Between Worlds

The Life and Thought of Rabbi David ben Judah Messer Leon

By Hava Tirosh-Rothschild

Subjects: Jewish Studies
Series: SUNY series in Judaica: Hermeneutics, Mysticism, and Religion
Paperback : 9780791404485, 385 pages, January 1991
Hardcover : 9780791404478, 385 pages, January 1991

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Table of contents



1. The Italian Setting

2. Educating an Italian Jewish Gentleman

3. Italian Exile in the Ottoman Empire

4. Communal Tensions

5. Hakham Kolel: A Comprehensive Scholar

6. A Jewish Dogmatist

7. A Systematic Theologian






It is a work of sound scholarship dealing with an interesting historical figure and his unique cultural world. The author focuses correctly on the transition from Italian to Ottoman Jewish culture in the life of David Messer Leon and reveals much about the continuities and discontinuities between both societies. He nicely fuses social and intellectual history, and uses a life to illuminate a number of interesting and important cultural trends among early modern Jews, particularly the integration of kabbalah and philosophy, Humanism and Thomism. The presentation of the symbiotic nature of Jewish culture with contemporary intellectual trends and the appropriation of Christian theological strategies by a Jewish thinker to explain Judaism make this study a fascinating one.

Hava Tirosh-Rothschild is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion at Emory University.


"The author clearly is at home in the study of both history and philosophy. This rare combination lends the book its unique quality. This is not just a biography of an Italian Renaissance Jew, but a history of the Jews in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italy and the Ottoman Empire, from both a social and a cultural perspective. Its comprehensiveness in tracing the intellectual origins of the significant issues facing David ben Judah Messer Leon makes the book valuable to both medieval and early modern historians, whether or not their field of specialization is the study of Judaism. " — Benjamin R. Gampel, Jewish Theological Seminary of America

"The author's discussion of Maimonides' lingering influence even in this late period, and the reshaping of his positions to meet new existential needs, is also important. " — David B. Ruderman, Yale University

"Between Worlds is a serious, scholarly, well-researched book on an important figure in early modern Jewish history and thought. It presents a great overview of Jewish life during the Renaissance, the historiographic issues, and the man's place in the larger spectrum of Jewish philosophical thinking. It is important as a study of both Italian and Ottoman Jewry and of the history of responses to Maimonides. " — Howard Adelman, Smith College

"This deals with a figure who lived during an important transitional period that remains relatively neglected by modern scholarship, and whose life and writings touch upon a wide range of social, communal, and intellectual issues involving four distinct Jewish subcultures (Sephardi, Ashkenazi, Italian, and Ottoman) all having to face up to the major external movement of the times—the Italian Renaissance. " — Benjamin Ravid, Brandeis University