Photo Credit: Israel Mizrahi

Rabbi David Hazan (d. 1748) was a noted rabbi and kabbalist, author of several books and founder of a prominent Hebrew printing press in Izmir (Smyrna), Turkey. This week I was able to obtain one of the books he authored, titled David Bametzudah (translated as “David in the Fortress”), being a commentary on Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) and printed in Salonica, Greece in 1748. The title page tells of the interesting background to the writing of this work and the travails of the author that led to it.

From the title page and introduction:

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“The grace of G-d I will mention, the praises of G-d on all that he has bequeathed me. While I was visiting the city of Vienna, being that it is their custom to require passports of every visitor, I had in my possession an authentic passport. An evil man slandered to the government about someone with the name David that he was a spy. Despite our father’s names being different they accused me of being a spy and locked me in a prison on the holiday of Pesach. Being that I was of ill health, the Jewish community sent a doctor to request that I be sent to a hospital under surveillance. May G-d repay them for their kindness, they instructed the doctor to care for me and paid for all the expenses. I was there from Pesach until Shavuot. I requested from the community leaders to send me the Medrash Shmuel on Pirkei Avot and Ein Yaakov (the Aggadic portions of the Talmud), and within a short time I had written this commentary on Pirkei Avot. The very day that I completed the writing of this work, I received a pardon and was released….”

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Israel Mizrahi is the owner of Mizrahi Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY, and JudaicaUsed.com. He can be reached at JudaicaUsed@gmail.com.