Hebrew name – ר' שמואל דוד בן ר' חזקיה לוצאטו (known by the acronym שד"ל)
Italian name – Samuele Davide Luzzatto
Dates – 1800 – 1865
Location – Shadal was born and raised in Trieste, Italy, and lived most of his adult life in Padua.
Education – Shadal was educated in an Italian Jewish community that was open to general education alongside a Jewish one. His elementary education included Bible, Mishnah, mathematics, geography, history, Italian, French, and German, and in his teens, he intensively studied Latin.2 Shadal's research and literary activities began in his early teens,3 and he completed studying the entire Talmud at age 17.
Occupation – At age 20, Shadal began working as a private tutor, and at 29, he was appointed professor at the rabbinical college in Padua, where he taught for the rest of his life.4 His extensive educational and literary work spanned the fields of philology, Semitics, poetry, philosophy, and biblical exegesis, and included correspondence with many of the leading Jewish scholars and rabbis of his day. Through his teaching and written works, Shadal defended traditional Judaism against modern critical movements, while also forging his own brand of Modern Orthodoxy. He is considered one of the founders of the Hebrew "Chokhmat Yisrael" literature and school of thought.5
Family – Shadal had a tragic personal life, his mother dying when he was just fourteen, and his father Hezekiah dying ten years later. His first wife, Bilhah Bat-Sheva Segre, died after a long illness, and he later married her sister, Leah. His children from his first wife included Isaia (who died at 14 months), a second son named Isaia (a lawyer), Filosseno (Philoxenus),6 a promising young scholar who died at the age of 24, and a daughter Milcah, who died at 18. With his second wife, he had four children: Miriam, Baruch Iyyov (died at age 7), Yosef, and Binyamin (a physician).
Teachers – Shadal studied Hebrew language and Talmud with his father, Talmud under R. Abraham Eliezer Halevi,7 and ancient and modern languages and science under R. Mordechai de Cologna, Leon Vita Saraval, and R. Raphael Baruch Segre.8
Contemporaries – Among those Shadal corresponded with were Isaac Samuel Reggio, Abraham Geiger, and Leopold Zunz. He also had close ties with R. Solomon Judah Löb Rapoport, and R. Nachman Krochmal, who together with Shadal founded the Hebrew "Chokhmat Yisrael" school of thought.
Time period – Shadal lived at a time when world Jewry was undergoing massive change and upheaval in a rapidly modernizing world. His lifetime saw the development and ascendancy of Reform Judaism in large swaths of the Jewish world and modern critical approaches to Judaism and Jewish sources.
Jewish thought and Rabbinics – Ohev Ger,15 Vikuach Al Chokhmat HaKabbalah VeAl Kadmut Sefer HaZohar,16 Mevo LeMachzor KeMinhag Benei Roma,17 Yad Yosef, Yesodei HaTorah,18 דרך ארץ או אטיציזמוס: שירת שד"ל לדורו,19 Seder Tannaim VaAmoraim,20 Torah Nidreshet,21 Iggerot Shedal,22 Peninei Shedal.23
Edited works – Hafla'ah ShebaArakhin,24 Cherev HaMithappekhet,25 Diwan of R. Yehuda Halevi,26 Betulat Bat Yehudah,27 Commentary to Half of the Book of Mikhah.28
Other works – Kinnor Na'im,29 Ḳinah,30 Avnei Zikkaron,31 Beit HaOtzar,32 A Catalogue of the Library of Joseph Almanzi,33 Ma'amar BeYesodei Hadiḳduḳ,34 Naḥalat Shadal,35 Ṭal Orot.36
Verse by verse / Topical –
Peshat and Derash – Shadal uses a number of different methods to reconcile cases in which the halakhah does not seem to be the simple peshat of the verse:
אסמכתא – Shadal says that in some cases Chazal do not think that they are expressing the real peshat of the verse rather they are just trying to find a hook in Torah for a halakhah which is not explicitly told in Torah – Shemot 22:2, 23:2.
Shadal holds according to the lone opinion in Chazal – Shemot 21:2, 21:23, Devarim 22:17.
Torah uses extreme formulation – Shadal on Shemot 21:17 says explicitly that in many cases the Torah writes laws in an extreme and threatening formulation (דרך גיזום ואיום) and really we are suppose to be lenient in cases when one implements them – Shemot 21:12, 21:16, 21:17, 21:29, 21:34-36, 22:6.
Chazal changed the simple meaning of the text in order to fit their time period:
Chazal changed the simple meaning in order to fit the halakhah in the time of בית שני – Shemot 12:6, Vayikra 6:13, 6:19, Bemidbar 6:18, Devarim 18:6.
Chazal made special enactments – Shadal on Vayikra 7:18 explains that in many cases where Chazal do not explain like the simple understanding of the verse it is because there was a need in their generation to make new enactments (תקנה שתיקנו לפי צורך הדורות) – Shemot 12:43, 21:3, Vayikra 7:18, Devarim 25:5, 26:12.