Basola, Moses ben Mordecai

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BASOLA, MOSES BEN MORDECAI (i) (1480–1560), Italian rabbi. Basola was apparently of French extraction, since he signed himself "Ẓarefati" ("The Frenchman"); it has been conjectured that his surname is identical with Basilea, i.e., Basle. From the age of nine he resided in Soncino. Basola served as teacher and tutor in the household of the banker Moses Nissim of Poligno in Pesaro. After he was ordained as a rabbi by R. Azriel *Diena of Sabionetta in 1535 he became a rabbi in Ancona and was the head of a Jewish academy (yeshivah) there and also a district rabbi of Marches. He was also involved in financial ventures with his son Azriel, and from 1554 owned a bank in the city of Rocca in the Marches. In the years 1557–58 he was a rabbi in Pesaro. Shortly afterward he immigrated to Ereẓ Israel and settled in Safed, where he died.

Although Basola's halakhic decisions have never been collected, some have been preserved as independent documents while others have been appended as approbations to rabbinic decisions issued in his day. Both types can be found in the collected responsa (published and manuscript versions) of his contemporaries. He had a central role in some of the halakhic debates and affairs that electrified Jewish society in Italy and elsewhere. For example, he took a strong stand against the planned international boycott of Ancona promoted by the Ottoman sultan's courtiers, Don Joseph *Nasi and Dona Gracia *Nasi. The courtiers' plan to shift the center of commerce between Italy and the East from Ancona to Pesaro was sparked by Pope Paul iv's execution of 25 *Conversos who had settled in Ancona. Basola joined other rabbinic figures and the Anconan and Levantine merchants whose livelihood was threatened (and who feared the wrath of the local authorities) in opposing the short-lived boycott that began in July 1556. He was deeply involved in the dispute over the printing of kabbalistic (Jewish mystical) works, which was significantly in Italy in the years 1557–58. Leone *Modena (1571–1648) testified that Basola was "a great sage in Kabbalah," but no kabbalistic works by Basola are extant. He even made a specific prediction that the "end of days," namely redemption, would occur between 1575 and 1578. Basola's contacts in the world of Kabbalah extended to Christian kabbalists. He was particularly close to the French-Christian kabbalist and Hebraist Guillaume *Postel. In 1521 Basola went as pilgrim from Venice to Ereẓ Israel, remaining there for a year and a half. His travelogue appeared as an anonymous text in Livorno (1785) in a collection of treatises called Shivḥei Yerushalayim ("Praises of Jerusalem") which was edited by Jacob b. Ḥayyim. With the publication of the Itzhak Ben-Zvi edition of this travel book in Jerusalem in 1938 the identity of its author was definitively established. The work is remarkable for its clarity, critical faculty, and clear delineation of economic and social conditions. At the end are appended an account of the organization of Jewish communal life in Jerusalem, reports on the (mythical) river *Sambatyon, and advice to Jewish sea travelers. Basola's book is not only a travel diary that records the impressions of the pilgrim as he prays at a venerated gravesite or enjoys Jerusalem's unique urban atmosphere. Rather, Basola envisioned his treatise primarily as a useful guide whose purpose was to provide European Jewish pilgrims and potential settlers in Ereẓ Israel with helpful information for planning their voyage.

moses basola (ii) (16th century), kabbalist originally from Safed and possibly the grandson of Moses Basola i, settled in Italy, where he edited, together with Gedaliah b. Moses Cordovero, Or Ne'erav (a compendium of Pardes Rimmonim, Venice, 1587) and Tomer Devorah (Venice, 1589), both by Moses Cordovero.

moses basola (iii) (16th century), properly Della Rocca, was grandson through his mother of Moses Basola I. He was the teacher of Leone *Modena at Ferrara (1582–84). Subsequently he went to Cyprus where he died. Modena wrote a poem in his memory, which can be read either as Hebrew or Italian.


C. Roth, The House of Nasi: Doña Graciá (1947), ch. 7; I. Ben-Zvi, Masot Ereẓ Yisrael le-Moshe Basola (1938); add. bibliography: R. Lamdan, in: Michael, 9 (1985), 171–93; idem, in: Z. Ankori (ed.), From Lisbon to Salonica and Constantinople (1988), 135–54; A. David, in: Zion and Jerusalem: The Itinerary of Rabbi Moses Basola (1999).

[Cecil Roth /

Avraham David (2nd ed.)]