Reshit Hokhmah (Beginning of Wisdom) was a popular ethical work by the Safed kabbalist Elijah ben Moses de Vidas (1518-1592). In it, he collected all the moral sentences scattered throughout the Talmud, Midrashim, and Zohar.
Menasseh translated the first part, concerning the fear of God, into Spanish (Roth Collection 889). Spanish was the learned vernacular, which the Portuguese Conversos had studied at university.
The woodcut title page arch is topped by the pelican feeding its young – a Christian symbol of the crucifixion and one of the symbols adopted by the Rosicrucian sect. It was adapted on one of the portals of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue (1675). For the Jews of Amsterdam, the pelican feeding its three young symbolized the merger of the three synagogues of Amsterdam in 1639 into the united Spanish and Portuguese congregation.