Abraham Cardozo and Adoption

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The Amsterdam Esnoga was considered the mother synagogue by the Spanish and Portuguese Jews—1680 painting by Emanuel de Witte.



Also known as Miguel Cardoso

Spanish religious leader and physician

Cardozo was a member of a Portuguese Marrano family. (The Marranos are the Jews of Spain and Portugal who involuntarily converted to Christianity in the 14th century and later, many of whom continued to practice Judaism in secret. In the last two centuries many if not most of them returned to Judaism). He grew up in the care of a much older brother in Madrid and trained as a physician in Salamanca.

As a young man he paid no attention to religion of any kind, but after moving to Venice and then Livorno (Leghorn) he and his brother returned to Judaism (the change of name from Miguel to Abraham probably dates from this time), and he resumed his medical studies, probably in Padua. He also immersed himself in Jewish studies and became an expert in Kabbalah - the mystical tradition of Judaism. He began to prophesy about the imminent coming of the Messiah, and moved to Cairo, then Tripolitania, where he became personal physician to Osman Pasha, the bey of Tripoli. When Rabbi Nathan of Gaza began to preach that the Messiah had indeed come, in the person of Sabbatai Zvi (see: Zvi, Sarah), Cardozo joined the movement. He rose to become one of the Sabbataians' principal apologists and remained faithful to Zvi even after his conversion to Islam in 1666. He later lived in Turkey, Libya, Italy, Greece and Israel.

After the death of Nathan of Gaza in 1680 Cardozo became the chief spokesman and theologian of the movement. He finally moved to Alexandria, Egypt, where he was killed by a nephew during a family quarrel. Much of what we know about this important and interesting episode in Jewish history we owe to Cardozo's published books and surviving letters.


New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia, editor-in-chief Geoffrey Wigoder. 7th edition. (New York: Facts On File, 1992) Freely, John. The Lost Messiah: In Search of Sabbatai Sevi. (London: Viking, 2001)