Saul Levi Morteira

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Saul Levi Morteira
Saul Levi Morteira.GIF
Saul Levi Morteira
Personal details
Bornc. 1596
Venice, Republic of Venice
Died10 February 1660(1660-02-10) (aged 63–64)
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Saul Levi Morteira or Mortera (c. 1596  – 10 February 1660) was a Dutch rabbi of Portuguese descent.[1]


In a Spanish poem Daniel Levi de Barrios speaks of him as being a native of Germany ("de Alemania natural"). When in 1616 Morteira escorted the body of the physician Elijah Montalto from France to Amsterdam, the Sephardic congregation Beth Jaacob in Amsterdam (House of Jacob) elected him hakham in succession to Moses ben Aroyo.

Morteira was the founder of the congregational school Keter Torah, in the highest class of which he taught Talmud and Jewish philosophy. He had also to preach three times a month, and received an annual remuneration of 600 guilders and 100 baskets of turf. Among his most distinguished pupils were Baruch Spinoza, Moses Zacuto and Abraham Cohen Pimentel. Morteira and Isaac da Fonseca Aboab (Manasseh ben Israel was at that time in England) were the members of the mahamad, the political arm of the community, which pronounced on 27 July 1656 the decree of excommunication ("cherem") against Spinoza.


Some of Morteira's pupils published Gibeat Shaul (Amsterdam, 1645), a collection of fifty sermons on the Pentateuch, selected from 500 derashot written by Morteira.[2]

Morteira wrote in Spanish Tractado de la Verdad de la Ley (translated into Hebrew by Isaac Gomez de Gosa under the title Torat Moshch, in 66 chapters), apologetics of Judaism and attacks against Christianity. This work (excerpts from which are given in Jacques Basnage, Histoire de la Religion des Juifs) and other writings of Morteira, on immortality, revelation, etc., are still in manuscript.

Morteira's polemical sermons in Hebrew against the Catholic Church were published,[3] but his Portuguese writings against Calvinism remained unpublished.[4]


  1. ^ Henry Méchoulan Être juif à Amsterdam au temps de Spinoza Page 178 1991 "Saul Levi Mortera en zijn Traktaat betreffende de Waarheid van de wet van Mozes, Braga, 1988."
  2. ^ Studies in Jewish manuscripts Joseph Dan, Klaus Herrmann, Johanna Hoornweg Page 171 1999 "In this way they gathered material, in the hope that their collection would impel Morteira to consent to publication. Eventually he decided to support the project.
  3. ^ Exile in Amsterdam: Saul Levi Morteira's sermons to a congregation Marc Saperstein Page 254 2005 "Although Morteira spoke in Portuguese and published in Hebrew, offensive or impertinent statements could become known ... to Dutch Calvinism as well, the main thrust of Morteira's polemic in his sermons is against the Catholic Church.
  4. ^ Hebrew Union College Annual Volumes 70-71 David Philipson - 2001 "Only later, in his unpublished Portuguese polemical work on the eternity of the Torah, did Morteira take up the cudgels against Calvin himself.9 Why was it important to polemicize against a form of Christianity that the members of his ."

Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography[edit]

  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinger, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "article name needed". Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
  • Auerbach, Berthold, Spinozas Werke, vol. i, pp. xxiv. et seq., Stuttgart, 1871;
  • Azulai, C.J.D., Shem ha-Gedolim, ii.17, Warsaw, 1876;
  • Isaac Benjacob, Oẓar ha-Sefarim, p. 93;
  • Freudenthal, Jacob, Die Lebensgeschichte Spinozas, pp. 4–11, 113-114, et passim, Leipzig, 1899;
  • —, Spinoza, Sein Leben, 1904, i;
  • Fürst, Julius, Bibliotheca Judaica ii.391;
  • Grätz, Heinrich, Geschichte der Juden ix.503; x.9-11, 169, 175, ib. 1868;
  • Kayserling, Meyer, Geschichte der Juden in Portugal, pp. 275, 310, ib. 1867 (available here);
  • Steinschneider, Moritz, Catalogus Librorum Hebræorum in Bibliotheca Bodleiana cols. 2508-2509;
  • Wolf, Johann Christoph, Bibliotheca Hebræa.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGotthard Deutsch and S. Mannheimer (1901–1906). "Morteira (Mortera), Saul Levi". In Singer, Isidore; et al. Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
  • Herman Prins Salomon: “O haham Saul Levi Mortera e a vaca vermelha” (Pará Adumá), pp. 83–104