Moses ibn Esra

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Moses ben Jakob ibn Esra (born around 1055 in Granada , Spain ; died around 1138 ; after the Arabic Kunja Abu Harun ), also known as רַמבַּ״ע Ramba (רַבִּי מֹשֶׁה בֶּן עֶזְרָא Rabbi Moshe ben ʿEzra ) was an Andalusian-Jewish writer and philosopher and "one of the most important poets of the Iberian- Sephardic culture".


Moses ibn Esra was a student of Isaac ibn Ghayyat in Lucena , then called the "City of Poetry ". In his youth he acquired a comprehensive Jewish and Arabic education. He seems to have had an honorary position in Granada, as he was given the Arabic title ṣāḥib al-shurṭah ("Police Prefect ") - although possibly only on account of honor. Ibn Esra encouraged Yehuda ha-Levi in his early literary endeavors and invited him to Granada, where the two formed a long-lasting friendship. A decisive change occurred in Ibn Esra's life in 1090 when Granada was conquered by the Almoravids and the Jewish community there destroyed. The members of the Ibn Esra family fled to various places, but Moses stayed in Granada for a while for unknown reasons. Finally he managed to escape to the Christian part of Spain. He was not allowed to return to his hometown. His late years were full of personal and professional disappointments. He wandered from place to place in Christian Spain, seeking the help of wealthy patrons, for whom he had to write praises, and finally died far from Granada.


Ibn Esra composed both secular and religious poems. According to the textbook on Jewish history and literature from 1896, Moses ibn Esra occupies one of the first positions among Jewish-Spanish poets” , is assigned to the so-called “Spanish school” of Jewish poetry of the Middle Ages and also dealt with theoretical poetics . His treatise on rhetoric and poetry, written in Arabic, is one of the earliest works on Hebrew poetry and, as such, is unique in Hebrew literature of the Middle Ages. He wrote it at an advanced age (after 1135) in response to eight questions a friend asked about Hebrew poetry. The work was translated into Hebrew by BZ Halper under the title “Schirat Jisrael” (Leipzig, 1924). A large part of the work deals with what the author calls “poetic decorations”. H. rhetorical forms and metaphorical language. The work is written in the casual Arabic “ adab ” form.

In his poems Ibn Esra kept strictly to the laws of prosody . The scholar Juda al-Charisi (1165–1225) believes that his verses “address the poets themselves more than others because of their extraordinary rhetorical form”. The secular poems ibn Esras are in the tradition of Shmuel ha-Nagid , with whom he shares an exuberant love of life. He also wrote meditations on life and death, also in the tradition of Shmuel ha-Nagid. Among his pijjutim (religious poems), slichot (prayers for forgiveness) have also found some inclusion in the liturgy.


Ibn Esra was a successful poet and literary critic, but his philosophical achievements take a back seat. He collected his philosophical views in a work written in Arabic, of which an anonymous partial Hebrew translation was published in the 19th century under the title Arugat ha-Bosem ("Scent Garden"). This is about the position of man in the universe, the impossibility of knowing God, and the intellect. Philosophically, Ibn Esra was based on Neoplatonism and was under the influence of the Mekor Chajim ("source of life") of Ibn Gabirol . In the sense of Neo-Platonism, Ibn Esra describes man as a microcosm . The secrets of creation suggest a wise Creator, a self-sufficient unique being who preceded creation. From the absolute oneness of God it follows that the divine essence cannot be grasped by the human mind, but can only be expressed through metaphors. Just as the human eyes cannot see the sun, so the human spirit cannot recognize God in his perfection. Any knowledge of God that man can achieve must begin with knowledge of his own soul; However, this is only possible after the liberation from sensual desires.

In the sense of the Neo-Platonic doctrine of emanation , ibn Esra postulates the active intellect, which is God's first creation out of the divine will. Ibn Esra conceives of the intellect as a simple and pure substance that contains within it the forms of all things in existence.


  • (Red. Encyclopaedia Hebraica / Encyclopaedia Judaica ): Art. IBN EZRA, MOSES BEN JACOB , in: Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2nd A., Vol. 9, pp. 673-675.
  • A. Sáenz-Badillos; J. Targarona Borrás: Diccionario de autores judios (Sefarad. Siglos X-XV). Estudios de Cultura Hebrea 10. Córdoba 1988, pp. 69-70.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. Dan Diner (Ed.): Leipziger Contributions to Jewish History and Culture , Volume 1, Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture, KG Saur Verlag, 2003, p. 213
  2. ^ Arie Schippers: Spanish Hebrew poetry and the Arab literary tradition . Arabic themes in Hebrew Andalusian poetry, Medieval Iberian peninsula. Texts and studies Vol. 7, Brill, Leiden 1994, p. 59.
  3. ^ David Cassel: Textbook of Jewish history and literature , Verlag J. Kauffmann , 1896, p. 273
  4. ^ Johann Maier: History of the Jewish Religion , de Gruyter, Berlin, 1972, p. 253 u. 254