Great Leaders of our People
Rabbi Azariah Figo
In the introduction to R. Azariah's classic halachic work Giddulei Trumah he bemoans the
fact that in his early youth he had been excessively preoccupied with alien studies.
However, he had learned to concentrate on what was the primary field of study-Talmud.
R. Azariah was born in Venice not long after the burning of the Talmud in Italy in 1553,
when the state of Italian Jewish religious life and scholarship was at a decidedly low
It is a testament to R. Azariah's passionate devotion to his studies that though he
frequently lacked the necessary texts to pursue his studies he nevertheless composed a
work which became an immediate favorite.
Most of the Giddulei Trumah was written while he served as Rabbi in Pisa as a young man.
During this period he wrote a number of questions to the great scholar R. Yissachar Ber
Eilenburg, who included them in his B'eir Sheva.
In 1627 he returned to Venice to become Rabbi and preacher.
His sermons were exceptional for their exquisite form as well as for their relevance to
contemporary defects and problems. R. Azariah wrote them down in a rich, moving style but
died before they were published. Seventy-six sermons (derashot) in all, mainly devoted to
the different seasons and holidays, they were published the year after his death. In the
forty eighth sermon he sees three causes for the ills that beset the Jewish people of his
day: the contention and strife between one Jew and another: the failure to sense and
recognize that they were in galut and the self-indulgence and pursuit of material
pleasure; the shameless immodesty. The volume was called Bina L'Ittim and has had fifty
Several years ago Rabbi Binyamin Efrati published Ittim, a 161 page volume presenting the
essence of the ideas contained in the Bina L'Ittim.
R. Azariah also wrote a volume of responsa, which remains unpublished.
The above graphic includes photographs that were provided by VERAfilm archives.