Mivḥar Ha-Peninim

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MIVḤAR HA-PENINIM (Heb. "A Choice of Pearls"), an ethical work consisting of a collection of epigrams, usually attributed to Solomon b. Judah ibn *Gabirol. It was believed that Gabirol made the collection in preparation for composing his small ethical work, Tikkun Middot ha-Nefesh. Mivḥar ha-Peninim (Soncino, 1484) is undoubtedly a translation from the Arabic; the material included in it was taken from Islamic ethical literature, much of it from Persian and Indian sources.

The book is divided into chapters ("Gates," she'arim). Some of them contain a long chain of instructions, epigrams, and parables relating to the subject of the chapter, as for example Sha'ar ha-Ḥokhmah ("The Gate of Wisdom"), Sha'ar ha-Anavah ("The Gate of Humility"), and Sha'ar ha-Emunah ("The Gate of Belief "). However, most of the chapters give no serious treatment of their ostensible subject and have a title for nothing but a single epigram or ethical paragraph. They deal with all aspects of religious and social life, from the unity of God (Sha'ar ha-Yiḥud) to the proper way to treat one's friends. One of the chapters is an ethical will – "Sha'ar Ẓavva'at Av li-Veno" ("Gate of the Will of a Father to his Son").

Mivḥar ha-Peninim was translated into Hebrew by Judah ibn *Tibbon, who translated most of the early Jewish works on philosophy from Arabic. It is not, however, a typical product of the genre, despite the clear influences of philosophical-ethical thinking found in it. Rather it is a popular collection of ethical epigrams and parables, collected from Arabic ethical literature. Its authorship has not been established, and there is no clear evidence that it was written by Gabirol. Some traditional editions attribute it to *Jedaiah b. Abraham Bedersi (ha-Penini), although there is no basis for this view either. The book has been very popular throughout the ages; it was used by the Ḥasidei Ashkenaz as well as by philosophers. It has been often printed and many commentaries have been written on it, even in modern times.


A. Marx, in: huca, 4 (1927), 433–48.

[Joseph Dan]