BaḤya (Bahye) ben Joseph Ibn Paquda

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BAḤYA (Bahye) BEN JOSEPH IBN PAQUDA (second half of 11th century), moral philosopher. Little is known about the particulars of Baḥya's life beyond the fact that he lived in Muslim Spain, probably at Saragossa. Baḥya was also known as a paytan and some of his piyyutim are metered. Twenty piyyutim, either published or in manuscript, signed with the name Baḥya are assumed to be his. Baḥya's major work, Kitāb al-Hidāya ilā Farāʾid al-Qulūb (ed. A.S. Yahuda, 1912), was written around 1080. It was translated into Hebrew by Judah ibn *Tibbon in 1161 under the title Ḥovot ha-Levavot ("Duties of the Hearts"), and in this version it became popular and had a profound influence on all subsequent Jewish pietistic literature. Joseph *Kimḥi also translated portions of it, but his version gained no circulation and is still in manuscript. Several abridgments were made of the Hebrew translation, and the work was translated into Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Yiddish. In more recent times it has been translated into English (Duties of the Heart, text and translation by M. Hyamson, 1962), German (Choboth ha-L'baboth. Lehrbuch der Herzenspflichten, tr. by M. Stern, 1856), and French Introduction aux devoirs des coeurs, tr. by A. Chouraqui, 1950). In his Ḥovot ha-Levavot Baḥya drew a great deal upon non-Jewish sources, borrowing from Muslim mysticism, Arabic Neoplatonism, and perhaps also from the *Hermetic writings. From Muslim authors he borrowed the basic structure of the book as well as definitions, aphorisms, and examples to illustrate his doctrines. In most cases his immediate sources cannot be identified, and the theory that he was influenced by *Al-Ghazali does not seem to be well-founded.

Despite the fact that Baḥya borrowed so liberally from non-Jewish sources, Ḥovot ha-Levavot remains an essentially Jewish book. In the introduction to this work Baḥya divides the obligations incumbent upon the religious man into duties of the members of the body (ḥovot ha-evarim), those obligations which involve overt actions; and duties of the hearts (ḥovot ha-levavot), those obligations which involve not man's actions, but his inner life. The first division includes the various ritual and ethical observances commanded by the Torah, e.g., the observance of the Sabbath, prayer, and the giving of charity, while the second consists of beliefs, e.g., the belief in the existence and unity of God, and attitudes or spiritual traits, e.g., trust in God, love and fear of Him, and repentance. The prohibitions against bearing a grudge and taking revenge are also examples of duties of the hearts. Baḥya explains that he wrote this work because the duties of man's inner life had been sorely neglected by his predecessors and contemporaries whose writings had concentrated on religious observances, that is, the duties of the members of the body. To remedy this deficiency Baḥya wrote his work, which may be considered a kind of counterpart to the halakhic compendia of his predecessors and contemporaries. Just as their halakhic compendia contained directions for the actions of the religious man, so Baḥya's work contained directions for his inner life. Ḥovot ha-Levavot is modeled after the works of Muslim mysticism, which attempt to lead the reader through various ascending stages of man's inner life, toward spiritual perfection and finally union (or at least communion) with God. In similar fashion Ḥovot ha-Levavot is divided into ten "gates" (chapters), each of which is devoted to a particular duty of the heart, which the Jew must observe if he is to attain spiritual perfection. The ten chapters deal with the affirmation of the unity of God (yiḥud), the nature of the world disclosing the workings of God (beḥinat ha-olam), divine worship (avodat ha-Elohim), trust in God (bittaḥon), sincerity of purpose (yiḥud ha-ma'aseh), humility (keni'ah), repentance (teshuvah), self-examination (ḥeshbon ha-nefesh), asceticism (perishut), and the love of God (ahavat ha-Shem).

In accordance with Platonic teachings (probably influenced partially by the Epistles of the Sincere Brethren), he maintains that man's soul, which is celestial in origin, is placed, by divine decree, within the body, where it runs the risk of forgetting its nature and mission. The human soul receives aid from the intellect and the revealed Law in achieving its goal. To elucidate this point Baḥya makes use of the Muʿtazilite (see *Kalām) distinction between rational and traditional commandments. He holds that the duties of the members of the body may be divided into rational commandments and traditional (religious) commandments, while the duties of the hearts are all rooted in the intellect. With the aid of reason and the revealed Law the soul can triumph over its enemy, the evil inclination (yeẓer), which attacks it incessantly in an effort to beguile it into erroneous beliefs and to enslave it to bodily appetites. Since the basis of religion is the belief in the existence of God, the first chapter of the work is devoted to a philosophical and theological explication of the existence and unity of God and a discussion of His attributes. In the second chapter Baḥya examines the order in the universe and the extraordinary structure of man, the microcosm. Such an examination leads to a knowledge of God, and to a sense of gratitude towards Him as creator. In the third chapter he discusses divine worship which is the expression of man's gratitude to God. To fulfill his duties to God without faltering and to achieve his true goal, man must diligently practice a number of virtues. One of these is trust in God, which is based on the belief that God is good, and that he has a knowledge of what is best for man, and the power to protect him. To trust in God does not mean that one should neglect one's work, leaving everything to Him, but rather that one should conscientiously attempt to carry out one's duties, trusting that God will remove any obstacles which lie in the way of their fulfillment. While man has the freedom to will and choose, the realization of his actions is dependent on God's will. Further, a sound spiritual life requires sincerity, a perfect correspondence between man's conscience and behavior. Man's intentions must coincide with his actions in aiming toward the service of God. Humility, repentance, and self-examination are also essential. Another virtue is asceticism or temperance. Baḥya considers total asceticism, involving the breaking of all social ties, an ideal rarely attained in the biblical past and hardly to be recommended in the present. Actually, he recommends the pursuit of the middle way prescribed by the revealed Law, defining the genuine ascetic as one who directs all his actions to the service of God, while at the same time fulfilling his functions within society. The observance of these virtues leads to the highest stage of the spiritual life, the love of God. True love of God is the ardor of the soul for union with the Divine Light, a concept of a distinctly mystic character. Baḥya does not, however, develop this concept in all its implications. The love of God, in his view, is a synthesis of the degrees of perfection described above, but does not go beyond them. The lover of God, such as described by him, keeps at a distance from his loved one. Despite Baḥya's dependence upon Muslim mysticism, which is here more pronounced than elsewhere in the work, his teaching remains in the line of Jewish tradition, and he cannot be called a mystic in the strict sense of the term. It has been definitely established that the Judeo-Arabic Neo-platonic tract, Kitāb Maʿanī al Nafs (ed. by I. Goldziher, 1907; translated into Hebrew by I. Broydé as Sefer Torat ha-Nefesh, 1896) at one time attributed to Baḥya, was not written by him (see *Baḥya (Pseudo)).


Husik, Philosophy, 80–105; Guttmann, Philosophies, 104–10; Kokowzoff, in: Sefer Zikkaron… S. Poznański (1927), 13–21; G. Vajda, La théologie ascétique de Baḥya ibn Paquda (1947); idem, in: rej, 102 (1937), 93–104; M. Sister, in: Bericht der Lehranstalt fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums, 50 (1936), 33–75; idem, in: mgwj, 81 (1937), 86–93; D. Kaufmann, Meḥkarim be-Sifrut Yemei ha-Beinayim (1962), 11–77; Kaufmann, Schriften, 2 (1910), 1–98; D.H. Baneth, in: Sefer Magnes (1938), 23–30; Ramos Gil, in: Archivo de Filologia Aragonesa, 3 (1950), 129–80; idem, in: Sefarad, 11 (1951), 305–38; idem, in: me'ah, 1 (1952), 85–148; J.H. Schirmann, Shirim Ḥadashim min ha-Genizah (1966), 203–8; Davidson, Oẓar, 4 (1933), 370.

[Georges Vajda]