Kalman Chalfan

Kalman Chalfan was possibly a son or grandson of Eliyahu and Fioretta Chalfan. He lived in Jersualem and Safed, and was given permission to go to Lemberg in Poland in 1570.

The story of Kalman Chalfan begins with Joseph Nasi (1524-1579), an extraordinary figure in Jewish history. Nasi was a converso born 1524 in Portugal who moved to Antwerp in 1546 to escape the Inquisition, and then soon fled to France and on to Venice where he became openly Jewish. In 1554 he again moved to Constantinople in the Ottoman Empire, where he became a high-ranking diplomat serving Sultan Selim II, ultimately attaining the rank of Duke of Naxos. Among his accomplishments was negotiating peace between Poland and the Ottomans in 1564, which gave him entrée into various business opportunities in Poland. In 1567, King Sigismund II of Poland allowed Nasi to send two Jewish representatives, Chaim Cohen and Abraham Mosso, to come to Lemberg, Poland to negotiate on Nasi’s behalf. They conducted their business importing wine for several years, much to the dismay of the Christian competitors as well as the local Polish Jews.

Among the documents related to Joseph Nasi and his agents is confirmation that in 1570 King Sigismund II of Poland granted permission for a number of Jewish merchants to come to Poland from the Levant and Venice. One of these was “Calman Alphan a Hierusalem de Schafet” (Kalman Chalfan in Jerusalem from Safed). We do not yet know anything more about Kalman Chalfan, but it seems very likely that he is a son or grandson of Eliyahu Chalfan and Fioretta Kalonymos, as his name is combination of the given name of Fioretta’s father and the surname of Eliyahu.

If our theory is correct, it means that a member of Eliyahu and Fioretta’s family moved to Safed and Jerusalem in Israel, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire. In the 16th century, Safed, a small city in the hills of the Upper Galilee, became an important center of Jewish learning, especially in the development of Jewish mysticism and kabbalah. Safed had been a small Jewish settlement since at least the 13th century, but received an influx of Jews fleeing the Inquisition in Spain and Southern Italy after 1492. The most significant of the new residents was Rabbi Joseph Caro (1488-1575), author of the great codification of Jewish law knows as the Shulchan Arukh. Caro likely met Solomon Molcho in Salonika, perhaps while Molcho studied with the kabbalist Rabbi Joseph Taitazak, who also taught another of Caro’s friends, Solomon Alkabez (who became the brother-in-law of another important resident of Safed, Moses Cordovero). Caro references both Molcho, Alkabez and Taitazak as strong influences in his writings. It is certainly possible that Kalman Chalfan also studied with Taitazak and then journeyed on to Jerusalem and Safed. When Molcho wrote to Taitazak before his death in 1532, he told Taitazak to send letters to him care of Eliyahu Chalfan in Venice.

Joseph Nasi is credited with spurring settlement in Safed, which means he may have been responsible for Kalman Chalfan moving there around 1560. Note also that Eliezer Ashkenazi, who is possibly a son of Eliyahu and Fioretta Chalfan, dedicated his book Yosef Lekah, published while he was in Cremona in 1576, to Joseph Nasi.

Home

Leave a Reply