The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Commenting on the Hebrew Dante: How to Read Hebrew Poetry in Sixteenth Century Italy

The popularity of Dante’s divina commedia within the Jewish communities in Italy resulted in a number of works that adopted and reworked Dante’s masterpiece. Moshe da Rieti’s Miqdash Me`at is one of them. This 14th century poet took Dante as a model and through his poetic work conflated Jewish history and Jewish learning with contemporary discussions of philosophy and its role in Judaism. Similar to Dante’s commedia, Rieti’s text was subject to exegesis and interpretation which found its way into a commentary written in the 16th century. As part of the project currently undertaken in Frankfurt and Paris on Moshe da Rieti’s Miqdash Me`at, the lecture will present first results of the analysis of the manuscript transmission and the scope of this commentary. The anonymous commentator used various exegetical strategies in order to deal with the poetic text. He discusses textual problems, gives references to biblical, rabbinic and contemporary sources and expounds the allegories and metaphors that permeate Rieti’s poetry. The commentary also provides an insight into the scholarly discourse held in the 16th century on Judaism, philosophy and mysticism. A view into the transmission of the commentary shows the relevance and the role Rieti’s work was assigned within the Jewish library of 16th and 17th century Italy.