Chapters on Jewish Literature eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 153 pages of information about Chapters on Jewish Literature.

Half a century after Chasdai’s death, Samuel Ibn Nagdela (993-1055) stood at the head of the Jewish community in Granada.  Samuel, called the Nagid, or Prince, started life as a druggist in Malaga.  His fine handwriting came to the notice of the vizier, and Samuel was appointed private secretary.  His talents as a statesman were soon discovered, and he was made first minister to Habus, the ruler of Granada.  Once a Moor insulted him, and King Habus advised his favorite to cut out the offender’s tongue.  But Samuel treated his reviler with much kindness, and one day King Habus and Samuel passed the same Moor.  “He blesses you now,” said the astonished king, “whom he used to curse.”

“Ah!” replied Samuel, “I did as you advised.  I cut out his angry tongue, and put a kind one there instead.”

Samuel was not only vizier, he was also Rabbi.  His knowledge of the Rabbinical literature was profound, and his “Introduction to the Talmud” (Mebo ha-Talmud) is still a standard work.  He expended much labor and money on collecting the works of the Gaonim.  The versatility of Samuel was extraordinary.  From the palace he would go to the school; after inditing a despatch he would compose a hymn; he would leave a reception of foreign diplomatists to discuss intricate points of Rabbinical law or examine the latest scientific discoveries.  As a poet, his muse was that of the town, not of the field.  But though he wrote no nature poems, he resembled the ancient Hebrew Psalmists in one striking feature.  He sang new songs of thanksgiving over his own triumphs, uttered laments on his own woes, but there is an impersonal note in these songs as there is in the similar lyrics of the Psalter.  His individual triumphs and woes were merged in the triumphs and woes of his people.  In all, Samuel added some thirty new hymns to the liturgy of the Synagogue.  But his muse was as versatile as his mind.  Samuel also wrote some stirring wine songs.  The marvellous range of his powers helped him to complete what Chasdai had begun.  The centre of Judaism became more firmly fixed than ever in Spain.  When Samuel the Nagid died in 1055, the golden age of Spanish literature was in sight.  Above the horizon were rising in a glorious constellation, Solomon Ibn Gebirol, the Ibn Ezras, and Jehuda Halevi.



Graetz,—­III, p. 215 [220].


Graetz.—­III, p. 223 [228].


Encycl.  Brit., Vol.  XIII, p. 737.


M. Jastrow, Jr.—­The Weak and Geminative Verbs in Hebrew by
(Leyden, 1897).


Steinschneider.—­Jewish Literature, p. 131.


Letter of Chasdai to Chazars (Engl. transl. by Zedner,
  Miscellany of the Society of Hebrew Literature, Vol.  I).

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Chapters on Jewish Literature from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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