Cedric Cohen-Skalli resists cramming his subject into ‘a single period, movement, or role’ in his new intellectual biography. Human lives are not dissertations, and one of the pleasures of Cohen-Skalli’s book is its modesty about getting to the bottom of who Abravanel was. ‘Don Isaac remains a mystery,’ he writes, a ‘mosaic of innovation and conservatism’ in service of both the preservation of the Jewish people and the distinctive Sephardi tradition.