Provençal, David ben Abraham

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PROVENÇAL, DAVID BEN ABRAHAM (b. 1506), rabbi of Mantua, preacher, and linguist. He was the brother of Moses *Provençal. Provençal had the idea of establishing a Jewish university in Mantua because he feared a decline in the study of Torah in Italy after the burning of the Talmud. In 1564 he addressed an appeal on this subject to the Italian communities (later published in Ha-Levanon, 5 (1868), 418f., 434f., 450f.). According to his plan the curriculum was to include the written and oral law, philosophy, Hebrew grammar, Hebrew poetry, Latin and Italian, grammar, medicine, and astronomy. There are differences of opinion as to the extent to which the proposed program was carried out. The traditional view is that many of the fundamental points were implemented, even though the atmosphere of intolerance on the part of the Catholic Church toward the Jews of Italy undoubtedly served to hinder the fulfillment of the university program.

Provençal was the author of Ir David, a commentary on the Pentateuch, and a commentary on the Song of Songs; Dor Haflagah, on the Hebrew words adopted in foreign languages; and Migdal David, on Hebrew grammar. All three books have been lost, though they were seen by Azariah dei Rossi. Provençal's defense of Philo against Azariah dei Rossi's criticisms is not extant either. His commentary to Avot has been preserved in manuscript (N. Weisz, Kataloge… D. Kaufmann (1906), no. 131). He also proofread the Venice 1565 edition of the Paḥad Yiẓḥak.


M. Guedemann, in: Festschrift… A. Berliner (1903), 164–75; S. Assaf, Mekorot le-Toledot ha-Ḥinnukh be-Yisrael, 2 (1930), 115–20; J.R. Marcus, Jews in the Medieval World (1938), 381–8; M.A. Shulvass, Ḥayyei ha-Yehudim be-Italyah bi-Tekufat ha-Renaissance (1955), index; C. Roth, Jews in the Renaissance (1959), 42f., 247f., 331; S. Simonsohn, Toledot ha-Yehudim be-Dukkasut Mantovah, 2 (1964), 422f., 450, 458, 533f.

[David Tamar]

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Provençal, David ben Abraham

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