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Rabbi Yitzchak Lampronti

Rabbi Yitzchak Lampronti

(5439-5517; 1679-1756)

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Rabbi Yitzhak Hezekiah Lampronti, famous for his great Talmudic work Pahad Yitzhak, was born in the Italian city of Ferrara in the year 5439 (1679). His grandfather had emigrated to Italy from Constantinople, and his father Shmuel was a successful businessman. However, little Yitzhak became an orphan at the age of six, having lost his father. The gifted orphan began his advanced studies of Hebrew and Talmud at the age of eight. His first teacher was the distinguished Rabbi of his town, Shabbattai Elchanan Recanati. At the age of fourteen he was sent to the Yeshivah of Rabbi Manaoah Provencal at Lugo. Later he went to Padua, where he also studied medicine and became an excellent physician. Rabbi Yitzhak Lampronti continued his Talmudic studies at Mantua (Manitoba) under Rabbi Judah Brial, Rabbi Abraham Segre and Rabbi Joseph Kases who was also a physician.

At the age of 22 Rabbi Yitzhak Lampronti returned to his native Ferrara, where he was appointed as teacher in the local Talmud Torah. At the same time he developed a good medical practice. He won fame and admiration both as a teacher and as a physician, and many prominent Italian noblemen were among his patients. His students called him affectionately "Our Father Yitzhak." Soon he was also appointed preacher in the Sephardic synagogue and subsequently in the Italian synagogue. He was an excellent and inspiring preacher too. After his first teacher Rabbi Shabbattai Elhanan Recanati died, Rabbi Yitzhak Lampronti became his successor, and shortly afterwards he was elected also to head the Yeshivah of Ferrara.

Although Rabbi Lampronti was very busy teaching and practicing medicine, he was an ardent student all his life, studying the Talmud with exceptional devotion day and night. He even found time to write his great and monumental work.

Being a very modest and charitable man, and living quite modestly himself, Rabbi Yitzhak Lampronti spent most of his earnings for Tzedakah. He supported the Yeshivoth and Talmud Torah in his community, and provided many needy Torah scholars with all their needs. He also took a personal interest in poor brides and helped them to get married. He was largely responsible for the erection of the famed Sephardic synagogue in Ferrara and made a personal gift to it of a beautiful marble Ark.

Rabbi Yitzhak Lampronti died in the year 5517 (1756) at the age of 77, but no tombstone marked his resting place in the Jewish cemetery of Ferrara. For, half a year earlier, the pope (to whose Papal State Ferrara belonged) had issued an order forbidding Jews to erect tombstones, at the same time ordering the old tombstones and monuments to be destroyed. But more than a century later, the citizens of Ferrara, Jews and non-Jews, remembered the great scholar and leader that graced that town. In the spring of 1872, they made a collection to set up a plaque on the house where he had lived and worked. The inscription on this memorial tablet read (in Italian)

In this house lived Isaac Lampronti, born in 1679, died in 1756. He was a most celebrated physician and theologian. His native city is proud of him. Some citizens who appreciate knowledge put up this tablet in 1872.

As already mentioned, Rabbi Yitzhak Lampronti's greatest fame is for his great work Pahad Yitzhak ("The Fear of Yitzhak"). It is a Talmudic encyclopedia, in which the author deals with all Talmudic subjects in an alphabetical order. Included in it were also the latest decisions of the great Rabbinical authorities of previous generations and of his own generation with whom he had a personal correspondence. He also collected and included much Midrashic material and the ethical teachings of our Sages. This work displays the author's vast knowledge of the Talmud, Midrashim and all other sources of Jewish law. It is also a valuable aid to students of the Talmud .and Jewish ethics, as well as Jewish history, to this day.

The first two volumes of this work were published in the author's last years. Five additional volumes were published over a period of many years after his death. During the years 1864-1888, the Mekitze Nirdamim society completed the publication of this work by additional eight volumes. Rabbi Yitzhak Lampronti also wrote many volumes of sermons and other works.

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