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Hebrew Grammar

Modena, Leone. Lev ha-Aryeh: yelmad me-adam daʻat le-ʻezur ha-Zakron be-kol haḥakhamot

ṿe-ʻesḳe bene adam. Venice: Yaḳomo Sarzinah. 1612.

Leone Modena, 1571-1648.

A self-help manual , Lev ha-Aryeh (“Lion Heart”) was the first Hebrew work to suggest the new medium of print to improve memory. Ironically, Modena  - Venice’s eventual chief rabbi – believed books threatened Judaism.

Alternately a teacher of rabbinics, government official, cantor, and gambler, Modena was a veritable Renaissance Man who himself read widely.  However, he felt that as Jews gained more access to non-Jewish ideas through books, the more likely they would stray from Judaism. His allegiance was weighed towards a tradition of oral narrative.

Modena suggests that using text and illustrations, books could explain  how to use visual imagery as mnemonic tools for abstract ideas and thoughts. This was an ancient classical Greek memory-training method, but Modena used Jewish-themed examples , e.g. ten stalks of wheat to represent the Ten Commandments.

Modena also recommended that Jews should avoid suspect, commonly-used memory tricks like repetition, reciting magic spells, and drinking potions.  As a lifelong gambler, his mnemonic system did not seemingly resolve into personal wealth.