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MORTEIRA (MORTERA), SAUL LEVI:

Dutch rabbi of Portuguese descent; born about 1596 at Venice; died at Amsterdam Feb. 10, 1660. 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 Bet Ya'aḳob elected him ḥakam in succession to Moses ben Aroyo (see Jew. Encyc. i. 537b, s.v. Amsterdam).

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 and Moses Zacuto. Morteira and Isaac Aboab (Manasseh ben Israel was at that time in England) were the members of the bet din which pronounced the decree of excommunication ("ḥerem") against Spinoza (July 27, 1656).

Some of Morteira's pupils published "Gibe'at Sha'ul" (Amsterdam, 1645), a collection of fifty sermons on the Pentateuch, selected from 500 "derashot" written by Morteira. 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 Basnage, "Histoire de la Religion des Juifs") and other writings of Morteira, on immortality, revelation, etc., are still in manuscript.

Bibliography:
  • Auerbach, Spinoza's Werke, vol. i. pp. xxiv. et seq., Stuttgart, 1871;
  • Azulai, Shem ha-Gedolim, ii. 17, Warsaw, 1876;
  • Benjacob, Oẓar ha-Sefarim, p. 93;
  • Freudenthai, Lebensgeschichte Spinoza's, pp. 4-11, 113-114, et passim, Leipsic, 1899;
  • idem, Spinoza, Sein Leben, 1904, i.;
  • Fürst, Bibl. Jud. ii. 391;
  • Grätz, Gesch. ix. 503; x. 9-11, 169, 175, ib. 1868;
  • Kayserling, Gesch. der Juden in Portugal, pp. 275, 310, ib. 1867;
  • Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. cols. 2508-2509;
  • Wolf, Bibl. Hebr. i. 1021, No. 1918; iii. 1001-1002.
D. S. Man.
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