- (Yehuda Halevy)(ca. 1071–ca. 1141)Judah Halevi was probably the most celebrated Hebrew poet of the Middle Ages. He was also a philosopher and theologian famous for his Book of the Kuzari in Arabic prose. A Spanish Jew by birth, Halevi planned a pilgrimage to the Holy Land late in his life, probably dying in Egypt without ever seeing Palestine.Halevi was born either in the Muslim city of Tudela on the border of Christian Spain, or in Muslim Toledo just before the so-called Reconquest of that city by Christians in 1071. In his youth, Halevi traveled to the various scholarly centers maintained among Andalusian Jews. He formed a close friendship with fellow poet Moses ibn Ezra in Granada, and a friendly exchange of poems between the two has survived. Ultimately, Halevi settled in Christian Toledo, capital of Alfonso VI’s Castile. He worked as a physician in Toledo, apparently under the direct patronage of the king. But when ill-feeling toward the Jews erupted into violence in 1108–09, violence that claimed the life of his close friend Solomon ibn Ferrizuel, Halevi elected to return to Muslim Spain, settling in Córdoba.It was here that Halevi wrote what he called his Book of Argument and Proof in Defence of the Despised Faith, which was to become known as The Book of the Kuzari, because it is inspired by the historical conversion of the king of the Kazars to Judaism in the eighth century. Composed as a dialogue between a rabbi and the Kavar king, Halevi’s treatise is the only important Jewish classic presented in the form of a Platonic dialogue. The book was translated from Arabic into Hebrew during the 12th century. Unlike other medieval Jewish philosophers such as MAIMONIDES, Halevi is not interested in reconciling Judaism with Aristotelian philosophy. He is chiefly interested in asserting the superiority of revealed truth to philosophical arguments, though he does employ philosophy to demonstrate the truth of revelation. The God of Abraham, for Halevi, is not the same as the God of Aristotle. His existence is shown through his working in Jewish history, and the Jews therefore are spiritually superior to the rest of humankind, and their prophetic mission is to bring God’s word to the world.It was shortly after his completion of the Book of the Kuzari that Halevi made his decision to emigrate. His experiences among Christians and Muslims in Spain and his philosophical explorations of his faith led him to the determination to live in Israel’s promised land. He left Spain in 1140 bound for Egypt. According to legend, Halevi’s literary reputation preceded him to Alexandria, where he was welcomed with great acclamation. Legend says he visited Damascus and Tyre before arriving in Palestine—where an Arab horseman trampled him to death as he recited his poem “Elegy for Zion” before the gates of Jerusalem. Documents recently discovered in Egypt, however, suggest that in fact Halevi died there and never reached Jerusalem. Judah Halevi’s poetry, like that of his friend Moses ibn Ezra, takes many of the forms and conventions of contemporary Spanish Arabic poetry such as meter and rhyme, and adapts them to classical Hebrew verse. Nearly 1,000 extant poems are attributed to Halevi, and they generally fall into three categories: The first is secular poetry, focusing on love or on friendship or sometimes even on wine; a second category is religious poetry, characterized by an intense love of God; and the third is national poetry, closely related to his religious poetry since for him the nation is the locus of God’s interaction in the history of his people. One of his poems, editorially entitled “To Israel, in exile,” demonstrates this, using the voice of God speaking to his people:O sleeper, whose heart is awake, burningand raging, now wakeand go forth, and walk in the light of Mypresence. . . . Let them notexalt, those who say “Zion is desolate!” forMy heart is in Zion andMy eyes are there. I reveal Myself and Iconceal Myself, now Irage, now I consent—but who has morecompassion than I havefor My children?(Carmi 1981, 334–335)It is only in Zion that the Jew can be completely united with God. Halevi’s “Songs of Zion” are his best-known poems, and his realization of the theme of passionate love and longing for the Holy Land is the most effective since the Psalms themselves.Bibliography■ Carmi, T. The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse. Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1981.■ Silman, Yochanan. Philosopher and Prophet: Judah Halevi, the Kuzari, and the Evolution of His Thought. Translated by Lenn F. Schramm. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.
Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.
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JUDAH HALEVI — (before 1075–1141), Hebrew poet, philosopher, and physician. Halevi was one of the most distinguished and emblematic medieval intellectuals, perhaps the most mature and representative model of Jewish culture in al Andalus; he was deeply involved… … Encyclopedia of Judaism
Judah Halevi — (c1075 1141) Jewish Spanish poet philosopher and physician, author of the Book of the Khazar and Ode to Zion … English contemporary dictionary
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Judah ha-Levi — /hah lee vuy, lay vee/, (Judah ben Samuel Halevi) 1085 1140, Spanish rabbi, physician, poet, and philosopher. Also, Judah Halevi. * * * ▪ Hebrew poet Introduction Hebrew in full Yehuda Ben Shemuel ha Levi born c. 1075, Tudela, Kingdom of… … Universalium
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Halevi, Judah — (c. 1075–c. 1141) Spanish Hebrew poet. Judah Halevi was born in Toledo (or perhaps Tudela) in Spain, into a wealthy and influential family, members of the circle of gifted Jews who were employed by the caliph and his court and rose to… … Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament
Halevi, Judah — (c. 1075–1141) The greatest of Islamic Spain’s Hebrew poets, Judah Halevi was also arguably the most important critic of Aristotelian Neoplatonic philosophy in the Jewish intellectual tradition. Like al Ghazali, his traditionalism was informed … Islamic philosophy dictionary
Judah ha-Levi — /hah lee vuy, lay vee/, (Judah ben Samuel Halevi) 1085 1140, Spanish rabbi, physician, poet, and philosopher. Also, Judah Halevi … Useful english dictionary
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