De (da) Piera, Meshullam ben Solomon

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DE (DA) PIERA, MESHULLAM BEN SOLOMON

DE (DA) PIERA, MESHULLAM BEN SOLOMON (also called En Vidas de Gerona ; first half of 13th century), Hebrew poet. Although Carmoly (in Ha-Karmel, 7, 1868/69) derived the family name of De Piera, who lived in northern Spain and southern France, from the city Fère in Burgundy, according to Neubauer it comes from the town Piera, in Catalonia, and this seems to be the most plausible explanation of the name. De Piera lived in the period of strife that raged around *Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed. He first came under the influence of *Jonah b. Abraham Gerondi, the leader of the opposition, and his poems against the followers of the philosophical school stem from this period. He censured energetically all kinds of intellectualism and rationalism, and particularly that of the Maimonideans. For him, poetry was a way of defending the truth, a way to formulate his theological ideas about the most important issues in Judaism and to unmask the threat of the Maimonidean thinkers. His view of the foundations of Jewish faith brought him near to the Kabbalah and to the most traditional attitudes of Judaism. As a kind of champion of Orthodoxy and of the kabbalistic interpretation of Judaism, he even wrote against the Provençal Jews, seeing heretical trends in their ideas. He later changed his attitude however, perhaps on the advice of *Naḥmanides, and in one poem he begs his teacher, Isaac b. Zerahiah ha-Levi Gerondi, to forgive him for having opposed philosophy; the poor translations of the Arabic original, he claimed, had given him a false idea of the true content of the Guide of the Perplexed.

De Piera seems to have lived in Gerona for a long period and there belonged to a circle of mystics whom *Naḥmanides had gathered about him. Among his intimate friends was the Provençal poet, *Isaac b. Judah ha-Seniri of Beaucaire (c. 1220), and perhaps also Abraham *Ibn Ḥasdai of Barcelona. One of the most original Hebrew poets of his time, he abandoned many of the conventions of Andalusian poetry, dissenting from its ideological background, and even used a very different language, far from the pure biblical Hebrew used by the Andalusian poets. From the formal point of view, for example, he renounced the classical structure of the Arabic qasida. De Piera employs many unusual modes of structure, language, and subject-matter in his poems that, in the opinion of some scholars, can only partly be explained as due to the influence of Christian troubadour poetry, and in particular to the most obscure and difficult art of poetry which was at the time a particular fashion among the troubadours in southern France and in Catalonia; other scholars, however, prefer to explain his peculiarities as representing an internal development of Hebrew poetry. Abraham Bedersi, in his critical poem Ḥerev ha-Mithappekhet (published in Ḥotam Tokhnit (1865), 16 line 141), speaks of him with admiration. Only a part of De Piera's poetic work has been preserved (Neubauer, Cat, no. 1970 iv); a number of poems from this collection were edited by J. Patai, while an almost complete edition with introduction and commentaries was published by H. Brody (ymḤsi, 4 (1938), 1–117). As to the literary value of his poetry in the service of his theological ideology, there are very different opinions among scholars.

bibliography:

Renan, Rabbins, 728–30; M. Steinschneider, in: Kobez al Jad, 1 (1885), 3, 23; J. Patai, in: hḤy, 5 (1921), 54–58, 129–33, 202–15; idem, Mi-Sefunei ha-Shirah (1933), 44–66; H. Brody, in: Sefer Klausner (1937), 267–73; J.N. Epstein, in: Tarbiz, 11 (1939/40), 218–9; Schirmann, Sefarad, 2 (1956), 295–318; Davidson, Oẓar, 4 (1933), 451. add. bibliography: J. Lehmann, in: Prooftexts, 1 (1981), 133–51; E. Fleischer, in: I. Twersky (ed.), Rabbi Moses Nahmanides (Ramban): Exploration in His Religious and Literary Virtuosity (1983), 35–49; J. Ribera, in: Anuari de Filolologia, 8 (1982), 177–88; 9 (1983), 187–93; 11–12 (1985–86), 73–84; Schirmann-Fleischer, The History of Hebrew Poetry in Christian Spain and Southern France (Heb., 1997), 293–322.

[Jefim (Hayyim) Schirmann /

Angel Sáenz-Badillos (2nd ed.)]