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By Prof. David Kaufmann. 

So little is known of the life of Menachem ben Jehudah ben 
Menachem di Lonsano, the excellent Masoretic and Midrashic scholar, 
lexicographer, and poet 1 , that even ever so small a contribution 
tending to throw some light on his biography deserves to be thank- 
fully received. We find such contribution contained in an epistle, 
which I publish herewith for the first time from a manuscript collec- 
tion of letters in my possession (formerly Mortara, 12). We learn here 
a fact which was hitherto unknown ; namely, that Lonsano, at a very 
advanced age, was compelled by poverty to visit Italy and to appeal 
to his countrymen for assistance. Lame on both legs, blind in one 
eye 2 , bent and broken by age, the old man saw again the land which he 
may have left when a boy, after having dwelt in Jerusalem for forty 
years, for it cannot, even be said with certainty that Lonsano had been 
born in Italy 3 . The fame that had gone before him, and which was 
enhanced by his ethical and didactical work, The Way of Life, which 
had perhaps then already appeared in print 4 in Constantinople, was 
far surpassed by his appearance and exuberant erudition. His learn- 
ing became particularly apparent in his sermons which he was twice 
permitted to give in the synagogue of the Italian congregation where 
our letter was written. He showed that he surpassed all others in 
his mastery of the whole field of Midrashic literature. People there- 
fore did not merely content themselves by aiding him and seeing him 
off on his journey ; but, mindful of the fatigues of the road, doubly 
dangerous for a man stricken like him, tried to relieve him of them as 
much as possible. We do not know the name of the man to whom 
the letter of recommendation was directed, but he must have been 
a man of great wealth and princely generosity, otherwise they would 
not have sent him this letter in behalf of Lonsano by special 

Lonsano himself has almost always been anxious not to make use 
of the opportunities, offered him by his poems, to give information 
about his own life; and the heaviest blow that had befallen him 

1 Compare particularly Landshut, nmsn 'Tray, 1, 178-185. 

2 Ever since he was ten years of age he had been compelled, on account 
of his weak eyes, to wear spectacles, see hit vm , f. 81 a : ■srhn ':» ]ra*fl '» 
•ws pa w -vis 'sn '3 n -\n«n t» cs3i ''iimo 13' tai marviri poi iso jatcn 
msioa wsnwnS Vnnrr) voisinea wn cro. 

* Ad. Jellinek, ■pro, V, n. 1. 

1 This seems to follow from the words of our epistle. 

M in % 


from a friend, whom he had induced to come to Jerusalem, and who 
ruined him in the most treacherous manner, is no more than hinted 
at by him 1 . 

When we consider the frequent and violent attacks made by him, 
in his lexicographical work Maarich, on the celebrated commentator 
of the Midrash Rabba, Rabbi Issachar Baer Cohen Ashkenazi, of 
Szebreszyn, we are led to believe that a personal quarrel, a profound 
discord, must have separated these two men. At any rate, the 
assumption that Menachem di Lonsano had made R. Baer Cohen's 
acquaintance in the Holy Land cannot well be rejected. The tra- 
dition that the author of the Mathnafh Kehunah died in Jerusalem 
is undoubtedly correct 2 . It is true Jacob Reifmann thought he had 
finally settled the question by simply referring to the tombstone 
which is said even at the present day to mark at Szebreszyn the grave 
of the great commentator of the Midrash 8 . But on a closer inspection 
of the alleged epitaph, it becomes apparent that we have here 
a memorial tablet and not a tombstone. The inscription shows no 
date whatever, not even the year of death. It has been a custom, 
which even now survives, to erect memorials in the cemeteries for 
great men that were born in the town or the province, even when 
they had died in ever so remote a country. The Jews in Poland 
follow this usage for their Rabbis or learned men that died abroad. 
Ch. N. Dembitzer 1 has proved this especially for Lemberg. Issachar 
Baer Cohen is not, therefore, buried in Szebreszyn, but in the Holy 
Land, where also the remains of his great critic, the unhappy Lonsano, 
rest 5 . 

arao Tinea ies? cmpn yy rf>erv» 'k Dan avn *ioij? wey na nan w , f. 45a . 
ae>n n^rco nanoo nw a'jn-iNe -inv nyi an nscj db> w imwb^o 
i-ikt Dt?o im ' D»n *jti ibd nun \by "W ' P^y bvb von Kim 
13 w nnin • \mya& ?m i?et$6 • xen tinti nuya nnau a-i nea nxinn 
aw: yea iTeiae ipaa n 'tcn^ye H i"» nea ui?ee> wmsi innx-i 

1 niT vxo, t. 140 b, half a verse is missing, which may have contained 
the name of his faithless friend : 

marrt mx tom 

'T3J ( S matn lnvann jvjrt wroran '» -iok 

noj rw "dki Mb 'm "JE1C1 'ma dot Him 

na^i vib ini ^ mbn nwb nvn nooh* aan 

* David Conforte, nrmrt HYip, ed. B. Cassel, f. 41a; Luncz, Jerusalem, 
I, 120, n. 198, who, however, follows Reifmann. 

3 rmEcn njn» iva, ed. GrSber, I, a. 

* w nVto, I, 41 a. 6 Luncz, Jerusalem, I, 115, n. 184. 


pn in bv iniansaw wipipx, rvb ja^nm n»^ spivo • wyb ncy 
Dinn vbn tib' nDa ta'c y3t?i jpt win «$>n pni warn nyow moo 
ni^ba X3^ inirman vay i>mai inyv an t"ay njn nns wjn pyn 

• D^T3 tnpn nna ayn D'Dioyn wa 'aa csah ie>aai> ^din E>pa^> n^N 

• mc&n na^nsn iniw nto e^sn nx s ppn nix-o ntn ptan ^n xa <a \ti 
p»ipn px in • naann^ mtc\n na*3 nana wk itpjn vby n-Tcnn incaa 
nb my» t i>y 5|iDN^ np* bpna db> new pt*n bx mtni> »a y'aco 
na^ncci -vjjb n^n vi>an nnaci nma nvnb Kin "p* 13 jaisa • uyc 
n^y nxi^ 'N * wipe ^ 31b6 rao ia nvw yv'D twob na*n» bx 
mvoa p^n n»{> rf'tao^n »a*n *a • imaa pe>D !>n N3^> vasi> natpnoa 
d^k naio yiaa ima^ne* lanax Dacx f>tw .pN^ pyo bm it nan 
vby tain db^d^ iaae>n o nxv^ imanan n^ v6y i[a]n^[o] 'i)na naiyci 
nt pnv bw inaitah intonb lanvba my ph nxmnn nanna nnnn 
pmi> nnara ••aab nst lamas n^yn iayT '•a icipoa nt lamta nbvh 
xa ns ocn jyoi> Na n/niacnNa nnni 1*ik3 uovya oann ins N3 i^a 
new sinn aion p ii) piayn paym mnwD caaa nt lani^c nxip^ 
D^n niae> i? m "\\yvp Dnawi p ntn nsnn &a-a ~}b 'n a»Dn 

: — : 'itai 


(See J. Q. R, pp. 228-38 and 277-81.) 

I have also in my possession a copy of pp. 228-38 of the responses 
of Sol. b. Aderefc published by Prof. Kaufmann, together with some 
corrections by Edelman, and two references by Dr. Steinschneider to 
his H. B. viii. 88 and xi. 135 (comp. also above, p. 222, notes). My 
copy however contains also the verdict which follows immediately 
in the MS. the responses mentioned, and which Dr. Steinschneider 
quotes : '131 J13^B nNVUU D1E^3 P|DV '"l 3na». Dr. Neubauer, Cat. 
Bod., p. 763, cites the first part of it and gives all the signatures. The 
whole of this verdict is already printed in the collection of responses 
of Isaak b. Sheshet, No. 220, and is entitled TWO "On 3in D3n^> 

snai^a 'can niaitwi "ba rbw n^Naias. The signatures of the 

learned men of Gerona are the same as in the MS., with the exception 
of a few variations only ; the names of |n ^KWNtt' and nVN3"> nobc? 
are missing. On the other hand, the transmitter of the verdict of the 
learned men of Gerona to Isaak b. Sheshet, who signs last as