Ibn Sahl, Joseph (Abu-ʿAmr) ben Jacob

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IBN SAHL, JOSEPH (Abu-ʿAmr) BEN JACOB

IBN SAHL, JOSEPH (Abu- ʿAmr ) BEN JACOB (d. c. 1124), Spanish-Hebrew halakhist and poet. Descended from an aristocratic family, Joseph is described by Moses Ibn Ezra as one of the most distinguished disciples of Isaac Ibn Ghayyāt of Lucena. After the death of Isaac al-Fāsī, he was the spiritual leader of the Jewish community in Córdoba, occupying for 11 years the position of dayyan, from 1113 until his death. As a poet Joseph must have been held in unusual esteem. His verses are quoted in the Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wal-Mudhākara of Moses Ibn Ezra who, in the fifth chapter of this work, describes his popularity and versatile poetic talent (ed. A. Halkin (1975), 41a, 142b, 155b). He reserves special praise for Joseph's biting satires against the enemies of poetry. Both poets were very close and maintained a poetical correspondence with mutual expressions of admiration. In addition, Abraham *Ibn Daud has the highest praise for him ("a great scholar, a great poet, and a pious man," Sefer ha-Kabbalah, ed. G. Cohen (1967), 82; see also 103, 137); so does *Al-Ḥarizi, in the Third Gate of his Taḥkemoni: "None of greater variegation than those [poems] of Joseph ben Sahal's creation," and "Rabbi Joseph ben Sahal shall ever please, for Poesy is born in Joseph's knees." In later times, he deserved also the praises of Moses of *Rieti and of other Jewish literary critics. Of all Joseph's works, only a few poems have been preserved, in complete or fragmentary form: a panegyric and an elegy of Isaac Ibn Ghayyāt, three songs of friendship addressed to Moses Ibn Ezra included in the diwan of the great poet, a lament on his separation from a friend, a facetious song on fleas, a girdle poem with conclusion in Arabic imitating a love poem of Samuel ha-Nagid, and a liturgical poem. Among his lost works is a Hebrew translation of Isaac b. Jacob *Alfasi's Arabic responsa, from which Bezalel *Ashkenazi (16th century) quoted one item (Shitah Mekubbeẓet, bm 102a).

In a Leningrad manuscript, the maqāma called "The Utterance of Asher b. Judah," usually attributed to *Ibn Zakbel, is ascribed to a certain Abu-Ayyūb ibn Sahl; the same thing happens with a Cambridge fragment of the Genizah (t.-s., a.s. 111.169), where the maqāma is attributed to Solomon ben Sahl; this is clearly another member of the Ibn Sahl family, to which the well-known Arabic (Converso) poet Ibrāhīm (Abraham) *ibn Sahl also belonged.

bibliography:

Schirmann, Sefarad, 1 (1954), 358–61; 2 (1956), 682; idem, in: ymḤsi, 2 (1936), 148–51; idem, Shirim Ḥadashim min ha-Genizah (1966), 209–16; Davidson, Oẓar, 4 (1933), 400; S. Abramson, Bi-Leshon Kodemim (1965), 56–79; D. Jarden, Sefunei Shirah (1967), 24. add. bibliography: R. Sheniak, "Yosef Ibn Sahl: Monografiyyah," M.A. diss. (Tel Aviv Univ. 1978); Schirmann-Fleischer, The History of Hebrew Poetry in Muslim Spain (1995), 483–88 (Heb.); A. Sáenz-Badillos, in: Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica, 30 (1981), 218.

[Jefim (Hayyim) Schirmann /

Angel Sáenz-Badillos (2nd ed.)]