A family originally from Basel in Switzerland (whence the name), but resident in the north of Italy and in Palestine from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century.

In 1489 Mordecai Ẓarfati (the Frenchman) ben Reuben Bassola corrected at Soncino the proofs of an edition of the Talmudical treatises Ḥullin and Niddah, with scrupulous exactness and knowledge (see Rabbinowitz, "Diḳduḳe Soferim"). His son Moses ben Mordecai Bassola (1480-1560), celebrated for his cabalistic attainments, was born at Pesaro, and was for a long time head of the Jewish Academy of Ancona. He was rabbi in Ancona when Paul IV. (1555-59) tried to take vengeance on Spain by persecuting the Maranos living in that city. A number of Maranos had fled to the East, and there conceived the idea of boycotting Ancona, and turning the Levantine commerce to Pesaro (Jew. Encyc. i. 572). It was Moses who wrote the letter to the Constantinople Jews, begging them not to carry out their threat, for fear of the reprisals that Paul might take (Grätz, "Gesch. der Juden," ix. 376, 378, 383, 444; x.142; Kaufmann, in "Revue Etudes Juives," xxxi. 231; Zunz, "Gesammelte Schriften," i. 182). While at Pesaro he encouraged his pupil Emmanuel Benevento to print the Zohar (Mantua ed. 1558-60), and he published at the head of the "Tiḳḳune Zohar" his official approbation, an eloquent plea in behalf of the Cabala in general and of what claimed to be R. Simeon b. Yoḥai's work in particular. In his old age Moses journeyed to Palestine; his diary of the voyage, which Azariah dei Rossi examined with good results (see the Samaritan alphabet in ch. lvi. of "Imre Binah," part 3 of the "Me'or 'Enayim"), evidences his scientific inquisitiveness and the clearness of his thought. In Safed, Moses was welcomed with great honor by all the scholars there resident; and Moses Cordovero, it is said, on the authority of Leon de Modena ("Ari No'em," xxvi.), ostentatiously kissed his hands, much disconcerting the modest old man. Rabbi Menahem Azariah de Fano eulogizes Moses in No. 67 of his responsa, in connection with certain commercial printing-offices in Italy (compare "Toledot Gedole Yisrael," p. 248). He is also quoted by R. Moses de Trani in No. 304 of the first part of his collection, and by Katzenellenbogen of Padua, in No. 13 of his responsa (Conforte, "Ḳore ha-Dorot," ed. Cassel, 34b, 37a); see also responsa in manuscripts 9 and 228 of the Halberstamm Library ("Kehilat Shelomo." Vienna, 1890). His family established themselves at Safed.

His son Azriel ben Moses Bassola gave lessons to the infant prodigy Leon de Modena, who enjoyed likewise, especially between 1582 and 1584, the instruction of Moses, son of Benjamin della Rocca. The last-named, who was a grandson on his mother's side of the venerable Moses Bassola, whose family name he bore, came from Safed, where he had had as colleague Gedaliah, son of Moses Cordovero. When the latter also came to Italy, he associated him with himself, in pious tribute to the memory of Cordovero in the work "Or Ne'erab" (The Setting Luminary) (1587). In 1588 Moses Bassola received as a gift from the hands of R. Menahem Azariah de Fano, the manuscript of the work "Tomer Deborah" (The Palm-Tree of Deborah), which he also edited. His facility in writing is shown by the brief prefaces in prose and in verse, as well as by a homily preserved in the Italian manuscript of the Michael collection (Neubauer, "Cat. Bodl. Hebr. MSS." No. 2192). He died soon after at an early age in the island of Cyprus, sincerely lamented by his pupil Leon of Modena (then thirteen years old), in the following elegy, which can be read both in Hebrew and in Italian:

"Chi nasce muor ohmè che pass' acerbo. Colto vien l'uom cosi ordin' il cielo. Mose mori Mose gia car de verbo. Santo sia ogn' uom, con puro zelo. Ch'alla meta, giammai senza riserbo. Arriv' uom ma vedran in cangiar pelo. Se fin abbiam, ch'al cielo vero o'meno Ah l'uom va, se viva assai se meno."

This "ḳinah" was first published (the Italian in Hebrew characters) in Leon's "Midbar Yehudah," Venice, 1602; then in his "Pi Aryeh," Venice, 1640. It has since been often republished, notably by Bartolocci in "Bibliotheca Rabbinica," iii. 34; by Wagenseil in "Soṭah," 50; in "The Occident," xiv., Philadelphia, 1856; and by N. S. Lebowitz, in "Leon Modena," 2d ed., 1901, p. 7. Compare Steinschneider, "Cat.Bodl." col.1353; idem, in "Monatsschrift," xliii. 313, 315; Michael, "Or ha-Ḥayyim," No. 963; Grätz, "Gesch. der Juden," x. 142.

Another Moses Basilea or Bassola edited the "Or Ne'erab," Venice, 1587; and the "Tamar Deborah" of Moses Cordovero, Venice, 1589.


A century later Rabbi Ezekias de Basla () was sent to Carpentras as representative of the city of Safed, which was in distress at that time (see Luncz, , iii. 108).

Mordecai ben Reuben designates himself in all his letters as belonging to the junior branch of the family. Contemporary with him was Azriel, who was related to Rabbi Joseph Colon (see Mortara, "Indice Alfabetico"), and who died in 1480. Among his posterity (the Trabotti) the name "Azriel" recurs frequently; there is one of that name also in the above-cited branch of the Bassola family. The celebrated Rabbi Jehiel, son of Azriel Trabot(to), mentions in the sixteenth century a certain Abraham ben Abraham Basola living in Cremona. Possibly the Azriel b. Abraham Zarfati in Solmona (Abruzzi) in 1535 (Mortara, "Indice Alfabetico," p.70) is to be mentioned in this connection. In 1652 Moses Simon, son of Shabbethai Basilea, had charge of an edition of "Tiḳḳun 'Olam" (System of the Universe), a commentary on Isaiah, edited by Ortona and published at the press of Fr. Rossi at Verona.

Quite a long line of rabbis and writers is connected with Samson Basola of the sixteenth century, whose son Solomon, rabbi at Mantua in 1570, was drawn into the controversy which raged in 1572 concerning the levirate marriage. His opinion, which is based essentially upon the Zohar, is incorporated in the "Paḥad Yiẓḥaḳ" (letter ח, p. 24). One of his descendants, Menahem Samson ben Solomon Basila of Mantua, was rabbi at Alessandria in Italy, and chief rabbi at Mantua in 1670, where he died in 1693. The center of a constellation of noted men, he was an intimate friend of R. Moses Zacuto, and was eulogized by his favorite pupil, Benjamin Cohen de Reggio, in his book, "Gebul Binyamin." He turned his attention to the calendar; and one for the years 5431-32 (1671-72), which he published at Venice, has been preserved, as has also a manuscript letter in Italian of great interest, in which astronomy is still called astrology, and which reveals very clearly the ingenious artifices to which recourse was had in 1675 for the purpose of harmonizing the differences of opinion concerning the true time of the moon's phases. His decisions are scattered through the best collections of the period (Nepi, 225); one of them, addressed to a grandson of R. Joshua Boaz of the Baruch family, author of the "Shilṭe ha-Gibborim," forbids the use of brandy distilled in retorts as being forbidden (Nesek); it is printed at the end of the large work written by his son, Solomon Abi'ad Sar Shalom, whom he instructed in religion and Cabala.

This son, who in his name bears testimony to the Messianic hopes of his kinsman, was reared under the eyes of Moses Zacuto, of Vital Norzi, of the Segrès; his chief teacher was Judah Bréal; and his fellow-student was Isaac Lampronti, the author of "Paḥad Yiẓḥaḳ." At the age of ten he commenced the study of the various sciences, and plunged with avidity into the theosophy of Moses Cordovero. He attempted poetry, and edited, with a commentary, the mystic poem of Moses Zacuto, "'Aruk Tofteh" (alluding to Is. xxx. 33), (Venice, 1715, 1744; Metz, 1777). That he acquired a profound knowledge of the Talmud and of the casuists is shown by his correspondence with Judah Bréal, Gabriel Pontremoli, and Abraham Segrè ("Bibliotheca Friedlandiana," No. 727); and his decisions are incorporated in No. 59 of the Halberstamm collection, in the "Paḥad Yiẓḥaḳ" by his fellow-student Lampronti, in the responsa of Jabez (R. Jacob Emden), and elsewhere.

Solomon enjoyed a deserved reputation for geometrical knowledge; he edited Euclid's "Elements" for the use of Abraham Segrè (Günzburg Collection, No. 215); and was also versed in astronomy. He exchanged letters in Italian with Samson Bachi the younger, of Casale, an uncle of R. Isaac Raphael Finzi (Nepi, 321), upon the principles of the calendar, between 1694 and 1701, and wrote a preface for his treatise entitled "Nayer ha-Yamim" (A Paper on the Years) (Günzburg Collection, Nos. 312, 579); in 1727 he commenced to publish "Luaḥ" or Pocket Daily Calendar: it appeared at Mantua in 32mo, and included the dates of the Christian festivals.

At the age of forty-four, in company with Samuel Norzi, Solomon initiated himself into the intricacies of the cabalistic system of Isaac Luria, which to-day takes precedence of all others. He carefully prepared a very remarkable work, in which he reproached all philosophers and exegetes who had not taken part in the mystical movement, and adduced specious arguments for the authenticity of the Zohar. His work, even before it appeared in print, aroused a most heated opposition. Gad dell'Aquila implored the author most earnestly not to insult the memory of Abraham ibn Ezra by the publication of his book (Günzburg Collection, No. 179). He took some time to revise it, rather to amplify, however, than to moderate its expressions; and it appeared in 1730 under the title of "Emunat Ḥakamim" (The Faith of the Wise). The work is a veritable mine of knowledge; the whole of Hebrew literature is passed in review; and there are quotations from Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Alexander of Aphrodisias, Averroes, Avicenna, Copernicus, Fr. Piccolomini, I. Cotogno ("De Triplici Statu Animi"), and others. Jacob Emden attempted to refute the book in his "Miṭpaḥat Sefarim."

Abi'ad naturally took the part of M. Ḥ. Luzzatto when the latter was persecuted: it was probably owing to this that a search-warrant was issued against him on the ground that he possessed forbidden books in his library. Being convicted of owning non-expurgated works, he was thrown into prison in June, 1733; May 28, 1734, he was reported sick at his house, and on June 23, 1738, was sentenced to three years' domiciliary arrest, which penalty was commuted June 18, 1739, by the curia of Rome into confinement within the ghetto-walls (Mortara, in "Hebräische Bibliographie," 1862, p. 100). In 1742 he affixed his approbation to Solomon Norzi's work "Minḥat Shay," having examined an incomplete manuscript of the same (Letter 36 of the epistolary collection in the Friedländ library); but he died on the last day of Tabernacles, 1743, without having witnessed its completion.

His brother Abraham Jedidiah is especially known for having superintended, under the auspices of David Finzi and Judal Bréal, an edition of the Shulḥan 'Aruk (Mantua, 1723), which contained a short commentary by Gur Aryeh ha-Levi, one of his father's friends. He was assisted in the work by Gur Aryeh Finzi. The edition was published at the expense of the physician Raphael Vital of Italy. Finally, a son of Abi'ad, by name Raphael Vital, deserves mention for having superintended and revised, while still very young, an edition of the "Minḥat Shay," that monumental production of the Italian Masorah, printed at the press of the same Raphael Vital, and at the latter's expense. Jellinek accuses him (Introduction to Norzi's writings, Vienna, 1876) of having taken liberties with his author; but before passing judgment it would be necessary to know if the Mantua manuscript which was communicated to Jellinek was in reality that which belonged to Abi'ad, and whether, moreover, the unexpected death of the latter did not necessitate anabridgment of the work. Respect for the author is shown by the fact that he entitled his work "Minḥat Shay."

  • Mortara, Indice Alfabetico, s.v.;
  • Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. cols. 1353, 1725, 1795, 1992, 2286, 2826;
  • Luncz, Jerusalem, iii. 55;
  • S. Wiener, Bibliotheca Friedlandiana, No. 496.
K. V. C. D. G. G.
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