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Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania

Miguel de Barrios and the Amsterdam Sephardic Community Author(s): Kenneth R. Scholberg Reviewed work(s): Source: The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 53, No. 2 (Oct., 1962), pp. 120-159 Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 29/09/2012 10:34
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Ohio State University BY KENNETHR. SCHOLBERG, and tolerant city of Amsterdam was in THE BEAUTIFUL the seventeenth century the veritable second Jerusalem for the unfortunate and persecuted Marranos of the Iberian Peninsula. The Sephardic settlement that was founded there some time around the close of the sixteenth century grew rapidly and became one of the wealthiest as well as the most cultured Jewish centers in Europe. I Among the people who were attracted to the Dutch city by the opportunity to practice their religion openly was Miguel, alias Daniel Levi, de Barrios, a native of the little town of Montilla in the province of Cordoba, Spain. Barrios led a checkered life, fairly typical of the secret Judaizers who found it expedient to leave their native country, although he was probably plagued more than most both by poverty and misfortune and by his own volatile temperament. Born in i635, he lived in Italy for a short period and then, in i66o, traveled to the West Indies, where his first wife, Deborah Vaez, died. He returned at once to Europe, accepted a commission in the Spanish army and served as captain in Brussels until I674. He married Abigail de Pina of Amsterdam in I662. His best known works, Flor de A polo (I665) and Coro de las Musas (I672), were published in Brussels, as were three plays, Pedir Favor al Contrario, El Canto junto al Encanto and El Espaiol
1 The colony produced a number of scholars and rabbis of note, among them Menasseh ben Israel, the prime mover of the resettlement of the Jews in England. It also withstood some severe shocks, the scepticism of Uriel Acosta and the excommunication of Benedict Spinoza, and even weathered the mad fever of messianic hope caused by the Sabbatai Zevi affair. In the last decades of the century the community seemed to have settied down to a somewhat more placid, although no less intensely Jewish, existence.



de Oran. Around I674 Barrios renounced his commission and from that year until his death in February, I70I he lived openly in Amsterdam as a professing Jew, using the name Daniel Levi de Barrios, although he continued also to use his full Spanish name, as well as his military title. 2 During his residence in Amsterdam the poet managed to pour forth large quantities of verse and prose in his native Spanish tongue. H-e continued to write panegyrics to all the royalty, nobility and powerful Christians he thought might assist him financially, as he had previously done in Brussels. These are, for the most part, of little interest, either as literature or history. However, he also directed his talents into other channels. On the one hand he produced some religious poems, both original and translations from Hebrew, which, because of their sincerity of feeling and elegance of expression, may be compared favorably with his best productions in Brussels, although they are as yet virtually unknown. On the other hand, a considerable body of his work was concerned with the life of the Amsterdam Sephardic community. He wrote about the early history and founding of the group (his facts and, especially, his dates for events before his own time have to be treated with considerable caution), he described the communal government and the many organizations that existed in his time and he wrote about his wealthy, powerful, learned and talented friends, acquaintances and hoped-for protectors. His writings provide the fullest contemporary account of life in the Spanish-Portuguese Jewish community in Amsterdam in the i68o's. The greatest obstacle to an appreciation of Barrios' historic worth is caused by
2 The life of Barrios has been dealt with by Meyer Kayserling, "Une Histoire de la Litterature Juive de Daniel Levi de Barrios," in

Revue des Etudes Juives (I889), Vol. i8, pp. 276-28i, and in his Sephardim: Romanische Poesien der Juden in Spanien (Leipzig, i859), pp.
265 ff.; by Henry V. Besso, Dramatic Literature of the Sephardic Jews

of Amsterdam in the XVIIth and XVIIIth Centuries (New York, 1947), pp. 73-75; and in Encyclopaedia Sephardica Neerlandica (Amsterdam, Deel I, pp. 48-50. 5709),



his diffuseness. The material of interest is scattered, interspersed with irrelevant subjects and quite unordered. Moreover, copies of his works are not too numerous. What follows is an attempt to make more accessible the information that Miguel de Barrios set down about the milieu in which he lived for the last twenty-six years of his life. 3 The center of the community was, of course, the synagogue. The congregation of Talmud Torah, which had been formed by the unification of the three existing synagogues of Beth Ja'acob, Neveh Shalom and Beth Israel on April 3, I639, outgrew its quarters 4 and in I670 plans were made for the construction of a new building. 5 The political government, as Barrios calls it, was urged on to this course by the zeal and persuasion of Ishac de Pinto, and the people were incited to support the construction by the eloquent sermon which the Haham Ishac Aboab preached on November 23, I670. With the consent of the magistrates of the city and after promises of funds had been forthcoming from the community, building got under way on April I7, I67I. Because of their generous donations of money, the honor of laying the four corner-stones went to Mosseh Curiel, Joseph Israel Nunfiez, Imanuel de Pinto and David de Pinto. The latter's contribution, for example, was 500 florins. Construction was interrupted by the war which Louis XIV of France waged against the United Provinces, but with the return of peace work progressed and the new synagogue was inaugurated on Shabbat nahamu in the year I675. 6 Barrios says that there appeared
3 Research on Miguel de Barrios was made possible by Grant No. 2473 of the Penrose Fund of the American Philosophical Society. 4 According to Cecil Roth, A Life of Menasseh ben Israel (Philadelphia, 1934), p. 49, the synagogue of Beth Israel had been retained as the place of worship for the entire community. 5 Barrios discussed the construction of the new temple in the Triunmpho del Govierno Popular (n.p.n.d.), pp. 539-545. Unless otherwise noted, references to this opuscular collection are always based on copy i9G12 in the Rosenthal Library in Amsterdam, which has a pagination inr pencil. Abbreviated hereafter as TGP. 6 The wardens of the community were then Ishac Levi Ximenes,



in print a collection of the sermons that were delivered on the occasion of the opening of the synagogue and on subsequent sabbaths by Ishac Aboab, Selomoh de Olivera, Ishac Sacuto, Ishac Neto, Eliahu Lopez and Doctor David Sarphati. I In addition a copper engraving was made of the divine house. 8 Barrios himself wrote a description of this world famous Jewish center; the passages, given below in translation, are representative of the high-flown, baroque tendencies of the literature of the community, which reflected current practices in the literature of the Hispanic Peninsula. The conceptual approach, it should be pointed out, depends on the fact that the Spanish word nave of tlhe original means both "nave, aisle" and "ship", and allows for a series of word-plays. To this basically Spanish style Barrios adds at the conclusion a feature from the symbolical Kabbalah, namely, the explanation of hidden meanings according to the rules of the Gematria, an exposition based on the numerical value of each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. His description of the synagogue follows. On the south it is separated from the synagogue of the Polish and German Jews by a branch of the River Amstel; on the west it faces the opulent Casa de los lazaros (hospice for the poor); on the north it opens upon the large street of the Jewish district; and on the east it touches the site of the houses that are on another branch of the Amstel River.
president, Mosseh Curiel, David de Pinto, Abraham Jessurun Espinosa, Mosseh Pereira, Joseph de Azevedo and Abraham Zagate, the gabay. The Beth Din had as its members Ishac Aboab, Mosseh Raphael de Aguilar and Mordojay de Castro. Ishac de Pinto was the treasurer of the building fund and his deputies were Samuel Vas, David Salom de Azevedo, Abraham de Vega, Jacob Osorio, Jacob Israel Pereira and Ishac Henriques Cuitifno (TGP, p. 545). I The sermons were edited and published by David de Castro Tartaz, Amsterdam, I675. 8 This is evidently a reference to the engraving by Romeyn de Hooghe, with laudatory poems in several languages, including Spanish verses by Barrios. It is still on display in the offices of the PortugeesIsraelietische Gemeente te Amsterdam,





It is very spacious and well lighted, with three inner doors which open on the court yard and three outer doors which lead to three streets on the west, south and north, corresponding to the three inner doors. Through the seventh door, an inner one to the east, the devout Jewish women go up to two internal lofts or galleries of the sacred palace, which with lattices allow them to view the books of devout orations and to hear the preacher and the Hazan or Cantor.... To the west is the general exterior door and the interior one, through which the congregation enters the court yard and the temple, morning, afternoon and at night-fall for saying their accustomed prayers... The middle vault is supported on four great alabastrine pillars, and the two outer ones are canopies for the two galleries, raised on twelve marble columns, which serve with their isolated seats the devout Hebrew womnen. The synagogal nave (= ship) has as a prow to the east the costly hechal, depository of the five books of Moses in different and perfect examples, garbed with rich cloths and crowned with precious metal. As a main mast stands the valuable Teba or pulpit, where its learned captain preaches with the renown of Haham, and its two pilots pray under the term Hazanim, with their faces to the east, guiding their assembled seamen in their holy orations. The stern of this great ship is a chancel before the west inner door; and on the side within the north inner door, which is always closed, rises the high seat of the seven vigilant wardens, with a railing which covers half of their bodies. At its sides are the steps by which they mount to their seats. At its base sit two ministers, who are called shammashim, to be sent to the quarters that occasion demands in the good governing of the divine ship, which is illuminated with the light of eight hundred candles in diverse candelabra, being I30 feet long, ioo wide and 70 high. The fourteen Its portholes are seventy glass windows....



western windows represent the bountiful hand of the eternal Creator, who maintains His chosen people with plenty of sustenance in the desert of expulsions, because the word yad, which is interpreted "hand", equals fourteen, and in Chapter 59 Isaiah says: "Behold the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save." The number thirteen is devised in the Hebrew computation from the letters that mean "one" and "love", and the thirteen windows on each of the sides of the synagogue symbolize, God in His undivided power and in the love which He has ab eternofor Israel.... The twelve eastern windows, on the wall which on its innerside treasuresthe sacredbooks, represent the twelve angelic guardians of the twelve tribes; and the two high skylights to the west and the east denote the two letters with which is formed the abbrevation Yah of the holy ineffable name.... In the court yard to the west, frequented by the Hebrew familieswho come to prayers, are found the seat of the political government, six schools, the two houses of the Hazanim or
Cantors, and that of the watchman. 9 Such was and, disregarding minor alterations, is even today the synagogue of the Portuguese-Spanish-Jewish Community of Amsterdam. 10 The administration of community affairs was divided, according to Barrios, into four governments, political, rabbinical, charitable and academic. 11 The real power was in the hands of the political government, i.e. the members of the Malamad. These seven officials, six of whom were called parnasim and the seventh gabay, or treasurer, held office for a year and received no pay for their services. Elections
9 TGP, pp. 546-550. 10 It was only because the German conquerors intended to convert it to an anti-Jewish museum that this venerable synagogue escaped the destruction that befell Amsterdam's other Jewish houses of worship in the Second World War. 11 Details about the governmental establishment are in TGP,

PP. 550-555-



were held twice yearly; three parnasim were chosen on Rosh Hashanah and three others and the gabay were elected on Shabbat haGadol. 12 The parnasim chose their own chairman and the post changed hands every two months. As the convocation of the Sanhedrin, the Mahamad sat in a semicircle when it met as a tribunal. The political government exercised great control over the internal affairs of the community and specifically had authority over the rabbinical government in the synagogue and treasury. One of the powers that they wielded was the censorship of new publications. Barrios himself had felt this power, for in a letter dated (in another hand) Shebat IO, 5439 (January 23, I679) he complained that publication of two of his works had been held up for two years and that it was causing him great hardship. 13 The government also named the administrators of the more important charitable organizations, such as the brotherhoods of Etz Haim and Bikur Holim, 14 and appointed two deputies to represent the community in cases before the Dutch authorities of the city. 15 The rabbinical government consisted of three sages with mastery of the Din Torah whose function was to guide the faithful in religious matters. Barrios thought that their authority was definitely less than that of the secular arm of government. Charity was handled by ten organizations, each with its own administrators. Under the heading of
12 Barrios says nothing as to what members of the community constituted the electorate, but it was probably limited to those who paid a fixed amount of taxes, as was the case in the community of Venice. (See Roth, V/enice,Philadelphia, 1930, p. 128). 13 The letter was published by J. S. da Silva Rosa, "Een Eigenhandige Brief van Daniel Levi de Barrios," in Festskrift i Anledning af Prof. David Simonsen... (Kobenhavn, 1923), pp. io6-iii. 14 For the Hebrew names of Amsterdam organizations I have stayed close to the transliteration used by Barrios himself. 15 At the time Barrios was writing, I684, the representatives were two of the most important members of the community, Ishac Nidfiez Belmonte, alias Manuel de Belmonte, resident minister in the Low Countries for his Catholic Majesty the King of Spain, and Geronimo Nuniez de Acosta, agent of the King of Portugal.



"academic government" the poet grouped the school of Torah Or, that of the Pinto family, Meirat Yenaim and Tipheret Bahurim. In addition to these fourteen charitable and learned societies there were the very important Hermandad

de las Hutrfanas and the yeshiva entitled Keter Torah.16

These divisions, charitable and academic, can be considered functions of government in the sense that they attended important and necessary matters in the social, rather than political, life of the community. The number of synagogue members, we are told, reached more than four thousand. 17 The synagogue treasury was made up of the cash resulting from "voluntary promises, forced taxes, legacies, duties on meat, returns on stocks in the East and West Indies Companies, the sale of graves and gifts offered on the Holidays." 18 The whole amounted each year to an income of more than 42,000 florins and was distributed by the gabay, with the agreement of the other members of the Mahamad, through seven main agencies. The first, called simply the zedaca 'charity', with a principal of over 30,000 florins, provided alms for the sustenance of the general poor and took care of the salaries of the doctors, surgeons, bloodletters and apothecaries who attended the needy ill. Also from this fund were paid the salaries of the two beadles or shammashim. The second outlay of money was to provide for the expenses incurred in the upkeep and repair of the synagogue building. The third, designated like the congregation itself, Talmud Torah, maintained the school system of the same name and provided the salaries of the Hahamim, Iazanim and Rabbanim. The fourth fund was for the confraternity of Bikyr Holim. The four agencies together distributed a little more than 34,000 florins per year. The
TGP, pp. 550-551. This seems like an accurate figure; about the middle of the century, Menasseh ben Israel in his Humble Addresses to Cromwell had written that there were no less than 400 Jewish families in Amsterdam, and the number of people there was constantly increasing. 18 TGP, p. 551.
16 17



fifth agency was called Etz Haim 'Tree of Life' and provided help for needy students of the Talmud. The sixth disbursed 8oo florins annually to the people of Jerusalem and the seventh provided more than 300 florins for the redemption of captives. The first three agencies were administered directly by the members of the political government. Bikur Holim and Etz Haim each had six administrators, appointed by the government, who handled their affairs. The lesser agencies. Tierra Santa 'Holy Land' and Captivos, were each administered by one appointee of the Mahamad. In addition to these seven agencies there was also the charity of Abodad-hesed, which formerly had been distributed among the poor of the German and Polish congregation, but in I684 was given to the needy of the Sephardic community itself. The aid was limited to 6o florins a month and was handled by the person who had served the previous year as synagogue treasurer. The Vesterta de los Talmidim, as the name indicates, provided clothing for poor students. Its administrator was also chosen by the political government. Finally, there was the Monte de Piedad or public pawnshop which loaned money without interest. 19 This confraternity had had its beginnings in the Montes de Piedad, existent as early as i625, of the three original synagogues. When the latter united in I639, so did the pawnshops. In I684 the institution was supported by more than 700 members. Barrios indicates that the brotherhood was also called Honen Dalim, but if so, it should not be confused with the other group of that name which he listed as the fourth charitable academy. 20 Study and learning have always been important features of the Jewish religion and of Jewish life and in this respect
19 It seems anomalous that this institution, which originated in the Middle Ages in the attempt of the church to do away with the necessity should appear for its adherents to deal with Jewish money-lenders, under the same name in the Amsterdam community. The explanation, of course, is that it was merely taking over a name already familiar to it in Spain and Italy. 20 TGP, pp- 449-450.




the Amsterdam community shone brilliantly in the seventeenth century. It is known that a school system was functioning as early as i6i6, 21 although Barrios considered it only from the time of the consolidation of the three congregations. Then the school was set up in seven classes. In the first the students learned the Hebrew alphabet and began their readings in the prayer book and primer. In the second they were taught to read the Pentateuch with its cantillation. In the third class they learned to translate the Pentateuch from Hebrew into Spanish. They were taught translation of the Prophets and Hagiographa in the fourth. In the fifth class the students had primary lessons in the Law. They were given instruction in the Gemara and in Hebrew grammar, composition, rhetoric and poetry in the sixth class. At the highest level they continued with the study of the Gemara, the commentaries of Rashi and the Tosephot. Such was the organization in I639. 22 Sometime before I684 the number of classes was reduced to six, the previous fourth and fifth having been consolidated into one. 23 The upper divisions of this Talmud Torah are best known under the name of Etz Haim, which was also the name of the hermandad that had as its function the support of needy students. This organization had been founded by Saul Levi Morteira and the poet Rehuel Jesurun, alias Pablo de Pina, in I637. 24 As already stated, the fifth division of the treasury was devoted to the needs of Etz Haim. Its administrators were chosen by the
Roth, Menasseh ben Israel, p. 26. TGP, pp. 63-64. In I639 the teachers of the seven classes were, in ascending order, Rabbi Mordojay de Castro, Rabbi Joseph Pharo, Rabbi Jacob G6mez, Hazan Abraham Baruch, Rabbi Selomoh Salom, Haham Ishac Aboab and Haham Saul Levi Morteira. When Aboab went to Brazil in I642 Menasseh ben Israel became the teacher of the sixth class. 23 TGP, p. 65. In I684 the teachers were Rabbi Samuel Abrabanel, Rabbi Jehosua Cohen Pharo, Rabbi Daniel Belillos, Rabbi Joseph Franco, Haham Selomoh de Olivera and Haham Jacob Sasportas. 24 Barrios gives the history of the brotherhood in a playlet, "Arbo]

de las Vidas,"

in TGP, pp. 594-630.



gentlemen of the Mahamad who made the appointments each year at Shavuothl. 25 Membership in the brotherhood was open to anyone who wished to help the cause of scholarship. The only requirement was an entrance fee of six florins and whatever charitable donations the person wanted to make. The wealth of the organization amounted to over 30,000 florins. 26 The entrance fees, together with legacies that were left by deceased members, served to increase the basic investment fund. The interest on this money and the other gifts that members made were applied to the maintenance of students on the advanced level who needed and deserved help, as proven by their ability. Each year the treasurer distributed about 2,000 florins for this worthy cause. In addition to the Talmud Toralh-EtzHlaim, which in truth could be called a public school system, there existed some five private or semi-private academies devoted to learning. These were more in the nature of adult discussion groups, or at least, somewhat affiliated with them. Participating membership was more limited, but intellectual leaders of the community were included. The first was the academy named Keter Torah 'Crown of the Law'. 27 Like so many other groups, it had been founded, Barrios says, by Saul Levi Morteira, the famous head of the Kalhal Kadosh. There was a mantenedor or leader of the discussion, together with the learned participants who "competed" against him and against each other. 28 Keter Torah met in the home of Ishac Penso
25 In I684 the treasurer was Abraham Telles and the other administrators were Jacob Telles de Acosta, Jacob Prieto Henriquez, Abraham del Soto, Jacob Belmonte and Benjamin Espinosa Catela

florins; p. 552 says 34,000 florins. TGP, p. 593 says 32,000 Described in TGP, pp. 341-356. 28 Famous members of Keter Torah, living and dead, were Ishac Naar, composer of a compendium of Dinim who went to Italy in i666 to become Haham in Leghorn; Benjamin Musaphia, commentator of the Jerusalem Talmud, who died in I675; Mosseh Raphael de Aguilar, author of a Hebrew grammar and teacher of the second class of Talmud Torah until his death; Haham Abraham Cohen Pimentel,

(TGP, p. 449).



until his death in I683; from then on it met in the home of his son, Abraham Penso, who devoted two hours every day to religious study. 29 The second yeshiva or academy was Torah Or. 30 Founded twenty-seven years previously in I656 by Efraim Bueno and Abraham Pereira it had in Barrios' day only fifteen members. Its rosh was Ishac Aboab, who was also the "worthy father of the Beth Din, Hahsam of the Kahal Kadosh and doctrinal president of the Academy of the Pintos." 31 The members of Torah Or met for half an hour every day to study Maimonides and then engaged upon hour long discussions on festive occasions and holidays. The best known of these scholarly groups is undoubtedly the "Academy of the Pintos." It had been founded by the brothers Abraham and David de Pinto in Rotterdam in I650. After the death of Abraham, his sons Ishac and Jacob transferred the yeshiva to Amsterdam in I669. 32 In I683 the academy had eleven members, presided over by Ishac Aboab. Simon Levi Caniso, the only son of the author, was a member of this group. Another was Rabbi Joseph bar Eliezer, a Polish Jew and one of the very few non-Sephardim mentioned as having any connection with the Spanish-Jewish community. The academicians met an hour every day for the study of
author of Minhat Cohen and later a resident of Hamburg; Samuel de Caceres, compiler of Hebrew calendars which were republished many times; and Selomoh de Olivera, the successor of Mosseh de Aguilar in the second class of the school. TGP, p. 343. 29 TGP, p. 34930


in TGP, pp. 357-392.

TGP, p. 376. An interesting detail of Barrios' description of the group, written in the form of a play and called a "Mosaic auto," is that it incorporates a number of sonnets written by the members. The group was probably flattered to have its efforts printed. Those who contributed Spanish poems were Doctor Abraham Michael Cardoso, Abraham de Paiva, Jacob Israel Moreno and Samuel Levi Rodrigues. Abraham Lopez Arias supplied a Hebrew acrostic poem. 32 The widespread fame of the family is indicated by the fact that in I678 Ishac Cardoso of Verona dedicated his Excelencias de los Hebreos to Jacob de Pinto.




sacred literature and on Sabbath afternoons gathered to debate propositions that had been set forth the previous day. Outstanding in the discussions, we are told, were Doctor Ishac Cohen de Lara and Ishac de Leon Crato. 3 Other than the usual listing of names of the competidores, little definite information is given about Tipheret Bahurim, the fourth academy. Barrios says that the name means Hermosura de mozos 'Beauty of Youth' and that the preceptor was Halam Jacob Sasportas. It was evidently a study group composed of some of the younger members of the community.34 On one occasion, at least, the author addressed them on the subject of divine mercy. 35 Meirat Yenaim 'Light to the Eyes' was begun in I643. Abraham Senior Coronel and Ishac Serug (a descendant of the famous Rabbi ben Serug of Spain) were the teachers of the thirteen (or fourteen, both figures are used) members and were paid for their

services. 31
The primary function of the organizations mentioned above was that of study, although they did not neglect charity. The ten brotherhoods were formed for the specific purpose of carrying out various charitable acts, although scholarly interests were also a part of their program. A bi Yetomim 'Father of Orphans' dated from July 7, i648. 37 In I639 Mosseh Belmonte had founded the society of Gemilut Hassadim, with forty-two members. He died in I647 and the following year the synagogue government decided to take over its direction. Since this was not agreeable to its members they withdrew and, under the leadership of Jehosua David del Soto, David Naamias Torres and others, founded the
TGP, pp. 393-396. TGP, p. 87. 35 Barrios, Metros Nobles (COPY2FIoa of Montezinos Library. Amsterdam), pp. 203 ff. 36 TGP, pp. 397-409, has a prose description of the academy; pp. 412-436 give a poetic praise of the members in the form of a play. 37 The description of A bi Yetomim, divided into a poem and 6 prose chapters, is in TGP, pp. 65-80.
3 34



new brotherhood. In the i68o's Abi Yetomimhad I25 members, each of whom contributed twenty florins upon entering the confraternity. Gifts and legacies were also made, so that the wealth of the group amounted to some IO,OOO florins. Society business was handled by six administrators and a treasurer. The money was used to board out orphans and provide them with an education. The society supported the orphan for three years, giving him religious training and providing him with food and buying him a suit of clothing each year; it also paid for his medical care. At the end of the three years if he no longer needed the protection of the brotherhood and could follow a trade of his choice he left the institution. Otherwise he received another three years of instruction. 38 The brotherhood offered other forms of help; even Barrios himself was one of the recipients of its charity. 39 If a brother or sister died, the other members accompanied the body to the cemetery and offered prayers for the repose of the departed. Some members met every night to study theological problems and on Saturdays held a discussion group in which they gave answers to a question that had previously been propounded. Since it is a pious duty of Jews to accompany a body to the cemetery, Amsterdam, like other Jewish communities, had its Hebrat Gemilut Hassadim 'Society for the Performance of Charitable Acts.' In his description of this organization Barrios considers the history of the cemetery at Ouderkerk. 40 Formerly the deceased of the Amsterdam Jewish Community were buried in the cemetery of "Grutencamp" i.e. Groede. The charity of burying the dead dated from I6o2
38 Studious orphans who had been helped by A bi Yetomim were Ishac Neto, who became Hahamnin Surinam; Eliahu Lopez, who was teaching in Barbados; Joseph Franco Serrano, who became a rabbi; and Selomoh Marques, who occupied the post of hazan at the Hague. (TGP, pp. 73-74.)


TGP, p. 67.

TGP, pp. 479-486.


see also the description of Bikur Holim, pp.



and the first person to be buried there was Garcia Pimentel, identified as the brother of a Manuel Pimentel. On Jyar I3, 5374 (April 22, I6I4) the two congregations of Beth Ja'acob and Nevek Shalom signed an agreement for the purchase of the Beth Haim at Ouderkerk, one and a half leagues from Amsterdam. Four years later, when Beth Israel was founded, it joined the other synagogues in the cemetery agreement and in I6I9 Jacob Barux began keeping a record of those interred. Originally poor men did the work of burying the dead as a means of livelihood, but in I639 Mosseh Belmonte founded Gemilut Hassadim, completing its formation in I645. In order not to be subject to the Sehores of the Mahamad the brotherhood annually chose their own administrators to govern their affairs. Belmonte's death served as a pretext for the political government to take over control, and they published an edict to this effect on July 7, i648 from the pulpit of the temple. The original members withdrew and the government replaced them with those who "obedient to its orders have each year the administrators whom the Gentlemen of the Mahamad choose on the Paschal day." 41 Actually there were several functionaries; for Gemilut Hassadim itself there were two administrators and a treasurer, and there were separate administrators for the cemetery and for the grave diggers. 42 Gemilut Hassadim had a dual function. The first duty, of course, was to provide burial service. It was the duty of the administrador de sepultureros to draw by lot the names of five members to do the work of digging the grave. If one of the brothers of this part of the society died, twenty-five fellow members accompanied his body to its resting place. It rested upon the administrator of the cemetery to give permission for a burial, to keep the records and to take care of the graves. There was also a hired watchman to
TGP, p. I72. In I683 the wardens of Gemilut Hassadim were Abraham de Jacob Levi and Samuel Curiel, and the treasurer was Abenacar Pimentel. Menasseh Gaon was administrator of the cemetery and Jacob Mendes de Silva was administrator of the gravediggers (TGP, p. I69).
42 41



guard the burial places against vandalism and defilement. In I683 this part of Gemilut Hassadim had some seventy living and sixty-three deceased members. The other part of the society, devoted to the encouragement of study, was started in I665. The two sections had a combined membership of a hundred and twenty-five. Each brother gave a monthly or yearly gift, and the society was the recipient of seventeen legacies. Since I674 the rosh had been the famous scholar Selomoh de Olivera. In the yeshiva which the group supported, the students studied the Pentateuch for the first four years, sacred history for the next four and rabbinical decisions in the ninth year. The members of the scholarly division of Gemilut Hassadim met for an hour each day. On the first three days of the week they studied the Gemara and devoted the other three days to Maimonides. On Sabbaths and Holidays they held the usual discussion sessions, which seem to have played such an important part in the life of the brotherhoods. In their case, one member proposed a problem, another argued it and the rosh delivered the decision.43 Temime Darex (Los perfectos de carrera or 'The Perfect of the Way') was founded in I665 as a mutual-aid society. 4 It gave its sick members the services of a doctor and medicines, and provided them with sustenance during convalescence. If a member died, his associates accompanied his body in the funeral and said the Hashcaba for his repose. The academic brothers gathered daily for an hour of study; on Sunday and Monday they listened to the discourse of a member of the Beth Din and on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday they participated in the study of the Talmud. In discussions on Sabbaths and Holidays,while considering some recondite point of the Law they found an opportunity
TGP, pp. i83-I92. Its first rosh was Ishac Neto, who later went to Surinam, and the preacher was Eliahu Lopez, later Haham in Barbados. Both were graduates of Abi Yetomim. The governors of Temime Darex in I864 were David Yehuda Leon, Ishac Carrillo, Aaron Curiel, Jacob Franco Diego and Abraham de Jacob Bueno de Mesquita.



to display not only their scholarship but also their agudeza, i.e. their wit or sharpness. 4 Honen Dalim (Apiada al pobre or 'He who pities the poor') was composed of seventy male and ninety female members who assisted the sick, and received their orders from the gabay.46 The society also made a weekly distribution of bread to widows. As in the other groups, the body of a member who died was accompanied to the Beth Haim, and the rosh offered the prayers for his memory on the month and year of his death. The administrators of Honen Dalim were chosen at bi-annual elections. 4 The academic family met in the home of the widow Abigail Dias de Fonseca, where on the first of each month they discussed some biblical commentary and on Saturdays and Pesach gathered to listen to a debate in which six of the most eloquent members and the preceptor took part.48 Maskil el Dal 'Enlightener of the Poor' was the name of two different organizations, or more accurately, of one brotherhood which became divided.49 The original Maskil el Dal had been started by thirty people of the community in i673, with Daniel Belillos, teacher of the fourth class of Talmud Torah, as their rosh. The emblem of the brotherhood was a lighted torch with two tablets and its motto the verse "Candela encomendanza y Ley Luz." The society paid salaries to three people, the rosh, the teniente de rosh 'teacher's assistant' and
TGP, pp. 193-208. Honen Dalim was founded in I667 by a group of discontented persons who broke away from Temime Darex. Its first preceptor was the Haham Josiahu Pardo, who in I674 went to America to become the first rabbi of Willemstad in Cura9ao. He was succeeded in the post by Selomoh de Olivera. 47 On Rosh Hashanah of 5443 Jacob Lopes Salzedo and Eliahu Gaon were elected to succeed Joseph Lobo and Abraham Gabay Mendes, and on the following Shabbat haGadol Ishac Bueno de Mora and Ishac Abenacar were replaced by Uri Levi and Ishac Abrabanel, while Jacob Lopez Albin took the place of Benjamin Jessurun Lobo as gabay.

48 49

TGP, pp.


The original Maskil el Dal and the part that continued under ]Belillos are described in TGP, pp. 245-275.



the shammash. According to Barrios, the society had some I25 brothers and i5o sisters, but this number probably included all members, living and dead. 50 Eight years after its founding, discord broke out and the society split into two factions. The cause of the disunity is not stated, but it may have been concerned with their meeting place. Barrios says that he tried to reconcile the factions but failed, and that since the break, the yeshiva (that is, the part under Belillos) no longer met at private homes, but in a rented hall. The other group, under the guidance of Daniel Jesurun, continued to meet in the homes of its members. The Maskil el Dal of which Belillos continued to be the preceptor had four administrators, a treasurer and an assistant treasurer. Two of the administrators were chosen on Rosh Hashanahl; the other officers were elected on the seventh day of Passover. The society furnished a doctor, and provided medicine and even food for a member who fell sick and was in need. 51 If a member died, the organization attended to the funeral ceremonies. The sexton and fourteen brothers, chosen by lot by the gabay, accompanied the coffin and the rosh or his lieutenant recited the service. The treasurer also named ten members to offer prayers for the departed and the rosh recited the memorial prayers every Sabbath and Holiday during the first year after his demise. The brotherhood received two types of gifts. One was used to increase the treasury fund; the other was applied directly to eleemosynary purposes.
50 Among the latter he included his father, Jacob de Abraham Levi de Barrios, his uncle, David Coen de Sosa, and his first wife, Debora (TGP, p. 274). Since none of them had ever lived in Amsterdam it is probable that they were members in the sense that their names were listed among those for whom memorial prayers were regularly said. 51 In I683 the administrators were Ishac Heskiahu Navarro, Abraham de los Rios, David Drago and Selomoh Curiel. Jacob Muno6n was treasurer and was aided by Jacob Gomez Neto. The doctors of Maskil el Dal were Ishac de Rocamora, Abraham Frois, Daniel Semah Aboab and Mosseh Orobio de Castro. Samuel de Benavente and Jacob Rodriguez Mota were the surgeons and the druggist was Neptali Asser (TGP, p. 257).



One of the latter was providing help to destitute Jewish refugees from Poland who found their way to Amsterdam. The society had the customary Sabbath discussion group, under the guidance of Belillos or his lieutenant, Mosseh Moreno Henriquez. Barrios' son, Simon Levi Caniso, was also a member of this group. The development of the second Maskil el Dal and its charitable purpose were identical with those of the group just discussed. 52 Members contributed monthly dues, from which were paid the salaries of the preceptor and the sexton. They also gave books to the society's library. The money was collected by the sexton and distributed by the treasurer with the advice of the administrators. The person who became sick and needed aid had to submit a petition in order to receive help. In I682 Abraham de Fonseca and others set up the colegio, or school, of Maskil el Dal with Daniel Jessurun as the rosh yeshiva. The membership of the second Maskil el Dal was divided into hermanos politicos (not "brothers-in-law" as this normally means in Spanish, but rather "associate, or supporting members") and h,ermanos eruditos (those who took part in the discussions). The 'erudite brothers" -Barrios includes himself in the list-would meet for a half hour each Sunday and an hour each festive day to discuss and resolve a problem proposed by the youths who were being instructed by the rosh,.53 The remaining charitable academies of which Barrios wrote were Sahare Sedek, Keter Sem Tob, Resit Jokma and Baale Tesuba. He referred to them chiefly in a laudatory roll-call of the membership. Sah,are Sedek had as its preceptor Rabbi Joseph Franco Serrano, the teacher of the third class of the synagogue school and a Hebrew poet. 54 The academy
52 The directors were Eliahu Gaon, president, Abraham Levi, Samuel Semah and Jacob Gabay Isidro. Ishac Carrillo was the gabay and Daniel Lopez Arias the shammash. 53 The second Maskil el Dal is treated in a "Dialogo harmonico,"

TGP, pp. 277-3I2. 54 TGP, pp. 3I3-32I.



of Keter Sem Tob, called also by its Spanish name Corona de buena fama 'Crown of Good Fame', was a recently formed group, founded in I679 by Abraham Orobio de Castro and other youths. The twenty young men and seventeen girls who made up the membership were presided over by David Nunfies Torres in the hour long Sabbath meditation. They elected two wardens and a treasurer. The specific type of charity they maintained is not mentioned; we are told only that they were youthful religious persons who helped the poor. The author's son was a member of this group too. 55 Resit Jokma (Principio de sapiencia 'Beginning of Wisdom') was founded in i682 and was the youngest of the charity organizations. Like Temime Darex and others, it was a society to help its members in time of illness. And like the others it had a study group, with a discussion session on the Sabbath, presided over by Rabbi Ishac Meatob. 56 The members of Baale Tesuba (Dueitos de la Penitencia 'Masters of Penitence') performed the charity of burying paupers. The, thirty brothers were governed by two administrators and a treasurer. 57 The ten confraternities just described provided care for orphans, burial of the dead and aid to the sick. Probably there were other, similar organizations about which Barrios did not write. Those he did describe show in varying degree the great interest in religious study and debate that was characteristic of the community. Moreover, membership was not mutually exclusive. To take but one example; the brilliant young Simon Levi Caniso was a member of Maskil el Dal and of Keter Sem Tob as well as of the academic group that the Pinto family founded and supported. Not included in the above brotherhoods were two of the most important societies then in existence in the Amsterdam community. The hermandad of Bikur Holim was the oldest of the city's Sephardic organizations, having been inaugurated


TGP, pp. 323-338. TGP (British Museum copy, 4033aa43), p. i59. Pag. irregular. TGP (British Museum copy, 4033aa43), no page no.



on Kislev 24, 5370 (December20,

by eighteen members

Holim was the comof the Beth Ja'acob congregation. Bikmyr munity hospital organization and its first purpose was to visit the sick and supply medicines. It also set itself the task of washing and clothing the dead and accompanying mourners at funerals. It was this latter function that Barrios stressed in his description of the society. As previously stated, the fourth division of the synagogue treasury was devoted to Bikur Holim, whose administrators were appointed by the members of the Mahamad. 58Two of the six parnasim attended the mourners at funerals and also accompanied them to the synagogue on the following Sabbath. Each of the administrators took it upon himself, for a period of two months, to supply the first meal to the house of mourning. 59 The Hermandad de las Hitrfanas (better known by its Portuguese name of Santa comrpanhiade dotar orphas e donzellas) was the most venerable of the many charitable establishments. 60 It was founded on February I2, i6I5 by the Haham Joseph Pardo with twenty members, each of whom contributed I20 florins. By I683 the membership had grown to more than 4oo and the society had a wealth of more than 50,000 florins. Four wardens and three treasurers handled their affairs. 61 The income derived from the treasury fund was used to furnish dowries for girls of the Spanish-Portuguese Nation each year on the second day of Purim. The names
58 In i684 the ,arnasiYv were Mosseh de Daniel Pinto, Jacob de los Rios, Abraham Jessurun Henriquez, Simon Abrabanel Souza, Jacob Muno6n and Abraham Gomez Guti6rrez, who acted as treasurer. (TGP, p. 449).


Described in TGP (British Museum copy, 4033aa43), no pagina-

TGP, pp. 479-486.

61 In i683 the administrators were Ishac Mendes de Silva, Mosseh Pereira, Ishac de Mesa and Jacob Aboab Osorio, and the treasurers were Ishac de Prado, Ishac Belmonte and Ishac Penso. (TGP, British Museum copy, 4033aa43, no p.) In i684 Batrios listed Mordojay Franco Mendes as an administrator and said that his grandfather, also named Mordojay Franco Meildes, bad been one of the original 20 founders. (TGP, p. 459.)



of those receiving this favor were drawn by lot by children not over the age of seven. The amount of the dowry depended on the girl's situation in life and relation to a member of the society. Four degrees or classifications were recognized: (i) an orphan girl, relative of a member, (2) a girl with a living father, relative of a member, (3) an orphan girl and (4) a girl with a living father. 62 The largest dowry given was i,200 florins. The girl who was a relative of a member, but had a parent living received two hundred florins less and so on down. Usually to these dowries were added promises of money by private individuals, either from within the brotherhood or from Jewry in general. 63 The people of the Amsterdam community were a gregarious group and nothing pleased them more, apparently, than joining societies. Not only were there charitable organizations and learned circles for religious study; those with literary inclinations gathered together in poetic academies to read their creative efforts or discuss those of their fellow authors. Such a group was formed as early as I676 by don Manuel de Belmonte. Its name, Academia de los Sitibutdos ('Academy of the Thirsty' i.e. those thirsting after knowledge), was the same as that of an academy established in Leghorn about the same time. 64 Both, of course, followed the practices of the
62 According to the rules of the society, reproduced in Encyclopaedia Sephardica Neerlandica, Deel II, p. ii, it was necessary for a girl to have her name admitted to the drawing that "she be poor and need the help to get married, and that she confess the unity of the Lord of the World and recognize the truth of His most holy Law; that she be of our Hebrew Hispanic Nation, of good life and customs, without any trace of baseness." 63 Most likely this Santa Hermandad was set up on the model of the similar confraternity that had been established in Venice two years earlier (see Roth, Venice, p. 157). 64 Joseph Penso Vega, writing to Doctor Orobio de Castro from the Italian city on December I4, I676, said that his group had been in existence for a year. Thus it would appear to be the earlier of the two. See Barrios, "Respuesta panegirica a la carta que escribio Joseph Penso Vega..." in Mediar Estremos (Montezinos Library, vol. 2G35), PP. 79 ff.




literary circles of Madrid and other cities of the Hispanic Peninsula. The Amsterdam group had as an emblem the burning bush of Moses with the verse from Proverbs 20.27: "Es el alma candela del Sefior." for its motto. The judges of the poetic tournaments were the founder Belmonte, Doctor Ishac de Rocamora and Ishac Gomez de Sosa. Rocamora, a native of Valencia, had at one time been a member of the Dominican Order and had served as preacher to the Infanta Maria, later Empress of Austria. Gomez de Sosa, a nephew of Doctor Samuel Serra, enjoyed a certain amount of fame as a poet who wrote in Latin. Barrios himself was the mattetedor, or presiding officer, of the competitions, a position of which he was very proud. The aventureros, those who took the major part in the discussions, were Abraham Henrlques, Mosseh Rosa, Mosseh Dias and Abraham Gomez Silveira. 65 This earliest society must have been relatively short-lived, for in the beginning of I685 Manuel de Belmonte started another, called the Academia de los floridos (there is a double meaning here: floridos means 'flowery' and also 'select'). In his memoria of the same name 66 Barrios furnished a list of the officers and members, some forty in number. The judges were Belmonte, Doctor Ishac Orobio de Castro (alias don Balthasar Orobio) and Joseph Athias. Ishac Orobio de Castro had been at various times professor of medicine in Spain, doctor to the Duke of Medina Celi, professor at the University of Toulouse and physician and counsellor to the King of France. Joseph Athias was the son of the martyr Abraham Athias who was burned to deaht in an auto-da-fe at Cordoba on July 9, I667. In Amsterdam Joseph was a printer, famous especially for his editions of English bibles.
65 "Relacion de los Poetas" in TGP (Montezinos Library, vol 9E43), pp. 458-460. (Published by M. Kayserling in Revue des At?,des

Juives XVIII

(I889), pp. 276-289.)

"Academia de los Floridos. Memoria plausible de sus Juezes y Academicos" in Metros Nobles (Montezinos Library, copy 2FIoa),
Pp. 253-256.



The mantenedores were the author, his son Sim6n, a youth of twenty, Doctor Abraham Gutierez, the poet Mosseh Rosa and Manuel de Lara. The well known writer Joseph Penso Vega was the secretary of the Floridos. The post of fiscal or advocate went to Mosseh Orobio de Castro, the son of Doctor Ishac. The members were representative of the upper classes of Amsterdam Jewry; besides those named, some of the more famous were Geronimo Nunfiez, the agent of the King of Portugal, Joseph Nuniez Marchena, a businessman and patron of literature, his son Mosseh NunfiezMarchena, Francisco de Lis (alias Abraham Lopez Berahel), who acted as a maecenas to Barrios, for several of his works; Abraham Penso, the father of Joseph, famous for his charity, Mosseh Machado, the purveyor to the army, and Abraham Frois, a leading doctor. The emblem of the academy was an almond tree in bloom with the motto: "Fructum suum edet in tempore suo." Although the Amsterdam academies followed in the paths of the literary clubs of Madrid, they had their own characteristics. For one thing, women were not permitted in the Academia de los floridos. Penso Vega, in the fifth of the Discursos acade'micoswhich he wrote for the group, commented in humorous fashion that the ladies were excluded, for which he was grateful, because "these elegant Tullys, seeking the accustomed silence with which the benevolent audience is wont to favor them, would have difficulty finding silence, if there were women." 67 Moreover, while levity and witticisms abounded, there was also a marked tendency to discuss problems of a moral or religious import. Some of the weekly topics were: Does love outweigh vengeance? Which is the noblest of the senses? If man is born of woman, why did God create man first? If all the other senses anger God, why do the eyes always make payment with tears? Which is worse, a spendthrift or a miser? Which is preferable, poverty with children or riches
67 Joseph de la Vega, Discursos acadermicos, morales, rhetho'yicos, y sagrados. Que recito en la florida Academia de los Floridos (Amberes,


p. 89.





without them ? 68 Barrios wrote on these subjects, usually in verse. In the case of the debate about love and vengeance, for example, he defended the power of love. 69 Of course, the discussions were not always so weighty. A little dialogue, with music, between Cupid and Hymen was Barrios' way of treating the problem of "Which is more painful to a lover, seeing the lady who scorns hini or not seeing the one who loves him ?" It was produced before the academy and was dedicated to the younger Nu'fiez Marchena in the absence of his fiancee, Ribca Henrlquez Nufifez. 70 For another meeting Barrios wrote an Enigma del Principio, which was produced in honor of David B]3eno de Mesquita, who had recently been chosen Hjatan Bereshith. The enigma itself was a picture, together with a poetic explanation or guide, of "a rose in the mouth of a Hebrew and the head of the giant Goliath in the hand of David." Three members of the academy, Samuel Salom, Joseph Penso Vega and Samuel de Leon, undertook to clarify the meaning, which had to be worked out with suitably complicated explanations. The enigma meant Principio 'Beginning', standing for Bereshith, the first word in the Bible, because it was meant to honor the Hatan Bereshith. Since Penso Vega came closest to the meaning he was awarded a beaver hat as a prize. 71 Barrios, as one of the leading literary figures of the community, was the friend, and sometimes the opponent, of all the writers or those who aspired to be writers among Amsterdam's sephardim in the second half of the seventeenth century. Besides his descriptions of the poetic academies, he wrote a Relacio'n de los Poetas y Escritores de la Nacion Judayca Amstelodama 72 which gives much information on both earlier
acade'micos for the subjects discussed. Bellomonte de Helicona (Bruselas, I686), P. 347. 70 "Ansias in Alegrias o Pinturas Lucientes de de Epitalamio" Hymeneo, (n.p.n.d.), pp. 63-70. 71 "Enigma del Principio," in Estrella de Jacob (Amsterdam, I686). (Madrid, Bibl. Nac. copy, R5214.) No pagination. 72 "Relacion de los Poetas" in TGP (Montezinos Library, vol. 9E43), pp. 451-458. Referred to hereafter as "Relacion."

"8 See Penso Vega, Discursos



and contemporary writers. In addition, he makes numerous references to his literary compatriots in his voluminous writings. Some of his friendships dated from his earlier days in the Spanish army, when he was stationed in Brussels. It was customary for writers in the seventeenth century to contribute prefatory poems of praise to the works of their friends. Verses by Barrios may be found in such diverse works as Abraham Pereira's Espejo de la vanidad del mundo (Amsterdam 543I), a book of ethical advice, Joseph Penso Vega's Rumbos Peligrosos (Amberes, i683), a collection of novelettes, or in the edition of sermons composed and published by Abraham Gomez Silveira (Amsterdam, 5437). Often Barrios' contribution had greater value than as laudatory verse. For the Spanlish translation, by Doctor Alonso de Buena Maison, of Esquemeling's Piratas de Ame'rica (Colonia Agrippina, i68i) he furnished a geography in poetic style of the islands of the New World. He composed a verse description of Hungary for a book on the conquest of Buda that Antonio Pizarro de Oliveros wrote and dedicated to the Bishop of Salamanca. 73 The friendship of Barrios and Nicolas de Oliver y Fullana lasted over a number of years. As early as i672 the latter wrote an occasional piece for Coro de las musas, as well as a Latin poem to Barrios' patron, Francisco de Melo, the Portuguese ambassador to England. Barrios, in return, wrote several poems to or about Oliver, two of which dealt with the birth of his son and the death of his first wife, Juana. He called him "a great astrologer [sic] and the erudite author of a part of the Geographia Blaeuiana." 74 He gave more details about him in the later Relacion de los Poetas: Oliver y Fullana, whose Jewish name was Daniel Juda, was from the island of Majorca, had been a sergeant major in Catalonia
73 Barrios, "Triumpho Cesareo en la Descripcion universal de Panonia," in Antonio Pizarro de Oliveros, Cesareo Carro Triumphal (Amsterdam, I687), fols. 8r ff. 7 See Coro de las musas (Bruselas, i672), fol. 6v; p. 226.



and served as the "circumcised colonel" of the infantryin the wars against France in the Low Countries. 75 In the i68o's he held the position of cosmographer to the King of Spain. His second wife, Rebecca, alias dofia Isabel Correa, was well known in the literary life of Amsterdam, where she translated Giambattista Guarini's Pastor Fido from Italian into Spanish and, according to Barrios, was also the author of a volume of various poems. 76 Manuel de Pina was another friend of Barrios of long standing. In the Flor de Apolo and Coro de las musas the two exchanged ornate poetic compliments in the form of decimas, and Barrios called Pina an "excellent poet and musician." 77 In I656 Pina published a collection of verse in Portuguese and Spanish under the title of Juguetes de la nintezy travessuras del genio. 78 Barrios mentioned the work, although not by name, in the Relacion de los Poetas, where he also tells that Pina wrote a rara canciodnon the death of Haham Saul Levi

75 Oliver y Fullana must still have been maintaining relations with the Brussels military establishment in the I670's, for in I679 he published a Triumpho del Tuson, about the conferral of the Spanish order of the Tuson on two noblemen, at a ceremony which he witnessed in the Belgian city. Nothing in the work would indicate the author's Jewishness; on the contrary, it is conceived and expressed in terms of the utmost Catholic orthodoxy and the mass that was celebrated as part of the ceremony is described in detail. 76 77


pp. 456-457.

FPor de Apolo, fol. 6v; Coro de las musas, p. 505. 78 Although Kayserling, Sephardim, p. 254, stated that it was published in Lisbon, the only copy I have seen, that of the Bibl. Nac. of Madrid, gives no place of publication, stating only that it wvas written by Manuel de Pina, natural de Lisboa 'a native of Lisbon.' The fact that the work was dedicated to Geronimo Nlufiez de Acosta, Portuguese agent in Amsterdam, leads me to regard the United Provinces or Belgium as the country of publication. 79 "Relacion," p. 45I. This Portuguese funeral poem was published in Amsterdam under the name of Jacob de Pina. Two Portuguese and two Spanish poems by Jacob de Pina appear in the Elogios que zelosos dedicaron a la felice memoria de Abraham NP,iiezBernal (Amsterdam, i655), a collection of verses by various Amsterdam writers dedicated to the memory of the martyr of that name who was killed



Barrios frequently mentioned a fellow member of the Academia de los floridos, Doctor Ishac Orobio de Castro, in his writings. Besides the usual eulogistic poems in Flor de Apolo and Coro de las musas, he spoke highly of the doctor in his gloss of Penso Vega's letter to Orobioand in his Relacion de los Poetas. In the latter work, in an evident reference he praisedhim for his opposition to the Certamen Philoso'phico, to "the atheist Spinoza." This is one of the few occasions on which Barrios ever mentioned the excommunicated philosopher. He also quoted favorably from Orobio's works in his little known Realsede la Prophezia,a refutation of anti-Jewish charges made by a decree of don Pedro, Prince Regent of Portugal, of August 5, I683. 80 On the other hand, the undated Desembozosde la verdad contra las mascaras del mundo is violently anti-Orobio. The work is a defense of the Divine unity and against a proposition by Orobiothat if there were a plurality of concepts in the Divine Being there would not be unity of essences. Barrios argued that there is a plurality of concepts, but that they exist in time and not in God. The interesting feature of the work, however, is not the theological debate, but rather the light it sheds on the author. His mental equilibrium was delicately balanced. It is known that about i674 his enthusiasm for the pseudo-Messiah, Sabbatai Zevi, seriously affected his sanity, and in I682 he claimed to have had a divinely inspired vision. In Desembozos de la verdadhe blamed his troubles on Orobio: "The discredit and the extreme need in which I am held by the rumor that Orobiois spreading that I am out of my mind obliged me to use ingenuity, telling him that I was trying to be cured, but that I could recover
in Cordoba on May 3, I655, and to that of his nephew, Ishac de Almeida Bernal, executed in March of the same year at Santiago de Compostela. Almeida was from Barrios' native town of Montilla and in the "Relacio6n"he proudly mentioned that he had been a relative of his. 80 For the friendship of Barrios and Orobio see Flor de A polo, p. 254; Coro de las musas, p. 5I3; "Respuesta Panegyrica" in TGP, pp. 72 ff; "Relaci6n," p. 45I; "Realse de la Prophezia y Caida del Atheismo," in Metros Nobles (Amsterdam, n.d.), pp. 231-252.



only if he proposed difficult matters to me that I could not understand." 81 He was further dismayed that some people attributed the first octave of his long philosophical poem, Harymoniadel mundo, to Orobio, maintaining that he himself did not have the learning to produce it. The explanation, he said, was that he had translated for Orobio a book that the latter had composed against Alonso de Cepeda, and that he condensed "the whole discourse of the book" into the one octave. 82 Other than on this one occasion, caused probably by that same mental instability that he was trying to deny, Barrios always expressed the greatest admiration for Orobio de Castro. The friendship between Barrios and Joseph Penso Vega apparently dated from I677, the year in which the poet glossed and published Vega's letter to Orobio de Castro, although he had dedicated an earlier allegorical play to his father, Ishac Penso. 83 Later Barrios lauded several compositions of Vega, and in I683 Vega asked him to furnish the poetic insertions for the collection of Italianate novels that he was bringing out under the title of Rumbos Peligrosos.84 The friendship continued and was fostered by their cooperation and amicable rivalry in the Academia de los floridos. But in I687 an event happened that was to arouse great animosity between them. In that year Manuel Telles de Silva, Count of Vilar Mayor, travelled to Heidelberg to arrange the betrothal of Pedro II of Portugal to Maria Sophia, daughter of the Palatine Elector. The ceremony took place on July 2 and then the bride-to-be and the nuptial ambassador began their trip to Rotterdam, from where they were to be accom11

Desembozos de la Verdad contra las Mascaras del Mundo (n.p.n.d.),

P. 9.
82 83

Ibid. p. 8. The play is Contra la Verdad no hay Fuerza (Amsterdam, n.d, but before the publication of Coro de las musas). 84 In the prologue to the Rumbos Peligrosos Penso Vega wrote: "I also point out to you that the verses (because in me there is more of the orator than the poet) are by my great friend, the worthv captain don Miguel de Barrios...."



panied to Lisbon by the English fleet. The King's agent in Amsterdam, Geronimo Nunfiez de Acosta, and his two sons were kept busy arranging the details of the route. In the Dutch metropolis Sephardic poets grasped at the opportunity of writing verses commemorating the happy event, hoping to win the royal favor. Barrios and Vega collaborated to produce an Epitalamio Regio, in Spanish verse and Portuguese prose, which they presented to the Count, asking him to bring it to the attention of their Majesties. Vega also wrote a separate prose Alientos de 1 verdad en los clarines de la fama on the route taken by the bridal party, which he dedicated to the ambassador. What ensued or who was to blame is not easily ascertained. The following year Barrios wrote a poetic description of the travels and the receptions given to the Porttiguese party which he called Dios con nosotros. In it he sought the protection of the Count and stated that Pedro II had sent 500 cruzados by way of his agent Acosta as a payment for the Epitalamio Regio. Acosta had handed the entire sum over to Vega, who refused to share it with his collaborator, denying that the King had sent the money for their combined work. Barrios was very indignant at Vega, and accused him of inordinate greed and went so far as to hope he would die. 85 This, of course, was Barrios' version of ihe difficulty. It should be considered with due caution, for he was a man of volatile temperament and had clashes with a number of his friends. No such troubles marred his friendship with Tomas de Pinedo, although they disagreed at times on matters of

learning.86 After the death of Pinedo on November I3, I679,

Dios con nosotros (n.p., i688), p. i8. Tomas de Pinedo was one of the most erudite of the Sephardic writers, famous especially for his Latin translation with commentary of Stephanus of Byzantium's De Urbibus (Amsterdam, I678). In this work he wrote of Barrios as "familiaris noster, optimus poeta Hispanus 6 Boetica." Barrios in return praised the translation highly. Both writers corresponded with Francisco de Mascarefias, Conde de Cocoll. Mascarefias in a letter to Pinedo wrote favorably about Barrios who then published with a translation a Latin epigram by Mascarefias
85 86



a curious exchange of letters took place between Barrios and the Spanish savant Gaspar de Mendoza Ibanfiez de Segovia, Marques de Mondejar. Mondejar was a scholar of note, remembered even today for his pioneer work on medieval Spanish chronicles. He had defrayed the expenses of publishing Pinedo's major work on Stephanus of Byzantium, but was apparently unaware of his religious beliefs, for he wrote to Barrios that he had been saddened to learn about Pinedo's death, and more so to learn that he had died in the Jewish faith, "having been reared among Catholics" (Pinedo had been educated in Madrid by the Jesuits). This brought forth a reply from Barrios in the form of two sonnets. In both he denounced Mondejar for his attitude and proclaimed his own adherence to the Law of Moses. In the first he wrote (11. 9 and io): "And lamenting his sad death, / I extol the Holy Law that he observed." 87 The second ends with the lines: "You judged Pinedo other than he was, / and I am other than you judge me, since you say / you regret his religion more than his death. / In the Law in which he died, I remain constant, / for it is the Tree of Life, and its roots / bring forth on a field of blue a glorious destiny." 88 Only in the safety of the United Provinces could Barrios so openly and proudly declare his faith. Of the great number of religious leaders and scholars whose names appear in the writings of the indefatigable montillano, the most prominent in his own day were Ishac Aboab, Selomoh de Olivera and Jacob Sasportas, who constituted the rabbinical
in praise of Pinedo. The two were also on friendly terms with the Portuguese ambassador to Madrid, Duarte Ribero de Macedo. In a letter dated June 5, I679, Barrios sought the judgment of the ambassador in a dispute he was having with Pinedo as to whether the Elysian Fields were located in the Iberian Peninsula. He himself, with more enthusiasm than learning, maintained that they were while Pinedo denied this idea. The debate was never settled because of the death of Pinedo. (See Coro de las musas, pp. 224-225; Arbol florido de noche (n.p.n.d), p. 27; Bellomonte de Helicona, pp. II7-I20.) 87 TGP, p. io6. 88 TGP, p. 735.



government of the city in the i68o's. Aboab 89 died on April 4, I693 at the age of eighty-eight, and Barrios wrote an account of his funeral. It was attended by all the leaders of the community, the members and treasurersof the Hermandadde las Huirfanas, the parnasim of Etz Haim and of Bikyr Holiom and the members of the academies of which Aboab had been the head. Jaim Toledano, the ambassador of Moroccoto the United Provinces, honored the departed Haham with his presence. The grave-side sermon was delivered by his friend and colleague Selomoh de Olivera. The crowd that attended was impressive: "What coaches, carriages and berlins did not wheel along the shores of the Amstel River with those who could not leave their beloved Haham until the earth of his grave covered him! What boats were not filled by the Spanish-JewishNation who went to see him interred, together with those of the attentive German-Polish synagogue." Sermons in praise of Aboab were delivered by Ishac Serug on the following Monday, by Selomoh Yehuda Leon on Tuesday, by David NuniezTorres on Wednesday, by Selomoh de Mesa on Thursday and by Barrios on Friday. 90 Selomoh de Olivera was the successor of Mosseh Raphael de Aguilar in the fifth class of the Talmud Torah school, a position to which he was appointed in i68o. He was the author of several books in Hebrew, Spanish and Portuguese. Barrios mentions his Ets Haim, "in which he declares the words of the Holy Scriptures in Spanish," and a HebrewPortuguese vocabulary. He was also a poet who wrote
89 Aboab was born in Castrodayre, Portugal and came to Amsterdam at the age of seven with his mother. He served the Hispanic Jewish group there in various capacities for more than sixty years, with the exception of a period beginning in I64I when he went to Brazil to take the post of Haham in Pernambuco. He returned to Holland in I654. He also held the posts of Rosh yeshiva of Torah Or and of the Academy of the Pintos. He was head of the Beth Din and hence Chief Rabbi of the community, and had also been one of the moving forces in the construction of the new synagogue.

90 "Honores

fuinebres al


Jaxam Ishac Aboab,"


in Metros Nobles

(Montezinos Library, vol. 2FIoa), pp.



in Hebrew; an example of his verse was printed in the description of Honen Dalim. 91 Besides being the head of this academy, he was also the president of Gemilut Hassadiin from I674 to at least I684. 92 One of Barrios' closest friends was the revered Jacob Sasportas, some twenty-five years his senior. 93 Either before or soon after Barrios moved' to Amsterdam, Sasportas tried to help him publish his long poem Imperio de Dios, and it was to the rabbi that the poet's wife turned for help when her husband was sick. 94 Barrios was ever grateful to him. In his work on Meirat Henaim he took pleasure in recording that the Haham was a descendent of'the famous Aragonese Ramban, and he wrote glowingly of his work in jurisprudence, his virtue and his Talmudic learning. 95 When Sasportas died Barrios preached the funeral sermon. When he asserted, in the prologue to the printed version, that he studied the Law for thirty years, "to make it the foundation and light of a book entitled Imperio de Dios en la Harmonia del Mundo," he must have gone back in thought to those earlier days when Sasportas offered him support. Barrios used the occasion of the sermon to expound some of his own ideas as to how some Hebrew words in the Bible should be translated. It may not have been appropriate to do so on this sad occasion, but
TGP, pp. 227 ff. Barrios says nothing of his later life, but for a period dating from I693 Olivera was the head of the rabbinical college of Amsterdam. He died on May 23, I708, seven years after Barrios. 93 Sasportas, who was born in Oran in i6io, travelled widely during his lifetime. He served as rabbi in several North African cities and apparently went to Amsterdam as early as I653. In I659 he was sent by the Moroccan king on a diplomatic mission to the court of Spain. In I664 he moved to London, but because of the plague there went the following year to Hamburg where he served as rabbi. He spent the years from I673 to I678 in Amsterdam. In the latter year he was appointed head of the yeshiva in Leghorn, but two years later was recalled to Amsterdam to head the school system, and after the death of Aboab he became chief of the rabbinate. He died on April I5, I698. 94 See M. Kayserling, "Une Histoire de la Litterature Juive," in Revue des Etudes Juives, XVIII, pp. 279-280. 95 TGP, pp- 423-424



perhaps it was the most suitable memorial to the man he called "my great champion and friend, the learned Haham Jacob Sasportas." 96 Barrios was a professional writer since he supported his family by his pen. He produced occasional poems for the happy or sad events that took place in the community. Whether it was a wedding or a funeral, the election of new officials, quarrels in the synagogue or honors to be paid a "bridegroom of the Law," he recorded the event in verse. When one of the powerful or rich members of the congregation died, he composed a lament, a sermon or an elegy and dedicated it to the mourners. Members of the Gaon, the Pinto, the Penso Vega, the Curiel and the Salom Moreno families were so honored by him. 97 We catch a glimpse of difficulties in the congregation in the poems he wrote to people asking them to return to the synagogue. In a prose and poetic epistle dated Tisri I5, 5443 (I683) he asked Jacob Pereira to follow his learned father and return to the fold. 98 He directed similar exhortation to a certain Francisco de Silva around i686. 99 Sometimes a poem gives information on the activities of people in the community of which little or nothing was said in formal records. He dedicated a decima to Abraham Machorro, a flautist, Ishac Mendez, who played the guitar, and Manuel Pimentel, whom he characterized as proficient both in playing the harp and dancing. 100Another poem tells that Manuel de Lara, one of the mantenedores of the Academia de los floridos, had a fencing school in Amsterdam. Barrios credited Lara with having won over to Judaism more than three hundred people from Spain. One of his converts was Captain Jorge Pimentel, who in his turn converted an addi96 Monte Hermoso de la Ley Divina, Sermo6n exemplar en las Honras Funerales de ... Jacob Sasportas (Amsterdam, 5459), pp. 3-4.


Various funeral poems are scattered throughout the Metros TGP (Montezinos Library, copy 2oE6i), p.

Nobles and the Estrella de Jacob. 99 Ibid., p. 699. 100 Ibid., p. 764.



tional sixty. The Captain lived in Amsterdam under the name of David Pimentel. 101 The congratulatory poems that Barrios wrote for wedding celebrations furnish information both on marriage customs and on the genealogies of the upper families. 102 A wedding then, as now, could cost the bride's family a small fortune. At the marriage in I683 of Aaron de Pinto and Gracia Nunfiez, costly gifts were exchanged and the guests were entertained with comic plays, songs, instrumental music and dancing. Barrios wrote a short play "Gozo Epitalamico," for the celebration, in which his purpose seems to have been to praise as many brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, in-laws and other relatives of the couple as possible. This is true of all of his wedding poetry. One can easily imagine the guests in an expansive mood after the wedding feast, listening to the poet read his verses and waiting to hear their own names mentioned. The poems had to be brilliant; little witticisms about each person were admired and word-plays on the names of the bride and groom were common. Often they were compared to famous biblical couples. The artistic worth of such endeavours is about what one would expect. Gracia Nunfiez, incidentally, was from Rouen, France, and the intended groom had sent her as a betrothal gift a portrait of himself set in diamonds. Gentile guests were sometimes invited to a wedding. In the account of the marriage of David and Sara Bueno de Mesquita in I684, it is stated that "the excellencies of the House of Nassau and the nobility of Amsterdam attended the splendid banquet." Gifts were popular; when Raphael del Castillo got married, his friends sent him tokens of esteem. Barrios' brother-in-law, Samuel de Rosa, sent him some sugar cakes and the poet supplied a decima to accompany the gift. An interesting and, from a modern
Ibid., p. 764. All of the following examples are taken from a collection of Barrios' wedding Foetry, A legrias o pinturas lucientes de Hymeneo (Amsterdam, i686).
101 102



point of view, somewhat amusing marriage was that of Mosseh de Abraham Mocata, son of Abraham Gabriel Nunfiez. Mosseh (whose alias was Antonio Gabriel Niifiez) contracted pneumonia and made a solemn vow that if he escaped death he would marry an orphan without any dowry. Upon recovery he stuck to his promise and married Esther Coen Camifia who, it is true, was an orphan, but was of a family much admired for its orthodoxy and learning. The affair evidently created quite a stir. Barrios composed poems to him, to her and about the wedding, in his own name and on behalf of the friends of the groom. In all the tone is one of exaggerated praise for Mocata's self-abnegation in scorning large dowries to carry out his promise. One wonders what the bride thought about this. Often sons and daughters of Amsterdam families contracted marriage with members of Sephardic communities in France and Germany. It has already been stated that the wife of Aaron de Pinto was from Rouen. Similarly the bride of Raphael Athlas, Beatriz Gomez Moreno, came from the sephardic community in Bayonne, although her family had branches in several countries. Three of her brothers were still in France, one was in London and another in Amsterdam. The latter was probably the Gabriel, alias David, Gomez Moreno who married Ribca de Lima in the Dutch city. An uncle of the bride, Selomoh de Lima, conducted the marriage ceremony. Several family alliances were contracted with residents of Hamburg, especially if the families were in the same fields of endeavour. Nathan Curiel, the son of David Curiel, Portuguese agent in the German city, married his cousin Sara, the daughter of Geronimo Nuniez de Acosta, who performed the same function for the King of Portugal in Amsterdam. The sister and brother of the preceding couple, Lea Curiel and Abraham de Acosta, also married each other. In their case, Barrios says, the union was arranged by still another of the diplomatic representatives, Manuel de Belmonte. Mosseh Orobio de Castro, the son of Doctor Balthasar Orobio





de Castro, took as his wife Sara Abas of Hamburg. Her father was Jacob Abas and she was related to the Curieles. Mosseh's sister, Ribca, became the wife of Ishac Milano of the German city. Some of Barrios' poems celebrated alliances of rich families outside of Amsterdam. Francisco Lopez Suasso, the son of the Baron of Avernas, married Judith, the daughter of Ishac Senior Teixeira, agent of Queen Christina of Sweden in Hamburg. (The Suassos were residents of the Hague, although they took their title from the name of their estate, Avernas de Gras, in Brabant.) Another son of Ishac Suasso, Abraham, married Sara Senior Teixeira, the sister of Judith. In the case of Mosseh Curiel and Raquel Telles de Acosta we have a case of an alliance between the Hamburg family and the English branch of the Acostas (or Da Costas) commemorated by Barrios. It is evident from these wedding poems that there was a tendency to marry within the family. There were numerous instances of marriage between cousins or between uncle and niece. In fact, the later decline of the community has been attributed, in part, to such inbreeding. 103 The tendency to marry within a restricted circle was probably due to the Sephardic preoccupation--one is tempted to say obsessionwith "purity of blood." Throughout Barrios' poems there is a recurrence of such terms as "pure blood," "illustrious family" and particularly "lineage." He wrote about the "noble Sosas," the "pure Sarfatines" and praised the Curiel
103 One example should suffice to show the close family ties. Don Miguel wrote verses on the marriages of different members of the Pesoa and Cohen Camini'a families which give the genealogies of both sides. The resultant family tree is quite complicated. Abraham Pesoa, the son of Ishac and Sara Pesoa, married Jana Cohen Camnifia. His brother Mosseh at the same time married Jana Pesoa. The brides were cousins of the grooms and of each other. The wife of Abraham was the daughter of his aunt Ribca Pesoa, widow of Ishac Cohen Camifina, while the wife of Mosseh was the daughter of his uncle, also named Mosseh Pesoa. The latter, deceased, had married his niece Sara, daughter of his sister Abigail and her husband, Diego Alvarez Penso.



family by saying that they resembled the children of Menasses in the care they took to mingle their blood only with those of their own stock. The Sephardic Jews of Amsterdam seem very Spanish in this respect. One of the most characteristic features of Hispanic life for centuries was the desire, indeed the necessity, if a person aspired to certain positions, to establish the purity of his ancestry. Of course in the Peninsula the need was to prove that all of one's grandparents were of undiluted "Old Christian" stock and that there was no trace of converso ancestry in the family. 104 The Amsterdam Sephardic community and those in other western European cities were formed in large part from people whose families had been living in Spain and Portugal as secret Judaizers long after the expulsion. Infiltration for more than a century of ideas of family purity prevalent in the Peninsula may have had an influence on their attitudes. The Sephardim displayed an exaggerated sense of superiority over other Jews. As a matter of fact they were superior culturally to the German and Polish Jews who were also finding their way to Amsterdam. Polished and urbane, able to hold their own on the highest intellectual levels, they considered themselves the elite of Judaism. Except in matters of mutual interest, there was little contact between the two communities in Amsterdam. Marriage between Sephardic and Askenazic Jews was unthinkable. But it is evident that even among the Sephardim some families considered themselves of nobler lineage than other families and hence they would not enter into marital alliance
104 Am6rico Castro, the erudite critic and historian of Spain, suggested that the concern with limpieza de sangre in Spain was a Jewish concept which was transferred to the Christian population in the fifteenth century as a result of the many conversions that took place in that period. He held that there is little or no trace of the concept in Christian writings prior to the fifteenth century, but that it may be found in the Responsa literature of the Spanish Jews (see his Realidad histo6yica de Espaia, Mexico, I954, pp. 496 f). The theory is disputable. But whatever the origin of the concept, it was common to both the Christian Spaniards within the Peninsula and the Jewish Spaniards who lived in exile from it. TII



with them. Naturally, economic considerationsalso played a part in the determination of suitable unions. Something finally should be said about Barrios' attitude towards his adopted city. Even though we must accept his statements with caution (he was often seeking money from his protectors and may have exaggerated his situation) it is evident that he was in poverty much of the time. He had a great dislike for the stockmarket. 105 He apparently had lost money on the market judging by reflections on the honesty of traders in shares. 106 In I683-I685 he contemplated going to England and dedicated poetic religious works to the Kahal Kados of London in the hope of obtaining funds to move there. When they were not forthcoming he had to give up his intention.107He never wrote of himself as a Dutch subject nor did he learn the Dutch language. At least he never wrote in that language; he may have acquired some knowledge of it, however, for every day use. He continued to consider himself a Spaniard and to sign his works with the formula "a loyal subject of the King of Spain." In a long poem which he addressed to don Antonio de Heredia he spoke of his dissatisfaction with life in Amsterdam. Heredia was a cavalry captain who had been stationed in America and was returning to Spain by way of the North. He had heard of Barrios and took the opportunity to meet him. The poet was flattered and pleased that his fame had reached the young officer and he sounds frankly boastful in the poem. But one may sense his nostalgia for his sunny homeland when he congratulates Heredia on his forthcoming return to la patiria EspaiRa. For himself, he says, everywhere he goes in Amsterdam he is in veritable darkness, and he feels like a blind man without
105 His one-time colleague and friend, Joseph Penso Vega, found the bourse interesting enough to write the first book detailing its operations and theory, the well known Confusion de confusiones (Amsterdam, i688). 106 See, for example, stanzas 103-IO6 of the poem "Gineta de Laurel."

TGP, p.




a cane or a criminal with no place of refuge. 108 He was, however, grateful for the shelter the city afforded him, and he was fully aware of the debt that the Jews owed to the attitude towards them. "In no place in the world, he wrote," do (the Jews) have less fear than in Amsterdam, as much because of the liberty of conscience of the Seven United Provinces as because of the kindness of its talented inhabitants."109His varied and at times modified descriptions of the city in a number of his works were a tribute Amsterdam richly deserved. The city, he wrote, was "as much a babel of learned tournies as an Athens of different tongues... . And its greatest glory is that, having such diverse peoples, of different religions, it maintains them in peace with few officers, but with much justice. It shines like the moon and sheds the light of rectitude and charity, which sustains the peace of the inhabitants and illumines the lives of the needy. The city benignly shelters the people of Moses who learn from the Sacred Prophecies that those who try to destroy them will be destroyed, and that the Nations that protect them will be rewarded by the Divine Hand." 110

"Gineta de Laurel," in Bellomonte de Helicona, p. i i6.

TGP, p. 476.


TGP, p. 535.