Rabbi Aguilar's 'Tratado de la Retórica'.
Although the ability to preach is a talent, it is always advisable for the speaker to back his natural competence with theoretical rules of the art of rhetoric. Therefore, Moshe Rephael de Aguilar, a teacher in the Sephardic Talmudic school in Amsterdam and Rabbi of the community from about 1661 until his death in 1679 was asked to compile his treatise on ancient rhetoric. Aguilar's decision to present his pupils and friends a tract on Greek and Roman rhetoric, and not only to refer to Jewish modes of preaching, has enabled Shlomo Berger to assess his text in at least two areas: the Rabbi's knowledge of the ancient theory of well speaking and Greek and Roman culture in general, and his modes of employing the ancient, pagan world of ideas along the traditional Jewish orthodox one. In his monograph Berger aims to unfold the circumstances under which Aguilar composed his tract in circa 1665/1666 and to analyze the particulars of the text. His detailed examination reveals the wide range of Moshe Rephael's knowledge and the way he transmitted this to members of the Amsterdam Sephardic community. Moreover, the study of this particular tract on rhetorical theory sheds light on the vast amount of sermon literature that was composed in Amsterdam.
´[...]I found the entire book well worthwhile. Berger's discussions uncover a wealth of background necessary to fully understand the numerous sermons left by Amsterdam rabbis such as Saul Levi Mortera, Solomon de Oliveira and the authors of Peri Ets Haim. It not only sheds light on the classical interests of Jews in Amsterdam rabbinic culture, an area less esoteric than heretofore recognized, but it also offers insights into the impact of classics on other Jewries, particularly that of Italy.' Matt Goldish, in Journal of Jewish Studies I, 1998
'Despite these shortcomings, Berger is to be commended for his valuable study of an uncommon man's treatise on Classical oratory.' Leon J. Weinberger in International Journal of the Classical Tradition, Winter 2000