Ibn Ghayyat

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IBN GHAYYAT (Ghiyyat ), family of poets and halakhists. isaac ben judah (1038–1089), halakhic authority, commentator, and poet, was head of the yeshivah of Lucena, his home town. He was a friend of *Samuel ha-Nagid, who regarded him highly, and of his son Jehoseph. He composed an elegy in Aramaic on Samuel's death (1056). His many students included Moses ibn Ezra, Joseph ibn Sahal, and Joseph ibn Ẓaddik. When Jehoseph was murdered in 1066 (Isaac wrote two elegies on his death), his widow and young son Azariah escaped to Lucena where Ibn Ghayyat received them cordially, providing for the widow, and raising and caring for the child like a father; the expectations of Isaac concerning the important role that Azariah might play among Andalusian Jews came to naught when he died at the age of 20. At the age of 51, Isaac traveled to Córdoba for treatment of a severe ailment and died there. He was buried in Lucena.

About four hundred of his poems have been preserved; except for a few panegyrics, elegies, and wedding songs (some of them in Aramaic), most of them are piyyutim. They are among the best liturgical poems of the Spanish period, and, in contrast to the Oriental compositions, present many peculiarities of the Sephardi style. They do not contain many aggadic references, but there are many philosophical, cosmological, and astronomical allusions in them, as if the author, moved by a pedagogical goal, wished to increase the scientific knowledge of the believers at the same time that he expressed their feelings in the liturgical prayer. His disciple Moses Ibn Ezra expresses deep admiration for the master, for his large work in prose and verse, and confesses: "I have studied with him; the very little that I have is but a drop in his sea, and my scant knowledge is just a spark of his fire" (Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wal-Mudhākara, ed. Halkin, 39a). Judah al-Ḥarizi, who suggests that his poetry is too hard to understand, praises him in Gate Three of the Taḥkemoni: "The poetry of Rabbi Isaac towers like a rock; lo, his prayer for Yom Kippur is the song of a prophet, blinding pure." Ibn Ghayyat's piyyutim include a complete ma'amad (special prayer) for the Day of Atonement and a volume of seliḥot for the month of Elul. His seliḥot are simple and possess a charm of their own. Not a few of these liturgical poems are strophic. Among the anthologies of piyyutim that include his works, the most noteworthy are the Tripoli maḥzor, Siftei Renanot (Venice, 1711), and the Sicilian maḥzor Ḥazonim (Constantinople, 1580 or 1585). Several of his piyyutic texts have been published by Brody, Davidson, A. Marx, Bernstein, and others. Some of his secular poems were published by J. Reifmann in Oẓar Tov, 9 (1882), 3–8. M. Schmelzer edited a considerable number of Isaac's poems in his unpublished dissertation (1965), commenting on his philosophical and scientific sources, and prepared a list of all his poems. Based on this list, in 1987 Yonah David collected from manuscripts and printed books more than 360 poems (some of them doubtful) in a "tentative edition" of the Shirei R. Yitsḥaḳ Ibn Ghiyyat 10381089, which is seen by the author as a first step toward a truly critical edition.

Only part of Ibn Ghayyat's work, Halakhot Kelulot, has survived. It was published from the only extant manuscript by Simḥah Bamberger under the name Sha'arei Simḥah (1861–62).Hilkhot Pesaḥim was published by D. Zomber with an important commentary (1864), and a compendium of his halakhot on Tractate Berakhot was compiled from published and manuscript works of rishonim by C.Z. Taubes (1952) with his own commentary. The early authorities quote Ibn Ghayyat's halakhot on the Mishnah orders Nashim and Nezikin. His work comprised all laws that are of practical application. It is the only source for many quotations from the works of the geonim. Wherever they are in disagreement, he determines the definitive halakhah, and at times even decides contrary to both opinions. He notes the early customs of Spanish Jewry. He was primarily strongly influenced by the Hilkheta Gavravata (Gavrata) of Samuel ha-Nagid; although he seldom cites it, he often reproduces its language almost verbatim. Besides his halakhic work, he also wrote a commentary to the Talmud (see Milḥamot Adonai of *Abraham b. Moses b. Maimon) which he called Sefer ha-Ner ("Book of the Candle"; Kitab al-Seraj in Arabic) because its purpose is the illumination of difficult talmudic discussions; Maimonides quotes him in one of his responsa. Some of Ibn Ghayyat's responsa are extant. He also commented on the Bible, his commentary on Ecclesiastes being still extant (1884; republished in 1962 by Y. Kafaḥ who incorrectly ascribes it to Saadiah Gaon). R. Jedaiah ha-Penini refers to it (Resp. Rashba, vol. 1, no. 418) as "a pleasing commentary revealing considerable wisdom." His commentaries to other volumes are often quoted in R. Solomon b. Melekh's Mikhlal Yofi.

judah (abu zakkariyya) ibn ghayyat (c. 1100), also a Hebrew poet, was a member of the same family (according to some later writers, his son). Moses ibn Ezra says that Judah ("original in poetry, and a very cultivated person," Kitab 42b) was born in Lucena and lived in Granada. He was there among the intimate friends of the Ibn Ezra family and of *Judah Halevi, and became one of the prominent members of Granada's community. Halevi corresponded with him even before he went to Granada, and sent him no fewer than nine poems (published in Judah Halevi's Diwan by H. Brody, 1 (1901): 43, 53, 60, 151, 174; 2:191, 263 and, very likely, 2:58–59); Judah ibn Ghayyat is also mentioned in two letters found in the Genizah related to Judah Halevi and his friend Halfon ben Nethanel. Among the few of Judah's extant poems, five secular and nine liturgical compositions, his songs of friendship to Judah Halevi, and his secular girdle poems are noteworthy; his panegyrics, following closely the classical Arabic models, show that he attained a deep knowledge of Arabic poetry. According to Al-Ḥarizi, "the poetry of Judah ben Ghayyat is by Wisdom upon Piety begot; lo, his brother's praise is Judah's lot." Shem Tov ibn Falaqera, Abraham Bedersi, and Menahem de Lonzano mention him among the good poets of their epoch. Some scholars suggest that it is possible that Judah once visited Narbonne and there translated a halakhic treatise by Isaac *Alfasi, but there is no way of proving this.

solomon ibn ghayyat, another member of this family, sent a letter in prose and a poem to Judah Halevi, and received a similar answer, with a section in prose and a beautiful classical qasida. Some researchers believe, without serious arguments, that he was a son of Judah ibn Ghayyat. He has also been identified with the paytan Solomon b. Judah ibn Ghayyat, the author of some piyyutim that were probably written in the Orient.


isaac b. judah ibn ghayyat: Assaf, in: Tarbiz, 3 (1931/32), 213f.; Bernstein, ibid., 11 (1940), 295–325; Davidson, Oẓar, 4 (1933), 417; Habermann, in: Mizraḥ u-Ma'arav, 3 (1929), 352–8; M. Margalioth (ed.), Hilkhot ha-Nagid, (1962), 37–40, 67, index s.v. Yiẓḥak ibn Gi'at; M. Sachs, Die religioese Poesie der Juden in Spanien (1901), 255–69; Schirmann, Sefarad, 1 (1954), 301–26; 2 (1956), 681; idem, Shirim Ḥadashim min ha-Genizah (1966), 185–95; Zunz, Lit Poesie, 194–200. add. bibliography: G. Vajda, in: jqrav (1967), 518–27; idem, in: jses, 27:1 (1982), 33–46; E. Ashtor, The Jews of Moslem Spainii (1979), 144–49; M. Schmelzer, "The Poetic Work of Isaac ibn Ghiyyat" (Heb.), unpubl. Ph.D. dissert. jts (1965); idem, Shai le-Heman (1977), 329ff.; idem, in: Te'udah, 1 (1980), 89ff.; idem, in: Of Scholars, Savants, and Their Texts (1989), 209–16; I. Marcus, in: Sinai, 67 (1970), 257ff.; A. Sáenz-Badillos, in: meah, 30:2 (1981), 5–35; idem, in: meah, 31:2 (1982), 31–52; idem, in: J. Peláez del Rosal (ed.), Los judíos y Lucena (1988), 103–27; S. Katz, R. Yitsḥaḳ Ibn Ghiyyat (1994) (Heb.); T. Carmi, The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse (1981), 317–18; Schirmann-Fleischer, The History of Hebrew Poetry in Muslim Spain (1995), 364–71 (Heb.). judah b. isaac ibn ghayyat: Schirmann, in: Tarbiz, 9 (1937/38), 43, 220f.; idem, in: ymḤsi, 2 (1936), 186–92; 6 (1945), 328–31. add. bibliography: D. Nir, Yehudah Ibn-Gi'at: Monografiyyah (1974); Schirmann-Fleischer, The History of Hebrew Poetry in Muslim Spain (1995), 506–517 (Heb.); A. Brenner, Judah Halevi and His Circle of Hebrew Poets in Granada (2005).

[Angel Sáenz-Badillos (2nd ed.)]

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Ibn Ghayyat

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