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Abravanel
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Religious Figure
    (1437-1508)
    Born in Lisbon, Portugal
    Full name was Don Isaac ben Judah Abravanel
    Portuguese statesman, philosopher, theologian, and financier
    Served as the personal agent of King Alfonso V of Portugal
    Finance Minister under King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella
    Works are categorized into Exegesis, Philosophy, and Apologetics
    Best known philosophical work is ‘Rosh Amanah’ (The Pinnacle of Faith)
    Major peshat (Exegesis) works included ‘The Wellsprings of Salvation,’ ‘The Salvation of His Anointed,’ and ‘Announcing Salvation’
    Three major Apologetic works are ‘Sources of Salvation,’ ‘The Salvation of His Anointed,’ and ‘Proclaiming Salvation’
    Subject of the classic scholarly biographical work 'Don Isaac Abravanel. Statesman and philosopher' by Benzion Netanyahu (1953)
    His name has also been spelled 'Abarbanel' - probably because the pronunciation is easier.
    He continually chose to ignore the fact that his grandfather converted to Christianity, never mentioning it in any of his writings.
    He made a majority of his wealth from tax farming.
    He was accused of using the story of Ham to justify the concept of African slavery.
    He repeatedly tried to bribe Ferdinand and Isabella into rescinding the Alhambra Decree, which expelled all of Spain's Jewish population from the kingdom, failing each time in doing so (succeeding only in pushing the date back two days).
    Legend has it that Ferdinand was in the process of wavering on the edict, after being presented with a 600,000 Crown purse by Abravanel, when an enraged Tomas Torquemada (architect of the Inquisition) stormed into the chamber, angrily throwing coins at the King's feet and crying 'Judas sold Christ for thirty pieces of silver. If you want to sell Christ again - here is the money!' (needless to say the King and Queen backed down).
    There is no substantive proof to support that this really happened any more than there is to support the even more farcical legend that Queen Isabella, herself, pushed her husband into backing down by accusing him of being 'soft' because of his allegedly hidden 'converso' lineage.
    He is regularly confused with Don Abraham Senior, another high-ranking Jewish official, who was instrumental in the union between Ferdinand and Isabella and who later converted to Christianity to avoid exile (some versions of the 'bribe' legend also insert Abraham in the place of Abravanel, for some reason).
    As a youth, he wrote a commentary on the Book of Joshua in only sixteen days.
    He was arguably the highest-ranking Jewish figure in a foreign government since the time of Joseph and the Egyptian Pharaoh.
    He enjoyed a tremendous amount of influence within the Portuguese Royal Court, until the King's untimely death in 1481.
    With the ascension of the King's son to the throne, it became clear that a more anti-Semitic tone would prevail, prompting Abravanel to flee an 'in absentia death penalty' for Spain (his power in the Spanish Court would be comparably limited).
    He may have been the first major Jewish scholar to be influenced by European Renaissance.
    He reportedly loaned the Crown 1,500,000 maravedis to further the Spanish war effort in Grenada, against the Moors (shortly thereafter, the Jewish Expulsion edict was made public).
    He made a last-ditch effort to stop the Alhambra decree by privately meeting with Queen Isabella to beg for mercy.
    What transpired was a heated argument in which he passionately reminded her of the past fallen civilizations which persecuted the Jews, only to be outlasted by them. Isabella, clearly anticipating this line of gab, countered the argument by throwing back selectively chosen passages from the Hebrew Bible. After once more declining to convert, the audience was concluded.
    He chose to accompany the Jewish masses out of Spain, despite being actively persuaded to convert to Christianity and remain in the Royal Court.
    The King and Queen were apparently so desperate to keep him within their circle that they even devised a plan to kidnap his one-month-old grandson and forcibly baptize him, thereby grounding him in place (he was tipped off and managed to escape with his family before the plot was executed).
    He continued writing Biblical commentaries and philosophical works, attempting to console the demoralized Jewish people living in exile.
    His commentaries on the Bible are known for having a more modern tone than his contemporaries, and as such, are still regularly studied in Jewish circles.
    He spent his final days island hopping on the Italian coast, briefly serving the Italian Royal Court before foreign aggression forced him and the King out. Having had his extensive library confiscated, he settled in Venice where he spent his final years.

Credit: BoyWiththeGreenHair


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