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Morpurgo, Samson ben Joshua Moses


MORPURGO, SAMSON BEN JOSHUA MOSES (1681–1740), Italian rabbi and physician. Samson was born in Gradisca d'Isonzo, Friuli. While still young he was taken by his parents to neighboring Gorizia, where he studied under Jacob Hai Gentili, the rabbi of the community, and his son, Manasseh. At the age of 12 or 13 he moved to Venice and there received a thorough education in the yeshivah of Samuel Aboab, as well as from his previous teacher Manasseh Gentili who had meanwhile moved to Venice. After some years he went to Padua to study medicine in the university there and in 1700 received the degree of doctor of philosophy and medicine. From then on he devoted himself to the study of Talmud, traveling between Padua and Venice, and between Gorizia and Mantua, where he studied under the outstanding scholar Briel, who in 1709 ordained him rabbi. In that year he was appointed a member of the bet din of the kabbalist Joseph Fiametta (Lehavah) whose daughter Rebecca he married. On the death of his wife in 1716, he married her sister, Judith. On the death of his father-in-law in 1721, Samson succeeded him as rabbi of the community, a post he held until his death. Morpurgo had connections with all the great scholars of his generation, who turned to him for counsel on complicated cases in the field of halakhah, among them Isaac Lampronti, who quotes Samson's rulings in his Paḥad Yiẓḥak, Moses Ḥagiz, and Benjamin ha-Kohen of Reggio. His skill as a doctor in Ancona, recognized by both Jews and Christians, and his profound compassion, particularly toward the suffering poor, won him the love and respect of all. In 1730 a devastating influenza plague swept Ancona, and, despite the Church ban against Jewish doctors' treating the Christian sick, Samson distinguished himself in the care he gave to all the town's inhabitants. In consequence, Cardinal Lambertini publicly presented him in 1731 with a document which expressed his gratitude and his esteem for Samson's devotion. Samson was involved in the polemics of the rabbis of the generation against Nehemiah Ḥiyya *Ḥayon, and was among those who took up a tolerant attitude toward him. There is extant correspondence between Morpurgo and Moses Ḥagiz on this subject from the end of 1711 to the beginning of 1715. The Or Boker (Venice, 1741) contains a prayer that was said at his grave on the anniversary of his death. The following of his works have been published: Confutazioni alle Saette del Gionata del Benetelli (Venice, 1703–04), a polemic against the Christian priest Luigi Maria Benetelli who wrote Le Saette di Gionata scagliate a favor degli Ebrei (1703), a book filled with hatred of the Jews and their religion; Eẓ ha-Da'at (ibid., 1704), a philosophical commentary on the Beḥinat Olam of Jedaiah Bedersi; and Shemesh Ẓedakah (ibid., 1743), a collection of responsa published posthumously by his son Moses Ḥayyim.


E. Morpurgo, La Famiglia Morpurgo… (1909), 32–34, 65–69, 77, 104; I. Sonne, in: Kobez al Jad, 2 (1937), 157–96; B. Cohen, in: Sefer ha-Yovel… A. Marx (1943), 56; M. Wilensky, in: ks, 23 (1946/47), 199; idem, in: Sinai, 25 (1949), 68–75.

[Guiseppe Laras]

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