Research Query: A Remarkable Occurrence in Brazil

Jacob Adler's picture

Dear Colleagues,

In Book3, Chapter 3 of Nishmat Hayyim, Menasseh ben Israel describes a remarkable incident:

Someone told me in all innocence that six months after he had in secret struck an informer in Brazil with a blow that might have proved fatal, as was known to many people, and [the informer] had recovered from his wound, [the person who had struck the blow] happened to encounter him and greeted him.  Immediately, while he was still speaking, the wound opened up and blood flowed out.  [The informer's] heart died within him and he passed away.

Does anyone know of a source for this account? 


Jacob Adler
University of Arkansas
Philosophy Department
Fayetteville, Arkansas


For the question of Prof. Jacob Adler:

I do not know the source for this specific case, but perhaps the following information can help by giving to it the historical background.
See Abraham Melamed, The Discovery of America in Jewish Literature of the 16-17 Centuries, in: Following Columbus America 1492-1992, Edited by Miriam Eliav-Feldon [Hebrew], p. 443 ff.

Melamed reviews Rabbi Menashe ben Israel's connections with Brazil (see ibid. p. 462; it turns out that he wanted to improve his livelihood and find a position as a rabbi in Brazil, but that did not really work in the end). See the details which are brought there by Melamed, which makes it plausible to assume that this story is connected to the following event: in 1644 Aharon Halevi Elias (Montasinos) arrived in Holland from Brazil. He told the Jews in Holland many wonderful stories, and Ben Israel considered them reliable, see what Melamed explains in this regard on p. 464).

Admiel Kosman
Potsdam University