web analytics
August 28, 2014 / 2 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Reverend Abraham de Sola: Scholar Extraordinaire


Levine-120310

(All quotes are from “History and Biographical Gazetteer of Montreal to the Year 1892″ by John Douglas Borthwick, John Lovell & Son, Montr?al [Quebec], 1892, pages 465-469.)

The name de Sola appears prominently in the annals of Spanish Jewish history. The de Solas may have settled in Andalusia (in southern Spain) as early as the sixth century.

They held various offices under the Saracenic Caliphs at Toledo and Cordova, and afterwards when they removed to Navarre they were received with like favor by the Gothic Princes. From their estate in this province, their surname had its origin. A particularly distinguished member of the family was Don Bartolomeu de Sola, who, in reward for his services, was ennobled, and, after being a Minister of State, held for a while the position of Viceroy of Navarre.

During the 14th Century another de Sola distinguished himself fighting under the Infante of Aragon, and figured conspicuously in the Spanish Wars of that period. During the succeeding centuries the family continued to hold an illustrious place, owing to the large number of eminent scholars, physicians and statesmen it produced.

The de Solas, like all Jews living in Spain, were negatively affected by persecution at the hand of the Catholic Church during the 14th and 15th centuries. When the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, most of the family fled to Holland, though a branch of the family settled in Portugal. These family members were forcibly converted to Catholicism in 1497 and yet managed to live as secret Jews (Marranos). In 1749 they managed to leave Portugal (which, strangely enough, persecuted secret Jews and yet did not let them immigrate). They settled in England where they could finally practice Judaism openly.

Abraham de Sola, a descendent of the de Solas who had settled in England, was born on September 18, 1825.

His father, David Aaron de Sola, was Senior Minister of the Portuguese Jews of London and was eminent as a Hebrew author, having produced among many other works an elegant translation of the Jewish Forms of Prayer, also, in conjunction with Dr. Raphall, an edition of Genesis, very valuable to Biblical students on account of its commentaries and copious notes, and the first English translation of Eighteen Treatises of the Mishna. His mother was the daughter of Dr. Raphael Meldola, Chief Rabbi of the Spanish-Jewish congregations of Britain. The Meldolas had given eminent Chief Rabbis to Europe for twelve generations.

Abraham de Sola received careful tuition [instruction] in all the usual branches of a liberal education. He became early engrossed in the study of Oriental languages and literature and of theology, and continued to devote his attention to those subjects until he acquired that profound knowledge of them which subsequently won him so prominent a place among scholars.

In 1846 Reverend de Sola was offered the position of spiritual leader of Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish-Portuguese synagogue in Montreal, Canada. He arrived in that city in early 1847 at the age of 21. In 1852 he married Esther Joseph, whose father was one of the earliest Jewish settlers in Montreal.

His able pulpit discourses soon attracted attention. Dr. de Sola’s abilities, however, were not destined to be confined exclusively to his official duties. Before leaving London he had been associated in the editorial work of a Hebrew journal, The Voice of Jacob, and soon after his arrival in Canada he delivered a course of lectures on Jewish history before the Mercantile Literary Association. In 1848, he published his “Notes on the Jews of Persia Under Mohammed Shah, and also “A History of the Jews of Persia.” Within the same year there appeared his important work on “Scripture Zoology.” Soon afterwards he published his “Lectures on the Mosaic Cosmogony [origin of the universe].” This was followed by his “Cosmography [Description of the Universe] of [R. Abraham] Peritsol,” a work displaying such erudition that it gained a wide circulation in Europe, and was reprinted there in several languages.

His next work, “A Commentary upon Samuel Hannagid’s Introduction to the Talmud” was a book which deservedly attracted much attention, owing to the light which it threw upon an interesting portion of rabbinical literature, and to its depth of Talmudic knowledge. In 1853 he published, conjointly with the Rev. J.J. Lyons of New York a work on the Jewish Calendar System, chiefly valuable on account of its excellent prefatory treatise upon the Jewish system of calculating time.

De Sola’s mastery of Semitic languages attracted the attention of scholars at McGill University. In 1853, after having served as a lecturer for several years, he was appointed professor of Hebrew and Oriental Literature at this institution, a position he held until his death. In 1858, in recognition of his extraordinary scholastic accomplishments, McGill conferred upon him the degree of LL.D.

Reverend de Sola’s interests were not limited to Semitics and rabbinics.

[His] wide range of studies had made him very popular both as a public lecturer and as a contributor to various literary papers. The themes of some of these were afterwards much amplified by him, and republished in their elaborated and completed form. At comparatively short intervals he gave to the public his works on “Scripture Botany,” “Sinaitic Inscriptions,” “Hebrew Numismatics,” “The Ancient Hebrews as Promoters of the Arts and Sciences,” “The Rise and Progress of the Great Hebrew Colleges,” and “Philological Studies in Hebrew and the Aramaic Languages.” Turning his attention again to Jewish History, he, in 1869, wrote his interesting “Life of Shabethai Tsevi, the False Messiah.” The following year he completed his “History of the Jews of Poland,” and in 1871 he published his “History of the Jews of France.”

Reverend de Sola maintained an almost frenetic pace of academic activity in addition to his pastoral duties at Congregation Shearith Israel. He accepted the chair of Hebrew at the Montreal Presbyterian College and later an appointment as a lecturer in Spanish Literature at McGill.

Dr. de Sola frequently lectured in the United States. In 1872 he was invited by the administration of President Ulysses S. Grant to deliver the opening prayer of the United States Congress. This was the first time someone who was not a citizen of the United States nor a Christian was given this honor. It was also particularly significant given that relations between Britain and the U.S. had lately been particularly strained. The choice of Dr. de Sola, who was a resident of Canada and a citizen of the British Empire, marked a move by the U.S. at rapprochement with England.

His incessant involvement in a myriad of activities eventually took its toll on his health. He was forced to take a year off from his activities and spent that year in Europe recuperating from his failing health. Dr. de Sola was visiting his sister in New York when he passed away on June 5, 1882. His body was brought to Montreal where he was interred.

 

Dr. Yitzchok Levine served as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey before retiring in 2008. He now teaches as an adjunct at Stevens. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.

About the Author: Dr. Yitzchok Levine served as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey before retiring in 2008. He now teaches as an adjunct at Stevens. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Reverend Abraham de Sola: Scholar Extraordinaire”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
PM Binyamin Netanyahu
Bibi, Abbas Met Before Ceasefire
Latest Sections Stories
Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot together in concert.

Almost immediately the audience began singing and clapping and continued almost without stop throughout the rest of the concert.

Mordechai-082214-Armoire

As of late, vintage has definitely been in vogue in the Orthodox community.

Einhorn-082214-Water

Stroll through formal gardens, ride mountain bikes, or go rock climbing.

As they fall upon us we go
To the WALL.

One minute you’re shaving shwarma off a pit, then the shwarma guy tells you he read a (fake) WhatsApp that the boys are dead.

I probe a little deeper and Shula takes me into the world of phantom pains and prosthetic limbs.

This went on until she had immersed eighty times, and then Hashem at last took pity upon her.

Because Menachem lives in Israel, he can feel the ruach in the air.

Perhaps you can reach a compromise during this news frenzy, whereby you will feel more comfortable while he can still follow the latest events.

Leon experienced the War of Independence from a soldier’s perspective, while remaining true to his Jewish ideals and beliefs.

Chabad of Arizona centers recently hosted an evening of remembrance to mark the 20th yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

More Articles from Dr. Yitzchok Levine
Jonas Phillips

Like many of his contemporaries, he went through some hard years, but eventually he earned the rewards of his perseverance and integrity.

These letters give us the privilege of knowing him in his old age when he is mellow, tempered in his judgments, and sagacious from long experience of dealing with people.

The British evacuated New York on November 25, 1783, and Congress demobilized the American army shortly thereafter.

“Simple, modest, altogether unassuming, Gershom spent his happiest hours with his ever-growing family who were never far from his thoughts.

“Attuned to the ideal of establishing a new Zion in free America, they named their new colony Palestine.

Last month’s column outlined some efforts during the first half of the nineteenth century to establish Jewish agricultural colonies in America. In only one case was a colony actually established.

There were very few Jewish farmers in Europe during the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Indeed, in many parts of Europe Jews were forbidden to own land. Despite this there were some Jews who always felt they should return to the agrarian way of life their forefathers had pursued in ancient times, and that America was an ideal place to establish Jewish agricultural colonies.

The President having signed the Treaty of the Geneva Conference and the Senate having, on the 16th instant, ratified the President’s actions, the American Association of the Red Cross, organized under provisions of said treaty, purposes to send its agents at once among the sufferers by the recent floods, with a view to the ameliorating of their condition so far as can be done by human aid and the means at hand will permit. Contributions are urgently solicited.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/reverend-abraham-de-sola-scholar-extraordinaire/2010/12/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: