Vajda, Georges

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VAJDA, GEORGES (1908–1981), French Arabist and Hebraist. Born in Budapest, a student of Bernard Heller, he went to Paris in 1928. From 1936 to 1960 he was a professor of Bible and theology at the Séminaire Israélite of France. He lectured at the École pratique des hautes études (ephe) in 1937, and was appointed "directeur d'études" in 1954. In 1940 he founded the Oriental department of the Institut de Recherches et d'Histoire des Textes (cnrs). He died on its premises in 1981. He directed (and wrote himself a large part of) the Revue des études juives from the end of World War ii to 1980. In 1970 he was appointed professor at the University of Paris (Sorbonne). There and at the EPHE he proved himself an impressive, scrupulous, and paternal scholar, though a severe teacher. He wrote numerous works, notably on Arabic and Jewish philosophy, on the *Kabbalah, and on Arab manuscripts. He specialized in the study of the beginnings of Jewish philosophy and Kabbalah and of the relationship between these two disciplines. Gifted with a vast erudition, he also produced minute and precise analyses of a number of unknown or misconstrued works. He contributed to the second edition of the Encyclopedia of Islam (1960–2004), with articles concerning Judaism. His most important works include Introduction à la pensée juive du Moyen Age (1947); La théologie ascétique de Bahya ibn Paquda (1947; Spanish translation with additions, 1950); Judah ben Nissim ibn Malka, philosophe juif marocain (1954); L'Amour de Dieu dans la théologie juive du Moyen Age (1957); Isaac Albalag, averroïste juif, traducteur et annotateur d'Al-Ghazali (1960); Recherches sur la philosophie et la Kabbale dans la pensée juive du Moyen Age (1962); and Le Commentaire d'Ezra de Gérone sur le Cantique des Cantiques (1969). Among his last main concerns was the theology of Yûsuf al-Baṣîr (rej, 128 (1969); 131 (1972); 134 (1975); 137 (1978); 140 (1981)). The catalogue of his works embraced no fewer than 1,657 items in 1991 (among which were more than 1,200 book reviews) to which can be added unpublished material (e.g., the catalogue of the Hebrew scientific and philosophical mss. at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris). His later books were the critical editions of Isaac Albalag's Tikkun ha-De'ot (1973) and an abridgment of R. Judah Ibn Malkah on Sefer Yeẓirah (1974), the Catalogue des manuscrits arabes [de la B.N.]. Manuscrits musulmans, vol. 2 (1978), to which may be added the posthumous Catalogue… Mss. musulmans, vol. 3 (1985), Al-Kitâb al-Muḥtawi de Yûsuf al-Baṣîr (1985), Le commentaire sur le Livre de la Création de Dûnash ben Tâmîm… éd. revue et augmentée (2002), and four volumes of scripta minora: G.E. Weil (ed.), Mélanges G. Vajda (1982); N. Cottard (ed.), La transmission du savoir en Islam, viie–xviiie siècles (1983); D. Gimaret, M. Hayoun, J. Jolivet (eds.), Études de théologie et de philosophie arabo-islamiques à l'époque classique (1986); and Sages et penseurs sépharades de Bagdad à Cordoue (1989).


"Hommage à Georges Vajda," in: rej, 139 (1980), 111–27; G. Nahon, Ch. Touati (eds.), Hommage à Georges Vajda. Études d'histoire et de pensée juives (1980); G. Nahon, "Georges Vajda, président de la Société des études juives," in: rej, 140 (1981), 297–302; G. Nahon and Ch. Touati, "Georges Vajda," in: Annuaire de l'éphé, Ve section, sciences religieuses, 90 (1981–82), 31–35; A. Caquot, "Georges Vajda," in: Journal asiatique, 270 (1982), 225–28; P. Fenton, Alfei Yehudah. Bibliographie de l'œuvre de Georges Vajda (1991).

[Charles Touati /

Jean-Pierre Rothschild (2nd ed.)]