Elijah of la Massa

views updated


ELIJAH OF LA MASSA (15th century), Italian rabbi and author. Elijah was head of the Padua yeshivah in the 1520s. He made a pilgrimage to Palestine via Egypt after 1433. A short while after his arrival in Jerusalem in 1437 he was appointed dayyan; halakhic questions were also addressed to him from neighboring countries, such as Syria and Egypt. He wrote several letters from Jerusalem to his sons via his brother in Ferrara. One of these, written after he had lived in Jerusalem for over a year, is the only known document about the Palestinian Jewish community of the first half of the 15th century. In this letter he describes his adventures and misfortunes on the way to Palestine; relates the details of the plague that struck Palestine and Syria, which was responsible for the death of 90 persons in Jerusalem; tells of his appointment as dayyan in Jerusalem; and mentions the occupations of the local Jews. In the last part of his letter he speaks of the rumors current in Jerusalem about the wars of Beta Israel in Ethiopia, and also of what he heard about the Ten Tribes in India from a Jew who emigrated from Iraq. These rumors were already current in Italy, and Elijah was asked to get more details about them. It is not known whether he stayed in Jerusalem or returned to Italy. An English translation was published by E.N. Adler in his Jewish Travellers (19662), 151–55.


E. Ashkenazi, Divrei Ḥakhamim (1849), 61–63; A.M. Luncz (ed.), Ha-Me'ammer, 3 (1920), 77–80; A. Yaari, Iggerot Ereẓ Yisrael (1943), 86–89, 541. add. bibliography: E. Carmoly, Itinéraires de la Terre Sainte, Bruxelles, 1847, 323–360; Y. Haker, Zion, 50 (1985), 241–63.

[Avraham Yaari /

Moti Benmelech (2nd ed.)]