Al-Ḥarizi, Judah ben Solomon

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AL-ḤARIZI, JUDAH BEN SOLOMON (1165–1225), Hebrew poet and translator. He was born in Spain, very likely in Christian Toledo, a city that at this time preserved Arabic culture and that he describes with particular detail; however, there are no conclusive proofs of it, and other places have also been suggested. His education in this cultural atmosphere made him familiar with Arabic and Hebrew language and literature. Al-Ḥarizi was a member of a wealthy family which became impoverished, and was therefore dependent on patrons.

He spent some years in Provence, where he translated several Arabic works into Hebrew for the non-Arabic speaking Jews and participated in the ideological disputes of the time, returning to Spain in 1190; in 1205 he was in Toledo and wrote a poem on the death of Joseph ben Shoshan. During discussions of the work of Maimonides he defended the Master against the anti-rationalist rabbis from Toledo. Some time later he left Spain to travel to the Orient. He first went to Marseilles, and from there he sailed to Egypt; in 1215 he arrived in Alexandria and from there he visited Cairo, later continuing to Palestine, Syria, and Iraq. According to the information that he gives us in one of his works, in 1218 he was in Jerusalem. Damascus, Aleppo, Mosul, and Baghdad were among the cities visited. He mentions seeing the tombs of the prophet Ezekiel and of Ezra in Susa. The ten last years of his life, until his death in Aleppo in 1225, are now much better known thanks to important documents discovered and published in recent years. J. Sadan published in 1996 an Arabic biography written by Ibn al-Sha'ar al-Mawṣilī in a work on the poets of his time (the first half of the 13th century). There are also many details about his travels in his Taḥkemoni as well as in an Arabic description, Al-rawḍah al-anīqah ("The Pleasant Garden"), written by Al-Ḥarizi himself in his last years, which has been published and annotated by Y. Yahalom and Y. Blau (2002).

We do not know exactly the reasons for Al-Ḥarizi's travels. Scholars usually allude to his curiosity, to spiritual motifs, like the love for Zion, to the search for rich patrons in the Orient, etc. Al-Ḥarizi's visits to these countries helped to acquaint the Jewish communities there with Spanish-Hebrew culture. Most of his compositions were written during his travels and contain reflections on his experiences. He wrote many poems in honor of the prominent Jewish men of these communities, both satirizing their defects and praising their virtues, and used to revise what he had previously written, sometimes leaving different versions of his writings.

Al-Ḥarizi's most important literary translation is his Hebrew rendering of the maqamat of the Arabic poet Al-Ḥariri (Bosra, d. 1121), which he entitled Maḥbarot Iti'el ("Notebooks of Ithiel"), completed before 1218. His translation of the maqama, an Arabic literary form in rhyming prose, attains the quality of an original composition, and imparts a Hebrew flavor to Al-Ḥariri's typically Arabic art; it reproduces the elusive word play and ornate style of the original. Al-Ḥarizi's translation contained 50 maqamat of which only a portion of the first and 26 of the subsequent maqamat have been preserved. The Maḥbarot Iti'el were published by Th. Chenery (1872), and more recently by Y. Peretz (1951).

Al-Ḥarizi himself used this form for his major work Sefer Taḥkemoni ("The Wise One"?), completed after 1220; he was among the first to use this genre in Hebrew literature. Its 50 maqamat show Al-Ḥariri's influence, being at the same time his way of showing the possibilities of the Hebrew language and of defending its usage. The language, rhymed prose with some poems intermingled in the text, is taken from the Bible and is often a mosaic of biblical quotations. The different addressees of the work that appear in the manuscripts are not surprisingly Oriental Jews, as Al-Ḥarizi composed this book in his travels through the Orient, from one country to the other, or, as he says, from Egypt to Babylon.

The maqamat of the Taḥkemoni begin with a narrative frame introduced by the narrator, Heman the Ezrahite, who represents in many cases the opinion of the writer. The main character, Ḥeber the Kenite, resembles the heroes of the Arabic maqama in his nature, a roguish polymath and rhymester. He appears in many different forms and is only recognized at the end of the narratives, after having shown his abilities and wisdom. The book includes love ditties, fables, proverbs, riddles, disputes, and satirical sketches, such as the descriptions of a flea and a defense by a rooster about to be slaughtered.

Apart from its literary merit and brilliant, incisive style, the Taḥkemoni also throws valuable light on the state of Hebrew culture of the period, and describes the scholars and leaders of the communities visited by the author. Al-Ḥarizi gives vivid descriptions of the worthies of Toledo, the poets of Thebes, a debate between a *Rabbanite and a *Karaite, and conditions in Jerusalem. The Taḥkemoni also contains critical evaluations of earlier and contemporary poets, although Al-Ḥarizi's appraisal of his contemporaries is not always reliable and occasionally misses their most essential features.

In spite of the existence of many manuscripts, and of the edition of Sefer Taḥkemoni by Obadia Sabak (Constantinople, 1578) and the more modern ones by de Lagarde (1883; 1925); by A. Kaminka (1899); by Y. Toporowsky (1952), etc., no critical edition of the Taḥkemoni has been published. Several of the maqamāt were translated into Latin, English, French, German, and Hungarian. There is an English translation by V.E. Reichert, The Tahkemoni of Judah al-Harizi, an English translation, 2 vols. (Jerusalem, R.H. Cohen's Press, 1965); and a new one by David S. Segal, The Book of Tahkemoni: Jewish Tales from Medieval Spain (Portland, Oregon, Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2001), with a long section dedicated to the analyses of each maqama and a detailed bibliography. A Spanish translation, with introduction and notes, appeared in 1988: Las asambleas de los sabios (Tahkemoní), by C. del Valle (Murcia: Univ. de Murcia).

Al-Ḥarizi also wrote the Sefer ha-Anak ("The Necklace"), a collection of 257 short poems on moral and pious themes, mainly composed in two stanzas with rhyming puns (like the book of the same name by Moshe Ibn Ezra). It was published by H. Brody, Sefer ha-Anak, in Festschrift Harkavy (1908); and by A. Avronim (Tel Aviv, 1945).

In one of the last maqamāt of the Taḥkemoni Al-Ḥarizi includes more than 170 Hebrew poems according to the Andalusian tradition. In his stay in the Orient he wrote also poems in Arabic and sometimes, in Hebrew and Arabic. A number of his poems not included in the Taḥkemoni and Sefer ha-Anak are extant in manuscript. Yahalom and Blau have published an autographic letter found in the Genizah.

Al-Ḥarizi was notably active as translator of philosophical, halakhic, and medical works from Arabic to Hebrew. Under the Hebrew title Muserei ha-Filosofim he translated for the sages of Lunel the Adāb al-Falāsifa ("Dicta of the Philosophers") of Ḥunain ibn Isḥak, a collection of proverbs synthesizing Greek and Arabic wisdom literature. This translation was published by Loewenthal in Frankfurt/Main in 1896.

The most important of his prose translations is that of *Maimonides' Moreh Nevukhim (Guide of the Perplexed, published by A.L. Schlossberg, London 1851–79; reprint Tel Aviv, 1952). Al-Ḥarizi, who translated the book after Samuel ibn *Tibbon for some Jews of Marseille, intended to render it simply and clearly, employing biblical Hebrew. In spite of two chapters added by him explaining difficult words and describing the contents of the chapters, the translation was considered of literary value but failing in accuracy. For this reason it was received with much criticism, and Ibn Tibbon's translation is generally preferred (Y. Shiffman, Journal of Semitic Studies, 44/1 (1999), 47–61). It was, however, through Al-Ḥarizi's translation that Maimonides' ideas were propagated in the Christian world. An anonymous Latin translation of the Guide, published in Paris by Agostino *Giustiniani in 1520, is based on Al-Ḥarizi's translation and was used by the English schoolmen. Al-Ḥarizi's version also served as the basis for Pedro de Toledo's Spanish translation (published by M. Lazar according to the Ms. 10289, B.N. Madrid, in 1989, Culver City, Calif: Labyrinthos).

Al-Ḥarizi translated in Lunel, for Jonathan ha-Kohen, Maimonides' introduction to the Mishnah and his commentary on the first five tractates of the Mishnah order Zera'im. He also translated other minor works, like the Medicine of the Body (Ferrara, 1552) and a few short works attributed to Aristotle or Galen.

Al-Ḥarizi's prominence in medieval letters is due both to his light, entertaining, and allusive style, and to the variety of his subject matter. In consonance with the tendencies of the time in Romance literature, his descriptions of nature are more realistic than those generally found in other Spanish Hebrew poets, with a feeling for the rural life and the animal world. He described storms at sea and, with the exception of *Samuel b. Joseph ha-Nagid, was the only medieval Hebrew poet to describe battle scenes.

[Aharon Mirsky and

Avrum Stroll /

Angel Saenz-Badillos (2nd ed.)]

As a Musical Writer

Al-Ḥarizi's Hebrew translation of Ḥunain's Adāb al-Falāsifa contains, in its first part, three chapters (18–20) on music. As usual in adāb-literature, the text consists of sayings and aphorisms uttered by ancient Greek philosophers or other famous men. They deal with the miraculous power of music, its influence on soul, temperament and even animal life, its therapeutic value, and the like. Al-Ḥarizi was the first to introduce these ideas of late Hellenism, which had been transmitted by Ḥunain to Arab philosophy, into Jewish philosophical and musical thought. Circulating in many manuscripts and a print of 1562, they were continually perused and quoted as a source of musical knowledge, and even as late as 1680 by Shabbetai *Bass.

As the original Arabic text has not yet been published from the manuscripts, Al-Ḥarizi's Hebrew version and its modern (though inadequate) translations serve as sole source to students of musical history up to now. The chapters on music in Arabic were edited by A. Shiloaḥ (1958), who showed that Al-Ḥarizi's text is governed by a deep understanding of this intricate subject.

[Hanoch Avenary]


J. Schirmann, in: Moznayim, 11 (1940), 101–15; S.J. Kaempf, Die ersten Makamen aus dem Tachkemoni oder Divan des Charisi (1845); idem, Nichtandalusische Poesie andalusischer Dichter (1858); Steinschneider, Uebersetzungen, 251, 355, 428–32, 851f., 857f.; J. Schirmann, Die hebraeische Uebersetzung der Maqamen des Hariri (1930), 113–6; A. Percikowitsch, Al-Harizi als Uebersetzer der Makamen Al-Hariris (1932), 1–5; A.M. Habermann, in: Sinai, 31 (1952), 112–27; Davidson, Oẓar, 4 (1933), 388–90; S.M. Stern, in: jqr, 50 (1959/60), 269–76, 346–64; idem, in: Papers of the Institute of Jewish Studies, London, 1 (1964), 186–210; V.E. Reichert, The Fourteenth Gate of Judah Al-Harizi's Tahkemoni (1963). add. bibliography: Y. Sadan, in: Pe'amim, 68 (1996), 16–67; Harizi, Judah ben Solomon. Ma'ase Yehudah: Ḥamishah Pirkei Masa Meḥorazim, ed. J. Yahalom, Joseph and J. Blau (2002); Schirmann-Fleischer, 2, 145–221; A. Sáenz-Badillos, in: Miscelánea de Estudios Arabes y Hebraicos, 34/2 (1985), 61–70; R. Brann, in: Princeton Papers in Near Eastern Studies, 1 (1992), 1–22; R. Scheindlin, in: Studies in Muslim-Jewish Relations, 1 (1993), 165–75. music: M. Plessner, in: Tarbiz, 24 (1954/55), 60–72; A. Shiloaḥ, Pirkei ha-Muzikah ba-Kitāb adāb al-falāsifa (Thesis, Jerusalem, 1958); E. Werner and J. Sonne, in: huca, 17 (1942–43), 513–32, 558–63; H.G. Farmer, A History of Arabian Music to the 13th Century (1929), 126–7.

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Al-Ḥarizi, Judah ben Solomon

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