I’d like to congratulate Jacov Di Segni and his family on the occasion of his smikha, which was celebrated on the evening of Lag ba’omer in the Great Synagogue of Rome. This seems a good occasion to reflect upon some thoughts put down over a century and a half ago by another Italian rabbi, Lelio Della Torre. Born in the small Piedmontese city of Cuneo in 1805, Della Torre went on to become a poet, commentator, rabbi, and professor at the Rabbinical College of Padua, where he had the honor of presiding over many ordinations of his talmidim. In 1852 he published a collected volume of his sermons for rabbinic ordinations (Orazioni per ordinazioni rabbiniche, Venice: P. Naratovich, 1852). In his sermons, Della Torre considers the roles and obligations of a rabbi in an era that was setting the stage for our own. He comes to focus on the importance of language and the Rabbi’s increasingly important role, not only as interpreter of sacred law, but as teacher to his community. Teacher in the broadest sense of the word, yes, but also in the strictest sense, since, as he states: “And finally, I recall that our religion is the religion of thought, of the idea, and not of form.”
*Daniel Leisawitz, professor at Muhlenberg College (Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA). The artwork is by Abraham Cresques a 14th-century Jewish Spanish cartographer.