Mosseh Rephael d'Aguilar: the origins of Jewish Literature in Portuguese in Dutch Brazil

Prize: Other distinction


Doctoral Thesis - Abstract
The main objectives of this work are: the rescue of the author Mosseh Rephael d'Aguilar and his work, the realization that he was one of the forerunners of Jewish literature in Portuguese during the Dutch colonial period in the northeast of Brazil and, finally, the transcription of the only work that is certain to have been produced in Brazil during his stay between 1642 and 1654. For that, manuscripts, publications and documents have been analyzed in the Ets Haim Montezinos Library, Municipal Archive of the City of Amsterdam, Portuguese Ouderkerk Cemetery and Rosenthaliana collection of the University of Amsterdam. We found numerous documents that reveal details about his biography and the relationship with his nephew Isaac de Castro Tartas, as well as the community posts occupied in his professional career. He worked for 40 years as a rabbi, philosopher, author, teacher, translator, grammarian and philologist, member of the Beth Din (rabbinical court) in Amsterdam, and rosh ieshivá (head of the Talmudic Academy). We have sought to list his work, which covers a wide range of subjects including halachic (legal) themes, treatises of logic and rhetoric, manual of ritual slaughter of animals, homilies, speeches, index for Talmud study, interpretations of canonical sources, poetry and ascamot (authorizations). Polyglot and owner of a large library and interested in subjects beyond the walls of his own community, he has had two of his works published, but we have discovered thousands of pages that still await cataloging and publication. We have shown that he was not only an escort of the celebrated Rabbi Isaac Aboab da Fonseca in his short interval in Recife, but produced what we consider to be one of the pioneering texts of Jewish literature in Portuguese produced on Brazilian soil. His text Explanation of Chapter 53 of Isaiah made in Brazil, has unpublished transcription in this work.
Granting OrganisationsUniversidade de Sao Paulo (University of Sao Paulo)


  • 17th Century
  • History
  • Jewish Literature
  • Portuguese Language
  • Jewish Studies