Uziel, Isaac ben Abraham

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UZIEL, ISAAC BEN ABRAHAM (d. 1622), rabbi and poet. Isaac was the son of Abraham Uziel, a rabbi of Fez where Isaac was born. In consequence of the famine in Morocco during 1604–05, he left Fez and settled in Oran, Algeria, where he served as rabbi. From there he went in 1606 to Amsterdam where he became a teacher in the community's bet ha-midrash and also engaged in business. In 1610 when Judah Vega, the first rabbi of the Neveh Shalom congregation, retired, Isaac was invited to succeed him. He was a very strong personality, and in his sermons inveighed against those who were lax in their observance and against the Marranos who had not completely abandoned Christian views. As a result many of the Marranos left his community and in 1618 established a separate congregation. Among his pupils were *Manasseh Ben Israel and Isaac Athias.

He wrote a large number of poems which have real literary value, but only a few were published, some of them in the festival prayer books of North Africa. Uziel also studied grammar, writing Ma'aneh Lashon (Amsterdam, 1627) on this subject. He translated from Spanish into Hebrew legends and fables of Indian origin well known throughout the world that were called in Latin Historia Septem Sapientium and in Hebrew Mishlei Erasto. These were first published in serial form by Abraham *Elmaleh in the periodical, Mizraḥ u-Ma'arav. Uziel appears to have been one of the Amsterdam rabbis who excommunicated Uriel da *Costa. As a result of his conservative extremism and excessively stern persecution of his opponents, relations between him and Leone *Modena became strained.


Brody, in: jqr, 13 (1922/23), 70–73; Davidson, Oẓar, 4 (1933), index; C. Roth, Life of Menasseh Ben Israel (1934), 22–24, 32–34; Hirschberg, Afrikah, 2 (1965), 102–3.

[Abraham David]