Zerahiah ben Isaac Ha-Levi

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ZERAHIAH BEN ISAAC HA-LEVI (known as Ferrarius Saladi ; late 14th–early 15th century), rabbi of Saragossa and of all the communities of Aragon. A disciple of Ḥasdai *Crescas, he distinguished himself as a talmudist, preacher, physician, and translator, and was one of the leading Jewish participants in the disputation of *Tortosa. During his teacher's lifetime Zerahiah had already begun in his sermons to attack the rationalists who disagreed with R. Ḥasdai. While in Tortosa, he preached to the Jewish disputants in the synagogue. There is an account of this by Solomon ibn Verga: "The opening of his sermon was: 'the similar into the similar is healthy as is the opposite into the opposite' [a saying of Aristotelian origin], on which he delivered an excellent commentary [probably strongly anti-Christian] which can only be understood if heard directly. He completed his sermon with a prayer and supplication" (Shevet Yehudah, ed. by A. Shoḥat (1947), 97). During the disputation Zerahiah proved one of the most systematic, incisive, and trenchant of the debators. His comprehensive disquisitions there have been preserved in the Latin protocol of the disputation. This records that on March 16, 1414, Zerahiah presented the conclusions of the Jews on the dogmatic validity of the aggadot in which he concluded that the principles of the religion (articuli legis) come to the believer by way of faith and tradition alone and do not require any proof, whereas Scripture, as well as the teachings of the Talmud, have to be explained according to these principles; the Christians had also adopted this method. For the Jew, anticipation of the Messiah remains one of the fundamentals of his faith so long as the Jews continue in exile and without a king, and so long as many other conditions have not been fulfilled. Through this methodical and dogmatic approach, structured according to the system of Thomas Aquinas on the subject of the principles of faith, Zerahiah tried to remove the christological interpretation of talmudic aggadot from the Christian armory and to exclude the messianic principle of faith from the discussion.


Baer, Spain, index; A. Pacios Lopez, La disputa de Tortosa, 2 (1957), index; He-Ḥalutz, 7 (1865), 96–101, 118–9.

[Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson]