Rabbi Moses Raphael D'Aguilar, Chacham of Maurícia - Recife and Amsterdam

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Rabbi Moses Raphael D'Aguilar, Chacham of Maurícia - Recife and Amsterdam

Also Known As: "Moses Rafael de Aguilar"
Birthplace: (?), Portugal
Death: December 15, 1679 (63-72)
Amsterdam, Government of Amsterdam, North Holland, The Netherlands
Place of Burial: Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, Ouder-Amstel, North Holland, Netherlands
Immediate Family:

Son of Abraham Isaac D'Aguilar and Violante de Paz
Husband of Ester d'Aguilar
Father of Ishac Haim D'Aguilar; Ribca de Castro; Sara Azulaij; Gracia Franco Serrano; Sinha Alvares and 4 others
Brother of Isabel Benvenida D'Aguilar de Paz; Aron Isaac D'Aguilar; David D'Aguilar and Jacob D'Aguilar

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About Rabbi Moses Raphael D'Aguilar, Chacham of Maurícia - Recife and Amsterdam


Rabbi Moses Raphael de Aguilar (c. 1611- 15 December 1679) was a Sephardic-Dutch Rabbi, Hebrew Grammatician and scholar, who wrote some 20 books on a series of talmudic and Hebrew language topics. He was also an important lecturer at the Amsterdam Talmud Torah.


Born c. 1611 in Portugal, his parents Abraham de Aguilar and Violante de Paz were Crypto-jews, who moved to the Netherlands during the Eighty Years' War. It was there, that Moses briefly served as a teacher at the Amsterdam Talmud Torah, however in 1641, he, his wife Esther de Castro Tartas, his wife's nephew Isaac de Castro Tartas and about 600 other Dutch Jews, including Isaac Aboab da Fonseca moved to Brazil, following it's Dutch colonization. It was in Brazil that he became the Rabbi of the Magen Avraham congregation of Recife. Although Moses' time in Brazil was short, and following the Portuguese recolonization of the region, he alongside most of the Brazilian Jewish community returned to Amsterdam. On his return to Amsterdam he opened a private Yeshiva, were he wrote some 20 books, but only two were published in his lifetime. Later in his life, he became a supporter of Sabbatai Zevi, and subsequently died on December 15, 1679 in Amsterdam.

Works and Legacy


Rabbi Moses de Aguilar had many students, some notable of which are:

  • Manasseh ben Israel
  • Joseph de la Vega
  • Abraham Pereyra


Some of his most famous works are as follows:

  • Epitome Grammatica hebrayca - a treatise on Hebrew grammar.
  • Dinim de shehita y bedica - a basic overview of the rules of Shechita.
  • Zekher Rab - a collection of all the Midrashim in the Talmud.
  • Sefer Hama’asim - a collection of all the stories in the Talmud.
  • Tratado da Immortalidade da Alma - a book written in response to the Jewish heretic Uriel de Acosta, who denied the principles of the Jewish faith.

Rabbi Moshe Rephael de Aguilar (ca 1615 Portugal ?? - Amsterdam-1679)

  Rabbi Moshe Rephael Aguilar was a Rabbi in the Jewish community of Amsterdam in the 17th century. Most of the Jews of that community were sons of illustrious anusim, Jews who lived in Portugal, often for 3 or 4 generations, appearing to be Christians, while practicing Judaism and transmitting it to their children in complete secrecy. Knowing that if they were discovered by a servant,  a neighbor, etc. they would be accused to the Inquisition, and if found guilty of “judaizar” (practicing Judaism) all their assets were confiscated and the culprits were sentenced to death. The execution, usually, was a horrible death: being burned alive at the stake. These public events were known as “autos de fe”.
  These Jewish heroes who risked their lives daily to preserve Judaism, founded a new community in Amsterdam, which became one of the most important and affluent Sephardic communities of all time. Among other things, the Jews of Amsterdam were the first to reach the Americas, Brazil, Curacao, United States, etc. Why Amsterdam? Because in 1597 the Prince of Orange (Netherlands) did something that until then was unprecedented in the annals of history: it declared a total religious freedom in his lands. And although the context of that freedom of religion had to do more with easing the tensions between Catholics and Protestants, Jews had the opportunity, for the first time in centuries, to settle in a city where they could observe their religion without persecutions.
  Back to Rab Moshe Aguilar, he was apparently born in Portugal around the year 1615. He studied in Amsterdam with Rabbi Shaul Halevi Mortera (see  here). As a young man he excelled in his studies and was elected to receive a generous grant that the community gave to the most outstanding students, this scholarship was called with the Hebrew name “aspaqa” (stipend).
  In 1641 he traveled to the city of Recife, Brazil, with his teacher, colleague and friend, Rabbi Isaac Abohab of Fonseca, the first rabbi of the Americas (see this). In Brazil he officiated as a Hazan (Cantor). In 1654, when the Portuguese finally captured Brazil from the Dutch, the Jews had to flee. The Portuguese brought the Inquisition to America, and if a “Portuguese” or a descendant of Portuguese was discovered “judaizing,” he would be extradited to Lisbon, judged and sentenced to death. In fact, a nephew of Rab Agulilar, Isaac de Castro Tartas, זצוק”ל was caught by the Inquisition in Brazil and extradited to Portugal. (I might write about him BH  next week). In 1661 Rabbi Aguilar returned to Amsterdam where he was assigned as a Rabbi in the Talmud Torah. A position he held until the end of his days. Rabbi Aguilar wrote a total of 22 books. 5 of them in Hebrew and 17 in Spanish or Portuguese. Some of his books are:
   “Epitome Grammatica hebrayca” (a treatise on Hebrew grammar) which is subtitled “for use in schools, in the manner taught in the Midrash of Talmud Torah K. K. Amsterdam”. Rabbi Aguilar, although not a man of economic resources, paid out of his pocket for the printing of this book.
  “Dinim de shehita y bedica” to teach the community the basic rules of the ritual slaughter of animals. This was essential because many families in those days had to take care by themselves of slaughtering their animals.
 He also wrote “zekher rab” a book in Hebrew, which collected all the Midrashim in the Talmud. And “sefer hama’asim” a book which collected all the stories told in the Talmud. These two books were not published and the manuscripts were never found.
 The most famous book of Rab Aguilar is called “A Treaty of the immortality of the soul,” which he wrote in Portuguese. This book was written in response to the Jewish heretic Uriel de Acosta, who same as Espinosa, denied the principles of the Jewish faith, and amongst these, the immortality of the soul.

Rabbi Aguilar also wrote an important book called “Treatise on Rhetoric”. Rhetoric should be understood in this context as the art of elaborating and delivering a speech. This book was written for his students, many of them future rabbis, in order to learn how to prepare their rabbinical sermons (darushim) using classic rhetoric tools. This would assist them in presenting their ideas with order and elegance, essential to teach Jewish subjects, especially for people with little knowledge of Judaism.

Rabbi Aguilar died in 1679 and his Darush was given by the famous Rabbi Shelomo de Oliveira.



AGUILAR, MOSES RAPHAEL D' (d. 1679), Dutch rabbi and scholar. He went to Brazil from Amsterdam in 1641 with other members of his family (including his nephew, the martyr Isaac de *Castro Tartas) and became rabbi-ḥazzan, probably in the Magen Avraham congregation of Mauricia (adjoining Recife). On his return to Amsterdam he opened a private school, and was subsequently (1659) engaged to fill Manasseh ben Israel's place in the Etz Hayyim seminary. He wrote some 20 books, but only two were published in his lifetime – a Hebrew grammar for school use (Epitome da Grammatica hebrayca, Leiden, 1660; Amsterdam, 16612), and Dinim de Sechitá y Bedicá (Amsterdam, 1681). Source : Encyclopaedia Judaica


Ton TielenTon and 3 others manage the membership, moderators, settings, and posts for The Sephardic Diaspora. In a side thread above I guessed that Ishac de Aguilar might have been the father of H.H. Moses de Agullar. I have come back from my erroneous ways. Arlindo Correia, whom I have mentioned a few times in this group, has a wonderful website. He transcribed more than a few processos of the Lisbon Inquisition. One of them is that of the famous martyr Isaac de Castro, or Tomas Luis, or Joseph de Liz. http://arlindo-correia.com/120613.html

Quote from that site: from which it becomes clear that the father of Moses must be Abraham, and not ishac

Do lado de sua mãe teve um tio e uma tia. O tio é André Rodrigues Oróbio, que, antes de ir para Madrid, foi casado em França com Maria Rodrigues, cristã nova, de que teve um filho (Isaac) e uma filha (não sabe o nome). A tia chamava-se Violante da Paz (nome de judia, Sara ou Esther Aguilar), casada com Abraham de Aguiar, vivendo ambos em Amsterdam e tendo um filho chamado Jacob de Aguilar e uma filha de que não sabe o nome, nascidos na Flandres ou no reino da Dinamarca.

If we compare this with the tree that I have posted here before. we can see that this fits, for here is an Abraham de Aguilar with a couple of children, among whom we see also a Jacob. https://archief.amsterdam/inventarissen/inventaris/334.nl.html#A087... Combining these sources, this forms a convincing tree, with lots of possibilities for further research in Bragança.

The direct link to the processo (the image below is a screenshot from iamge 384): https://digitarq.arquivos.pt/viewer?id=2311743 Manage

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Rabbi Moses Raphael D'Aguilar, Chacham of Maurícia - Recife and Amsterdam's Timeline

(?), Portugal
Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil
Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Nederland (Netherlands)
December 15, 1679
Age 68
Amsterdam, Government of Amsterdam, North Holland, The Netherlands