page XXI
Melkman Joseph, "The Early Years of Rabbi Moshe Zacut", Sfunot 9 (1965), p. 129
Appelbaum Abba, "Moshe Zacut", Lavov 1926, page 5.
Gretz Zvi, "Sefer Divrei Yemei Israel", Warshaw 1899, Vol. VIII, p. 199
Sokolov Nahum, "Baruch Spinoza and his Times",
Binyahu Meir, "Rabbi Moshe Zacut from leaving