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Book Notes: Viaggi in Olanda, Yaqob Rafael Saraval

C. Sacerdoti

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Viaggi in Olanda, Yaqob Rafael Saraval (Edizioni il Polifilo, Milano 1988. Limited numbered edition of 325 copies). This book, originally published in 1807, consists of seven letters by Rabbi Saraval describing his journey to Holland where he was sent as an ambassador of the Jewish community of Venice (Ambasciatore dell'Universita ebrea di Venezia) to ask for financial support from the wealthy communities of that country. The journey seems to have taken place between 1737 and 1771. The question of the dates is dealt with in masterly fashion by Pier Cesare Ioly Zorattini in his introduction to this edition. Rabbi Saraval was the author of several works, the first of which, co-authored with Simon Calimani (1729), was PirqeAvot. Rabbi Saraval wrote other works of exegetic character, and poetic compositions for particular occasions. He was a 381</page><page sequence="2">Book Notes well-respected scholar in his time, having continuous contacts with De Rossi and with other scholars of his day such as Benjamin Kennicot, who included a letter by Saraval on the Masorah in his Dissertatio Generalis. The letters are written in good taste and describe with enthusiasm and admiration Dutch society of those days, with unreserved praise for the sense of freedom enjoyed by people of all religions, respecting each other's beliefs and able to develop their own culture and follow their own traditions. There is no comparative reference to the situation in Italy at that time, as the fear of reactions from the Inquisition and other authorities in Italy dictated self-restraint. In reading these letters one imagines that the author is describing Utopia, but the sense of sincere admiration for this prosperous republic is kept in perspective with his comment: 'Gli olandesi passano per persone di poco spirito, e per verita si prendono poca pena di secondare le usanze moderne, contentandosi di un modo di vivere sempre uniforme, e noiso per ogni altro che per un olandese.' C. Sacerdoti</page></plain_text>

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