Moses Capsali
Moses b. Elijah Capsali (1420–1495) was Hakham Bashi
Hakham Bashi
Hakham Bashi is the Turkish name for the Chief Rabbi of the nation's Jewish community.-History:The institution of the Hakham Bashi was established by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II, as part of the millet system for governing exceedingly diverse subjects according to their own laws and authorities...

(Chief rabbi
Chief Rabbi
Chief Rabbi is a title given in several countries to the recognized religious leader of that country's Jewish community, or to a rabbinic leader appointed by the local secular authorities...

) of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...


He was born in Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 in 1420. When a young man he left his native country in order to study at the German yeshivot
Yeshiva is a Jewish educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and Torah study. Study is usually done through daily shiurim and in study pairs called chavrutas...

He is next mentioned as rabbi of Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 about 1450; but he became prominent only during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II
Mehmed II
Mehmed II , was Sultan of the Ottoman Empire for a short time from 1444 to September 1446, and later from...

, who appointed him chief rabbi of Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

. The sultan
Sultan is a title with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic language abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", and "dictatorship", derived from the masdar سلطة , meaning "authority" or "power". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who...

 thought so much of the rabbi that he assigned to him a seat in the divan
A divan was a high governmental body in a number of Islamic states, or its chief official .-Etymology:...

 beside the mufti
A mufti is a Sunni Islamic scholar who is an interpreter or expounder of Islamic law . In religious administrative terms, a mufti is roughly equivalent to a deacon to a Sunni population...

, the religious head of the Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

s, and above the patriarch of the Christians.

Capsali held various offices, which included the supervision of the taxes of the Jews, and the appointment of rabbis, and he even acted as a civil judge
A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and in an open...

. It is said that the sultan's respect for the rabbi was because, disguised as a civilian, Mehmed II was present one day while Capsali was rendering his decisions; and he assured himself that the rabbi was incorruptible and impartial in his judgments.

When the sultan undertook to improve the moral conditions of some parts of Constantinople, it was said that this endeavor was prompted by the rabbi. It is certain that Capsali dealt very severely with Jewish youths who, intimate with the janissaries, imitated them in leading un-Jewish and immoral lives. Some of these youths, enraged by the corporal punishment he had inflicted on them, attempted to kill him during a street riot in 1481, and he escaped only by flight.

Capsali's associations with Bayazid
Bayezid II
Bayezid II or Sultân Bayezid-î Velî was the oldest son and successor of Mehmed II, ruling as Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1481 to 1512...

, the son and successor of Mehmed II, were equally pleasant; and Bayazid's friendliness toward the Jews, that became especially evident in the ready reception of the Spanish exiles fleeing the Spanish Inquisition
Spanish Inquisition
The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition , commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition , was a tribunal established in 1480 by Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. It was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms, and to replace the Medieval...

, must be ascribed in no small measure to Capsali's influence.

Capsali died about 1495 at Constantinople; he was succeeded as Hakham Bashi by Elijah Mizrachi
Elijah Mizrachi
Elijah Mizrachi was a Talmudist and posek, an authority on Halakha. He is best known for his Sefer ha-Mizrachi, a supercommentary on Rashi's commentary on the Torah...

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