Alami, Solomon

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ALAMI, SOLOMON (c. 1370–1420), Spanish moralist. Alami's family name was apparently Ibn Laḥmish (or Naḥish); possibly he was called Alami because he was blind (the meaning of the word in Arabic). He fled from Spain to Portugal during the persecutions of 1391. There he composed in 1415 his Iggeret ha-Musar, also published under the title Iggeret ha-Tokhaḥah ve-ha-Emunah ("Epistle of Reproof and Faith"), which has gone through 18 editions (the last ed. by A.M. Habermann, 1946). It is written in rhyming prose and is divided into five sections, corresponding to the five senses. Alami was inspired to write it by the "perplexity which has plagued me these 24 years: Why does God seek to destroy us each generation?" and by his final conviction that "we ourselves have dug the pit into which we have fallen." He criticizes acidly the various classes of Spanish Jewry, exposing the moral shortcomings of the court Jews, tax farmers, philosophers, and rabbis as well as the common people. Alami believed that the upper classes were mainly responsible for the catastrophe that had befallen Spanish Jewry. The court Jews had betrayed the office which they had attained by the will of Providence; "their eyes and their hearts were turned only to selfish gain, to inherit dwellings that were not theirs in the lands of their enemies… to shift the burden of taxation from themselves to the poor… By their evil ways they became obnoxious to their enemies… and they were driven from the courts of kings and princes… and later not a single Jew remained who had access to the king to seek the good of his people and speak on their behalf." The rabbis "showed favoritism in the law and did not reprimand the people for base conduct." They prided themselves on their empty interpretations and boasted of their secular knowledge. The common people were dishonest in their dealings with the Gentiles: "We dealt with them falsely and dishonestly, and we robbed them through unjust practices, until they despised us and held us to be thieves and liars, fornicators and a gang of traitors, so that every vile and shameful occupation is identified with the Jews." Alami contrasted the lack of decorum in synagogues with the behavior of Christians at prayer. He advocated physical labor, personal cleanliness, and modesty. Concerning forced conversions, he urged the Jews to abandon their homes rather than abjure their faith: "When pagans rise up against you to force you to desert God, to drive you from His inheritance, leave the land of your birth and your father's house for any land you may find where you may observe His law."


Baer, Spain, 2 (1966), 239–42, 484, n. 55; Stein-schneider, in: jqr, 11 (1898/99), 456; Zunz, Schr, 2 (1876), 177–82.

[Azriel Shochat]