Immanuel (ben Solomon) of Rome

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IMMANUEL (ben Solomon) OF ROME

IMMANUEL (ben Solomon) OF ROME (known in Italian as Manoello Giudeo – "Immanuel the Jew"; c. 1261–c. 1335), poet. Born in Rome, a scion of the Ẓifroni family, Immanuel moved in circles of scholars and poets. At times he was in charge of the correspondence of the Jewish community of Rome and addressed the community on festive occasions. The supposition that he held a high post in the community has not been proven, nor has the assumption that he was a physician been substantiated. Immanuel left Rome for unknown reasons, but his departure may have been connected with the papal edict of expulsion issued against the community in 1321. He then lived in Perugia, Fabriano, Fermo, Camerino, Ancona, Gubbio, and Verona where he probably was a private tutor in the homes of wealthy patrons.

Maḥbarot, his best known literary work, comprises poems and meliẓot (a type of rhymed prose, found in medieval Spanish-Jewish literature, which closely resembles the maqāma). A single narrative runs through the work giving it structural unity; this characteristic is also in the tradition of the maqāma and of certain literary works (consisting of prose and poetry) found in romance languages, such as Dante's Vita Nova. Immanuel says that the work was inspired by a patron, whom he designates as sar ("prince"; he probably was not a Maecenas, as usually stated by Immanuel's biographers, but simply a rich Jew), and in whose home he lived in Fermo. The work consists of a preface and 28 maḥbarot (sing. maḥberet, Heb. for maqāma), hence its title, Maḥbarot (first complete edition Brescia, 1491; Constantinople, 1535; Berlin, 1796; Lemberg, 1870; the latest scientific edition, Jerusalem, 1984). His meters, style, imagery, and figurative language are mostly similar to those of Solomon ibn *Gabirol, *Judah Halevi, and especially Judah *al-Ḥarizi, whose Taḥkemoni Immanuel held as a model, but he also takes strophic forms and motifs from Italian literature. The subject matter of Maḥbarot is mostly gay, at times frivolous, but almost always witty. The artistic form is but a vehicle to prove Immanuel a skillful master of language whose aim it is to arouse the admiration of the reader. His punning and play on biblical terms have not been surpassed. Maḥbarot contains poems on love, wine, and friendship, riddles, epigrams, epistles, but also poetry of a serious nature, such as elegies and religious poems. The piyyut "*Yigdal," included in the daily prayer book, is an abridged adaptation of a poem by Immanuel included in the Maḥbarot (no. 4) whose subject is Maimonides' 13 Principles of Faith.

Influences on Maḥbarot

While Immanuel was a disciple of the Spanish school, and therefore indirectly adhered to many characteristics of Arabic poetry, the Italian influence can unmistakably be detected in many of his maḥbarot. At times, he applies the Arabic meter to Italian verse. Around 1300 he started to write Hebrew sonnets. According to the study of D. Bregman, 38 sonnets, usually love poems reflecting the influence of Dante and Cecco Angioleri (with erotic-realistic connotations), were included in the Maḥbarot. He was the first to introduce the 14-line Petrarchian sonnet into Hebrew literature. In his love poetry, he often follows the path of the Italian dolce stil novo school whose views and ideas and use of language he faithfully reproduced in Hebrew. The last three lines in one of Immanuel's sonnets are a verbatim translation of a sonnet by *Dante. Another poem, an encomiastic verse to himself, extolling his mastery of all arts and crafts, is an imitation in Hebrew of the structure and metric form of the Italian "Sirventese del maestro di tutte l'arti." On the other hand, the suggestion that the Italian novella greatly influenced Immanuel's narratives seems to be without foundation.

Maḥberet ha-Tofet ve-ha-Eden (his last maḥberet, also published separately, Prague, 1613), which is an account of Immanuel's journey through hell and paradise, follows the general concept of the Divina Commedia, some of the Dantesque episodes even serving as model. Daniel, Immanuel's guide through the netherworld and paradise, has been taken for Dante; others have identified him with the prominent personage whose death burdened Immanuel with thought of his own fate in the world to come and stimulated his visionary journey through hell and paradise; or with a friend, also named Daniel, whose throne Immanuel saw in paradise. Ascending the ladder of wisdom to heaven, Immanuel sees the patriarchs, the prophets, the righteous, the sages of all the generations, and the righteous gentiles who were tolerant of other faiths. Toward the end of his journey, he is shown the seats reserved for his living contemporaries, including his relatives. The assumption that Immanuel was a friend of Dante is not substantiated by the sources and lacks all foundation as has been shown by Umberto Cassuto and Cecil Roth. He was, however, a friend of the poet Bosone da Gubbio with whom he exchanged sonnets in commemoration of the death of Dante. Immanuel's death was the subject of an exchange of sonnets between Bosone da Gubbio and the poet Cino da Pistoia, in which the two poets eulogized him and ranked him with Dante. He also wrote some sonnets in Italian and exchanged poems with other Italian poets of his time. Immanuel's sonnets in Italian were often published, as well as his amusing "Bisbidis" describing conditions at the court of Verona. H. Brody published the first part of the new edition of the Maḥbarot based on manuscript material, in 1926, and A.M. *Habermann the first vocalized edition, based on printed works and on manuscript material, together with a commentary and a translation of Immanuel's Italian sonnets (1946 (recte: 1950), 1957). A new vocalized edition, based on manuscript material, with commentary and bibliography was published by D. Jarden (1957, c. 19842). Parts of the Maḥbarot, especially the 28thmaḥberet, have been translated into German, Italian, English, Hungarian, Latin, and Yiddish.

Other Works

Other works by Immanuel are (1) a no longer extant work on the symbolism of the Hebrew alphabet which was perhaps entitled Migdal Oz; the introductory poem is included in the Maḥbarot; (2) Even Boḥan, a hermeneutic work, in manuscript (the introduction published by L. Dukes in Rabbinische Blumenlese (1844), 268–70); (3) Commentaries to almost the whole Bible in which Immanuel mainly explains the literal meaning; sometimes, however, offering allegorical, philosophical, and mystic interpretations. Among his published commentaries are that to Proverbs (Naples, 1487; repr. 1990) in which Immanuel is erroneously called Immanuel b. Jacob; parts of that to Psalms (published by De' Rossi, Parma, 1806); the first part of the commentary to the Pentateuch (in Archiv fuer wissenschaftliche Erforschung des Alten Testamentes, 1 (1867–69), 363–84), the commentary to Psalms (incomplete, 1879–84), and the commentaries to Esther (1880), to Lamentations (1881), and to Ruth (1881); the commentary to Song of Songs, published by S.B. Eschwege (1908; Ravitski, 1970), and the commentary to the first chapter of Genesis published by F. Michelini Tocci (1963). Immanuel's commentaries to other books of the Bible are either extant in manuscript or known through the author's reference to them. A philosophical epistle addressed to *Hillel b. Samuel of Verona was published by Steinschneider (Israelietische Letterbode, (1881–82), 166–7.


U. Cassuto, Dante e Manoello (1921); S. Tchernichowsky, Immanuel ha-Romi (1925); Sonne, in: Tarbiz, 5 (1933/35), 324–40; C. Roth, in: rmi, 17 (1951), 422–46; idem, in: Modern Language Review, 48 (1953), 26–32; Waxman, Literature, 2 (1960), 65–74; G. Raphael (Bat-Yehudah), Yehudah al-Ḥarizi ve-Immanuel ha-Romi (1941); Zinberg, Sifrut 1 (1955), 388–410; S. Morais, Italian Hebrew Literature (1926); 9–51. add. bibliography: D. Yarden, Leshono shel ha-Maḥberot (1954); Perush li-Meggilat Shir ha-Shirim, ed. Y. Ravitski (1970); D. Goldstein, in: huca, 42 (1971), 243–50; Carmi, The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse (1981), 421–27; The Mahberot, Fourteenth Canto: the Inheritance, ed. V.E. Reichert (1982); M. Rosenthal, in: Approachesto Judaism in Medieval Times, 2 (1985), 169–85; D. Malkiel, in: Prooftexts, 16:22:2 (1996), 169–73; D. Bregman, in: Prooftexts, 11:3 (1991), 231–39; idem, in: rmi, 61:1–2 (1995), 43–85; idem, Shevil ha-Zahav: ha-Sonet ha-Ivri bi-Tekufat ha-Renesans ve-ha-Barok (1995); idem, Sharsheret ha-Zahav: ha-Sonet ha-Ivri le-Dorotav (2000); L'inferno e il paradise, ed. G. Battistoni, A. Luzzatto, and E. Weiss Levi (c. 2000); Maḥbereth prima (il destino), ed. S. Fumagalli, M.T. Mayer, and G. Shaked (2002); T. Rosen, Unveiling Eve (2003), 124ff.

[Umberto (Moses David) Cassuto /

Angel Sáenz-Badillos. (2nd ed.)]