Although scholars have written extensively about Moses Ḥayim Luzzatto and his literary oeuvre, there has been virtually no work on his stay in Amsterdam (1735–43). The controversy over his supposed Sabbatianism, which engulfed much of the European rabbinate and led to his self-imposed exile from Padua, did not rage overtly in the Dutch Republic, and historians have generally regarded these years as nothing more than a quiet period for Luzzatto and of little consequence to him personally.
Using previously unpublished archival material, this article demonstrates that Luzzatto was highly regarded in Amsterdam's generally insular Portuguese community. He received charity and a regular stipend to study in the Ets Haim Yeshiva, forged relationships with both rabbinic and lay leaders, and arguably influenced the community's religious outlook. However, a comparison of the manuscript and print versions of Mesillat yesharim, his famous Musar treatise composed and published in the city, reveals the limitations under which Luzzatto lived. Research into Luzzatto's time in Amsterdam shows the man's enduring self-assurance and relentless critique of his critics, as well as the Portuguese rabbinate's broadening horizons.