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Ibn Ḥasdai, Abraham ben Samuel Ha-Levi


IBN ḤASDAI, ABRAHAM BEN SAMUEL HA-LEVI (early 13th century), translator and Hebrew poet in Barcelona. One of Maimonides' staunchest adherents, he corresponded with Judah ibn Alfakhar and Meir ha-Levi Abulafia to convince them to retract their opposition to Guide of the Perplexed. Together with his brother Judah, he addressed a letter to the Jews of Castile, Aragon, Navarre, and Leon denouncing the zealotry of the opponents of Maimonides. He also defended David *Kimḥi who had been violently criticized because he supported Maimonides.

He is the author of a maqāma whose fragments were published by I. Davidson (in Sefer Zikkaron A.S. Rabinovitz (1924), 83–101), although, as E. Fleischer has proved, they were wrongly put together with another composition in rhymed prose found in a fragment of the Genizah, a part of the Mahberet Yemimah (a love story that should be interpreted in an allegorical sense), written by Joseph ben Judah ibn Simon, a disciple of Maimonides.

Ibn Ḥasdai translated important scholarly works from Arabic into Hebrew: (1) Moznei Ẓedek ("Scales of Justice," ed. by J. Goldenthal, 1834–39), from the Arabic original Mizanal-ʿAmal by the Muslim philosopher Algazali; (2) Sefer ha-Tappu'aḥ ("The Book of the Apple," in Likkutei ha-Pardes, Venice, 1519; De pomo, Hebrew. Lemberg, 1873, etc.), attributed to Aristotle; (3) Sefer ha-Yesodot ("The Book of the Elements," ed. by S. Fried, 1900), by Isaac b. Solomon Israeli; (4) *Ben ha-Melekh ve-ha-Nazir ("The Son of the King and the Nazirite," Constantinople, 1518, and reprinted in many editions, the last one with vocalization and annotations by A.M. Habermann, 1950), a translation and adaptation of an Arabic text of Barlaam and Josaphat, which is a romance about the youth of Buddha. The romance evolved from an Indian tale which, during the Middle Ages, was translated into Greek (under the title Barlaam and Josaphat – the first version known in Western Europe) and Oriental and European languages. Ibn Hasdai's adaptation was written in maqāma form and became a well-known work in medieval times. It was translated into a number of languages, and it was published many times in Hebrew as a very popular book; (5) Ibn Ḥasdai also translated Maimonides' Sefer ha-Mitzvot ("The Book of Precepts") and Iggeret Teiman ("Letter to Yemen"), preserved in two manuscripts and some fragments used by Halkin in his critical edition (1952).


A. Altmann and J.M. Stern, Isaac Israeli (1958), index s.v.; Davidson, Oẓar, 4 (1933), 356; Schirmann, Sefarad, 2 (1956), 238–70, 691; Steinschneider, Uebersetzungen, 268, 342, 391, 863–7, 927, 930; Stern, in: Oriens, 13–14 (1961), 58–120; N. Weisslovits, Prinz und Derwisch (1890), 1st part. add. bibliography: A.S. Halkin (ed.), Epistle to Yemen (1952), xxxi–xxxvi, 1–3; D.J. Silver, Maimonidean Criticism and Maimonidean Controversy 11801240 (1965); D. Pagis, Ḥiddush u-Masoret be-Shirat-ha-Ḥol ha-Ivrit, Sefarad ve-Italyah (1976), 222ff.; B. Septimus, Hispano-Jewish Culture in Transition (1982), 61ff.; Schirmann-Fleischer, The History of Hebrew Poetry in Christian Spain and Southern France (1997), 256–73 (Heb.).

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