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Figo (Picho), Azariah


FIGO (Picho), AZARIAH (1579–1647), Italian rabbi and preacher, born in Venice. In his youth he devoted himself largely to secular studies, but later, regretting the time he had spent "loving the handmaiden" and "neglecting the mistress," he applied himself wholly to rabbinic studies. At the age of 28, he was appointed rabbi of Pisa. There he wrote Giddulei Terumah (Venice, 1643), a casuistic commentary on the Sefer ha-Terumot of Samuel *Sardi. After the burning of the Talmud in 1553, copies were very scarce, and when Figo wrote his book he possessed only the tractates Bava Kamma, Shevu'ot, and Nazir and had to borrow the other tractates from the neighboring communities. He completed the book in Venice, where he returned in 1627, and became preacher to the Sephardi community. Figo leaned toward a strict interpretation of Jewish law. He opposed the establishment of a theater in the ghetto of Venice and criticized the members of his community for usury, flaunting their wealth, internecine wrangling, laxity in ritual observances, and sexual irregularities, Figo was active in redeeming Jewish captives, and defended the Marranos, declaring them to be Jews. His most important work is his Binah le-Ittim (Venice (?), 1648), a collection of sermons delivered in Venice. They are based on the festivals and fasts of the Jewish calendar, and also include sermons based on Avot on such topics as charity and education. Since its first publication it has been reprinted 50 times. Some of his responsa are found in the Devar Shemu'el (1702) of Samuel Aboab. Figodied in Rovigo.

On his homiletical works, see *Homiletics.


A. Appelbaum, Azariah Figo (Heb., 1907); Bettan, in: huca, 7 (1930), 457–95; M. Szulwas, Ḥayyei ha-Yehudi be-Italyah bi-Tekufat ha-Renaissance (1955), index; H.R. Rabinowitz, Deyokena'ot shel Darshanim (1967), 150–8.

[Chayim Reuven Rabinowitz]

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