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History, Politics, and Messianism: David Ha-Reuveni's Origin and Mission

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 May 2011

Moti Benmelech*
Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
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In the last weeks of 1523, a colorful traveler arrived in Venice from Alexandria: “Dark in aspect, short in stature, gaunt, his language Hagarish [Arabic] and a little Jewish. … He wore striped silk according to the custom of the Ishmaelites, and on his head a white scarf, with which he covered his head and most of himself.” The traveler presented himself to local Jews and community leaders as “David,” the ambassador of an independent Jewish state on the Arabian peninsula, where he claimed that his brother, King Joseph, ruled over the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and half the tribe of Menashe. The “Jewish ambassador” announced that he was on his way to Rome to hold a state meeting with the Pope, as an emissary of the Seventy Elders, the advisers of his brother the king. He added, of course, that he needed money.

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Copyright © Association for Jewish Studies 2011

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1. This is how he was described by Daniel of Pisa upon Ha-Reuveni's arrival in Rome a few weeks later. See Aescoly, Aharon Zeev, Hatenu'ot hameshiḥiot beYisrael (Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik, 1988), 371Google Scholar.

2. Regarding Ha-Reuveni's stay in Venice, see Aescoly, Aharon Zeev, Sippur David Ha-Reuveni (Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik 1993), 3132Google Scholar. Regarding the tribal state in the Habor Desert, see ibid., 7. The account below offers merely general outlines as background for the more detailed discussion to follow.

3. According to I Chronicles 5:26, the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and half the tribe of Menashe were exiled to Habor (חבור‎) by Tiglathpileser, king of Assyria (according to II Kings 18:11, all Ten Tribes were exiled to Habor).

4. See Simonsohn, Shlomo, “Shliḥuto hashniya shel David Ha-Reuveni beItalia,” Zion 26 (1961): 198207Google Scholar.

5. A survey of the various opinions that have been advanced regarding the exact circumstances and location of Ha-Reuveni's execution can be found in Eliahu Lipiner, “Iyyunim befarshat David Ha-Reuveni uShlomo Molkho,” in Aescoly, Sippur, 52–58.

6. Ha-Reuveni's account about his arrest and captivity in France as well as the identity of the “Lord of Clermont,” who allegedly arrested him there, are unclear. There are also several contradictions between the descriptions in his diary and in his interview with Ramusio (compare Aescoli, Sippur, 136, 143, 148; Aescoly, Hatenu'ot, 404). This whole episode is plausibly imaginary and was probably written to explain Ha-Reuveni's absence from the public sphere in Italy between his expulsion from Portugal in 1526 and his reappearance in Italy in 1530.

7. This is the date that appears in the official Portuguese documents regarding the matter. See Lipiner, “Iyyunim,” xlvi. Ha-Reuveni's journal, in contrast, indicates that he remained in Portugal for nearly ten more months (he states that shortly after he left Portugal, he was imprisoned by “Lord Clermont” in Iyar 5287 [April 1527]). See Aescoly, Sippur, 143 (Adler, Elkan Nathan, Jewish Travellers [London: G. Routledge & Sons, 1930]), 328Google Scholar. All the quotations are from this out-of-date and incomplete edition; it is the only English translation of the journal.

8. See the list of sources assembled by Aescoly in appendix B to his edition of the journal (Sippur, 167–91). Other sources have recently been published in Lipiner, “Iyyunim.”

9. On the genealogy of the manuscript, see ANeubauer, dolf, Mediaeval Jewish Chronicles and Chronological Notes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1893), 2:xiixiiiGoogle Scholar. Neubauer published the full manuscript in Hebrew for the first time, ibid., 133–223. It was reprinted by Eisenstein, Yehudah David, Otsar masa'ot (New York: privately printed, 1927), 140–66Google Scholar. The first scholarly edition was published by Eduard Biberfeld, Der Reisebericht des David Reubeni; Eine Beitrag zur Geschichte dex XVI Jahrhunderts (PhD diss., Universität Leipzig, 1892). A second Hebrew edition was published by Cahana, Avraham, Sippur nesi'at David Ha-Reuveni (Warsaw: Di Welt, 1922)Google Scholar. A scholarly edition with a comprehensive introduction was published by Aharon Zeev Aescoly, Sippur David Ha-Reuveni (Jerusalem: ha-Ḥevrah ha-Eretz Yisraelit le-historyah ve-etnografyah, 1940). This edition was reprinted without revision in 1993, accompanied by two introductory articles by Moshe Idel and Elias Lipiner.

10. On the manuscript's paleography, see Sonne's review of Aescoly's edition: Sonne, Isaiah, “Biblioteca Historiographica Hebraica,” Jewish Quarterly Review (NS) 34 (1943–44): 243–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

11. Aescoly, Sippur, 196. Aescoly accepts Neubauer's opinion on this matter.

12. Yahuda, Abraham Shalom, “David Ha-Reuveni, Motsao, leshono ute'udato,” Hatequfa 34–35 (1950): 599625Google Scholar. This opinion was also espoused in Yitzhak Baer's review of Aescoly's edition, Qiryat sefer 17 (1940): 312.

13. Shoḥat, Azriel, “Lefarashat David Ha-Reuveni,” Zion 35 (1970): 96116Google Scholar. Benite, Zvi Ben-dor, The Ten Lost Tribes: A World History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 113–33.

14. Cassuto, Moshe David, “Mi haya David Ha-Reuveni,” Tarbiz 32 (1963): 339–58Google Scholar.

15. Birnbaum, Ervin, “David Reubeni's Indian Origin,” Historia Judaica 20 (1958): 330Google Scholar.

16. Miriam Eliav-Feldon has discussed this episode and placed it in the broader context of sixteenth-century impostors. Most of the impostors at that time are to be understood against the background of geographical discoveries and the development of communications. Yet Ha-Reuveni differs in both the religious-messianic meaning attributed to him and in not gaining material profit from his imposture. See Eliav-Feldon, Miriam, “Invented Identities: Credulity in the Age of Prophecy and Exploration,” Journal of Early Modern History 3 (1999): 203–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

17. Aescoly, Sippur, 33–34 (Adler, Travellers, 271–72).

18. Ibid., 35 (Adler, Travellers, 272).

19. Ibid.

20. On Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, and his political struggles as a whole, see Parker, Geoffrey, “The Political World of Charles V,” in Charles V, 1500–1558, and His Time, ed. Soly, Hugo (Antwerp: Mercatorfonds, 2000), 113–26Google Scholar. The classic work on the tense relations between Charles V and Francis I of France is Mignet, François-Auguste, La rivalité de Francois Ier et de Charles-Quint (Paris: Didier, 1876)Google Scholar.

21. “And we went, I and he [Egidio], to the apartment of the Pope,” Aescoly, Sippur, 34–35 (Adler, Travellers, 271).

22. On Egidio's knowledge of Hebrew, see Martin, Francis Xavier, “The Problem of Giles of Viterbo,” Augustiana 9 (1959): 365–66Google Scholar.

23. Aescoly, Sippur, 41 (Adler, Travellers, 276).

24. Aescoly, Hatenu'ot, 371–72.

25. Cassuto, “Mi haya,” 339.

26. “And when he arrived he was brought to the cardinal and spoke with him at length. In the end he did not rest nor was he silent until the cardinal brought him to the Pope, and I was called as the interpreter between them,” and see Aescoly, Hatenu'ot, 371.

27. Ibid., and see Aescoly, Sippur, 151.

28. 8 See Sanuto, Marin, I diarii di Marino Sanuto, 54 (Venice: Visentini 1903): 145–48Google Scholar.

29. Cited by Aescoly, Hatenu'ot, 373. Interestingly, Aescoly remarks that Marco Foscari, the Venetian ambassador to Rome, who sent this information to Venice, mentions the Pope's aspiration to achieve peace between the emperor, the king of France, and the Venetian Signoria in other letters that he sent to Venice. If Ha-Reuveni actually presented his mission to the Pope as he describes it in his journal, it is likely that the Pope would have been interested in including him in the process, which he himself favored, of making peace among the various European powers, and he would not have sent him to the king of Portugal. Thus the Pope's directing of Ha-Reuveni to Portugal shows that he wanted to be sent there in the first place. See Aescoli, Sippur, 171.

30. Aescoly, Hatenu'ot, 375.

31. Ibid., 378. Petrus Balan, ed. Monumenta Saeculi XVI, Historiam Illustrantia Vol. 1: Clementis VII Epistolae Per Sadoletum Scriptae, Quibus Accedunt Variorum Ad Papam Et Ad Alios Episto (Oeniponte: Libararia Academica Wagneriana, 1885), 28–29.

32. Aescoly, Sippur, 27 [Adler, Travellers, 265].

33. Ibid., 29 [Adler, Travellers, 267].

34. Shoḥat proposed a similar hypothesis, but argued that Ha-Reuveni wanted to sail to Aden in the ship. Shoḥat believed that Ha-Reuveni was a Yemenite Jew who wanted to connect his activity in Italy and Portugal to the messianic awakening that he estimated to have taken place at that time in Yemen. He suggested that Ha-Reuveni truly regarded himself as the messiah according to the criteria proposed by Maimonides. See Shoḥat, “Lefarashat,” 112–13. Yet there are not sufficient proofs about such a messianic awakening in Yemen at that time, and in addition Ha-Reuveni emphasizes, throughout his sojourn in Italy and Portugal, that he is a diplomat and soldier and not a messianic herald.

35. Yitzhak Baer, review of Sippur David Ha-Reuven, by Aescoly, Aharon Zeev, Kiryat Sefer 17 (1940): 303304Google Scholar. For a discussion of the various approaches in scholarship regarding Ha-Reuveni's purpose, see Idel, “Introduction,” in: Aescoly, Sippur, 19–24.

36. Aescoly, Sippur, 151.

37. Ibid., 153.

38. Aescoly, Hatenu'ot, 373.

39. For general information about Abraham Halevi, see Ira Robinson, “Abraham Ben Eliezer Halevi: Kabbalist and Messianic Visionary of the Early Sixteenth Century” (PhD diss., Harvard University, 1980) and Messianic Prayer Vigils in Jerusalem in the Early Sixteenth Century,” Jewish Quarterly Review 72 (1981): 3242CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Gershom Scholem and Malachi Beit Arieh, introduction to Ma'amar meshare qitrin (Jerusalem: Beit ha-sfarim ha-leumi ve-hauniversitai, 1978)Google Scholar [Hebrew]; Idel, Moshe, “Al mishmarot u'meshiḥiyut bi'Yerushalayim bame'ot 16–17,” Shalem 5 (1987): 8394Google Scholar; David, Avraham, “Letoldot ha ḥamim bi'yerushalayim bamea hashesh e'sre,” Shalem 5 (1987): 236–43Google Scholar.

40. On his sojourn in Portugal, see Benmelech, Moti, “Anuse'i Portugal be-reshit ha-me'a ha-16 le'or Megilat-starim le-Rabbi Abraham Halevi,” Zion 73 (2008): 299310Google Scholar.

41. On Nevuat hayeled, see Dan, Yoseph, “Lequtot lema'ase Nevuat hayeled,” Shalem 1 (1974): 229–34Google Scholar.

42. Halevi's intense messianic propaganda campaign was waged by means of epistles to which were attached other compositions of his, which were not printed, the most prominent being his commentary on Nevuat hayeled. Meshare qitrin was also well known at that time in Italy, as we see from the description of Halevi by R. Moshe Basola in his travel journal: “An eminent and modest man the honorable Abraham Halevi, who wrote Meshare qitrin” (in David, Avraham [ed.], Erets Zion veYerushalayim; masa'ot Erets Yisrael leR. Moshe Basola beshanim 5281–5283 [Jerusalem: Proyekt Yerushalayim, 1999], 22)Google Scholar. The treatise is also mentioned in an epistle that R. Yisrael Ashkenazi sent from Jerusalem to R. Abraham of Perugia and also in an epistle that reached Monte Castello containing information about a special stone upon which signs of redemption were engraved (see Neubauer, Avraham, “Qibutsim al inyenei aseret hashevatim uvenei Moshe,” Qovets al yad 4 [1888]: 34Google Scholar). These epistles were widely circulated; they were copied and disseminated beyond their original addressees.

43. Several epistles were already published. See Robinson, Ira, “Two Letters of Abraham ben Eliezer Halevi,” in Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Jewish History and Literature, ed. Twersky, I., (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1984), 2:403–22Google Scholar; Ya'ari, Avraham, Iggrot erets Israel (Tel Aviv: Gazit, 1943), 160–66Google Scholar; Beit-Aryeh, Malachi, “Iggeret me'inyan aseret hasehvatim me'et R' Abraham ben Eliezer Halevi hamekubal mishnat 1528,” Kobez al yad 6 (1966): 371–78Google Scholar; David, Avraham, “Iggeret Yerushalmit mereshit hashilton haothmani be'eretz Israel,” in Prakim be'toldot Yerushalayim be'reshit ha-tkufa ha-othmanit, ed. Cohen, Amnon (Jerusalem: Yad Ben Zvi, 1979), 3960Google Scholar; David, Avraham and Melammed, Uri, “Megilat starim’ le-Abraham ben Eliezer Halevi: Iggeret meshiḥit mishnat 1524,” Shalem 8 (2009): 453–67Google Scholar. On this letter, see also Yosef Hacker, “Rik'ah ‘umashmautah shel ‘Megilat starim’ le-Abraham ben Eliezer Halevi,” ibid., 468–77.

44. Cassuto, “Mi haya” 351–52.

45. Idel, “Introduction,” xxiii–xxiv.

46. ואמר כי מגדל בני גדיא אות כי כשיפול הוא אות וסימן מן האותות העתידים להיות בעת הקץ. והמקום הזה נקרא גידון בלשון הקדש והוא קרוב לעיר מכא, ובלשון הערב נקרא גוזא. ומצאתי כתוב בספור חלום אחד שחלם הקדוש ר' שמעון בן ‎יוחאי ע"ה והמלחמות הללו שזכר הם בעת קץ חשבון בני ישמעאל בן אברהם שהוא בשנת ה' אלפים ורפ"ב.‏

Gros, Amnon (ed.), Shloshah maamrei geulah: perush nevuat hayeled, iggeret sod ha-geula, Maamar Meshare qitrin le-Rabi Avraham ben Eliezer ha-Levi (Jerusalem: privately printed, 2000)Google Scholar, Perush nevuat hayeled, 21. Because of the obscurity of Halevi's messianic texts I have included the Hebrew-Aramaic source.

47. וגדיא היא עיר אחת במזרח אצל מכא ונזכרה בנבואה הראשונה שאמר שם ומגדל בני גדיא אות, ונקראת גדיא על שם אומה אחת שנקראת כן שנתישבו קצת אנשים ממנה בארץ ההיא מקודם שעמד מוחמד ונקראים בני האומה ההיא גודיים ובלשון לעז גודוש. ולפי דעתי לקחו שם זה על שם גבורתם שרצו להתיחס לבני גד בכח וגבורה לא שהיו מהם ח"ו ובודאי גם לא ‎גבורתם כמו גבורתם, אבל מ"מ גבורים היו מאד.‏

Ibid., 74.

48. Halevi refers to the Portuguese as “butchers” (katsavim) because he claims that no other nation had hated the Jews as much as the Portuguese did. See ibid., 73.

49. אמר, כי אחרי שיכבוש המלך שלם את מצרים, שאחרי כן יכנסו הקצבים הכורעים לעצבים שהם אנשי פורטוגל. ואמר שכשיכנסו יבנו בנין ודירה סמוך למדבר, ולא אמר באיזה ארץ יכנסו ובאיזה צד מן המדבר יבנו הבנין. אבל נבינהו מן הבא אחריו, כי אנשי פורטוגאל לקצות הארץ יביטו, ולמקוצעות הימים המזרחיים יתהלכו, ויכנסו בארצות מן המזרח אצל עיר מכא כמו שיאמר. ואמר שיתהפך הסדר עליהם, ותקעקע ביצתם, ותתהפך שמחתם ועל ידיהם יתקרב הרע. והכונה להם, כי רעה תבא עליהם. ואמר: ′סוף ימא חרב על י′ מילין מתחרב′, יתכן שירמוז שהישמעאלים שבארץ ההיא יברחו מכל המקומות שעל שפת הים בקירוב עשר מילין, ויחרב כל קצה הים השיעור ההוא. כלומר, ישוב הישמעאלים אשר אל קצה הים [ . . . ] ור"ל שהם יכחשו כלומר אנשי פורטוגאל הבאים להלחם בארץ ההיא, יחלש כחם ומשמן בשרם ירזה ויהיה זה בשמחת התוגרמים ובקשתם. כי הם יבקשו תחבולות על זה עד שיבאו עליהם אלה האנשים הנזכרים להלחם בם במקום שיוכלו להנקם מהם. כגון שיברחו הישמעאלים, והתוגרמים היושבים שם עמהם עד התייקם את האדומיים הרבה מן הים אל היבשה. ויארבו להם מצד הים, והעם הנס יהפך אל הרודף, או תחבולות אחרות מתחבולות המלחמה שיעשו להם.‏

Ibid., 75–76.

50. Boxer, Charles Ralph, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire 1415–1825 (London: Hutchinson 1969), 4649Google Scholar.

51. The Portuguese permitted passage of pepper to Safavid Iran in exchange for silk. Since the Safavids fought several wars with the Ottomans, the Portuguese tried to establish good contact with them. See Pearson, Michael Naylor, The Indian Ocean (London: Routledge, 2003), 130CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

52. Boxer, Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 46–49. On the consequences of the Portuguese penetration to the Indian Ocean, see Chaudhuri, Kirti Narayan, Trade and Civilisation in the Indian Ocean (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 6380CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Risso, Patricia, Merchants and Faith: Muslim Commerce and Culture in the Indian Ocean (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1995), 7287Google Scholar. From the 1540s on, the Red Sea became an important route in the spice trade between the Atjehnese Sultanate in Sumatra and Europe, and by the end of the sixteenth century, the Portuguese pepper trade was down by 25 percent (Boxer, Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 59). On the spice commerce through the Red Sea, see Boxer, Charles Ralph, “A Note on Portuguese Reactions to the Revival of the Red Sea Spice Trade and the Rise of Atjeh, 1540–1600,” Journal of Southeast Asian History 10 (1969): 415–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

53. Risso, Merchants and Faith, 72. On Indian pilgrims to Mecca, see Pearson, Michael Naylor, Pilgrimage to Mecca: The Indian Experience, 1500–1800 (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 1996)Google Scholar.

54. The importance and wealth of Jeddah, as seen by Portuguese eyes, are apparent in Camões's, Luiz DeLusiads, canto 9, st. 3–4 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 177Google Scholar.

55. Danvers, Frederick Charles, The Portuguese in India (London: Nelson, 1966), I:305306Google Scholar. See also Stripling, George William Frederick, The Ottoman Turks and the Arabs (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1942), 30Google Scholar. Some scholars suggest that Albuquerque even planned to steal the body of the Prophet Muhammad from its burial place and hold it for ransom until all Muslims had left the Holy Land. See McGregor, Andrew James, A Military History of Modern Egypt: From the Ottoman Conquest to the Ramadan War (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2006), 2021Google Scholar; Beazley, Charles Raymond, “The Colonial Empire of the Portuguese to the Death of Albuquerque,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, N.S. 8 (1894): 122CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

56. Barbosa, Duarte, A Description of the Coasts of East Africa and Malabar (London: Hakluyt Society, 1867)Google Scholar, reprint 1970, 23–25. The book was published as the work of Duarte Barbosa but was actually written by Ferdinand Magellan; see H. E. J. Stanley, “Note to Thirty-fifth Publication of the Hakluyt Society Description of the Coasts of East Africa and Malabar,” ibid., not numbered.

57. Aescoly, Hatenu'ot, 371.

58. Jacobs, Martin, “David ha-Re'uveni—ein ‘zionistisches Experiment’ im Kontext der europäischen Expansion des 16. Jahrhunderts?” in An der Schwelle zur Moderne: Juden in der Renaissance, ed. Veltri, Giuseppe and Winkelmann, Annette (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 191206Google Scholar.

59. Halevi, “Iggeret,” 41–42.

60. The dates of the different stages of the redemption according to Halevi were 1520, when the first stage was suppose to occur, the second in 1524, the third in 1530, and the final stage in 1536. See Halevi, “Iggeret,” 20.

61. Halevi referred to doubts and questions aroused because of the absence of visible progress in the messianic realm in some of his epistles; see Robinson, “Two Letters.”

62. On the place of gematria in Halevi's calculations of the end of days, see Halevi, “Iggeret,” 2–3. On dream divination, see p. 48 there; on Halevi's magical interpretations, see pp. 13–14. Regarding the centrality of astrological calculations in determining the end of days and in Halevi's messianic propaganda, see Gershom Scholem, “Hamequbal R. Avraham ben Eli'ezer Halevi,” Qiryat sefer 2 (1924–26): 271–72. And see also Halevi, “Perush,” 23–25 as well as “Iggeret,” 38.

63. Halevi, “Perush,” 11.

64. Ibid., 74; and see p. 44, near n. 45.

65. Ibid., 74.

66. The proximity of Ha-Reuveni's kingdom and Jeddah is mentioned in Daniel of Pisa's epistle; see Aescoly, Hatenu'ot, 371, and by Abraham Farrissol in his Iggeret orḥot olam (Itinera mundi), 374.

67. Halevi, “Iggeret,” 1.

68. Robinson, “Two Letters,” 408 (the quotation is from an epistle of 5285 in which Martin Luther is also mentioned). Although Ha-Reuveni set out on his journey before this epistle was composed, it is informative regarding the centrality of that date in Halevi's messianic conception.

69. Although Ha-Reuveni introduced himself to the Pope and to the king of Portugal as a member of the Tribe of Judah and even presented a family tree to them, showing him to be descended from King David (see the epistle of Daniel of Pisa, Aescoly, Hatenuo'ot, 371, and Sippur, 85, 101 [Adler, Travellers, 306]), there is no doubt the Jews saw him as a member of the tribe of Reuven, and he explicitly connected himself with that tribe, declaring that his brother was ruling the tribes of Gad, Reuven, and half of Menashe. Shoḥat's assumption that Ha-Reuveni did not present himself as a member of the tribe of Reuven, and that he even opposed the very epithet (Shoḥat, “Lefarashat,” 103) is not convincing, especially since Shlomo Molkho calls him by that name even when addressing him with great respect and admiration, as a disciple before his master (see Abraham Rotenberg, Ḥayat kaneh [Amsterdam: Uri Feibesh, 1660], 5v). It is difficult to assume that Molkho would have called Ha-Reuveni by the very epithet to which he objected. In my opinion, the contradictions to which Shoḥat referred between Ha-Reuveni's identification as a member of the tribe of Reuven and his family tree from the tribe of Judah, and also the fact that at the beginning of his journal he first mentions the tribe of Gad and only then the tribe of Reuven, are the key to understanding some of the central points of his mission. The connection of the tribe of Gad with Jeddah and his membership in the tribe of Reuven, despite the difficulties presented, derive from the desire to emphasize the messianic task of the tribe of Reuven at the start of the redemption, rather than the family tree from the tribe of Judah. It is possible that Ha-Reuveni presented two identities: one as a descendant of the tribe of Judah, which he displayed to Christians, and the other as belonging to the tribe of Reuven, which he displayed to Jews.

70. See Halevi, “Perush,” 42–46. It is possible that Halevi refers here to the rise of the Safavid Shiite Empire in Iran at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The early Safavids arose from the Safaviya, a mystical Sufi order popular in northwestern Iran. Indeed, Halevi refers to them as Shiites and Sufis. The name Shufiza might be a confusion of the original Safavid or Safaviya. Ismail I, the first Safavid Shah of Iran, was born in 1487, close enough to 1485; Halevi noted this as the birth year of a new Shiite leader. Another possibility is that Ha-Reuveni himself was born that year (in 1530 he was described by the Venetian geographer Giovanni Battista Ramusio as a man in his forties). See Sanuto, I Diarii di Marino Sanuto, 6:146–47. On the Safavids, see Roemer, Hans Robert, “The Safavid Period,” in The Timurid and Safavid Periods; The Cambridge History of Iran, ed. Jackson, Peter and Lockhart, Laurence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 6:189350Google Scholar; Savory, Roger, Iran under the Safavids (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980)Google Scholar.

71. Halevi, “Perush,” 45.

72. Ibid.

73. Cases of Jews who disguised themselves as Muslims in order to travel more easily in a Muslim environment, especially in Africa, are mentioned in Abraham Halevi's epistle on the Ten Tribes and on the Falashas. There is no mention of disguising oneself as a member of the Prophet's family, but rather a description of the situation, and it is possible that Reuveni was also aware of it. See Beit Arieh, “Iggeret mi'inyan hashevatim,” 376.

74. Halevi, “Perush nevuat hayeled,” 38.

75. Ibid., 53.

76. Aescoly, Sippur 31 [Adler, Travellers, 268].

77. On this delay, see ibid., 48–49.

78. Halevi, “Iggeret,” 20.

79. See for example ibid., 38–39.

80. Ibid., 38.

81. Robinson, “Two Letters,” 408.

82. Ibid.

83. Beit Arieh, “Iggeret Mi'inyan Hashevatim,” 376.

84. Aescoly, Sippur, 32 [Adler, Travellers, 269–70].

85. On the Meshulam family, see David Jacoby, “New Evidence on Jewish Bankers in Venice and the Venetian Terraferma (c. 1450–1550),” The Mediterranean and the Jews: Banking, Finance and International Trade (XVI–XVIII Centuries), ed. Toaff, Ariel and Schwarzfuchs, Simon (Ramat-Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press 1989), 159–77Google Scholar, and Carpi, Daniel, L'individuo e la collettività: Saggi di storia degli ebrei a Padova e nel Veneto nell'età del Rinascimento (Florence: L.S. Olschki, 2002), 61110Google Scholar.

86. On Megilat starim, see David and Melammed, “Megilat starim”; Hacker, “Rik'ah,” and Benmelech, “Anussei Portugal.” On the economic aspects of the activities of Asher Meshulam and his family, see Pullan, Brian, Rich and Poor in Renaissance Venice (Oxford: Blackwell, 1971), 479–83Google Scholar. Ruth Lamdan suggested that Asher Meshulam was the addressee of Iggeret bnei hayeshiva (the epistle to members of the yeshiva), which Abraham Halevi wrote (see Ruth Lamdan, Moshe Basola ḥayav veyetsirato [Master's thesis, Tel Aviv University, 1983]), 11. If her conjecture is correct, it is possible that, in the wake of the epistle to members of the yeshiva, which was sent in 1521, a personal connection was made between Halevi and Asher Meshulam, which then found expression in Megilat hasetarim of 1524.

87. Aescoly, Sippur, 33 [Adler, Travellers, 270].

88. David, Avraham, “Iggeret R. Israel Ashkenazi miYerushalayim leR. Avraham miPerusha,” Alei Sefer 16 (1990): 121Google Scholar, and in the notes on lines 190–91.

89. Ya'ari, “Iggrot,” 177.

90. On the members of this family, see Kaufman, David, “La famille ‘de Pise,’Revue des Etude Juives 31 (1895): 6273Google Scholar and La famille de Yehiel de Pise,” Revue des Études Juives 26 (1893): 83110Google Scholar, 220–39.

91. See Aescoly, Sippur, 52–60 [Adler, Travellers, 280–84].

92. Ibid., 53 [Adler, Travellers, 282].

93. Beit Arieh, “Iggeret,” 373. In the body of the letter the word ḥamif appears, but this should probably be emended to ḥamiv (his [formal for “your”] father-in-law), both because of the content and also because later in the epistle the word ḥamiv appears explicitly. See ibid., n. 1. The conjecture that this epistle was originally addressed to a rabbi named Ḥamav, Ḥamif, or Ḥamui, which was advanced by Beit Arieh, seems groundless, since the original of Megilat setarim has been found, and in it are the names of the addressees.

94. Ibid., 377.

95. Arieh, Malachi Beit and Idel, Moshe, “Maamar'al haqets vehaetstagninut me'et R. Avraham Zakut,” Qiryat sefer 54 (1980): 175Google Scholar.

96. On this subject, see Robinson, “Messianic Prayer Vigils in Jerusalem in the Early Sixteenth Century,” 32–42, and Idel, “Al mishmarot u'meshihiyut bi-Yerushalayim bameot XV–XVI,” 83–94. Halevi composed and printed his book Meshare qitrin within the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire (in Seres and in Constantinople), but it appears that we must distinguish between this article and his commentary on Nevuat hayeled and the epistle on the secret of redemption. On this see above. Regarding the time of his arrival in the Land of Israel, see David, “Letoldot ḥakhamim biYerushalayim,” 239.

97. See Beit Arieh and Scholem, introduction to Ma'amar meshare qitrin, 38–42.

98. Regarding Ha-Reuveni's attitude toward the Jews of Italy, see Aescoly, Sippur, 43, 92 [Adler, Travellers, 278]. The strong impression that the Jewish women of Italy made on Ha-Reuveni is evident throughout his account of his sojourn in Italy. See ibid., 37, 38, 39, 52, 53, 57 [Adler, Travellers, 275, 282–83]. About the role of women in Ha-Reuveni's diary see my forthcoming article “Ha-aḥerot beinei ha-Aḥer, nashim be-yomano shel David Ha-Reuveni,” Festschrift in Honor of Robert Bonfil, eds. M. Ben-Sasson, E. Baumgarten, A. Raz-Karkotzkin, and R. Weinstein (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute (forthcoming): 147–64.

99. Ibid., 22–28 [Adler, Travellers, 259–68].

100. Regarding the inner structure of the Makhpela Cave and study of the Cave and its surroundings, see Avisar, Oded (ed.), Sefer Ḥevron (Jerusalem: Keter, 1978): 265–95Google Scholar.

101. Ya'ari, “Iggrot,” 126.

102. Eisenstein, Otsar masa'ot, 98.

103. Aescoly, Sippur, 25 [Adler, Travellers, 263–64]. Meshulam of Voltera also mentions the candles. See Eisenstein, Otsar masa'ot, 200.

104. Aescoly, Sippur, 26. R. Ovadia of Bartenura also mentions such a building. See Eisenstein, Otsar masa'ot, 119.

105. Aescoly, Sippur, 26–27 [Adler, Travellers, 265]. Bartenura also tells about two caves on the Mount of Olives (Ya'ari, “Iggrot,” 135). Meshulam of Voltera (Eisenstein, Otsar masa'ot, 100–101) and Basola, Moshe (in Avraham Ya'ari, Masa'ot Erets Yisrael [Tel Aviv: Gazit, 1946]: 145)Google Scholar; both describe the Tomb of David.

106. Aescoly, Sippur, 25–27 [Adler, Travellers, 265].

107. An indication of the pace of the transfer of information can be gleaned from the letter of David min-Ha'adumim (Ya'ari, “Iggrot,” 186) dated March 1535, in which he recounts that three months previously the rumor had reached Tripoli about the death of Pope Clement VII. Clement died in late September 1534, and news of his death reached Tripoli at the end of December that year, giving us an idea about the content of the information and also about the length of time that it took to arrive.

108. See Aescoli, Sippur, 64–85; Hillelson, Samuel, “David Reubeni an Early Visitor to Sennar,” Sudan Notes and Records XVI (1933): 5566Google Scholar.

109. Aescoly, Sippur, 74. See also the description as it appears on p. 71.

110. This custom, as part of the conversion ceremony, appears in the Tur yore de'a sig. 278; and see Bayit ḥadash and Beit Yosef there; see also Shulḥan 'arukh Yore de'a sig. 278. Nevertheless, there is almost no reference to this custom in the responsa literature, and it is not part of the conversion ceremony as practiced today or in the past.

111. This custom is based on a homily presented in the name of R. Moshe Hadarshan, according to which anyone who had committed idol worship was required to be shaved as though he were a leper. See Rashi's commentary on Numbers 8:7 and the comment of Bayit ḥadash in Tur, yore de'a sig. 278.

112. On the medieval Ashkenazi attitude to converts returning to Judaism see Katz, Jacob, “Af al pi she'ḥata Yisrael hu,” Tarbitz 27 (1958): 203–17Google Scholar, and see the recent discussion of Kanarfogel, Ephraim, “Returning to the Jewish Community in Medieval Ashkenaz: History and Halakhah,” in Turim: Studies in Jewish History and Literature Presented to Dr. Bernard Lander, ed. Shmidman, Michael (New York: Touro College Press, 2007), 1:6997Google Scholar.

113. See Yerushalmi, Yosef Hayim, “The Inquisition and the Jews of France in the Time of Bernard Gui,” Harvard Theological Review 63 (1970): 317–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Shatzmiller, Joseph, “Converts and Judaizers in the Early Fourteenth Century,” Harvard Theological Review 74 (1981): 6377CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

114. Baer, Yitzhak, “Hatenu'a hameshiḥit biSefarad bitequfat hagerush,” Ma'asaf Ẓion 5 (1933): 7273Google Scholar and see the source on p. 73, n. 1.

115. Yehuda, “David Ha-Reuveni, motsa'o,” 606–14.

116. On this see David, Avraham, “Tsefat kemerkaz leyeshivat anusim bameah hatet-zayin,” in Ḥevrah u-kehila, ed. Hayim, Avraham (Jerusalem: Misgav Yerushalayim, 1991), 183204Google Scholar.