Conforte, David

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CONFORTE, DAVID

CONFORTE, DAVID (1617 or 1618–c. 1690), rabbi and literary historian. Conforte was born in Salonika into a well-known Sephardi family of rabbis and scholars. He studied rabbinics and Hebrew grammar with the leading rabbis of his time and Kabbalah with teachers in Jerusalem and Salonika. Conforte left Greece for Jerusalem in 1644, stopping for about a year in Cairo, where he studied in the bet midrash of Abraham Skandari, and for some time in Gaza with Moses b. Israel Najara. He stayed in Jerusalem for two years, returned to Salonika in 1648, and in 1652 once more to Jerusalem where he founded his own bet midrash. In 1671 Conforte was rabbi in Cairo, where Mordecai b. Judah ha-Levi was chief rabbi; the latter mentioned him several times in his responsa Darkhei No'am (1697–98). Conforte's major work was Kore ha-Dorot. The manuscript was published in Venice in 1746 by David Ashkenazi without mentioning the author's name, and it is uncertain whether the author or the publisher gave the work its title. A new edition with a biographical introduction, notes, and registers was published by David Cassel (1846, repr. 1945 and photo reprint 1969). Kore ha-Dorot is a chronicle of authors and works from post-talmudic times until the author's own. For the material up to 1492, he leaned heavily on his medieval predecessors' works: Abraham *Ibn Daud's Sefer ha-Kabbalah, Abraham *Zacuto's Sefer Yuhasin, and Gedaliah *Ibn Yaḥya's Shalshelet ha-Kabbalah. He supplemented the information in these works with material taken partly from manuscripts that have since been lost. Conforte was the first to prepare an alphabetical list of scholars of the Tosafist period; it was supplemented in 1845 by L. Zunz in his Zur Geschichte und Literatur (pp. 30–60) with the help of Jehiel Heilprin's Seder ha-Dorot (1769). Though subsequent research findings supersede some of Conforte's information, his work remains important for the biography and times of Jewish authors and leaders. Koreha-Dorot is especially important for its information about Sephardi scholars who lived in Mediterranean countries in the 16th and 17th centuries. The author knew many of them personally or received reliable information about them from descendants. He also diligently extracted names of scholars from the responsa of his time. Conforte's information on Ashkenazi scholars, however, is sketchy and sometimes wrong.

A volume of Conforte's responsa is lost, but a single responsum is preserved in the manuscript responsa collection of his contemporary Moses Judah *Abbas. Gabriel Conforte, mentioned in the same collection and in Aaron Alfandari's Yad Aharon, may have been his son.

bibliography:

S.Z. Rubashow (Shazar), in: Ha-Goren, 10 (1928), 122–31; Frumkin-Rivlin, pt. 2 (1930), 48–50.

[Moshe Nahum Zobel]