Kontakt /
                            contact     Hauptseite
                            / page principale / pagina principal / home     zurück / retour / indietro / atrás / back
zurück / retour / indietro / atrás /
                          backprevious   nextnext
Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Spain 05: Jewish cultural life since the reconquest

Diffusion of stiles - professions and integration - academies - studies and debates

from: Spain; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 15

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

Teilen / share:

Facebook







<Cultural Life.

From the beginning, the cultural life of Spanish Jewry under the Christian reconquest followed on the style set under Muslim rule. Eastern influence lost none of its force even though a frontier henceforward separated the communities of the north from those of the south. In fact, the contrary was the case, since the Jews of Christian Spain often appeared to be indispensable agents in the diffusion of the Eastern cultural tradition.

[Professions and integration: translators, Jews at court, historians - Hebrew language]

Consequently, many of them were translators of Arabic; some, like the *Kimhis and the Ibn *Tibbons, even carried their work as translators to the north, to Provence. In Christian Spain the Jews continued to study sciences, medicine in particular, and the Christian kings employed numbers of Jewish physicians. They were also well versed in astronomy and shortly before the expulsion, Abraham *Zacuto prepared the astronomical tables that Christopher Columbus used on his voyage.

[[The Jewish translators in Spain played a distinctive role in translating the Arab scientific works into the European languages so Europe could get access to the leading Arab sciences]].

The Jewish "nobility" had frequently received the same education as their Christian counterparts, reaching a cultural integration rarely equaled in Jewish history. Of course this process only affected the families of Jewish courtiers, but this type of assimilation goes a long way toward explaining both the phenomena of Marranism - entailing the need to lead a double life - and the ability to abandon the Jewish heritage without regret and join the Christian fold.

Yet the majority of people still looked to (col. 241)

their traditional Jewish cultural heritage, which remained central to their lives. The relation of the journey of *Benjamin of Tudela to the communities of Europe and Asia, and the work of the historian Abraham *ibn Daud in his account of the continuity of Jewish tradition are well worthy of mention. The main stress, however, lay on the study of the Hebrew language and of the Bible and Talmud, and on the development of a style of Hebrew poetry which took the profane as well as the sacred for its subject matter.

[Jewish academies]

In all fields there was no real break with the Judeo-Arab milieu. For many years the Babylonian academies continued to be a major influence, but rabbinical scholarship in Spanish Jewry came to maturity in the 11th century with the work of Isaac b. Jacob ha-Kohen *Alfasi. The latter, assisted by his pupils, especially Joseph b. Meir ha-Levi *ibn Migash, created a Spanish Jewish talmudic academy which proceeded to develop its own methods.

[Grammar - poets - religious studies]

The theories of the grammarians in Muslim Spain were already known in the north and were accepted there. Poets flourished in the retinue of Jews who were wealthy or well placed at court. Poetry often remained a profession. Along with many of his contemporaries, *Judah Halevi left Muslim Spain for the Christian part of the country without finding success there. His poems were torn between the two worlds and Judah Halevi finally left for the Holy Land.

Along with Judah Halevi and Moses *ibn Ezra, Solomon ibn *Gabirol brought Hebrew poetry to a peak of perfection. Their religious poems, the main body of their work, permanently enriched the liturgy.

At the same time they gave a new dimension to Hebrew poetry by extending it beyond its liturgical framework to cover every variety of subject: occasional verse, poems exalting love or friendship, or lines in praise of a benevolent patron. The interest in poetry also gave rise to liturgical and biblical studies; biblical Hebrew once more predominated over rabbinical Hebrew. Following in the path of Menahem b. Saruk and *Dunah b. Labrat were such grammarians as Judah b. David *Hayyuj, Jonah *ibn Janah, Moses ha-Kohen ibn *Gikatilla, and above all Abraham *ibn Ezra who produced their grammatical treatises in Hebrew and so enabled the Jewish grammarians of France and Germany to become aware of and adopt the theories of their Spanish counterparts.

The same writers often produced biblical commentaries: Joseph b. Isaac *ibn Abitur on Psalms, Moses ha-Kohen ibn Gikatilla on Isaiah, the Latter Prophets, Psalms, and Job, and Abraham ibn Ezra on the entire Bible (although some portions of his commentary are no longer extant). In this period the *maqama - an Arabic verse form - made its debut in Jewish literature with the Tahkemoni [[Jewish Tales of Medieval Spain]] of Judah *Al-Harizi. Yet the golden age of Hebrew poetry in Spain was already drawing to a close.

[Talmudic studies: Isaac b. Jacob Alfasi - Joseph b. Meir ha-Levi ibn Migash - Maimonides - publications also in Arabic language]

During the 11th century talmudic studies took root in Spain with the arrival of Isaac b. Jacob *Alfasi and continued to be greatly influenced by his work. With the aim of summing up the discussions of the sages and pointing out the correct halakhah [[laws of Jewry]], he prepared a resumé of the Talmud. In this work, he stressed practical observance, an attitude which was characteristic of the great Spanish talmudists. His main pupil, Joseph b. Meir ha-Levi ibn Migash, followed in his footsteps and, like his teacher, wrote a number of responsa clarifying points of the law.

the greatest stimulus to talmudic studies was the work of Maimonides, who spent his formative years in Spain and can be considered a Spanish scholar. He, too, produced works of *codification of the law, the Mishneh Torah and Sefer ha-Mitzvot, and wrote numerous responsa. Like other Spanish rabbis, he did not scorn to bring out his works in Arabic so that they could be understood by all. This bilinguality in Hebrew and Arabic was a mark of the first (col. 242)

era of Spanish Jewry.

[Philosophical debates: Ibn Gabirol - Judah Halevi - Bahya ibn Paquda - Maimonides]

Another equally important characteristic was its enthusiasm for philosophical debates. Spanish Jewry's integration into the contemporary Arab culture obliged it to face the same problems, though generally with an avowedly polemic intent. Writers were largely concerned with demonstrating that revelation and philosophy were not necessarily contradictory and that in any case Judaism represented the superior truth. Although Ibn Gabirol's philosophical work Fons Vitae [["Springs of Life"]] has no specifically Jewish character. Judah Halevi devoted himself to a vigorous apology for Judaism. *Bahya ibn Paquda, a moralist, attempted to show the superiority of ethical conduct over the ceremonial law, which becomes falsified if the "duties of the heart" are neglected.

However, the greatest representative of the philosophic trend was Maimonides, who followed it to formulate his classic definition of the dogmas of Judaism. Nevertheless, from the beginning of the 13th century the supremacy of philosophy was challenged in the controversy over Maimonides' works (see *Maimonides Controversy), especially in the north of Spain, which had then reverted to Christian rule. The change in attitude was influenced by disillusionment arising from the changed conditions of Jewish life, by the renewed interest in talmudic studies due to the work of the Franco-German tosafists, and by the new trends in Jewish mysticism which first appeared in Provence before reaching Spain.

At the beginning of the 14th century the Franco-German talmudic tradition came face to face with the Spanish through the arrival of *Asher b. Jehiel, resulting in the preservation of unity in the field of Jewish law. Warmly received by the greatest Spanish scholar of the day, Solomon b. Abraham *Adret, Asher b. Jehiel cooperated with him in restoring peace: the study of philosophy was permitted, but under clearly defined conditions. Time, too, had done its work and the controversy was soon stilled.

[Kabbalah movement]

In the meantime the Kabbalah became increasingly important, especially in the group at Gerona. The celebrated talmudist Nahmanides became one of its leading advocates. The appearance of the *Zohar, the largest part of which was produced by *Moses b. Shem Tov de León between 1280 and 1286, gave a powerful impulse to the development of the kabbalistic trend which became predominant in Spain.

[Talmudic studies - codifications of the law]

Talmudic studies too gained a new impetus through the commentaries, novellae, and responsa of Nahmanides, Solomon b. Abraham Adret, Asher b. Jehiel, and Nissim b. Reuben *Gerondi.

*Jacob b. Asher, son of Asher b. Jehiel, produced his codification of the law, the Arba'ah Turim, which remains to this day the archetype of the rabbinic code and was one of the bases of the Shulhan Arukh. Another code, Sefer Abudarham, was compiled by David b. Joseph *Abudarham of Seville. Following in the same path *Menahem b. Aaron ibn Zerah of Navarre composed his Zeidah la-Derekh.

*Yom Tov b. Abraham Ishbili was especially noted for his many novellae; Isaac b. Sheshet Perfet, who had to leave Spain in 1391, wrote many responsa. Biblical commentaries (frequently showing kabbalistic influences) also came to the fore once more with the works of Nahmanides, Bahya b. Asher, and Jacob b. Asher, although the latter resolutely avoided kabbalistic speculation.

[1391-1492: Persecutions and the consequences]

Nevertheless the persecutions had grave consequences for scholarship too. The Judeo-Arab heritage began to disappear. Those conditions which had drawn Spanish Jews toward the study of science, medicine, and astrology in particular ceased to exist. This decay became more marked in the 15th century. Apart from the philosophic works of Hasdai Crescas and Joseph Albo, whose Sefer ha-Ikkarim was a new attempt to define the dogmas of Judaism, the creative period had passed. The messianic upheaval, exacerbated by persecution, only prolonged it slightly; the spirit of this period is best (col. 243)

expressed in the works of Isaac b. Judah Abrabanel, who in 1492 preferred exile to apostasy. Probably stimulated by fear for the future, interest in kabbalistic speculation continued unabated.

The expulsion itself did not mark a final end of the development of this specific type of culture. Abraham Zacuto finished his rabbinical history on the way to exile. The intellectual activity of Spanish Jewry was transferred to Eastern and European centers. Even the use of the Spanish language continued unchanged (see *Ladino; *Sephardim). Such was the vitality of this outlook that it remained seminal in Jewish life for many centuries.

[S.SCH.]> (col. 244)
Teilen / share:

Facebook







Sources
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Spain, vol. 15,
                          col. 220
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Spain, vol. 15, col. 220
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Spain, vol. 15,
                          col. 221-222
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Spain, vol. 15, col. 221-222
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 223-224
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 223-224
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 225-226
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 225-226
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 227-228
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 227-228
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 229-230
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 229-230
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 231-232
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 231-232
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 233-234
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 233-234
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 235-236
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 235-236
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 237-238
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 237-238
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 239-240
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 239-240
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 241-242
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 241-242
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 243-244
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 243-244
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 245-246
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 245-246




zurück / retour / indietro / atrás / backprevious   nextnext

^