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Lot 25

Sod Hashem – On the Mitzvah of Brit Milah – First Edition – Amsterdam, 1680 – Colophon by Rabbi Yaakov Chaim de Cordova of Brazil (First Jewish Community in the Americas)

Sod Hashem – with Sharbit HaZahav, order of Brit Milah with prayers, Birkat HaMazon, laws and commentaries, by R. David of Lida Rabbi of Amsterdam. Amsterdam, [1680]. Engraved title page, depicting Biblical scenes. Calendar of tekufot for the years 1679-1826 at the end of the book.
First edition of the famous work about Brit Milah. The book was printed in dozens of editions and copied in many manuscripts. The various editions of the book were very popular amongst mohalim, who would bind their circumcision ledgers with it.
At the end of Birkat HaMazon, colophon by: " The print worker, Yaakov Chaim son of R. Moshe Refael de Cordova of Brazil" – the community of Brazil mentioned here is the first Jewish community founded in the Americas – in Recife, Brazil. The community was founded by Jews from the Portuguese community in Amsterdam, who immigrated to Brazil with the Dutch conquest of the country from the hands of Portugal. Prior to that, the city was home to Marranos who arrived during the Portuguese rule (ca. 1602-1630), and clandestinely upheld Torah observance under the rule of the Inquisition. Only after the Dutch conquest in 1630 was the first official, overt Jewish community founded, including a synagogue and communal institutions. This community, named Tzur Yisrael, operated for a short time only (some twenty years), until Brazil was retaken by the Portuguese in 1654. Most of the community members returned to their home town, Amsterdam (the surrender agreement of the Dutch government included a clause guaranteeing that Jews would be able to sell their property and leave Brazil unhindered), and a small part of them immigrated to other places in America (to French Guiana and Dutch Guiana, to the Caribbean Islands, and elsewhere). Documents from that time disclose that in Elul 1654, twenty-three Jewish refugees from Brazil reached New Amsterdam, later to be renamed New York. These were the first Jews in New York and its surroundings.
The introduction to the book Kitvei Rabbenu Yitzchak Aboab da Fonseca – Chachmei Recife VeAmsterdam (Mifal Torat Chachmei Holland, Machon Yerushalayim, 2007, p. 59), suggests that R. Yaakov Chaim de Cordova – the print worker documented in the present book – may have been the son of R. Moshe Refael de Aguilar, who was one of the rabbis and leaders of the Jewish community in Recife and Amsterdam (relying on the assumption that the Aguilar family originated from Cordova, Spain, and later moved to Aguilar, Portugal).
Inscription on the title page: "Moshe Goldstein, priced at 2 gulden". Stamp: "Dov Berush Katz – Alexander". Inscription in Ashkenazic script on the back endpaper with kabbalistic teachings on Brit Milah.
13, [1] leaves. 18.5 cm. Fair condition. Stains. Marginal wear and tears. Detached leaves. Old binding, damaged.